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Authors: Lois Gladys Leppard

Mandie Collection, The: 4 (3 page)

BOOK: Mandie Collection, The: 4
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“An actor?” Celia said brightly. She stopped to look back. “I think actors are such interesting people.”

“I do, too,” Mandie agreed.

While the young people waited for the elevator to descend so they could take it to the lower level, Mandie looked back down the hallway. The tall man was going into a room about halfway down the corridor.

“Look!” she said, glancing in his direction. “There he is.”

“He went into that room,” Celia added.

“So he must be staying in this hotel,” Jonathan said.

The elevator arrived, and the girls reluctantly entered and held hands as it moved down to another floor. When it stopped, they rushed out into the hallway and looked down the corridors, which were so
long they seemed to vanish from sight. There were shops of all sorts, covering every inch of space.

“Look at all the stores!” Celia exclaimed.

Mandie and her friends walked down the crowded corridor. “We ought to be able to find those mesh bags in one of these places, Jonathan,” she said.

“Remember, your grandmother said we had to hurry back,” Celia reminded her.

“It won’t take long to find a bag,” Jonathan assured them. “Let’s go in this shop here,” he said, pointing to the first one on the right.

The girls followed him into the open storefront. There were scarves, jewelry, and trinkets of every kind displayed on the counters.

Mandie and Celia were so fascinated with the colorful array that they would have looked at each item if Jonathan hadn’t asked the proprietor if he sold the mesh bags they were looking for.

The man understood English and immediately pulled a handful of bags out from under the counter and laid them out for the girls to see.

“You mean those are bags?” Mandie asked Jonathan as she examined the tangled mess of brightly colored twine.

Jonathan picked one up and stretched it out. As the girls watched, it became a full-sized bag.

“There, you see? You can fold it up when you’re not using it and put it in your purse,” he told the girls.

“Oh, I like these!” Mandie exclaimed. She picked up a red one, stretching it as she had seen Jonathan do.

“So do I,” Celia agreed, choosing a green one.

“Are you going to buy them?” Jonathan asked.

“Oh, yes,” Mandie replied. “I want this red one. It’ll match Snowball’s leash and harness.”

“And I’ll take this green one,” Celia said, giggling. “It’ll match my eyes.”

The girls began pulling money out of their bags to pay the shopkeeper.

“Jonathan, I know you didn’t bring any money,” Mandie said. “If you want one of these, I’ll buy one for you.”

Jonathan blushed. “No, no, Mandie. Men don’t carry those things. They’re only for ladies.”

“I could loan you some money if there’s something else you’d like to buy,” Celia offered.

“Thanks, but I don’t know of anything,” Jonathan replied. “Besides, the senator has offered to loan me money until my father comes.”

The girls handed the proprietor some lire, and Jonathan watched as the man counted their change.

Mandie stuffed the change into her purse as she held the bright new bag. “I hope your father doesn’t come for you,” she told Jonathan.

“I don’t think he will. He’s always too occupied with all his business,” Jonathan replied as they left the shop.

Mandie led the way toward the elevator and suddenly stopped. “Look! There are some steps. Let’s walk up.”

“You mean all the way to the fourth floor?” Celia asked.

“Why not?” Jonathan said, going toward the wide marble steps.

“Come on,” Mandie urged Celia. She followed Jonathan, and Celia reluctantly joined them.

They started up enthusiastically, but by the time they reached the fourth floor, they were all out of breath.

Mandie wiped her brow with her handkerchief. “I don’t know which is worse—the steps or the lift.”

“The steps,” Celia said, breathlessly.

Jonathan laughed and plopped down on the top step. “You girls haven’t been getting enough exercise,” he teased.

“Look who’s talking!” Mandie exclaimed. “I could probably outwalk you any day, Jonathan Guyer.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” Jonathan said with his impish smile.

“Don’t forget, Mandie’s one-fourth Cherokee,” Celia reminded him.

“What’s that got to do with it?” Jonathan asked.

Mandie and Celia sat down beside him. “Indians are great walkers,” Mandie told him. She tried to push loose strands of her blond hair back under her bonnet. “Besides, I was raised in the country, and I also visit my Cherokee kinpeople a lot.”

“I’d like to visit them,” Jonathan said. “I’ve never seen a real Indian, except for your friend, Uncle Ned.”

“Maybe you can come visit sometime,” Mandie suggested. “Uncle Ned’s wife, Morning Star, can’t speak much English, but their granddaughter Sally lives with them, and she is as educated as we are.”

“After Mandie’s father died, her Uncle John married Mandie’s mother,” Celia explained. “He’s one-half Cherokee, and he looks more Indian than Mandie does.”

“My father’s people are all of Dutch ancestry,” Jonathan said.

“And what about your mother’s people?” Mandie asked.

“I don’t really know. I never thought about it because my mother died when I was a baby.” Jonathan stood up. “Let’s go.”

They hurried down the corridor and quickly found their rooms. Mandie and Celia entered their parlor, and Jonathan went into his suite across the hall.

Looking around, the girls found that the suite was empty. “Well, where’s Grandmother?” Mandie fussed. “She told us to hurry back, and she’s gone when we return.” She peeked into the girls’ bedroom and saw Snowball curled up on their big bed sound asleep.

“Let’s see if she’s across the hall,” Celia said, going to open the door.

At that same moment, Jonathan came out of his suite. “No one’s here,” he said as the girls appeared in the doorway.

“Here either,” Mandie replied. “I wonder where my grandmother and the senator could have gone. It seems odd that they would go off and leave us.”

“I suppose we could get cleaned up while we wait,” Celia suggested.

“Maybe they’ll be back by that time,” Mandie agreed.

“Right,” Jonathan replied. “See you girls later,” he said, going back inside and closing the door.

The girls returned to their bedroom. Their clothes were hung in the huge wardrobe, evidently unpacked by the maid. They chose fresh dresses and laid them out. Then they took turns taking baths in the huge marble tub in the adjoining bathroom. They brushed out their long hair and pinned it back up on top of their heads.

Mandie unbuttoned the red voile dress she had chosen and carefully stepped into it. “Goodness, you’d think Grandmother would be back by now,” she said.

Celia fastened the neck of her bright yellow dress. “Mandie, do you think we were gone too long and they went looking for us?” she asked.

Mandie thought for a moment. “No, I don’t think so. We weren’t gone that long.”

“I sure hope they weren’t worried,” Celia said.

“Do you suppose we should go looking for them?” Mandie asked, twirling her long skirt before the floor-length mirror on the wall.

“Oh, no,” Celia said. “They might come back and we’d be gone.”

Mandie sat on the bed. “This is getting to be a habit, you know,” she said. “Remember? When we were in the hotel in Paris, Jonathan went off and didn’t come back. I’m beginning to dislike hotel rooms.”

“They’ll probably be back any minute,” Celia answered, shaking out the gathers in her skirt.

“Let’s see if Jonathan is ready yet,” Mandie suggested, going toward the door.

Celia followed her friend.

Mandie opened the door and gasped. “Quick! That strange woman was standing outside our door!” Mandie exclaimed, rushing into the corridor. “She went that way. Let’s find her!”

“Mandie!” Celia cried, grabbing Mandie’s arm. “Suppose your grandmother comes back while we’re looking for that woman?”

Mandie turned back and sighed. “You’re right, Celia. Oh, well, she must be staying in this hotel. We’ll just have to catch up with her later. Let’s see if Jonathan is ready.” She crossed the hall and knocked lightly on the door to the senator’s suite.

Jonathan opened the door, dressed in stylish new clothes. “Are they back yet?” he asked.

“No. We were about to ask you the same thing,” Mandie told him. “But, Jonathan, guess what? I just saw that strange woman from the ship again. She was standing right outside our door when I opened it.”

“Did you ask her what she wanted?” he inquired.

“No, she was too quick for me. She disappeared down that way,” Mandie said, pointing down the hallway.

“You know, I’d really like to know who that woman is,” Jonathan said.

At that moment Mrs. Taft and Senator Morton came rushing down the hallway toward them.

“Oh, dears, I’m sorry we’ve been gone so long,” Mrs. Taft said. “I thought we’d get back before y’all did or we wouldn’t have gone. But it was so exciting!”

“Grandmother, what?” Mandie asked.

Mrs. Taft stopped to catch her breath. “We were invited to tea,”
she explained after a moment. “That famous English actor, George Rushton, was the guest of honor. You see, I have some old friends staying here, and they know him personally. He was—”

“Grandmother,” Mandie interrupted as the girls looked at each other, “what does this actor look like?”

“He’s very handsome—tall, blond hair,” her grandmother replied. “Young and—” She started to enter their suite.

“And deep blue eyes, darker blue than mine,” Mandie added.

Mrs. Taft turned around and looked at the girls. “Why, yes, dear. How did you know?” she asked.

“We saw him in the lobby,” Mandie said. To Jonathan she added, “You were right. He is an actor!”

“I was only guessing,” Jonathan said. “It might not be the same person.”

“He’s some sort of magician, too, between his regular stage plays,” Mrs. Taft explained. “Anyway, let me get dressed for dinner. I’m glad to see you girls are ready. We’ll be with you shortly, Senator,” she said as he and Jonathan went to their suite.

Mrs. Taft started toward her bedroom, then stopped. “Amanda, would you please unhook this necklace for me?” she asked. “I had a terrible time getting it fastened when I put it on.” She touched the ruby-encrusted necklace around her neck and sat down on the settee so Mandie could reach the clasp.

It took Mandie several tries, but she finally succeeded in unhooking the necklace.

“Thanks, dear,” her grandmother said, going on into her bedroom.

The girls sat talking on the settee in the parlor while Mrs. Taft got dressed.

“I’m sure he’s the same man we saw in the lobby,” Mandie said. “And Grandmother said he was also a magician. I’d like to see what magic tricks he can do.”

“I would, too,” Celia agreed.

“We’ll have to ask Grandmother if he’s performing here in Rome. If so, we’ll just go see him,” Mandie decided.

CHAPTER THREE

THE UNSEEN SNUFFER

Mandie and her friends stared at their beautiful surroundings that night as they waited behind Senator Morton and Mrs. Taft at the entrance to the hotel dining room. The white marble floor shone like a looking-glass. Supporting columns throughout the huge room were made of matching white tiles, and even the ceiling was inlaid with mosaics of various historical Italian figures.

Plush red draperies with gold tassels and fringe adorned the floor-length arched windows around the room. Massive carved chairs and tables stood across the space before them. Although huge crystal chandeliers full of gas lights hung from high above, there were candles on all the tables, and white tablecloths and napkins. Large vases of bright-colored flowers stood about the room amid the huge statues. Smaller containers of flowers graced each table.

“What a place!” Mandie whispered to her friends.

“Look at all the ladies,” Celia said. “They look like they’ve just stepped out of a fashion boutique.”

Jonathan smiled and said, “Don’t forget the gentlemen. They certainly look fashionable, too.”

Mandie turned and looked at Jonathan. “You know, so do you,” she said. “I don’t see how you manage to have such nice clothes with only that little bag you had when we found you on the ship.”

“That’s easy,” Jonathan said, shrugging his broad shoulders. “Senator Morton was nice enough to loan me some money for clothes, and I went shopping while you and Celia were dressing for dinner tonight.”

“You went shopping in that length of time?” Mandie asked.

“Why, yes, I went downstairs to some of the shops we saw this afternoon,” the boy explained.

The head waiter led them to a table near a window where they could look out onto the street.

Mandie and Celia were more interested in watching the people outside the window than in ordering food.

“Girls, please,” Mrs. Taft scolded. “We have to order our food.” Turning to the senator, she added, “Sitting by this window was not such a good idea after all.”

“I’m sure they’ll eat when the food comes,” Senator Morton assured her.

After they ordered, the waiter brought a basketful of breadsticks and butter, and the young people eagerly devoured them.

Mandie turned to look across the vast room. Spotting the blond man they had seen at the desk, she leaned forward to speak to her grandmother. “Look over there at the table near that post,” she said, rolling her eyes in that direction. “That’s the man we saw. Is he the same one you said is an actor?”

Mrs. Taft looked over at the man and then smiled at the young people. “One and the same,” she said.

The waiter brought their food, and after returning thanks, they all began eating.

“Is he putting on any magic acts while he’s here in Rome?” Mandie asked.

“Why, yes. The play he was performing in has closed,” Mrs. Taft replied. “In fact, I was going to ask if you young people would like to see his magic show. He’s using a small theater within walking distance from here.”

“Oh, yes!” the three said together.

“Could we go tonight, Grandmother?” Mandie asked excitedly.

“No, dear, by the time we finish our dinner it will be late, and we need some rest tonight,” Mrs Taft told her. “What about tomorrow night?”

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