THE MOTOR GIRLS SERIES
by MARGARET PENROSE
Author of the highly successful "Dorothy Dale Series" 12mo.
Illustrated. Price per volume, 75 cents, postpaid.
Since the enormous success or our "Motor Boys Series," by Clarence
Young, we have been asked to get out a similar series for girls. No one
is better equipped to furnish these tales than Mrs. Penrose, who,
besides being an able writer, is an expert automobilist.
THE MOTOR GIRLS ON A TOUR
I A SPOILED DINNER.
II THE WOODLAND CONFERENCE.
III "NO BOYS!"
IV THE STRANGE PROMISE.
V A LITTLE BROWN WREN
VI THE HOLD-UP
VII A CHANCE MEETING.
VIII JACK AND CLIP
IX THE MYSTERIOUS RIDE.
X "THEY'RE OFF!"
XI THOSE DREADFUL BOYS.
XII THE GIRL IN THE DITCH
XIII AT THE GROTTO
XIV THE PROMISE BOOK LOST
XV ROB ROLAND
XVI A STRANGE MESSAGE
XVII THE ROAD TO BREAKWATER
XVIII THE CLUE.
XIX PAUL AND HAZEL
XX AT THE MAHOGANY SHOP
XXII THE CHILDREN'S COURT
XXIII THE MOTOR GIRLS ON THE WATCH.
XXIV CORA'S RESOLVE.
XXV A WILD RUN
XXVI LEGAL STRATEGY
XXVII AGAINST THE LAW
XXIX MERRY MOTOR MAIDS
XXX THE PROMISE KEPT
THE MOTOR GIRLS ON A TOUR
A SPOILED DINNER
The big maroon car glided along in such perfect rhythm that Cora
Kimball, the fair driver of the Whirlwind, heard scarcely a sound of
its mechanical workings. To her the car went noiselessly—the
perfection of its motion was akin to the very music of silence.
Hazel Hastings was simply sumptuous in the tonneau—she had spread
every available frill and flounce, but there was still plenty of
unoccupied space on the luxuriously cushioned "throne."
It seemed a pity to passers-by that two girls should ride alone on that
splendid morning in the handsome machine—so many of those afoot would
have been glad of a chance to occupy the empty seats.
Directly following the Whirlwind came another car—the little silver
Flyaway. In this also were two girls, the Robinson twins, Elizabeth
and Isabel, otherwise Belle and Bess. Chelton folks were becoming
accustomed to the sight of these girls in their cars, and a run of the
motor girls was now looked upon as a daily occurrence. Bess Robinson
guided her car with unmistakable skill—Cora Kimball was considered an
Sputtering and chugging close to the Flyaway came a second runabout.
In this were a girl and a boy, or, more properly speaking, a young lady
and a young gentleman. As they neared the motor girls Bess called back
"There come Sid and Ida. I thought they were not on speaking terms."
"They were not, but they are now," answered Belle with a light laugh.
"Why should a girl turn her back on a young man with a brand new
"It runs like a locomotive," murmured Bess, as, at that moment, the
other car shot by, the occupants bowing indifferently to the Robinson
girls as the machines came abreast.
Cora turned and shook her head significantly when the third car had
forged ahead. She, too, seemed surprised that Ida Giles should be
riding with Sid Wilcox. Then Bess rolled up alongside the Whirlwind.
"My, but they are going!" she called to Cora. "I thought Ida said she
would never ride with Sid again."
"Why not?" flashed Cora merrily. "Isn't Sid's car new and—yellow?"
"Like a dandelion," put in Belle, who was noted for her aesthetic
tendencies. "And, precisely like a dandelion, I fancy that machine
would collapse without rhyme or reason. Did you every try a bunch of
dandelions on the table?"
The girls all laughed. No one but Belle Robinson would ever try such
an experiment. Everybody knew the ingratitude of the yellow field
"I can never bear anything of that color since my valentine luncheon,"
declared Belle bravely. "That's why I predict disaster for Sid's new
"They have dropped something!" exclaimed Hazel as she peered ahead at
the disappearing runabout.
Bess had taken the lead.
"Let's put on speed," she suggested, and, pulling the lever, her car
shot ahead, and was soon within close range of the yellow runabout.
"Be careful!" called her sister. "You will run over—"
It was too late. At that moment the Flyaway dashed over something—the
pieces flew in all directions.
"Their lunch-hamper!" exclaimed Belle.
The runabout had turned to one side, and then stopped. Bess jammed on
the brakes and also came to a standstill.
"Well!" growled Sid Wilcox, approaching the wreck in the road.
"I—couldn't stop," faltered Bess remorsefully.
"I guess you didn't try," snapped Ida Giles, her cheeks aflame almost
to the tint of her fiery tresses.
"I really did," declared Bess. "I would not have spoiled your hamper
"And your lunch was in it?" gasped Belle. "We're awfully sorry!"
Bent and crippled enameled dishes from the lately fine and completely
equipped auto-hamper were scattered about in all directions. Here and
there a piece of pie could be identified, while the chicken sandwiches
were mostly recognizable by the fact that a newly arrived yellow dog
persistently gnawed at one or two particular mud spots.
"Oh, we can go to a hotel for dinner," announced the young man, getting
back into his car.
"But they ought to pay for the hamper," grumbled Ida, loud enough for
the Robinson girls to make sure of her remark.
"We will, of course," called Bess, just as Cora and Hazel came up, and
then the Wilcox runabout darted off again.
"Table d'hote?" called Cora, laughing.
"No, a la carte," replied Bess, picking up a piece of damaged celery,
putting it on a slice of uninjured bread and proffering it to Hazel.
"What a shame!" sighed Hazel. "Their picnic will be spoiled."
"But look at the picnic we've had," put in Belle. "You should have
seen Ida's face. A veritable fireless cooker."
"And Sid—he supplied the salt hay," declared Bess. "I felt as if I
were smothered in a ton of it."
"And that was the peace-offering hamper," declared Cora, alighting from
her car and closely viewing the wreck. "Jack told me that Ida gave Sid
a handsome hamper for the new car."
"I told you that the yellow machine would turn—"
"Dandelion," Hazel interrupted Belle. "Well, I agree with you that was
an ungrateful trick. To demolish the lunch, of all other available
things to do, on a day like this!"
"Souvenirs?" suggested Cora, removing her glove to dig out of the mud a
knife, and then a fork.
"Oh, forget it!" exclaimed Bess. "I am sure I want to. Let's get
going again, if we are to make the Woodbine Way in time to plan the
tour. I'm just crazy about the trip," and the enthusiastic girl
expended some of her pent-up energies on the crank at the front of the
Cora was also cranking up. "Yes," she said, "we had best be on the
road again. We are due at the park at twelve. I expect Maud will have
the family tree along and urge us to stop overnight at every gnarl on
"We might have asked Ida and Sid," reflected Belle aloud,
"Yes," Bess almost shouted, "and have them veto every single plan.
Besides, there are to be no boys on this trip; Lady Isabel please take
"As if I wanted boys!" sneered her sister.
"As if you could have them if you did!" fired back Bess in that
tantalizing way that only sisters understand, only sisters enjoy, and
only sisters know how to operate successfully.
"Peace! peace!" called Cora. "If Belle wants boys she may have them.
I am chairman of the acting committee, and if boys do not act I would
like to know exactly what they do."
"No boys!" faltered Hazel, who, not owning a machine, had not as yet
heard all the details of the proposed three-days' tour of the motor
"Nary a one!" returned Bess, now about to start.
"If we had boys along," explained Cora, "they would claim the glory of
every spill, every skid, every upset and every 'busted tire.' We want
some little glory ourselves," and at this she threw in the clutch, and,
with a gentle effort, the Whirlwind rolled off, followed closely by the
"I suppose Sid and Ida are licking their fingers just about now,"
remarked the good-natured Bess.
"Very likely," rejoined her sister, "for I fancy their meal was made up
of buckwheat cakes and molasses, as Sid had to pay for it."
"Oh, I meant sheer deliciousness," corrected her sister. "I
'fawncy'"—and she imitated the dainty tones used by Belle—"they have
"Backbiting and detraction," called Cora, who had been close enough to
hear the sisters' remarks. "I would not have been in your place at
that table, Bess, for a great deal."
Bess tossed her head about indifferently. She evidently knew what to
expect from Ida and Sid.
"Now for a straight run!" announced Cora, throwing in third speed. "We
must make the bridge by the quarter whistle or the Maud Morris family
tree may have been consumed for luncheon. I particularly want a peg at
"We're off!" called Bess, following with additional speed.
Then the Whirlwind and the Flyaway dashed off, over the country roads,
past scurrying chicks and barking dogs, past old farmers who turned in
to give "them blamed things" plenty of room, out along Woodbine to the
pretty little park where the plans for the first official run of the
motor girls were soon to be perfected.
THE WOODLAND CONFERENCE
In the first volume of this series, entitled "The Motor Girls; Or, A
Mystery of the Road," we became acquainted with these vivacious young
ladies. Cora Kimball, the first to own her own motor-car, the
Whirlwind, was the only daughter of Mrs. Grace Kimball, a wealthy widow
of the little town of Chelton. Jack Kimball, Cora's brother, a typical
college boy, had plenty to do in unraveling the mystery of the road,
while his chums, Walter Pennington and Edward Foster, were each such
attractive young men that even to the end it was difficult to guess
which one would carry off the highest honors socially—with Cora as
judge, of course.
It was Ed Foster who lost the money, a small fortune, and it was the
rather unpleasant Sid Wilcox, and perhaps unfortunate Ida Giles, who
finally cleared up the mystery, happily enough, all things considered,
although in spite of the other girls' opportune intention it was not
possible to reflect any degree of credit upon those responsible for the
troubles and trials which that mystery involved.
Speaking of the young men, Paul Hastings, a young chauffeur, should not
be overlooked. Paul was a very agreeable youth indeed, and his sister,
Hazel, a most interesting young lady, with very special qualities of
talent and learning.
"Among those present" in the first volume were the attractive Robinson
twins, Bess inclined to rather more weight than height, and Belle, the
tall, graceful creature, who delighted in the aesthetic and reveled in
Mr. Perry Robinson, the girls' father, was a wealthy railroad magnate,
devoted to carriage rides, and not caring for motors, but not too "set"
to allow his daughters the entire ownership of the pretty new
Cora, Hazel, Bess and Belle were flying over the country roads in their
cars, making for Woodbine Park, where they were to hold a preliminary
meet to arrange for a tour on the road.
Past the bridge at the appointed time, they reached the wooded park
exactly at twelve—the hour set for the rest and luncheon, to be
followed by the "business meeting."
"There come Daisy and Maud," called Cora, as along the winding road she
discerned another car approaching.
"And there are Clip and Ray," added Belle, shutting off the gasoline
and preparing to bring her machine to a standstill.
"I think it a shame to call Cecilia Thayer Clip," objected Belle. "She
is no more of a romp than—"
"Any boy," interrupted Bess. "Well, the boys call her Clip, and it's
By this time the new car was up in line with the others.
"'Lo, there!" called Cecilia, jerking her machine to a stop in the
manner deplored by skilled mechanicians.
"Look out!" cautioned Cora. "You'll 'bust' something."
Cecilia had bounded out on the road.
"Stiff as a stick!" she exclaimed with a rather becoming twist of her
agile form. "I never make that road without absorbing every bump on
Cecilia was not altogether pretty, for she had the "accent on her
nose," as Cora put it, but she was dashing, and, at a glance, one might
easily guess why she had been called Clip.
Rachel Stuart was a striking blonde, tall to a fault, pink and white to
bisqueness and, withal, evidently conscious of her charms. Even while
motoring she affected the pastel tints, and this morning looked radiant
in her immense blue scarf and her well-matched blue linen coat.
"You look," said Cora to Cecilia, as the latter continued to shake
herself out of the absorbed bumps, "like nothing so much as like a
'strained' nurse—Jack's variety."
"Exactly that!" admitted Cecilia. "I have been searching high and low
for a cheap and economical rig to drive in, and I have just hit upon
this." She pirouetted wonderfully. "All ready made—the 'strained'
nurse variety, sure enough. How do you like it?"
"Very becoming," decided Bess.
"And very practical," announced Belle.
"Sweet," declared Cora.
"When you say a good thing, stop," ordered Cecilia, just as Ray was
about to give her verdict.
"And now to the woods," suggested Cora. "We may as well put our
machines up in the open near the grove. We can see them there, and
make sure that no one is tempted to investigate them."
It was a level stretch over the field to the grove. Cora led the way
and the others followed. Lunch baskets and boxes were quickly gathered
up from the machines, and, with the keenness of appetite common to
young and healthy, and "painful" to our fair motorists (for Cecilia
declared her appetite "hurt"), the party scampered off to an
appropriate spot where the lunch might be enjoyed.
"And there are to be no boys?" asked Maud Morris, she with the
"imploring look," as Cecilia put it, although Maud was familiarly known
as a very sweet girl.
"No boys!" echoed Bess, between uncertain mouthfuls.
Daisy Bennet turned her head away in evident disapproval.
"No boys," she repeated faintly. Daisy did everything faintly. She was
a perfectly healthy young girl, but a little affected otherwise—too
fond of paper-covered books, and perhaps too fond of other sorts of
romance. But we must not condemn Daisy—her mother had the
health-traveling habit, and what was Daisy to do with herself?
Cora handed around some lettuce sandwiches.
"I am just as keen on boys as any of you," she admitted, "but for a
real motor girl tour it is apparent that boys will have to be tabooed."
Bess grunted, Belle sighed, Cecilia bit her tongue, Ray raised her
eyebrows, Hazel made a "minute" of the report.
"And silence ensued," commented Cecilia, reaching back of Maud and
securing a dainty morsel from the lunch-box of the latter.
"Water?" called Bess.
"Yes," chimed in Cecilia, "go and fetch some."
"The spring is away down the other side of the hill," objected Bess.
"You need the exercise," declared Cecilia.
"Clip, you go fetch some," suggested Cora, "and I'll give you half my
Without another word Clip was on her feet, had upset Daisy's improvised
table of sticks and paper napkins in her haste to secure the water
bottle, and was now running over the hill toward the spring.
Presently she stopped as if listening to something. Then she turned
and hurried back to the party on the grass. Her face was white with
"Oh!" she gasped. "I heard the awfullest groans! Some one must be
either dying for a drink, or dying from a drink. The groans were wet!"
Cora jumped up, as did some of the others.
"Come on," said Cora. "I'm not afraid. Some one may need help."
"Oh, they do—I am sure," panted Cecilia. "All kinds of help, I should
say. The moans were chromatic."
"Listen!" commanded Cora, as the sounds came over the hill. Low, then
fierce growls and groans, tapering down to grunts and exclamation marks
sounded through the grove.
"Oh!" screamed Belle.
"What can it be?" exclaimed Daisy.
"Almost anything," suggested Cora. "But we had best be specific," and
she started in the direction of the mysterious sounds.
Cecilia followed, as did Bess, while the others held off in evident
Although it was high noon, in the grove the heavy spruce and cedar
trees darkened the place, and the farther the girls penetrated into the
depths of the wood, the deeper did the shadows close in around them.
Cora picked up a stout stick as she advanced.
"Get me one," begged Cecilia. "We may encounter a bear."
"Human?" asked Cora with a laugh.
"Preferably," answered Cecilia, keeping very close to Cora.
The noises had ceased. The girls halted, waiting for a sound to give
them the clue of direction.
"He's dead!" gasped Cecilia. "It was the drink—he got the drink, and
"As long as he got it," whispered Cora. She was anxious to catch
"There!" exclaimed Bess, as a sound, faint but decisive, was heard from
a hollow ahead.
"Where?" asked Cora, purposely misunderstanding Bess.
"Here!" called Cecilia, who, with sudden resolve, had snatched the
stick from Cora's hand, and now darted forward.
She went straight for the spring.
Such shouting and such laughing!
There, hidden in the thicket near the spring, were discovered Jack
Kimball and Walter Pennington, while the chuckles and other noises
emerging from mysterious parts of the wood indicated the presence of
human beings, although the sounds had a queer similarity to that made
by furry beasts.
"Oh, Clip! Spare me!" called Jack, as Cecilia actually undertook to
punish physically the offending young man. "I really did not think you
would be scared—in fact, I had an idea you were scare-immune."
"I am," declared the girl; "but the idea of me wasting sympathy! I
might have discovered the dead man of all my life-long dreams—had to
appear in court, and all the other delightful consequences of finding a
man under suspicious circumstances; and there you are not even sick.
Jack Kimball, how could you? You might at least have had the
politeness to be deadly ill."
Walter crawled out from the thicket.
"I thought I smelled eating," he remarked, "and I suggested that we
postpone the wild and woolly until we had investigated."
"Oh, come on," called Cora. "We may as well allow you to move on.—You
have actually interrupted the plans for our first official run.'
"Good!" exclaimed Ed Foster, who, with some other young chaps, had
collected themselves from the various haunts. "Any boys?"
"Boys!" echoed Cora.
"B-o-y-s!" drawled Maud, "chucking the imploring look," as Cecilia
whispered to Cora.
"We have been discussing the question," declared Bess, as they all
started toward the lunch spread on the grass, "and we have now fully
decided. The answer is: No boys!"
This verdict brought forth the expected chorus of groans from the young
"Indeed, you may be glad to get a fellow when you find yourselves in a
good and proper smashup," declared Jack, "and I predict a smash-up
about every other mile."
The sight of the tempting lunch and that of the other young ladies who
had not undertaken the march to the spring, was the signal for a "grand
rush"—and that was about all.
When the boys extricated themselves from the "rush" there was not a
"We had all we wished," faltered the circumspect Ray Stuart. "You were
entirely welcome—might have saved, at least, the dishes."
"Oh," breathed Ed, "it is so much pleasanter to poach—don't spoil it."
Ed cast a most appreciative glance at Ray. She expected it, of course,
and accepted it with a smile.
Clip was talking earnestly to Jack, Cora was being entertained by
Walter, who, at the same time, managed to keep up a running
conversation with the group of girls now busy putting away the lunch
"We had a dreadful accident coming out," said Belle. "Bess ran over—"
"A square meal in a square basket," interrupted Bess. "I demolished
the hamper that Ida Giles had bestowed on Sidney Wilcox. It was a
peace offering, I believe."
"And you should have seen the kind of 'pieces' Bess made of it,"
commented Hazel with a merry laugh.
"Hush!" hissed Ed with his finger to his lips.
"Something tells me that the demolished hamper forbodes evil. You will
regret the day, Miss Elizabeth, that you spilled Sid Wilcox's-"
"Pumpkin pie," finished Cora. "I never saw such pumpkiny pumpkin pie
in my life. I can smell it yet!"
"Mrs. Giles' famous home-made," quoted Walter. "Well, it might have
been worse—they might have eaten that pie."
"Say, fellows," said Jack suddenly, "this is all very pretty—the
girls, I mean, of course—but does it smite any one of you young
rustics that we have an engagement—ahem! At three-thirty, wasn't it?"
"Precisely," declared Ed. "So much obliged for the feed; and do we
make a party call?"
"Of course," answered the pretty Ray, attempting to tie her huge scarf,
without having any idea of doing so. "We shall expect—"
"The bunch?" interrupted Jack, knowing Ray's preference for the
"Naughty," simpered Cecilia. "Jack, how can you use slang in the
presence of ladies?" and she assumed the characteristic "tough" walk,
which had always been one of Clip's most laughable capers.
"Loidies!" echoed Jack, tilting his cap and striking an attitude
appropriate to that assumed by Cecilia. He slipped his arm within
hers, and the pair "strutted off," in the fashion identified with the
"Here! here!" called more than one young lady. "Come back here, Clip!
There are to be no boys!"
"This isn't a boy," called back Cecilia, keeping up the performance.
"He's only a—"
"Don't you dare!" threatened Jack.
The girls began to gather the things up from the grass.
"Now don't hurry," remarked Ed coolly. "The fact is, we are not going
"Don't want us!" almost gasped Ray.
"Shook!" groaned Bess.
"Not at all," Walter hurried to add, "but the real truth is—well, let
me see. What's the real truth?"
Jack was fetching Cecilia back. At some secret sign the young men
actually took to their heels, and ran away before the girls realized
what was happening. But from a distance they waved a cheerful adieu.
"What do you think of that!" exclaimed Hazel.
"Oh, they are just up to some frolic, and could not take us in," said
Cora. "If we were not so busy with our plans we might follow them.
But I propose continuing the business meeting."
With some reluctance, for the time had been greatly enlivened by the
appearance of the young men on the scene, the girls once more got to
discussing the details of their proposed three days' tour.
As Cora had predicted, Maud wanted the stops along the way made at the
homes of her various and varied relatives. Daisy feared her mother
would insist upon a chaperone, and this almost absorbed Daisy's chance
of being eligible. Ray thought the motors should flaunt flags—pretty
light blue affairs—but Bess declared it would be infinitely more
important to carry plenty of gasoline.
So the girls planned and plotted, until, in the northwest, a great
black cloud came stealing over the silent blue, gathering fury as it
came, and coming very quickly at that.
"A storm!" shouted Belle. "Oh, I do hope it won't be the thundering
There was a swirl of the leaves around them, and the wind gave a
warning howl. All ran for the cars.
"A tornado, likely," said Hazel. "And, oh, dear! this is just about
the time that Paul will be bringing the mail over. I am so nervous
since his firm undertook the mail route between New City and Cartown.
This is such a lonely road for an auto in a storm—especially when
every one knows Paul carries the mail."
Hazel was greatly agitated, but the other girls endeavored to reassure
"Why, Paul will be all right," declared Cora, surprised at Hazel's
alarm. "What could happen to him? Why is a storm in the afternoon of
"Oh, I don't know," sighed Hazel; "but having to manage a car, and be
personally responsible for the big mailbag—there is so much important
mail between Cartown and New City—I have been nervous about it ever
since Paul began carrying it."
"But it makes him all the more important to his firm," said Cora
convincingly, "and I am sure he will be all right."
"You read too many wild-west stories," commented Bess, who was still
alongside the Whirlwind with her Flyaway. "There are no stagecoach
hold-ups these days."
"I hope not," returned Hazel with a forced laugh.
Quickly the storm was gathering. With some apprehension Cora directed
the line of cars.
"You lead, Daisy," she said, "as your clothes are most perishable."
"Indeed," shouted Cecilia, "my 'strained' nurse suit will have to go to
the laundry if it gets wet, and that adds to the price—reduces my
"Well, hurry, at any rate," commanded Cora. "I know of a barn we may
be able to make."
"We ought to meet Paul at the bridge," remarked Hazel, evidently unable
to dismiss her concern for her brother.
"Now, Hazel," exclaimed Cora, her voice carrying something of vexation,
"one would think you suspected—"
"You don't really think those boys would play a trick on him?"
interrupted Hazel. "Somehow I didn't like the way they looked—as if
they were plotting something."
Cora laughed heartily. "Why, you precious baby!" she managed to say;
"do you think boys of their caliber would tamper with the mail? To say
nothing of putting so nice a boy as Paul to inconvenience?"
"Oh, of course; forgive me, Cora. I should not have asked that. But
you know what Paul and I are to each other!"
"Yes, I know," said Cora with marked emphasis. "You are each the
other's little brother and sister. But it's nice, Hazel, very nice,
and I forgive you the fling at Jack."
"And Ed?" asked Hazel mischievously.
"And Walter," added Cora, ignoring the personal.
"Oh, mercy!" yelled Belle. "We're going to have another fire and
brimstone thunderstorm! Cora, make for that farmhouse!"
"Yes," called Cora, "I guess it will be all wind, and it won't hurt the
machines. Turn for the cottage, girls!"
Blinding and brutal, the wind and sand attacked the eyes and ears of
the motor girls, in spite of all the hoods and goggles. It was one of
those tearing windstorms, that often come in summer, seemingly bent on
raising everything on earth heavenward except the sand—that always
sought refuge under eyelids—the average grain of sand would rather get
in a girl's eye than help to make up a reputable mountain.
The line of cars made straight for the little farmhouse. It was
sheltered in a clump of pines quite near the roadside.
Bess drew up first. Belle was out, and upon the steps of the porch.
She had even struck the brass knocker before the others could bring
their machines to a stop.
"Belle is frightened," said Ray, taking her time to leave Cecilia's
"Well, we had a great storm one day—and Belle has the reflex action,"
explained Cora, referring to an exciting incident told of in the first
book of this series.
The door of the cottage opened.
"Come on, girls!" called Belle. "We may come in—the lady says."
"Now—now for an adventure!" whispered Cecilia. "I can see it through
the closed blinds! I see it under the knocker. I feel it in my
gloves! Yes, young ladies, there is going to be something doing inside
THE STRANGE PROMISE
When the eight young ladies marched into the little cottage it must be
admitted that each had her misgivings. What would any one think of
such a procession?
But Belle, whether from actual fright of the storm, or from some
intuitive knowledge of the circumstances, seemed to be assured that
they were all welcome.
A dark-eyed woman greeted them.
"Why, come right in," she insisted. "We haven't much room, but we are
all glad to see you."
"Careful," whispered the mischievous Clip to Cora. "There's a trap
door some place, I'll bet."
"Hush!" commanded Cora under her breath. "You will be suspected if not
The woman gathered up some sewing from an old-fashioned sofa. Cora saw
instantly that the piece of furniture was of the most desirable pattern
and quality, an antique mahogany gem of the colonial style.
"There will be room for most of us on your beautiful couch," said Cora,
taking her place, and indicating that the others might follow. "What a
handsome piece of furniture!"
"Yes," replied the woman with a sigh, "that is one of my family
heirlooms. We are very fond of old furniture."
"Look out!" whispered the irrepressible Clip. "Perhaps the trap is in
Bess giggled helplessly.
Belle, with her self-confidence, peculiar to this particular occasion,
took her place over by the window in a huge, straight-back chair—the
kind built with "storm doors at the back."
The sad-eyed woman smiled with her lips, but her eyes "remained at half
mast," as Clip put it.
"It is so delightful to meet a lot of healthy young ladies," began the
woman, betraying a certain culture and unmistakable education. "I have
a little daughter, who is not healthy of body, but her mind is the joy
of our lives in this isolated place. She will ask to see you directly,
and that is why I tell you of her infirmity. We never speak of it to
her—she almost thinks herself in health. I am glad you came—for her
Without waiting for a reply the woman opened a small door and
"Now!" gasped Clip. "Now be prepared! We will be fed piece by piece,
one by one, to the yellow dwarf—"
"Will you hush!" insisted Belle. "I am sure you ought to respect-"
"Oh, I do, Belle, dear! I respect your pretty self, and shall hate
terribly to see you torn limb from—"
The opening of the door cut short Clip's nonsense.
The woman wheeled a child's invalid chair into the room. Sitting in
this chair the girls beheld a child—that sort of child which heaven in
making a cripple of seems to hold some special claim on. The lines of
some amateur poet flashed across the mind of Cora:
"Does heaven in sending such as these,
From Nature hold a claim?
To keep them nearer to The Gates,
To call them in again?"
These lines had always appealed to Cora in spite of their faulty rhyme,
and, in glancing at the little girl in the chair, she understood why.
"This is my daughter Wren," said the woman, "and I should have
introduced myself. I am Mrs. Salvey Mrs. Ruth Salvey."
The girls gracefully acknowledged the introductions. Clip had
surrendered—she was "all eyes on the little girl"; too absorbed to
speak. She had left her place on the sofa, and now stood beside the
"How do you do, Wren?" she managed to say finally, taking the small,
white, slim hand within her own. "Aren't you frightened of—this
"Oh, no, indeed," said the child sweetly. "I am perfectly delighted.
Mother has been telling me all day we would have some pleasant surprise
before night. I thought when I saw the storm coming that that was the
surprise—I love storms, grandfather's kind—but now I know it is this."
Every girl in the room instantly felt the charm of this child. She was
Her eyes had the same "unfathomable depths" that marked those of Mrs.
Salvey, but the child did not otherwise resemble her mother. It was
evident that the name Wren fitted her well—so small, so sweet, so
timid, and with such a whispering voice!
Then, her eyes were brown, her hair was brown and, in spite of
ill-health, there was a gleam of color in her delicate cheeks.
"What's this?" asked Cora, stepping over to the child and touching a
book in her lap.
"Oh, that—that is my story," replied Wren. "I want to tell you all
about it. Will you have time to wait?" and she looked toward the
window, through which could be seen the silent automobiles.
"Indeed, we will," replied Cora. "I am so anxious to hear all about
it, and I am sure the others are. Do tell us, Wren," and Cora found a
chair quite close to the one on wheels.
Cecilia was fairly "devouring the child." The others were plainly much
interested. Belle, who evidently regarded the affair as her own
particular "find," retained the slim hand of the invalid in that of her
own healthy palm. Mrs. Salvey was smiling now—even the great sad eyes
were throwing out a light, although the light did come from dark and
Wren opened her book.
"This is my promise book," she began. "I have to tell you a long story
about it. Then I will ask each of you to make me a promise—it is a
very strange promise," she intoned most seriously. "But I know some
day it will be kept. Some day all these promises will unite in one
grand, great demand. Then Fate will have to answer."
A LITTLE BROWN WREN
The girls were awestricken.
Daisy, Maud, Hazel and Ray seemed to shrink closer together on the old
mahogany sofa. Cora and the Robinson girls with Cecilia were grouped
closely about the sick child.
"It's all about grandfather," she began. "I had the dearest,
darlingest grandfather, and since he went away I am so lonely. Only for
mother," she added, with something like an apology. "Of course, I am
never really lonely with mother."
Mrs. Salvey shook her head. Then she picked up the discarded sewing.
"You see," went on Wren, "we used to live with grandfather in a
beautiful cottage right near the river. He was a sea captain, and
couldn't live away from the waves. Then I was strong enough to play on
Wren stopped. At the mention of her infirmity a cloud covered her
young face. Presently she brightened up and resumed:
"But I am going to be strong again. When I find—"
She tossed her head back and seemed to see something beyond. For a
moment no one spoke. The silence was, akin to reverence.
"Then," sighed the child, "when we lived by the ocean grandfather went
out in a terrible storm—he said he had to go. And he never came back."
"Oh!" gasped Cora involuntarily.
Cecilia bent so close to Wren that her breath stirred the brown
ringlets over the child's ears.
"But, of course," declared the child vehemently, "he will come back.
If not here—in some other world."
"Dear," said Mrs. Salvey, "you had better make your story a little
short. I am sure the young ladies will want to get over the roads
"Oh, it is quite early yet," declared Cecilia falsely, for the mantel
clock pointed to six.
"I'll hurry," promised Wren. "You see, this is the important part of
it all. When we lived with grandpa he made a beautiful table—I even
helped him to make it. There were tiny pieces of wood all inlaid with
anchors, oars and sea emblems. I used to dip them in the hot glue for
grandpa. Well, there were some secret drawers in that table, and
grandpa told me that if anything should happen to him we must explore
the table. Well, we went away—it was the time of my own father's
death—and when we came back the table was gone."
"Who took it?" demanded Cecilia sharply.
"Everything was sold—at auction—and no one could tell us anything
about the table."
"You see," said Mrs. Salvey, "Wren thinks if we can find that table we
will come into our own. Father was very fond of daughter, and the
other relatives were so numerous that when the estate was equally
divided it left very little for us. We thought the table might contain
"I know it did," declared Wren. "Didn't grandpa show it to me once?
And now I want you each to sign the promise in my book. I shall read
it over for you."
The child drew herself up straight, and held the book high between her
hands. Then she read
"'I, the undersigned, promise most sacredly to do all in my power to
help discover the whereabouts of an antique inlaid table that has on
either side carved a large anchor, and which has the initials cut on
each end, W. S. and R. S.'
These were mine and grandpa's initials," she explained. "I was called
Wren because his name was Renton." She resumed reading the promise:
"'If ever I do discover this table I also promise to notify Wren Salvey
immediately.' Then you sign," she said. "There are pen and ink.
Mother always keeps them in the sitting-room for me."
Belle took the book. Pages were already filled with signatures.
"You must have a great many callers," she remarked, taking up the pen
"Oh, I take my book with me every time I go out," said Wren. "Sometimes
mother takes me where there are a lot of people. I love to talk to
"Of course you do," said Cora, filled with admiration for the mother
who so humored the sick child. "And with all those promises, as you
say, they must some day become a great, grand call, and so be answered."
"I hope you will hear the voice," said Wren fervently, and the day came
when Cora remembered the child's prayer.
The girls added their names to the long list. Wren required that they
repeat the promise individually, and, indeed, it became a most solemn
The storm had entirely subsided. It was time to be on the road again,
and Cora stood up first to take her leave.
"We really must go," she said. "We have had a most delightful hour.
We shall never forget Wren, and, perhaps, some day we may return to
fulfil our promise."
"I really feel that you will," declared the child. "I have never
before met such—nice young ladies," and she blushed consciously. "I
shall repeat your names many times—so that they will echo when I
Cecilia put her lips to the child's forehead. She did not dare trust
herself to speak.
"I am sure you will dream about us—we are such an army," said Daisy
with a laugh. "Try to forget that we are just girls—"
"She's an angel," interrupted Cecilia. "Don't get her mixed up with
Wren laughed—such a dainty little laugh. She looked at Daisy.
"You are all—lovely," she declared, "and I always like blue eyes!"
Mrs. Salvey added her felicitations to those of her little daughter.
"This has indeed been a most enjoyable visit," she said, "and I hope
you will all try to keep your strange promise. I believe where one is
so serious as is Wren something good is sure to result. If we could
find that table—"
"Perhaps you will," said Cora pleasantly. "We are about to start on a
long trip. We will make numbers of stops, and I assure you we will
never forget to look for the table. I am sure it will give us a very
pleasant duty to keep our eyes open."
"Indeed, it will," declared Cecilia warmly. "I only hope I shall be
the lucky one—for I feel a sort of premonition that some one in this
party really will be the means of bringing little Wren the good news.
I have a mental picture of the table. I shall know it instantly."
"It would be very easy to recognize it," said Mrs. Salvey, opening the
door as her visitors filed out. "The inlaid anchors are most
conspicuous on the leaves."
Outside Cecilia renewed her antics. "Stick a hatpin in me—somebody
do!" she exclaimed. "But not yours, Ray. I never could stand for that
college, even in a stick."
Ray smiled and hurried into her car. The fair chauffeurs cranked up
quickly, for it was almost dusk, and there was considerable road to
cover between the place and Chelton.
"We must make speed now," called Bess. "I have a dinner date, be it
"I'm in a hurry, too," shouted Maud. "I have an engagement to be tried
on—my new auto cloak. I have to have that on time."
The machines were speeding along merrily. It was pleasant after the
rain, and the twilight lent enchantment to the delights of motoring.
"Why do you suppose Hazel was so anxious about Paul?" Bess asked Belle.
"She could talk of nothing else, even when we were at the cottage."
"Well," replied the prudent Belle, "Hazel knows. There must be some
danger or she would not talk of it. Perhaps Paul has had some warning."
Dashing over the country roads, the motor girls sent their machines
ahead at fast speed, unwilling to stop to light up, and anxious to make
the town before the twilight faded into nightfall.
Suddenly Cora, who was in the lead, grabbed the emergency brake and
quickly shut off the power.
"What's that?" she asked. "Something straight ahead. Don't you see
Hazel stood up and peered into the gathering darkness.
"Yes; it looks like an auto. Perhaps some one got disabled, and had to
leave the machine," she replied.
"Perhaps," returned Cora, going along carefully.
"It is an auto," declared Hazel presently, as they were almost upon the
object in the roadway.
"The auto stage!" exclaimed Cora. "Don't be frightened, Hazel," she
hurried to say. "Paul is not in it. He must have gone on with the
Hazel sank down in the cushions and covered her eyes. Somehow she
could not bear to look at the deserted auto stage.
The other girls were coming along cautiously—they saw that something
was the matter.
The standing machine was directly in the road; it instantly struck Cora
that this was strange. Who could have been so careless as to leave an
unlighted auto in the roadway, and night coming on?
She turned her wheel to guide the Whirlwind to one side, and then
stopped. Bess was next, and she shut off the power from the Flyaway.
"What is it?" asked Bess anxiously. Belle did not venture to leave the
machine, but Hazel had bounded out of the Whirlwind almost before Cora
had time to stop it.
"Oh," exclaimed Hazel, "there are Paul's gloves. Where can he be?"
"Perhaps playing a trick on us," suggested Cora, although she had
little faith in the possibility. "I am sure he would not go far off
and leave this expensive machine here."
By this time all the other girls had reached the spot, and were now
deliberating upon the abandoned auto. Suddenly a call—shrill and
"That's Paul!" shrieked Hazel, turning instantly and dashing off in the
direction from which the voice had come. Cora, Bess, Maud and Cecilia
followed her. Over the wet fields, through briars and underbrush the
girls ran, while the call was repeated; this time there being no
possibility of mistake—it was Paul shouting.
Breathless, the girls hurried on. With a sister's instinct Hazel never
stumbled, but seemed to get over every obstacle like some wood sprite
called to duty.
"Oh, I'm all right, girls! Take your time!" came the voice in the
"All right!" repeated Hazel in uncertain tones.
"Oh, look!" shrieked Cecilia. "Didn't I tell you it was a joke? Look!"
What a sight! There, sitting on something like a stool, with a big
cotton umbrella opened over his head, his eyes blinded with something
dark, and his hands and feet made secure, was Paul Hastings, the
chauffeur of the auto stage.
"Whatever does this means?" asked Cora, hurrying to Hazel, who was now
madly snatching the black silk handkerchief from her brother's eyes.
"A prisoner of war," replied Paul rather unsteadily. "Glad you came,
girls—there, sis, in my back pocket, you will find a knife. Just cut
those carpet rags off my feet and hands."
Cecilia found the pocket knife, and, more quickly than any boy might
have done it, she severed the bonds, and Paul stretched out—free.
"Well," he exclaimed, "this is about the limit!"
"Did the boys do it?" asked Cora.
"Boys! Not a bit of it," replied Paul. "It was a regular hold-up.
And the mail! I must get that, if they have left it on the road. Did
you see the car? Is it all right?"
"It appeared to be," said Cora. "It was the car that brought us to a
standstill. It's in the middle of the road."
Paul shook himself as if expecting to find some damage to limb or
muscle. Then he turned toward the open path.
"Tell us about it," demanded Cecilia. "Wasn't it a joke?"
"Joke!" he reiterated. "Well, I should say not! Would you call it a
joke to have two masked men jump in front of a running car, and flash
something shiny? Then to have them climb in, cover my eyes and tell me
I would be all right, and not to worry!"
"Oh," sighed Hazel, "I felt something would happen to you, Paul, dear.
You must give up this position."
"Well, we will see about that," he replied. "Perhaps I won't have
anything to say about it—if the mailpouch is gone."
"Then they brought you out here?" asked Cecilia, determined to hear all
"Carried me like a baby," replied Paul, "and in sheer humane
consideration they put me near the road, so that my call might be
"And the umbrella?" asked Cora.
"Oh, they went to a barn for that. It was raining, and my polite
friends did not want me to take cold."
His tone was bitterly cutting; taking cold would evidently have been of
small account to him.
"And they sat you upon that log?" put in Maud.
"Like any ordinary bump," he rejoined. "I never knew the misery of a
bump on a log before."
"And, you are not hurt?" Hazel pressed close to his side and looked up
lovingly at the tall boy.
"Not in the least—that is, physically. But I am seriously hurt
Cora could not but recognize how handsome Paul was. The excitement
seemed to fire his whole being, and throw some subtle human
phosphorus—a light from his burning brain certainly brightened in his
eyes and even in his cheeks.
"Come along, girls," he said hurriedly. "Never mind the paraphernalia.
Some lonely goat might like the rags. Let's get out on the road."
His anxiety was of course for the mail. That leather bag meant more to
him than the mere transference of Uncle Sam's freight—it meant his
Over the rough fields the girls followed him. Hazel clung to his hand
like a little sister indeed, while the others were content to keep as
close as the uncertain footing would allow.
Presently they reached the road, then the stage coach. The other
girls, who had not run to Paul's rescue, were standing around
Paul jumped into the car—thrust his hand into the box under the floor,
where he always put the government pouch.
He brought up the mailbag.
A CHANCE MEETING
Paul lost no time in reaching Cartown with the belated mail, and so was
obliged to leave the girls an the road with scant ceremony, hardly
pausing to discuss why he had been bound when no apparent robbery had
Hazel appeared so agitated that Cora insisted upon her returning to the
Kimball home to dinner, and also had succeeded in getting a promise
from Paul that he would come there as early in the evening as it would
be possible for him to do so.
Then, when the mail car was lost sight of, and the motor girls started
again on their homeward way, Clip insisted upon leading.
"I know the variety of bandit," she declared, "and I want to meet him
personally. He is sure to fall dead in love with me on the spot. And,
oh, girls! Think of it! Me and the bandit!"
Even Hazel laughed. The suggestion called up a picture of the
disgraceful Clip in robber uniform, with the proverbial red
handkerchief on her head, and all the rest of the disreputable
accessories. Clip would "look the part."
But the Thayer machine was not noted for its beauty or service—it had
the reputation of bolting always at the "psychological moment," and
when Clip dashed forward to meet her fate, the fate of the Turtle (as
her car was called) intercepted her.
With a jerk the Turtle tossed up its head, bounced Clip off her seat,
and then stopped.
"Oh!" exclaimed the girl. "Isn't this the utmost! And I about to meet
my bandit! Now I suppose I will have to leave Turtle here to afford
the foe a means of escape. I say, girls, isn't that the utmost?"
She jumped out of the car and, with a superficial glance at the
fractious machine, waited for Cora's car.
"Come on, Ray," she said to her companion. "No use sitting there. That
car will never, move unless it is dragged. I know her. No use
monkeying with tools. When she stops, she stops, and we may as well
make up our minds to it."
"But," argued Ray, "you have not even attempted to find out what is the
matter. Perhaps we could fix it up—"
"No use attempting. I would find the whole thing the matter. Just
feel," she suggested, putting her ungloved hand on the radiator. "You
could make beef stew on any of her lids. Oh, I know this kind of hot
box! I've boiled the water, and the cylinders are stuck."
By this time the other girls had come along. Cora insisted upon
looking over the disabled machine, and, while she did so, Clip
deliberately made herself comfortable in the Whirlwind.
"Get in with Daisy," she called to Ray. "This will do me."
"Can't we tow it?" asked Cora. "Why should you leave your machine out
here? And it is almost dark!"
"That's the reason," replied Clip. "It is almost dark, and I prefer to
leave the machine here as a little token of my love to the bandit.
Suppose I want to be 'run in' for traveling without a glimmer'?"
Cora saw that argument was useless. Reluctantly she turned from the
Turtle. Ray climbed in with Daisy and Maud. Bess and Belle were ready
to start "from the seat," without cranking up. Cora gave the Whirlwind
a few turns.
"I hope we get home without any further trouble," came from the folds
of Ray's blue veil. "I think we have had enough for one day."
"Enough!" echoed Clip. "Why, I could stand ten times that much! I love
trouble—in the abstract."
"Suppose you call this the abstract," almost sneered Daisy, who
evidently did not relish being crowded.
"Certainly I do," declared Clip. "Just gaze on the abstracted Turtle!"
"Who's that?" whispered Hazel nervously. A step could be heard in the
"My bandit!" breathed Clip. "Oh, my darling, desperate bandit!"
"Hush!" cautioned Cora, for she felt the possibility of Paul's captors
being about still. Then two figures appeared from the sharp turn in
the road. Cora wanted to start, but hesitated. The figures came
closer. They were those of two well-dressed men; that was easily
Clip put her hand over her heart.
"Oh-h=h!" she groaned audibly. "Isn't he handsome!"
Hazel clutched at her sleeve. "Do stop!" she begged. "They may be—"
"They are!" answered Clip, and, as the men halted beside the Turtle,
she deliberately jumped out and approached them.
The other girls were spellbound. Cora, too, left her place—she knew
Cecilia's recklessness and felt it her duty to stand by her.
The two strange men looked first at the girls and then at the car.
"Had an accident?" asked the taller of the two politely.
"Oh, no, it's chronic," answered Clip flippantly, much to Cora's dismay.
The men were evidently gentlemen. They were well dressed, and had the
mannerisms of culture.
"Perhaps I can help you," suggested one, taking from his pocket a
wrench. "I always carry tools—meet so many 'chronics,'" and he
"Come on," called Hazel from the Whirlwind. "You know, Paul will be
At this the men both started. He with the wrench ceased his attempt to
open the motor hood. The other looked toward Hazel.
"Oh, I see," he said with affected ease. "Your friend promised to meet
you, and you are late."
"My brother," said Hazel curtly.
"Paul Hastings," said Cora quickly, before she knew why.
"Oh!" almost whistled the taller man. "I see; of the Whitehall
"Do you know him?" demanded Cora rather sharply.
"Slight-ly," drawled the stout man, he with the wrench.
"Well, we had best not detain you, young ladies," said the other, "as
you have so important an engagement," and with that they both turned
"What do you think of that?" exclaimed Cora.
"The utmost!" replied Clip, in her favorite way of expressing "the
"They knew Paul!" gasped Hazel.
"Seemed to," answered Cora evasively. She had her opinions and doubts
as to who these gentlemen might be.
"Just my luck," murmured Clip. "I rather liked the tall fellow, but I
noticed that the other carried a gold filigree fountain pen, had a
perfectly dear watch charm, and he talked like a lawyer."
"Oh, my!" exclaimed Cora. "You did size him up. I only noticed that
he was a joint short on his right-hand thumb."
"That, my dear, is termed a professional thumb-mark. We will know him
if we meet him in the dark," said Clip.
Cora laughed. She felt, however, more serious than she cared to have
the others know. "Well, let's be off this time," she said. "We will
hardly make town before dark now."
JACK AND CLIP
"A deliberate trick of Cecilia's," murmured Daisy.
"She pretends to be so off-hand," answered Maud. "I have always
noticed that that sort of girl is the greatest schemer."
"To leave her car out on the road, and then boldly ask Jack Kimball to
go with her to fetch it. Who ever heard of such a thing? I wonder
Cora tolerates her."
"Cora is what some people call 'easy,'" said Daisy with uncertain
meaning. "She takes her chances in choosing friends."
"Did they fetch the car back?"
"I saw it at the garage this morning. I do hope it cannot be fixed. I
mean," Maud hurried to say, "I hope she will not hamper us with it on
our tour. It is only fit for the junkman."
Daisy and Maud were walking toward the post office. It was the morning
after the adventure on the road, and the two girls had heard from Ray
Stuart something of the news they were now discussing. The hold-up of
Paul Hastings was to them not so important as the fact that Cecilia
Thayer had gone over to Kimball's and actually asked Jack Kimball to
take her out Woodbine way to tow home the balky Turtle.
But, precisely as her friend had said, Clip was a schemer. In the
first place, she had no idea of detaining her companions on the lonely
road to "monkey with the machine," so soon after Paul's hold-up. Next,
she had no idea of leaving the car there at the mercy of fate.
Instead, she deliberately went over to Kimball's after dinner, asked
Jack to take her out Woodbine way, and incidentally suggested that he
take along a gun. Jack had two good friends, each opposite the other
in type. Bess Robinson was very much admired by him; and Cecilia
Thayer, she who always played the tomboy to the extent of affording a
good time for others when she could actually disguise a serious reason
in the joke, she who affected the "strained" nurse costume for fun,
when it was a real necessity—Jack Kimball liked Cecilia Thayer. Her
rather limited means often forced her to make sport of circumstances,
but, in every case, Cecilia "won out." She was, the boys said, "no
So it happened as Daisy related. Clip did ask Jack to go with her to
fetch home the car. It also happened that they encountered Sid Wilcox
on the way. He seemed to be returning alone in his auto from Cartown.
Sid told Ida, Ida told Ray, Ray told Daisy and Daisy told Maud.
Daisy and Maud were inseparable chums. They agreed on everything—from
admiration for Jack Kimball and Walter Pennington, to dislike for
Cecilia Thayer, and something akin to jealousy for the Robinson girls.
Cora was beyond criticism—they simply "regarded her."
"And," spoke Daisy, as they turned into the green, "I do believe that
the boys played that trick on Paul. I thought when they hurried so to
get away that they were up to something."
"Queer joke," commented Maud.
"Didn't you think those strange men acted suspiciously?" asked Daisy.
"How could they do otherwise when Cecilia acted as she did? I never
saw a girl so forward."
"I suppose she will have some boys tagging after us on our tour, if her
car is fixable," went on Daisy in sarcastic tones. "Likely she will
find some excuse for stopping at hotels, and such places. Mother
insisted I should not go to any public eating place unless we have some
older person along. But Cecilia—she is old or young, just as it suits
"There's Bess and Belle!" exclaimed Maud, as the Robinson twins'
runabout swerved into the avenue.
"And there are Jack—and Cecilia!" Daisy fairly gasped the words.
At that instant the two last named persons, in Jack's little car, came
up to the turn. Cecilia looked almost pretty—even her critics
admitted that, secretly. Of course, Jack was always handsome.
"I wonder how Bess feels," remarked Daisy with scornfully curled lip.
"She thinks a lot of Jack," replied Maud, as both bowed to the
occupants of the runabout.
"Where do you suppose they are going?" went on Daisy.
"Oh, probably to see about having the old car fixed up. Of course,
when she got Jack to fetch it she will manage to have him attend to the
Bess and Belle were now abreast of the girls on the sidewalk. The
twins bowed pleasantly, while the others nodded in return.
"I wish mother had not gone to town this morning," said Daisy. "I
would just like to see where they are all going."
"Your mother took the car?"
"Yes; and she won't be home until evening. Well, I declare if there
isn't Cora and—"
"Walter Pennington," finished Maud. "She is almost as changeable as
"Isn't it too mean that we have to walk," complained Daisy. "I have a
mind to go over to the garage and ask for a car. Father often gets
"Oh, yes. Doctors are always having breakdowns. Do you suppose you
could get one?"
"Well, I am going to try, at any rate," and Daisy Bennet quickened her
pace, while Maud Morris hurried along with her companion. It was but a
few minutes' walk to the garage, and when the girls reached the
entrance they were surprised to find the three automobiles, Jack's,
Cora's and the twins' pulled up outside.
"Oh, I can't go in now," demurred Daisy. "We will have to wait until
they go. Funny they should be taking a morning run, without asking us
Paul Hastings was talking to the Robinson girls. It was evident that
he was much excited. Cora was on the sidewalk, and Cecilia was beside
her. Jack stood off to one side with Walter.
"Some important consultation," whispered Daisy. "I'll wager it's about
"Of course, father knows you had nothing to do with it," Bess was
saying to Paul, "but he is positive the papers were in that mail. Corn,
thought it best we should let you know right away."
"Forewarned is forearmed," said Paul. Then Daisy and Maud came up to
"My!" exclaimed Daisy. "Quite a gathering."
"Yes," answered Clip. "We are glad you came. Now our meeting is
complete. We want evidence. Tell us all you know about the strange
men. You had a good chance to observe. You were not in the little
quadrille on the road."
"Why," stammered Daisy, "I thought them very nice-looking men. They
were well dressed, and—"
"That's it," interrupted Jack. "They were nice men, well dressed. What
else do you expect young ladies to observe? Clip, your suspicions are
not borne out by facts. Not a girl in the party but yourself saw—what
was it? The corner of the missing blue envelope in the upper
"Jack Kimball! You know perfectly well I never said such a thing. I
did see something blue, but it might have been—"
"A captured shadow from Daisy's eyes," said Walter dryly.
"What happened?" breathed Maud. Then Walter realized what a girl's
eyes may do in the matter of "imploring." He deliberately stepped over
to Maud's side.
"Oh, some valuable papers were taken from the mailbag," volunteered
Clip. "And we thought the strange men might have found them."
"You cheerful fibber," whispered Jack. "Come on, if you expect to get
to Cartown to-day."
"How can we, now?" asked Clip in an undertone.
"Just jump in and go," replied Jack. "Why should we explain?"
Jack cranked up his car, and in her usual deliberate way, Cecilia
Thayer stepped into the runabout, pulled on her gloves, smoothed out
the robe, and then said: "Good morning!"
Jack and Clip left the others standing in surprise and, perhaps,
disappointment. Only Cora guessed where they were actually going.
THE MYSTERIOUS RIDE
The fact that Cecilia Thayer could be old or young, as had been
remarked by one of her companions, was not a mere saying. The Thayers
were strangers in Chelton, and Cecilia was now only home from school on
a vacation. It was generally understood that the girl was not exactly
a daughter of the small household, but perhaps a niece, or some
relative, who made her home with the people. She never invited her
friends to her home, but this was not considered strange, as her means
plainly were not equal to the circumstances of those with whom she
Not that Cecilia sought this class, because she was constantly sought
by them—she was a brilliant, happy young girl, and, as such, was a
most desirable adjunct to the Chelton younger set.
It was, of course, Cora Kimball who "took her up," and that fact was
sufficient to vouch for all.
The girl and Jack were well on the road to Woodbine the morning of the
little meeting by the garage, when, with a very different expression of
countenance to that shown to the party by the roadside, Cecilia grasped
at the arm of the young man beside her.
"It's awfully good of you, Jack," she said, "and I suppose I am taking
"Good! The idea! It's a privilege," he answered warmly.
"You suspect, of course."
"I have suspected," he said with a light laugh.
"And if the girls find out?"
"What of it? Is it a disgrace to—"
"Hush! I haven't qualified yet, and when I do I'm going to spring it
on them." She tossed her head back defiantly. "Won't some of them
Jack laughed outright. "You're a brick, Clip," he exclaimed. "You can
count on Cora, too. Does she know?"
"I haven't told her, but I imagine she has guessed. You are a great
family at guessing."
"Which way?" he inquired, nodding toward a fork in the road.
"To the left. Isn't it too mean that our old lumber wagon gave way? I
never had more need of it. It's just splendid of you to help me out
"And good of you to let me," he replied with a keen glance at the
girl's bright face.
"Of course I had no idea of going on the girls' trip. I only went in
for the arrangements for the fun of the thing. I seem to need an awful
lot of fun," she finished with a sigh that ended like a groan.
"Oh, we all do, more or less," spoke Jack. "Only some of us are more
upright than others in the way we acknowledge it."
They were turning up to the Salvey cottage. Cecilia pointed it out.
"You must expect to sign the promise book," she said. "That is a
condition of admittance."
"So Cora told me. Well, I'll sign. Can't tell which name may win the
"Of course I'll see Wren first. But before we go she will insist upon
seeing you. And—don't mind her extravagances about me. You know, she
sees so few people that she thinks I am just wonderful."
"I agree with her. But you can count upon my discretion, if that is
what you want, Clip."
"You're 'immense,' Jack!" exclaimed the girl, her smile apologizing for
the vulgarity of the expression. "If I had a brother like you—"
"Hush! Your brother! Why, Clip!"
"Here we are," she interrupted; and she prepared to get out as Jack
stopped the car. "Suppose you stay outside until I call you?"
"Oh, if I must. But be sure to call. I've had Cora play that trick,
and forget the cue."
"Oh, she'll have to see you," and with that Cecilia jumped out of the
car, and presently touched the brass knocker of the little cottage.
Jack was left to his own thoughts. Wasn't she a girl, though? So like
Cora in her impulses. Well, a girl has to be impulsive to get
ahead—she is so ridiculously hampered by conventionalities.
It seemed a long time before Clip reappeared at the door, and beckoned
him to come in. Then the room he entered smelled strongly of
antiseptics, and the crippled child sat in a chair made sweet and fresh
with snowy pillows. Wren had her promise book in her hands. Briefly
Cecilia introduced Jack, while the child eyed him keenly, as do those
deprived of the usual means of making sure of their friends.
"You know about my promise," she said shyly. "Grandpa's will is lost
in an old table, and will you promise to help find it?"
"Indeed I will," said Jack warmly, taking the pen offered. "I have a
weakness for hunting old furniture, and I hope it will be my good
fortune to find the table."
"How much you are like your sister," said Wren, referring to Cora, "but
not a bit like your cousin."
This caused both Jack and Cecilia to laugh—she Jack's cousin!
Mrs. Salvey patted the child's head. "She is so much better lately,"
she said, "since she has been friends with Miss Thayer."
"Her friendship is wonderful," said Jack, handing back the book. "It
does me all sorts of good."
Cecilia was pulling on her gloves. She picked up the small black
satchel (her hand bag, she called it), and started for the door.
"That hand bag smells like—"
"Fresh eggs," she interrupted Jack. "Understand, young man, I had to
come out here to get one dozen of strictly fresh eggs."
For a moment she looked intently at Jack, as if determined to put him
on his honor without further explanation. He took her hand and
assisted her into the car. As he did so she felt the assurance that
Jack Kimball was her friend.
Then they started back to Chelton.
"Isn't it too mean? I never thought that Cecilia would act so. I
think Jack knows why."
Bess Robinson was talking to Cora. Her voice betrayed something other
than disappointment. Bess now called Cecilia by her full name—the
affectionate "Clip" had been laid aside. Besides this she hesitated
when Jack's name was needed in her conversation. The fact was perfectly
evident. Jack's attention to Cecilia, their runaway ride, and the
consequent talk, had rather hurt Bess. Jack had always been a very good
friend to her.
"But Clip simply can't come," said Cora. "Her machine is out of order,
and, besides this, she is called away to look after some sick relative."
"Cora Kimball!" exclaimed Bess. "You're a perfect baby. Sick
relative! Why, every one sickens a relative when they want to go away
in a hurry. It might be interesting to know who else has a made-up
sick relative who demands, say, Jack's immediate attention."
"Why, Bess! I'm surprised that you should speak so bitterly. You know
perfectly well that Jack's going to the races. You heard them make all
the arrangements—Jack, Ed and Walter. Besides—" Cora stopped. She
tossed back her pretty head as if too disgusted to speak. She was
packing the last of her touring things into the hampers of the
Whirlwind. She would have everything ready for the early start next
morning. Bess Robinson had run over for final instructions, when Cora
announced that Cecilia Thayer could not go with them on the motor
girls' tour. This information drove all other details from the mind of
Bess. And now Cora was locking her boxes.
"Oh, I suppose we will get along very well without her," said Bess
finally. "In fact, it may be better that she does not come, for she is
bound to be doing things that are risky."
"Well, we will miss her, I'm sure," said Cora, "for she is such good
company. But we will have to manage."
"Has Belle all your tools packed? Don't forget candles; they are so
handy when anything happens after dark. I always fetch them. They poke
under little places so nicely."
"Oh, I fancy Belle has managed to take along the candelabra. At least,
I think I can count on the glass candlesticks. Poor Belle! I wonder
will she ever leave off that sort of thing. She cares more or an
'effect' than for a good square meal," answered Bess.
"Alt kinds make a world," replied Cora. "Suppose she were as sensible
as you or I? Why, as well take away the flowers, and plant kindling
Bess laughed. Cora turned up the path with her. "I met Ray," said
Bess, "buying a new veil, of course. I would hate to be as pretty as
Ray, and have so much trouble to keep up the reputation. That's the
worst of pretty girls. They really have to keep pretty."
"And Daisy? Was she buying a new novel to read en route? They might
both do better to 'chip in' and buy a new kit of tools," said Cora.
At precisely eight forty-five o'clock the next morning the Whirlwind
drew up in front of the post-office. The start was to be made from
that point, and Cora was first to arrive. With her were Hazel
Hastings, and Gertrude Adams, a school friend of Cora's.
Two minutes later the Flyaway puffed into sight with the Robinson twins
smiling serenely from her two-part seat.
Scarcely had the occupants of the two car exchanged greetings than
Daisy Bennet and Maud Morris drove up in the Bennet runabout, called
the Breeze. On account of the change of plan, Ray Stuart was to ride
with Cora, instead of with Clip, as was at first proposed. Ray met the
girls at the post-office. As predicted, she did look like a brand new
bisque statue. She wore a soft silk coat, of light green pongee, the
same shade hood, over which "rested," one might say, a long white
chiffon veil. It reposed on the hood, where two secret pins held it,
but otherwise the veil was mingled with Ray's expression and the
surrounding atmosphere. The girls sighed as they beheld her. She had
been waiting for some minutes in the post-office, and needless to say
there were others waiting, too—not altogether engrossed in reading the
Cora stepped out of the Whirlwind and opened the tonneau door for Ray.
Hazel and she were to ride within the car, while Gertrude shared the
seat with Cora. Cora wore her regular motor togs. The close-fitting
pongee coat showed off well her perfect figure, and with the French
bonnet, that nestled so snugly to her black tresses there was no
semblance to the flaring, loose effect so common to motorists. She
looked more like a Paris model than a girl equipped for a tour. But
Cora had that way—she was always "classy," as the boys expressed it,
or in perfect style, as the girls would admit.
Hazel usually affected strong shades—she was dark and could wear reds
and browns to good advantage. It so happened that the motor girls
afforded a peculiar variety, no two wearing similar outfits. Timid
little Maud Morris was in white, and Daisy was in linen. The Robinson
girls wore their regular uniform—Bess in Havana-brown and Belle in
true-blue. So it will be seen that such an array of beauty and clothes
could not help but attract attention, to say nothing of the several
automobiles that made up the procession in front of the post-office.
At the last moment Belle had to run into a store to make some trifling
purchases, while Daisy sent two extra postcards, and Ray needed
something from the drug store.
Finally all was ready. It was just nine o'clock.
"Ready!" called Cora.
A blast on a bugle startled them. Then—
What was it?
It looked like a hay wagon, but it came along at the speed of a fine
"The boys!" called the girls in one breath.
Sure enough, there were Jack, Walter, Ed and some others of their
chums, piled up on a veritable hay rack, and they wore all sorts of
farmer clothes. The hay rack evidently set upon the body of are
And Jack on the "monkey seat," blowing that bugle!
"Start!" called Cora.
"They're off!" shouted the chorus from the hay wagon, and then Chelton
folks were treated to a sight the like of which they had never before
It was the first official tour of the original motor girls.
THOSE DREADFUL BOYS
"No BOYS, eh?" shouted Ed from his "perch" in the hay.
"Aren't they dreadful?" exclaimed Daisy with doubtful sincerity.
"Hope mother doesn't hear of it," replied Maud. "She would be sure to
Cora laughed, and Bess fairly panted. Belle tossed something into the
hay wagon as it passed—it made a practice of passing each machine in
turn, and then doing it all over again.
Every one in Chelton and the near-by places rushed out as the
procession went along. It was like a circus—many folks really did
believe that a "railroad show" had come to town unannounced.
The girls had planned to have dinner at a pretty little tea-house on
the outskirts of Hollyville. But the boys had no intention of turning
back, it seemed, and imagine those boys in the tea-house, kept by a
couple of enterprising college girls!
"Hey there!" called Jack. "When do we eat? There's the noon whistles."
"Yon don't eat," replied Cora.
"Don't, eh? Well, look out for your commissary department," answered
Jack. "We came prepared to fight."
"Oh," sighed Daisy, "do you suppose they will spoil all our boxes?"
"I'm sure I don't know," replied the noncommital Maud.
But Hazel said: "What do you suppose they are up to?"
"Trust them for fun," answered Cora. "I will simply trounce Jack if he
attempts to overhaul our stores."
Hazel laughed merrily. "If only Paul were along," she ventured. "And,
Cora, do you know that mailbag business is not by any means settled?"
"I know that, girlie," said Cora with polite seriousness, "but all
troubles are tabooed on this ride, you know. Gertrude," to the girl
who had been looking and listening, "I appoint you monitor of this car.
The first girl to bring in troubles is to be fined."
"Very well," replied Gertrude, "I shall be glad to have something to
do. I feel like a stranger with those boys."
"That's because you do not know them," ventured Ray. "They are
perfectly splendid boys."
"Make a note of that," called Cora. "Gertrude, that is one mark in
favor of Ray."
The procession was winding along a pretty country road. Trees closed
in from side to side, and deep gutters outlined the driveway from the
The boys had actually ceased their antics for the time, and it occurred
to more than one girl that this respite might have been more
advantageous if it had been put into operation in the city streets—the
decorum was wasted in the woods. But boys have a queer reasoning
code—where girls are concerned.
"Don't you suppose they will turn back before we reach the Glen?"
called Bess to Cora. Their machines were running quite close together.
"If they don't leave us we will drive past the teahouse, and come back
later," said Cora.
"But what will the college girls think? They will be sure to have a
nice lunch ready."
"When Tillie sees Ed Foster she will cease to think. She knows Ed,"
and Cora laughed significantly.
"Oh, look!" shouted Hazel. "A flock of sheep. And directly in the
track. The boys—"
At that moment every one saw the sheep. The hay wagon made a spurt and
dashed straight through the frightened herd, scattering them right and
left, like feathers blown by the wind.
Daisy and Maud came next. They had time to jam down the brakes, but it
would have been wiser to have dashed through the flock without loss of
time, for an angry ram turned as the car slacked speed, and when Daisy
and Maud saw him jump toward them, they also jumped out into the
gutter, deserting their car.
A big, woolly ram leaped up from the midst of the flock, and actually
landed in the runaway automobile. The improvised hay wagon was quickly
steered to one side, just as Daisy's car, with the horned beast at the
wheel, plunged past.
The machine, in charge of the queer mechanician, plunged straight
ahead, and after a moment's hesitation on the part of their drivers,
the other cars were quickly sent after it.
The boys shouted lustily. As if the frightened and angry ram cared for
the harmony of a college quartet. Wasn't it ridiculous to see the ram
positively driving the car?
By some strange instinct the animal had raised its fore legs to the rim
of the steering wheel, standing upright on his hind ones, which were
jamming the brake and clutch pedals.
"Oh!" screamed the girls in a chorus. "There comes a runabout! He'll
collide with it!"
A runabout, coming in the opposite direction, and headed straight for
the ram, could be seen down the road. The driver was a girl, that was
evident, but she was so muffled in hood, veil and cloak that her
features were not discernible.
"Stop it!" screamed Gertrude. "She'll be killed."
The ram evidently saw the other car coming, and tried to leap out, but
its fore feet had gone through the spaces between the spokes of the
steering wheel. The girl in the runabout was sending her car from side
to side, in a frantic endeavor to avoid a collision. It seemed to be a
choice with her, whether she should smash into the ram's car, or tilt
into the roadside ditch.
Suddenly the girl stood up. The eyes of the motor girls and their boy
companions were on her. She gave a scream, and then—something
happened. From the rear cars came a scream. Then—the Breeze was
stopped—the ram was gone, and the runabout was ditched.
Where and who was the unfortunate driver?
THE GIRL IN THE DITCH
When all the machines had been stopped there was a wild rush to the
rescue—Bess and Belle with Gertrude hurrying back to where Daisy and
Maud had been left, while Cora, Ray and Hazel ran forward to the side
of the strange runabout. The boys divided themselves—some going in
Presently Cora shouted
"Jack! Jack! Hurry! It's Clip! And she is unconscious!"
Jack was not far away, and at his sister's call he hurried to her. Ray
had taken Cecilia's head in her lap, while Cora was trying to lift the
unconscious girl from her bent-up posture in the narrow, roadside,
"Oh, the poor dear!" sighed Cora. "To think that our sport should
Cecilia was opening her eyes.
"Clip! Clip, dear!" whispered Cora. "Try to—wake up!"
Cecilia did try—she put her hand to her dazed eyes.
"Here! Let me lift her," commanded Jack, slipping down on the other
side into the deep grass and without any apparent effort lifting
Cecilia up. With one long step he reached the road. Then for a moment
he seemed uncertain—should he lay the girl down, or carry her to a
"Oh, I can stand," she said faintly. "I am much better now.
"You happened," answered Jack, so dismissing the question. "Just keep
still, and we will have you around directly. This is where you beat
the motor girls." He was now helping her to her feet. "You may ride
back with the motor boys."
"Are you better?" asked Ray anxiously, stroking Cecilia's white hand,
which had been divested of its glove. "Wasn't it dreadful?"
"Very," sighed Cecilia. "And my poor little machine! Jack, how can I
"You can never," he insisted with a wink. "I never saw such a
rambunctious ram. Didn't he ramify, though?"
"What in the world was it?" asked Cecilia. She was sitting on the
grass and seemed almost prepared to laugh. "I thought I must be seeing
things. Then I—"
"Felt things," said Jack. "That's the regular course of the disease.
Here come the others. Hello, Daisy has the veil tied up, and Maud is
"What happened to them?" asked Cecilia.
"Same thing that happened to you," replied Jack. "The ram. That was
the most happening thing I have seen in some time."
Maud was limping, and had Ed's arm. Daisy kept her hand to her face,
and she clung to Walter. Hazel flashed a meaning look to Cora. The
girls might not be very badly injured, but they needed help—that sort
"Well!" exclaimed Cora. "You look as if something did happen."
"Oh, I'm all scratched," fluttered Daisy. "That is, my face feels like
a grater." She took her handkerchief from the abused face. A few
harmless scratches were discernible.
"Not so bad," said Jack. "Just the correct lines, I believe, for—let
"Oh, you needn't joke," snapped Daisy. "I suppose Cecelia—is—badly
She said this with the evident intention of drawing attention to Jack's
attitude toward Cecilia.
"Now, Daisy," said Jack good-naturedly, "if you want to dump in the
ditch again, and will only give me the chance, I will be perfectly
delighted to fish you out: I fancy I would get you first shot."
"Oh, you need not bother," interrupted Walter. "I can take care of
At this he spread his handkerchief most carefully on the grass, and,
with mock concern, assisted Daisy to the low seat.
Ed followed suit, adding to the handkerchief cushion his cap—to make
the grass softer for Maud.
"But however did you happen along, Cecilia?" asked Belle, who now added
her dainty self to the line of girls on the roadside.
"Now, here!" called Jack. "No more happenings! I beg your pardon,
Belle, but we have had such a surfeit of this happening business that
we intend, in the language of the poets, to cut it out."
Cecilia gave Jack a grateful glance. Cora broke in promptly with a new
thought—to divert attention.
"And you are the girls who wanted 'No Boys!'" exclaimed Walter. "I
should just like to know what you would have done without us?"
"There! Didn't I tell you?" said Cora. "They are actually claiming
the glory of the whole thing. I suppose, Walter, you hired the ram to
do the proper thing in initiating the motor girls in the art of
"Wouldn't he make a hit, though, at some of our college affairs!"
exclaimed Ed. "I wonder if we could buy the beast? Here comes the
The girls looked alarmed. Suppose the farmer should blame them for the
disappearance of the ram!
"I'll do the talking," suggested Walter. "If you say anything, Jack,
there might be a row."
"Humph!" said Jack. "I suppose you know just how to deal with ram
The farmer was quite up to them now. He was not an ill-natured-looking
man, and as he approached he touched his big straw hat.
"No one hurt?" he asked, much to the girls' relief.
"Oh, no, thank you," said Cora, before Walter could open his mouth. "I
hope you have not lost the sheep."
"Lose him! Couldn't do that if you chucked him in the mill-pond and
let the dam loose on him. Only yesterday the plagued thing went for my
wife. Yes, sir, and he 'most knocked her down. When I seed your steam
wagons comin' along I knowed there would be trouble. He's that pesky!"
The man looked at the disabled machine.
"Busted?" he asked.
"Some," replied Walter. "But I guess we can manage. Would you like to
sell that ram?"
"Sell him? What for? To kill folks as try to feed him? I bought him
from a fellow who always wore an overcoat, and, bless me, that ram got
so used to it if I haven't had to put my ulster on the hottest days
this summer to do down to the pasture where he was chewin'."
The boys laughed heartily at this. Walter seemed keener than ever now
on making a bargain.
"Well, you see," he said, "we might use the fellow for stunts—tricks.
I think we might train him—"
A scream from Belle startled them.
"Oh!" she yelled. "There he comes! What shall we do?"
Without waiting for instructions, however, Belle, with the other girls,
jumped up and started for a little cottage not far from the roadside.
The ram was coming over the fields straight for the autos.
"Now wait," cautioned the farmer, as the boys made ready to confront
the animal. "Just keep back until he gets near that machine. Then
maybe we can git him."
"He's game sport, all right," said Walter. "He evidently hasn't had
The brush and low trees along the road made it possible for the young
men to hide, while the excited animal dashed through the tall grass out
into the road.
He went straight for the hay wagon. With a bound he was in the
decorated auto, like a beast in a cage, with the rack and hay trimmings
"Now we've got him," said the farmer; "that is, if we're careful."
"How?" whispered Ed.
"Someone must lasso him." The farmer held out the rope in his hand,
making a loop ready to throw over the ram's head.
The girls had reached the cottage, but were calling to the boys all
sorts of warning and cautions.
"When he gets at the hay," said the farmer, "I guess he'll eat. That
run likely whet up his appetite."
"More fun than a deer hunt," said Jack, laughing. "I wonder what will
turn up next on this motor girls' tour."
"Get busy," said Ed, creeping toward the hay wagon. "Now, Walter— Oh,
Glory be! If he isn't at my four-dollar gloves!"
Quick, like the well=trained athlete that he was, Ed grabbed the rope
from the farmer, sprang to the hay rack and made a cast.
It landed true on the animal's horns.
"I've got him!" exclaimed the boy. "Now, fellows, quick! Make his
No need to say "quick," for the boys were up and busy making fast the
beast before the surprised farmer had a chance to exclaim.
"So you like the real thing in gloves?" asked Ed while pulling at the
rope. "Well, I fancy you will make something real—perhaps a robe—for
the best record of this trip. Oh, I say, fellows, let's buy the brute,
have him done up properly, and offer his coat to the girl who comes
home with a record."
Shouts of glee followed this suggestion, and the girls, seeing that the
animal was made safe, were now running back from the cottage to add
their voices to the excitement.
Clip insisted upon helping to tie the ram—she declared he had done his
share toward making it uncomfortable for her—while Daisy, in her timid
way, wanted to do something to the "saucy thing" for upsetting her, and
Jack suggested that she "box his horrid ears."
Cora glanced at her watch.
"If it's all the same to the gentlemen," she said, "we will continue on
our way. We have lost a full hour already."
"Lost!" repeated Walter meaningly.
"She said 'lost,'" faltered Ed with similar intent.
"Not actually lost," corrected Cora, "but at least dropped out of our
"We were due ten miles ahead now," sighed Maud in her wistful way.
"Too bad, too bad," whimpered Jack, who was still pulling at the ram's
rope. "But it was not our fault, girls. Now, Daisy, do you think you
can run your machine without taking in any more circuses? We have
examined your car, and it is intact—not so much as a footprint did the
naughty beast leave."
Clip was looking over her runabout. It was not damaged, it seemed, and
for this she was most grateful. Clip was not out for pleasure—you
have guessed that—and it would have been highly inconvenient for that
young lady to go back to town in the hay.
Jack left off at the ram's horn, and came to crank up for her.
"All right, Clip?" he asked with evident concern. "I don't want you to
go over that lonely road if you do not feel just like it. I can go with
"You!" she exclaimed. "Why, Jack Kimball, what are you thinking
about?" and she laughed airily. "If you want to finish the impression
we started the other day, just take another ride with me. No, Jack, my
dear boy, I am very much all right, and very much obliged. But I must
hurry off. Whatever will my little brown Wren think of me?" She
stepped into the car. "Good-by, girls," she called. "I am so sorry I
delayed you, but so glad we met. Take care of the ram, boys, and am I
eligible for the trophy? I am a motor girl, you know."
"Of course you are," said Jack, before the others could speak. "All
motor girls are eligible."
"Ida Giles, too?" asked Bess. The moment she had spoken she could have
bitten her tongue. Why could she never hide her feelings about Jack
"And, girls," called Cecilia, who was starting now, "don't forget about
your promise. Wren is counting on results."
"What promise?" asked Ed.
"Oh, don't you know?" replied Cora. "Well, I am afraid Jack will have
to tell you. We really have not another moment. Are you ready, girls?"
"Why, our strange promise," put in Maud, who was glad to have a "real
remark" to make to Ed. "We promised a little girl we would find an old
table for her and we have just ransacked the farmer's house, hoping to
Cora burst out laughing. Such an explanation!
"Why, I'll promise a 'little girl' that," said Ed, taking up Cora's
laugh. "Any qualifications? Might it be a time-table?"
Maud pouted. She stepped into Cora's car, evidently disgusted with
boys in general.
Gertrude had something to say to Walter, and was obliged to stand up on
the hay rack to do so, as the young man would not let go the rope that
held the ram.
There was a sudden hum of an auto, and Clip was gone.
"Thought she had a sick relative," murmured Bess.
"So she has," said Jack, who overheard the remark. "But she came near
neglecting her this morning. That was a close call."
"Oh, yes," said Bess with a curled lip. "It seems to me everything
Cecilia does is close."
"Bess Robinson!" exclaimed Jack. "Do you want me to hug you? You have
been treating me shamefully for weeks past. Now, own up. What have I
Jack knew how to restore Bess to good humor, and his success this time
"You ridiculous boy!" exclaimed Bess. "You know perfectly well what I
And Jack did.
AT THE GROTTO
"We have dropped something," said Cora as the party started off again.
"Yes," replied Gertrude, "I agree with Ray that the boys are jolly. We
miss them already."
"Hush!" cautioned Cora. "We are to have nothing to do with boys on
She laughed at her own assertion.
"Nothing more to do with them?" asked Belle. Bess kept her machine
within talking distance.
"Till the next time," replied Cora, throwing in the second speed gear.
"But we will certainly have to hurry now. What on earth do you suppose
Walter will do with that ram?"
"What on earth do you think the ram will do with Walter?" replied Ray.
"He paid the farmer three dollars for him, and the man declared he
could have him for nothing," said Belle. "Now, that three dollars—"
"Would have bought orchids," interrupted Cora, teasing Belle for her
"Cora," spoke Hazel suddenly, "did you hear what Ed said to Jack about
"The forbidden topic," interrupted Gertrude. "Hazel, you don't want to
lose the sheepskin for insubordination, do you?"
"But, Gertrude, please," begged Hazel quite seriously, "I really must
speak to Cora. I will promise not to be blue, but you know I am very
anxious about Paul."
"Then speak on, very briefly," replied Gertrude. "I will allow you
exactly five minutes."
"Thanks," said Hazel. "Cora," she began again, "Ed told Jack that the
papers lost from the mail belonged to Mr. Robinson, and have to do with
a very valuable patent. Do you suppose the post-office will do
anything to Paul?"
"Oh, you precious baby!" exclaimed Cora. "Don't you know that Paul has
been entirely cleared? The mystery is simply who took the papers and
otherwise left the mailbag intact?"
"Poor Paul!" sighed the sister.
"Poor Hazel!" added Cora. "A sister who is always worrying about a
handsome brother is bound to lose him, eh, Gertrude?"
Gertrude blushed. She had only met Paul once, and at that time her
remark was so positive that Cora had seized the opportunity of teasing
the girl. That she never noticed boys was Gertrude's claim at college,
and now Cora was delighted to have a chance of reversing the claim.
Daisy and Maud, who had been at some distance from the Whirlwind, now
cut past Bess and Belle, making their way to the side of the big maroon
"Cora," called Daisy, "I forgot to tell you. I found this little
satchel by the road where we stopped."
Cora gazed at the black bag that Daisy held up for her inspection.
"Why," faltered Cora, "that must belong to Clip. Why didn't you ask to
whom it did belong?"
"I really never thought a word about it until Maud said just now it
must be Clip's."
"But why did you pick it up without asking?" insisted Cora, her voice
"It was dropped on the road. I thought of course it belonged to some
of the girls, and just threw it in my car in a hurry when you called to
us to hasten along," said Daisy, her voice sharp and eyes flashing.
"I am sure it must belong to Clip," said Cora, calming down. "I hope
it will not inconvenience her."
"I wish you would take the smelly thing," shouted Daisy. "It smells
like papa's office, and I hate drugs."
"Clip was going to see some sick relative," went on Cora, "and of
course the satchel—"
"Must be filled with the sickness," and Daisy laughed sarcastically.
"Well, papa's bag smells that way, but he has more than one 'sick
Cora frowned. Gertrude looked surprised. Hazel shook her head at
"Toss it here," called Cora. "I just love disinfectants."
Daisy threw the bag into the Whirlwind. Then she put on speed and
passed the big car.
For a few miles the girls seemed very quiet, scarcely any conversation
It was but a short run to the Grotto, the little wayside tea-house.
The party was a full hour late, but Cora knew she could depend upon
generous excuses for the motor girls.
So many things might happen by the way, and so many things did happen.
"I suppose," murmured Ray, "the biscuit will be stony. I do love hot
"Don't worry. Tillie will keep things hot, if she possibly can do so.
But I hear they have had some very busy days at the Grotto. I hope we
have not hit upon the very busiest. Gertrude, have I told you about
the Grotto? Did you know that Mathilde Herold and Adele Genung are
keeping a tea-house this summer, to earn enough money for their senior
year? And they have done surprisingly well. Yes, their folks have a
summer place near the tea-house, so the girls go home nights, and of
course the place must be very pretty—Tillie is an artist in
"Splendid!" exclaimed Gertrude. "Of course I know Tillie. What girl
at Springsley doesn't know her? She has been decorating for every
affair at the gym. And she always helped with chapel. Oh, yes,
indeed, Cora, I agree with you, Tillie Herold is an artist."
"Well, let us hope her talent is not confined to mere walls," said Ray.
"Hot biscuit requires a different stroke, I believe."
"In accepting us for to-day," said Cora. "Tillie stipulated that we
should dine table d'hote and no questions asked. I hope, Ray, you will
not be disappointed."
"Oh, there they are!" exclaimed Hazel. "I see some one waving her
"That's Adele," replied Cora. "She knows how to wave aprons. Don't you
remember, Gertrude, the night she served the Welsh rarebit, when she
made an apron of our best table-piece with a string through the middle?"
Cora turned her auto to the roadside. Then she called to the cars
"Here we are, girls. Get your machines well in from the road."
"Oh, what a charming place!" exclaimed Belle, who was not slow to
observe the attractions of the little Grotto. It seemed all porch and
vines, one of those picture places, ample for an eating house, but
unsuited for anything else.
"There!" gasped Daisy; "that's the sort of house to live in!"
"To live out of, you mean," put in Maud. "I can't see how one could
live 'in' there."
The cars were all motionless now. Cora and Gertrude had already
"escaped" from the college hug of Adele and Tillie. When the Chelton
girls had been introduced, the vine-covered porch was actually filled
with the members of the motor party.
"How splendid!" exclaimed Tillie, with that delightful German accent
that defies letters and requires a pretty mouth to "exhale."
"Darling!" went on Adele, with all the extravagance of schoolgirl
"You leave us no adjectives," remarked Cora. "I never saw anything so
sweet. How ever did you get those vines to grow so promptly?"
"Wild cucumber," said Adele with a laugh, "Why, you know, dear, wild
cucumber can no more help growing than you can. Isn't she tall,
Tillie? I do believe you have grown inches since school, Cora."
"Yes, mother bemoans it. My duds are all getting away from me."
"And we have been waiting lunch for you ladies. I did hope we would
not have a single visitor to-day, so that we might entertain you
properly," went on Adele, "but two horrid men called. Wanted 'tea';
but indeed I know what they wanted—just a quiet place to talk about
their old patent papers."
"Yes, and one broke a beautiful china cup," said Tillie.
"But he had his thumb gone," Adele hurried to say. "I saw him directly
I went to pick up the pieces. So I suppose we could not exactly blame
the man for dropping Tillie's real German cup."
"His thumb gone!" repeated Cora absently.
"Oh!" exclaimed Hazel. "The man we met after Paul's hold-up had lost a
joint of his thumb."
"And papa said the papers stolen were patent papers!" exclaimed Bess,
"Hush!" whispered Belle. "Bess, you know father particularly said we
were not to speak of that."
If, as is claimed, the mature woman has the wonderful advantage of an
instinct almost divine, then the growing girl has, undoubtedly, the
advantage of intuitive shocks—flashes of wireless insight into
Such a flash was distinctly felt now through the Grotto—even the two
young proprietors, who were not supposed to be really concerned, felt
distinctly that "something was doing somewhere."
Cora sank down into a low wicker chair. Bess and Belle managed to both
get upon a very small divan, while Daisy, Maud and Ray, the "three
graces," stood over in the corner, where an open window let in just
enough honeysuckle to sift the very softest possible sunshine about the
But Hazel lingered near the telephone. She had confided to Cora that
Paul was not at all well when he left home in the morning, and just now
she was wondering if it would seem silly for her to call up the
Whitehall Company and ask to speak with her brother.
At that instant the telephone bell rang.
It sent the expected shock through the little assemblage, and Cora
jumped up as if she anticipated a message.
Tillie took down the receiver.
Presently she was saying "no" and "yes," and then she repeated Cora's
She handed the receiver to Cora with a whispered word.
Hazel's face went very white.
"You little goose!" exclaimed Bess, who instantly noticed the change.
"Is there no one here worth a telephone message but Hazel Hastings?"
"Yes, Ed—Ed Foster," they heard Cora say. Then she listened a long
time. Her face did not betray pleasure, and her words were plainly
"All right, Ed," she said finally. "I will attend to it at once. Oh,
yes, a perfectly lovely time. Thank you—we are just about to dine.
Cora was slow to hang up the receiver. And when she turned around
Hazel Hastings confronted her.
"Oh, is it Paul?" asked Hazel. "Tell me quickly. What has happened to
"Hazel," said Cora, "you must have your lunch. You are dreadfully
But it was Cora Kimball who was distracted, who played with her lunch
without apparent appetite, and it was she who could take but one cup of
tea in the fascinating little tea-house, the college girls' Grotto.
THE PROMISE BOOK LOST
"Now, Cora, dear," began Gertrude, in her quiet, yet convincing way,
"you may just as well tell us what you are waiting for. We are
guessing all sorts of things, and the truth cannot possibly be as bad."
They were sitting on the porch of the Grotto, and although they were
away behind scheduled time at that point, Cora insisted she wanted to
rest a bit, and seemed loath to move.
Cora Kimball tired after twenty-five miles! As well accuse the
Whirlwind of drinking its own gasoline.
Hazel was almost feverish. Cora had not divulged the purport of the
telephone message, beyond admitting it was from Ed, which gave Ray the
chance for her little joke on the combination of names—Cora and Ed,
"When the Co-Eds conspire," lisped Ray, "we may as well wait patiently.
We will have to wait their pleasure, of course."
Cora did not mind the sarcasm. She was certainly not like herself.
Bess and Belle were even anxious about her, and offered all sorts of
remedies, from bicarbonate of soda to dry tea.
"Now," said Cora finally, "it is two o'clock. Do you really think we
ought to make Breakwater tonight?"
"Why not?" gasped Daisy. "Won't Aunt May be waiting for us? And it is
only thirty miles."
"Yes, but," faltered Cora, "suppose you should have a breakdown on that
lonely road? There is neither station nor house from here to the
"What should break down?" asked Daisy. "This is papa's best machine,
if you mean it is not trustworthy."
"Oh, Daisy, dear, I had no idea of insinuating such a thing. Your
machine, of course, is just as trustworthy as any of the others. But I
was thinking how delightful it would be to spend the night here. I
really must confess to being broken up by that ram accident," and Cora
The girls looked at her in astonishment. Her words did not ring true;
Cora Kimball was a poor actress.
"If Cora wants to stay," said Tillie, "I should think you would all
agree. Cora is captain, is she not?"
"But our trip will be spoiled," wailed Maud. "I do wish I had never
"Oh, if there is going to be real distress about it," said Cora,
evidently trying hard to pull herself together, "I suppose we had best
start. But remember, I have warned you. I have a premonition that we
will 'run up against' something before night."
"Then I am not going," declared Hazel. "I won't stir one step. Cora,
let the others go; you can overtake them with your fast car, and we
will meet them in the morning."
This brought on a veritable storm of protest and dissatisfaction. Cora
left the girls on the porch, and went outside with Tillie.
"Could you hear anything those men were saying?" she asked the pretty
little German. "Were they discussing a patent, do you think?"
"Oh, no; it was not like that," replied Tillie. "It was about—let me
see. Some Haster, no, like a name—like your friend's name, Hazel
Hastings. That was it, Hastings."
"Did they say Hazel?" pressed Cora.
"No, not that, of course," and Tillie laughed.
"How should they know Hazel? It was a similar name—just Hastings."
"And they unfolded blueprints? Like our campus maps, you know?"
"Yes, they had blue maps; I saw them when I picked up my shattered
cup.—It is all very well for Adele to blame his thumb; I blame him—he
is too fat, and thinks himself very smart."
Tillie pouted. Evidently her caller had not been too polite, perhaps
he had mistaken her for an ordinary waitress.
A distant "honk-honk" startled the girls. Cora rushed out to the road,
and before the others knew what she was about she was in conversation
with Ed Foster. So quickly did he run up to the Grotto in Jack's car
that no one but Cora realized who he was until the machine was stopped
and he was out beside her. There was a stranger with him—a
business-like looking man. He did not leave the car.
"There!" exclaimed Ray. "Didn't I tell you? It was this Co-Ed
business that kept her. Cora can't fool me."
"Hazel," said Cora, stepping up to the porch, "Ed thinks you had best
not go on with us. Paul is not well—he is not very sick, though—"
Hazel turned white, and Cora put her arm around her. "Now you must not
be frightened. It is nothing serious, and I will go back with you,"
"Indeed you shall not!" exclaimed Hazel, now calling up all her
courage, and proving herself to be the girl she really could be in an
emergency. "I shall go back with Ed, if I may."
The girls glanced from one to the other. They understood this was an
emergency, that Hazel had been called back to her sick brother, yet
with girlish curiosity some of them, at least, showed surprise that
Hazel should offer to ride back with Ed Foster.
"But I am not going back," said Ed; "at least not until we—this
gentleman and I—have followed the trail a little farther. You see,
girls, we are out on a 'bear hunt.'"
But the girls did not see—only Cora looked as if she understood. She
said to Hazel:
"There is no hurry, dear. You can go with them when they come back.
They have to pass this way, don't you, Ed?"
"Would you mind, Cora," said Ed suddenly, "if the gentleman outside
asked you a few private questions?"
"A reporter!" exclaimed Ray, all excitement.
"Dear me! I do hope he won't ask for our pictures. Mother would never
Ed smiled broadly. He looked a sort of assent, but did not otherwise
Cora stepped up to the auto, whereat the man left his place, and, under
pretext of walking along idly, and perhaps thus gaining Cora's "private
ear," he was soon out of reach of those on the porch.
"It is like a double robbery," he said after exchanging some
preliminary remarks, "and the child is disconsolate. Her mother is
sure it was not stolen, but lost, while we feel otherwise. It seems
there is a handsome young man, a cousin of the child's, interested.
His father is a lawyer—the lawyer who has the case against Mr.
Robinson. Now this book—the promise book—contained the names of
those who visited the cottage on the day that the papers were taken out
of the mailbag. It is comparatively easy to guess the sequence."
"You mean they might call on those whose names appear in the book?"
asked Cora, beginning to see something of the complex situation.
"Yes, and more than that. They would obtain valuable information from
that little book—a clear description of the missing table. If they can
find it they will be able to keep the property where it is now—in the
possession of Rob Roland, Wren Salvey's rival cousin."
"Rob Roland!" exclaimed Cora. "Why, he was in the party at Robinson's
the other evening. He was even attentive to a friend of ours."
"To whom, may I ask?" inquired the detective politely.
"A Miss Thayer, a young student," she replied.
"Miss Thayer! I heard her name mentioned in court this morning. Is she
a friend of yours?"
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Cora, now alarmed. "What could be said of
"Why, she has been on very intimate terms with the Salvey child, and
lawyers devise all sorts of schemes, you know, to meet their own ends.
It was hinted that Miss Thayer might know where the missing promise
"Clip take that from Wren! Impossible!" cried Cora. "Oh, this is all
a mistake! I must go back. I cannot go on and let Clip be blamed for
stealing the promise book."
Ed Foster stood up every inch of his height. He was always tall, but
now, facing the girl whose name he had so vehemently spoken, he seemed
a veritable giant. Cora wanted to be firm; she meant exactly what she
said when she declared she would abandon the tour of the motor girls,
and go back to Chelton to help Cecilia Thayer out of her difficulty.
But, after all, Cora was only a girl, and Ed was a great, strong
man—he ought to know.
"If you cannot trust me, Cora, and allow me to help Clip, I really
think you are not doing justice to Jack's friend."
Cora laughed a little. Ed put things so nicely. He never presumed
upon her own intimacy—it was always just "Jack's friend."
"Besides," he pressed, seeing, in, Cora's eyes, his advantage, "I feel
I can do more alone. I have got to take Hazel back to her brother,
then I promise you I shall not rest until I have found Clip, and made
sure of her exact situation."
"Oh, I know, Ed, you will do everything possible. But it seems like
treason for me to go on a pleasure trip and leave two very dear friends
in such trouble. Even Jack may be implicated."
Ed turned away to hide his own tell-tale face. He knew perfectly well
that Jack was implicated, knew that Rob Roland had deliberately accused
him of taking Cecilia Thayer out to the Salvey cottage for the purpose
of gaining possession of the promise book. For this very reason Ed
wanted Cora to go on—to escape, if possible, the anxiety she must
experience if she should have to know the real story.
"Well," sighed Cora, "it is getting late. I suppose it will be best,
Ed, as you say. Take Hazel back, and find Clip. Have her 'phone me at
"That's the girl!" exclaimed Ed, taking both her hands in his own
strong clasp. "See, the girls are looking at us. They think you have
"I have," she answered, "accepted you, and your terms. Good luck, Ed.
It is so nice for Jack to have such a good friend."
Hazel was soon tucked in the little runabout, the detective going on in
another car that was sent out to him in answer to his call over the
"Is your premonition all fulfilled, Cora?" asked Daisy, her voice far
from merry. "I suppose you were 'premonited' that Hazel should go off
"If we keep on losing," said Gertrude, "we will soon all fit in the
Cora stood gazing after the runabout—Jack's car. Hazel's eyes had
burned their look upon Cora's face—those deep, violet eyes always seem
like live volcanoes, thought Cora.
And Ed—his eyes had been searching, his look—well, it was convincing,
that is all Cora would admit even to her own heart.
She turned finally to those on the porch.
"Well," exclaimed Belle, the sentimental one, "who is star-gazing, now?
Cora, what did you forget in that runaway car?"
Cora smiled. She had been remiss, and she owed it to the girls to see
that their trip was a success. She would atone now.
"Tillie," she said suddenly, "couldn't you and Adele shut up shop for a
week and come with us? You have been working hard all summer, and you
have made up the required pennies. Now, don't you think it would be
perfectly splendid to take the run with us?"
Every one instantly agreed that this would be the very thing, and in
spite of the hesitation of Adele and Tillie, who argued that it might
not be agreeable to bring strangers into the homes where others had
been expected, it was finally settled that the party should wait until
the next morning, when the tea-house girls would be ready to start off
Nor were the arrangements without a certain happy possibility—there
were two other girls waiting to take up that same little Grotto—to
earn college money, as had Tillie and Adele.
"Rena and Margaret will be here first thing in the morning," announced
Adele, after her telephone talk with Rena, "and they are perfectly
delighted. Oh, isn't it just splendid!"
Then Cora had messages to send. She called up Jack, but only got the
maid in answer. She called up Walter, and he also was out. Finally she
called up Ed. She waited until she felt he would be at his dinner
quarters, and she was not disappointed in getting his own voice in
He told her that everything was all right—that Clip was with little
Wren, who had been very ill since the loss of her book, and that Paul
Hastings was no worse. This last Cora considered evasive, but had to
be content, for Ed would give no more definite information.
Such demands as were made upon that little tea-house telephone that
evening! Every one of the girls called up her own home, besides
calling up many relatives at the other end of the line, those with whom
the tourists expected to visit during the trip.
The Grotto was well situated for business, being about half way between
two country seats, and the same distance between two large cities.
"We will close exactly at sundown to-night," said Adele, when a lady
from Bentley, who stopped every evening for a cup of tea on her way
from the village, had been served.
"Do let me keep shop for a while," begged Cora. "I would just love to
be in real business. Mother declares I have a bent for trade. Let me
try, Tillie, while you and Adele go over to the cottage and get your
Thus it was that one hour later Cora Kimball was left the sole
possessor of the Grotto; every other motor girl managed to either go
for a walk, or go with some one who wanted to take a walk, but Cora was
glad—she felt the need of rest which only solitude can give.
She sat on the porch; the gentle evening breeze made incense through
the honeysuckle. It was delightfully resting; she could hear the
voices of the girls in the meadow, after cowslips, buttercups, daisies
and clover. They would fetch back a huge bunch, Cora knew, and they
would discard them at the steps of the Grotto, as most girls do—run
wild for wild flowers, then toss them away when the run is over.
"I hardly think I shall have any business," thought Cora, "although I
would just love to wait on somebody."
The rumble of an approaching automobile caught her ear.
"There!" she thought; "the driver of that car may want a sip of Russian
tea—I am glad it is not Turkish—that the girls serve here."
The car was almost up to the sycamore tree, just at the side of the
Yes, the driver was stopping.
Cora rocked nervously in the wicker chair.
Who would it be? The girls should not have gone so far away—
A young man alighted from the runabout. He stepped briskly up to the
It was Rob Roland.
"Well!" he exclaimed, plainly as surprised to see Cora as she was to
see him. "If this isn't luck! Miss Kimball!"
Quick and keen as was his glance, making sure that Cora was alone, her
own sharp wits were able to follow his.
"Yes," she replied indifferently, "the girls have closed up the
tea-room, and are just out in the meadow. I felt more like sitting
He drew up a chair and sat down uninvited. Cora never did like Rob
Roland, now she disliked him.
"You are the very person I am most anxious to talk to," he began, "and
this is an excellent opportunity."
"About what, pray?" asked Cora. "I must go with the girls very soon."
"Oh, no, you must not," he replied, and, handsome though he was, there
was that in his manner that deepened the very lines nature had done her
best with, and his eyes were merely smoldering depths.
Cora felt she should not betray the least nervousness, for, though Rob
Roland was known to be a gentleman, he might take advantage of her
helplessness to gain from her some information. Ed had warned her to
beware of him.
"Of course you know all about Cissy Thayer," he began. Cora resented
his insolence, but dared not show it. "You know how she has been
getting around my little cousin, the cripple."
Cora glared at him. She felt that his cowardly attack was simply a
display of weakness, and she knew a coward is easily overcome. She
deliberately drew her chair closer to him.
"Rob Roland," she said calmly, "my friend, Miss Thayer, is not only a
lady, but she is also a student of human ills. She has been interested
in little Wren that she might be cured. It appears that some of her
relatives consider her incurable."
"Cured!" he sneered. "That misfit made right! Why, she has only a few
months to live. Your friend is very foolish. She should put her
energy on something worth while. And she should be careful how she
handles their property. That scrapbook, for instance."
"How dare you, Rob Roland!" exclaimed Cora. "Miss Thayer says the
child has been ill-treated through alleged treatment, and it appears
the man who has been treating her was paid by your father."
"Oh, my!" The fellow sank deeper into his linen coat. "I had no idea
of your dramatic powers, Miss Kimball. I beg a thousand pardons. I
never dreamed that the Thayer girl was so close to you. In fact, I
rather thought you merely took her up out of charity. Every one in
Chelton knows that the Thayers are just poor working-people."
That was too much for Cora. She stepped to the door of the tea-room
with dismissal in her manner. He knew she intended him to leave at
"But what I want to know," he said, deliberately following her, "is
just who this Thayer girl is. It is important that we should know, to
go on with the—"
"We!" interrupted Cora. "Pray, who are 'we'?"
"Why, my father's firm, the lawyers, you know," he stammered. "Some
day, Miss Kimball, I expect to represent the firm of Roland, Reed &
Cora turned and looked at him. It was on that very spot that she had
turned to Ed—Ed was so like this young man, the same dark, handsome
youth, and just about his age.
But Ed was, after all, so different—so very different.
Cora was gaining time as she strove to hold him by her magnetic glance.
Any youth would accept it; he did not despise it.
"Mr. Roland," she said, in her own inimitable velvet tones, "you are
making a very great mistake. If you really believe that Cecilia Thayer
had anything to do with the loss of that child's book, you are wrong;
if you think she had any other than humane motives in visiting the
child, you are wrong again. Cecilia Thayer—"
"Oh, now come, Cora," he interrupted. "You don't mind me calling you
Cora? I know the whole scheme. Your brother Jack is—well, he is
quite clever, but not clever enough to cover up his tracks." He grasped
Cora's arm and actually dragged her to him. "Don't you know that Cissy
Thayer and Jack Kimball are suspected of abduction? That Wren Salvey
has been stolen-stolen, do you hear?"
A STRANGE MESSAGE
Uproarious laughter from the girls with the wild flowers aroused Cora.
Rob Roland was gone.
Had she fainted? Was that roaring in her ears just awakened nerves?
"Cora! Oh, Cora! We had the most darling time," Bess was bubbling.
"You should have been along. Such a dear old farmer. He showed us the
queerest tables. And he had the nicest son. Cora— What is the
"Oh," lisped Ray, "another Co-Ed message over the telephone."
"Cora, dear," exclaimed Gertrude, "we should not have left you all
alone. Are you ill?"
"Cora! Cora!" gasped Adele.
"Cora, dear!" sighed Tillie.
"Oh, Cora!" moaned Belle. "What has happened?"
"Cora, darling," cried Maud, "who has frightened you?"
"Cora Kimball," called Daisy, "have you been drinking too much tea?"
"Too little," murmured Cora. "Will some of you girls leave off biting
the air, and make a good cup of tea?"
There was a wild rush for the alcohol lamp; every one wanted to make
the good cup of tea.
"I saw a runabout moving away as we came up," said Ray. "I hope, Cora,
your caller was not obnoxious."
"Oh, just an autoist," replied Cora indifferently. "I did not take the
trouble to brew tea for one solitary man." The color was coming back
into her cheeks now, and with the return of animation her scattered
senses attempted to seize upon the strange situation.
Jack and Clip to be arrested for abduction!
Could that fellow have known what he was saying?
If only Jack would call her up on the telephone. She had left word for
him to do so, no matter how late the hour might be when he should
"Now drink every sip of this," commanded Adele, as she turned on the
lights and fetched Cora a steaming cup of the very best Grotto Hyson.
"There is nothing for shaken nerves better than perfectly fresh tea,
and, you see, we make it without soaking the leaves."
"It is delightful," said Cora, sipping the savory draught. "I must
learn how to make tea this way—it is so different from the home-brewed
Gertrude sat close to the reclining girl. "Is there nothing I can do,
Cora?" she asked. "No message I can send?"
"Yes," whispered Cora; "you can manage to get the girls out of here
before you and I leave for the night. I want to use the telephone
Gertrude understood. She had not been a roommate with Cora Kimball for
two years without knowing something of her temperament. She pressed
her friend's hand gently, then said loud enough for the others to hear:
"We will soon have to get our machines under cover. Tillie says her
grandfather has all sorts of sheds over around his country place. In
fact, he has a regular shed-farm. Cora, I am just dying to try running
a motor. Would you trust me to get the Whirlwind in the shed safely?"
"Of course I would, Gertrude," and Cora jumped up from the wicker
divan. "I would suggest that some one go along, though—perhaps Ray.
She has had some experience, and you know the Whirlwind."
"Is not a prize-package machine," interrupted Gertrude. "All right,
Cora. I will humbly take instructions. Come along, girls. It will be
dark directly, and then we might have to waste time lighting the lamps."
"And grandfather's man has offered to look over every machine early in
the morning," said Tillie. "He is quite expert; we will be sure that
every nut and bolt is in perfect order."
This was good news to the motor girls, especially to Daisy, who had her
own secret doubts about her father's best car—she was accustomed to
running the substitute.
Presently all except Cora and Adele were attending to the cars. Cora
was just about to call up her own house when the tinkle of the
telephone bell startled her. She picked up the receiver and was not
surprised to find the party inquired for was herself.
"This is Jack," came the welcome voice. "Is that you, sis?"
"Oh, yes, Jack, dear!" she replied. Adele had gone out to fetch the
chairs in from the porch. "I have been almost frantic. Where are you?
Where is Clip? Where is Wren?"
"Oh, easy there, now, sis," and Cora thought she had never before
appreciated the value of a real brother. "I can't answer everything at
once, although I can come pretty near it. First, I am here—at home.
Next, Clip is here—at our home, and third, the other party—I won't
mention names—is here also."
"All at our house?" exclaimed Cora.
And the answer came: "Exactly that. But you mustn't say a word to any
one. You know, there has been a sort of rumpus. Do you want to speak
with C.? She is here."
"Hello, Cora," came Cecilia's voice. "How are you? Not getting on
with your trip very fast, I guess."
"Oh, Clip!" said Cora. "I cannot understand it—"
"You are not supposed to," replied the other. "We are all right, you
are all right, and what more do you ask?"
"How is Paul?"
"Well, he did have quite a time, but is improving. Say, Cora," and the
voice was subdued, "don't call us up until you hear from me. I can't
explain now. But where shall I write—say in two days' time?"
"Two days!" repeated Cora. "Do you expect me to exist that long and
"I am afraid you will have to. We are being watched"—this was barely
breathed—"and a break would spoil it all. Surely you can trust me."
The girls were coming back-were actually on the porch. Cora was
obliged to say a few disconnected words, and then she hung up the
THE ROAD TO BREAKWATER
"What a delightful morning!" exclaimed Maud. "The wait was certainly
worth while. I do believe there is something inspiring about the
"Yes," rejoined Daisy, throwing in the second speed, "it always makes
me feel like a human rain-barrel. I want to go out in a great, big
field, and sit down in a lump. Then I want to throw back my head and
open my mouth very wide. That is my idea of drinking in the fresh
"Well, never mind the dewy morning business," called Cora. "Just get
your machines well under way. You know, we must make twenty-five miles
Cora was, as usual, in the lead. Daisy and Maud came next, then Bess
and Belle lined up the rear, as Cora thought it best that the two big
machines should lead and trail.
Cora tried her best to be cheerful. She had definite ideas about a
friend's duty to a friend, and no one could say she failed in that
duty. Why should she think of Jack and Clip and Wren when she was
captain of the Motor Girls' Club, and they expected a good time on
their initial run?
"Oh, I am so glad everything happened!" exclaimed Tillie, who was in
the Whirlwind; "for if everything did not happen we never could have
"And we never could have had all our camping things," put in Gertrude.
"I am just dying to get out on the grass and light up under the
kettles. That was a very bright idea of Adele's to fetch along part of
the tea-house outfit."
"Won't it be jolly to build miniature caves to keep the wind from the
lamp?" suggested Cora. "I tell you, after all, the motor girls were
poor housekeepers—we had to take lessons from our business friends."
This pleased Tillie immensely. She was the sort of girl who is glad to
prove a theory, and in keeping the tea-house she had proven that
girls—mere girls—are not always sawdust dolls.
Daisy was speeding up her machine to speak with Cora.
"There's Cedar Grove over there!" she shouted; "and Aunt May's is only
four miles from the turn in the road."
"But we are going to lunch on the road," replied Cora. "The girls are
bent on camping out."
A cloud fell over Daisy's sensitive face. "I must telephone to papa
that I am all right," she remarked. "Aunt May expected us last night,
and if you girls do not want to come, Maud and I will go. We can meet
you farther on."
"Oh, of course," Cora hurried to say, "we must go on, since we are
expected. We can have the camping out to-morrow. I had actually lost
track of our plans in the mix-up."
"Isn't it too bad that Hazel had to turn back?" said Ray. "I do hope
her brother is not seriously ill."
"I heard last night that he was very much better," replied Cora. "It
seems that robbery unnerved him. Ridiculous as the situation appeared,
it was no fun to Paul. I don't wonder he broke down."
Bess, Belle and Adele were in the Flyaway, and they, like the others,
seemed to take new pleasure in flying over the roads since they had
realized what it meant to have to stand still.
Adele was all enthusiasm. She had not often been privileged to enjoy
automobile sport, and the prospect of the trip seemed like an unopened
wonder book to her—every mile revealed new delights.
Along the shady byways, through the Numberland Hills, past the famous
springs, where everybody stopped to drink and make a wish, the motor
girls took their way.
"Let me lead now, Cora?" asked Daisy. "I am just dying for Aunt May to
see us come up. And say, girls, I've got the dearest, darlingest
cousin—a young doctor!"
A scream went up from every throat. Daisy had not told of her
attractive cousin until the party were within very sight of him.
"Me first!" shouted Belle. "I have been a perfect angel ever since we
left Chelton; didn't even speak to the nice man with the short
At that moment an auto dashed by. Tillie seized Cora's arm.
"That's the man who talked about Hastings!" she exclaimed. "The man
who took tea in our house yesterday."
"And that's the very man we met on the road the day Paul was help up,"
Cora declared. "Oh, now I see the coincidence. Of course they heard
of the hold-up, they being on the road about the time it happened, and
when they were at your house they might have been discussing the latest
account of the affair—there was something in the daily paper about it,
Cora was not sure she believed herself, but at the moment she decided
it would be best for the happiness of the party to think lightly of the
meeting with the strange men. Rob Roland's voice still rang in her
ears like a threat, and while she was no coward neither did she invite
There seemed now to be clearly some connection between the missing
papers from the mailbag and the missing promise book, but of the two
Cora's girlish heart considered the loss of the book the more serious.
"Did you ever see such old-fashioned houses in all your born days?"
asked Bess. "Look at that one over there. If our table is not in that
house, then we had better abandon the antique and look in some new,
"That house over there is my aunt's!" shouted Daisy, laughing at Bess
for making the blunder, "and I am going to tell Duncan exactly what you
have said about it."
Bess begged off, and made all sorts of apologies, but Daisy insisted
that her cousin, the doctor, should hear what Bess thought of one of
the finest old mansions in Breakwater.
"Here we are!" called Daisy, pulling up on the gravel drive. "And
there are Duncan and Aunt May."
Out on the broad veranda stood a young man—plainly a professional, for
while at a glance a girl might decide that Duncan Bennet was "up to
date," still there was about him that disregard for conventionality
that betokens high thinking, with no room for the consideration of
trifling details of every-day life.
Cora instantly said: "There! He's fine!"
Ray was thinking: "How unpolished!"
Bess whispered to Belle: "I see trouble ahead. Gertrude will want to
take him along."
Maud was "adjusting her eyes." She could not forget her famous
But Duncan Bennet, with one bound, left the veranda, clearing the steps
without touching them, and he was in front of Daisy's car dangerously
"Look out, Duncan!" called Daisy. "Do you want to spatter yourself all
over my nice clean machine?"
"Not exactly," he replied, "but I felt I should do something definite
to welcome you. I suppose I may extend the kiss of peace?"
"Oh!" gasped Maud. "Will he really kiss us?"
"Without a doubt," replied his cousin, laughing. "Duncan Bennet is
famous for his hospitality, and quite demonstrative. Don't worry,
dear. He is an awfully nice fellow."
Jack Kimball sat in his study, with his hands laced in his thick, dark
hair. He was thinking—Jack claimed the happy faculty of being able to
think of one thing at a time, and to do that thoroughly.
Suddenly he jumped up, and, whistling a tune that only a happy youth
knows how to originate, he dashed up the polished stairs, three steps
at a time, and finally reached the third floor of his home.
He was met in the hall by a matronly woman with a tray in her hands,
and at his approach she stepped back to allow him to enter a room, the
door of which was swung open.
"Morning, Miss Brown," he said. "How's the baby?"
"Doing splendidly, thank you," replied the woman, "and she is very
anxious to see you. Won't you step in?"
"Sure thing," answered Jack. "That's just what I came up for. I want
to chat with her myself."
He stepped lightly into the apartment. It was plainly furnished, with
a keen appreciation of what was needed in a sick room, and what should
be left out of it. Jack sank into a steamer chair beside the white bed.
"How are things, Wren?" he asked, stroking the delicate hand that was
put out to greet him. "Are you almost strong enough to—play football?"
The child smiled, and turned her head away. She had never known any
one in all her life like Jack Kimball, so big and strong, and yet so
kind. He almost made her feel timid and shy.
"I'm better every minute," she managed to say. "But, of course, I
ought to be."
She glanced at her nurse, Miss Brown, who was bringing the morning's
"She is really doing splendidly," put in the nurse. "But she is a
model patient—never wants what is not good for her."
"Is Clip coming to-day?" asked Wren, hesitating as she said "Clip."
"I hope so," replied Jack, "but you know she is very busy, and may not
get here. But if she does not"—noting the child's
disappointment—"she will surely come to-morrow. She telephoned so
"Did she say anything about the book?" queried the little one.
"That's exactly what I want to talk about," he replied with nice
evasion. "I wonder are you well enough to try to remember about that
book. Where did you last have it?"
"Out in my chair, with mother. I asked a little boy along the road to
hand me some flowers, the book slipped back of me, and, as mother
wheeled me along, I could feel that it was all right. When we got home
it was gone."
"And you didn't speak with any other persons than this boy?" Jack
"Oh, there were a lot of people out to see the firemen's parade, and
lots of them spoke to me."
"But did any one walk along with you to talk with you?"
"Yes," she said with hesitation, trying to recall that day's momentous
happenings; "there were two people. They were strangers. I think they
had been in an automobile, for the girl was dressed like a motor girl,
and the young man wore a long duster."
Jack stopped and made a mental note of this remark. He had evidently
expected this intelligence.
"What did they look like—I mean personally?"
"The girl had red hair—I particularly noticed that," replied the
child; "but I have no idea what the man looked like, for he walked back
of my chair."
"I'm not tiring her, am I, Miss Brown?" asked Jack, turning to the
nurse. "I can wait for the other details."
"Go right on," assented the woman, who was dressed in the garb of a
nurse. "I think the talk will do her good; she has been so anxious
about it all."
"And these two people talked with you?" pursued Jack.
"Why, yes. The girl sat down on the roadside, and mother stopped my
chair. Let me see; I think mother went into the little candy shop and
left them with me. They were very pleasant. I am sure they would
never touch my book."
"Did you tell them what it was?"
"I did, of course. I always told everybody what my precious book was.
I asked them to sign my promise, and they both did so."
"Oh!" exclaimed Jack, whistling his punctuation. "They did sign, did
"Why, I thought you knew that," replied Wren. "But I did not see the
book after they signed, so I do not know their names. You see, mother
was in a hurry, and they just gave me the book and—Oh, what could have
become of my precious book!" she broke off, her voice like a cry from
her very heart.
"Well, now there!" soothed Jack. "I knew I should not have distressed
you about it. But, you see, I had to know, else I could not find it.
Now I feel I shall have it back to you in jig time. Brace up, little
girl"; and he tried to impart both courage and hope by his manner.
"Don't you know you are sure to get some wonderful blessing for having
to stand this loss? That's Cora's pet theory. She almost drives a
fellow after trouble declaring he will find joy at his heels."
Wren was sighing. Her book had been to her so much. More, perhaps,
than some animal pet is to the average cripple, both companion and
Miss Brown brought the bottle of alcohol, and bathed the child's
"Do you know, Mr. Kimball," she said, "we have a secret for you. Wren
stood up yesterday!"
"Bully for the legs!" cried Jack, with an absolute disregard of the way
he was expressing his joy. The remark brought the color bark to Wren's
"Yes," breathed Wren; "but they—my feet—are awfully full of pins and
"Save them, save them," went on Jack. "I can never find a pin in this
house. Cora fainted one day, and the doctor said it was pins. He had
to take out twenty pins to give her back her breath."
"I wish your sister were home," said Wren, looking wistfully out of the
low window beside the bed. "She is so like Clip—and Clip can't be
"She'll be home soon, all right," replied Jack, who was now standing at
the door, "and when she does come we will all know it. Cora Kimball is
a brass and a lawn mower, rolled into one piece. You should be glad she
is away," he finished, his words actually accusing himself of falsehood.
"Fetch her, and let me see," spoke Wren, trying to appear as cheerful
as she, had been when her visitor entered her room.
"Well, I'll fetch something next time," he replied. "If I can't get
Cora or Clip I'll get—ice cream."
PAUL AND HAZEL
Meanwhile, at another bed of sickness sat a girl pale and wan from
nights and days of anxiety. Hazel Hastings had left the motor girls'
tour and hurried to her sick brother with more apprehension stirring
her heart than the report of his actual condition warranted. Paul had
always been subject to peculiar spells—shocks they were termed—but
Hazel knew what collapse meant, or what it might mean, unless—
Brother and sister were to each other what the whole world might be to
others. Paul had kept up well under the strain of the hold-up, but
when suspicion was pointed at him he collapsed.
Who could be at the back of the defaming scheme to spread the report?
Who could have dared to say that he was in league with whoever took
those papers from the mailbag?
"Are you better, Paul?" murmured the girl. "You had a lovely sleep."
"Oh, yes," he sighed. "I feel almost good. If only my head would stop
throbbing. What time is it?"
"Almost noon, dear, and Clip will soon be here."
"Will she fetch the morning papers? I must see how the thing is going
on. They were to go to court this morning."
"Now you must not think of that, you know, Paul," commanded the girl
gently. "If you are to grow strong enough to go and take your own part
you will have to leave the others alone. There is nothing new, or I
should have told you."
"But Mr. Robinson called—I heard you talking to him last night."
"Yes, you did, dear. But he came to inquire for you. He is very
anxious about you."
Hazel Hastings went to the dresser and slipped under the cover a piece
of yellow paper. Paul was getting better, and he should not see Mr.
Robinson's check for money, which that gentleman had insisted upon
leaving for the sick boy's expenses. They were not poor, neither were
they rich, but Paul Hastings should not want for anything through his
"He was so glad to hear you were improving," she went on, "and
particularly said you were not to worry about the papers. It seems
they have some important clue, and feel positive of recovering them."
"If they only could," sighed Paul. "To think that I should have lost
them! And they meant a small fortune to the Robinsons. What if they
should become poor, and through me!"
"Oh, you silly boy! Stop that nonsense this moment. There! I heard
Clip coming. I am glad, for she knows better than I how to control
It was Clip who entered the room, but what with her buoyant, happy way,
and the great bunch of flowers she carried, one could hardly be certain
it was only a girl—it might have been some fairy of sunshine.
"Well!" she exclaimed, glancing from Paul to Hazel. "You are better,
Paul. Has Hazel been treating you again with some of her magic
suggestion business? At any rate, I cannot deny its power." She
flittered over to the bed and playfully buried Paul's face in the
bouquet. "There! Aren't they splendid? And you would never guess who
sent them. Guess, Hazel."
"Ed," hazarded the girl.
"No, indeed. You try, Paul."
"Walter Pennington," replied Paul, smiling.
"Indeed, Walter probably has forgotten my very existence."
"Then it was—"
"Oh, you would never guess. It—was—Rob Roland!"
A dark look stole over the face of the young man on the bed. "I don't
like him, Clip," he said.
"Neither do I," she replied promptly. "That is precisely why I am so
nice to him. I have to keep friends with him just now. And I have not
the slightest doubt his motive is identical with my own." She paused to
laugh indifferently, then she tossed aside her dust coat and stood
revealed in spotless white linen. "How do you like me?" she asked,
straightened up to her short height. "Am I not a full-fledged
'strained' nurse, now? You know I am summoned to court this afternoon,
and all the papers will describe me."
Her brightness seemed infectious. Paul leaned upon his elbow, and
Hazel was actually interested in Clip's new costume.
"Yes," she went on. "You see, Mrs. Salvey has been called to account
for Wren—did you ever hear of anything so ridiculous? Those lawyer
relatives of hers pretend to believe that Wren is being neglected
because we have taken her away from the supposed care of that absurd
doctor. Well, I just told Mrs. Salvey to answer the summons and go to
court. It will be the best thing that ever happened to have her get
her real story before the public."
"But what about yourself?" asked Hazel. "They will ask you how old
you are, and what is your occupation?"
"And my friends will all fall dead." Cecilia did not appear worried at
the prospect. "Well, I shall say I am not as old as some girls, and
that I am engaged in being a member of the Motor Girls' Club."
"That is precisely where your trouble will begin," said Paul. "The
motor girls will never stand for a 'strained'—"
"Indeed, I am not the least bit afraid that I shall lose the friendship
of Cora and her brother. Even Walter and Ed will think it jolly to
have kept up the joke. Of course"—and she hesitated—"some of the
"Well, you can count on us," declared Paul warmly. "And if ever I get
out of this trouble, and am well again, I am going to take Hazel for a
long tour. You might—"
"Oh, you silly! I might go along? Where on earth would I get
seventy-five cents to go to Europe with?"
She placed the bouquet on the small table near the window. "There; I
guess the flowers will not contaminate us. But when he gave them to
me—or, rather, sent them, there was a note in the box," she added.
Both Hazel and Paul looked their question.
"Yes," replied Clip. "Would you like to hear the note?" She took from
her pocket a slip of paper. "It always strikes me as odd that people
who try hardest to do one thing, and mean another, fail utterly to hide
the intention. Now this gentleman, who writes with such solicitation
about Wren, says he really misses seeing her, declares frankly that
Jack Kimball and I were seen to smuggle her off in Jack's auto, and
then— But let me read the finish. I am spoiling the effect:
"'Of course you have the child safe,'" she read, "'and no one questions
your ability to care for her. All the little clandestine trips which
you and your friend made to the Salvey cottage happened to have been
observed.' Just hear the boy! Happened to have been observed, when I
knew he was watching—saw him on more than one occasion." She turned
over the page of business letter paper, and continued:
"'But the fact that I, her own cousin, am denied the privilege of
seeing her makes the thing look odd.'
"Now do you see what that means?" asked the girl. "He is trying to
make me feel that it would be better to produce Wren than to keep her
away from the lawyers, because it looks 'odd.' Well, I'll take my
chances on the odds," she said with a laugh; "and Wren Salvey will be
'produced' when I am sure that the motor girls' strange promise will be
kept. We have those smart men just where we want them now, and if they
want Wren they must give us that table."
"You think they know where the table is?" asked Hazel.
"I am not so sure of that," responded Clip, putting away the paper and
preparing to place upon the center table some of the contents of her
satchel. "But I do know that this man, Reed, is Mrs. Salvey's second
cousin. She told me he was always interfering between Wren and the
popular grandfather. Now, if the table contained the will, as Wren
declares, and if that same table was sold at auction, by this man,
Reed, or through his management, it seems more than likely that he
could trace it."
"But if he could find it, why would he not do so, and destroy the
document?" asked Paul.
"Bright boy!" declared the girl. "That only goes to show, Hazel, that
when a girl gets a thought she stops. When a boy gets one he looks for
another. I think now that perhaps the old table is safe in some
unthought-of place, and that perhaps—"
"That is why they wanted to get the promise book, to find if any clue
to its whereabouts might be within its pages," put in Hazel. "Well, I
know that Cora Kimball will find that table if it is in any house
around here. She vowed when she started out she would either bring
back the table or acknowledge herself beaten. The latter possibility
is actually beyond serious attention."
"Whew!" Paul almost whistled. "But our little sister is progressing.
Talk about professions, Clip. I rather fancy there will be more than
one to report at the final meeting of the Motor Girls' Club."
AT THE MAHOGANY SHOP
It was Duncan Bennet who suggested the auto meet. The town of
Breakwater had never gone beyond the annual dog show, and this
progressive young man confided to his cousin Daisy that on a certain
day next week he expected several of his friends from out of town, who
were sure to come in autos, and:
"Why not tell them to 'slick up' their machines, and you girls could do
the same? Then, oh, then!" he exclaimed, "we could run a real
up-to-date auto meet. I can round up fifteen machines at least. And
the girls! Why, the fame of the motor girls will then be assured. You
will actually have to appoint a press agent."
The cousins were strolling through the splendid gardens of Bennet
Blade, as Duncan called the long, narrow strip of family property that,
for years, had been famous for its splendid gardens, not flower beds,
but patches of things to eat.
"I think it would be perfectly splendid," declared Daisy, her eyes full
of admiration for her good-looking cousin. "And I know the girls will
That settled it. Duncan Bennet went straight to his room, scribbled
off a number of notes, threw himself astride his horse Mercury (called
Ivy for short), and was on his way to the post-office before Daisy had
time to stop the exclamation gaps in the girls' faces with the correct
answers to their varied questions.
Some days lay between the proposition and the fete, and this time was
to be spent on the road, as the girls had yet some miles to cover
before they would turn back toward Chelton.
There was a visit to be made at a ruins in Clayton; this was an
underlined note of Ray's on the itinerary. Then Maud wanted so much to
see a real watering place in full swing. This was put down as
Ebbinflow, and would take up at least an entire afternoon. Tillie had a
craze for antiques, and there was a noted shop only twenty miles from
Breakwater. So when Cora facetiously suggested that the party start
out from a given point, go their separate ways and get back to Chelton
for the auto meet, the girls realized that they would have to "boil
down their plans" to fit the time allotted for the tour.
The trip to the Clayton ruins occupied a whole day. The girls started
early and took their lunch, which Bess said would be eaten in a
crumbling, moss-covered and ivy-entwined tower. The ruins fully came
up to expectations, and the girls, leaving their machines at the
roadside, began their explorations.
"Isn't it just perfect!" exclaimed Ray. "I wish I had my sketch book
"She wants to outdo Washington Irving," called Cora, poising on a
"Look out!" suddenly called Bess. "That stone, Cora—"
A scream from Cora interrupted her, for the stone began to roll over,
and Cora only saved herself by a little jump, while the piece of
masonry toppled down upon a pile of bricks and mortar.
"My! That was a narrow escape!" gasped Maud. "You might have sprained
"Which would have been all the more romantic," added Cora, smiling
faintly. "It would have been material for Ray's sketchbook."
"Never, Cora!" cried Ray. "But come on. Let's go to some less
dangerous part of this ruin. You know they say this was once a church,
but was made into a sort of castle by an eccentric individual—"
"Who did dark and bloody deeds and whose spirit now haunts the place,"
"Oh, don't!" begged Ray. "It's not quite as bad as that, but I heard
some one say that on certain dark nights that—"
"Stop it!" commanded Cora. "My nerves are all right, but I'm still
shaky from that stone. Let's see if—"
"Oh!" cried Bess suddenly. "There's something there, girls," and, with
dramatic gesture, she pointed to a pile of leaves in one corner.
"Something moved there, I'm sure of it!"
They looked, and all started as the leaves actually did move.
"Come on!" cried Ray. They gathered up their skirts and were hurrying
from the old room into which they had penetrated when the leaves
rustled still more, and from them came a tiny snake. There was a
chorus of screams and Cora found herself alone in the ruined chamber.
She was pale but resolute as she followed her companions sedately.
"Weren't you awfully frightened?" asked Ray as Cora joined them.
"No indeed," she answered. "I prefer a live and seeable snake to some
haunting, unseeable rumor that only appears on dark nights. But let's
get out into the sunlight and admire the ruins from a better
perspective. Besides it's getting near lunch time."
It was more reassuring out of doors, they all admitted, and after
admiring the picturesque remains of what might have been either a
church or fort as far as appearances now went, they got the hampers
from the cars and feasted. Then, sitting in the shade, they discussed
many things until lengthening shadows warned them that it was time to
"Now for a jolly day to-morrow," remarked Maud as they neared their
stopping place that night. "If only we have good weather."
She had her desire. Never was weather more perfect, never were better
country roads discovered and never could there have been a more jolly
party of girls.
Maud was enchanted with Ebbinflow. She declared the watering place was
a perfect fairyland, but some of her companions hinted that it was the
style of the gowns that attracted her. Still they spent the best part
of a day there, enjoying the bathing and coming back in the cool of the
evening much refreshed.
"Now, Bess, it's your choice for our destination to-morrow," announced
Cora at a little luncheon just before retiring time. "But please don't
choose ruins or a watering place."
"The woods for mine," announced Bess. "I heard of a lovely grove about
twenty-five miles from here—"
"Twenty-five miles to find an ordinary grove," said Maud.
"Oh, but it's not an ordinary one," declared Bess. "It is quite
A delightful fancy dress ball was given that evening at the girls'
club, where our friends stopped, and this made a pleasant break in the
tour and a welcome relief from spark plugs, carburetors and the
cranking of motors, much as the girls had come to care for their cars.
Two days more were spent in visiting well-known places of interest, and
on one trip Maud and Bess, who managed to slip away from their
companions, went through several old farmhouses in search of the table.
Once they had hopes that they were on the track, as an elderly woman
declared she had just what they were looking for, but it proved to be
far from it, though she was anxious to sell it to them.
"Oh, dear, I hoped we could find it," said Bess as they came out.
Next morning Tillie declared it was her turn to say where the trip
should be, and she picked out an exclusive antique shop, about twenty
miles from Breakwater, in which direction the cars were soon speeding.
"I'll get a warming pan if there is one in the place," announced
Tillie, whose love for the old copper pan with the long and awkward
handle was almost a joke with her friends.
"Well, I do hope if you can't get a pan that you'll not load us up with
lead pipe and such stuff," said Cora with a laugh. "I remember very
well that last day at school when you came back from Beverly. My, what
a sight you were! What did you ever do with the junk?"
"Indeed, it was not junk," objected Tillie, "but a lot of the very
handsomest glass knobs and brass candlesticks, and my samovar."
"You surely did not carry a samovar!" exclaimed Maud.
"Indeed I did," replied the little German, "else I should not have
gotten it in the morning. I know those antique men. They are like a
thermometer—go up and down with simple possibilities."
Ray was as pretty as ever, Maude just as sweet and Daisy just as
gentle, while Cora and Gertrude had added new summer tints to their
coloring. Adele and Tillie were still bubbling over with enthusiasm,
the twins were exceptionally happy, the morning mail having brought
good news—so that all were "fine and fit" when they started on the
ride to the antique shop.
The day was of that sort that comes in between summer and fall, when
one time period borrows from the other with the result of making an
absolutely perfect "blend."
Ray had changed places with Belle Robinson, so that Belle was in the
Whirlwind and Ray in the Flyaway, and when the procession was moving it
attracted the usual public attention.
But the motor girls were now accustomed to being stared at; in fact,
they would have missed the attention had they been deprived of it, for
it was something to have a run with all girls—and such attractive
"What if we should find the table at the antique shop!" suddenly said
Belle to Ray. "Somehow I have a feeling—"
"Let me right out of your machine, Bess Robinson," joked Ray. "I have
had all I want of 'feelings' since we started on this trip. I rather
think the one where the goat or sheep or whatever it was did the actual
'feeling' was about the 'utmost,' as Clip would say. Poor Clip! I
wonder what she is about just now."
"About as frisky as ever, I'll wager," said Belle. "I never could
understand that girl."
"Well," objected Bess, "it would be hard to understand any one who is
only in Chelton two months at summer. If you were at school all year
and came home for new clothes, I fancy I would scarcely understand my
own twin sister."
"Strange," went on Ray, "that boys always so well understand a girl of
that type. Now I do not mean that in sarcasm," she hurried to add,
noting the impression her remark had made, "but I have always noticed
that the girls whom girls think queer boys think just right."
"Pure contrariness," declared Bess. "I don't suppose a boy like Jack
Kimball thinks more of a girl just because she keeps her home
surroundings so mysteriously secret."
As usual, Bess had blundered. She never could speak of Jack Kimball
and Clip Thayer without "showing her teeth," as Belle expressed it.
The machines were running along with remarkable smoothness. The
Flyaway seemed to be singing with the Whirlwind, while Daisy's car had
ceased to grunt, thanks to the efforts of the workman at her aunt's
"What will the antique man think of three autos stopping at his door?"
inquired Adele of Cora.
"Think? Why, it will be the best advertisement he ever had. Likely he
will pay us to come again," replied Cora.
The street upon which "the mahogany shop" was situated was narrow and
dingy enough—the sort of place usually chosen to add to the "old and
odd" effect of the things in the dusty window.
The proprietor was outside on a feeble-looking sofa. As Cora
predicted, he evidently was honored with the trio of cars that pulled
up to the narrow sidewalk. Tillie, with the air of a connoisseur,
stepped into the shop before the little man with the ragged whiskers
had time to recover from his surprise.
"Have you a warming pan?" she inquired straightaway, whereat, as was
expected, the man produced almost every other imaginable sort of old
piece save, of course, that asked for.
But Tillie liked to look at all the stuff, and was already running the
risk of blood poison, as Cora whispered to Gertrude, with her delving
into green brasses and dirty coppers.
With the same thought uppermost in their minds, Bess, Belle and Cora
were soon busy examining the old furniture. There were many curious
and really valuable pieces among the collection, for this man's shop
was famous for many a mile.
"Tables!" whispered Belle. "Did you ever think there were so many
Cora approached the owner. "Have you an inlaid table—a card table or
one that could be used for one? I would fancy something in unpolished
"I know just what you mean," answered the man, "and I expect to have
one in a few days. In fact, I already have an order for one—with
anchors and oars inlaid."
Cora did not start. She winked at Bess, who was always apt to "bubble
"Anchors?" repeated Cora. "Set in on the sides, I suppose? Well, that
would be odd. But where can you get such a piece as that?"
Cora did not mean to ask outright where the piece might be obtained;
what she meant was: "That will surely be a difficult thing to find."
"Oh, there is one—some place," replied the man, little dreaming what a
tumult his words were creating in the brains of the anxious motor
girls. "And when I get an order I always get the article. I shall have
a warming pan for this young lady by to-morrow noon."
"Then suppose I order a table, like the one with the oars and anchors?"
ventured Cora. "Could I get that?"
"Oh, no, miss," and he shook his head with importance. "You do not
understand the trade. That would be a duplicate, and in furniture we
guarantee to give you an original—I can only get one seaman's card
table, and that is ordered."
Cora smiled and walked off a little to gain time, and to think. Her
manner told the girls plainly not to mention the matter. She would act
as wisely as she was capable of doing. She overhauled some blue plates
and selected a pair of "Baronials."
The man went into ecstasies, describing "every crack in the dishes,"
Maud said to Daisy, but Cora bought the plates, and paid him his price
Adele and Tillie had piled up quite a heap of brass and copper, and,
unlike Cora, they argued some about the cost, but finally compromised,
and put the entire heap into an old Chinese basket which the man "threw
"Then I cannot get a table," said Cora, purposely displaying a roll of
bills which she was replacing in her purse.
"Not exactly that kind," answered the man. "But something very much
handsomer, I assure you. If you will call in a day or two I will show
you something unmatched in all the country. A house has just sold out,
and I have bought all the mahogany."
When Cecilia Thayer in her own little runabout, the Turtle, went over
the road to Mrs. Salvey's cottage, after the visit to the Hastings, her
alert mind was occupied with many questions.
She had advised the mother to go to court to account for her own child,
a most peculiar proceeding, but one insisted upon by a well-meaning
organization, the special duty of which was to care for children. What
sort of story Mrs. Salvey's relative may have told to bring such a
course about, neither she nor Cecilia knew. But at any rate a private
hearing was arranged for, and now Cecilia was on her way to fetch the
widow to town.
Driving leisurely along, for the Turtle could not be trusted to hurry,
Cecilia had ample time to plan her own course of action, should the
judge insist upon having Wren shown in court. This Cecilia felt sure
would be dangerous to the extremely nervous condition of the child, and
it was such a move she most dreaded.
"I will call Dr. Collins," thought Cecilia, "and have him state the
facts, if necessary. But then I would have to give an account of my
own part," came the thought, "and that would mean so much to me just
The "burr r-rr-r" of an approaching automobile startled her. She
turned and confronted Rob Roland.
"Well," he exclaimed, his pleasure too evident, "this is luck. Were you
going to Aunt Salvey's?"
Cecilia was annoyed. But she had no other course than to reply that
she was going to the cottage.
"So am I," replied the young man, "and very likely our business is of
the same nature."
"I am going to fetch her into town to the hearing," spoke up Cecilia,
"and I have to hurry along."
"And I, too, was going to fetch her. She is quite in demand, it
seems," and he stretched his thin lips over his particularly fine teeth
in something like a sneer. "I wish I had known you were coming out; I
should have invited you to ride with me."
"Thanks," said Cecilia indifferently. "But I could hardly have
accepted. I had some calls to, make as I came along."
"Yes, I saw your machine at Hastings. How's the chap getting on?"
"Paul is almost better," replied Cecilia, making an effort to get out
of talking distance. But he knew exactly why she sent her machine
ahead, and while too diplomatic to actually bar her way, he, too,
opened the throttle to increase the speed of his car.
It was very aggravating. Cecilia had expected to have an important
talk alone with Mrs. Salvey.
Without a doubt this was also the very thing Rob Roland intended to do.
If only she could get Mrs. Salvey into her car. But if she should
prefer to ride with her nephew.
For some short distance Cecilia rode along without attempting
conversation with the young man who was driving as close to her car as
it was possible for him to do. Finally he spoke:
"Have you ever been in a courtroom?" he asked.
"No," she replied curtly.
"Then you are sure to make a hit. Bet your picture will be in the
"What!" gasped Cecilia. "I understood this was to be a private
"Nothing's private from the newspaper chaps. They make more of chamber
hearings than the open affairs. Always sure to be something behind the
doors, you know."
The thought flashed through the girl's mind that he was trying to
frighten her—to keep her away from the hearing.
"Well, I hope they have decent cameras," she managed to say
He glanced at her with a look that meant she would make a picture. And
in this, at least, he was honest, for the girl was certainly attractive
in her linen coat, her turn-over collar and her simple Panama hat. She
looked almost boyish.
"Better let me call Aunt Salvey," he said as they neared the cottage.
"But there she is—waiting for us."
Cecilia urged the Turtle slightly ahead, then stopped suddenly. She was
almost nervous with suppressed excitement.
"All ready?" she asked as Mrs. Salvey greeted first her, then the young
"Yes. I wanted to be on time," replied the woman, stepping down from
"Well, you cannot ride in two cars," called young Roland, "and this
is—if I must be impolite—the best machine, Aunt Salvey."
"But you had an appointment with me," pressed Cecilia, pretending to
joke. "I would not trust even Mr. Roland to get you there on time, so
I came myself."
"Of course," replied the widow, puzzled at the situation, "it was good
of you to come, Rob, but I must go with Miss Thayer. I had arranged to
"Just as you like," he said, tossing his head back defiantly, "but you
know it would look better. Oh, we know perfectly well where Wren is,"
he sneered, "and if you go to see her this afternoon I am going, too."
So this was his scheme—he would follow them to find the child's hiding
Mrs. Salvey stepped into Cecilia's car. Her face was whiter than the
widow's ruche she wore in her black bonnet. She trembled as Cecilia
took her hand. What if she were making a mistake in trusting so much
to this young girl, and so defying her antagonistic relatives! What if
they should attempt to prove that she was not properly caring for her
child! And if they should take Wren from her!
"Perhaps I ought not to anger him," she whispered to the girl. "Do you
think I had best go with him?"
"After I have had a chance to say a word or two, you may get out if you
like," replied Cecilia hastily. "But I must caution you not to mention
where Wren is, no matter how they press you. If they insist upon
knowing I shall call Dr. Collins. That is the most important thing.
Next, don't tell who were the last persons who signed the promise book.
Now, you may get out and make a joke of it. I will trust to luck for
THE CHILDREN'S COURT
Judge Cowles was a gentleman of what is called the "old-fashioned"
type. He was always gentle, in spite of the difficult human questions
he was constantly called upon to decide, and which necessarily could
not always be decided to suit both parties involved in the legal
dispute. But when Mrs. Salvey walked into his room and took a seat
beside Cecilia Thayer he started up in surprise. He had known Mrs.
Salvey long ago, when she lived by the sea with her father-in-law,
Captain Salvey. Many a time had judge Cowles ridden in the little boat
that the captain took such pride in demonstrating, for the boat was
rigged up in an original way, and the captain was choice about his
"Why, Mrs. Salvey!" he exclaimed, with the most cordial voice. "I am
surprised to see you!"
Mrs. Salvey bowed, but did not trust herself to speak. She felt
humiliated, wronged, and was now conscious of that deeper pang—stifled
justice. Judge Cowles would be fair—and she would be brave.
Cecilia, young and inexperienced as she was, felt a glad surprise in
the words of the judge; if he knew Mrs. Salvey he must know her to be a
A man of extremely nervous type, who continually rattled and fussed
with the typewritten pages he held in his hand, represented the
Children's Society. Evidently he had prepared quite an argument,
Cecilia thought. Close to him sat Rob Roland, and the stout man whom
the motor girls had met on the road after the robbery of the mailbag.
Cecilia recognized him at once, and he had the audacity to bow slightly
There were one or two young fellows down in the corner of the room,
sitting so idly and so flagrantly unconcerned that Cecilia knew they
must be newspaper men—time enough for them to show interest when
anything interesting occurred.
The case just disposed of—that of a small boy who had been accused of
violating the curfew law—was settled with a reprimand; and as the
crestfallen little chap slouched past Cecilia, she could not resist the
temptation of putting out her hand and tugging pleasantly at his coat
"You'll be a good boy now," she said, with her most powerful smile.
But the agent of the Children's Society, he with the threatening papers
in his hand, called to the boy to sit down, and the tone of voice hurt
Cecilia more than the insolent look turned fully upon her by Rob Roland.
The judge was ready for the next case—it was that of the Children's
Society against Mrs. Salvey. Cecilia could hear the hum from the
newspaper corner cease, she saw Mr. Reed, he of Roland, Reed & Company,
and the same man who had just bowed to her, take some papers from his
Then the judge announced that he was ready to hear the case.
"This woman, your honor," began the nervous man, "is charged with
wilfully neglecting her child in the matter of withholding the child
from relatives who have for years been both supporting and rendering to
the child necessary medical aid."
Mrs. Salvey's face flushed scarlet. Cecilia was almost upon her feet.
But the others seemed to take the matter as the most ordinary
occurrence, and seemed scarcely interested.
"This child," went on the agent, "is a cripple"—again Cecilia wanted
to shout—"and mentally deficient."
"That is false!" cried Mrs. Salvey. "She is mentally brilliant."
"One minute, madam," said the judge gently.
"To prove that the child has hallucinations," pursued the man, reading
from his papers, "I would like to state that for some years she has
kept a book—called a promise book. In this she collected the names of
all the persons she could induce to put them down, claiming that when
the right person should sign she would recover some old, imaginary
piece of furniture, which, she claimed, held the spirit of her departed
The man stopped to smile at his own wit. Cecilia and Mrs. Salvey were
too surprised to breathe—they both wanted to "swallow" every breath of
air in the room at one gulp.
"And the specific charge?" asked the judge, showing some impatience.
"Well, your honor, we contend that a mother who will wilfully take such
a child away from medical care, and hide her away from those who are
qualified to care for her, must be criminally negligent."
The judge raised his head in that careful manner characteristic of
"And what do you ask?" he inquired.
Cecilia thought she or Mrs. Salvey would never get a chance to
speak—to deny those dreadful accusations.
"We ask, your honor," and the man's voice betrayed confidence, "that
this child be turned over to the Children's Society. We will report to
the court, and make any desired arrangements to satisfy the mother."
Turn Wren over to a public society! This, then, was the motive—those
Rolands wanted to get the little one away from her own mother.
"Mrs. Salvey," called the judge, and the white-faced woman stood up.
As she did so, Mr. Reed, the lawyer, advanced to a seat quite close to
that occupied by the judge. Rob Roland shifted about with
"You have heard the charge," said the judge very slowly. "We will be
pleased to hear your answer."
"One minute, your honor," interrupted Lawyer Reed. "We wish to add
that on the day that our doctor had decided upon a hospital operation
for the child, the child was secretly smuggled off in an automobile by
a young girl, and a young sporting character of this town."
Had Cecilia Thayer ever been in a courtroom before, she might have
known that lawyers resort to all sorts of tricks to confuse and even
anger witnesses. But, as it was, she only felt that something had hit
her—a blow that strikes the heart and threatens some dreadful thing.
The next moment the blood rushed to her cheeks, relieved that pressure,
and she was ready—even for such an insulting charge.
Mrs. Salvey was again called, and this time she was not interrupted.
She told in a straight-forward manner of the illness of her little
girl, of her own difficulty in obtaining sufficient money to have the
child treated medically, and of how her husband's cousin, Wilbur
Roland, senior member of the firm of Roland, Reed & Company, had come
forward and offered her assistance.
"Then why," asked the judge, "did you take the child away?"
Mrs. Salvey looked at Cecilia. Lawyer Reed was on his feet and ready
to interrupt, but the judge motioned him to silence.
"I took her away because I feared the treatment was not what she
needed, and I had others offered," replied Mrs. Salvey.
"Other medical treatment?" asked the judge.
"Yes," answered the mother.
"Then she is being cared for?" and judge Cowles looked sharply at the
"Most decidedly," answered Mrs. Salvey with emphasis. "And not only is
she better, but can now stand—she has not been able to do that in ten
"It's a lie!" shouted Rob Roland, so angered as to forget himself
entirely. "She is a hopeless cripple."
"Have you any witness?" asked the attorney of Mrs. Salvey, while the
judge frowned at Rob and warned him to be careful or he might be fined
for contempt of court.
The mother turned to Cecilia. "This young girl can corroborate my
statement," she answered.
As Cecilia stood up the reporters actually left their places and very
quietly glided up to seats near the trembling girl.
"Would they make a scandal of it?" she was thinking. "That lawyer's
remark about Jack Kimball?"
"Your name?" asked the judge.
She replied in a steady voice.
"And your occupation?"
Cecilia hesitated. She was not yet ready to make public the ambition
she had so earnestly worked for.
"A student," she replied finally.
"Of what?" asked Rob Roland.
"Young man," said the judge sternly, "I am hearing this case, and any
further discourtesy from you will be considered as contempt."
The youth smiled ironically. He was already accustomed to such usage,
and did not mind it in the least if only he could gain his point, but
this time he had failed.
"You know the child—Wren Salvey?" asked the judge.
"Yes. I have been in close attendance upon her for some weeks,"
"And you can state that she is improved in health since leaving her
"Very much improved. If she had not lost a very dear treasure, over
which she grieves, I believe she would be almost well soon."
Cecilia looked very young and very pretty. She spoke with the
conviction of candor that counts so much to honest minds, and judge
Cowles encouraged her with a most pleasant manner. The newspaper men
were scribbling notes rapidly. Rob Roland was looking steadily at the
chandelier at the risk of injury to his neck—so awkward was his
"You are the young lady who removed the child?" questioned the
"Yes," replied Cecilia.
"And her accomplice?" shouted Rob Roland questioningly.
"Leave the room!" ordered the judge. "I think there is a different
case behind this than the one we are hearing. I shall inquire into it,
and, for the good of the child and her wronged mother, I shall order a
thorough investigation. What motive have those who brought up this
alleged case? There is absolutely no grounds for this action. The
case is dismissed."
So suddenly did the relief come to Cecilia that she almost collapsed.
She looked at Mrs. Salvey, who was pressing her handkerchief to her
"It is all right," whispered Cecilia. "Oh, I am so glad!"
A stir in the room attracted their attention. Cecilia turned and faced
Jack was hurrying up to the judge's chair, and scarcely stopped to
"Mr. Robinson wishes you to detain these gentlemen a few minutes," said
Jack to judge Cowles. "He is on his way here."
A messenger was sent to the corridor after Rob Roland. The other
lawyers were discussing some papers, and in no hurry to leave.
Presently Mr. Robinson and two other gentlemen entered. The face of
the twins' father was flushed, and he was plainly much excited.
"I have just heard from my daughters," he began, "who are away on a
motor tour. They state that the day my papers were taken from the
mailbag they met on the road a man answering the description of this
gentleman," indicating Mr. Reed. "They described him exactly, his
disfigured thumb being easily remembered. Now the young fellow who was
'held-up' that day, and who has been sick since in consequence, also
says he felt, while blindfolded, that same one-jointed thumb. Further
than that," and Mr. Robinson was actually panting for breath, "my girls
can state, and prove, that this same man was at a tea-house near
Breakwater discussing papers, which the young girls who conduct the
tea-house plainly saw. The papers were stamped with the seals of my
Rob Roland was clutching the back of the seat he stood near. The
lawyer accused, Mr. Reed, had turned a sickly pallor.
Jack Kimball stepped up. "There is present," he said, "one of the
motor girls who was on the road at that time. She may be able to
identify this man."
What followed was always like a dream to Clip—for, leaving off
legalities, we may again call her by that significant name. She faced
the man to whom she had talked on the road, he who had wanted to help
her with her runabout when she was unable to manage it herself. It was
directly after Paul Hastings left them, and within a short time of the
happening which had meant so much to Hazel's brother. Clip told this,
and, strange to say, the lawyer made no attempt to deny any part of her
"We are prepared to answer when the case is called," he said. "But it
seems to me, Robinson, you went a long way for detectives. Did not the
motor girls also tell you that they met me on the road to Breakwater
two days ago?"
"Judge, I demand those papers!" called Mr. Robinson. "This fellow does
not deny he took them."
"When the ladies leave the room," said the judge quietly, with that
courteous manner that made Clip want to run up to him and throw her
arms about his neck, "we may discuss this further. We are indebted to
the young motor girl for her identification."
When Clip took Mrs. Salvey out they went directly to the Kimball home,
nor were they now afraid of being followed by the threatening and
insulting Rob Roland.
THE MOTOR GIRLS ON THE WATCH
Cora Kimball was turning away from the antique shop as indifferently as
if nothing there interested her. The other girls looked at her aghast.
Bess could scarcely be motioned to silence, for the "little mahogany
man" came to close the door of the tonneau, incidentally to look over
"If you come again in a day or so," he said to Cora, "I will have
tables," and he rolled his eyes as if the tables were to come from no
less a place than heaven itself. "Oh, such tables!"
"I may," replied Cora vaguely. "But I fancy I may have a seaman's
table made. I would not be particular about an original."
"Wait, wait!" exclaimed the man. "If you do not care for an original I
could make a copy. The one I am to get is something very, very
original, and I will have it here. There is no law against making one
"Well," said Cora, "I will be in Breakwater for a few days, and I may
call in again. There," as he handed in her blue plates, "these are
splendid. Mother has a collection of Baronials."
Then they started off.
Bess drove up to the Whirlwind.
"Why in the world didn't you ask who had ordered the table?" she almost
gasped. "If you knew that you could easily have traced it."
"Wait, wait!" exclaimed Cora, in tones so like those of the shop
proprietor that the girls all laughed heartily. "I will go to the shop
again, and then I will see. Perhaps I will get the original—and
then—well, wait—just wait."
"You are a natural born clue hunter!" declared Daisy, "and I am just
dying to get back to Aunt May's to tell Duncan."
"Now see here, girls," called Cora very seriously, so that all in-the
different machines might hear her, "this is a matter that must not be
mentioned to any one. It would spoil all my plans if the merest hint
leaked out. Now remember!" and Cora spoke with unusual firmness; "I
must have absolute secrecy."
Every girl of them promised. What is dearer to the real girl than a
real secret—when the keeping of it involves further delights in its
Once back at Bennet Blade the girls whispered and whispered, until Cora
declared they would all, forsooth, be attacked with laryngitis, if they
did not cease "hissing," and she called upon Doctor Bennet to bear out
Duncan was going to Chelton, and of course he took the trouble to ask
what he might do there for the Chelton girls.
What he might do? Was there anything he might not do? The Robinson
girls declared that their mail had not been forwarded, and they could
not trust to mails, anyhow, since their father's papers had been lost.
Would it be too much trouble for him just to call? To tell their
mother what a perfectly delightful time they were having, and so on.
And Maud Morris hated to bother him, but could he just stop at
Clearman's and get her magazine? She was reading a serial, and simply
could not sleep nights waiting for the last instalment.
Of course he would go to see his uncle, Dr. Bennet, Sr. In fact, it
was with Dr. Bennet he had the appointment; and when Daisy started to
entrust him with her messages to her father, he insisted that she write
them down—no normal brain could hold such a list, he declared.
Ray was what Bess termed "foxy." She did not ask him to do a single
thing. "She thinks he will fetch her a box of candy, or a bottle of
perfume. That's Ray," declared Bess to Belle.
Cora certainly wanted to send many messages, with the opportunity of
having them go first-hand. It did seem such a long time since she had
seen Jack; then there was Hazel, poor child, penned up with a sick
brother. And Wren and Clip. Why couldn't Cora just run in to Chelton
herself with Duncan?
The thought was all-conquering. It swayed every other impulse in
Cora's generous nature. Why should she stop at the thought of
propriety? Was it not all right for her to ride with Doctor Bennet, to
reach Chelton by noon and return before night?
She must go. She would go if every motor girl went along with her.
Mrs. Bennet was one of those dear women who seem to take girls right to
her heart. As I have said, she was small and rosy, with that
never-fading bloom that sometimes accompanies the rosy-cheeked,
curly-headed girl far into her womanhood. Cora would go directly to
her, and tell her. She would abide by her judgment.
Mrs. Bennet simply said yes, of course. And then she added that Cora
might start off without letting the girls know anything about it. That
would save a lot of explanation.
How Cora's heart did thump! Duncan was going in his machine, and, like
all doctors, he always preferred to have a man drive—his chauffeur was
most skilful—doctors, even when young in their profession, do not
willingly risk being stalled.
But in spite of Cora's one guiding rule—"When you make up your mind
stick to it"—she had many misgivings between that evening when her
plans were made, and the next morning when she was to start off with
Duncan Bennet. The other girls had gone out to an evening play in
Forest Park, one of the real attractions of Breakwater, and at the last
moment Cora excused herself upon some available pretense so that she
was able to get her things together and see that her machine was safely
put up, and then be ready to start off in the morning before the other
girls had time to realize she was going.
"It does seem," she reflected, "that I am always getting runaway
rides." Then she recalled how Sid Wilcox actually did run away with
her once, as related in the "Motor Girls." "And," she told herself, "I
seem to like running away with boys."
This was exactly what worried Cora; she knew that others would be apt
to make this remark. "But I cannot help it this time," she sighed. "I
have to go to Chelton, or—"
Cora was looking very pretty. Excitement seems to put the match to the
flickering taper of beauty, hidden behind the self-control of healthy
maidenhood. Her cheeks were aflame and her eyes sparkled so like
Jack's when he was sure of winning a hard contest.
"Dear old Jack!" she thought. "Won't he be surprised to see me! That
will be the best part of it. They will all be so surprised."
She went down to the study, where she was sure to find Duncan.
"I suppose your mother has told you of my mad impulse," she began
rather awkwardly. "Do you think the folks will be glad to see me?"
What a stupid remark! She had no more idea of saying that than of
saying: "Do you think it will snow?" But, somehow, when he put up his
book and looked at her so seriously, she could not help blundering.
"They ought to be," he said simply. Then she saw that he was
preoccupied—scarcely aware that she was present.
"I beg your pardon," he said directly, "but I was very busy thinking,
"Oh, I should not have disturbed you," she faltered. "I will go away
at once. I just wanted to be sure that you would wait for me—not run
off and leave me."
"Oh, do sit down," he urged. "My brain is stiff, and I've got to quit
for to-night. I haven't told you what takes me to Chelton—in fact, I
haven't told mother. You see, she thinks I am such a baby that I find
it better not to let her know when I am on a case. But the fact is, I
am just baby enough to want to tell some one."
He arranged the cushions in the big willow chair, and Cora sat down
quite obediently. She liked Duncan—there was something akin to
bravery behind his careless manner. "What he wouldn't do for a
friend!" she thought.
"Your case?" asked Cora. "I am very ignorant on medical matters, but I
should love to hear about the Chelton case. I fancy I know every one
"Well, you know Uncle Bennet, Daisy's father, is quite a surgeon, and
he has been called in this case by Dr. Collins. It is a remarkable
case, and he has asked me to come in also."
"It is that of a child who has been a cripple for some years, and who
now is making such progress under the physical-training system that she
promises to be cured entirely.
"A child?" asked Cora, her heart fluttering.
"Yes; and I rather suspect that you know her." He seemed about to
laugh. "Uncle mentioned your brother's name in his invitation for me
to go in on the case."
"Oh, tell me," begged Cora, "is it Wren?"
"Just let me see," and he looked over some letters. "It seems to me it
was some such fantastical name—yes, here it is. Her name is Wren
"Oh, my little Wren! And Clip is doing all this! Oh, I must go! Is
she going to be operated upon?"
"Seems to me, little girl," and the young doctor put his hand over hers
as would an elderly physician, "that you are over excitable. I will
have to be giving you a sedative if you do not at once quiet down. The
child is not to be operated upon, as I understand it. It is simply
what we call an observation case."
"But she is at our house—she has been there since I came away. Why,
however can all that be going on at home and no one there but the
"The child was at your house, but is now in a private sanitarium," he
said quickly. "I have had the pleasure of being in close
correspondence with your friend Clip."
CORA 'S RESOLVE
For a moment Cora was dumfounded. Duncan Bennet a close friend of Clip!
The next moment the riddle was solved.
"Why, of course you know Clip," she said. "She goes to your college."
"Yes," and he ran his white fingers through his "fractious" hair. "The
fact is, Cora, I am quite as anxious to see Clip as to go in on the
case. Haven't seen her since school closed."
"I'll likely have some trouble in finding her," he added presently.
"Never can find her when I particularly want to, but if she is in
Chelton I'm going to hunt her up."
"Won't she be at the sanitarium?" asked Cora, and she wondered why her
own voice sounded so strained.
"I think not," he replied. "Clip is a poster-girl, in our parlance,
and we don't let them in on real cases."
"Poster?" asked Cora.
"Yes; it means she has had her picture in the college paper, with
'Next' under it. I don't mind saying that I cut out that particular
"It must be lots of fun to be in such affairs," said Cora. "I have
often thought that the simple life of society is a mere bubble compared
to what goes on where girls think."
"Well, I am going early," he said pleasantly. "I suppose you don't
mind running away before breakfast."
"No, indeed," she answered. "I rather fancy the idea. If I ever
trusted myself to meet the girls I would surely 'default.'"
"All right. My man is always on time. Mother will see that we are not
hungry—I've got the greatest mother in the world for looking after
Cora laughed, and arose to go.
"I've told you a lot," he said rather awkwardly, "but somehow I felt
like telling you."
"You may trust me," replied Cora lightly. "I have such a lot of
secrets, that I just know how to manage them—they are filed away, you
know, each in its place."
"Thanks," he said. "You know, we don't, as a rule, speak about our
professional friends. Don't say anything to Daisy about Clip. I think
she would die if she knew I fancied her."
He said this just like a girl, imitating Daisy.
"Why, she likes Clip," declared Cora. "We all do."
"Wait," he said, and he raised a prophetic finger, "wait until Clip
sails under her own colors. Then take note of her friends. This is the
thorn in her side, as it were. She speaks of it often."
How Cora's head throbbed! Perhaps, as Duncan had said, she was over
excited. But just now there seemed so many things to think about.
If she went to Chelton she might hear something that would give her a
clue to Wren's book. Jack insinuated that he had a clue when he spoke
to her over the 'phone. What if she should be able to trace both the
book and the table! And bring Wren into her own!
As if divining a change in the girl's mind, Duncan Bennet said:
"Now, you won't disappoint me? I am counting on your company."
"Well, I shall have to dream over it," replied Cora. "Mother says it
is always safest to let our ambitions cool overnight."
"'Think not ambition wise, because 'tis brave?'" he quoted. But he did
not guess how well that quotation fitted Cora's case.
It seemed scarcely any time before the girls were back from the park,
just bubbling over in girlish enthusiasm about the wonderful woodland
performance. And that Cora should have missed it! Even Gertrude, the
staid and steady, could not understand it.
The Bennets' home was a very large country house, but with all the
motor girls scattered over it the house seemed comparatively small.
Chocolate and knickknacks were always served before bedtime, and Daisy
had reason to be proud of her part in the entertainment of the girls.
"And to-morrow," said Adele, between mouthfuls of morsels, "we shall
have to decorate for the fete. I am going to do the Whirlwind all my
own way, am I not, Cora?"
"You certainly may," replied Cora vaguely. "I am the poorest hand at
decorating. I prefer driving."
And they all wondered why she took so little interest in the
preparations for the fete.
"I know," whispered Bess. "You are thinking of that little mahogany
man. And so am I. I can't just wait to see the table."
Bright and early, the next morning the girls were astir. They had need
to be "up with the lark," for the gathering of stuffs with which to
decorate cars is quite a task, and they planned to make the fete a
memorable affair, as Belle put it.
"Wait till Cora comes down," said Tillie. "Won't she be surprised that
I have already been over the meadow, and gotten so many beautiful, tall
Mrs. Bennet appeared at that moment.
"My dears," she began, "I have a surprise for you. Cora has taken a
run home—she really had to go, but she will be back by nightfall.
Now, there," to Daisy, "you must not pout. Cora has been a faithful
little captain, and, from what I understand, there have been a great
many things to demand her attention at home. Go right on with your
plans, and make her car the very prettiest, and when she gets back she
will have some reason to be proud of her allies. I have arranged to be
at home all day, and to do whatever I can to assist you, in Cora's
The girls were utterly surprised, but what could they say? Show
displeasure to so affable a hostess? Never!
What they thought was, of course, a matter of their own personal
A WILD RUN'
"Speed her up, Tom," ordered Dr. Duncan Bennet to his chauffeur, as he
and Cora started out that bright, beautiful morning. "We will have all
we can do to cover the ground and make home by nightfall."
"Without a single stop," remarked Cora, "I calculated we could do it.
Do you think there is any possibility of us failing to get back?"
"Tom knows no end of short cuts," said Duncan, settling himself down
comfortably. "We take quite a different route to that which you girls
"Oh, yes, of course. We could never get to Chelton and back in one day
over the roads which we came by," replied Cora.
"The one controlling thought is," said the young physician, "that an
automobile is not a camel. No telling when its thirst will demand
impossible quenching. But this is a first-rate car," he went on, "and
it has never gone back on me yet."
"It rides beautifully," agreed Cora, as the machine was speeding over
the roads like the very wind. "After all, I do believe that an
experienced chauffeur is a positive luxury."
"Now, now!" exclaimed Duncan. "Don't go back on your constitution.
You will have to report, I suppose. What do you imagine our little
girls are thinking and doing about now?"
Cora laughed. Duncan seemed amused at the idea of "stealing" the
captain of the club—he liked nothing better than a "row" with girls.
"Well, I suppose," said Cora cautiously, "that they are scouring
Breakwater for things to decorate the machines with. I am glad that I
entrusted the Whirlwind to Tillie—she is so artistically practical
that she will be sure to avoid making holes in the car to stick
"The fellows will be up to-night. They have taken rooms at the Beacon.
There'll be no end of a rumpus if they strike Breakwater, and I am not
there to pilot them."
"Likely our girls would attempt to put them to rights," said Cora,
joking. "Just fancy a crowd of students, and those silly girls."
"It is well that they can't hear you," remarked Duncan. "Of course,
you are very—very sensible."
"You mean—I should not have come?" she said, her face flushing.
"Oh, indeed, I meant nothing of the sort," he hurried to explain. "In
fact, I never could have carried out my plan if you had not come along.
I am going to bring Clip out for the meet."
"Oh, wouldn't that be splendid!" exclaimed Cora. "If only we can
manage it. But she is always so busy—"
"Then I intend to make her stop work for a few days at least. I want
my brother to meet her, and this—well, quite an opportunity."
Cora looked at the earnest young man beside her. "Clip is worth
knowing," she said simply. Then she added: "I wonder if we could
arrange it to have Hazel come? It would be just glorious to have the
club complete after all our little drawbacks. If her brother is better
I will not take 'no' for an answer. I shall simply insist upon Hazel
Cora was aglow with the prospects—if only everything would go along
smoothly and no other "drawback" should occur.
"Your friends are from Exmouth, aren't they?" asked Duncan. "I ought
to know some of them; we played their team last year."
"Oh, do you know Ed Foster? And Walter Pennington?" asked Cora.
"I happen to remember their names," said Duncan. "I would be glad if
we could manage to have them come out to the show. Let me see. How
could we fix it up?"
"Jack has a car, and so has Walter," replied Cora, while the chauffeur
looked at his speedometer and noted that they were doing twenty-five
miles an hour.
"Then," said Duncan, "if we can fix it—But that observation case will
take quite a little time."
"You can attend to your case, and get Clip," said Cora with a
mischievous smile, "and I will attend to the boys."
"Oh, my!" exclaimed Duncan. "You are ready and willing to make the
'round up.' Well," and the car gave an unexpected bump that almost
threw Cora over into her companion's arms, "I would like first rate to
have them all come to Breakwater, and our fellows would count it the
best part of their vacation to have an auto run of that kind. If we
find everything all right out in Chelton we will call a special meeting
of the motor girls, the girls being you, and the motor boys being me,
and then we will come to the quickest decision on record."
Cora was arranging her goggles and veil. The speed of the car was
playing sad havoc with her costume, and she was not too independent to
want to look well when she got into her home-town.
"Look out, Tom!" called Duncan to his man. "Here is about where they
enforce the speed laws, isn't it?"
"We have to take chances," replied the man, "if we expect to cover the
"Mercy!" exclaimed Cora. "Please do not take any chances with speed
laws. I have a perfect horror of that sort of thing."
"What's she doing?" asked the doctor.
"Only twenty miles, sir," replied the chauffeur, "and they allow us
"Couldn't we just as well conform to the regulation speed?" asked Cora
anxiously. It was rather unusual for her to show such timidity.
"Leave it to Tom," replied the young doctor. "Chauffeurs are like
house-maids—they must not be interfered with."
Up to this time Cora had really not noticed the speed. Her
conversation with Duncan had been altogether engrossing. But now she
began to appreciate the situation, and this precluded all other
considerations, even the thoughts of Chelton.
Duncan Bennet had no sister, and, consequently, was not versed in the
art of "fidgets." He only knew the ailment when it took definite form.
But Cora was getting it—in fact, she now felt positively nervous.
How that machine did go! The speed delighted Duncan. Tom was like an
eagle bending over his prey—he urged the car on with such
determination. Once or twice Cora felt bound to exclaim, but Duncan
only shook his head. It was going, that was all he seemed to care for.
Near the station they were obliged to slow up some to look for trains.
As they did so Cora saw another car dash by, and in she recognized the
man now known to her as Mr. Reed, Rob Roland's cousin.
She made no remark to Duncan; he seemed so occupied with his own
thoughts. But when, after a few minutes, the same car passed them
again, having made a circuit on a crossroad, and the same man stared at
Cora as if to make sure it was she, she felt a queer uneasiness.
This time the other car shot ahead at such a wild pace that even
Duncan's machine was not speeding compared with that.
"Talk about going!" commented the physician; "just look at that fellow.
If he can use up that much gasoline and escape the law, no need for us
The chauffeur was simply intent upon speed—he seemed to have gone
speed crazy, Cora thought.
They were traveling over a perfectly straight road, and Duncan Bennet
took out his field glasses.
"Here," he said to Cora, "I often find these interesting when on a long
journey. Take a peek."
Cora adjusted the glasses and peered ahead.
"That man," she said, "has stopped at a small shed—"
"That's the constable's hang-out," remarked Duncan. "I had to stop
there once—just once," and the thought was evidently funny, for he
"Yes," went on Cora, "there is some one talking to him. Oh, Duncan,"
and she clutched his arm nervously, "do tell Tom to drive slowly past
there, for I think I know that man."
"Go slow, Tom," called Duncan carelessly. "We might be held up. Just
let me take the glasses, Cora."
He peered through the strong lenses. "The other car has gone on," he
said. "Perhaps the cop is a friend of your friend's"; and again he
laughed, much to Cora's discomfort.
On and on the machine flew. Finally they were within a few rods of the
little shed by the roadside. A man on a motor-cycle was waiting. As
the Bennet car came up he shot out into the center of the road.
Duncan did not mistake his intention. Tom turned his head and gave the
other a meaning look. Then the chauffeur slowed down—slower and
"Stop!" called the man on the motor-cycle, at the same moment
dismounting from his wheel.
Tom almost stopped. Cora thought he had turned off the gasoline, but
the next moment he had shot past the surprised officer, and was going
at a madder pace than ever.
Cora was frightened. Some motor-cycles can beat ordinary automobiles;
she knew that. But Duncan was laughing. If only that man, Reed, was
not on the same road just then.
"Can you make it?" asked Duncan, calling into the chauffeur's ear.
"Don't know," replied the man. "But we may as well get as far out of
the woods as possible."
"Don't worry, little girl," said Duncan to Cora with that
self-confidence peculiar to those who are accustomed to being obeyed.
"We are all right. It is only a fine, at any rate, and I always carry
"Stop!" yelled the man at the rear. "You cannot cross the line, and if
you don't stop soon you will find your tires winded."
A revolver shot sounded.
Tom drew up instantly. "I don't fancy putting on new tires," he said
coolly, "so we may as well surrender."
Duncan looked at the officer in a perfectly friendly way.
"Well, what's up?" he asked indifferently.
"You ought to know," replied the man, scowling angrily. "If I hadn't
stopped you land knows but you would have been over the falls. What's
the matter with you fellows, anyhow? Can't you take a joy ride without
committing murder and suicide?"
"You're mistaken," replied Duncan. "I'm a doctor on a hurry call—"
"Yes, you are! You look it!" and the officer sneered at Cora. "Tell
that to the marines!"
"Well, what's the price?" demanded Duncan with some impatience. "I'm in
"Wait till your hurry cools off," said the officer, who from his own
wild chase was now plainly uncomfortably warm. "You made the
marked-off distance in the shortest time on record, from post to post
in one minute."
"How do you know?" asked the chauffeur sharply.
"What's that to you?" replied the officer. "Didn't I see you?"
"You did not!" shouted Tom. "Some one 'squealed,' and you have no
proof of what you are saying."
The man hesitated. Then he blurted out: "Well, what if a friend did
tip me off? Wasn't he in as much danger from your runaway machine as
the next one?"
"That man!" whispered Cora to Duncan. "He stopped and told him to
"Well, the price?" called Duncan, with his hand in his pocket. "I tell
you I am a doctor, and I am in a hurry to get to Chelton. Can't you
make it something reasonable—and then something for your own trouble?"
The man eyed Duncan sharply. "I was told you would say just that," he
said with a curious laugh.
"And that is just what the other fellow said to you," spoke Tom. "Now
look here, Hanna. I know how much you have got out of this already,
and I happen to know the sort of coin that that sneak, Reed, carries.
He has offered me some—at times. He travels out here quite some of
late. Take my advice and be square. It is all bound to come out in
Cora gazed at Duncan in astonishment. "I told you," said the latter,
"that it is best to leave a good man alone. Like a good cook, they
usually know their own business."
But the officer was not so sure. He hesitated, then said: "Well, I see
judge Brown over in the meadow. He can settle it. Come along."
Cora was in despair. To be thus detained when there was not an hour to
spare! Tom drew the machine well to the roadside. Duncan leisurely
climbed out and then asked the girl if she would remain in the car.
"That's the mean part of this business," remarked Duncan; "they don't
want money—they want time—good, honest time."
Then, of a sudden, with that boyishness that Cora had so greatly
admired in so thoughtful a young man, he sprang off on a run toward the
meadow, where the constable had indicated the judge could be found.
"Come on, friend," he called good-naturedly to the officer on the
wheel. "When a thing's to be done, may as well do it. The sooner the
quicker," he joked, while Cora wondered more and more how so wronged a
person could be so good-humored.
Tom fussed about the machine, looking to see that the official bullet
had not struck through a tire. Evidently the constable did not expect
Duncan to take him at his word, and go after the squire, for it took
him some time to put his wheel against a tree and prepare to follow on
"You can't go that way," he shouted to Duncan. "That's all swamp."
"Won't hurt me," replied the irrepressible Duncan. "I am taking the
Soon Duncan was talking to the farmer—and the constable was still
"picking his steps" toward the spot where the two stood.
"I am sure Duncan will win him," thought Cora, "and perhaps we will not
be so long delayed, after all."
But Tom could not stand the suspense. He asked Cora if she would mind
being left alone for a few minutes, and soon he, too, was hurrying over
Cora had great faith in Tom's judgment now, and was rather glad that he
had gone to Duncan's help. She stepped out of the car to gather a few
wild flowers, and was just about to step in again when the rumble of an
approaching machine attracted her attention.
She turned and saw coming toward her that man Reed. With assumed
indifference she stepped back to the road to get another flower. This
took her just a bit farther from his path than she would have been in
the car, but as he came up she heard him slacken, then stop.
Her heart seemed to stand still. In an instant she realized what it
meant for a girl to be alone on a road—she should not have left
Breakwater, and the doctor and Tom should not have left her.
"Miss Kimball," called a voice from the other car. "I am sorry to see
you in this predicament. I am Mr. Reed, of Roland, Reed & Company,"
and he said this with all possible courtesy. "I believe we have met
before, and I came back to see if I might be of any assistance to you.
This speeding business is rather troublesome, and I ventured to guess
that you are most anxious to be in Chelton to-day, as there are so many
interesting things going on there."
For an instant Cora felt that she had wronged this man. Perhaps, after
all, he was a perfect gentleman, and had nothing to do with their being
detained. If only Duncan or Tom was there!
"Yes, I am in a hurry to get home," admitted Cora. "But I think we
will soon be off again."
"Not very likely," went on the other. "That old judge seems to delight
in keeping folks away from their business. He has the most roundabout
way possible of transacting matters. I was about to suggest that if
you really are anxious to get to Chelton I would go over there and
speak with your friend, and, as we are not so far away from the home
town, it might be wise for you to ride with me. It is very awkward for
a lady to be in this position. Sometimes a newspaper fellow comes
along, and, as they say, 'gets a story' out of it."
"Oh, I thank you very much," she said hurriedly and not without showing
her confusion, "but I will wait until Dr. Bennet comes. I am sure he
will not be detained long. They should have some consideration for
"Dr. Bennet? Oh, I see. He is in a hurry, too, to get to Chelton."
(If Cora could have seen the flash that shot through the lawyer's brain
at that moment.) "Well, of course, he ought to be allowed to
go—although we all have to keep within the speed limit."
"They are coming now," said Cora joyously, for the interview was
anything but pleasant. "I will tell Dr. Bennet of your kindness."
The man cranked up instantly, excusing his haste with a glance at his
watch. "Well," he said, "I have a noon appointment, so I may as well
hurry on. Good morning, Miss Kimball. I suppose we shall see each
other again in Chelton, as we both are interested, I believe, in the
same affair—finding the promise book and finding the lost table."
Then he was off.
Duncan, Tom and the two officers were up to the car before Cora had
quite recovered herself.
"That was Reed, miss, wasn't it?" asked Tom sharply.
"Yes," replied Cora.
"Well, he's a cool one," went on Tom, while Duncan looked after the
receding car. "Do you know him, if I may ask?"
"Yes, and no," said Cora nervously, for the constable and justice were
looking at her with some impertinence.
"I thought so. His usual game. He makes himself known. Now see
here," said Tom, in a manner that made Cora think of Paul—perhaps Tom
loved machines as did Paul, and was more than an ordinary
chauffeur—"that man is a keen lawyer, Dr. Bennet, and he has some
purpose in delaying you."
"Delaying me!" echoed Duncan.
"No," interrupted Cora. "It is in me he seems to have the interest,
for he asked me to ride back to Chelton with him. Oh, I know!" she
exclaimed. "It is in Wren! He is the lawyer who has to do with Mrs.
Salvey's case, and he is trying to keep Dr. Bennet away from Chelton
to-day. He must have heard that you were on the case," declared Cora,
as the whole strange proceeding seemed to flash before her excited mind.
"That's bad!" groaned Duncan.
The officials were talking at one side of the road.
"Look here, squire," called Tom, "this is all a putup game. You have
no proof that we were going faster than the law allows. That sneak
Reed simply told you so. Now own up, Hanna. Am I not right?"
"He sure said so," grumbled Hanna.
"And you had only his word?" asked the old justice angrily.
"I saw the smoke from that car, and—"
"Well, I'm goin' to let you go," asserted the judge. "I don't like
this here kind of business, Hanna, and I want you after this to have
all your charges first hand. Don't take no tips from nobody, d'ye
Hanna smiled. He had his hand in his pocket, and it may as well be
told that there was also in the pocket something which resigned him to
letting the automobilists go. Reed had attended to the compensation.
"Just as you say, judge," remarked the constable.
Duncan put his hand out to the old squire. "Here, squire," he said.
"I do this openly. I want you to take this, not as a bribe, but as a
personal gift, which I have a perfect right to offer you. You are
doing me a kindness, and also this young lady a kindness, and the one
most concerned is a helpless little creature who waits until I reach
Chelton to know whether or not she is to be made perfectly well, so to
speak. Not that I am the one to say that, but because a noted
specialist will wait for all the other doctors. It's a long stony, but
I will let you know how we make out if I beat that sharper into
Cora couldn't speak. She, too, put out her hand to the old squire, who
was wiping his eyes and shaking his head against Duncan's gift.
Finally the young doctor prevailed upon him, and then once more they
started on their mad run for Chelton.
AGAINST THE LAW
Two hours later Cora almost fell into the arms of her brother—so
overstrained were her nerves after the exciting ride.
"Oh, Jack," she exclaimed, "I had the awfullest time! It is very well
to be a girl and imitate boys in the matter of risking; but I say,
Jack, it is always risky."
"Well, I am glad you have found that out, little girl," answered the
brother, putting her comfortably down in the big armchair. "What's the
particular risk now? No more stolen girls?"
"Oh, that was your part," she said, laughing. "And, by the way, I hear
you are quite a successful kidnaper."
"Not so bad. But you should have seen the time we had to get Wren to
the sanitarium. She didn't want to leave here, and had a mortal fear
of a hospital. But how are you?" and he looked into her flushed face.
"I declare it seems moons since I've seen you."
"And all the other planets since I saw you, Jack. I wonder will I ever
have the courage to tell you all about it?"
"Wouldn't the courage just naturally come on my side? I would have to
"Oh, no. You don't have to—"
"There you go! Home ten minutes and picking a fight—"
Then they both laughed. It was jolly even to play at quarreling, and
be real brother and sister again.
"Well, I have so little time, Jack, I must be serious. You know we
have to get back to Breakwater to-night. We are to fetch you, and Ed
and Walter and Clip—"
"Oh, you don't say! In a suit case or a la hamper? Ed is literally
cut up about all the girls being out of town at once. He would fit in
the shirt box, I fancy. But Wallie—he seems to have expanded. I
doubt if you could manage him—"
"Oh, you ridiculous boy! Come on. Run after me while I get through
the house. I must see dear old Margaret. How is she treating you?"
"First-rate, for Margaret. She only starved me out of the midnight
"You should not eat after ten, Jack. But come along. I must look over
the place, and talk at the same time," and with that intention Cora
started on her tour of home inspection, while Jack made all the noise
he possibly could make (which was not a little), running through the
house after her.
Margaret, of course, knew what the tumult was about. She always
declared that boys went to college to learn how to make unearthly
Cora found little out of place. Margaret was an old and trusted
servant, and, in the absence of her mistress, could always be depended
upon to look after the "children."
"And now I must go and get the folks together," remarked Cora. "Can you
"And help you pick up the humans? Well, guess I may as well, as I am
to be in the collection. But what is it all about?"
In a girl's way Cora told of the plans for the auto fete, and of Dr.
Bennet wishing to have the Chelton boys meet his student friends.
"First rate!" responded Jack, when Cora paused for breath. "I rather
fancy the idea of going after some of the girls. I cannot help but
agree with Ed that all the girls should not leave town at once—you
should take turns."
"But how about Clip? The others imagine that she makes up for quite a
number—with you and Walter."
"There you go again, picking a fight," and he laughed honestly. "Now,
Cora, Clip is just Clip, no more and not one whit less, but she has
been so busy—oh, so tremendously busy!" He was getting into his motor
togs, and Cora was already equipped for her ride about Chelton. "Say,
sis," he added, "did I tell you I have my suspicions about the loss of
Wren's book? Did she describe to you the pair who last signed the
"No," answered Cora, now fully interested.
"Well, she told me it was a fellow with bent shoulders, and a girl with
red hair. Now, who does that fit?"
Cora thought for a moment. Then her face showed quicker than her words
that she guessed who might answer those descriptions.
"Sid Wilcox and Ida Giles!" she exclaimed. "But what motive could they
"Sid Wilcox and Rob Roland are termed the Heavenly Twins, they are so
often together. Now, Rob Roland has been the paragraph and the period,
so to speak, in this story," said Jack meaningly.
"But why should Ida stoop to such a thing?"
"Didn't you run over her dining-car one day early this summer?" Jack
reminded her. "Or was it Bess? No matter just who, it was one of the
motor girls. And, besides, you did not ask her to go on the run."
"If I thought Ida Giles knew anything about that book I would go
directly to her house and demand an explanation," said Cora, flushing.
"Ida is too apt to be influenced by Sid Wilcox. I thought she had seen
enough of the consequences of such folly."
"Oh, Ida is ambitious in that line," replied the cool, deliberate Jack.
"Well, let us start," suggested Cora. "I have quite some ground to
cover. Dr. Bennet has agreed to find and fetch Clip."
"Has, eh? Smart fellow, Doc Bennet! I tried all afternoon yesterday
to locate the lithersome Clip. Took a coy little jaunt of two miles
afoot—some one said she had a friend out Bentley way, but I did not
locate her. Hope Doc has better luck."
Jack said this in a way that opposed his words to their own meaning.
He evidently meant he hoped Dr. Bennet would not have better luck.
"I am so anxious about the report on Wren," commented Cora, as they
finally started off in Jack's runabout. "It will mean so much to her
mother, and to her, of course."
"Well, if Clip has had any influence, I should say Wren would turn out
an artist's model, physically. Clip has just about lived with the
child since you went away. Of course, we had Miss Brown, and if she
isn't Brown by nature as well as by name. I wouldn't say so. I never
got one single smile to cut across her map."
"Shall we look for Ed first?" and Cora could not control a most
provoking flush that threatened her cheeks.
"Just as you say, lady. But I have not told you—let the last moment
be the hardest. Ed has taken to the ram. He is training the ram.
Can't get him away from the ram. Mary's little lamb is a 'bucking
bronco' to it."
"Oh, I have been wondering about that," said Cora. "I thought I was to
wear the ram's fleece as a sort of real baby-lamb coat next winter."
"Nothing of the sort, girl. Ed's ramifications are the talk of the
town. He is to give an exhibition at college when we get back. A
clear case of the lamb and Mary's school days."
"Well, where shall we hope to find him?" and she glanced at her watch.
"I must find some one soon."
"Come along. I'll hunt him up. He is likely at this very moment
giving Minus his morning ablutions. He called the ram Minus because
the animal takes away so much of his time. Joke, eh?"
Jack directed his machine toward the same little creek that figured in
my first story of the motor girls, when Ed rescued them from a sorry
plight, the Whirlwind having run into a mudhole.
"Now, I'll bet we find him by the brookside with Minus chewing daisies
and, incidentally, Ed's stray clothing," declared Jack.
Along the way people appeared surprised to see Cora, and their
greetings were a mixture of query and astonishment.
"There's Ida!" suddenly exclaimed Jack. "Don't let on you see her. I
don't want to stop here to talk to her."
"Why?" asked Cora curiously.
"Because in about one minute you will see her trailer, the insufferable
Sid, and I am not in Sid's humor.
"I would like to speak with Ida," objected Cora. "I really wanted to
ask her something."
"Save it," commanded the ungovernable brother. "A thing like that gets
better with time."
So they passed along, Cora having to be content with a bow and a smile
to Ida Giles, who returned both promptly.
"Jack," said Cora, when they were also up to the hill behind which they
hoped to find the idler by the brook, "do you know I think I have an
actual clue to Wren's table. An antique man out Breakwater way has an
order for one. I am watching that order."
"That's easy. When you know that Reed has been in and out of the place
for some days. That's the best of being a girl. You can trace around
after the most important clues and no one would ever suspect you of
knowing what you are after. Now, I rather think when the fete is
'pulled off,' if I may use the term," and he laughed his apology, "then
there will be some doin's. I just want to see rocky Rob rumpled."
"Let us not delay talking long with Ed," proposed Cora, "for I must be
at Hazel's at one—I am so anxious about Paul."
"About Paul? Why, he's all right. He's out and has been to the
office," was the brother's surprising answer. "Didn't you hear about
Mr. Robinson wanting to send him away for his health? Robinson has
taken a great fancy to Paul. The stolen document business is also near
a climax. I had a fine time trying to keep Clip's name out of the
paper, the day they had the hearing about Wren. You see, I—the great
first person—ran into the courtroom just as the judge was dismissing
the absurd case set up against Mrs. Salvey. Of course, that was
nothing more or less than a trick to get information for the other
side. Well, Mr. Robinson was hurrying to court and he has passed his
running days creditably, I believe when he met me. I took up his run
at a moment's notice, reached the courtroom, waved my hands wildly in
"Oh, Jack!" interrupted Cora; "don't be so absurd. You know I am just
dying to hear what happened."
"Then don't die until you do hear," and he slowed up at the hill. "The
fact is, I just caught the whole City News force red-handed with a
great story about Clip. The reporters had called her the modern Clara,
and all that, but I got it away from them. I know one of the best of
them, and he agreed, so they all had to. It was a good little story,
for the lawyers were matched against a motor girl. That made it
interesting from a newspaper viewpoint. Hello! Didn't I tell you?
Say, there, Mr. Foster! Chain up the ram, Ed. We want to approach."
Just as they rounded the hill, Ed could plainly be seen as Jack had
foretold—idling by the brook with the ram in the same picture, but at
a polite distance from its owner.
"I thought Walter wanted the ram," remarked Cora as they neared the
spot where Ed was "getting himself together."
"Oh, he did. But do you remember what the man said about having to put
his overcoat on to feed that animal? Well, he wouldn't even stand for
Walter, with or without the ulster. He tried his best raincoat and
all, but the ram just went for him. But look how he purrs around
Ed—tame as a kitten."
"I am not going to trust him, though," decided Cora. "One experience
with Mr. Minus is enough for me. Shout to Ed to come over. I must
Cora's invitation to go to Breakwater came almost as a shock, Ed
declared, but coming from Cora he would accept. Consequently he
hurried the ram to its quarters, and, agreeing to look up Walter, the
girl was left to pay her visit to Hazel.
"We fellows will start from here about daybreak," Jack decided, "and we
will reach Breakwater about ten o'clock. That's the time Doc Bennet
gave me for the official gun to go off."
It happened that Ed knew the young doctor slightly, so that he took
Jack's urgent "appeal" as coming from the actual host.
"I told you he would be glad to join the Motor Girls' Club," remarked
Jack, while Ed was exchanging civilities with Cora. "He's just been
pining around here like a lost—"
"Now, Jack, be square," interrupted the handsome young man, whom Cora
thought had actually grown handsomer in the days since she had last
seen him. "I never pine. I growl—just plain growl."
"You take me over to Hazel's, Jack?" asked Cora. "Then you may go
along and help look for Walter. I must meet Dr. Bennet at two-thirty.
And then, I wonder, will we be able to get back to Breakwater by six."
She was thinking of her experience coming out to Chelton; also she kept
on the lookout for Mr. Reed. He had hinted that there were interesting
things developing in Chelton just then. He had said openly that his
interest and Cora's were mutual. Would he again molest her?
With this thought she determined not to get too far away from Jack.
She would have him call at the Hastings' house for her.
And the Roland, Reed & Company lawyers knew that Cora Kimball was a
leader among the motor girls the club that had avowed its purpose of
finding the book, as well as the table.
All this was complicated and involved, but to the shrewd lawyers, Cora
knew the working out of the details was merely a matter of opportunity.
Having failed to prove Wren a subject for some "shut-in" institution,
these same lawyers were now engaged on another scheme, that of trying
to show that the child was detained against her will, and was actually
in the possession of Cora Kimball.
Jack had told Cora all this, trying to make it a matter of small
importance, and laughing at Rob Roland's initial performance, as Jack
put it; but Cora felt that it was no laughing matter, and that at least
the happiness of two persons—Mrs. Salvey and her delicate little
Cora and Jack were on the road, and Jack had cranked up. Ed, having
made the ram secure in the field, was about to walk to his own
lodgings. Suddenly a flash of red swept across the streak of brown
highway. Cora recognized it instantly as Dr. Bennet's car.
He was coming at such a pace that in drawing up the gears and brakes of
his machine protested with unpleasant, grinding sounds.
Dr. Bennet seemed flushed and excited. He began, without any
preliminaries, to tell Cora that she must get into his car, and hurry
back to Breakwater.
"I have been on the wildest hunt," he said, smiling an acknowledgment
to Cora's introduction to Ed, and bowing to Jack, whom he had met
earlier in the day. "I have been all over Chelton, but of course did
not expect to locate you out here."
Duncan Bennet possessed that manner which is at once persuasive and at
the same time courteous combination of the doctor and the man.
"You see," he continued, "I happened to overhear that you are to be
subpoenaed in that Robinson patent case. In fact, I heard Reed say he
would have you in an hour, so I determined to beat him back home—get
you over the State line before he can serve the papers. Now, you had
best jump right in. Clip is waiting for us at Wiltons'. We will pick
her up and then fly."
"Oh!" gasped Cora, seizing at Jack's arm. "I am not going to run away.
I will stay right at home—with my brother." Cora was as near crying
as any young lady with the reputation of strength of character might
safely venture. But Jack knew more of the case than he had confided to
her, and he instantly agreed with Dr. Bennet.
"Run along, sis," he advised, with the jollity that makes a brave boy
ever a girl's hero. "I'll be after you with the others, and it will be
no end of fun. Clip's going, and I'll try to have Paul and Hazel
join—if Paul is fit. Then with Ed and Walter— Say, we will have the
time of our young lives! Get in with Dr. Bennet, and I'll turn back
and stop in front of the ice cream place. Of course, Reed or Roland
will come along that way, and of course you will be inside eating
Cora was now climbing in beside Dr. Bennet.
"And that is why that horrid man tried to get me to ride in town with
him!" cried Cora. "He wanted to make me take those papers—"
"Certainly," interrupted Duncan. "But we have fooled him thus far. Be
sure to come to the show, boys," this to Ed and Jack. "My crowd will be
out there to-night, but I suppose we will not see the Chelton throng
until to-morrow. Excuse haste—and a bad pen," he added, laughing,
while Tom gave a signal on the horn. "This is the time we make a run
against the law."
"Now, Tom," called Duncan Bennet to his chauffeur, after Clip had
joined Cora, "you had better slow up some. The young ladies may want
to find out whether or not they still wear hats." They had ridden fast
"Oh!" exclaimed Clip, "I never had such a delightful ride. I suppose
that is what you call being motor mad—going and going until you cannot
go fast enough. They say it is a disease, isn't it, doctor?"
"I believe it is so defined," answered Duncan with mock dignity. "But
we are not to talk disease, if you please, young lady," and he smiled a
command which might easily be interpreted to mean: "You must rest from
that sort of thing for a while."
Cora turned to look back over the dusty road. Her face, usually alive
to every mood, was strangely set—as if too anxious to venture a change
of expression. Duncan from the front seat saw her look.
"Oh, he is not coming," he said. "No need to worry now. We are across
the State line."
"I never was so frightened in my life," admitted Cora. "Not that I was
afraid of going to court, but I was mortally afraid we would not be
able to make the run in time. I should have known better, however, for
Tom had qualified before to-day."
"Tom knows just how fast this machine ought to go," added Duncan. "I
don't mind Tom hearing it, either."
The chauffeur smiled in acknowledgment to the compliment. It had been
a hard run, and the Chelton lawyer had only turned back at the last
"Wonder where that motor-cycle officer is now?" remarked Cora. "I mean
"Oh, he's out having a good time on what he earned this morning,"
answered Duncan. "One hold-up in a day is plenty for Hanna."
"I have scarcely had a chance to speak to you, Clip," Cora began, as
her nervousness vanished. "I am so glad to see you."
"Well, you have been looking whole vocabularies at me, Cora, in many
and various languages," said Clip in her own inimitable way. "I have
been wondering whether you had turned into a Sphynx or just Liberty."
"But, Clip, I did have a fright. Suppose I should have had to give up
the run, and go to that stuffy old courtroom!"
"Well, I am glad you didn't," answered Clip sincerely. "I do think
that a courtroom is about the meanest place I have ever visited—and I
have been in a lot of queer places. And the girls," went on Clip.
"Whatever will they say to you two runaways?"
"What won't they say?" replied Duncan. "I am not to blame, of course.
Miss Cora simply inveigled me into allowing her to ride with me—"
"I saw Reed pass over the back country road a moment ago," interrupted
Tom. "I might guess where he is going."
"Where?" asked the trio in a breath.
"To that junk shop on the turnpike," replied Tom. "He seems to think
the shop is haunted with a valuable ghost. He goes out there almost
"You mean the antique shop?" asked Cora. "Oh, I know. He is after a
table. I am sure it is he who has given the order—" She stopped—her
finger on her lip. Tom seemed to know so much—what if he should know
about the missing table? "Have you any idea what he is after?" asked
"Well, I ought to know," replied Tom, "for he has made no secret of it.
He has searched every attic from Breakwater to Moreland. I caught an
old junk dealer in our barn the other morning, and while I watched him
get down the road I saw Reed come along. Of course, he had hired the
man to search where he himself could not go. He is after some sort of
ancient rustic table, I believe."
Clip and Cora exchanged meaning looks. Cora had not for a moment
forgotten about the antique man's promise to have the original table in
a few days. She was to see this and then—
"We are not out of the woods yet," remarked Clip. "I am thinking,
Duncan, that you have undertaken a large contract. You have positively
agreed to have me back in Chelton by to-morrow afternoon at four
"Oh, we will see about that," replied the physician with a sly look at
Cora. "There is a telephone in Breakwater—"
"Duncan Bennet! If I thought I should be late for the 'clearing-up'
to-morrow I would start right now," declared Clip most emphatically.
"Oh, you won't be. We will fix it so the 'clearing-up' will be late
for you. I suppose you think everything that ever happened is going to
repeat itself to-morrow afternoon, just because one Miss Cecilia Thayer
"Hush, Duncan! Cora does not know one word about it. She may have
guessed, but that is not knowing, is it, Cora?"
"I confess to a keen curiosity," answered Cora, "but as a matter of
fact I expect to be very much busy myself to-morrow. Just now I cannot
see how it is all going to be managed."
"Well, when the Chelton boys arrive I guess the girls will not be so
particular about their time," said Duncan. "I fancy even the captain
will have to show somebody the beauties of Breakwater. But hark!
Wasn't that Daisy? I just heard a breath. We are only about ten miles
from home—Daisy can easily breathe that long when she is excited. Oh,
I am just aching to hear what they will say, Cora," and he laughed.
"I'll wager Ray will be the aggrieved one. She will likely manage to
keep out of the work, don't you think so?"
Cora did not reply in so many words, but she looked acquiescence.
Certainly those who knew Ray appreciated her ability to take care of
her own personal self at the risk of all other matters. But Cora was
thinking of something else—of Wren and the medical report. She knew
better than to ask Duncan outright what might have been the result of
their inquiry. Nevertheless, she could not refrain from "begging the
"Is little Wren happy?" she asked, without apology for the sudden turn
in their conversation.
"Well, just now," replied Duncan very seriously, "she can scarcely be
expected to realize either happiness or unhappiness, for we had to give
her a powerful anesthetic."
"For an operation?" Cora could not refrain from asking. Clip showed no
curiosity, and Cora knew at once that she was acquainted with the
"Something of that kind," answered Duncan vaguely. "But put your mind
at rest—the child has every chance of ultimate recovery. The trouble
was the wrong treatment. We use purely physical training for that sort
"Could the neglect have been intentional?" asked Cora further. She had
in mind the "quack" doctor so long sent to Salveys' by the Roland
branch of the family.
"Oh, I wouldn't like to venture an opinion on that," replied Duncan,
"but ignorance is closely allied to criminal negligence."
Clip set her deep dark eyes in a tense, strained expression. Then they
all fell to thinking, and for a time conversation ceased.
"Ten more telegraph poles and we run into Breakwater," announced
Duncan, while Tom eyed his speedometer. "Then for our reception!"
It seemed but two minutes, at most, from that announcement that
Duncan's machine turned into the Bennet estate.
MERRY MOTOR MAIDS
The runaways were forgiven, finally, although between four "enraged"
young medical students, and the sextette of motor girls, Cora and
Duncan had some difficulty in making it perfectly clear that the trip
to Chelton was entirely unavoidable. It was a merry party that
gathered in Mrs. Bennet's long drawing-room that evening to make
arrangements for the run over Breakwater roads in the morning. The
girls at first refused to allow Cora a sight of the decorated cars
until they should be in line, but Tillie was so proud of her
achievement with the Whirlwind that all finally consented, and directly
after tea the cars in the garage and in the big barn were admired and
inspected. Certainly the machines did credit to the fair decorators.
The Whirlwind was transformed into a moving garden, the sides being
first wound with strong twine, and into this were thrust all sorts of
flowers in great, loose bunches. Only the softest foliage, in
branches, was utilized, as Tillie felt responsible for the luster of
the "piano" polish, for which the Whirlwind was remarkable. The top of
the car was like a roof garden, the effect being quite simply managed,
for Tillie was resourceful. She had stretched across the roof of the
car a strong sheet of pasteboard. Into this she placed a great variety
of wild flowers, banking the stalks, which stood into holes made in the
board, with soft grasses and such ferns as might be depended upon not
to "slink" in the sun.
"Wonderful!" exclaimed Cora with unfeigned delight. "But what an awful
lot of trouble, Tillie!"
"It is for you," said the German girl sincerely, "and you have gone to
an awful lot of trouble for me. Besides," she added, "you will look so
queenly in that throne of flowers."
The compliment was rather overwhelming—especially as the strange young
men were there, they with Duncan adding a new line of adjectives to the
"You may look at our car, Cora," assented Bess, "although you were so
indifferent, going away without even offering a suggestion as to what
we might do."
"As if I could anticipate Belle's talent," said Cora with a laugh. "I
feel I ought to answer to 'which hand' when I open my eyes on her
The boys all joined in with Cora and Clip in the expressions of
delight, for there was the pretty little runabout, the Flyaway, made
into a "live pond lily."
"However did you do it?" asked Cora, actually amazed at the charming
"I shouldn't tell," replied Belle, who was looking very pretty—at
least one of the strange boys thought so. It was Phil MacVicker who
"kept track" of Belle, and it was the same gallant Phil, who, late in
the afternoon, helped Belle to finish up her pond lily.
"We may all guess why Belle chose that design," said Daisy, who was
waiting for the newcomers to pass judgment on her own runabout. "A
pond lily has a yellow head, and Belle's is just about that shade."
It would be pretty to see a yellow head in the white peals of the
improvised lily. Cora satisfied her curiosity by finding out that
these petals were nothing more than barrel staves covered with crushed
"You have had an awful lot to do, girls," she said with genuine
sincerity. "I am actually sorry I could not have been here to help."
"Of course, mine is not so elegant," remarked Daisy, who led the way to
the other carriage house, where her machine was kept, "but I fancy
people will look at it."
Duncan "went wild" when he beheld what Daisy had rigged up. A
veritable circus wagon—a cage, in which Daisy declared she was going
to sit with whip in hand, and Nero, the big St. Bernard dog, at her
"We made it out of clothes poles and laths," said Daisy proudly. "I
have not taken a course in manual training for naught."
Then the boys had to fix up their cars. Duncan was tired—the other
boys were frisky—so he nicely suggested that they "do as they jolly
pleased with his car, so long as they left room for his feet."
Of course the boys wanted something grotesque. Phil suggested that
they all carry out the circus idea, and "trail" after Beauty and the
Beast. This was finally agreed to, and it was Duncan's car that they
turned into the calliope, actually going so far as to hire the local
hurdy-gurdy man to ride in it and do the "callioping."
"It looks as if our run home would be more auspicious than the trip we
made in," said Cora to one of the very nice young students, who had
offered to look over her car and see that it was in good working order.
"We had a dreadful time coming out here—but I suppose the girls have
told you about it."
Bentley Davis, otherwise called Ben, admitted that the young ladies had
spoken of the trip, and he presumed to predict a great time for the
So it went on until the boys had to go back to their hotel, and the
girls, after discussing all sorts of necessary and unnecessary plans,
finally consented to wait for the morrow.
Tired from their enthusiasm, as well as from muscular efforts, the
girls found their eyes scarcely "locked," before the bright rays of a
late summer sun knocked on the tardy lids and demanded recognition.
Was it really time to get up?
If only the wasted hours of the evening past might be tucked on to the
shortened time! Most things might be lengthened that way.
But, one after the other, the girls were at last awake, and so, quicker
and quicker, sped the time until horns were sounding from garage and
stable and even from the roadway.
"There come the Cheltons!" called Duncan as he saw Jack's car. Then
Walter's with Ed rounded the gravel driveway.
From that moment, until car after car was upon the roads of
Breakwater, it was a question which made the most noise, the girls
talking or the boys blowing signals on the auto horns. Hazel had come
with Jack, as Paul was scarcely able for the excitement, so that, after
all, the motor girls were all in the run.
What a parade!
Of course, Cora, being captain, had to lead, and from the floral folds
of the Whirlwind floated the club flag in the newly adopted colors, red
and white, with the gold letters, M. G. C. (Motor Girls' Club),
plainly discernible in the changing sunlight.
Every one in Breakwater had heard that there was to be an amateur motor
show, but few expected it to turn out into such a fine procession.
The sound of the "calliope" was truly ludicrous. To this was soon
added all sorts of noises that only street urchins know how to develop
Nor were the young people of Breakwater to be left out of the sport,
for numbers of them possessing automobiles, fell into line, after the
decorated cars, until the entire little summer place was agog with such
excitement as the extreme originality of the visiting colonists usually
Street after street was paraded through, auto after auto wheeled along,
horns tooting, whistles screeching, boys shouting, girls cheering,
until one hour of this strenuous frolic seemed enough to satisfy motor
girls and motor boys; and the party went to the Beacon for luncheon
precisely at noon, leaving Tom to finish the honors by stripping the
cars of their trappings and making them ready for a homeward trip.
Cora, however, was persuaded to leave her machine decorated, as the
flowers made a pretty picture, and the return home, after the
three-days' trip, seemed more auspicious when thus heralded.
Reluctantly the adieux were made—Mrs. Bennet had been so hospitable,
and the boys such good company.
Duncan found an opportunity of making Clip more intimately acquainted
with his mother, for she was a woman glad to be the friend of her boy's
friends, and willing to take considerable trouble to show the many
little social preferences.
Cora insisted on the festivities breaking up on the scheduled time, and
so did Clip. Cora wanted to get to the antique shop, and Clip wanted
to get back to Chelton. So after a delay, impossible to avoid where
there were so many boys and so many girls, each and all wanting
something to say, some question to ask, or some message to deliver, the
party finally started off on the return trip of the first regular tour
of the Motor Girls' Club.
THE PROMISE KEPT
With Jack's and Walter's additional cars the girls were able to ride
home without crowding, so that the Whirlwind carried only Cora, Clip
and Gertrude—the gallantry of the Chelton young men affording Tillie
and Adele a chance for a most jolly trip in the little runabouts, while
Hazel rode with the twins.
Cora explained that she had an errand to do on the river road, so that
she might go to the antique shop without the others.
"I think it will be best to have a chance to talk with the old man
quietly," she told her companions. "I am so anxious to find out
whether or not he really had Wren's table, or knows anything about it."
But scarcely had she turned into the narrow street than the surprising
sight of Rob Roland's car dashed before her eyes. In it were Rob
Roland and Sid Wilcox.
Seeing the festooning of the Whirlwind, the driver of the smaller car
slackened up, then, seeing further who the occupants of the floral car
were, Rob Roland drew up to speak to Cora.
"He has just come from the antique shop," whispered Clip, "and I am
afraid we are too late, Cora."
But Cora spoke cheerily to the young men, exchanging pleasantries about
the auto show, and remarking that they should have been in Breakwater
to see it.
"Oh, we have had our own show this morning," said Rob triumphantly. "I
guess the motor girls are not such expert detectives as they have
thought themselves to be."
This seemed to be aimed directly at Clip. She only laughed merrily,
however, as the Whirlwind shot out of reach of the young man's voice.
"What do you suppose he meant?" she asked Cora.
"We will soon know," replied the other. "It is about the table, of
They pulled up to the narrow sidewalk. Cora was not slow in leaving
her car. Clip was with her on the walk directly.
As they pulled off, their gloves they stopped for a moment in front of
the dingy window.
Cora drew back.
"Look!" she exclaimed. "There is Wren's promise book."
"For sale here!" gasped Clip.
"I—hope so—" faltered Cora quickening her steps into the shop.
The little bewhiskered man was rubbing his wrinkled hands in apparent
satisfaction. He was in no hurry to wait on his customers.
"What is that album I see in the window?" asked Cora. "Some foreign
"Oh, that! No, that is not foreign. It is a sacred relic of some
"For sale?" asked Cora, her voice a-tremble.
"Oh, no! No! No!" and the man shook his head gravely. "I always keep
"Might I look at it?" pressed the motor girl, while Clip picked up
something with pretended interest.
"Oh, yes, of course. But it is only filled with names, and I got it in
a deal with another sale. The party who brought it here," went on the
curio dealer, "the same who bought the table gave me the book in the
bargain, with the understanding that I should not sell it but keep it
on exhibition. They were very particular about me not selling it."
Cora instantly guessed what this meant—a trick of Rob Roland. To show
her the book! To make sure it was now useless, as the table had been
made secure by him, but just to put it in that case to taunt her, when
she would come, as of course he knew she would, and discover there was
now absolutely no hope of ever recovering Wren's long-lost treasure.
She looked vaguely into the glass case. "So you did get the table?"
she said indifferently.
"Yes, that, too," said the man. But he made no attempt to display it.
"Can't I see it? You said you would make me one like it—"
"Oh, yes. I know I did. But my customer is very particular, and I
have agreed not to show it."
"Cora's heart sank. She must be shrewd now or lose what she had so
long worked for.
"But you made the agreement with me first," she argued. "You promised
to let me see the table, and said you would make me one to order, not
like it, of course, but in the same line."
The old man shook his head. He had evidently changed his mind.
A new thought came to Cora. "Has your customer paid for the table?"
"Oh, it will be paid for—it will be paid for," and he seemed to gloat
over the words, "when it is delivered."
Then it was not yet paid for—not actually bought. Clip saw instantly
what Cora was striving for, but she pretended to be interested in the
locked case in which rested the much-looked-for promise book.
"How do you know it will be paid for?" hazarded Cora. "Young folks
often change their minds. I suppose you have a good deposit?"
"Well, no. I wanted one, but the gentleman is gone for to cash a
Cora laughed. The old man's face changed.
"If they wanted the table why did they not bring the money?" she said.
"I should think it would save you trouble to sell the table directly to
me—if it suits me, of course. I am going away from here, and suppose
the other customer never comes back?"
Still the old man did not speak. Cora saw her advantage and took out
"How much is it?" she asked boldly.
"They will pay me fifty dollars for that table," he said dramatically.
"So will I, if it suits me," she declared. "Come, let me see it."
The old man saw the new bills in her hands,
He stepped toward the door of another room, but he put up his hand to
warn her not to follow.
"I will bring it," he said in such grave tones that Clip wanted to
laugh—surely this was a Shylock.
While he was within the room Cora whispered to Clip, and when the old
man came out Clip was gone.
He had between his hands a small, very narrow table, like the old-time
card table, with glass knob at either end, and on the long drop leaves
were inlaid an anchor and crossed oars.
"That is just the size," declared Cora, while she trembled so she
feared the man would detect her agitation. Then she looked it over,
and under she was seeking for a hidden drawer.
"Are there drawers in it?" she asked.
"Oh, my, but yes. That is why it is worth so much. The drawers cannot
all be found. It is like a safe—"
Cora was sure this was the long-lost table. Oh, if she could only
induce the man to let her take it.
The price, she was positive, was far beyond that offered by the other
customer, but that did not matter.
"You had better let me have this," she said. "I will take it right
along and save express. Then make one for the other party, if he ever
The shopkeeper shrugged his shoulders—if he only would talk, thought
Cora counted out fifty dollars. The man watched her greedily. It was
twenty-five dollars more than he had bargained to sell the table for.
Why should he lose so much?
"May I have it?" pressed Cora.
"Well, I never before did that but he should have left a deposit," said
Quicker than the girl dreamed she could do it, Cora paid the man,
actually grabbed the table herself and ran out of the shop with it and
thrust it into the front of the Whirlwind among the flowers, cranked up
her car and darted off.
Her face was so white that she frightened Gertrude. "Don't ask any
questions, dear," she said to the latter. "I must meet Clip. She has
gone for a detective."
Just around the corner came Clip, and with her an officer in plain
clothes. Cora swung in to the curb.
"I have it! I have it!" she exclaimed to Clip. "Is this the officer?"
she asked. "And have you told him the book was stolen?"
"Oh, don't worry about the details, miss," replied the officer. "We
have that thing to do every day. These fellows take anything they can
get, and that being the book of a cripple, I will take chances on
getting it. You may be asked to explain fully, later."
"Oh, thank you so much!" cried Cora, almost overcome. "To think we may
bring both the table and the book home to Wren!"
What followed seemed like a dream to Cora. Of course she knew that it
was Rob Roland who had ordered the table and Sid Wilcox who had
returned the book. As the Whirlwind passed the little hotel on the
road to Chelton Cora actually brushed against Rob Roland's car—and she
had the table hidden amid the flowers in the Whirlwind!
In Clip's hands was grasped the promise book—Wren should have both.
Poor, afflicted little Wren!
Straight to the private sanitarium they went—these two motor girls.
Miss Brown helped carry the table up to Wren's bedside.
At the sight of it Wren uttered a scream—then the shock did what
medical skill often fails to do. Wren Salvey sprang out of bed,
touched a spring in the table and a drawer jerked open.
"There!" she shrieked, holding up a paper. "The will!" Then she fell
"The shock has done it," said Miss Brown as Clip helped put the girl on
the bed and Cora looked frightened. "It has broken the knot that tied
her muscles. She will be cured."
Clip stepped over to a closet, and while Cora was almost fainting from
excitement Clip quietly took off her motor coat. Presently she stepped
back to Cora—in the full garb of a trained nurse.
"Clip!" exclaimed Cora.
"Yes," replied the girl, "I graduate to-night. Will you be able to
What more should be told? With the failure of Rob Roland to get
possession of the table he lost all courage and simply admitted defeat.
It was Sid Wilcox who stole the book from little Wren—just to avenge
Ida Giles, whose lunch basket had been demolished by a motor girl. An
odd revenge, but he thought, in some way, it would annoy the motor
girls. Of course Rob Roland paid him something for doing it. But all
their strategy was not equal to the ready wit of Cora Kimball and her
chums. Nor was this the only time that the motor girls proved their
worth in times of danger and necessity. They were active participants
in other adventures, as will be related in the third volume of this
series, to be called "The Motor Girls at Lookout Beach; Or, In Quest of
the Runaways." How they went East in their cars, and how they
unexpectedly got on, the trail of two girls who had left home under a
cloud, will, I think, make a tale you will wish to peruse.
It was not long after the table and the promise book had been restored
to Wren, and following her complete recovery, that the suit against Mr.
Robinson was dropped. Roland, Reed & Company admitted that they had
arranged to have the papers taken from the mailbag, and the government
imposed a heavy fine on them for their daring crime. They had done
what they did with the idea of securing information, and not with a
desire to keep the papers, but the Federal authorities would accept no
excuses. Later Mr. Robinson secured heavy damages from the men, the
disfigured thumb of one having served Clip to identify him.
As for Wren and Mrs. Salvey, with the will in their possession, they
were enabled to get control of a comfortable income, and Wren could be
taken to a health resort to fully recover her strength. Sid Wilcox and
Rob Roland were not prosecuted for their mean parts in the
transactions, as it was desired to have as little publicity as possible.
"And to think, Clip, dear, that you were deceiving us all the while,"
remarked Cora several days later, when she and the Robinson twins; and
a few other of the chums, were gathered in the Kimball home. "I never
would have thought it of you."
"Nor I," added Belle.
"But wasn't it strange how it all came about?" suggested Bess. "It
seemed like fate."
"It was fate," asserted Clip. "Fate and—Cora."
"Mostly fate, I'm afraid," declared Cora. "Of course the table being
disposed of at auction was a mere accident, likely to happen anywhere.
The real power, though, was little Wren. She, somehow, felt that the
old will was in it, and by her talk, and through her promise book, the
fact came to be known to the enemies of the family. Then Rob Roland,
or some of the men who used him as a tool, conceived the idea of
searching for the table. They probably had the old mahogany man act
for them, and he made inquiries of auctioneers and persons who were in
the habit of buying at auctions. Then we came into the game, and—"
"Yes, and then Ida and Sid Wilcox, though I'm glad Ida didn't take any
part in these proceedings," observed Belle.
"So am I," said Cora softly. "Well, we managed to get ahead of Rob
Roland. A little later and he would have had the table, and would have
found the will. Then little Wren and her mother would never have come
into their inheritance. Oh, I don't see how people can be so mean!"
"And the way they treated Paul," added Clip. "They ought to be
punished for that."
"Well, I guess Paul was more harmed mentally than he was physically,"
said Bess. "He told me the men used him very gently. It was the papers
in the bag they were after."
"I think Clip gave us the greatest surprise of all," went on Cora. "The
idea of a girl keeping it secret as long as she did, that she was all
ready to graduate as a trained nurse! No wonder she knew how to treat
Wren. I feel that she is far above us now."
"Shall I lose my honorary membership in the Motor Girls' Club?" asked
Clip as she slipped her arm around Cora and pretended to feel her pulse.
"Well, I guess not! The motor girls are proud of you!" cried Bess.
"Of course," added Belle.
Cora said nothing, but the manner in which she put her arm around the
waist of Clip was answer enough.