THE OUTDOOR GIRLS OF DEEPDALE
CAMPING AND TRAMPING FOR FUN AND HEALTH
BY LAURA LEE HOPE
I A FLUTTERING PAPER
II THE TRAMPING CLUB
IV A TAUNT
V AMY'S MYSTERY
VI THE LEAKY BOAT
VII TO THE RESCUE
VIII CLOSING DAYS
IX OFF ON THE TOUR
X ON THE WRONG ROAD
XI THE BARKING DOG
XII AT AUNT SALLIE'S
XIII THE MISSING LUNCH
XIV THE BROKEN RAIL
XV "IT'S A BEAR!"
XVI THE DESERTED HOUSE
XVII IN CHARGE
XIX A LITTLE LOST GIRL
XX THE BOY PEDDLER
XXI THE LETTER
XXII A PERILOUS LEAP
XXIII THE MAN'S STORY
XXIV BY TELEGRAPH
XXV BACK HOME
THE OUTDOOR GIRLS OF DEEPDALE
A FLUTTERING PAPER
Four girls were walking down an elm-shaded street. Four girls, walking
two by two, their arms waist-encircling, their voices mingling in rapid
talk, punctuated with rippling laughter—and, now and then, as their
happy spirits fairly bubbled and overflowed, breaking into a few waltz
steps to the melody of a dreamy song hummed by one of their number. The
sun, shining through the trees, cast patches of golden light on the stone
sidewalk, and, as the girls passed from sunshine to shadow, they made a
bright, and sometimes a dimmer, picture on the street, whereon were other
groups of maidens. For school was out.
"Betty Nelson, the idea is perfectly splendid!" exclaimed the tallest of
the quartette; a stately, fair girl with wonderful braids of hair on
which the sunshine seemed to like to linger.
"And it will be such a relief from the ordinary way of doing things,"
added the companion of the one who thus paid a compliment to her chum
just in advance of her. "I detest monotony!"
"If only too many things don't happen to us!" This somewhat timid
observation came from the quietest of the four—she who was walking with
the one addressed as Betty.
"Why, Amy Stonington!" cried the girl who had first spoken, as she tossed
her head to get a rebellious lock of hair out of her dark eyes. "The very
idea! We want things to happen; don't we, Betty?" and she caught the
arm of one who seemed to be the leader, and whirled her about to look
into her face. "Answer me!" she commanded. "Don't we?"
Betty smiled slightly, revealing her white, even teeth. Then she said
laughingly, and the laugh seemed to illuminate her countenance:
"I guess Grace meant certain kinds of happenings; didn't you, Grace?"
"Of course," and the rather willowy creature, whose style of dress
artistically accentuated her figure, caught a pencil that was slipping
from a book, and thrust it into the mass of light hair that was like a
crown to her beauty.
"Oh, that's all right, then," and Amy, who had interposed the
objection, looked relieved. She was a rather quiet girl, of the
character called "sweet" by her intimates; and truly she had the
disposition that merited the word.
"When can we start?" asked Grace Ford. Then, before an answer could be
given, she added: "Don't let's go so fast. We aren't out to make a
walking record to-day. Let's stop here in the shade a moment."
The four came to a halt beneath a great horsechestnut tree, that gave
welcome relief from the sun, which, though it was only May, still had
much of the advance hint of summer in it. There was a carriage block near
the curb, and Grace "draped herself artistically about it," as Mollie
Billette expressed it.
"If you're tired now, what will you be if we walk five or six miles a
day?" asked Betty with a smile. "Or even more, perhaps."
"Oh, I can if I have to—but I don't have to now. Come, Betty, tell us
when we are to start."
"Why, we can't decide now. Are you so anxious all of a sudden?" and Betty
pulled down and straightened the blue middy blouse that had been rumpled
by her energetic chums.
"Of course. I detest waiting—for trains or anything else. I'm just dying
to go, and I've got the cutest little traveling case. It—"
"Has a special compartment for chocolates; hasn't it, Grace?" asked
Mollie Billette, whose dark and flashing eyes, and black hair, with just
a shade of steely-blue in it, betrayed the French blood in her veins.
"Oh, Grace couldn't get along without candy!" declared Betty, with a
"Now that's mean!" exclaimed Grace, whose tall and slender figure, and
face of peculiar, winsome beauty had gained her the not overdrawn
characterization of "Gibson girl." "I don't see why Billy wants to always
be saying such horrid things about me!"
"I didn't say anything mean!" snapped Mollie, whose pseudonym was more
often "Billy" than anything else. "And I don't want you to say that I
do!" Her eyes flashed, and gave a hint of the hidden fire of temper which
was not always controlled. The other girls looked at her a bit
"If you don't like the things I say," she went on, "there are those who
do. And what's more—"
"Billy," spoke Betty, softly. "I'm sure Grace didn't mean—"
"Oh, I know it!" exclaimed Mollie, contritely. "It was horrid of me to
flare up that way. But sometimes I can't seem to help it. I beg your
pardon, Grace. Eat as many chocolates as you like. I'll help you. Isn't
She clasped her arms about the "Gibson-girl," and held her cheek close to
the other's blushing one.
"Don't mind me!" she cried, impulsively. Mollie was often this way—in a
little whirlwind of temper one moment, and sweetly sorry for it the
next, albeit her little spasms of rage were never serious, and seldom
"Forgiven," murmured Grace. "But I am really anxious to know when we can
start our Camping and Tramping Club. I think the idea is perfectly
splendid! How did you come to think of it, Betty?"
"I got the idea from a book—it isn't original by any means. But then
I always have been fond of walking—out in the country especially.
Only it isn't so much fun going alone. So it occurred to me that you
girls would like to join. We can take a nice long tramp the first
opportunity we get."
"Just us four?" asked Grace.
"No, not necessarily. We can have as many members as we like."
"I think four is a nice number," spoke Amy. She was rather shy, and not
given to making new friends.
"We four—no more!" declaimed Mollie. "Suppose we do limit it to
"Well, we can talk of that later. And I do so want to talk of it. I
thought we'd never get out of school," and the four who had just been
released from the Deepdale High School continued their stroll down the
main street of the town, talking over the new plan that had been proposed
that morning by Betty Nelson—the "Little Captain," as she was often
called by her chums, for she always assumed the leadership in their fun
"Will we just walk—walk all the while?" asked Grace. "I'm afraid I
shan't be able to keep up to you girls in that case," and she swung about
on the sidewalk in a few steps of a mazy waltz with Amy.
"Of course we won't walk all the while," explained Betty. "I haven't all
the details arranged yet, but we can set a certain number of miles to
cover each day. At night we'll stop somewhere and rest."
"That's good," sighed Grace, with a glance at her small and daintily
"Oh, here comes your brother Will!" Betty called to her.
"And that horrid Percy Falconer is with him," went on Mollie. "I—I can't
"He's seen Betty—that's why he's hurrying so," spoke Grace. "Probably
he's bought a new cane he wants to show her."
"Stop it!" commanded Betty, with a blush. "You know I can't bear him any
more than you girls can."
"You can't make Percy believe that—my word!" and Mollie imitated the
mannerism perfectly. For young Falconer, be it known, was partial to good
clothes of a rather flashy type, and much given to showing them off. He
had very little good sense—in fact, what little he had, some of his
enemies used to say, he displayed when he showed a preference for pretty
Betty Nelson. But she would have none of his company.
"I don't see why Will wants to bring him along," remarked his sister
Grace, in a petulant tone. "He knows we don't like him."
"Perhaps Will couldn't help it," suggested Amy.
"That's nice of you to say, Amy," commented Grace. "I'll tell Will—some
time when I get a chance."
"Don't you dare! If you do I'll never speak to you again!" and the pink
surged to a deeper red in Amy's cheeks.
"Betty'd much rather have Will pick up Allen Washburn," remarked Mollie,
in decisive tones. "Wouldn't you, Bet?"
"Oh, please don't say such things!" besought Betty. "I don't see why you
"Hush, they'll hear you," cautioned Grace. "Let's pretend we don't see
them. Hurry up! I've got a quarter, and I'll treat you to sodas. Come on
in Pierson's drug store."
"Too late!" moaned Billy, in mock-tragic tones. "They are waving to
us—we can't be too rude."
Will Ford, the brother of Grace, accompanied by a rather overdressed
youth slightly older, had now come up to the group of girls.
"Good afternoon!" greeted Percy Falconer, raising his hat with an
elaborate gesture. "Charming weather we're having—my word!" Percy rather
inclined to English mannerisms—or what he thought were such.
"Hello, Sis—and the rest of you!" said Will, with a more hearty, and
certainly a more natural, air. "What's doing?"
"Grace was going to treat," said Amy slowly; "she is so good about
"Oh, girls! This is on me!" exclaimed Percy. "I shall be delighted. May I
have the honor?" and again he took off his hat with an elaborate bow.
"Shall we?" Betty telegraphed this question to her friends with her
"Take the goods the gods provide," murmured Grace. "I can save my quarter
for another time."
With a rather resigned air Betty followed her chums into the drug store
and presently all were lined up before the marble-topped counter.
"The soda's delicious to-day," murmured Grace. "I've a good notion to get
some fudge," and she began toying with a little silver purse.
"Save your money for our club," advised Mollie. "Did you hear of our
expedition?" she asked Will.
"No, what's that? Are you going to try for the East or West pole?—seeing
that the North and South ones have been captured," and he laughed,
thereby getting some of the soda down his "wrong throat."
"Serves you right," murmured his sister, as he coughed.
"Betty is going to form a Camping and Tramping Club," went on Amy.
"Fine!" exclaimed Percy. "Are you going to take gentlemen? If so,
consider my application."
"Oh, we really mean to walk!" exclaimed Grace, with a glance at
the too-small patent leather shoes the overdressed youth thrust
out ostentatiously. If he understood the allusion he gave no sign
of so doing.
"What's the game, Sis?" asked Will, quizzically.
"Why, it isn't anything very elaborate," explained Betty, as she finished
her soda. "It occurred to me that, as school closes exceptionally early
this year, some of us girls could go for a two weeks' tramping tour
before our regular summer vacation."
"And we're all in love with the idea," declared Amy.
"Twenty miles a day is our limit," added Mollie, smiling behind the
"Twenty miles!" faltered Percy. "You never can do it—never!"
"Oh, yes, we can," said Betty, assuredly.
"Now do you still wish to join?" asked Grace, pointedly, glancing at
"You never can do twenty miles!" affirmed Percy. "Let's have some more
soda!" he added quickly, to change the subject.
To the credit of Grace Ford, who was really very fond of sweets, be it
said that she refused, and that with the mocking eyes of all the girls
fastened on her.
"I've had enough," spoke Betty. "You walk with me," she whispered to
Amy. "I don't want Percy to bore me. Stay near me, do!"
"I will," promised Amy.
Balked of his design to stroll beside Betty, Percy was forced to be
content with Mollie, and she, with malice aforethought, talked at him in
a way he could not understand, but which, the other girls overhearing,
sent them into silent spasms of laughter.
"Don't you find it troublesome to carry a cane all the while?" Mollie
asked him, sweetly ignorant.
"Oh, I don't have to carry it," he said quickly.
"Don't you? I thought on account of not being able to walk—"
"Why, Mollie—I can walk all right."
"Oh, I misunderstood you. You said twenty miles was too much."
"I meant for girls."
"Oh, then you carry the cane for dogs."
"No, indeed. I'm not afraid of dogs."
"He doesn't know she's 'spoofing' him—I believe that is the proper
English word; isn't it?" whispered Grace, who was with her brother.
"Whatever did you want to bring him along for?"
"Couldn't help it. He fastened to me when I came out of school, and I
couldn't shake him off. Is Bet mad?"
"You know she doesn't like him."
"Well, tell her it wasn't my fault, when you get the chance; will you? I
don't want to get on her bad books."
"I'll tell her."
"I say, Sis, lend me a quarter; won't you? I'm broke."
"You had the same allowance that I did."
"I know, but I need just that much to get a catching glove. Go
on—be a sport."
"Don't say you haven't got it. Weren't you going to treat the crowd when
I brought Percy along and let you sting him?"
"Such horrid slang!"
"Go on, be a sport! Lend me the quarter!"
Grace produced it from her purse. There were several other coins in it.
"Say, you're loaded with wealth! Where'd you get it?"
"I just didn't spend it."
"Go on! And you with a two-pound box of chocolates—or what's left of
'em—under your bed!"
"Will Ford, did you dare go snooping in my room?" and she grasped his
"I couldn't help seeing 'em. I was looking for my ball, that rolled
"Did you—did you eat them all?" she faltered.
"Only a few. There's Allen Washburn, I want to speak to him," and Will
ran off uncermoniously, to join a tall, good-looking young man who was on
the other side of the street. The latter, seeing the girls, raised his
hat, but his glance rested longest on Betty, who, it might have been
observed, blushed slightly under the scrutiny.
"Allen always has a book with him," murmured Amy.
"Yes, he's studying law, you know," spoke Betty.
Some other girls joined the four then, and Percy, seeing that he was
rather ignored, had the sense to leave, making an elaborate departure,
after what he considered the correct English style.
"Thank goodness!" murmured Mollie. "Puppies are all right, but I like
better-trained ones!" and her dark eyes flashed.
"Billy!" exclaimed Grace, reproachfully, shaking an accusing finger at
"Well, you don't like him any more than—than Betty does!"
"Hush!" warned the Little Captain. "He'll hear you."
"I don't care if he does," was the retort.
Gradually the main part of the town had been left as the girls walked
slowly on. Houses were fewer now, and the trees not so large, nor well
cared for. The sun seemed to increase in warmth as it approached the
west, wherein was a bank of fluffy clouds that soon would be turned into
masses of golden, purple and olive.
"Oh, girls, I simply must rest again!" exclaimed Grace, as, with a wry
face, she made for a smooth stump, which was all that was left of a
great oak that had recently been cut down, as it had died, and was in
danger of falling.
"What! Again?" cried Mollie. "Say, Grace, my dear, you never will be able
to keep up with us on the tramp, if you give out so easily now. What is
"Matter? Look at her shoes!" cried Amy. "Such heels!"
"They're not so awful high!" and Grace sought to defend her footwear from
the three pairs of accusing eyes.
"It's a very pretty boot," remarked Betty. "But hardly practical, my
"I suppose not," sighed Grace. "But I just simply could not resist the
temptation to take them when the sales-girl tried them on me. I saw them
in Robertson's window, and they were such a bargain—a sample shoe she
said—that's why they're so narrow."
"You can wear a narrow size," spoke Mollie with a sigh. "I wish I could."
"Oh, I think your shoes are a lovely shape," spoke Grace. "I wish I had
your high instep."
"Move over," begged Amy. "There's room for two on that stump, Grace."
Grace obligingly moved, and her friend sat beside her, idly swinging a
couple of books by a long strap. Betty and Mollie supported themselves by
draping their arms about each other's waists.
"'Patience on a monument,'" quoted Betty, looking at the two on
"Which one?" asked Mollie with a laugh.
"We'll divide the virtues between us; won't we, Amy?" exclaimed Grace,
putting her head on the other's shoulder. "Now I'm—"
"The sleeping beauty!" supplied Betty, "Do come on!" and after a little
argument, in which Grace insisted that she had not had more than a
minute's respite, the four started off again. They were approaching the
outskirts of the town in the vicinity of which they all lived.
"If this weather keeps up we can't start off on our tramping and camping
trip any too soon," remarked Grace.
"When can we arrange for it?" asked Amy. "I think it is the nicest idea I
ever heard of."
"You can all come over to my house to-night," suggested Betty. "We can
make some plans then, perhaps."
"Let's, then!" cried impulsive Mollie. "But do you really intend to do
any camping, Betty?"
"Yes, if we can. Of course not for any length of time—say a night or
two. There are one or two places where camps are open the year
around, and all you have to do is to go there and board, just as you
would at a hotel."
"Only it must be much nicer," said Amy.
They had reached a place where the highway ran under a railroad line,
that crossed on a high bridge. As the girls came under the structure a
fluttering bit of paper on the ground caught the eyes of Betty. Rather
idly she picked it up, and the next moment she uttered a cry that brought
her chums to her side in some alarm.
"Look!" she exclaimed. "A five hundred dollar bill is pinned to this
paper! A five hundred dollar bill, girls!"
THE TRAMPING CLUB
With staring eyes, and with breaths that were labored, the three chums
gathered about Betty. She held the bill, and the paper pinned to it,
stretched tightly between her slim fingers.
"Is it—is it real?" gasped Grace.
"Of course it's real," declared Amy.
"How do you know?" asked Mollie. "I confess I never saw a five hundred
dollar bill all at once before."
"Did you see it in pieces?" asked Grace. "What a lot of money!"
"How many pounds of chocolates would it buy?" asked Amy, with a laugh.
"Don't you dare say chocolate to me!" commanded Grace.
"It is real," went on Betty, who had not spoken since picking up the
money. "There's no doubt of that."
"If findings were keepings you'd be well off," said Mollie. "How lucky
you are!" and sighed.
"Of course I can't keep it," decided Betty. "But I wonder who could
have dropped it?" and she looked up at the railroad bridge over their
heads, as if she might see some one standing there waiting for the
return of the bill.
"What is that paper pinned to it?" asked Grace, as she took hold of it
while Betty held the bank note by the two ends.
"That's so—I forgot to look at that," said the finder. She turned it
over. There was some writing on it. It said:
" This is my last five hundred dollar bill—all that is left of my
fortune. This is to remind me that if I don't make good use of this I
don't deserve any more luck. It is make or break with me now! Which
will it be?"
The girls were silent for a moment or two after reading this strange
message that had come to them in such a queer manner. Then Betty said:
"Girls, what do you make of it?"
"It's a joke!" declared Grace.
"It sounds far from being a joke," spoke Betty, seriously. "Girls, there
may be a grim tragedy here."
"How romantic!" sighed Mollie. "What shall we do with the money?"
"We must take it home and consult our folks about it," decided Betty.
"I'll ask papa—and you might refer the question to yours, Amy. Being a
broker, he's quite likely to know about such things, and can tell us
what to do. This is quite a lot of money to lose, I wonder how we can
find the owner?"
"Maybe there'll be a notice in the post office."
"It can't have been here very long. Perhaps we'll meet whoever it belongs
to, coming back to look for it," spoke Grace.
Thus came some opinions, and while various others were rapidly formed and
expressed, and as the girls are speculating on how the bill, and the
attached paper, came to lie so openly on the highway, I hope I may be
permitted to insert here a little descriptive matter that will, perhaps,
give the reader a clearer understanding of the characters of this story.
And as Betty Nelson had, by right of more than one informal conquest,
reached the position of leader, I can do no better than begin with her.
Betty was about sixteen years old. She was not exactly what one would
call "pretty"—that is, at first glance. More likely she would have been
spoken of as "good-looking." At least by the boys. And certainly Betty
was good to look upon. Her face showed her character. There was a calm
thoughtfulness about it that suggested strength of mind, and yet it was
not the type of face called "strong." It was purely girlish, and it
reflected her bright and vivacious manner perfectly. How her features
lighted up when she spoke—or listened—her friends well knew. Her eyes
seemed always to be dancing with fun, yet they could look calmly at
And when Betty Nelson looked at trouble that same trouble seemed to melt
away—to flee as though it had no right to exist. And this not only as
regarded her own troubles, but those of her friends as well. Intensely
practical was Betty, yet there was a shade of romance in her character
that few suspected. Perhaps the other girls had so often taken their
little troubles to Betty, listening to her advice and sympathy, that they
forgot she might have some of her own. But, under it all, Betty had a
romantic nature, that needed but a certain influence to bring it out.
Full of life and vigor she was always ready to assume the leadership in
whatever of fun or work was at hand. Perhaps that is why she was often
called "The Little Captain," and certainly she deserved the name. Her
father, Charles Nelson, was a wealthy carpet manufacturer, his factory
being just outside of Deepdale, and her mother, Rose, was one of the
society leaders of the town, though there was no elaborate social system.
A regular "Gibson girl," was Grace Ford, not only in form but in face.
There was that well-rounded chin, and the neck on which was poised a
head with a wonderful wealth of light hair. The other girls rather
envied Grace her hair—especially Mollie, who was a decided brunette.
And, as I have said, Grace dressed to advantage. There had been a time
when she bemoaned the fact that she was tall—"regular bean-pole" her
brother had taunted her with being—and Grace—well, she had slapped
him. But this was some years ago. But now, with the newer styles that
seem to forbid the existence of hips, and with skirts that so
circumscribe the steps that fast walking is impossible, Grace fitted in
perfectly. She was artistically tall and slender, which fact none knew
better than she herself.
But Grace was not vain. She did pose at times, but it was done naturally
and without undue thought. She just could not help it.
Her brother Will made no end of fun about her—even at this date, but
Grace had sufficient composure to ignore him now, and only smiled
"You only show how little you know, Billie-boy. Run along now and
Then Will, trying to think of some cutting thing to say, would hasten to
join his bosom friend Frank Haley, perhaps remarking as they tramped off:
"Hanged if I can understand girls anyhow."
"Why, what's up?"
"Oh, Grace is such a primper. She's got a new dress and some sort of
fancy dingus on it doesn't mix in right. She says it makes her look too
stout, and she's going to have it changed."
"Hum! I think your sister is a mighty stunning-looking girl."
"I'll tell her you said so."
"If you do I'll rub your nose in the mud!" and then, as they thought,
philosophising further on the queerness of girls in general, the boys
departed to the ball field.
The father of Grace and Will Ford was a lawyer with more than a local
reputation. He was often called on to handle big cases of state-wide
interest, and had made a modest fortune in the practice of his
Of Mollie Billette—"Billy" to her chums, I hardly know what to say.
Aged fifteen, the daughter of a well-to-do widow, Mrs. Pauline Billette,
Mollie seemed older than either Betty or Grace, though she was a year
younger. Yet she did not assume anything to herself by reason of this
seeming difference in years; and the difference was only seeming.
Perhaps it was that bit of French blood making her so quick-tempered—so
vivacious—so mature-appearing—that accounted for it. And it was, very
likely, that same French blood that gave her a temper which was not to be
admired, and which Mollie tried so hard to conquer. But her friends knew
her failing, and readily forgave her. Besides Mollie there were the
comical twins—Dora—never called anything but Dodo—and Paul, aged four.
They were always getting into mischief, and out again, and were "just too
sweet and dear for anything," as Betty put it. Betty, being an only
child, rather hungered for brothers and sisters.
And now we come to Amy Stonington. Poor Amy! There was something of a
mystery about her. She realized something of it herself when she was old
enough to know that she was not in physical characteristics at all like
her parents—at least she regarded Mr. and Mrs. John Stonington as her
parents. And yet she could not understand why she was not more like them
in type, nor why, of late, she had often come upon them talking earnestly
together, which talk ceased as soon as she entered the room. In
consequence of which Amy was not very happy these days.
Yet the most that she feared was that her parents were mapping out a
career for her. She was talented in music, playing the piano with a
technique and fire that few girls of her age could equal. More than once,
after a simple concert in the High School, at which she played, teachers
had urged Mr. and Mrs. Stonington to send her to some well-known teacher,
or even abroad to study.
"But if that's what they're planning I just won't go!" said Amy to
herself, after one of those queer confidences she had broken up. "I'd die
of loneliness if they sent me away."
So much for our four girls.
Dear Deepdale the girls always called it—Dear Deepdale! They always
spoke affectionately of their home town, the only residence place any of
them had ever really known, for though some of them had lived as children
in other places, their years, since they were old enough to appreciate
localities, had been spent in Deepdale.
And certainly it was a town of much natural beauty, to which a certain
amount of civic pride added, had made for local enjoyment in parks,
memorials and statues. Though there were only about fifteen thousand
residents, there was a spirit about Deepdale that many a fair-sized city
might have envied—a spirit of progress.
Deepdale was situated on the Argono river, which gave a natural
advantage, and provided a setting that could not be improved upon. The
stream ran around two sides of the place, the waters curling gracefully
around a bend which had been laid out in a little pleasure park.
There were some who protested against this "waste" of good and valuable
dockage facilities, but the town committeemen, wisely ignoring
objections, had, at some cost, acquired the land, and made what was one
of the prettiest spots for miles around—a little breathing place on the
very edge of the beautiful river.
Nor was the river the only attractive bit of water about Deepdale. The
stream emptied into Rainbow Lake, some miles below the town, and Rainbow
Lake fully justified its name. It was a favorite scene of canoeing and
motor-boat parties, and many summer residences dotted its shores. In
summer white tents of campers gleamed beneath the trees on its banks.
Situated in the lake were a number of islands, also camping sites, and
much frequented, in summer, by little parties of young people who
landed there after a trip on the lake, to rest in the shade of the leafy
trees. Triangle Island, so called from its shore outline, was the
largest of those that seemed floating on the lake, like green jewels in
a setting of silver.
Several steamers of good size plied on the Argono river, one a freight
and passenger boat, belonging to a local line going as far as Clammerport
at the foot of the lake. Often school society excursions were held, and
the boys and girls made merry on the trip.
About Deepdale were several thriving farming communities, for the
slightly rolling land was well suited to cultivation. The town, and the
outlying farms filled a sort of valley, girt around with hills of
sufficient size and height to be called mountains, at least by the local
inhabitants who were proud of them.
There were valleys in these mountains, some large and others merely
glens, though Shadow valley, one of the most beautiful, was only of
medium size. It was a favorite spot for excursionists who wanted a change
from the water route, there being a sort of summer resort and picnic
ground at one end of this valley.
The other end was not so often visited. It had once formed the estate of
a very wealthy man, who built a large mansion there. But, on his death,
the property was contested for in the courts by several heirs and for
years had been tied up by litigation. So the mansion became deserted.
Of sufficient importance to have a railroad, as well as a steamer line,
Deepdale was well provided with transportation facilities.
True, the railway was only a branch one, but it connected with the main
road running to New York, and this was enough for the people of Deepdale.
The town also boasted of a paper, the Weekly Banner, and there was a
good high and grammar school in town, besides numerous stores, and other
establishments, including a moving picture theatre—this last rather an
Our girls—I call them ours, for it is with their fortunes that we shall
be chiefly concerned—our girls lived near each other on the outskirts
of the town.
Betty and her parents occupied an old-fashioned stone house, that had
once been the manor of a farm. But it was old-fashioned outwardly only,
for within it was the embodiment of culture and comfort. It set well back
from the street, and a lane of elms led from the front porch to the
thoroughfare. Back of the house was an old-fashioned garden, likewise
well-shaded, and there were the remains of an apple orchard, some of the
trees still bearing fruit.
On the other side of the street, and not far off, was the home of
Grace—a modern brick house of tasteful design. It had ample grounds
about it, though being rather new could not boast of such noble trees as
those that added dignity to the old stone house.
Amy Stonington lived in a large, rambling wooden structure, too large for
the needs of the family, but artistic nevertheless. It was just around
the corner from the residence of Betty, and the yards of the two girls
joined—-if you can call the big orchard of Betty's home a "yard."
Mollie's home was near the river, about ten minutes' walk from that of
the other three girls. It was a wooden house of a dull red that mingled
well in tone with the green grass and the spreading trees that
And now I believe I have mentioned my principal characters, and places,
though others will be introduced to you from time to time as our story
So on this pleasant spring day, for one of the few times, Amy was not
brooding on the subject that had given her such uneasiness of late.
Nor were the other girls concerned with anything save the finding of
the five hundred dollar bill, which absorbed everything else for the
"Who could have lost it?" wondered Mollie.
"There aren't so many persons in Deepdale who can afford to throw away
money like this," added Amy.
"It wasn't thrown away—it was lost," declared Betty, "and we must find
the owner if we can."
"Especially after such a pathetic message," said Grace. "Poor fellow! His
last big bill!"
"What makes you think it was a man?" asked Amy.
"That isn't a girl's writing," insisted Grace.
"Fine! You'll be a detective if you keep on—or should I say
detectivess?" asked Mollie, with a laugh.
"I wonder what that note means?" inquired Mollie.
"Why," said Betty, "it seems to indicate that some young man ran
through a fortune—or lost it—and had only five hundred dollars left.
He was going to try to redeem his standing or wealth with this, and
probably wrote this to remind himself not to fail. I used to have a
habit of leaving my room untidy, and Daddy suggested once that I write
a notice to myself, and pin it where I would see it as I came out each
morning. I did, and I cured myself. This young fellow probably tried
the same system."
"What makes you think he is young?" Grace wanted to know.
"I'm following your line of reasoning—no elderly man would do
anything like this—write such a strange memorandum to himself. I'm
sure he is young."
"And—good-looking?" asked Amy, smiling.
"Let us hope so—if we are to return the money to him in person,"
"Well, the best thing to do is to put that in some secure place, Betty,"
advised Grace. "Has your father a safe at home?"
"Then let him keep it, and we can put an advertisement in the Banner.
'Found—a sum of money. Owner can have same by proving property, and
paying for this advertisement.' How is that?"
"Wouldn't you ask for a reward?" came from Mollie.
"The idea—of course not!"
"But he might give us one," suggested Amy, "without being asked."
Then talking excitedly about the find, and speculating on how it could
have come in the road, the girls accompanied Betty to her house. Mrs.
Nelson was duly astonished at the news, and agreed with the chums that
the best plan was that suggested by Grace. Accordingly, when Mr. Nelson
came home, the bill and the queer attached note, were put in his safe.
Then an advertisement was telephoned to the paper.
"And now let's talk about our Camping and Tramping Club," proposed Betty,
for her three chums had called that evening after supper.
"I spoke to mamma about it," said Mollie, "and she said she thought I
could go. But we must stay with friends, or relatives, at night; she
won't let me put up at a hotel."
"Of course not!" cried Betty—"none of us will. Now my plan is this:
Papa and mamma have a number of relatives living in distant towns, but
all in this vicinity. Probably you girls have some also. Now, why
couldn't we arrange a tour that would take us on a circuit say of—two
"Two hundred miles!" came in a horrified chorus.
"Why, yes, that's not much. We can take three weeks to it, and that's
only a little over ten miles a day—not counting Sundays, of course. If
we can't walk ten miles a day—"
"Oh, that's not so bad," admitted Amy.
"I can easily do that," assented Mollie.
"What about our meals?" asked Grace.
"Can't you carry enough chocolate fudge to do between morning and
evening?" asked Amy, with a laugh.
"I've got that part all planned," began Betty. "Or at least I have an
idea about it. We can get breakfast and supper at our friends' or
relatives' and at noon we can go to restaurants, or to houses along the
way. Why, we can even take a little camping outfit with us, and make
coffee on the road, carrying sandwiches, too."
"Fine!" cried Amy and Mollie.
"Make chocolate—not coffee," begged Grace.
"Well, chocolate then," assented Betty.
"I have a couple of aunts somewhere out Bessingford way," spoke Amy.
"And mamma has a cousin or two near Millford," went on Grace.
"Now, it's your turn, Mollie," said Betty.
"Oh, I have some wood-pile relations scattered about the country!"
exclaimed the French girl, her eyes sparkling. "I guess they would be
glad to entertain us."
"And I can fill in the between-spaces with uncles and aunts and cousins,
I think," spoke Betty. "Now let's make out a partial list."
It took some little time to do this, but it was finally accomplished.
"Well, shall we decide on it?" asked Betty after a pause. "Shall we form
the Deepdale Camping and Tramping Club?"
"I move you, Miss Chairman, that we do!" exclaimed Grace. "The sooner
"Second the motion!" came laughingly from Mollie.
"All in favor—"
"Aye!" came in a joyous chorus, and the little club was thus
"What do they find to talk about so often?"
"And so secretly. As soon as any of us other girls come near they begin
to speak of the weather—or something like that."
Thus remarked Alice Jallow to Kittie Rossmore a few days after the
formation of the Camping and Tramping Club. The question and comments
took place in the court of the High School, just before the bell was to
ring for the morning session.
"It's all Betty Nelson's doings," declared Alice, who had often tried to
make herself more intimate with the quartette of friends, but
unsuccessfully. The other girls did not care for these two.
"Yes. Grace, Mollie and Amy will do anything Betty tells them,"
"I don't see why she is so popular. She hasn't a bit of style about her."
"I should say not! Her skirt is entirely too wide, and her blouse never
seems cut right."
"They say her mother doesn't believe in style. But I do," said Alice.
"I'd rather have a cheap dress, if it was in style, than something
old-fashioned, even if it cost a lot more."
"So would I. Look at them now, with their heads together! I wonder if
they're going to have a dance?"
"I don't know. How can we find out?"
"Leave it to me. Jennie Plum is quite friendly with Mollie. I'll get her
to ask some questions."
"Do; and then tell me. I'm sure they're getting up some affair."
"I shouldn't wonder. If they'd only ask us—"
"We have a right to be asked!" and Alice flared up.
The warning bell interrupted further conversation, and the girls and boys
filed into their classrooms.
As Alice had remarked, there was a good deal of talk going on among the
four members of the newly-formed Camping and Tramping Club. Every spare
moment the four seemed to have something to say to each other, as one or
the other thought of some new point to consider.
Following the hasty formation of the organization, the girls had sent
letters to their friends and relatives asking if it would be convenient
to entertain them. Some favorable answers had been received, others were
delayed. There were no refusals.
"As soon as we know on whom we can depend, we can make up a schedule—'an
itinerary'"—Betty had said. "We will know just where we will stop each
night, so the folks can send us word, if they have to," she added.
"Why should they have to, unless something happens?" asked Amy.
"Oh, that five hundred dollar bill might be claimed," said Betty. "We'd
want to know about that."
"And you haven't heard a word yet?" asked Grace.
"Not a word! I telephoned to the paper, and they said no replies had come
in there. If that young man is depending on this money to make his
fortune, I'm afraid he'll be broken instead of made, to use his own
expression," and Betty sighed.
The warning bell had broken in on their talk, as it had on that of the
rival girls. And then began the school day.
It was warm—very warm for that time of year, being early May, and as the
members of the new Camping and Tramping Club looked from the open
windows, out to where Spring was already forcing into bloom the flowers,
and urging the trees to greater activity, as regards the tender green
leaves, there came an almost overpowering desire to toss aside books and
papers, and get out where the smell of the brown earth mingled with the
perfume of growing vegetation.
The teachers, doubtless, found it difficult also, for the call of nature
manifested itself to them, and the girls and boys, rather selfishly, did
not make it as easy as they might.
The noon recess again brought the four friends together, and Betty
showed a tentative program she had surreptitiously scribbled during a
It contained the names of towns, with the available relatives of the
girls set down opposite each one, and a rough calculation of the time
required to walk from one place to the other.
"It seems as if we ought to start at once," exclaimed Mollie. "Aren't you
just dying to go, Amy?"
"I am—yes." There was hesitation in the tones.
"Why, what is the matter?" asked Grace, quickly. "Are you ill, Amy?" for
the girl looked pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes.
"No, I'm all right. But papa and mamma don't seem to want me to go—at
least they say they rather I would not just at present."
"After we have it almost all arranged!"
These comments and the question were fairly shot at Amy.
"I—I don't know," she faltered. "At first they did not seem to mind—but
last night—oh, I dare say it will, be all right, girls. Don't mind me,"
and Amy tried to smile, though it could easily be seen that it cost her
She did not want to tell that she had overheard her parents discussing
something the night before that troubled her—a topic that had been
hushed when she unexpectedly came into the room. And that it had to do
with the proposed little trip Amy was sure. Yet Mr. and Mrs. Stonington
had at first shown much interest in it, and had written to various
relatives asking them to entertain the girls.
"Stuck up things!" murmured Alice Jallow, toward the close of the noon
recess, when the four chums had kept to one corner of the school court,
eating their lunches, and never joining in the activities, or talk, of
the other pupils.
"I wonder what they can be planning?" murmured Alice. "If they're
getting up a new society, we'll do the same, and we won't ask them to
"Indeed we won't," agreed her chum. "That Betty Nelson thinks she can
run the school. I'll show her that she can't!"
"And if they knew what I know about Amy Stonington I don't believe they'd
be so thick with her."
"What do you mean?"
"It's a secret."
"Oh, tell me, Alice," pleaded Kittie. "You know I won't ever
"Well then—oh, come over here. There's that horrid Sadie Jones trying to
hear what we're saying," and the two girls, arm in arm, strolled off to a
distant part of the court.
The afternoon session wore on. The day grew warmer, the sky became
overcast, and there was the dull muttering of distant thunder. There
seemed a tension in the air—as if something was going to snap. Doubtless
you have often felt it—a sensation as though pins and needles were
pricking you all over. As though you wanted to scream—to cry
out—against an uncertain sensation that gripped you.
In the various classrooms the droning voices were heard—of the
pupils in recitations, or of the teachers as they patiently explained
The thunder rumbled nearer and nearer. Now and then a vivid flash of
lightning split the sombre clouds. At such times the nervous girls would
jump in their seats, and there would follow hysterical, though quickly
subdued, bursts of laughter from their more stolid mates, or the boys.
The four who were to go on the walking tour together were in the Latin
class. Amy was standing up, translating—or trying to translate—a
passage from Caesar. She halted and stammered, though usually she got
perfect marks in this study.
"Take it a bit slower, Miss Stonington," suggested Miss Greene, the
teacher. "That is very good. You should know that word—nequaquam—take
"Nequaquam" said Amy faintly, "not ever—"
There was a titter from Alice Jallow, in which Kittie Rossmore joined.
Poor Amy looked distressed. Tears came into her eyes.
There shot across the black heavens a vivid flash of lightning, and a
bursting crash so promptly came echoing that nearly every one of the
girls started from her desk, and a number screamed, while even the boys
Then, with a low moan, Amy swayed, and fell backward into the arms of
"She's fainted!" exclaimed Miss Greene. "Girls, keep quiet! Some one get
me a glass of water!"
There was a stir among the boys who occupied one side of the big room,
and Frank Haley hastened out.
With a great crash, a deluge of rain, a wind that swept the spray across
the school room, and the rumbling of thunder, punctuated by vivid,
hissing flashes of lightning, the storm broke. At once the tension—that
of nature as well as that of the nerves of the girls—was relieved. A
sound, like a great sigh, was heard in the room. There were one or two
faint cries, some laughter, and the members of the class were themselves
again. The balance had been restored.
"She will be all right presently," said Miss Greene, quietly, as she
helped place Amy on a couch in her own private room. "Close some of the
windows, girls, the rain is coming in."
Her firm and cheering words, and her calm manner, aided in the work of
restoration that had begun when the nerve-tension was lessened. The girls
were themselves again, most of them going quietly to their seats, while
Betty and Grace helped Miss Greene restore Amy to consciousness. They
had loosed her collar, and some ammonia had been procured from the
physics laboratory by Frank, who also brought water.
"I can't imagine what made her faint," whispered Grace. "She never did
such a thing before."
"Probably it was the storm," said the teacher. "I have often noticed that
just before a severe electrical disturbance I felt 'like flying to
pieces,' to put it crudely. Then when the rain came I would get calm
again. I remarked that Amy did not seem quite herself while reciting, and
perhaps I should have excused her, but I hoped, by letting her fix her
attention on the lesson, that the little spell might pass over."
"It was that horrid Alice Jallow giggling at her!" declared Mollie, who
had come softly into the room. "I could—" she clenched her hands, and
her dark eyes gleamed.
"Mollie," said Betty softly, and the threatened fit of anger passed over.
"She will come to in a moment," remarked Miss Greene, as she saw Amy's
eyelids fluttering. "It was just a nervous strain. I have seen it
"Not with Amy," declared Grace, positively.
"No; but in other girls."
"I do hope Amy isn't going to be ill," said Betty. "We want her to come
on the walk with us."
"I have heard of your little club," said the teacher, with a smile. "The
idea is a very good one; I hope you have a pleasant time. I think it will
do all of you good. I wish more of my girls would take up systematic
walking. We would have better recitations, I think."
"Poor Amy!" murmured Grace. "I wonder what could have caused it?" and she
looked down at her pale, little chum.
"It was because Alice laughed at her!" declared Mollie, half fiercely.
"I think not," spoke Betty, softly. "Amy has not been quite herself of
But she was not destined to finish that sentence, for the girl under
discussion opened her eyes, and struggled to sit up.
"You're all right," said Miss Greene, softly. "Lie still, my dear."
"Where am I—what happened? Oh, I remember. Did I faint?" and she asked
the question in some alarm.
"You did, my dear; but there was no harm in that," spoke Miss Greene
softly, and she laughed in a low voice.
"I—I never did such a thing before. What made me?"
"The storm, Amy. It was the electrical disturbance, I think. My! how
A perfect deluge was descending, but it had brought a calm to the waiting
earth, and calm to tired girlish nerves as well. Amy sighed, and then sat
up. The color came back into her pale face.
"I am all right now," she said, more firmly, and was soon able to walk.
"Stay here a little longer," urged Miss Greene, "Betty, Mollie and Grace
may remain with you. I will go out to the other pupils. Some of them may
A crash of thunder almost smothered her words, and the girls started
nervously. The three glanced apprehensively at Amy, but she smiled
bravely and said:
"Don't worry about me. I'm all right. It was silly of me to go off
The storm raged and tore about the school, and gradually spent its fury.
Miss Greene gave up the attempt to have a Latin recitation, and the class
was permitted to engage in general conversation.
It was the final period of the day, and soon school was over. Most of the
girls remained, however, for few had brought rain coats or umbrellas,
there being no hint that morning of the deluge that was to come. Then
the rain gradually slackened, and the pupils departed.
"Don't come to school to-morrow, if you don't feel well," urged Miss
Greene, as Amy and her chums left.
"Oh, I'll be all right," she brightly answered.
"I wish we were going to start on our tramp to-morrow!" exclaimed Betty
as they walked along the damp country road toward their homes, the sweet
smell of the newly-watered earth mingling with the scent of grass and
flowers. "The country is just lovely now."
"It will still be as lovely next month," said Mollie. "Only two weeks
more of school, and then we will be on our way."
"Do you feel all right, Amy?" asked Grace. "Have a—"
"No, she won't have a chocolate, if that's what you're going to say!"
spoke Mollie, quickly. "Do you want to make her get worse?"
"I wasn't going to say chocolate—so there!" snapped the usually
gentle-mannered Grace. "Don't be so quick, Billy."
"Oh, I beg your pardon," and the French girl showed her contrition. "I
forgot you can think of something beside candy."
"I was going to ask her if she wanted my smelling salts," Grace went on,
and Amy accepted the little bottle.
There was much talk that afternoon of the coming trip. Some further
letters had been received from relatives who would welcome the girls at
the various stopping places.
"This about completes our schedule," remarked Betty, as she noted down,
on a map she had drawn, the names of some persons and places. "Everything
is coming on fine, girls."
"Isn't it nice!" exclaimed Mollie.
"You're sure to come; aren't you, Amy?" asked Grace.
"Yes, of course—that is—" A shadow seemed to pass over her face, and
then her pale cheeks became pink. "Oh, I guess you can count on me," she
finally declared. "I was just thinking—oh, it doesn't matter. Let's see
now, Betty, how many stopping places do you count on?"
"About eight. Of course there may be more, and we may have to stay in one
place longer than I figure on, and we might skip some places altogether."
"What about the camp?" asked Mollie.
"I am arranging for that," spoke Grace. "Papa's half-brother lives in
Cameron. He and his wife maintain a sort of camp there for those who
love the woods and outdoors. Mamma has written, and arrangements will be
made for us to have a cabin or bungalow there for a few days."
"Won't it be glorious!" cried Mollie, taking Amy in a waltzing hold and
whirling about the room with her, while she hummed a dreamy song.
They were at Betty's house discussing their coming trip, and it was
nearly supper time when they dispersed. Grace insisted on accompanying
Amy part of the way home.
"I don't want you to faint again and be all by yourself," she said.
"Silly! I shall do nothing of the sort," declared Amy, but Grace
had her way.
It was the next afternoon, when Betty and Grace were having a game of
tennis on the court that had been laid out back of the High School, that
Alice Jallow and Kittie Rossmore came past, arm in arm. They paused for a
moment to watch the game, and during a lull Alice remarked:
"When does the tramping club start?"
"As soon as school closes," replied Betty, for the term ended unusually
early that year.
"Have you the party all made up?" inquired Kittie, and it was evident
that she had a reason for asking.
"Pretty much," answered Betty, wondering what was to follow. "It's your
serve," she added to Grace.
"Alice and I are very fond of walking," proceeded Kittie. "We thought if
the Camping and Tramping Club was to be a general one—that is, if you
wanted more members—we'd like to join."
Betty caught her breath. It was a hard answer to give.
"I'm awfully sorry," she said softly, coming over to where Alice and
Kittie stood. "If we had known before we might have arranged it. But our
membership is limited to four now."
"You four, I presume," and there was almost a sneer in the voice of Alice
as she looked at the four chums.
"Yes, it so happens. You see we are going to stop each night at the
houses of friends or relatives, and of course—"
"I see—the accommodations are limited; are they?" and again that sneer
"Yes, they are, I'm sorry to say," spoke Betty. "But why don't you girls
form another club? You could easily do that, and we could be together all
day, if not at night. Why don't you?" she asked, brightly.
"We might," said Alice, cooly. "Come on, Kittie," she added. "I guess
we're not wanted here."
"The idea!" cried Mollie. "Betty, I've a good notion to—"
"Hush!" cautioned Betty, placing a hand on the arm of her impetuous chum.
"Don't say anything. It will only make matters worse. They are trying to
Kittie and Alice walked off, their arms about each other's waist,
laughing heartily at something in which they seemed to find a good joke.
"Let us finish the game," suggested Betty quietly to Grace, and they did.
"I don't see how they could be so bold as to ask us," murmured Mollie.
It was one afternoon, a few days before the close of school for the term,
which also would mark the start of the outdoor girls on their tramping
tour that, as she was packing her books to leave her desk for the day,
Betty saw a note fall out of her Latin grammar.
"That's strange," she murmured, half aloud, "I wonder who could have put
that there? Who is it from, I wonder?"
"As if you didn't know!" laughed Amy, coming up behind her friend. They
were alone in the classroom for the moment.
"Why, what do you mean?" asked Betty blushing slightly.
"I think I saw Will give Grace a note this noon," went on Amy. "Ah,
secrets! And doesn't it happen that Will and Allen Washburn are quite
chummy? If the initials A.W. aren't on that note, Betty—"
"Of course they're not! The idea! Allen Washburn needn't think—"
"Oh, I know he needn't send notes to you this way, but perhaps Will
forgot to deliver it, and Grace just slipped it into your book, intending
to tell you of it. Ah, Betty!"
"Silly. It isn't that at all. See, I'll let you read the note."
Hastily Betty unfolded it. There was but a single unsigned sheet of
paper, and scrawled on it were these words:
"Before you go camping and tramping ask Amy Stonington who her father and
Betty was quick to comprehend the cruel words, and in an instant she had
crumpled the anonymous scrawl in her hand. But she was the fraction of a
second too late. Amy had read it.
Betty heard the sound of Amy's sigh, and then the catch in her breath.
She turned quickly.
"Amy!" cried Betty. "Did you see it? Oh, my dear! The meanness of it! The
awful meanness! Oh, Amy, my dear!" and she put her arms around her
trembling companion. "Oh, if I only knew who sent it!"
"I—I can guess!" faltered Amy.
Betty simply could not help saying it.
"Let—let me see it again," whispered Amy. "I didn't mean to read your
note, Betty, but I saw it before I realized it."
"My note? It isn't mine! I wouldn't own to receiving such a scrawl! Oh,
Amy, I'm so sorry!"
"Never mind, Betty. I—I've been expecting it."
"Yes. That—that is what has been bothering me of late. You may have
"I've noticed that you haven't quite been yourself, Amy, my dear, but I
never suspected—and you think Alice sent this?"
"I'm almost sure of it. It has to be known sooner or later. But don't say
anything to Alice."
"Why not? The idea! She ought to be exposed—and punished. I'll go to—"
"No, please don't, Betty. It—it is true, and—and there is no use
giving her the satisfaction of knowing that she has—has hurt me,"
"Oh, the meanness of it!" murmured Betty. "But, Amy dear, I don't
understand. This doesn't at all look like the writing of Alice Jallow."
"I know; she has disguised her scribbling, that's all. But it doesn't
matter. I'll never charge her with it."
"I haven't the heart. Oh, Betty, I'm afraid it's only too true! I really
don't know who my father and mother are!"
"No, I don't. I've suspected a mystery a long while, and now I am sure I
am mixed up in one."
"Amy Stonington!" cried Betty. "Do you mean to tell me—look here, let's
get to some quiet place. Some one will be coming in here. We can go to
Miss Greene's room. She has gone for the day. But perhaps you don't want
to tell me, Amy."
"Oh, yes I do. I want to tell all you girls. And then maybe—"
"Amy Stonington!" exclaimed Betty. "If you're going to hint—and I see
that you are—that we'd pay any attention to this note, or let it make
any difference between us—even if it's true—which I don't
believe—let's see—what do I want to say—I'm all confused. Oh, I know.
I mean that it shan't make a particle of difference to us—if you never
had a father or mother—"
"Oh, of course I had—some time," and Amy smiled through a mist of tears.
"Only there's a mystery about them—what became of them."
"Why I thought—all of us thought—that Mr. and Mrs. Stonington were your
parents," said the wondering Betty.
"So did I, until lately. Then I began to notice that papa and mamma—as I
thought them—were frequently consulting together. They always stopped
talking when I came near, but I supposed it might be about some plans
they had for sending me away to be educated in music. So I pretended not
to notice. Though I did not want to go away from dear Deepdale.
"Their queer consultations increased, and they looked at me so strangely
that finally I went to mamma—no, my aunt, as I must call her, and—"
"Your aunt!" exclaimed Betty.
"Yes, that is what Mrs. Stonington is to me; or, rather she was poor dear
mamma's aunt. I am going to call her aunt, however, and Mr. Stonington
uncle. They wish it."
"Oh, then they have told you?"
"Yes. It was the night before the day that I fainted in school. It was
thinking of that, I guess, that unnerved me."
"Why, Amy! A mystery about you?"
"Yes, and one I fear will never be found out. I'll tell you about it."
"Not unless you'd rather, dear," and Betty put her arms about her chum as
they sat on the worn sofa in Miss Greene's retiring room.
"I had much rather. I want you and Grace and Mollie to know. Maybe—maybe
you can help me," she finished with a bright smile.
"You see it was this way. Of course I don't remember anything about it.
All my recollections are centered in Deepdale, and about Mr. and Mrs.
Stonington. It is the only home I have ever really known, though I have a
dim recollection of having, as a child, been in some other place. But
that is like a dream.
"But it seems that when I was a very little girl both my parents lived
in a distant city. Then one day there was a terrible storm, the river
rose, and there was a flood. This I was told by my uncle and aunt, as I
am going to call them. Who my father and mother were I never knew,
except from what I have heard, but it seems that Mrs. Stonington was
"In the flood our house was washed away, but I, then a small baby, was
found floating on a sort of raft tied to a mattress on a bed. I was taken
to a farm house, and found pinned to my dress was an envelope."
"Just an envelope?"
"Yes. There might have been a letter in it, but if there was it had been
washed out in the flood and rain. But the envelope was addressed to Mrs.
Stonington here, and she was telegraphed to. Her husband hurried on, for
he knew of the flood and feared for his wife's relatives who lived in
that town. He took me back with him, and I have lived with Uncle John
and Aunt Sarah ever since."
"But your father and mother, Amy?"
"No one ever knew what became of them. They—they were never found,
though a careful search was made. I was the only one left."
"And was there nothing to tell of your past life?"
"There wasn't much to tell, you see—I was so small. There was a sort
of diary in the bed with me, but it only gave details of my baby
days—probably it was written by my mother—for the handwriting is
that of a woman. Aunt Sarah gave it to me the other day. I shall
always treasure it."
"And is that all?"
"Well, there was a mention of something—in a vague sort of way—that I
was to inherit when I grew up. Whether it was land or money no one can
tell. The reference is so veiled. Even Uncle John, and he is a stock and
bond broker, you know, says he is puzzled. He has had a search made in
Rockford—that's where the flood was—but it came to nothing. And so
that is all I know of my past."
"But your aunt must know something of your mother if they were
"Very little. They saw each other hardly at all, and not for some years
before my mother's marriage, Aunt Sarah says. How my parents came to pin
the Stoningtons' address on my baby dress they can only guess. And I'll
never know. Probably they did it before they were—were drowned."
"Then your name isn't Stonington after all, Amy?"
"Oh, yet it is. The queer part of it is that my mother is said to have
married a man of the same name as Uncle John, but no relative, as far as
we can learn. So I'm Amy Stonington just the same. My uncle and aunt
formally adopted me after they found that there was no hope of locating
my parents. And so I've lived in ignorance of the mystery about me until
just the other day."
"And then they told you?"
"Yes. It was discussing the advisability of this that caused Uncle John
and Aunt Sarah to confer so often. Then they decided that I was getting
old enough to be told. They said they would rather it would come to me
from themselves than from strangers."
"Oh, then others know of it?"
"Yes, a few persons in town, but they were good enough to keep it quiet
for my sake. Among them, so Uncle John told me, were Alice Jallow's
people. That is why I think she wrote the note. She must have found out
about my secret in some way, and thought to taunt me with it."
"The mean creature!"
"Oh, I don't mind. I was only afraid you girls—"
"Amy Stonington! If you even hint at such a thing again we'll never
forgive you! As if we cared! Why, I think it's perfectly wonderful to
have such a romance about you. I know the other girls will be crazy about
it. Of course, it's sad, too, dear. But maybe some day, you'll find out
that your father and mother aren't—aren't gone—at all, and you'll have
"That's what I've been hoping since I knew. But there is very little
chance, after all these years. Uncle John told me not to hope. You see,
they must have been drowned. The worst is that I can't recall them. They
never corresponded with aunt and uncle in years. I don't know what sort
of a home I had—or—or whether I had brothers or sisters."
"No, I suppose there isn't much chance of your parents having escaped the
flood. And yet I've read—in books—"
"Oh, yes—in books. But this is real life, Betty. And now, dear, I've
told you all I know. As I said, it shocked me when I first heard it, but
I'm pretty well over it now. Only it did startle me when I read that note
over your shoulder."
"I should think it would. When I see Alice—"
"Please don't say anything to her!" pleaded Amy. "Please don't! Let her
see that—that it hasn't made a bit of difference."
"I will. A difference? Why, we'll love you all the more Amy,—if that's
"That's good of you. Now shall we—"
"Hark, some one is coming!" exclaimed Betty, tiptoeing to the door, while
Amy shrank back on the sofa.
THE LEAKY BOAT
There was a moment of silence, and then the relieved voice of Betty was
heard to say:
"Oh, it's Grace. I'm so glad. I thought—"
"What are you doing here?" asked the newcomer. It was evident from her
rather mumbled words—which mumbling I have been unable to reproduce in
cold type—that Grace was eating candy.
"Have some chocolate?" she went on, holding out a bag.
"Oh, Grace! Chocolate at such a time as this!" rebuked Betty, her mind
filled with the story she had just heard.
"Why, what's the matter with the time?"
"Amy is in there," and she motioned to the private room.
"Gracious! Has she fainted again?"
"No; where is Mollie?"
"Coming. There she is. We were looking everywhere for you. Alice
"The horrid thing!" burst out Betty. "Why, whatever can have happened?
You look quite tragic!"
"I am. Come in here!"
Grace advanced, and not even the prospect of hearing what she guessed was
going to be some sort of a strange secret could stop her from taking
another helping of candy. Betty saw and murmured:
"You are hopeless."
"What's up?" asked Mollie, gliding into the room, her dark hair straying
rather rebelliously from beneath her hat.
"Come in," invited Betty, and soon the four were sitting together, while
in a sort of dialogue Betty and Amy told the pathetic little story.
"And that's how it stands," finished Betty. "I wanted to do something—or
say something—to make Alice Jallow feel—"
"She should be punished—we should all cut her—she ought to be put out
of school!" burst out the impulsive Mollie. "I shall go to Miss Greene—"
"You'll do nothing of the sort, Billy!" exclaimed Betty, as she detained
the girl, who had already started from the room. "Amy doesn't wish it.
Besides, I think Alice will be sorry enough later for what she has done."
"I had rather you wouldn't go to her," spoke Amy, quietly.
"Oh, well, of course—" began Mollie. "I do wish I had better control of
myself," she added, rather sadly. "I start to do such rash things—"
"Indeed you do, my dear," spoke Grace. "But we know you don't mean it.
Here—help yourself," and she extended the candy bag.
"I couldn't—I don't feel like it. I—I feel all choked up in here!"
exclaimed Mollie, placing her hand on her firm, white throat. "I—I want
to do something to—to that—cat!" Her eyes filled with tears.
"That's what I called her!" said Betty. "But we mustn't let her know that
she has annoyed us. Sometimes I feel real sorry for Alice. She seems
"I suppose the story will be all over school soon," went on Grace.
"I shan't mind," spoke Amy, softly.
"Well, I'm glad you don't, my dear," remarked Betty. "It's more romantic
than anything else—after you get over the sad part of it."
"And I am trying to do that," said Amy, bravely.
Together the four girls came out of the school. Most of the other pupils
had gone home, for vacation days were near, and study hours were
shortened on account of examinations.
"There she is now," said Mollie, as they turned a corner.
"Who?" questioned Betty.
"That Jallow girl and her familiar—Kittie. Her name is too good for
"Don't notice her," suggested Betty, "and don't, for goodness sake, speak
to them. We don't want a scene. Perhaps Alice only did it
impulsively—and did not really mean it."
If the reputed author of the anonymous letter, and her close friend,
hoped for any demonstration on the part of those they had hoped to wound,
they were disappointed.
In calm unconsciousness of the twain, the quartette passed on,
talking gaily—though it was a bit forced—of their coming trip. And
I must do Alice the justice to say that later she was truly sorry for
what she had done.
"There's Will!" exclaimed Grace, as she caught sight of her brother. "And
Frank Haley is with him. Here, girls, take what's left of these
chocolates, or Will won't leave one."
"Does he know you have them?" asked Amy, accepting a few.
"Yes, he saw me buying them. Oh, bother! There comes that Percy
Falconer, and he has a new suit. Vanity of vanities!"
The course of Will and his chum, as well as that of the "faultless
dresser," as he hoped he appeared, brought them toward the girls. There
was no escape, and the little throng walked onward. Betty kept close to
Amy, for she knew just how she must feel after the disclosure.
"Ah, good afternoon, ladies!" greeted Percy. "Wonderful weather we're
having. My word!"
"Beastly beautiful!" mocked the irrepressible Mollie. "Horribly lovely,
isn't it, what?"
"Oh, I say now," began Percy. "I—really—"
"Where'd you get the clothes?" broke in Will.
"They're a London importation."
"London importation, my eye!" exclaimed Frank. "Why, Cohen's Emporium, on
Main street, has the same thing in the window marked thirteen
ninety-eight—regular fourteen dollars."
"Oh, I say now! Quit your spoofing!"
"Give us some candy, Sis!" begged Will. "Come on, now, I know
you've got it!"
"I had it, we have it—they had it—thou hast it—not!" quoted Grace,
with a laugh. "Nothing doing this time, little brother of mine."
"And you ate all those chocolates?" This in semi-horrified tones.
"We—not I," corrected his sister.
Percy Falconer, after vainly trying to get in place to walk beside Betty,
who frustrated him by keeping Amy close to her, drifted off to find new
sartorial worlds to conquer.
The others walked on, the boys joining in the talk and laughter. Amy
seemed to have recovered her spirits, and the girls made no reference to
the little tragedy which they knew would soon become public property.
"So you are really determined to go off on that walking trip?" asked
Will, who had floated back to join Mollie.
"We certainly are. Why, don't you think we can do it?"
"Perhaps. But I think you'll run at the sight of the first tramp—or cow;
and as for a storm—good night!"
"Thank you—for nothing!" and Mollie's dark eyes had little of fun in
them as they looked into those of Will Ford.
Eventually Will and Frank left them, and the girls continued on until
they reached Mollie's house.
"Come in," she invited. "I know they baked to-day, and we'll have a cup
of tea and some cake. It will refresh us."
"I ought to be going—home," said Amy, with a little hesitating pause at
the word "home."
"Oh, do come in!" begged the French girl.
As they entered the yard the twins, hand in hand and solemn-eyed, came
down the walk to meet them.
"Oh, the dears!" gushed Grace.
"Isn't she too sweet," whispered Betty, as she caught up Dodo.
"And in need of soap and water, as usual," commented Mollie, drily. "But
Nanette can do nothing with them. They are clean one minute—voila!
like little Arabs the next! What would you have?" and she threw herself
into a tragic gesture, in imitation of the imported French maid, at which
her chums laughed.
"Have you a kiss for me, Paul?" demanded Grace, of the little fellow,
when she had replaced his sister on the walk.
"Dot any tandy?" came the diplomatic inquiry.
"Listen to the mercenary little wretch!" cried his older sister. "Paul,
ma cherie, where are your manners?"
"Has oo dot any tandy?" came in inflexible accents.
"I might find—just a morsel—if you'd kiss me first," stipulated Grace.
"Tandy fust," was the imperturbable retort. "I like tandy—Dodo like
tandy—we bofe like tandy!"
"The sum total of childish happiness!" laughed Betty "Do, Grace, if you
have any left, relieve this suspense."
Some candy was forthcoming, and then, with more of it spread on
their faces than had entered their chubby mouths, the twins toddled
"Girls, what do you say to a little row on the river?" asked Mollie, when
they had been refreshed by cakes and tea. "My boat will hold us all, and
we can float down and talk of our coming trip."
"Float down—and—row back," remarked Grace, with emphasis.
"The exercise will do you good. We must get in—training, I believe the
proper word is—in training for our hike."
"Hike?" queried Betty.
"Suffragist lingo for walk," explained Mollie. "Come on."
The Argono river ran but a short distance from Mollie's home, and soon
the four girls were in an old-fashioned, but safely constructed, barge,
half drifting and half rowing down the picturesque stream.
The afternoon sun was waning behind a bank of clouds, screened from the
girls by a fringe of trees. And as they floated on they talked at
intervals of Amy's secret, and of the coming fun they expected to have.
"Let's get farther out in the middle," suggested Betty, when they came to
a wide part of the river. "It's more pleasant there, and the air is
fresher. It is very warm."
"Yes, I think we will have another storm," agreed Grace. "If it rains now
it isn't so likely to when we start."
She was pulling on one pair of oars and Mollie on a second, the others
relieving them occasionally. Soon the boat was in the middle of the
stream. They had gone on for perhaps half a mile, when Betty, who was
sitting comfortably in the stern, toying with the rudder ropes, uttered
"Oh!" she cried. "My feet are wet! Mollie, the boat is leaking!"
"Yes! See, the water is fairly pouring in!"
Mollie made a hasty examination under the bottom boards of her craft.
"Girls!" she cried, in tragic tones, "there's a hole in the boat!"
"Don't say that!" begged Amy, standing up.
"Sit down!" sternly ordered Betty. "There is no danger! Sit down or
you'll fall overboard!"
"Oh, but see the water!" cried the nervous Amy. "It is coming in faster!"
And indeed it was.
"It is those twins!" declared Mollie. "I told them not to get in my boat,
but they must have, and they've loosened the drain plug so that it came
out a moment ago. Quick! See if you can find it!"
There was a frightened search for the plug that fitted in a hole in the
bottom of the boat, through which aperture the water could be drained out
when the craft was on shore.
"It isn't here!" cried Grace. "Oh, Mollie!"
"Keep quiet! It must be here!" insisted the owner of the boat. "It
couldn't get out. Look for it! Find it! Or, if you can't, we'll stuff a
handkerchief in the hole!"
Meanwhile the water continued to pour in through the bottom of the boat,
setting the boards afloat, and thoroughly wetting the skirts of the
girls. And they were now in the centre of the widest part of the river.
TO THE RESCUE
Rapidly the water rose in the boat. It had now set the bottom boards
more fully afloat, and the girls in vain tried to raise their feet out
of the incoming flood. They stared at the swirling water, fascinated for
"Girls, we simply must do something!" cried Betty, usually the one to
take the initiative.
"Row ashore! Row ashore!" begged Amy. "It's so deep out here."
"It isn't much shallower near shore," remarked Mollie. "What can have
become of that plug?" and, pulling in her oars she began feeling about in
the bottom of the boat, moving her hand around under the water.
"Maybe the twins took it to make a cat's cradle with," suggested Grace.
"No, it couldn't have been out when we started or the water would have
come in at once," said Mollie. "It has come out only a few minutes ago.
We simply must find it!"
"Row ashore—row ashore!" insisted Amy.
Betty had swung the boat's head around, but the craft was now badly
water-laden, and did not move quickly. The current of the river was
carrying them down the stream.
"Oh, girls!" cried Amy, her voice trembling somewhat, "it's
"It certainly isn't stopping from coming in," murmured Mollie. "Where
is that plug!"
Desperately she continued to feel about, while the other girls cast
anxious eyes toward the shore, that now seemed so far away.
"And there's not another boat in sight!" exclaimed Betty. "We must call
"I have it! I have the plug!" suddenly cried Mollie, pulling on
"Ouch! That's my foot—my toe!" cried Grace. "Let go!"
"Oh, dear!" sighed Betty, in disappointed tones.
"I thought I had it!" said Mollie. "Wait until I catch those twins!"
"We—we never may see them again," faltered Amy, whose recent rather
tragic experience; had gotten on her nerves.
"Stop that!" commanded Betty, a bit sharply.
"Oh, how fast the water is coming in!" moaned Grace. "I'm going to
faint—I know I'm going to faint!"
"Don't you dare!" cried Mollie, quickly. "If you do I'll never speak to
you again! There! Take that!" She reached over on the seat beside Grace,
caught up a chocolate from a bag and thrust the confection into the tall
girl's mouth. "That will keep you from saying such silly things, and also
from fainting," remarked Mollie, practically. "Now, girls, since we can't
find that plug, we've got to do the next best thing."
"If we could only whittle one!" said Betty.
"If we had a knife we might cut a piece off one of the oars, or the side
of the boat," went on Mollie, "but as we haven't—we can't. We must
arrange to take knives with us on our tour, though!"
"It's no time to talk about tours now!" moaned Amy. "We—we'll never
"Nonsense!" cried Betty. "We've got to. If we can't find a plug, or make
one, we'll have to stuff something in the hole. Girls, your
handkerchiefs!" She seemed to have a sudden inspiration.
She began rolling hers into a sort of cylindrical shape as she spoke. The
other girls saw her idea, and passed over their tiny squares of linen,
which Betty rolled with her own.
"That's one of my best ones," sighed Grace, as she parted with hers. "I
got it on my birthday."
"It's in a good cause—never mind," remarked Betty, firmly. "And you'll
get it back, you know—when we get ashore."
"If we ever get ashore, you mean," spoke Amy.
"Stop it!" commanded the Little Captain, sharply. "Of course we'll get
ashore. Now, Billy, where is that hole?"
"Wherever the water seems to be coming in fastest," replied the owner of
the boat. "Oh, be quick, Betty. We can't float much longer!"
"Well, we can swim," coolly replied Betty, as she began feeling about for
the hole in the bottom of the boat. Meanwhile she looked closely at the
surface of the water in the craft, which had now risen until it was close
to the under side of the seats. The girls were quite wet. The boat was
harder than ever to row.
"That plug ought to be floating somewhere hereabouts," she murmured.
"It's probably caught in a crack, or under one of the seats," said
Mollie. "Hurry up, Betty. The hole is right near where you were feeling
"Yes, you can see the water bubbling up," added Amy. "Oh, do hurry, or
"Well, then we can swim," said Betty, coolly. "It's a good thing we all
"But—in our clothes!" protested Amy.
"Oh, I guess we can do it if we try," went on Betty. "There, I have the
handkerchiefs in the hole!" she exclaimed, as she forced the wadded-up
linens into the aperture. "Now let's row harder!"
"Oh, but I'm soaked!" sighed Grace. Indeed, they were all in no very
They succeeded in heading the boat for shore, but they had only rowed a
short distance when Grace cried:
"The water is still coming in!"
There was no doubt about it. They all stared at the place where, under
water, Betty had thrust in the handkerchiefs. There was a string of
small bubbles, showing that the river water was still finding its way
into the boat.
"Help! Help! Help!" suddenly called Amy.
"Why—what's the matter?" demanded Betty, in alarm.
"Oh, there's someone on shore, near a boat! It's a man—or a boy! He
must come out and rescue us!" said Amy, and there was a trace of tears
in her voice.
"What's—the—matter?" came the hail from the one on shore.
"We're—sinking!" called Betty, making a megaphone of her hands. "Come
out and save us!"
"All right!" and then the following words were lost as the wind carried
them aside. The youth on shore—the girls could now see that he was a
youth—began shoving out a boat. He did not seem very adept in the
knowledge of rowing, and took quite a little time to get under way.
"Oh, it's that Percy Falconer!" cried Betty. "He'll never get to us!
Girls, I guess we'll have to swim for it, after all!"
"Look—there comes someone else!" suddenly cried Amy. "Oh, Grace, it's
your brother Will!"
"Thank goodness for that," murmured Betty. "Now we have some chance. If
he can only make Percy listen to reason, and put back for him."
"They seem to be having some argument," said Grace. "Oh, if that Percy
She did not finish, for they were all vitally interested in what was
taking place on shore. Will and Percy seemed to be having a difference
of opinion, and it appeared that Percy wanted to shine as a lone hero
in the rescue that must be performed quickly now, if it was to be
performed at all.
"Come back with that boat!" Will could be heard to cry. "You don't know
how to row!"
"I do so!" retorted Percy, the wind now carrying the words to the girls.
"Come back here!" insisted Will, firmly, "or I'll—"
"We'll be too late!" almost whined Percy. "They said they were sinking!"
"Come back here!" fairly shouted Will. "I can row twice as fast as you,
and we'll make better time even if you do put back. Come on, or I'll jump
in and swim out to you, and chuck you overboard! Come back!"
This argument proved effective. Possibly Percy was thinking what would
happen to his clothes if Will put his threat into execution. At any rate,
he swung the big boat around and a few moments later Will and he, the
former pulling vigorously on the oars, were on their way to rescue the
now thoroughly frightened girls.
"Oh, Will, do hurry! My dress will be ruined!"
Thus called Grace, as she frantically waved to her brother to hasten
"Huh!" he panted. "Dress! A nice time to think—of dresses—when
"Are they—do you think they'll sink—and be drowned?" faltered Percy.
"They may sink—they're not very likely to be drowned, though," grunted
Will, as he glanced over his shoulder to get his course straight. "They
can all swim. Pull on your left more. We'll pass 'em if you don't!"
"Sink! I can't—I can't swim. Oh, dear!" cried Percy.
"I know it. That's why I wanted you to come back and get me. You'd look
nice rescuing four girls all alone," said Will. "And you not able to swim
"I could do it," protested Percy, in self-defense.
"Maybe," agreed Will. "Anyhow, it's lucky I happened to come along."
"And it's a good thing I heard them hollering, and got the boat ready,"
said the well-dressed lad, whose attire was now rather disheveled from
the haste of rowing.
"That's right, Percy. I'll give you credit for that."
"Oh, do hurry, boys!" cried Mollie. "We'll be under in another minute."
"Coming!" cried Will. "Pull harder, Percy!"
"You've got to!" That seemed to be all there was to it. Percy
Only just in time did Will and his companion reach the boat that was on
the verge of sinking. And only the skill and good sense of the girls, and
the knowledge that they could swim if they happened to fall into the
water, enabled the rescue to be made. For it was no easy task to
disembark from one craft to the other, especially with one nearly
submerged. But, while Will and Percy held the gunwale of their boat close
to that of the half-sunken one, the girls carefully crawled out and soon,
rather wet, considerably dismayed, but, withal, calmer than might have
been expected, the quartette was safe in the larger craft.
"Oh, what a relief!" exclaimed Mollie, wringing some water from the
bottom of her skirt.
"But look at my dress—and this is only the second time I've worn it!"
cried Grace, in distress. "It will be ruined."
"All it needs is pressing," said Will, disdainfully.
"What do you think this is—a pair of your trousers?" demanded his
sister, indignantly. "Pressing! It is ruined!"
"We're all drenched," spoke Amy. "But it doesn't matter as long as
"That's the way to look at it!" exclaimed Will. "How did it happen,
"Plug out of the bottom," explained Mollie, sententiously. "The twins!"
"I see! Say, she's going down all right!" This Will remarked as the boat
from which the girls had climbed settled lower and lower in the water.
"Oh, can't we save it?" cried Mollie. "My poor boat!"
"I'll use one of the oars as a buoy," said Will. "I'll fasten it to the
painter. It will probably drift, but it will run into the eddy at the
Point, and we can get it to-morrow."
Quickly he knotted the end of the painter about one of the oars. Then
taking the others into the craft that Percy had commandeered for the
occasion, the two boys rowed the girls back to the dock at the foot of
the slope that led to Mollie's house.
"Come in, girls," she invited. "We can get dry, and Will can go for some
decent things for you three."
"I'll go, too!" exclaimed Percy, eagerly. And for once the girls were
glad of his services.
Up the walk went the four bedraggled ones. The twins saw them coming,
and, grave-eyed and solemn, came down to meet them.
"Oo's wet," remarked Dodo.
"Drefful wet," echoed Paul.
"Yes, you naughty children!" scolded Mollie. "Why did you take the
plug—the wooden peg—out of sister's boat? Why did you do it?"
"Dodo do it," remarked Paul, with the ancient privilege of the accusing
man. "Dodo want to make a doll."
"Oo helped me," came from the little girl. "Oo helped!"
"But us put it back," asserted Paul.
"Yes, but it came out, and sister and her friends were nearly drowned.
You were naughty children—very naughty!"
"Oo dot any tandy?" demanded Dodo, fixing her big eyes on Grace.
"Candy! Good land sakes, no! Candy? The idea!"
"We 'ikes tandy," added Paul.
Then out came Mrs. Billette, startled at the sight of the dripping
"Oh, did you fall in?" she asked, with a tragic gesture.
"No, we fell out," said her daughter, laughing. "It's all right, momsey,
but we must get dry. Girls, give Will and Percy your orders."
"Perhaps we had better telephone," suggested Betty.
"Oh, yes!" chorused the others.
Soon the desired garments had been specified, and the boys promised to
bring them in suitcases as soon as might be. Then the drenched ones made
themselves comfortable in Mollie's home, and, while waiting, talked over
That it had not resulted more seriously was due to a combination of
"For once Percy was really useful," commented Amy, kindly.
"Yes, but we'll never hear the last of it," declared Grace. "He'll
think we are his eternal debtors from now on. Oh, here comes Will!
I'm so glad."
Soon clothed, and if not exactly in their right minds, at least on the
verge of getting there, the four came out to thank the boys, and there
was more talk of the occurrence.
"I hope nothing like this happens when we set off on our tour," said Amy.
"It won't be so comfortable then to be drenched."
"Don't speak of it, my dear," begged Betty. The little happening—not so
little, either, when one considers the possibility—had one good effect.
It had raised Amy out of the slough of despond into which she had
unwittingly strayed, or been thrust.
I shall pass rapidly over the next few days, for nothing of moment
happened. I say nothing of moment, and yet there was, for the story of
the mystery concerning Amy's parentage became generally known, as might
have been expected.
There were curious glances cast at Amy, and more than one indiscreet girl
tried to draw her out about the matter. This made it hard for Amy, and
she was so upset about it that Mrs. Stonington kept her home from school
for two days.
Then, chiefly by reason of the sensible attitude of Betty, Grace and
Mollie, there came a more rational feeling, and it was agreed that the
affair was not so uncommon after all.
The chums of Amy said nothing about the letter Alice had written. That
she had was very evident from her actions, for she was at first defiant,
and then contrite, and several times it was seen that she had been
crying. But she said nothing, perhaps being too proud to admit her fault.
"We'll just treat her as if nothing had happened," said Betty, and this
advice was followed. Alice was not generally liked, but the three chums
were so pleasant to her, in contrast with the conduct of the other girls,
that it must have been as coals of fire on her head.
Mollie's boat was easily recovered, and the handkerchiefs that had been
stuffed in the hole were of some service afterward, though rather stained
by river water. The missing plug was found fast under a seat brace, which
accounted for it not floating.
As for the five-hundred-dollar bill, nothing was heard of the owner, and
it, with the attached paper, remained in Mr. Nelson's safe. The
advertisement about it was published again, and though there were several
inquiries from persons who had lost money, they could lay no claim to
this particular bankbill.
"We'll just have to wait to solve that mystery," said Grace. "Maybe until
after we come back from our tour."
Arrangements to start on the journey had rapidly been completed. Betty
had made out the schedule.
"We'll leave Deepdale early in the morning," she said, "and go on to
Rockford. There we're due to stop with my aunt. We can take lunch
wherever we find it most convenient, but we'll make Rockford at
dusk, I hope."
"I certainly trust so," said Mollie. "A night on a country
road—never, my dear!"
"The next night we'll stop in Middleville," went on Betty, "at Amy's
cousin's house. From there to Broxton, where Grace's married sister
will put us up, and then, in turn to Simpson's Corners—that's my
uncle, you know—to Flatbush, where Grace's mother's niece has kindly
consented to receive us; on to Hightown, that's Mollie's aunt's place;
to Cameron—that's where we'll go to the camp that Mr. Ford's
She paused to make a note and to glance over the schedule to make sure of
"Then we'll go to Judgville, where my cousin lives, and that will be our
last stopping place. Then for home," she finished.
"It sounds good," said Mollie.
"It will be lovely," declared Betty. "Are you sure your—your aunt and
uncle won't have any further objections to you going, Amy?"
"Oh, sure! It was only because they thought that I might be upset on
hearing of the mystery that they didn't want me to go. But I'm over
"Bravely over it," murmured Betty, as she put her arms about her chum's
The examinations were on, and boys and girls were working hard, for,
because of the need of some repairs to the school, it had been decided to
cut the summer term short.
Then came the closing days, with the flowers, the simple exercises,
and the farewell to the graduating class, of which our girls were
"Two days more and we'll be off on our wonderful tour!" exclaimed Mollie,
as she and the others came out of school on the final day. "Oh, I can
OFF ON THE TOUR
"How do we look?"
"Don't you think these skirts are too short?"
"Isn't it fine to have—pockets?"
"Oh, Grace Ford! You'll never be able to walk in those shoes! Girls, just
look at those French heels!" It was Amy who spoke.
"They're not French!" declared Grace, driven to self-defense. "They're a
"Not enough modification, then; that's what I say!" exclaimed Mollie, the
three expressions which opened this chapter having come from Betty, Grace
and Amy, respectively. "They're of the French—Frenchy, Grace, my dear!"
"I don't care! I tried to get fitted in the kind of shoes you girls
have," and Grace looked at the stout and substantial walking boots of her
companions, "but they didn't have my size. The man is going to send for
them, and he said he'd forward them to Middleville. They'll be there when
"All right, as long as you're going to get them," spoke Betty.
"You never could belong to our Camping and Tramping Club in those
"Well, they're the largest I have, and I don't think the heels are so
very high; do you?" and she appealed to the others.
"Here are Will and Frank," spoke Amy. "We'll let them decide."
"Oh, Will is sure to say something mean," declared his sister. "Don't you
dare mention heels to him!"
"Ready for the hike?" demanded Will, as he came up with his chum.
"We start in half an hour," replied Betty, in the front yard of whose
house the others were gathered. "Gracious, I know I haven't half the
things I need. What did I do with that alcohol stove?"
"I saw you put it in the case," said Amy.
"Oh, yes, so I did. I declare I don't know what I'm doing! Now, girls, is
there anything else to be thought of?"
"If there is, I'm not capable of it," declared Mollie. "I am a wreck,"
and she leaned against patient Amy for support.
"We'll go part way with you," offered Will.
"You shall not!" exclaimed his sister. "You'll make all manner of fun of
"No, we won't—I promise!" exclaimed Frank, earnestly.
"Oh, let them come," pleaded Betty.
"Then go get Percy," urged Grace.
"Don't you dare!" cried Betty.
"Well, here comes Allen Washburn, anyhow," went on the tall girl. "At
least we'll have enough escorts." Betty blushed and hurried into the
house on some pretense or other.
The girls were to travel "light," taking with them only a few articles of
clothing. Their suitcases they had arranged to send on ahead, so that
they would be at each stopping place in the evening when the little party
arrived. Then on leaving in the morning the satchels would again be
dispatched in advance. Near the end of the route trunks would await them.
The girls expected to get their dinners wherever it was most convenient,
and Betty had drawn up a sort of schedule that, should they be able to
keep up to it, would mean comfort at noon. As I have explained, the
breakfasts and suppers would be eaten at the homes of friends or
The girls had a little alcohol stove, a teapot and saucepan, and they
expected, under favorable circumstances, to stop by the roadside and
brew a cup of tea, each girl carrying an aluminum cup and saucer.
Evaporated cream and sugar, to be replenished from time to time, formed
part of their stores. Sandwiches, to be procured as needed, would form a
The day was a "perfect" one for June. Clad in their new suits of olive
drab, purposely designed for walking, with sensible blouses, containing
pockets, with skirts sufficiently short, stout boots and natty little
caps, the outdoor girls looked their name. Already there was the hint of
tan on their faces, for they had been much in the open of late.
They had assembled at Betty's house for the start, and were about ready
to leave, though there seemed to be much confusion at the last minute.
Their first stopping place, at least for the night, would be the town of
Rockford, about sixteen miles away, where Betty's aunt lived. They
expected to remain two nights there, using the second day to walk to a
certain old historic mill that was said to be worthy of a visit.
The good-byes were said, over and over again, it seemed, and a number of
friends called to wish the girls good luck. Betty, who had been voted
into the place of leader, looked over her small command. What it lacked
in numbers it made up in attractiveness, for certainly no prettier
picture could have been viewed than the one the girls presented that
June morning, beneath the trees in the big yard.
"Well, are we ready?" finally asked Betty.
"As ready as we ever shall be," replied Grace.
"Then—what shall I say—forward—march?"
"Just say—hike!" cried the irrepressible Will.
"Don't mind him!" cautioned his sister. "Oh, I've left my handkerchief in
your house, Betty!" and she hastened to secure it.
But, finally, after a few more forgotten articles had been collected, the
girls were ready to start. Mr. Nelson came out to wave a farewell, and
his wife appeared, to add more to her already numerous cautions.
"What shall I do with that five hundred dollar bill?" asked Betty's
father. "If the owner comes, shall I give it up?"
"Don't you dare!" she cried. "At least, not until we girls have a chance
to see him. We want to find out about the romance back of it. Write to us
if it's claimed."
"All right—I will," he said, with a laugh.
"But it doesn't seem as though, after this lapse of time, that it would
be called for. Good-bye!"
This was echoed and re-echoed. Then the four members of the Camping and
Tramping Club started down the pleasant country road, whereon the June
sun shone in golden patches through the leafy branches of the trees.
"A good omen," breathed Amy, who walked beside Betty.
Will, Frank and Allen brought up the rear, carrying the small valises or
suitcases the girls had packed. The little cavalcade passed Mollie's
house, Mrs. Billette appearing at the window to wave another farewell.
The twins were not in sight.
"For which I am thankful—they'd cry to come," said their sister, "and
they are dreadful teases."
As the girls and their escorts swung around a turn in the highway a
little later, about a mile from Mollie's house, Grace looked back to cry
out in almost tragic accents:
"Look! The twins! They're following us," and the others turned around
to see Dodo and Paul, hand in hand, trudging bravely and determinedly
ON THE WRONG ROAD
Molly, for a moment, looked as if she wanted to cry from sheer vexation,
for the getting ready to start had been trying on all of them. Then the
humor of the situation appealed to her, and she exclaimed, as the
solemn-eyed twins drew: nearer:
"Dodo—Paul—what does this mean? Go back home at once! Mamma will be
dreadfully worried about you. Go back."
"We tum too," lisped Dodo.
"We go for walk wit oo, Mollie," Paul added.
"The little dears!" murmured Amy.
"You wouldn't say so if you had to go all the way back with them,"
exclaimed the sister. "Dodo—Paul, you must go home at once."
"Dot any tandy?" asked Dodo, seeing, doubtless, a chance to make capital
out of the escapade.
"Candy! The idea!"
"We go back if oo dot tandy," spoke Paul, cunningly, seeing the drift of
his small sister's scheme. "We 'ikes tandy."
"I'll give them some if they promise to go back," spoke Grace, making a
motion toward her little case that Frank carried.
"No, they must not be bribed," said Mollie, firmly. "I shall insist on
their going back. And oh! what faces they have! They must have been
eating candy already this morning."
"Our tandy all gone," spoke Dodo. "Oo dive us tandy we go back; won't us,
Paul?" and confidingly she looked up into her brother's face.
"We go for tandy," he affirmed, and there was an air of determination
about him that boded no good for the girls.
"You must go back!" declared Mollie.
"We go for walk," said Dodo. "Tum on, Paul. We dot fings to eat same
as dem," and proudly she displayed a very dirty bag, the opening of
which disclosed a rather jumbled collection of bread and butter, and
"An' I dot a gun to shoot bad bears," went on Paul, shouldering a wooden
article, that, by a wide stretch of the imagination could be seen to
somewhat resemble a musket. "Gun go bang-bang!" explained the little
chap, "bad bears run 'way off. Turn on, Dodo, we go wif 'em," and he
nodded at the "hikers," as Will unfeelingly characterized his sister and
"Go back! Go back!" cried Mollie, now again on the verge of tears. "Oh,
you bad children! What shall I do? Mamma will be dreadfully worried, and
if we take them back we'll lose a lot of time. What shall we do, girls?"
"We go back for tandy—lots of tandy," spoke the inexorable Dodo. "We
'ikes tandy; don't us, Paul?"
"Yes," said Paul, simply.
"The easiest way out of it is to give them some candy," said Grace, in a
low voice, but, low as it was, the twins heard. Their eyes brightened at
once, and they came eagerly forward.
"Oh, dear, I suppose it is the only thing to do," affirmed Mollie. "Will
you go straight back if you get some candy?" she asked. "Straight home
"Ess—we bofe go," promised Dodo, who usually led her small brother. "We
'ikes tandy," she reiterated.
"Me tan shoot bears to-morrow," said Paul, philosophically. "Where is
tandy?" With him evidently the prospect of present enjoyment was
preferable to the future possibility of becoming a great hunter.
"Here you are!" cried Grace, as she took out some chocolates. "Now be
good children. Do you think it safe for them to go back alone, Mollie?"
"That's so, I never considered that. I wonder if we'll have to go with
them? Oh, isn't this annoying, and we're behind time now! We'll never get
to Rockford to-night. What shall I do?"
"We take 'em back if oo dive us some tandy!" mocked Will, who, with his
chums, had been an interested observer of the little scene.
"Smarty!" exclaimed his sister. "But I'll take you at your word just the
same. Here, Frank—Allen—you see that he performs his part of the
contract," and she held the candy box out to the other two, who
laughingly accepted the bribe.
Then with the hands of the trusting, and now contented, twins in theirs,
Will and Frank bade the girls good-speed and led away the two small ones
on their homeward way, Allen following them after a farewell to Betty.
"At last we are off!" murmured Mollie. "I'm so sorry it happened, girls!"
"Why, the idea!" cried Betty. "It was just a little pleasant episode, and
we'll remember it all day, and laugh."
"But it may make us late," suggested Mollie, anxiously.
"Not much," went on the Little Captain. "It wasn't your fault, anyhow. We
can just walk a little faster to make up for it—that is, if, Grace
thinks she can stand it."
"Oh, you won't find me complaining," declared the girl whose footwear had
been the subject of comment. "I'm not as comfortable as you, perhaps,"
she admitted, "but I will be when I get my other shoes. And now, let's
give ourselves up to the enjoyments of the way—and day. Oh, isn't it
Indeed, a more auspicious start—barring the little delay caused by the
twins—could not have been provided. The day was one of those balmy ones
in June, when it is neither too hot nor too blowy, when the breeze seems
fairly laden with the sweet scent of flowers, and the lazy hum of bees
mingles with the call of birds.
The way led out along a pleasant country road, which, for some distance,
wound in and out among great maples that formed a leafy shade which might
be most acceptable later in the day, since there was the promise of
considerable heat at noon.
As yet it was early, a prompt enough start having been made to allow of
an easy pace along the road.
"For," Betty had said in reviewing the procedure to be followed, "we
don't want to tire ourselves out on the first stage of our trip. We
ought to begin gradually. That is the way all athletes train."
"Oh, then we are going to be athletes?" asked Amy.
"Walking athletes, at least," responded the leader. "Now, girls, if any
of you feel like resting at any time, don't hesitate to say so. We want
this to be an enjoyment, not a task, even if we are a regular club."
So perfect was the day, and in such good spirits were the girls, that
even the simplest sights and happenings along the highway brought forth
pleased comments. The sight of a cow placidly chewing her cud in a
meadow, the patient creature standing knee-deep amid the buttercups, was
a picture they all admired, Mollie carried a little camera, and insisted
on snapping the bovine, though the other girls urged her to save some
films with which to take their own pictures.
"But that cow will make such a lovely enlargement," said Mollie. "It's
like an artist's painting."
Bravely they marched along, with a confident swing and firm tread—at
least, all but Grace trod firmly, and she rather favored herself on
account of her high heels. But her chums were good enough not to laugh.
They passed farm houses, in the kitchen doors of which appeared the
women and girls of the household, standing with rolled-up sleeves, arms
akimbo, looking with no small wonder at the four travelers.
There were comments, too, not always inaudible.
"I wonder what they're selling?" one woman asked her daughter, as
they paused in their work of washing a seemingly innumerable number
of milk pans.
"They take us for peddlers," said Amy.
A little later a small boy, who had been playing horse in front of his
house, scuttled back toward the kitchen, crying out:
"Ma—ma! Come an' see the suffragists!"
"Oh, mercy!" exclaimed Betty. "What will we be taken for next?"
But it was fun, with all that, and such a novelty to the girls that they
wondered why they had not before thought of this means of spending part
of their vacation.
The sun crept higher in the sky, and the warmth of the golden beams
increased. The girls were thankful, now, for any shade they might
encounter, and they were fortunate in that their way still lay in
pleasant places. They came to a little brook that ran under the road, and
not far from it a roadside spring bubbled up. Their collapsible drinking
cups came in useful, and they remained for a little while in the shade
near the cool spot.
"Where shall we eat our lunch?" asked Grace, as the ever-mounting sun
approached the zenith.
"Are you hungry already?" asked Amy.
"I am beginning to feel the pangs," admitted the tall, graceful girl.
"Then you can't have eaten much candy," commented Mollie.
"Only three pieces."
"Hurrah! Grace is reforming!" cheered Betty. "That's fine!"
"I don't see why you're always making fun of me," Grace said, as she
pouted. "I'm sure you are all just as fond of chocolate as I am."
"Never mind," consoled Mollie. "We will eat soon, for I confess to having
an appetite on my own account."
Deciding to eat, at least on this first day of the tramp, a lunch of
their own providing, rather than go to some restaurant, country hotel, or
stop at a chance farm house, the girls had brought with them packages of
food, and the alcohol stove for a cup of tea, or some chocolate.
"This looks to be a perfect place for our picnic," said Betty, as, on
passing a farm, they saw the plow-horses unhitched and led under a tree
to partake of their hay and oats. "It must be noon by that sign," went
on the Little Captain, confirming her guess by a glance at her watch. "It
is," she said. "So we'll eat here," and she indicated a little grassy
knoll under a great oak tree at the side of the road.
"There's the most beautiful spring of water here, too," went on Grace.
"Shall we make tea?"
"Do!" exclaimed Mollie. "I'm just dying for a good hot cup. But not
Soon they had merrily gathered about the greensward table, on which paper
napkins formed the cloth. The sandwiches were set out, with a bottle of
olives to add to the attractiveness, and then the little kettle was put
on the alcohol stove, which had been set up in the shelter of the great
oak's massive trunk.
"It's boiling!" finally announced Betty. "Hand me the tea ball,
Amy, my dear."
Pouring the steaming water over the silver tea ball, Betty circulated it
around in the cup, until one fragrant brew was made. She passed this over
to Mollie, and proceeded to make another.
"It's delicious!" cried the French girl, as she tasted it, cream and
sugar having been added. "Oh, isn't this just lovely!"
"Perfect," murmured Grace. "I wouldn't have missed this for anything!"
In pure enjoyment they reclined on the grass after the meal, and then, as
Betty, after a look at her watch, warned them that the better half of
their journey still lay before them, they started off again.
They had proceeded a mile or so, and the way was not so pleasant now, for
the road was sandy, when they came to a fork of the highway. A time-worn
sign-post bore letters that could scarcely be made out, and, though they
had a road map, the girls were not quite sure which way to take to get to
Rockford. They were debating the matter, alternately consulting the map
and the sign-post, when a farmer drove past.
"Which road to Rockford, please?" hailed Betty.
"Th' left!" he exclaimed, sententiously. "G'lang there!" This last to the
horses, not to the girls.
"The road map seems to say the road to the right," murmured Betty, as the
farmer drove that way himself.
"Well, he ought to know," insisted Grace. "We'll take the left,"
and they did.
If they had hoped to have all go smoothly on this, their first day of
tramping, the girls were destined to disappointment. In blissful
ignorance they trudged on, talking so interestedly that they never
thought to glance at the sign-boards, of which they passed several.
It was Amy who discovered the error they had made—or rather, the error
the farmer had caused them to make. Again coming to a dividing of the
ways, they saw a new sign-board, put up by a local automobile
"Eight miles to Hamptown, and ten to Denby," read Amy. "Girls, where is
Anxiously they stared at the sign.
"It doesn't seem to say anything about Rockford," murmured Grace.
"Maybe someone has moved our town," suggested Mollie, humorously.
Betty looked puzzled, annoyed and a little anxious. A snub-nosed,
freckle-faced boy came along whistling, and beating the dust of the road
with a long switch.
"Which is the road to Rockford, little boy?" asked Betty.
"I say, which is the road to Rockford?"
"Give him a candy if you have any left, Grace," suggested Mollie, in
a low tone.
"Are you folks peddlin' candy?" asked the boy, and his eyes shone.
"No, but we have some," answered Betty. "We want to get to Rockford."
"You're five miles off the road," exclaimed the boy, with a grin, as
though he took personal delight in their dilemma. "You come the wrong
"Oh, dear!" murmured Mollie. "Don't you give him any candy, Grace."
"It isn't his fault that we went wrong," spoke Betty.
THE BARKING DOG
Disappointment, and not a little worriment, held the four girls silent
for a moment. Then Betty, feeling that it was her place to assume the
"Are you sure, little boy? A man told us, at the last dividing of the
roads, to take the left, as that led to Rockford."
"Well, he didn't know what he was talking about," asserted the little
chap, with the supreme confidence of youth. "To get to Rockford you've
got to go back."
"All that distance?" cried Grace. "We'll never make it in time."
"Isn't there a shorter way—some cross-road we can take?" inquired Betty.
"Who's got the candy?" inquired the little chap, evidently thinking that
he had already earned some reward.
"Here!" said Grace, hopelessly, holding out an almost emptied box. "But
please—please don't tell us we're lost."
"Oh, you ain't exactly lost!" exclaimed the urchin, with a grin. "I live
just down the road a piece, and it's only a mile to Bakersville. That's a
good town. They got a movin' picture show there. I went onct!"
"Did you indeed?" said Betty. "But we can't go there. Isn't there some
way of getting to Rockford without going all the way back to the fork?
Why, it's miles and miles!"
"I wish I had that man here who directed us wrongly!" exclaimed Mollie,
with a flash of her dark eyes. "I—I'd make him get a carriage and drive
us to your aunt's house, Betty."
"That would not be revenge enough," declared Grace. "He ought to be made
to buy us each a box of the best chocolates."
"Nothing like making the punishment fit the crime," murmured Betty.
"Say, are you play-actors?" demanded the boy, who had stood in
opened-mouth wonder during this dialogue. The girls broke into peals of
merry laughter that, in a measure, served to relieve the tension on
"Now do please tell us how to get to Rockford?" begged Mollie when they
had quieted down. "We must be there to-night."
"Well, you kin git there by goin' on a mile further and taking the
main road that goes through Sayreville," said the boy, his mouth
full of candy.
"Would that be nearer than going back to where we made the mistake?"
"Yep, a lot nearer. Come on; I'll show you as far as I'm goin'," and the
boy started off as though the task—or shall I say, pleasure?—of leading
four pretty girls was an every-day occurrence.
"We never can get there before dark," declared Mollie.
"Oh, yes, we will," said Betty, hopefully. "We can walk faster
"If you do I'll simply give up," wailed Grace. "These shoes!" and she
leaned against a tree.
And to the eternal credit of the other girls be it said that they did not
remark: "I told you so!"
Silently and unconcernedly, the snub-nosed boy led them on. Finally
he came to his own home, and rather ungallantly, did not offer to
"You jest keep on for about half a mile," he said, "an' you'll come to a
"I hope it isn't too cross," murmured Grace, with a grave face.
The boy looked at her wonderingly.
"I mean not cross enough to bite," she went on.
"You turn to the left," the boy continued, "and keep straight on till you
get to Watson's Corners. Then you turn to the right, keep on past an old
stone church, turn to the right and that's a straight road to Rockford."
He looked curiously at Grace, as though in doubt as to her sanity. "A
cross road!" he murmured.
"Gracious, we'll never remember all that!" exclaimed Amy.
"I have it down!" said practical Betty, as she wrote rapidly in her note
book. "I'm sure we can find it. Come on, girls!"
"Have another candy," invited Grace, hospitably extending the now nearly
"Sure—thanks!" exclaimed the boy, but he backed quickly away from her.
Her joke had fallen on a suspicious mind, evidently.
The girls trudged on, rather silent now, for somehow the edge of their
enjoyment seemed to have been taken off. But still they were not
discouraged. They were true outdoor girls, and they knew, even if worse
came to worst, and darkness found them far from their destination, and
Betty's aunt's house, that no real harm could come to them.
Successfully they found the various points of identification mentioned
by the freckled boy, and at last they located a sign-post that read:
FIVE MILES TO ROCKFORD
"Five miles!" exclaimed Grace, with a tragic air. "We can never do it!"
"We must!" declared Betty, firmly. "Of course we can do it. Why, even
with going out of our way as we did, we won't have covered more than
eighteen miles to-day. And we set twenty as an average."
"But this is the first day," said Mollie.
"We can—we must get to Rockford to-night," insisted Betty.
Rather hopelessly they tramped on. The sun seemed to sink with surprising
rapidity after getting to a certain point in the western sky.
"It's dropping faster and faster all the while!" cried Amy, as they
watched it from a crest of the road.
"Never mind—June evenings are the longest of the year," consoled Betty.
They hurried on. The sun sank to its nightly rest amid a bed of golden,
green, purple, pink and olive clouds, and there followed a glorious maze
of colors that reached high up toward zenith.
"Girls, we simply must stop and admire this—if it's only for a
minute!" exclaimed Grace. "Isn't that wonderful!" and she pointed a
slender hand, beautified by exquisitely kept nails, toward the gorgeous
"Every minute counts!" remarked practical Betty. Yet she knew better than
to worry her friends.
The glow faded, and again the girls advanced. From the fields came the
lowing of the cows, as they waited impatiently for the bars of the
pastures to be let down. A herd of sheep was driven along the road,
raising a cloud of dust. From farm houses came the barking of dogs and
the not unmusical notes of conch or tin horns, summoning the "men folks"
to the evening meal.
"Girls, we're never going to make it in time!" exclaimed Grace as the sky
darkened. "We must see if we can't stop at one of these houses over
night," and she pointed to a little hamlet they were approaching.
"Grace!" exclaimed Betty. "Aunt Sallie would be worried to death if we
didn't come, after she expected us."
"Then we must send her word. I can't go another step."
They all paused irresolutely. They were in front of a big white house—a
typical country home. Betty glanced toward it.
"It's too bad," she said. "I know just how you feel, and yet can we go up
to one of these places, perfect strangers, and ask them to keep us over
night? It doesn't seem reasonable."
"Anything is reasonable when you have to," declared Mollie. "I'll ask,"
she volunteered, starting toward the house. "The worst they can say is
'no,' and maybe we can hire a team to drive to Rockford, if they can't
keep us. I can drive!"
"Well, we'll ask, anyhow," agreed Betty, rather hopelessly. She hardly
knew what to do next.
As they advanced toward the House the savage barking of a dog was heard,
and as they reached the front gate the beast came rushing down the walk,
while behind him lumbered a farmer, shouting:
"Here! Come back! Down, Nero! Don't mind him, ladies!" he added. "He
won't hurt you!"
But the aspect, and the savage growls and barks, of the creature seemed
to indicate differently, and the girls shrank back. Betty, reaching in
her bag, drew out the nearly emptied olive bottle for a weapon.
"Don't hit him! Don't hit him!" cried the farmer. "That will only make
him worse! Come back here, Nero!"
"Run, girls! Run!" begged Amy. "He'll tear us to pieces!" and she
turned and fled.
AT AUNT SALLIE'S
Probably that was the most unwise course poor Amy could have taken. Dogs,
even the most savage, seldom come to a direct attack unless their
prospective victim shows fear. Then, like a horse that takes advantage of
a timid driver, the creature advances boldly to the attack.
It was so in this case. The other girls, not heeding Amy's frantic
appeal, stood still, but she ran back toward the road, her short skirt
giving her a chance to exercise her speed. The dog saw, and singling out
her as the most favorable for his purposes, he leaped the fence in a
great bound and rushed after the startled girl.
"Stop him! Stop him!"
"If she falls!"
"I know I'm going to faint!"
"Don't you dare do it, Grace Ford!"
"Why doesn't that man keep his dog chained?"
These were only a few of the expressions that came from the lips of the
girls as, horror-stricken, they watched the dog rush after poor Amy.
Never had she run so fast—not even during one of the basket ball
games in which she had played, nor when they had races at the Sunday
And, had it not been for a certain hired man, who, taking in the
situation as he came on the run from the barn, acted promptly, Amy might
have been severely injured. As it was the farmer's man, crossing the yard
diagonally, was able to intercept the dog.
"Run to the left, Miss! Run to the left!" he cried. Then, leaping the low
fence at a bound, he threw the pitchfork he carried at the dog with such
skill that the handle crossed between the brute's legs and tripped it.
Turning over and over in a series of somersaults, the dog's progress was
sufficiently halted to enable the hired man to get to it. He took a firm
grip in the collar of the dog and held on. Poor Amy stumbled a few steps
farther and then Betty, recovering her scattered wits, cried out:
"All right, Amy! All right! You're in no danger!"
And Amy sank to the ground while her chums rushed toward her.
"Hold him, Zeke! Hold him!" cried the farmer, as he came lumbering up.
"Hold on to him!"
"That's what I'm doin'!" responded the hired man.
"Is th' gal hurted? Land sakes, I never knew Nero to act so!" went on the
farmer apologetically. "He must have been teased by some of th' boys. Be
you hurted, Miss?"
Pale and trembling, Amy arose. But it was very evident that she had
suffered no serious harm, for the dog had not reached her, and she had
simply collapsed on the grass, rather than fallen.
The dog, choking and growling, was firmly held by the hired man, who
seemed to have no fear of him.
"I'm awfully sorry," said the farmer, contritely. "I never knew him to
act like that."
"Some one has tied a lot of burrs on his tail," called out the hired man.
"That's what set him off."
"I thought so. Well, clean 'em off, and he'll behave. Poor old Nero!"
Even now the dog was quieting down, and as the hired man removed the
irritating cause of the beast's anger it became even gentle, whining as
though to offer excuses.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am," went on the farmer. "You're strangers
around here, I take it."
"Yes," said Betty, "and we lost our way. We're going to Rockford. We must
be there to-night."
"Yes, my aunt lives there."
"And who might your aunt be?"
"Bill Palmer's wife?"
"Yes, that's Uncle Will I guess," and Betty laughed.
"Pshaw now! You don't say so! Why, I know Bill well."
The farmer's wife came bustling out.
"Is the young lady hurt, Jason? What got into Nero, anyhow? I never see
him behave so!"
"Oh, it was them pesky boys! No, she's not hurt."
Amy was surrounded by her chums. She was pale, and still trembling, but
was fast recovering her composure.
"Won't you come in the house," invited the woman. "We're jest goin' t'
set down t' supper, and I'm sure you'd like a cup of tea."
"I should love it!" murmured Grace.
"What be you—suffragists?" went on the woman, with a smile.
"That's the second time we've been taken for them to-day," murmured
Betty, "Do we look so militant?"
"You look right peart!" complimented the woman. "Do come in?"
Betty, with her eyes, questioned her chums. They nodded an assent.
Really they were entitled to something it seemed after the unwarranted
attack of the dog.
"We ought to be going on to Rockford," said Betty, as they
strolled toward the pleasant farm house. "I don't see how we can
get there now—"
"You leave that to me!" said the farmer, quickly. "I owe you
something on account of the way Nero behaved. Ain't you ashamed of
yourself?" he charged.
The dog crouched, whined and thumped the earth with a contrite tail. He
did not need the restraining hand of the hired man now.
"Make friends," ordered the farmer. The dog approached the girls.
"Oh—don't!" begged Amy.
"He wouldn't hurt a fly," bragged the farmer. "I can't account for his
"It was them burrs," affirmed the hired man.
"Mebby so. Wa'al, young ladies, come in and make yourselves t' hum!
Behave, Nero!" for now the dog was getting too friendly, leaping up and
trying to solicit caresses from the girls. "That's th' way with him, one
minute he's up to some mischief, an' th' next he's beggin' your, pardon.
I hope you're not hurt, miss," and he looked anxiously at Amy.
"No, not at all," she assured him, with a smile that was brave and
winning. "I was only frightened, that's all."
"I'm glad of that. I'll have t' tie that dog up, I guess," and he
threw a little clod of earth at the now cringing animal, not hitting
"Oh, don't hurt him," pleaded Betty.
"Hurt him! He wouldn't do that, miss!" exclaimed the hired man, who now
had to defend himself from the over-zealous affections of the dog. "He's
too fond of him. Nero isn't a bad sort generally, only some of the boys
The girls, with the farmer and his man in the lead, walked toward the
house, the woman hurrying on ahead to set more places at the table.
"I'm afraid we're troubling you too much," protested Betty.
"Oh, it's no trouble at all," the farmer assured her. "And I owe you
something on account of my dog's actions."
"But really, ought we to stay?" asked Grace. "It's getting dark, Betty,
and your aunt—"
"Say, young ladies!" exclaimed the farmer, "I'll fix that all right. As
soon as you have a bite to eat I'll hitch up and drive you over to
Rockford, to Bill Palmer's."
"Oh!" began Betty, "we couldn't think—"
She stopped, for she did not know what to say. Truly, it was quite a
dilemma in which they found themselves, and they must stay somewhere that
night. To remain at a strange farm house was out of the question. Perhaps
this was the simplest way after all.
"It won't be any trouble at all," the farmer assured her. "I've got
a fast team and a three-seated carriage. I'll have you over there
in no time."
"Then perhaps we'd better not stop for supper," said Mollie. "Your aunt
might be worrying, Betty, and—"
"We'll telephone her!" exclaimed the farmer. "I've got a 'phone—lots of
us have around here—and I can let her know all about it. Or you can talk
to her yourself," he added.
So it was arranged; and soon Betty was talking to her anxious relative
over the wire. Then, after a bountiful supper, which the girls very much
enjoyed, the farmer hitched up his fine team, and soon they were on
their way to Mrs. Palmer's. The drive was not a long one.
"My!" exclaimed Mollie, as they bowled along over the smooth road, under
a young moon that silvered the earth, "this is better than walking!"
"I should say so," agreed Grace, whose shoes hurt her more than she
cared to admit.
"You are both traitors to the Club!" exclaimed Betty. "The idea of
preferring riding to walking!"
"Oh, it's only once in a while," added Mollie. "Really, pet, we've had a
perfectly grand time."
"Even with the dog," added Amy, who was now herself again. "I was
silly to run."
"I don't blame you," said the farmer, "and yet if you hadn't, maybe Nero
wouldn't have chased you. It's a good thing not to run from a dog. If you
stand, it let's him see you're not afraid."
"Put that down in your books, girls," directed Betty. "Never run from a
dog. That advice may come in useful on our trip."
Half an hour later they were at Mrs. Palmer's house, and received a
hearty welcome, the telephone message having done much to relieve the
THE MISSING LUNCH
"Oh, but these shoes are so comfortable!"
"I'm glad of that, Grace."
"Though I didn't really delay you much; did I?"
"No, I wasn't complaining," and Betty put a caressing hand on the arm of
"We'll be able to make up for lost time now," said Mollie, as she shifted
her little valise from one hand to the other. "Your aunt was certainly
generous in the matter of lunch, Betty," she went on.
"Yes, she said this country air would give us good appetites."
"I'm sure I don't need any," spoke Amy. "I've been hungry ever since
The four girls were again on the broad highway that was splashed and
spotted with the streaks of the early sun as it slanted through the elms
and maples along the road. They had spent two nights at the home of
Betty's aunt, that lady having insisted on a little longer visit than was
at first planned. She made the girls royally welcome, as did her
husband. Grace's shoes had been sent to her at Rockford, having been
"But if we stay another day and night here," said Betty, "not that we're
not glad to, Aunt Sallie—why we can't keep up to our schedule in
walking, and we must cover so many miles each day."
"You see it's in the constitution of our club," added Grace. "We can't
"Oh, come now!" insisted Mr. Palmer. "You can stay longer just as well as
not. As for walking, why we've got some of the finest walks going, right
around Rockford here. You'd better stay. We don't very often see you,
Betty, and your aunt isn't half talked out yet," and he solemnly winked
over the head of his wife.
"The idea!" she exclaimed. "As if I'd talked half as much as you had."
And so the girls had remained. They had greatly enjoyed the visit. In
anticipation of their coming Mrs. Palmer had prepared "enough for a
regiment of hungry boys," to quote her husband, and had invited a number
of the neighboring young people to meet the members of the Camping and
The dainty rooms of the country house, with their quaint, old-fashioned,
striped wall paper, the big four-poster beds, a relic of a by-gone
generation, the mahogany dressers with their shining mirrors, and the
delightful home-like atmosphere—all had combined to make the stay of the
girls most pleasant.
The day after their arrival by carriage they had gone on a long walk,
visiting a picturesque little glen not far from the village, being
accompanied by a number of girls whose acquaintance Betty and her chums
had made. Some of them Betty had met before.
The idea of a walking club was enthusiastically received by the country
girls, and they at once resolved to form one like the organization
started by Betty Nelson. In fact they named it after her, in spite of
In the afternoon the girls went for a drive in Mr. Palmer's big
carriage, visiting places of local interest. And in the evening there
was an old-fashioned "surprise party"—a real surprise too, by the way,
for Betty and her chums had never dreamed of it. It was a most
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer had tried to persuade their niece and her chums to
stay still longer, but they were firm in their determination to cover the
two hundred miles—more or less—in the specified time.
So they had started off, and the snatches of conversation with which I
begun this chapter might have been heard as the four walked along the
pleasant country road.
"We've had very good luck so far," said Mollie, as she skipped a few
steps in advance on the greensward. "Not a bit of rain."
"Don't boast!" cautioned Betty. "It will be perfectly terrible if it
rains. We simply can't walk if it does."
"I don't see why not," spoke Mollie, trying to catch Amy in a waltz hug
and whirl her about.
"My, isn't she getting giddy!" mocked Grace.
"I feel so good!" cried Mollie, whose volatile nature seemed fairly
bubbling over on this beautiful day. And indeed it was a day to call
forth all the latent energies of the most phlegmatic person. The very air
tingled with life that the sunshine coaxed into being, and the gentle
wind further fanned it to rapidity of action. "Oh, I do feel so happy!"
"I guess we all do," spoke Grace, but even as she said this she could not
refrain from covertly glancing at Amy, over whose face there seemed a
shade of—well, just what it was Grace could not decide. It might have
been disappointment, or perhaps an unsatisfied longing. Clearly the
mystery over her past had made an impression on the character of this
sweet, quiet girl. But for all that she did not inflict her mood on her
chums. She must have become conscious of Grace's quick scrutiny, for with
a laugh she ran to her, and soon the two were bobbing about on the uneven
turf in what they were pleased to term a "dance."
"Your aunt was certainly good to us," murmured Mollie, a little later.
"I'm just dying to see what she has put up for our lunch." For Mrs.
Palmer had insisted, as has been said, on packing one of the little
valises the girls carried with a noon-day meal to be eaten on the road.
Mollie was entrusted with this, her belongings having been divided among
"Oh," suddenly cried Grace, a moment later, "I forgot something!"
"You mean you left it at my aunt's house?" asked Betty, coming to a stop
in the road.
"No, I forgot to get some of those lovely chocolates that new drug store
sells. They were delicious. For a country town I never ate better."
"Grace, you are hopeless!" sighed Betty. "Come along, girls, do, or
she'll insist on going back for them. And we must get to Middleville on
time. It won't do to fall back in our schedule any more."
"I sent a postal to my cousin from your aunt's house," said Amy, at
whose relatives the girls were to spend the night. "I told her we surely
would be there."
"And so we will," said Betty. "Gracious, I forgot to mail this card to
Nettie French," and she produced a souvenir card from her pocket.
"Never mind, you can put it in the next post-office we come to,"
suggested Grace. "Oh, dear! I'm so provoked about those chocolates. I'm
positively famished, and I don't suppose it is anywhere near lunch time?"
and she looked at her watch. "No, only ten o'clock," and she sighed.
Laughing at her, the girls stepped on. For a time the road ran
along a pleasant little river, on which a number of canoes and
boats could be seen.
"Oh, for a good row!" exclaimed Mollie.
"We'll have plenty of chances this summer," said Betty. "It has
"I wonder where we will spend our vacation?" spoke Mollie.
"We'll talk about that later," said Betty. "I hope we can be together,
and somewhere near the water."
"If we only could get a motor boat!" sighed Grace. "Oh, Bet, if no one
claims that five hundred dollars maybe we can get a little launch with
it, and camp at Rainbow Lake."
"I'm only afraid some one will claim it," spoke Betty. "I dropped papa a
card, telling him to send me a line in case a claimant did appear."
"Oh, let's sit down and rest," proposed Mollie, a little later. "There's
a perfect dream of a view from here and it's so cool and shady."
The others were agreeable, so they stopped beneath some big trees in a
grassy spot near the bank of the little stream. Grace took advantage of
the stop to mend a pair of stockings she was carrying with her. It was so
comfortable that they remained nearly an hour and would have stayed
longer only the Little Captain, with a look at her watch, decided that
they must get under way again.
"Now it's noon!" exclaimed Grace, when they had covered two miles after
their rest. "Mollie, open the lunch and let's see what it contains."
There was a startled cry from Mollie. A clasping of her hands, a raising
of her almost tragic eyes, and she exclaimed:
"Oh, girls, forgive me! I forgot the lunch! I left it back there where we
rested in the shade!"
THE BROKEN RAIL
Dumb amazement held the girls in suspense for a moment. Then came a
chorus of cries.
"Mollie, you never did that!"
"Forgot our lunch!"
"And we're so hungry!"
"Oh, Mollie, how could you?"
"You don't suppose I did it on purpose; do you?" flashed back the guilty
one, as she looked at the three pairs of tragic, half-indignant and
hopeless eyes fastened on her.
"Of course you didn't," returned Betty. "But, oh, Mollie, is it really
gone? Did you leave it there?"
"Well, I haven't it with me, none of you have, and I don't remember
picking it up after we slumped down there in the shade. Consequently I
must have left it there. There's no other solution. It's like one of
those queer problems in geometry, or is it algebra, where things that are
equal to the same thing are equal to each other," and she laughed with
just the hint of hysteria.
"But what are we to do?" demanded Grace. "I am so hungry, and I know
there were chicken sandwiches, and olives, in that lunch. Oh, Mollie!"
"Oh, Mollie!" mocked the negligent one. "If you say that
Her temper was rising but, by an effort, she conquered it and smiled.
"I am truly sorry," she said. "Girls, I'll do anything to make up for it.
I'll run back and get the lunch—that is, if it is there yet."
"Don't you dare say it isn't!" cried Betty.
"Why can't we all go back?" suggested Amy. "Really it won't delay us so
much—if we walk fast. And that was a nice place to eat. There was a
lovely spring just across the road. I noticed it. We could make tea—"
"Little comforter!" whispered Betty, putting her arms around the other.
"We will all go back. The day is so perfect that there's sure to be a
lovely moon, and we can stop somewhere and telephone to your cousin if we
find we are going to be delayed. She has an auto, I believe you said, and
she might come and get us."
"Stop!" commanded Mollie. "We are a walking club, not a carriage or auto
club. We'll walk."
"Then let's put our principles into practice and start now," proposed
Grace. "We'll have a good incentive in the lunch at the end of this
tramp. Come on!"
There was nothing to do but retrace their steps. True, they might have
stopped at some wayside restaurant, but such places were not frequent,
and such as there were did not seem very inviting. And Aunt Sallie had
certainly put up a most delectable lunch.
The girls reached the spot where they had stopped for a rest, much sooner
than they had deemed it possible. Perhaps they walked faster than usual.
And, as they came in sight of the quiet little grassy spot, Mollie
"Oh, girls, I see it. Just where I so stupidly left it; near that big
rock. Hurry before someone gets there ahead of us!"
They broke into a run, but a moment later Grace cried:
"Too late! That tramp has it!"
The girls stopped in dismay, as they saw a rather raggedly-dressed man
slink out from the shadow of a tree and pick up the lunch valise. He
stood regarding it curiously.
"Oh, dear!" cried Grace. "And I was so hungry!"
Betty strode forward. There was a look of determination on her face.
"Girls, I'm not going to let that tramp take our lovely lunch. Come on,
and I'll make him give it back!"
"Betty!" cried Amy. "You'd never dare!"
"I wouldn't? Watch me!"
The man was still standing there, looking at the valise as if in doubt
whether or not to open it. Betty with a glance at her chums walked on.
"That—that's ours, if you please," said Betty. Her voice was weaker than
she had thought it would be, and quite wobbly, too. Her knees, she
confessed later, were in the same state. But she presented a brave front.
"That—that's our lunch," she added, swallowing a lump in her throat.
The man—he certainly looked like a tramp, as far as his clothes were
concerned, but his face was clean—turned toward the girls with a smile.
"Your lunch!" he exclaimed, and his voice was not unmusical, "how
He did not say whether it was fortunate for them—or himself.
"We—we forgot it. We left it here," explained Mollie. "That is, I
left it here."
"That is—unfortunate," said the man. "It seems—it seems to be a fairly
substantial lunch," and he moved the bag up and down.
"It ought to be—for four of us," breathed Amy.
"Allow me," spoke the man, and with a bow he handed the missing lunch to
Betty. The girls said afterward that her hand did not tremble a bit as
she accepted it. And then the Little Captain did something most
"Perhaps you are hungry, too," she said, with one of her winning smiles,
a smile that seemed to set her face in a glow of friendliness. "We are
on a tramping tour—I mean a walking tour," she hastily corrected
herself, feeling that perhaps the man would object to the word "tramp."
She went on:
"We are on a walking tour, visiting friends and relatives. We generally
take a lunch at noon."
"Yes, that seems to be the universal custom," agreed the man. "That is,
for some persons," and he smiled, showing his white teeth.
"Are you—are you hungry?" asked Betty, bluntly.
"I am!" He spoke decidedly.
"Then perhaps—I'm sure we have more here than we can eat—and we'll
soon—I mean comparatively soon—be at a friend's house—perhaps—"
"I would be very glad," and again the man bowed.
Betty opened the little satchel—it was a miniature suitcase—and a
veritable wealth of lunch was disclosed. There were sandwiches without
number, pickles, olives, chunks of cake, creamy cheese—
"Are you sure you can spare it?" asked the man. "I'm sure I don't
"Of course we can spare it," put in Mollie, quickly.
"Well then I will admit that I am hungry," spoke the unknown. "I am not
exactly what I seem," he added.
Betty glanced curiously at him.
"Don't be alarmed," he went on quickly. "I am not exactly sailing under
false colors except in a minor way. Now, for instance, you took me for a
tramp; did you not?" He paused and smiled.
"I—I think we did," faltered Mollie.
"And I don't blame you. I have, for the time being, assumed the
habiliments of a knight of the road, for certain purposes of my own. I
am—well, to be frank, I am trying to find something. In order to carry
out my plans I have even begged my way, and, not always successfully.
"You are hungry!" exclaimed Grace, and her chums said she made a move as
though to bring out some chocolates. Grace, later, denied this.
"I am hungry," confessed the tramp—as he evidently preferred to appear.
Betty took out a generous portion of food.
"It is too much," the wayfarer protested.
"Not at all," Betty insisted. "We have a double reason for giving it to
you. First, you are hungry. Second, please accept it as a reward for—"
"For not eating all of your lunch after I found it, I suppose you were
going to say," put in the man, with a smile. "Very well, then I'll
accept," and he bowed, not ungracefully.
He had the good taste—or was it bashfulness—to go over to a little
grove of trees to eat his portion. Grace wanted to take him a cup of
chocolate—which they made instead of tea—but Betty persuaded her not
to. The girls ate their lunch, to be interrupted in the midst of it by
the man who called a good-bye to them as he moved off down the road.
"He's going," remarked Amy. "I wonder if he had enough?"
"I think so," replied Betty. "Now, girls, we must hurry. We have been
"I'm so sorry," put in Mollie. "It was my fault, and—"
"Don't think of it, my dear!" begged Grace. "Any of us might have
forgotten the lunch, just as you did."
As they walked past the place which the tramp had selected for his dining
room, Betty saw some papers on the ground. They appeared to be letters,
and, rather idly, she picked them up. She looked into one or two of the
"I wouldn't do that," said Grace. "Maybe those are private letters. He
must have forgotten them. I wonder where he has gone? Perhaps we can
catch him—he might need these papers. But I wouldn't read them, Betty."
"They're nothing but advertising circulars," retorted the Little Captain.
"Nothing very private about them. I guess he threw them all away."
She was about to let them fall from her hand, when a bit of paper
fluttered from one envelope. Picking it up Betty was astonished to read
on the torn portion the words:
"I cannot carry out that deal I arranged with you, because I have had
the misfortune to lose five hundred dollars and I shall have to—"
There the paper, evidently part of a letter to someone, was torn off.
There were no other words.
"Girls!" cried Betty, "look—see! This letter! That man may be the one
whose money we found! He has written about it—as nearly as I can recall,
the writing is like that in the note pinned to the five hundred dollars.
Oh, we must find that tramp!"
"He wasn't a tramp!" exclaimed Grace.
"No, I don't believe he was, either," admitted Betty. "That's what he
meant when he spoke of his disguise, and looking for something. He's
hunting for his five hundred dollars. Oh, dear! which way did he go?"
"Toward Middleville," returned Amy.
"Then we must hurry up and catch him. We can explain that we have
"But are you sure it is his?" asked Mollie.
"This looks like it," said Betty, holding out the torn letter.
"But some one else might have lost five hundred dollars,"
"Come on, we'll find him, and ask him about it, anyhow," suggested
Betty. "Middleville is on our way. Oh, to think how things may turn out!
They hastily gathered up their belongings and walked on, talking of their
"He was real nice looking," said Mollie.
"And quite polite," added Amy.
"And do you think he may be traveling around like a tramp, searching for
that bill?" asked Grace.
"It's possible," declared Betty: "Perhaps he couldn't help looking like a
tramp, because if he has lost all his money he can't afford any other
clothes. Oh, I do hope we find him!"
But it was a vain hope. They did not see the man along the road, and
inquiries of several persons they met gave no trace. Nor had he
reached Middleville, as far as could be learned. If he had, no one had
"Oh, dear!" sighed Betty, when they had exhausted all possibilities, "I
did hope that money mystery was going to be solved. Now it's as far off
as ever. But I'll keep this torn piece of letter for evidence. Poor
fellow! He may have built great hopes on that five hundred dollar
bill—then to lose it!"
They went to the house of Amy's cousin in Middleville. There they spent
an enjoyable evening, meeting some friends who had been invited in. Amy
said nothing about the disclosure to her of the strange incident in her
life. Probably, she reflected, her relative already knew it.
Morning saw them on the move again, with Broxton, where a married sister
of Grace lived, as their objective point. The day was cloudy, but it did
not seem that it would rain, at least before night.
And even the frown of the weather did not detract from the happiness
of the chums. They laughed and talked as they walked on, making merry
by the way.
Stopping in a country store to make sure of their route they were
informed that by taking to the railroad track for a short distance they
could save considerable time.
"Then we ought to do it," decided Betty, "for we don't want to get caught
in the rain," and she glanced up at the clouds that were now more
They reached the railroad track a short distance out of the little
village, and proceeded down the stretch of rails.
"There's a train in half an hour," a man informed them, "but you'll be
off long before then."
"I hope so," murmured Amy.
They had nearly reached the end of the ballasted way, when Betty, who was
in the lead, came to a sudden halt.
"What is it," asked Mollie, "a snake? Oh, girls!"
"No, not a snake," was the quick answer. "But look! This rail is broken!
It must have cracked when the last train passed. And another one—an
express—is due soon! If it runs over that broken rail it may be wrecked!
Girls, we've got to stop that train!" and she faced her chums resolutely.
"IT'S A BEAR!"
"What can we do?" It was Grace who asked the question. It was Betty, the
Little Captain, who answered it.
"We must stop the train," she said. "We must wave something red at it.
Red always means danger."
"Mollie's tie," exclaimed Amy. Mollie was wearing a bright vermilion
scarf knotted about the collar of her blouse.
"It isn't big enough," decided Betty. "But we must do something. That man
said the train would come along soon. It's an express. A slow train might
not go off the track, as the break is only a small one. But the
She paused suggestively—apprehensively.
"There's a man!" cried Grace.
"A track-walker!" cried Betty. "Oh, he'll know what to do," and she
darted toward a man just appearing around the curve—a man with a sledge,
and long-handled wrench over his shoulder.
"Hey! Hey!" Betty called. "Come here. There's a broken rail!"
The man broke into a run.
"What's that?" he called. "Got your foot caught in a rail? It's a frog—a
switch that you mean. Take off your shoe!"
"No, we're not caught!" cried Betty, in shrill accent. "The rail
The track-walker was near enough now to hear her correctly. And,
fortunately, he understood, which might have been expected of him,
considering his line of work.
"It's a bad break," he affirmed, as he looked at it, "Sometimes the heat
of the sun will warp a rail, and pull out the very spikes by the roots,
ladies. That's what happened here. Then a train—'twas the local from
Dunkirk—came along and split the rail. 'Tis a wonder Jimmie Flannigan
didn't see it. This is his bit of track, but his wife is sick and I said
I'd come down to meet him with a bite to eat, seein' as how she can't put
up his dinner. 'Tis lucky you saw it in time, ladies."
"But what about the train?" asked Betty.
"Oh, I'll stop that all right. I'll flag it, and Jimmie and me'll put in
a new rail. You'll be noticin' that we have 'em here and there along the
line," and he showed them where, a little distance down the track, there
were a number placed in racks made of posts, so that they might not rust.
From his pocket the track-walker pulled a red flag. It seemed that he
carried it there for just such emergencies. He tied it to his pick
handle, and stuck the latter in the track some distance away from the
"The engineer'll see that," he said, "and stop. Now I'll go get Jimmie
and we'll put in a new rail. You young ladies—why, th' railroad
company'll be very thankful to you. If you was to stop here now, and the
passengers of the train were told of what you found—why, they might even
make up a purse for you. They did that to Mike Malone once, when he
flagged the Century Flier when it was goin' to slip over a broken bridge.
I'll tell 'em how it was, and how you—"
"No—no—we can't stay!" exclaimed Betty. "If you will look after the
broken rail we'll go on. We must get to Broxton."
"Oh, sure, it'll not take the likes of you long to be doin' that,"
complimented the man, with a trace of brogue in his voice. "You look
equal to doin' twice as much."
"Well, we don't want to be caught in the rain," spoke Mollie.
"Ah, 'twill be nothin' more than a sun shower, it will make your
complexions better—not that you need it though," he hastened to add.
"Good luck to you, and many thanks for tellin' me about this broken rail.
'Tis poor Jimmie who'd be blamed for not seein' it, and him with a sick
wife. Good-bye to you!"
The girls, satisfied that the train would be flagged in time, soon left
the track, the last glimpse they had of the workman being as he hurried
off to summon his partner to replace the broken rail.
That he did so was proved a little later, for when the girls were walking
along the road that ran parallel to the railroad line some distance
farther on, the express dashed by at a speed which seemed to indicate
that the engineer was making up for lost time.
Several days later the girls read in a local paper of how the train had
been stopped while two track-walkers fitted a perfect rail in place of
the broken one. And something of themselves was told. For the
track-walker they had met had talked of the young ladies he had met, and
there was much printed speculation about them.
"I'm glad we didn't give our names," said Grace. "Our folks might have
worried if they had read of it."
"But we might have gotten a reward," said Mollie.
"Never mind—we have the five hundred dollars," exclaimed Grace.
"It may already be claimed," spoke Betty.
When they had seen the express go safely by, thankful that they had had a
small share in preventing a possible loss of life, the girls continued on
their way. They stopped for lunch in a little grove of trees, brewing
tea, and partaking of the cake, bread and meat Amy's cousin had provided.
Amy had torn her skirt on a barbed wire fence and the rent was sewed up
beside the road.
The clouds seemed to be gathering more thickly, and with rather
anxious looks at the sky the members of the Camping and Tramping Club
"Girls, we're going to get wet!" exclaimed Mollie, as they passed a
cross-road, pausing to look at the sign-board.
"And it's five miles farther on to Broxton!" said Amy. "Can we
ever make it?"
"I think so—if we hurry," said Betty. "A little rain won't hurt us.
These suits are made to stand a drenching."
"Then let's walk fast," proposed Grace.
"She wouldn't have said that with those other shoes," remarked
"Got any candy?" demanded Mollie. "I'm hungry!"
Without a word Grace produced a bag of chocolates. It was surprising how
she seemed to keep supplied with them.
The girls were hurrying along, now and then looking apprehensively at the
fast-gathering and black clouds, when, as they turned a bend in the road,
Amy, who was walking beside Grace, cried out:
"Oh, it's a bear! It's a bear!"
"What's that—a new song?" demanded Mollie, laughing.
"No—look! look!" screamed Amy, and she pointed to a huge, hairy creature
lumbering down the middle of the highway.
THE DESERTED HOUSE
The girls screamed in concert, and whose voice was the loudest was a
matter that was in doubt. Not that the Little Captain and her chums
lingered long to determine. The bear stopped short in the middle of the
road, standing on its hind legs, waving its huge forepaws, and lolling
its head from side to side in a sort of Comical amazement.
"Run! Run!" screamed Betty. "To the woods!"
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" That seemed the extent of Mollie's vocabulary just then.
"Climb a tree," was the advice of Grace.
"Is he coming? Is it coming after us?" Amy wanted to know.
She glanced over her shoulder as she put the question, and there
nearly followed an accident, for Amy was running, and the look back
caused her to stumble. Betty, who was racing beside her, just managed
to save her chum from a bad fall. All the girls were running—running
as though their lives depended on their speed. Luckily they wore
short, walking skirts, which did not hinder free movement, and they
really made good speed.
[Illustration: THE BEAR STOPPED SHORT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.]
They crossed the road and plunged into the underbrush, crashing through
it in very terror. They clung to their small suitcases instinctively.
Then suddenly, as they ran on, there came the clear notes of a bugle in
an army call. Betty recalled something.
"Stop, girls!" she cried.
"What, with that bear after us?" wailed Grace. "Never!"
"It's all right—I tell you it's all right!" went on Betty.
"Oh, she's lost her mind! She's so frightened she doesn't know what she
is saying!" exclaimed Mollie. "Oh, poor Betty!"
"Silly! Stop, I tell you. That bear—"
Again came the notes of the bugle, and then the girls, looking through
the fringe of trees at the road, saw a man with a red jacket, and wearing
a hat in which was a long feather, come along, and grasp a chain that
dangled from the leather muzzle which they had failed to notice on the
"It's a tame bear!" cried Betty. "That's what I meant. He won't harm us.
Come on back to the road! Oh, I've torn my skirt!" and she gazed ruefully
at a rent in the garment.
The girls hesitated a moment, and then, understanding the situation, and
being encouraged by the fact that the man now had his bear in charge,
also seeing another man, evidently the mate of the first, approaching
with a second bear, they all went back to the highway. The bugle blew
again, and one of the bears, at a command from the man, turned a clumsy
Grace burst into hysterical laughter, in which she was joined by
"Weren't we silly!" exclaimed Mollie.
"Oh, but it looked just like a real bear!" gasped Amy in self-defense.
"Listen to her," said Betty. "A real bear—why, of course it is. Did you
think it was the Teddy variety?"
"Oh, you know what I mean," spoke Amy, "I thought it was a wild bear."
"It probably was—once," remarked Grace.
They were all out in the road now, and the two men, with the bears, were
slowly approaching. Evidently the foremost man had seen the precipitate
flight of the girls, so, taking off his hat, and bowing with foreign
politeness, he said:
"Excuse—please. Juno him get away from me—I chase after—I catch.
"That's all right," said Betty, pleasantly. "We were frightened for
"Verra sorry. Juno made the dance for the ladies!"
He blew some notes on a battered brass horn, and began some foreign
words in a sing-song tone, at which the bear moved clumsily about on its
"Juno—kiss!" the man cried.
The great shaggy creature extended its muzzle toward the man's face,
touching his cheek.
"Excuse—please," said the bear-trainer, smiling.
"Come on girls," suggested Amy. The place was rather a lonely one, though
there were houses just beyond, and the two men, in spite of their bows,
did not seem very prepossessing.
With hearts that beat rapidly from their recent flight and excitement,
the girls passed the bears, the men both taking off their hats and
bowing. Then the strange company was lost to sight down a turn in the
road, the notes of the bugles coming faintly to the girls.
"Gracious! That was an adventure!" exclaimed Mollie.
"I thought I should faint," breathed Amy.
"Have a chocolate—do," urged Grace.
"They're nourishing," and she held out some.
"Girls, we must hurry," spoke Betty, "or we'll never get to Broxton
before the rain. Hurry along!"
They walked fast, passing through the little village of Chanceford,
where they attracted considerable attention. It was not every day
that four such pretty, and smartly-attired, girls were seen on the
village main street—the only thoroughfare, by the way. Then they
came to the open country again. They had been going along at a good
pace, and were practically certain of reaching Grace's sister's house
in time for supper.
"It's raining!" suddenly exclaimed Betty, holding up her hand to
A drop splashed on it. Then another. Amy looked up into the clouds
"Oh!" she cried. "A drop fell in my eye."
Then with a suddenness that was surprising, the shower came down hard.
Little dark spots mottled the white dust of the road.
"Run!" cried Mollie. "There's a house. We can stay on the porch until the
rain passes. The people won't mind."
A little in advance, enclosed with a neat red fence, and setting back
some distance from the road was a large, white house, with green
shutters. The windows in front were open, as was the front door, and
from one casement a lace curtain flapped in the wind.
"Run! Run! We'll be drenched!" cried Grace, thinking of her new walking
suit. Without more ado the girls hurried through the gate, up the gravel
walk and got to the porch just as the rain reached its maximum. It was
coming down now in a veritable torrent.
"Queer the people here don't shut their door," remarked Betty.
"And see, the rain is coming in the parlor window," added Amy.
"Maybe they don't know it," suggested Grace. "Oh, the wind is blowing the
rain right in on us!" she cried.
"I wonder if it would be impertinent to walk in?" suggested Mollie.
"We at least can knock and ask—they won't refuse," said Betty. "And
really, with the wind this way, the porch is no protection at all."
She rapped on the open door. There was no response and she tapped
again—louder, to make it heard above the noise of the storm.
"That's queer—maybe no one is at home," said Grace.
"They would hardly go off and leave the house all open, when it looked so
much like rain," declared Amy. "Suppose we call to them? Maybe they are
The girls were now getting so wet that they decided not to stand on
ceremony. They went into the hall, through the front door. There was a
parlor on one side, and evidently a sitting room on the other side of the
"See that rain coming in on the curtains and carpets!" cried Betty.
"Girls, we must close the windows," and she darted into the parlor.
The others followed her example, and soon the house was closed against
Breathless the girls waited for some sign or evidence of life in the
house. There was none. The place was silent, the only sound being the
patter of the rain and the sighing of the wind. The girls looked at each
other. Then Betty spoke:
"I don't believe there's a soul here!" she exclaimed. "Not a soul! The
house is deserted!"
"No one here? What do you mean?"
"Betty Nelson, what a strange thing to say!"
"Of course there must be some one here. They're only upstairs, maybe,
shutting the windows there."
Thus spoke Mollie, Grace and Amy in turn. Betty listened patiently, and
"Just hearken for a minute, and see if you think anyone is upstairs
Then all listened intently. There was not a sound save that caused by the
storm, which seemed to increase in fury instead of diminishing.
"There is no one here," went on Betty positively. "We are all alone in
"But where can the people be?" asked Grace. "They must be people living
here," and she looked around at the well-kept, if somewhat
"Of course the house is lived in—and the people must have left it only
recently," said Betty. "That's evident."
"Why did they go off and leave it?" asked Mollie.
"That's the mystery of it," admitted Betty. "It's like the mystery of the
five hundred dollar bill. We've got to solve it."
"Perhaps—" began Amy in a gentle voice.
"Well?" asked Betty encouragingly.
"Maybe the lady was upstairs shutting the windows when she saw the storm
coming, and she fell, or fainted or something like that."
"That's so!" exclaimed Mollie.
"We'll look," decided Betty.
"Betty!" chorused Grace and Amy.
"Why not?" the Little Captain challenged. "We've got to get at the
bottom of this."
"But suppose we should find her—find some one up there in a—faint," and
Amy motioned toward the upper rooms.
"All the more reason for helping them," said practical Betty. "They may
need help. Come on!"
The girls left their things in the hall, and, rather timidly, it must be
confessed, ascended the stairs. But they need not have been afraid of
seeing some startling sight. The upper chambers were as deserted as the
rooms below. In short, a careful examination throughout the house failed
to disclose a living creature, save a big Maltese cat which purred and
rubbed in friendly fashion against the girls.
"The house is deserted!" declared Betty again. "We are in sole and
undisputed possession, girls. We're in charge!"
"For how long?" asked Amy.
"Until this storm is over, anyhow. We can't go out in that downpour," and
Betty glanced toward the window against which the rain was dashing
furiously. "We must close down the sashes here, too!" she exclaimed, for
one or two were open, and the water was beating in.
"What can have happened?" murmured Mollie. "Isn't it strange?"
"I've no doubt it can be explained simply," said Betty. "The woman who
lives here may have gone to a neighbor's house and failed to notice the
time. Then she may be storm-bound, as we are."
"No woman would remain at a neighbor's house, and leave her own alone,
with a lot of windows up, the front door open and a beating rain coming
down," said Grace, positively. "Not such a neat housekeeper as the woman
here seems to be; she'd come home if she was drenched," and she glanced
around the well-ordered rooms.
"You've got to think up a different reason than that, Betty Nelson."
"Besides, what of the men folks?—there are men living here—at least
one, for there's a hat on the front rack," put in Amy. "Where are the
men, or the man?"
"They'll be along at supper time," declared Betty.
"Besides, maybe that hat is just kept there to scare tramps," said Grace.
"I've often heard of a lone woman borrowing a man's hat—when she didn't
have—didn't want, or couldn't get a man."
"That's so," admitted Betty. "But, speaking of supper reminds me—what
are we going to do about ours?"
"It is getting nearly time," murmured Mollie. "But we simply can't tramp
through that rain to your sister's house, Grace."
"No, we'll have to wait. Oh, dear! Isn't this a queer predicament to be
in, and not a chocolate left?" she wailed, as she looked in the box.
"Empty!" she cried quite tragically.
The rain still descended. It was not, for the moment, pouring as hard as
at first, but there was a steadiness and persistency to it that did not
encourage one in the belief that it would soon stop. The big drops dashed
against the windows intermittently, as the wind rose and fell.
Around one angle of the house the gale howled quite fiercely, and in the
parlor, where there was an open fireplace, it came down in gusts, sighing
mournfully out into the room, with its old horsehair furniture, the
pictures of evidently dead-and-gone relatives, in heavy gold frames,
while in other frames were fearfully and wonderfully made wreaths of
flowers—wax in some cases, and cloth in the remainder, being the medium
in which nature was rather mocked than simulated.
The girls stood at the windows, staring drearily out. They could just see
a house down the road on the other side. In the other direction no
residences were visible—just an expanse of rain-swept fields. And there
seemed to be no passers-by—no teams on the winding country road.
"Oh, but this is lonesome," said Amy, with a sigh.
"Girls, what are we to do?" demanded Mollie.
"We simply must go on to my sister's," declared Grace. "What will she
think, if we don't come?"
As if in answer, the storm burst into another spasm of fury, the
rain coming down in "sheets, blankets and pillow cases," as Mollie
grimly put it.
"We can never go—in this downpour," declared Betty. "It would be sheer
madness—foolishness, at any rate. We would be drenched in an instant,
and perhaps take cold."
"If there was only some way to let your sister know," spoke Mollie. "I
wonder if there's a telephone?"
It needed but a little survey to disclose that there was none.
"If we could only see someone—send for a covered carriage, or send some
word—" began Amy.
"Oh, well, for the matter of my sister worrying, that doesn't amount to
much," interrupted Grace. "When I wrote I told her it was not exactly
certain just what day we would arrive, as I thought we might spend more
time in some places than in others. That part is all right. What's
worrying me is that we can't get to any place to spend the night—we
can't have any supper—we—"
"Girls!" cried Betty, with sudden resolve, "there is only one
thing to do!"
"What's that?" the others chorused.
"Stay here. We'll get supper here—there must be food in the house. If
the people come back we'll ask them to keep us over night—there's
"And if they don't come?" asked Amy, shivering a little.
"Then we'll stay anyhow!" cried the Little Captain. "We are in charge and
we can't desert now."
That Betty's suggestion was the most sensible one which could have been
made they were all willing to admit when they had thought of it for a
"Of course it is possible for us to go out in this storm, and tramp on to
Broxton," said Betty. "But would it be wise?"
"Indeed not!" exclaimed Grace, as she glanced down at her trim suit,
which the little wetting received in the dash to the house had not
spoiled. "If we were boys we might do it, but, as it is—"
"I won't admit that we can't do it because we are not boys," said
Betty. "Only just—"
"Only we're just not going out in this storm!" said Mollie, decidedly.
"We'll stay here, and if the people come back, and make a fuss, we'll
pay, just as we would at a hotel. They won't be mean enough to turn us
out, I think."
"We'll stay—and get supper," cried Betty. "Come on, I'm getting
hungrier every minute!"
"If the people do come," remarked Amy, "they ought to allow us something
for taking care of their house—I mean if they attempt to charge us as a
hotel would, we can tell them how we shut the windows—"
"At so much per window," laughed Mollie. "Oh, you are the queerest girl!"
and she hugged her.
"Well, let's get supper," proposed Betty again. "It will soon be dark,
and it isn't easy going about a strange house in the dark."
"There are lamps," said Mollie, pointing to several on a shelf in
"Oh, I didn't exactly mean that," went on Betty, rolling up her sleeves.
"Now to see what's in the ice box—at least, I suppose there is an ice
box. There's a fire in the stove, and we can cook. Oh, girls! It's going
to be real jolly after all!"
"And how it does rain!" exclaimed Amy. "We never could have gone on in
this drenching downpour."
It was an exceedingly well-ordered house, and the girls, who had been
wisely trained at home, had no difficulty in locating an ample supply of
food. They invaded the cellar, and found plenty of canned fruit, tomatoes
and other things. There were hams, shoulders of bacon, eggs, and some
fresh meat. Great loaves of evidently home-made bread were in the pantry.
"We shall dine like kings!" cried Grace.
"Better than some kings," said Betty. "Only I don't see any chocolates,
Grace," and she laughed.
"Smarty!" was the other's retort, but she laughed also.
Such a jolly meal as it was! The girls, once they had decided in their
minds to make the best of a queer situation, felt more at home. They
laughed and joked, and when supper was over, the dishes washed, and the
lamps lighted, they gathered in the old-fashioned parlor, and Betty
played on a melodeon that gave forth rather doleful sounds.
However, she managed to extract some music from its yellowed keys, and
the girls sang some simple little part-songs.
"Too bad we haven't an audience," murmured Grace, as they ended up with
"My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."
"The rain is audience enough," spoke Mollie. "As for someone's Bonnie
lying over the ocean—the yard is a perfect lake!" she went on,
looking from the window.
"It would have been foolish to go on," said Betty. "I am glad we have
such a comfortable place."
And comfortable it certainly was. The house, while a typical country
residence, was very convenient and well ordered. Careful people lived in
it—that was easy to see. And as the rain pelted down, the girls sat
about, the cat purring contentedly near them, and a cheerful fire burning
on the hearth in the parlor.
"I hope they won't make a fuss about the liberties we are taking," said
Mollie, putting some extra sticks on the blaze. "Some persons never open
their parlors in the country."
"These people don't seem of that sort," said Amy. "At least, the parlor
was open enough when we closed the windows."
"And how it rains!" murmured Grace, with a little nervous shiver.
"Suppose the people come back in the middle of the night?" asked Mollie.
"They'll think we are burglars."
"We must leave a light burning," decided Betty, "and a note near it
explaining why we came in and that we are asleep upstairs. Then they
That was decided on as the best plan, and it was carried out. The girls
went to bed, but it was some time before they got to sleep, though
finally the steady fall of rain wooed them to slumber. No one entered
during the night, and the morning came, still retaining the rain.
"Will it ever clear?" asked Mollie, hopelessly.
"The wind is changing," spoke Betty. "I think we can soon start."
"But can we go away and leave the house alone?" asked Amy. "Ought we not
to stay until the owners come back?"
"How can we tell when they will come back?" demanded Grace. "Besides, I
must let my sister know why we were detained."
"I suppose we will have to go on," said Betty. "If the persons living
here didn't care about deserting their place we ought not to."
"But what will they think when they come in and see that someone has been
here?" asked Mollie.
"We must leave a note explaining, and also some money for the food
we took," decided Betty. "Or we can stop at the next house and tell
how it was."
They debated these two plans for some time, finally deciding on part of
both. That is, they would leave a note and a sum of money that they
figured would pay for what they had eaten. They made no deduction for
closing the windows against the rain. They would also stop at the
nearest house and explain matters to the residents there, asking them to
communicate with the occupants of the deserted house.
When this point had been reached, and when the note had been written, and
wrapped around the money, being placed in a conspicuous place in the
front hall, the girls were ready to leave.
The rain had slackened, and there was a promise of fair weather.
Breakfast had been partaken of, and the dishes washed. The house was as
nearly like it had been as was possible to leave it.
"Well, let's start," proposed Grace.
They went towards the front door, and as they opened it they saw
advancing up the walk a lady with a large umbrella, a large carpet bag,
wearing a large bonnet and enveloped in the folds of a large shawl. She
walked with determined steps and as she came on she glanced toward the
house. As she saw the four girls on the porch she quickened her pace.
"Girls, we're relieved," said Betty, in a low voice. "Here comes the
owner, or I'm much mistaken!"
A LITTLE LOST GIRL
"What are you doing here? Who are you? How long have you been here? Is
Mrs. Black in there?"
These questions were fairly shot at the girls, who stood in rather
embarrassed silence on the porch. The sun was now breaking through the
clouds in warm splendor, and they took this for a good omen.
"Well, why don't you answer?" demanded the rather aggressive woman. "I
can't see what you are doing here!"
She stuck her umbrella in the soft earth along the graveled walk.
"We—we came in to shut the windows," said Amy, gently.
A change came over the woman's face. She frowned—she smiled. She turned
about and looked toward the nearest house. Then she spoke.
"Do you mean to tell me," she demanded, "that after I called her on the
telephone, Martha Black didn't come over, shut my windows, lock up my
house, and feed the cat? Didn't she?"
"We don't know. I'm afraid we don't know Mrs. Black," answered Betty. She
was getting control of herself now. The aggressive woman had rather
startled her at first.
"She lives down there," and the owner of the deserted house pointed
toward the nearest residence.
"No one is here but us," said Betty. "We closed the windows, and we fed
the cat. We also fed ourselves, but we left the money to pay for it.
Shall I get it?"
The woman stared at her blankly.
"I—I'm afraid I don't understand," she returned, weakly.
"I'll explain," said Betty, and she did, telling how they had come in
for shelter from the storm, how they had found the windows open, how
they had closed up the place and had eaten and slept in it. Now they
were going away.
"Well if that doesn't beat all!" cried the woman, in wonder.
"We couldn't understand how no one was at home," went on Betty.
"Well, it's easy enough explained," said the woman. "I'm Mrs. Kate
Robertson. Yesterday afternoon I got a telephone message from Kirkville,
saying my husband, who works in the plaster mill there, was hurt. Of
course that flustered me. Hiram Boggs brought the message. Of course you
don't know him."
"No," answered Betty, as Mrs. Robertson paused for breath.
"Well, I was flustered, of course, naturally," went on the large lady. "I
just rushed out as I was, got into Hiram Bogg's rig—he drives good
horses, I will say that for him—I got in with him, just as I was, though
I will say I had all my housework done and was thinking what to get for
supper. I got in with Hiram, and made him drive me to the depot. I knew I
just had time to get the three-thirty-seven train. And I got it. And me
with only such things as I could grab up," she added, with a glance at
her attire, which, though old fashioned, was neat.
"On my way to the station," she resumed, "I stopped at the drug store,
telephoned to Martha Black, and asked her to run over and close up my
house, for it looked like a storm."
"It did rain," put in Mollie.
"I should say it did. And Martha never closed my house?" It was a
"No, we did," said Betty. "Probably she forgot it."
"I'll have to see. Well, anyhow, when I got to my husband I found he
wasn't much hurt after all. Still I stayed over night with him, as there
wasn't a train back. And when I saw you girls on my porch I couldn't
think what had happened. Are you a Votes for Women crowd?"
"No," said Betty. "We're a walking club."
"All right. Now, then, I'll see why Martha didn't come over. I can't
"Perhaps this is she now," said Betty, as another woman was seen coming
up the walk.
"It is," said Mrs. Robertson. "That's Martha Black."
The two met. There was much talk, of which the girls caught some, and
then the explanation came. Mrs. Black had started to come over to Mrs.
Robertson's house to close the windows as she saw the rain, but, pausing
to attend to some household duties, she was a little late. Then she
looked over and saw the sashes shut down, and thought that Mrs. Robertson
had come back to attend to them herself. As the storm kept up, she did
not have a chance to call, and only on seeing Mrs. Robertson arrive did
she suspect anything wrong. Meanwhile the girls had been in charge, but
Mrs. Black was not aware of it.
"Well, I must say I thank you," said Mrs. Robertson, to Betty and her
chums. "And as for me taking your money, I'd never dream of it! Won't you
stay to dinner?"
"We must be off," replied Betty, and soon, after more talk and
explanations, and the return of the money left by the girls in the hall,
the travelers were on their way once more.
"Well, I must say, they were neat and clean," observed Mrs. Robertson, as
she went through her house. "Real nice girls."
But Betty and her chums did not hear this compliment. They went on to
visit the sister of Grace, who was not greatly alarmed at their delay,
though she was amused at the narrative of their experience. They remained
there over night, and the next day went on to Simpson's Corners, where
they were the guests of Betty's uncle. This was a typical country
settlement, and the girls only remained one night. Their next stopping
place was to be Flatbush, where Mollie's aunt lived.
The weather was fine now, after the storm, and the roads pleasant through
the country. The grass was greener than ever, the trees fully in leaf,
and there were many birds to be heard singing.
Save for minor adventures, such as getting on the wrong road once or
twice, and meeting a herd of cattle, which did them no harm, nothing of
moment occurred to the girls on their trip toward Flatbush.
They had stopped for lunch in the little village of Mooretown, eating at
the roadside, under some great oak trees, and making chocolate instead of
tea for a change. Then came a rest period before they went forward again.
They were within two miles of their destination, going along a peaceful
country road, arched with shady trees, and running parallel for a
distance with a little river, when Betty paused and called:
"Hark! Listen! Someone is crying!"
"Gracious, I hope it isn't the twins!" exclaimed Mollie.
"Out here? Never!" said Grace.
The crying increased, and then they all saw a little girl sitting on a
stone under a tree, sobbing as if her heart would break. Betty hurried up
to the tot.
"What is the matter?" she asked, pillowing the tousled yellow head
on her arm.
"I—I'se losted!" sobbed the little girl "P'ease take me home!
THE BOY PEDDLER
"What are we to do?" asked Amy, in dismay.
"We can't leave her here," added Mollie, and at the word "leave" the
child broke into a fresh burst of tears.
"I'se losted!" she sobbed. "I don't got no home! I tan't find muvver!
Don't go 'way!"
"Bless your heart, we won't," consoled Betty, still smoothing the tousled
hair. "We'll take you home. Which way do you live?"
"Dat way," answered the child, pointing in the direction from which the
girls had come.
"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Grace. "Have we got to go all the way back again?"
"Me live dere too!" exclaimed the lost child, indicating with one chubby
finger the other direction.
"Gracious! Can she live in two places at once?" cried Mollie.
"What a child!"
"She can't mean that," said Betty. "Probably she is confused, and
doesn't know what she is saying."
"Me do know!" came from the tot, positively. She had stopped sobbing now,
and appeared interested in the girls. "Mamma Carrie live dat way, mamma
Mary live dat way," and in quick succession she pointed first in one
direction and then the other.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Amy. "It's getting worse and worse!"
"You can't have two mammas, you know," said Betty, gently. "Try and tell
us right dearie, and we'll take you home."
"I dot two mammas," announced the child, positively. "Mamma Carrie live
down there, mamma Mary live off there. I be at mamma Carrie's house, and
I turn back, den I get losted. Take me home!"
She seemed on the verge of tears again.
"Here!" exclaimed Grace, in desperation. "Have a candy—do—two of them.
But don't cry. She reminds me of the twins," she added, with just the
suspicion of moisture in her own eyes. The lost child gravely accepted
two chocolates, one in each hand, and at once proceeded to get about as
much on the outside of her face as went in her mouth. She seemed more
"I can't understand it," sighed Mollie. "Two mothers! Who ever heard of
such a thing?"
"Me got two muvvers," said the child, calmly, as she took a bite first of
the chocolate in her left hand, and then a nibble from the one in the
right. "One live dat way—one live udder way."
"What can she be driving at?" asked Amy.
"There must be some explanation," said Betty, as she got up from the
stump on which she had been sitting, and placed the child on the ground.
"We'll take her a little distance on the way we are going," she went on.
"Perhaps we may meet someone looking for her."
"And we can't delay too long," added Mollie. "It will soon be supper
time, and my aunt, where we are going to stay to-night, is quite a
fusser. I sent her a card, saying we'd be there, and if we don't arrive
she may call up our houses on the telephone, and imagine that all sorts
of accidents have befallen us."
"But we can't leave her all alone on the road," spoke Betty, indicating
"Don't 'eeve me!" pleaded the lost tot. "Me want one of my muvvers!"
"It's getting worse and worse," sighed Mollie, wanting to laugh, but not
Slowly the girls proceeded in the direction they had been going. They
hoped they might meet someone who either would be looking for the child,
or else a traveler who could direct them properly to her house, or who
might even assume charge of the little one. For it was getting late and
the girls did not feel like spending the night in some strange place. It
was practically out of the question.
They were going along, Betty holding one of the child's hands, the
other small fist tightly clutching some sticky chocolates, when a turn
of the road brought the outdoor girls in sight of a lad who was seated
on a roadside rock, tying a couple of rags around his left foot, which
Beside the boy, on the ground, was a pack such as country peddlers often
carry. The lad seemed in pain, for as the girls approached, their
footfalls deadened by the soft dust of the road, they heard him murmur:
"Ouch! That sure does hurt! It's a bad cut, all right, and I don't see,
Jimmie Martin, how you're going to do much walking! Why couldn't you look
where you were going, and not step on that piece of glass?"
He seemed to be finding fault with himself.
"Gracious!" exclaimed Mollie. "I hope this isn't another lost one. We
seem to be getting the habit."
"He appears able to look after himself," said Amy.
The boy heard their voices and looked up quickly. Then, after a glance at
them, he went on binding up his foot. But at the sight of him the little
"Oh, it's Dimmie! Dat's my Dimmie! He take me to my two muvvers!" She
broke away from Betty and ran toward the boy peddler.
"Why, it's Nellie Burton!" the lad exclaimed. "Whatever are you
"I'se losted!" announced the child, as though it was the greatest fun in
the world. "I'se losted, and dey found me, but dey don't know where my
two muvvers is. 'Oo take me home, Dimmie."
"Of course I will, Nellie. That is, if I can walk."
"Did oo hurt oo's foot?"
"Yes, Nellie. I stepped on a piece of glass, and it went right through my
shoe. But it's stopped bleeding now."
"Do you know this little girl?" asked Betty. "We found her down the road,
but she can't seem to tell us where she lives. First she points in one
direction and then the other, and—"
"And we can't understand about her two mothers," broke in Mollie. "Do,
please, if you can, straighten it out. Do you know her?"
"Yes, ma'am," answered the boy peddler, and his voice was pleasant. He
took off a rather ragged cap politely, and stood up on one foot, resting
the cut one on the rock. "She's Nellie Burton, and she lives about a
mile down that way," and he pointed in the direction from which the
girls had come.
"I live dere sometimes," spoke the child, "and sometimes down dere," and
she indicated two directions. "I dot two muvvers."
"What in the world does she mean?" asked Mollie, hopelessly.
"That's what she always says," spoke the boy. "She calls one of her aunts
her mamma—it's her mother's sister, you see. She lives about a mile from
Nellie's house, and Nellie spends about as much time at one place as she
does at the other. She always says she has two mothers."
"I has" announced the child, calmly, accepting another chocolate
"And you know Nellie?" asked Betty, pointedly.
"Yes," said the boy. "You see, I work through this part of the country. I
peddle writing paper, pens, pins, needles and notions," he added,
motioning to his pack. "I often stop at Nellie's house, and at her
aunt's, too. They're my regular customers," he added, proudly, and with
a proper regard for his humble calling.
"I'm doing pretty well, too," he went on. "I've got a good trade, and I'm
thinking of adding to it. I'll take little Nellie back home for you," he
offered. "I'm going that way. Sometimes, when I'm late, as I am to-day,
her mother keeps me over night."
"That's nice," said Betty. "We really didn't know what to do with her,
and we ought to be in Flatbush at my friend's aunt's house," and she
indicated Mollie. "Will you go with your little friend?" Betty asked of
"Me go wif Dimmie," was the answer, confidently given. "Dimmie know
where I live."
"But can you walk?" asked Amy, as they all noticed that the boy's foot
was quite badly cut.
"Oh, I guess I can limp, if I can't walk," he said, bravely. "If I
had a bandage I might tie it up so I could put on my shoe. Then I'd
be all right."
"Let me fix it," exclaimed Betty, impulsively. "I know something about
bandaging, and we have some cloth and ointment with us. I'll bandage up
"Oh, I couldn't think of troubling you!" he protested. "I—I guess I
can do it," but he winced with pain as he accidentally hit his foot on
"Now you just let me do it!" insisted the Little Captain. "You really
must, and you will have to walk to take Nellie home. That will be
something off our minds."
"Maybe we can get a lift," suggested the boy. "Often the farmers let me
ride with them. There may be one along soon."
"Let us hope so—for your sake as well as Nellie's," spoke Grace. "It's
really kind of you, and quite providential that we met you."
"Yes, ma'am," replied the boy, looking from one pretty girl to the other.
"I'll take care of Nellie. I've known her for some time, you see. I
peddle around here a lot. My father's dead, I haven't got any relatives
except a sick aunt that I go to see once in a while, and I'm in business
"You are quite a little soldier," complimented Betty, as she got out the
bandages and salve. "You are very brave."
"Oh, I haven't got any kick coming," he answered, with a laugh. "Of
course, this cut foot will make me travel slow for a while, and I can't
get to all my customers on time. But I guess they'll save their trade for
me—the regulars will.
"I might be worse off," the lad continued, after a pause. "I might be in
as bad a hole as that fellow I saw on the train not long ago."
"How was that?" asked Betty, more for the sake of saying something
rather than because she was interested. The boy himself had carefully
washed out the cut at a roadside spring, and as it was clean, the girl
applied the salve and was; skillfully wrapping the bandage around the
wound. "What man was that?" she added.
"Why," said the boy, "I had a long jump to make from one town to another,
and, as there weren't any customers between, I rode in the train. The
only other passenger in our car was a young fellow, asleep. All of a
sudden he woke up in his seat, and begun hunting all through his pockets.
First I thought he had lost his ticket, for he kept hollerin', 'It's
gone! I've lost it! My last hope!' and all things like that. I was goin'
to ask him what it was, when he shouted, 'My five hundred dollar bill is
gone! and out of the car he ran, hoppin' off the train, which was
slowin' up at a station. That was tough luck, losin' five hundred
dollars. Of course I couldn't do it, for I never had it," the boy added,
philosophically, as he watched Betty adjusting the bandage.
The effect of the boy's words on the girls was electrical. Betty paused
midway in her first-aid work and stared at him. Grace, who had,
unconsciously perhaps, been eating some of her chocolates, dropped one
half consumed. Amy looked at Betty to see what the Little Captain would
do. Mollie murmured something in French; just what does not matter.
"Did—did he really lose a five hundred dollar bill?" faltered Betty, as
she resumed her bandaging, but her hands trembled in spite of herself.
"Well, that's what he said," replied the boy. "He sure did make an awful
fuss about it. I thought he was crazy at first, and when he ran and
jumped off the train I was sure of it."
"Did he get hurt?" asked Amy, breathlessly.
"No, ma'am, not as I could see. The train was slowing up at a station,
you know. I think it was Batesville, but I'm not sure."
"That's the next station beyond Deepdale," murmured Grace.
"What's that, ma'am?" asked the boy, respectfully.
"Oh, nothing. We just know where it is, that's all. A five hundred dollar
bill! Fancy!" She glanced meaningly at her companions.
"Well, that's what he hollered," said the boy. "And he was real
"Did you know him?" asked Betty, as she finished with the bandage.
"Never saw him before nor since. It was quite some time ago. I'd just
bought a new line of goods. Anyhow, I'm glad it wasn't me. I couldn't
afford to lose many five hundred dollar bills," and he laughed frankly.
"That's about as much as I make in a year—I mean, altogether," he said,
quickly, lest the girls get an exaggerated notion of the peddling
business. "I can't make that clear, though I hope to some time," he
"Me want to go home," broke in little Nellie. "Me want my muvvers."
"All right, I'll take you to your real mother," spoke the boy peddler. "I
guess I can walk now, thank you," he said to Betty. "Couldn't I give you
something—some letter paper—a pencil. I've got a nice line of pencils,"
he motioned toward his pack.
"Oh, no, thank you!" exclaimed Mollie.
"We are only too glad to help you," added Betty. "You have done us a
service in looking after the little girl."
"To say nothing of the five hundred dollar bill," added Grace, in
a low tone.
"Hush!" cautioned Betty, in a whisper. "Don't let him know anything
"And you are sure you wouldn't know that man again?" asked Mollie. "I
mean the one you spoke of?"
"Well, I'd know him if I saw him, but I'm not likely to. He was tall and
good looking, with a little black mustache. He got out of the train in a
hurry when he woke up. You see, he was sitting with his window open—it
was very hot—he fell asleep. I noticed him tossing around in his seat,
and every once in a while he would feel in his pocket. Then he hollered."
"Maybe someone robbed him," suggested Betty, yet in her heart she knew
the bill she had found must belong to this unknown young man—the very
man to whom they had once given something to eat.
"No one was in the car but him and me," said the boy, "and I know I
didn't get it. Maybe he didn't have it—or maybe it fell out of the
window. Anyhow, he cut up an awful row and rushed out. He might have
"Me want to go home!" whined Nellie.
"All right—I'll take you," spoke the boy. "I can walk fine now. Thank
you very much," and he pulled on his shoe, gingerly enough, for the cut
was no small one. Then, shouldering his pack, and taking hold of Nellie's
hand—one having been refilled with chocolates by Grace—the boy peddler
moved off down the road limping, the girls calling out good-bys to him.
"I hope it's all right—to let that child go off with him," said Mollie.
"Of course it is," declared Betty. "That boy had the nicest, cleanest
face I've ever seen. And he must suffer from that cut."
"Oh, I think it will be all right," said Amy. "You could trust that boy."
"I agree with you," remarked Grace. "Fancy him seeing the man lose the
five hundred dollar bill we found!" she added.
"Do you think it's the same one?" asked Betty.
"I'm sure of it," said Mollie.
"I guess I am too," admitted the Little Captain. "He was the tramp. Now I
will know what to do."
"What?" chorused her chums.
"Let the railroad company know about it. They must have had some
inquiries. I never thought of that before. Look, he is waving to us."
"And little Nellie, too," added Grace. The boy and the little lost girl
had reached a turn in the road. They looked back to send a voiceless
farewell, the child holding trustingly to the boy's hand.
"Come on!" exclaimed Mollie, as the two passed from sight. "We'll hardly
get to my aunt's in time for supper."
And they hastened on.
Somewhat to their relief they learned, on reaching the home of Mrs.
Mulford, in Flatbush—Mrs. Mulford being Mollie's aunt—that the boy
peddler was quite a well-known and much-liked local character. He was
thoroughly honest, and could be trusted implicitly. Some time later the
girls learned from Mollie's aunt that the little lost tot had reached
home safely, and that the boy had to remain at her house for a week to
recover from the cut on his foot.
The mother of the lost child took quite an interest in Jimmie Martin, the
boy peddler, and looked after him, so the news came to Mrs. Mulford, who
had friends acquainted with the parents of the child who insisted she had
So that little incident ended happily, and once more the outdoor girls
were left to pursue their way as they had started out. They stayed a day
with Mollie's aunt, a rain preventing comfortable progress, and when it
cleared they went on to Hightown, where they stopped with Grace's cousin.
"And now for the camp!" exclaimed Betty, one morning, when they were
headed for Cameron, where a half-brother of Mr. Ford maintained a sort of
resort, containing bungalows, and tents, that he rented out. It was near
a little lake, and was a favorite place in summer, though the season was
too early for the regulars to be there. Mr. Ford had written to Harry
Smith, his half-brother, and arranged for the girls to occupy one of the
bungalows for several days. Mrs. Smith agreed to come and stay with them
"Though we don't really need a chaperon," laughed Grace. "I think we can
look after ourselves."
"It will be better to have her at the bungalow," said Betty, and so it
Betty had written to the railroad company, asking if any report of a
lost sum of money had been received, and the answer she got was to
"That leaves the five hundred dollar mystery as deep as ever," she said,
showing the letter to her chums. It had reached them at Hightown.
"Maybe we should have told that boy peddler, and asked him to be on the
lookout," suggested Amy.
"No, I do not think it would have been wise to let him have the facts,"
The girls found the camp in the woods a most delightful place. The
bungalow was well arranged and furnished, and, though there were no other
campers at that time, the girls did not mind this.
"I'll write home and ask Will to come," said Grace. "He might like to
spend a few days here, and Uncle Harry said he could take a tent if
"Ask Frank Haley, too," suggested Amy.
"And Percy Falconer!" added Mollie, with a sly glance at Betty.
"Don't you dare!" came the protest.
"I meant Allen Washburn," corrected Mollie.
"He can't come—he has to take the bar examinations!" cried Betty,
"How do you know?" she was challenged.
"He wrote—" and then Betty blushed and stopped. Her companions laughed
and teased her unmercifully.
There was some mail for the girls awaiting them at Mr. Smith's house,
having been forwarded from Deepdale. And Betty's letter contained a
surprise. Among other things, her mother wrote:
"There have been some inquiries made here about the five hundred dollar
bill. Down at the post-office the other day a man came in and posted a
notice, saying he had lost such a sum of money somewhere in this part
of the country. His name is Henry Blackford, and the address is
somewhere in New York State. It was on the notice, but some mischievous
boys got to skylarking and tore it off. Your father is going to look
into the matter."
"Oh, maybe he'll find the owner of the money, after all!" cried Mollie.
"Maybe," returned Betty.
A PERILOUS LEAK
The boys came to the camp at Cameron—Will, Frank—and, as a
surprise—Allen Washburn. Betty could hardly believe it when she saw him,
but he explained that he had successfully passed his bar examinations,
and felt entitled to a vacation. Will had invited him on the receipt of
his sister's letter.
"And we'll have some dandy times!" exclaimed Will.
"What about the man looking for his five hundred dollars?" asked Grace,
for her brother and the other boys knew of the find, and also of the
notice put up in the post-office.
"No one seems to know much about him," said Will, when he had been told
of Mrs. Nelson's letter. "He hurried in, stuck up that notice, and
hurried out again. Then some kids tore off the address."
"He's crazy," affirmed Frank.
"It does seem so," admitted Will. "He asked the postmaster if anyone had
found a big sum of money, and of course Mr. Rock—slow as he always
is—didn't think about the advertisement in the Banner. He said he
didn't know of anyone picking up a fortune, and the man hurried off."
"I must write to him, if I can learn that address," said Betty.
The weather continued exceptionally fine, and life in the woods, in the
tent for the boys and the bungalow for the girls, was well-nigh ideal.
They stayed there a week, enjoying the camping novelty to the utmost. At
night they would gather around a campfire and sing. Sometimes they went
out on the lake in a small launch Mr. Smith owned.
Not far away was a resort much frequented by the summer colonists, and
though it was not yet in full swing there were some amusements opened.
These the young people enjoyed on several evenings.
"Well, I do hope my new suitcase comes tomorrow," spoke Grace, for she
had written for one to be forwarded to her, containing fresh garments.
"And I need some clothes!" cried Mollie. "This walking is harder on them
than you'd think."
Fortunately the garments came on time, and in fresh outfits the girls
prepared to bid farewell to the camp, and once more proceed on their
way. The boys begged for permission to accompany them, but Betty was firm
"We said we would make this tour all by ourselves," she declared, "and we
are going to do it. Some other time you boys may come along. But there is
only another day or so, and we will be back home. Please don't tease."
The boys did, but that was all the good it availed them. The girls
From Cameron they were to go to Judgeville, a thriving town of about ten
thousand inhabitants. Betty's cousin lived there, and had planned a round
of gaieties for her young relative and friends. They were to stay three
days, and from there would keep on to Deepdale, thus completing the
circuit they had mapped out.
So far they had been very fortunate, not much rain coming to interfere
with their progress. The morning they were to leave camp, however, the
weather changed, and for three miserable days they were compelled to
remain in the bungalow.
Not that they stayed indoors all the while, for the travelers fully
merited the title, "Outdoor Girls," and they lived up to it. They tramped
even in the rain, and managed to have a good time.
But the rain sent the boys home, for rain in a tent is most depressing,
and as all the other bungalows were being repaired, they could not live
in one with any comfort.
But finally the sun came out, and the girls really set off on almost the
last stage of their tour. They expected to be in Judgeville at night,
though the walk was about the longest they had planned for any one day.
Shortly before noon their way took them along a highway that paralleled
the railroad—the same line that ran to Deepdale. And, naturally, the
talk turned to the finding of the five hundred dollar bill.
"Do you suppose we'll ever find the owner?" asked Mollie.
"Of course we will!" exclaimed Betty. "It is only a question of time."
Once or twice Amy looked back down the railroad track, and Grace,
noticing this, in the intervals of eating chocolate, finally asked:
"What is it, Amy?"
"That man," replied the quiet girl. "He's been following us for
"Following us!" cried Betty. "What do you mean?"
"I mean walking along the railroad track back of us."
"Well, that may not mean he is following us. Probably he wants to get
somewhere, and the track is the shortest route."
"He's looking down as though searching for something," said Mollie.
"Maybe he's a track-walker," suggested Amy.
"No, he isn't dressed like that," asserted Betty. She turned and looked
at the man. He seemed young, and had a clean-shaven face. He paid no
attention to the girls, but walked on, with head bent down.
"We must soon stop for lunch," proposed Mollie. "I have not left it
behind this time," and she held out the small suitcase that contained the
provisions put up that morning. "I'm just dying for a cup of chocolate!"
"We will eat soon," said Betty. "There's a nice place, just beyond that
trestle," and she pointed to a railroad bridge that crossed a small but
deep stream, the highway passing over it by another and lower structure.
As the girls hurried on, the man passed them, off to the left and high on
the railroad embankment. He gave them not a glance, but hastened on with
head bent low.
When he reached the middle of the high railroad bridge, or trestle over
the stream, he paused, stooped down and seemed to be tying his shoelace.
The girls watched him idly.
Suddenly the roar of an approaching train was heard. The man looked up,
seemed startled, and then began to run toward the end of the bridge.
It was a long structure and a high one, and, ere he had taken a dozen
steps over the ties, the train swept into sight around a curve. The road
was a single-track one, and on the narrow trestle there was no room for a
person to avoid the cars.
"He'll be killed!" cried Mollie.
Fascinated, the girls looked. On came the thundering train. The whistle
blew shrilly. The young man increased his pace, but it was easy to see
that he could not get off the bridge in time.
Realizing this, he paused. Coming to the edge of the ties on the bridge,
he poised himself for a moment, and with a glance at the approaching
locomotive, which was now whistling continuously, the man leaped into the
stream below him.
"Oh!" screamed Grace, and then she and the others looked on, almost
horrified, as the body shot downward.
[Illustration: THE MAN LEAPED INTO THE STREAM.]
THE MAN'S STORY
There was a great splash, and the man disappeared under the water. It all
occurred suddenly, and the man must have made up his mind quickly that he
had not a chance to stay on the trestle when the train passed over it.
"He'll be killed!" cried Mollie. "Oh, Betty, what can we do?"
"Nothing, if he really is killed," answered the practical Little Captain.
"But he jumped like a man who knew how to do it, and how to dive. The
water is deep there."
"Come on!" cried Amy, for once taking the initiative, and she darted
toward the bank of the stream.
"There he is!" cried Betty. "He's come up!"
As she spoke, the man's head bobbed into view, and, giving himself a
shake to rid his eyes of water, he struck out for the shore.
"Oh, he's swimming! He's swimming!" Mollie exclaimed. "We must get him a
rope—a plank—anything! We'll help you!" she called, and she ran about
The man was now swimming with long, even strokes. He seemed at home in
the water, even with his clothes on, and the long jump had evidently not
injured him in the least.
He reached the bank, climbed up, and stood dripping before the four young
"Whew!" he gasped, taking off his coat and wringing some water from it.
"That was some jump! I had to do it, though!"
"Indeed you were fortunate," said Betty. "Are you hurt?"
"Not a bit—a little shaken up, that's all. I should not have been on
that bridge, as a section hand warned me a train was due, and the trestle
is very narrow. But I was taking a short cut. Railroads seem to bring me
bad luck. This is the second time, in a little while, that I've had
trouble on this same line."
Grace was rummaging about in the valise she carried.
"Where's our alcohol stove?" she demanded, of Mollie.
"Why? What do you want of it?"
"I'm going to make him a cup of hot chocolate. He must need it;
"I'll help you," said Mollie, and the two set up the little heating
apparatus in the lee of a big rock.
"Are you sure you're not hurt?" asked Betty, anxiously.
"Oh, I'm all right," the man assured the girls. "I wish I had some dry
clothes. This is about the only suit I have. However, the sun will soon
dry them, but they'll need pressing."
"We're making you some chocolate," spoke Grace. "It will be ready soon,
and keep you from getting cold."
The man—he was young and good-looking—smiled, showing his even,
"You seemed prepared for emergencies," he said to Betty. "Are you
"Just on a walking tour. We're from Deepdale. We're going home to-morrow,
after stopping over night in Judgeville. We were just going to get our
noon-day lunch when we saw you jump."
"Indeed," remarked the young man, who was now wringing out his vest.
"From Deepdale; eh? I've been through there on the train. This line runs
there; doesn't it?" and he motioned to the one he had so hastily left.
"Yes," answered Betty. "But we never walk the track—though we did once
for a short distance."
"And we found a broken rail, and told a flagman and he said the train
might have been wrecked," remarked Amy.
It was the first she had spoken in some time. The young man looked at her
sharply—rather too long a look, Betty thought; but there was nothing
impertinent in it.
"Railroads—or, rather, this one—have been the cause of two unpleasant
experiences to me," the young man went on. "I was nearly injured just
now, and not long ago I lost quite a sum of money on this line."
At the mention of money Betty started. The others looked at her.
"How did it happen?" asked Betty, and then of a sudden she stared at the
young man. "Excuse me, but, but—haven't we met before?" she stammered.
"Sure!" he answered, readily. "You young ladies were kind enough to share
your lunch with me one day."
"Oh!" cried Mollie. "But you—you looked different then!"
"You had a mustache and long hair," murmured Amy.
"That's right, so I did. But I had my hair cut day before yesterday and
the mustache taken off. Changes me quite a lot; doesn't it?"
"Yes," replied Betty. "But you were saying something about losing money
on this line," she added, quickly.
"Well, I was on my way to New York, expecting to complete a business
deal. I fell asleep in the car, for I was quite tired, and I guess I had
been thinking pretty hard on that business matter. You see a fellow
offered me an option on a small, but good, concern, for four hundred
dollars. I knew if I could clinch the deal, and get the option, that some
friends of mine would invest in it, and I'd have a good thing for myself.
"Well, as I say, I fell asleep. Then I dreamed someone was trying to get
my pocketbook. It was a sort of nightmare, and I guess I struggled with
the dream-robber. Then, all of a sudden, I woke up, and—"
"Was your pocketbook gone?" asked Mollie.
"No, but my money was. And that was the funny part of it. How anyone
could get the money without taking the pocketbook I couldn't see.
And there wasn't anyone in the car with me but a boy—a peddler, I
think he was."
The girls looked at each other. Matters were beginning to fit together
"I didn't know what to do," the young man went on. "I didn't want to say
anything that would seem as if I accused the boy, and I felt the same
about the trainmen. I knew if I said the money had been taken and the
pocketbook left they would only laugh at me. I was all knocked out, and
hardly knew what I was doing. I jumped off the train, and went back over
the line, thinking the bill might have blown out of the window. But—"
"That is just what did happen!" cried Betty.
"What's that?" the man exclaimed, excitedly.
"I say that is exactly what happened!" went on the Little Captain. "At
least, that is how I account for it."
"What sort of a bill did you lose?" asked Mollie, trying not to
"It was one of five hundred dollars, and—"
"Did it have a—anything pinned to it?" exclaimed Betty.
"It did—a note. Wait, I can tell you what it said on it." He hesitated a
moment and then repeated word for word the writing on the note pinned to
the bill the girls had picked up. "But I don't see how you know this!" he
"We know—because we found your five hundred dollar bill!" exclaimed
The man stared at the girls as if he could not believe what Betty had
said. A strange look came over his face.
"If this is a joke, please drop it," he began. "I am almost crazy as it
is. I don't know what I am doing. I—"
"It isn't a joke!" declared Betty. "It may sound strange, but it's all
true. We did find your bill, under the railroad bridge in Deepdale. It's
in my father's safe now."
"That's great—it's fine. I'd given it up long ago. I advertised, and put
up a notice in the post-office, and—"
"Yes, my mother wrote me about it," said Betty. "But she did not give
your address, for some naughty boys tore it off the notice."
"And do you really think someone tried to rob you?" asked Mollie.
"I don't know what to think," frankly admitted the young man. "There was
a boy in the same car—"
"He never took it!" exclaimed Grace.
"How do you know?" the young man asked.
"Because we met that boy, and he told us just how you acted when you
discovered your loss. Besides, that boy is thoroughly honest."
"Say, is there anything about my case that you girls don't know?" asked
the young man with a smile. "But before I go any further, perhaps I had
better introduce myself—"
"Oh, we know your name!" exclaimed Betty.
"You do? And you never saw me before?"
"You forget that your name was signed to the notice in the
post-office—Mr. Blackford," and Betty blushed.
"That's so. But I don't know your names, and, if it's not too
impertinent, after the service you have rendered me—"
"We'll tell you—certainly," interrupted Betty, and she introduced
herself and her chums.
"I suppose you will wonder how I played the part of a tramp," said the
young man. "I will tell you why. I was almost out of my mind, and I
imagined that by going around looking ragged I might pick up some news of
my lost money from the tramps along the railroad."
Then he told of how he had started to write a letter, stating he could
not buy the business he was after, and had then torn the letter up,
because he still hoped to find the bill and get control of the business.
"And we found part of that letter," cried Betty. "We tried to find you,
too, but you had disappeared."
"Indeed. I know how that happened—I took a short cut through the woods."
"The chocolate is ready!" called Grace, a little later. "Won't you have
some, Mr. Blackford?"
"Thank you, I will. Say, but you young ladies are all right. Do you do
this sort of thing often?"
"Well, we like to be outdoors," explained Betty, as she handed him a cup
of the hot beverage. "We like to take long walks, but this is the first
time we ever went on a tour like this."
"And we've had the best time!" exclaimed Mollie.
"And such adventures," added Grace. "Will you have more chocolate?"
"No, thank you. That was fine. Now I must try and get dry. But I'm used
to this sort of thing. I'm from the West, and I've been in more than
"You have!" cried Amy, and the others knew of what she was thinking—her
own case. "I hope he didn't have the same sort of trouble I had, though,"
"Perhaps if you were to walk along your clothes would dry quicker," said
Betty. "And if you went on to Judgeville you might be able to get a
tailor to press them."
"Thanks, I believe I will. That is, if you don't mind being seen with
such a disreputable figure as I cut."
"Of course we don't mind!" declared Betty. "We are getting rather
"Our trunks will be waiting for us at your cousin's house, Betty," spoke
Grace, for it was there they were to spend the last night of their now
nearly finished tour. "We can freshen up," went on the girl who loved
candy, "and enter into town in style. I hope mamma put in my new gown and
another pair of shoes."
"Grace Ford! You don't mean that you'd put on a new dress to finish up
this walking excursion in, do you?" asked Mollie.
"Certainly I shall. We don't know who we might meet as we get into
"We will hardly get in before dusk," said Betty. "From Judgeville there
is the longest stretch of all, nearly twenty-two miles."
"Oh, dear!" groaned Grace. "We'll never do it. Why did you arrange for
such a long walk, Betty?"
"I couldn't help it. There were no other relatives available, and I
couldn't have any made to order. There was no stopping place between here
"Oh, I dare say I can stand it," murmured Grace. "But I guess I won't
wear my new shoes in that case. Twenty-two miles!"
"It is quite a stretch," said Mr. Blackford.
He helped Grace put away the alcohol stove, and the cups in which the
chocolate had been served. They were washed in the little stream, and
would be cleansed again at the house of Betty's cousin.
"You haven't asked us when we are going to give you that five hundred
dollar bill," said Mollie, as they started for Judgeville.
"Well," spoke Mr. Blackford, with a laugh, "I didn't want to seem too
anxious. I knew that it was safe where you had put it, Miss Nelson," and
he looked at Betty. "Besides, I have been without it so long now that it
seems almost as if I never had it. And from all the good it is going to
do me, perhaps I might be better off without it now."
"We didn't exactly understand what you meant by the note you wrote,"
"Well, I'll tell you how that was," he said, frankly. "You see, I was
left considerable money by a rich relative, but I had bad luck. Maybe I
didn't have a good business head, either. Anyhow, I lost sum after sum in
investments that didn't pan out, and in businesses that failed. I got
down to my last big bill, and then I heard of this little business I
could get control of in New York.
"I said I'd make that my last venture, and to remind myself how
desperate my chances were I just jotted down those words, and pinned the
note to the bill. Then I must have gotten excited in my dream. I know
just before I fell asleep I kept taking the bill out of the pocketbook,
and looking at it to make sure I had it. I might have done that while
half asleep, and it blew out of the window. That's how it probably
happened, and you girls picked up the money. I can't thank you enough.
But I'm afraid it will come to me too late to use as I had intended,"
the man went on, with a sigh.
"Why?" asked Betty.
"Because the option on the business I was going to buy expires at
midnight to-night, and as you say the five hundred dollars is in
Deepdale, I don't see how I am going to get it in time to be of
"Isn't that too bad!" cried Amy.
"And we might have brought it with us," said Mollie.
"Only we didn't think it would be wise to carry that sum with us," spoke
Grace. "And we never thought the owner of it would jump off a railroad
trestle right in front of us," she added, with a laugh.
"No, of course not," admitted Mr. Blackford, drily. "You couldn't foresee
that. Neither could I. Well, it can't be helped. Maybe it will be for the
best in the end. I'll have the five hundred, anyhow, and perhaps I can
find some other business. But I did want to get this one on which I had
the option. However, there's no help for it."
A sudden light of resolve came into Betty's eyes. She confronted the
owner of the bill.
"There's no need for you to lose your option!" she exclaimed.
"But I don't see how I can get the money in time. I might if I had an
airship; but to go to Deepdale, and then to New York with it, is out of
"No!" cried Betty. "We can do it by telegraph! I've just thought of a way
out. You can take up that option yet, Mr. Blackford!"
Betty Nelson's chums stared at her. So did Mr. Blackford. Betty herself,
with flushed cheeks and flashing eyes, looked at them all in turn. Her
idea had stimulated her.
"What—how—I don't see—" stammered Mr. Blackford. "If you—"
"It's this way!" cried Betty, all enthusiasm. "You know you can transfer
money by telegraph in a very short time—it only takes a few minutes to
do it—really it's quicker than an airship," and she smiled at Mr.
"That's so," he admitted. "I see now."
"I'll have my father telegraph the five hundred dollars to me at
Judgeville," explained Betty. "Then I can give it to you, and you can
telegraph it to your business man in New York. It is sure to reach
there before midnight, and you can take up your option, if that is the
"It is—very proper," said Mr. Blackford. "I believe you have the right
idea, Miss Nelson. I should have thought of that myself, but that shows
I am really not a good business man."
"Now let's hurry on to town," proceeded Betty. "We haven't any too
It was rather an astonished telegraph operator who, a little later, was
confronted by four pretty girls, a man who looked as if he had been in a
shipwreck, and a much-flustered lady. The latter was Betty's cousin, at
whose house the girls had stopped. It was necessary for the recipient of
the money to be identified, and this Betty's cousin, who knew the
operator, agreed to look after.
There was a little delay, but not much, and soon Mr. Blackford was in a
position to take up his option. A local bank, where the telegraph concern
did business, paid over the five hundred in cash, and four hundred of
this was at once sent on to New York, by telegraph.
"I hope it reaches my man," said Mr. Blackford. "I have told him to
wire me here."
A little later word was received that the transaction had been
successfully carried out. Mr. Blackford could now get control of
"And it's all due to you young ladies!" he said, gratefully. "I don't
know how to thank you. You are entitled to a reward—"
"Don't you dare mention it!" cried Betty,
"Well, some day I'll pay you back for all you did for me!" he exclaimed,
warmly. "I won't forget. And now that I have some money to spare, I'm
going to get a new suit of clothes."
He said good-bye to the girls, promising to see them again some time, and
then he left, having made arrangements to go on to New York and finish up
his business affairs.
"Well, now that it is all over, won't you come on to the house and have
supper?" said Betty's cousin, as they came out of the telegraph office.
"I must say, you girls know how to do things."
"Oh, you can always trust Betty for that," said Mollie.
"It just did itself," declared Betty. "Everything seemed to work out of
its own accord from the time we found the five hundred dollar bill."
"But you helped a lot," insisted Amy.
"Indeed she did," added Grace.
"Well, our walking tour will soon be over," Betty said as they neared her
cousin's house. "We'll be home to-morrow. We've had lots of fun, and I
think it has done us all good. We'll soon be home."
"But not without a long walk," said Grace, with a sigh. "I wonder what we
shall do next? We must keep out of doors."
"We have a long vacation before us—all summer," said Amy. "I do wish we
could spend it together."
"Maybe we can," said Betty. "We'll see."
And how the four chums enjoyed the vacation that was opening may be
learned by reading the next volume of this series, which will be entitled
"The Outdoor Girls at Rainbow Lake; Or, The Stirring Cruise of the Motor
The stay of the girls at the home of Betty's cousin was most enjoyable.
They remained two nights, instead of one, sending word of the change of
their plans to their parents. Then, early in the morning, they started
for home on the last stage of their tour.
"Twenty-two miles!" sighed Grace, as they set out. "Oh, dear!"
But they were not destined to walk all the way. About five miles from
town they saw a big touring car approaching, and as it neared them they
beheld Will Ford and his chum Frank in it.
"Hurray!" cried Grace's brother.
"Welcome to our city!" added Frank. "Get in and we'll take you home
"Oh, you boys!" cried Betty, but she and the others got in. Off they
started, all of them seemingly talking at once, and in a short time they
arrived at Deepdale. They attracted considerable attention as they passed
through the town in the car Will and Frank had hired to honor the members
of the Camping and Tramping Club.
"But it rather spoiled our record, I think," said Betty. "We were to
walk all the way."
"Oh, we walked enough," declared Grace. "I did, anyhow," and she glanced
at her shoes.
"But it was fun!" exclaimed Amy.
"Glorious!" cried Mollie.
A little later the four tourists were warmly welcomed at their respective
homes, later meeting for a general jollification at Mollie's house.
"Oh, you dears!" cried Betty, trying to caress the twins, Paul and Dodo,
both at once. "And we saw the dearest little lost girl. Shall I tell you
"Dive us tum tandy fust," said Dodo, fastening her big eyes on Grace. "Us
'ikes tandy—don't us, Paul?"
"Us do," was the gurgling answer, and Grace brought out her confections.
And, now that the four girls are safely at home again, we will take
leave of them.