haired doll seated in a tiny rocking chair.
"Why, she's darling," Nancy commented. "And, Judy, she looks like you, dimples and all."
Judy nodded. "And Aunt Mary says she looks like my mommy did when she was a little girl, so I'm always going to take very good care of my dolly."
At this moment her great-aunts came from the rear of the house to greet their caller.
"I see," said Nancy, "that you have made Judy very happy. Now it's my turn to pass along good news to you," and she told about their inheritance.
The women smiled happily and tears came to their eyes. Then suddenly Edna Turner gave Nancy an impulsive hug. "You dear, dear girl!" she half sobbed with joy. "Now Judy will always be well taken care of and receive the kind of.schooling we think she should have!"
Mary kissed Nancy and thanked the young sleuth for her untiring efforts to see justice done. Judy, meanwhile, looked on in puzzlement at the scene. But sensing that it called for her participation, she grabbed up her new doll and began to dance around with it.
"Now you can go to school too, Carol," she told her doll.
It was hard for Nancy to break away from the Turners, but she reminded them that she still had two calls to make.
"But come back soon," Judy said.
"When Nancy arrived at Abby Rowen's she was delighted to find her seated by the window in a chair. Her kind neighbor, Mrs. Jones, was there preparing food for the invalid. To this Nancy added a jar of homemade beef broth and a casserole of rice and chicken which Hannah Gruen had insisted upon sending.
"Can you stay a little while?" Mrs. Jones asked. "I ought to run home for half an hour, then I'll come back."
"She's been so kind," Abby Rowen spoke up. "Today she took my laundry home to wash and iron." After the woman had left, Abby went on, "The folks around here have been very thoughtful of me, but I just can't impose on them any longer. Yet I haven't any money—"
Nancy took the invalid's hand in hers and smiled. "I came to tell you that now you have lots of money, left to you by Josiah Crowley."
"What! You mean I won't have to depend on just my little pension any longer? Bless Josiah! Nancy, I never could believe that my cousin would go back on his word."
Nancy ate some broth and crackers with Abby Rowen and told the whole story. The old woman's eyes began to sparkle and color came into her cheeks. "Oh, this is so wonderful!" she said. Then she chuckled. "It does my heart good to know you outwitted those uppity Topham women!"
Nancy grinned, then said soberly, "If I hadn't become involved in this mystery, I might never have met several wonderful people—and their names aren't Topham!"
Abby Rowen laughed aloud—the first time Nancy had heard her do this. She laughed again just as the neighbor returned. Mrs. Jones, amazed, had no chance to exclaim over the elderly woman's high spirits. Abby launched into an account of her inheritance.
As soon as Mrs. Rowen finished the story, Nancy said good-by and left. She now headed straight for the Hoover farm. The two sisters were working in a flower bed.
"Hi!" Nancy called.
"Hi, yourself. How's everything?" Allison asked, as she brushed some dirt off her hands and came forward with Grace.
"Hurry and change your clothes," Nancy said. "I have a surprise for you."
"You mean we're going somewhere?" Grace inquired.
"That's right. To Signor Mascagni's so Allison can sign up for lessons."
"Oh, Nancy, you mean—?"
"Yes. The inheritance is yours!"
"I can't believe it! I can't believe it!" Allison cried out ecstatically. She grabbed the other two girls and whirled them around.
"It's simply marvelous," said Grace. "Marvelous. Oh, Nancy, you and Mr. Crowley are just the dearest friends we've ever had." Then, seeing Nancy's deep blush, she added, "Come on, Allison. Let's get dressed."
Nancy waited in the garden. Fifteen minutes later the sisters were ready to leave for River Heights. "But before we go," said Grace, "Allison and I want to give you something—it's sort of a reward."
"Something very special," her sister broke in.
"Oh, I don't want any reward," Nancy objected quickly.
"Please take this one," Allison spoke up.
She led the way to the living-room mantel. There stood the Crowley clock. "We received it this morning from the Tophams," Grace explained.
Allison added, "We think you earned this heirloom, Nancy, and somehow Grace and I feel Mr. Crowley would want you to have it."
"Why, thank you," said Nancy.
She was thrilled, and gazed meditatively at the old clock. Though quaint, it was not handsome, she thought. But for her it certainly held a special significance. She was too modest to explain to Allison and Grace why she would prize the heirloom, and besides, her feeling was something she could not put into words. Actually she had become attached to the clock because of its association with her recent adventure.
"This is the first mystery I've solved alone," she thought. "I wonder if I'll ever have another one half so thrilling."
As Nancy stood looking wistfully at the old clock she little dreamed that in the near future she would be involved in The Hidden Staircase mystery, a far more baffling case than the one she had just solved. But somehow, as Nancy gazed at the timepiece, she sensed that exciting days were soon to come.
Nancy ceased daydreaming as the clock was handed to her and looked at the Hoover girls. "I'll always prize this clock as a trophy of my first Venture as a detective," she said with a broad smile.