The Four Pools Mystery
love and veneration for the Colonel. I don't believe the situation could ever be intelligible to a Northern man.
    So matters stood when I had been a month at Four-Pools. My vacation had lasted long enough, but I was supremely comfortable and very loath to go. The first few weeks of May had been, to my starved city eyes, a dazzling pageant of beauty. The landscape glowed with yellow daffodils, pink peach blossoms, and the bright green of new wheat; the fields were alive with the frisky joyousness of spring lambs and colts, turned out to pasture. It was with a keen feeling of reluctance that I faced the prospect of New York's brick and stone and asphalt. My work was calling, but I lazily postponed my departure from day to day.
    Things at the plantation seemed to have settled into their old routine. The whereabouts of the bonds was still a mystery, but the ha'nt had returned to his grave--at least, in so far as any manifestations affected the house. I believe that the "sperrit of de spring-hole" had been seen rising once or twice from a cloud of sulphurous smoke, but the excitement was confined strictly to the negro quarters. No man on the place who valued a whole skin would have dared mention the word "ha'nt" in Colonel Gaylord's presence. Relations between Rad and his father were rather less strained, and matters on the whole were going pleasantly enough, when there suddenly fell from a clear sky the strange and terrible series of events which changed everything at Four-Pools.
    Toward eleven o'clock one morning, the Colonel, Radnor and I were established in lounging chairs in the shade of a big catalpa tree on the lawn. It was a warm day, and Rad and I were just back from a tramp to the upper pasture--a full mile from the house. We were addressing ourselves with considerable zest to the frosted glasses that Solomon had just placed on the table, when we became aware of the sound of galloping hoofs, and a moment later Polly Mathers and her sorrel mare, Tiger Lilly, appeared at the end of the sunflecked lane. An Irish setter romped at her side, and the three of them made a picture. The horse's shining coat, the dog's silky hair and Polly's own red gold curls were almost of a color. I believe the little witch had chosen the two on purpose. In her dark habit and mannish hat, with sparkling cheeks and laughing eyes, she was as pretty an apparition as ever enhanced a May morning. She waved her crop gaily and rode toward us across the lawn.
    "Howdy!" she called, in a droll imitation of the mountain dialect. "Ain't you-uns guine to ask me to 'light a while, an' set a bit, an' talk a spell?"
    Radnor's face had flushed quickly as he perceived who the rider was, but he held himself stiffly in the background while the Colonel and I did the honors. It was the first time, I know, that Polly and Rad had met since the night she refused to dance with him; and her appearance could only be interpreted as a desire to make amends.
    She sprang lightly to the ground, turned Tiger Lilly loose to graze about the lawn, and airily perched herself on the arm of a chair. There was nothing in her manner, at least, to suggest that her relations with any one of us were strained. After a few moments of neighborly gossip with the Colonel and me--Rad was monosyllabic and remote--she arrived at her errand. Some friends from Savannah were stopping at the Hall on their way to the Virginia hot springs, and, as is usual, when strangers visit the valley, they were planning an expedition to Luray Cave. The cave was on the other side of the mountains about ten miles from Four-Pools. Since I had not yet visited it (that was at least the reason she gave) she had come to ask the three of us to join the party on the following day.
    Rad was sulky at first, and rather curtly declined on the ground that he had to attend to some business. But Polly scouted his excuse, and added significantly that Jim Mattison had not been asked. He accepted

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