Norton, Andre - Novel 32

Free Norton, Andre - Novel 32 by Ten Mile Treasure (v1.0)

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"It's been sealed. See here?" There were rope handles on either side by which to carry it, but all around the edge
of the lid ran a red
line. He pushed at it with a fingernail. "Old waxy stuff, real dry now—it ought to be easy to break." Unsheathing
his knife, he be gan to
pick at the strip and the dull red stuff came away in flakes.
    Even with the sealing all gone, they had to pry, Toliver with his knife, Neal using one of the stones as a clumsy lever. Then Toliver held up
the lamp as the lid finally came off.
    "Newspapers! Just a lot of
old newspapers!" Neal cried out in disappointment, and would have jerked at them roughly had
not Libby caught his
    "Those are very old papers. Look and see what the date on them is."
seventy-five." He held the lantern very close to the print. "The London Times — but that's an English
    "Libby's right—they may be worth some thing, being so old,"
Christie pointed out. "We have to be careful. Old English newspapers found way out here—that's strange enough for any museum! Take them out
carefully—they may
fall apart, they're so old."
    Neal looked down at his dirty hands. "Maybe you girls better do it—we're too
    The layers of paper were so brittle that, in spite of all their efforts to be
careful, a lot just fell
apart. But it was a very thick layer and some in the middle were better preserved. Under all
those sheets was folded cloth, yellowish and queer-smelling. Lying on that was an en velope.
    "Miss Maude Woodbridge" was written on it. Christie picked it up with the same care with which she had handled the papers. It was not sealed, as she could see when she turned it over. After a moment of hesitation she drew out the folded paper it contained.
    "It's a letter. Perhaps we shouldn't read it— you should never read other
people's mail."
    "It's a dead letter, just like Neal said," Parky spoke up. "Neal says they open and read dead letters. So you can do it,
    She held the brown-edged paper into the full light of the
nearest lamp. The writing was very clear,
though there were queer fancy flourishes to make it different from any she had
ever seen before.
    My dear little daughter:
    The Sea Maid made a record voyage to San Francisco . But there I found disturb ing news awaiting me. I shall not
be able to return
home as I had promised. The Sea Witch was here in port lacking a master, Captain Daniels having died of
the fever. The Sea
Maid, as I told you in my last letter, is being sold to a South American company, but the Sea Witch has a full cargo for Hong Kong and I must take her there.
    Thus I shall not spend your birthday at home with you this
year as we have both so longed would be.
    Mr. Hawkins, the mate of the Sea Maid, intends to return east overland,
carrying some
important papers for the company.
    He has kindly consented to take Lady Maude in his charge. I know that
she will not be the same as having your father with you, but I think you shall find
her a charm ing
addition to your family.
    She comes from Paris , France . But in a very roundabout way, for I found
her in Hong
Kong .
She had been sent there for another
little girl's birthday gift but arrived too
late, for a sudden change in Mr. Le brebre's plans had
already taken him and his family out
of the city and on their way back to France . So, since Mr. Lebrebre's replacement had no use for her, he was willing to let me buy her. Thus,
when she reaches you, she will have traveled almost around the world!
    All her clothes and belongings accom pany her and I think you will
discover that she is a very fine lady indeed. I shall write you again as soon as I have
time. And may we be
together before Christmas. I shall pray that is so, and so you do likewise.
    Your loving father, Asa Woodbridge, Captain
Maude," repeated Neal blankly. "But she—"
    "Let me." Christie pushed him aside, tuck ing the letter, once again in its
envelope, inside her
    She drew out the cloth.

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