As Penny watched from behind a pillar in the cloister, Winkey pulled the struggling girl through a doorway and out of sight.

Father Benedict then adjusted his long robe and rang a silver bell. With stately tread he retired to a position behind the crystal globe.

An instant later from the far side of the cloister, a door was flung open. A procession of ten persons in white robes moved slowly into the shadowy room.

As far as Penny could tell, all who participated were women, many of advanced age. Leaders of the strange procession carried banners embroidered in silver and gold symbols.

The white robed figures moved slowly along the passageway, and Penny saw that they would pass the pillar where she stood.

Fearing detection, she shifted position slightly to avoid being seen.

But as the mumbling, chanting group passed her, she was overcome with a sudden impulse to join the procession.

“If I can get up close, I’ll be able to hear what is said!” she thought. “Maybe I’ll learn the secret of Father Benedict’s strange power over these people!”

As the procession passed the pillar, Penny attached herself to the rear. With bowed head, she followed the others who formed a semicircle about the fountain.

The monk began a chant in Latin which Penny could not understand. However, his gestures were eloquent, and despite herself, she was impressed.

Presently he spoke in English, quoting the White Lady of Sir Walter Scott’s “The Monastery.”

“Mortal warp and mortal woof

Cannot brook this charmed roof;

All that mortal art hath wrought

In our cell returns to naught.

The molten gold returns to clay,

The polish’d diamond melts away;

All is alter’d, all is flown,

Naught stands fast but truth alone.

Not for that thy quest give o’er;

Courage! prove thy chance once more.”

Eloquently, the monk then praised the frugal life, assuring his listeners that those who gave of their treasure to the cult society would receive untold spiritual values.

“As you file past the fountain cast your jewels into the basin,” he bade the group. “You will be rewarded three-fold.”

Slowly the robed women circled the fountain. The one leading the procession dropped a bracelet. The woman following fumbled beneath her robe and reluctantly gave a cameo broach.

“It was the last gift of my dear departed husband,” she whispered tearfully. “I do so dislike to part with it—”

“You shall have your reward,” the monk assured her. “Later, in the crystal globe, you will see the face of your husband!”

“So that’s how he rules them!” thought Penny. “He plays upon their emotions and then pretends to conjure up visions of departed relatives!”

Another woman stripped a diamond ring from her finger, and cast it into the bowl of the fountain. The one who followed her, stood empty handed.

“Where is your contribution?” demanded the monk.

“I have none, O Master! At the last ceremony, I gave all!”

“Those who have no gift for the celestial spirits receive no rewards,” Father Benedict said sharply.


“Pass on!” ordered the monk.

Realization now came to Penny that in another moment she too would be expected to drop her contribution into the fountain. What could she give?

On her third finger the girl wore a silver colored ring with a red glass stone. She had won it several days before at a church party fish pond, and despite the fact that it obviously had been bought in a dime store, had kept it.

As Penny’s turn came she removed the cheap ring and let it fall into the basin of the fountain. Keeping the hood well over her face, she mumbled in a disguised voice: “I give my precious ruby ring!”

“Blessings upon you, my good woman!” said the monk approvingly. “The celestial spirits will remember your generosity.”

Father Benedict now led the procession to the refectory where supper was to be served.

The room was drafty and barren except for one long table and benches. Old Julia had set out the wooden bowls of soup, and crackers, thoughtfully remembering to set an extra one for Penny. No other food was in evidence.

“Soup again?” asked one of the cult members in bitter disappointment. “We are hungry!”

“We’ve had little more than soup since we came here!” exclaimed another old lady plaintively.

“Are you so soon forgetting your vows?” chided Father Benedict. “Material things have no true meaning.”

Grumbling a little, the women sat down at the table and began to eat. Penny took an empty place near the door. She tasted the soup and nearly gagged.

Father Benedict did not join the group. After lingering a few minutes he quietly slipped away. This offered Penny an opportunity to leave without arousing the monk’s suspicions.

“I must learn more about that girl who is locked up here somewhere!” she thought. “Perhaps I can help her escape!”

Still wearing the white robe, Penny started back to the cloister. The cult ceremony which she had witnessed greatly disturbed her.

“Father Benedict is taking unfair advantage of these people,” she told herself. “He accepts their jewels and gives nothing in return. Furthermore, he is cruel!”

Voices in the cloister directly ahead warned the girl to proceed cautiously. Keeping close to the wall and holding her robe tightly about her, she crept closer to the fountain.

The candles had all been extinguished. However, Father Benedict and Winkey were there, working by the light of a lantern.

“Fish out the jewels and be quick about it!” the monk ordered his servant. “We must be finished before they’re through in the refectory.”

The hunchback scrambled down into the bowl of the fountain, and groped with his hands for the trinkets the cult members had thrown away.

“Did the old lady kick in with the sapphire tonight?” Winkey asked as he worked.

“No!” the monk answered. “She sent word that she was too sick to leave her room! I suspect that girl put her up to it!”

“You goin’ to let her get by with it?”

“I’ll talk with her later tonight,” Father Benedict said. “If she doesn’t come across by tomorrow, we’ll find ways to persuade her.”

“You been saying that ever since she came here! If you ask me, we won’t never have any luck with her until we get rid of the girl! She’s been a wrench in the machinery from the start.”

“I’m afraid you are correct, Winkey,” sighed the monk. “But I do so dislike violence. Well, if it must be, so be it. You assigned her to the room with the canopied bed?”

“I locked her in like you said.” Winkey, having gathered all of the trinkets, scrambled out of the stone basin onto the tiled cloister floor.

“What have we here?” asked the monk eagerly.

Winkey spread the contributions on a handkerchief. Father Benedict held the lantern closer to inspect the articles.

“Junk! Trash!” he exclaimed. “Only the diamond has any value.”

“How about this ring?” demanded Winkey, picking up Penny’s dime store contribution.

“Glass!” In fury, the monk hurled the ring across the cloister.

Penny suppressed a giggle. But Father Benedict’s next words sent a shiver down her spine.

“This settles it!” he said. “I’ll talk to the old lady now! If she refuses to give up the sapphire, then you know what to do with the girl!”

“I’m waiting for the chance!” growled the hunchback. “Just say when!”

“Once the girl is where she can’t influence the old lady, we’ll have no trouble,” the monk continued. “However, we must work fast. After tonight, I have a feeling we will do well to move our institution elsewhere.”

“The newspapers are sending reporters around to ask a lot of questions,” agreed Winkey. “I don’t like it! If anyone should find out about the crypt—”

“Let me do the worrying,” interrupted Father Benedict. “We’ll get the sapphire and be away before anyone even sets foot inside the place.”

“What about that Parker girl?”

“She’s only a child!” the monk scoffed. “A very annoying, nosey one, I grant you.”

Taking the lantern with them, Father Benedict and Winkey disappeared in the direction of the monk’s study. Left in darkness, Penny debated her next action.

If only she could telephone her father or Mr. DeWitt at the Star office! This, of course, was out of the question, for the ancient building obviously had no phone service.

“I might go for help,” she reasoned, “but a full hour would be needed for me to reach Riverview and return with anyone. And what can I prove?”

Though Penny was convinced Father Benedict and Winkey were fleecing cult members, she knew the women voluntarily had given up their jewelery. In the event police tried to arrest Father Benedict, the cult members might rise to his defense.

“I’ll have to have more evidence!” she decided. “The one person who should be able to tell me what goes on here is that girl who is locked in the chapel bedroom!”

Stealing across the dark cloister, Penny listened a moment at the passageway leading to the refectory. An undercurrent of conversation and the clatter of tin spoons told her that cult members had not yet finished the evening repast.

From the map Mr. Eckenrod had shown her, the girl knew the location of the chapel bedroom. Tiptoeing down a corridor opening from the cloister, she came to a massive oaken door.

“This must be the one,” she decided.

Softly she tapped on the panel.

“Who is there?” called a startled voice. The words were so muffled, Penny barely could distinguish them.

“A friend,” replied Penny.

Footsteps pattered across the room. “Help me get out!” the imprisoned girl pleaded.

Penny tried the door. As she had expected, it was locked.

“Where is the key?” she called through the panel. “If I can find it, I may be able to get you out of here.”

“Speak louder!” the girl protested. “I can’t hear you.”

Penny dared raise her voice no higher. She realized that the heavy paneling deadened sound and made it impossible to carry on a satisfactory conversation.

“The key!” she called again. “Where is it?”

As she spoke the words, a board snapped directly behind her. Penny’s heart jumped. Before she could turn to look over her shoulder, a bony hand reached out of the darkness and grasped her wrist.

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