Badly frightened, Louise came quickly to her chum’s side.

“Are you sure the door is locked?” she asked nervously. “Maybe it’s only stuck.”

“It’s locked all right. We’ll do no exploring today.”

“Let’s scream for help! We’ve got to get out of here!”

“Father Benedict is in the basement and wouldn’t hear us,” Penny said.

“And he may have locked us in on purpose too! But I heard no key turn in the lock.”

“Neither did I.”

“The door may have an automatic catch.”

“Probably that’s so,” Penny agreed to keep her chum from worrying. “Father Benedict should be back soon. Let’s not let him know we even noticed the door was locked.”

“Do you think he fastened it on purpose?”

“He may have,” Penny said slowly. “Perhaps he didn’t want us to wander about the monastery while he was gone.”

“What if he doesn’t come back?”

“He will, my pet. Now do stop worrying! The smart thing for us to do, is to learn what we can while we’re here.”

“A lot we can learn locked up in this stuffy room!”

Without replying, Penny wandered about the room, scrutinizing art objects and each piece of furniture.

“For a man who professes to live a life of poverty, Father Benedict shows quite a liking for luxury items,” she remarked.

Coming to a battered desk cluttered with papers, she paused and eyed it thoughtfully.

“Penny, we wouldn’t dare pry!” exclaimed Louise, guessing what was in her chum’s mind.

“I suppose not,” sighed Penny, “only I’m sure Mr. Ayling would do it if he were here. Those papers in the pigeon holes look as though they’re unpaid bills—a whole stack of them too!”

On the desk lay an open account book and the girl gazed at it with keen interest. A long list of names had been written in ink. On one side of the ledger was a column marked “Contributions.”

“Penny, you are snooping!” accused Louise, but she added with an excited laugh: “If you find anything worth while, let me know!”

“Then consider yourself officially notified!”

Startled, Louise went quickly to the desk. “What have you found?” she demanded.

Penny showed her the book in which were listed many names.

“This looks like a report covering donations made by cult members to the society!” she declared. “Do you suppose Mrs. Hawthorne’s name is here?”

Hurriedly the girls examined the tiny ledger. First on the list was a Mrs. Carl Kingsley, who had contributed two diamond clips at estimated value of $650.

“Ever hear of her?” Penny asked, for the name was unfamiliar.

“Never. She may not be from Riverview.”

Rapidly they scanned the entire list. There were many names, all of women. Contributions included cash, pearls, silver bracelets, gold wrist watches, an emerald pin, and other articles of jewelry.

However, the girls could not find Mrs. Hawthorne’s name, nor that of her granddaughter.

“This list doesn’t prove anything one way or the other,” Penny said, carefully replacing the ledger on the desk where she had found it. “Mrs. Hawthorne could have joined the cult under a different name. Father Benedict might not even know who she is.”

“Oh, Penny!” teased her companion. “You want to uncover a mystery so badly! Actually, there’s not one bit of evidence that Mrs. Hawthorne ever came here.”

“True,” Penny acknowledged in a low tone, “but you will admit a lot of queer things have happened. For instance, who sent Mr. Ayling the fake telegram? And why hasn’t he returned to Riverview as he said he would?”

“He’s hardly had time yet. Anyway, what connection could his absence have with this monastery?”

“None, perhaps. Unless Mrs. Hawthorne should be here—”

“Oh, Penny! Father Benedict denied that she was, didn’t he?”

“Yes, but that crystal ball reading he gave for Mr. Ayling’s benefit was a strange affair. And Lou! The worst was, he predicted harm would befall him! Maybe it has!”

“So you’re superstitious! Do you really believe in those crystal ball readings?”

“No, I’m not!” Penny denied hotly. “Not for a minute do I put any faith in that crystal ball! But—”

“Mr. Ayling is delayed in Chicago, so you start to worry,” completed Louise. “Penny, you’re certainly building up a case!”

“Maybe I am,” Penny admitted with a shrug. “However, other things bother me too.”

“For instance?”

“That scream we heard at midnight. Mr. Eckenrod and his wife told me they had been awakened by strange noises here.”

“Didn’t you understand from Father Benedict that Old Julia causes the commotion?”

“Yes, and it’s plain to see she is a poor demented creature. Still, there’s something about her—when we came in today, I had a feeling that she was trying to tell us something.”

“She did warn us away. However, in her condition she might say anything. So I dismissed it.”

“I wish I could talk to Old Julia when Father Benedict isn’t around,” Penny said soberly. “I have a hunch she could tell us interesting things about this place!”

“Then you do distrust Father Benedict!”

“Not exactly,” Penny denied. “He’s been pleasant enough to us, and I suppose he has a perfect right to start a crazy cult here if he chooses.”

“It’s not only crazy but profitable,” Louise reminded her. “Those contributions listed total up to several thousand dollars!”

“According to Father Benedict, the money goes to charity. But what charity? It’s a cinch he isn’t spending much in supporting the members of his cult. This building is as barren as a barn, and I’ve not seen any supplies come into the place while we’ve been around!”

“And where are the cult members?”

“They must stay in their rooms.”

“A fine life!”

“I’m sure there are people in this household who aren’t listed in the ledger,” Penny resumed thoughtfully. “For instance, that girl I saw when I came here with Mr. Ayling. Who is she, and where does she keep herself?”

“Why not ask Father Benedict—that is, if we ever get out of here.”

“I can’t quite bring myself to do it, Lou. If ever I started asking questions, I wouldn’t know where to stop.”

“There’s only one that bothers me,” Louise said, roving toward the door. “How are we going to get out of here? Let’s call for help!”

“Okay,” Penny agreed reluctantly. “I hate to do it though.”

First testing the door again to be certain it was locked and not stuck, she pounded with her fists on the heavy oak paneling.

“Let us out!” Louise called loudly. “Let us out! We’re locked in!”

“That ought to fetch someone!” chuckled Penny. “Listen! I think I hear footsteps now.”

From down the corridor, the girls detected a soft patter and a creaking of boards. To attract attention to their plight, they again pounded on the oaken panel.

The footsteps approached the door and halted. Penny, her ear pressed to the panel, could hear the sound of breathing on the other side.

“Let us out!” she called. “We’re locked in here!”

“Sh!” came the loud hiss.

“It must be Old Julia!” Penny whispered to Louise. “Do you suppose she’ll have sense enough to help us?”

“I doubt it,” Louise muttered, resigning herself to a long wait in the monk’s study. “Maybe we can get across to her the idea that she should bring Father Benedict here.”

“Listen, Julia,” Penny began, speaking slowly and as clearly as she could. “We’re locked in here and we need help. Can you bring your master?”

“No! No!” came the sharp answer.

“Then unlock the door,” Penny urged.

“Key gone,” the old woman mumbled.

“Can’t you find it? Don’t you know where your master keeps them?”

There was no answer, but the girls heard the old woman scurry away.

“Has she gone to find a key, or has she just gone?” Louise sighed. “Father Benedict probably still is in the basement with Winkey, so we can expect no help from that quarter.”

Impatiently, Penny glanced at her wrist watch. Actually, they had been locked in the room less than twenty minutes, but it seemed three times that long.

“It’s useless!” Louise said, seating herself by the fire again. “We’re trapped here until Father Benedict gets around to letting us out!”

At the door, Penny’s keen ears detected sound. Again the pad, pad of footsteps!

“Old Julia’s coming back!” she exclaimed. “Maybe she’s not as stupid as we thought!”

Anxiously the girls waited. To their great relief, they heard a key turn in the lock. Then, an inch at a time, the door was pushed open.

Old Julia, her eyes wild, and hair streaming down her face, stared blankly in at them.

“Thanks, Julia!” said Penny. She tried to touch the woman’s hand in a gesture of friendship, only to have her shrink back.

“Why, we won’t hurt you,” Penny attempted to sooth her.

“Go!” the woman mumbled, her cracked lips quivering. “Go!”

Seeing us here always seems to upset her, Penny thought. Aloud she remarked: “Yes, we’re leaving now. If Father Benedict wonders what became of us, I’m afraid he’ll just have to guess.”

The girls started toward the cloister with Old Julia following a step behind.

“Hurry! Hurry!” she muttered. “No time!”

“Oh, we have plenty of time, if that’s what you mean,” replied Penny, smiling at her in a friendly way. Suddenly she halted as the thought occurred to her that she might obtain useful information from the woman if only she phrased her questions skillfully.

“Julia, you must know everyone who lives here in the dormitory rooms,” she began. “Do you often see a girl about my age?”

A strange light flickered for a moment in the old woman’s watery gray eyes, then died. She merely stared at Penny.

“No soap!” commented Louise. “Let’s get out of here.”

Penny, however, was persistent.

“Julia, you must have seen her—a girl like me,” she emphasized. “Does she sleep here?”

“Sleep—sleep—” the word seemingly had aroused an unpleasant chain of thought in the old woman’s twisted mind.

“Where is the girl’s room?” Penny probed.

Julia did not act as if she had heard the question. She was mumbling to herself, a look of horror upon her face.

“What’s she saying?” Louise demanded, unable to catch a word.

Penny bent closer. Distinctly she heard the old woman mutter: “The canopied bed! In the chapel room—”

Then old Julia stiffened and she flattened herself against the wall of the passageway, her eyes wide with fear.

Directly ahead, in the doorway opening onto the cloister, stood Father Benedict.

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