THE MOTOR GIRLS ON CEDAR LAKE
The Hermit of Fern Island
by Margaret Penrose
"Oh, Cora! Isn't this perfectly splendid!" exclaimed Bess Robinson.
"Delightful!" chimed in her twin sister, Belle.
"I'm glad you like it," said Cora Kimball, the camp hostess. "I
felt that you would, but one can never be sure—especially of Belle.
Jack said she would fall a prey to that clump of white birches over
there, and would want to paint pictures on the bark. But I fancied
she would take more surely to the pines; they are so strong—and,
like the big boys—always to be depended on. But not a word about
camp now. Something more important is on. My new motor boat has
"Has it really?" This as a duet.
"And truly," finished Cora with a smile. "Yes, it has, and there is
not a boy on the premises to show me how to run it. Jack expected
to be here, but he isn't. So now I'm going to try it alone. I
never could wait until evening to start my new boat. And isn't it
lovely that you have arrived in time to take the initial run? I
remember you both took the first spin with me in my auto, the
Whirlwind, and now here you are all ready for the trial performance
of the motor boat. Now Belle, don't refuse. There is absolutely no
"But the water," objected the timid Belle.
"We can all swim," put in her sister, "and you promised, Belle, not
to be nervous this trip. Yes, Cora, I'm all ready. I saw the craft
as we came up. Wasn't it the boat with the new light oak deck and
mahogany gunwale? I am sure it was,"
"Yes, isn't she a beauty? I should have been satisfied with any
sort of a good boat, but mother wanted something really reliable,
and she and Jack did it all before I had a chance to interfere."
"I wonder what your mother will next bestow upon you?" asked Belle
with a laugh. "She has such absolute confidence in you."
"Let us hope it will not be a man; we can't let Cora get married,
whatever else she may do," put in Bess, as she shook the dust from
her motor coat, and prepared to follow Cora, who was already leaving
the camp. Belle, too, started, but one could see that she, though
a motor girl, did not exactly fancy experimenting on the water. It
was but a short distance to the lake's edge, for the camp had been
chosen especially on account of the water advantage.
"There she is! See how she stands out in the clear sunshiny water!
I tell you it is the very prettiest boat on Cedar Lake, and that is
saying something," exclaimed Cora, the proud possessor of the new
"Beautiful," reiterated the Robinson twins.
"But what do you know about running it?" queried Belle.
"Why, I have been studying marine motors in general, and have been
shown about this one in particular," replied Cora. "The man who ran
it up from the freight depot for me gave me a few 'pointers,' as he
She stepped into the trim craft and affectionately patted the
"'It is much simpler to run than a car, and besides, there isn't so
much to get in your way on the water," Cora went on.
"My!" exclaimed Bess as she stepped in after her hostess. "This is
"You take the seat in the stern, Belle, and Bess, you may sit here
near me," said Cora, "as I suppose you will be interested in seeing
how it works. Oh! There is the steamer from the train. Hurry!
Perhaps there are folks aboard we know. Let us act at home, and
pretend we have been running motor boats all our lives."
Cora took her place at the engine and before Bess or Belle had
really gotten seated she was turning on the gasoline.
"You see this is the little pipe that feeds the 'gas' from the tank
to the carburetor," she explained. "Now, I just throw in the
switch: that makes the electrical connection: then I have to give
this fly wheel—it's stiff—but I have to swing it around so!
There!" and the wheel "flew" around twice slowly and then began to
revolve very rapidly. "Now we are ready," and the engine started
its regular chug chug.
"How do you steer?" asked Bess anxiously, for the big steamer with
its cargo of summer folks seemed rather near.
"I can steer here," and Cora turned a wheel amidships, "or one may
steer at the bow. Suppose you take the forward wheel Bess, as I
may, have enough to do to look after the engine."
"Very well," acquiesced the girl, "but I hope I make no mistakes."
"Oh you won't. Just turn the wheel the way you want to go. Now
we'll hurry. I want to show off my boat."
Bess took up her place at the steering wheel and turned it so that
the boat started on a clear course. Everything seemed to work
beautifully, and presently Bess was so interested in the gentle
swerving of the craft, as the rudder responded to her slightest
touch, that she, too, thought it very much simpler than motoring on
"There are the Blakes!" suddenly exclaimed Belle. "See, they are
waving to us."
"Yes," answered Cora as she snatched off her cap and fluttered a
response to the folks on the steamer. "Bess, keep clear out. The
landing is just over there! The steamer makes quite a swell."
Bess turned, but she did it too suddenly. A wave from the steamer
caught them broadside, and drenched the girls before they knew what
"Oh!" screamed Belle, "—we are running right into the steamer!"
"Bess! Bess!" called Cora. "Turn! I can't connect—"
Shouts from the steamer added to their confusion. Would they be run
down on this, their very first attempt at navigation?
"They are the motor girls!" Cora heard some one on the steamer
shout, and while this much has been told it may be well to acquaint
the reader with further details of the situation. The Motor Girls
were friends whom we have met in the four previous volumes of this
series entitled respectively: "The Motor Girls," "The Motor Girls on
a Tour," "The Motor Girls at Lookout Beach," and "The Motor Girls
Through New England." In each of these volumes we have met Cora
Kimball, the handsome, dashing girl who conquers everything within
reason, but who, herself, is occasionally conquered, both in the
field of sports and in the field of human endeavors. It was she who
had the first automobile, her Whirlwind and while out in it she had
some very trying experiences.
In the first volume she managed to unravel the mystery of the road.
Bess and Bell, the Robinson twins, were with her, as they were again
in the second volume, the story of a strange promise. This promise,
odd as it was, all three girls kept, to the delight and happiness of
little Wren, the crippled child. Next the girls went to Lookout
Beach, where they had plenty of good fun, as well as time enough to
find the runaways, two very interesting young girls, who had
decamped from the "Strawberry patch." It was like a game of hide
and seek, but in the end the motor girls did capture the runaways.
Then in the story "Through New England," it was Cora who was hidden
away by the gypsies, and what she endured, and how she escaped were
assuredly wonderful. There were brothers and friends of course,
Jack Kimball being the most important person of the first variety,
while Walter Pennington and Ed Foster were friends in need and
And now we find these same girls undertaking a new role—that of
running a motor boat, the gift of Mrs. Kimball to her daughter, for
that mother, in her days of widowhood, had learned how safe it was
to repose confidence in her two children, Cora and Jack.
The camp at Cedar Lake had been taken by Cora and her friends for a
summer vacation on the water, and now, after a day's run from
Chelton, the home town, in their auto, the Flyaway, the Robinson
girls had again joined Cora who had come up the day previous, with a
maid to get the camp to rights.
The steamer was indeed too close! Cora was frantically trying to
turn the auxiliary steering wheel, but Bess in her fright was
turning the more powerful bow wheel in the very direction of danger!
"Oh! Mercy!" shrieked Belle. "We are lost!"
Another wave almost submerged them. The passengers on the steamer
had all run to one side of their boat.
"Turn right!" shouted Cora as she jumped up and fairly jerked from
Bess the forward wheel. "Turn to the right!"
THE HAUNTED ISLE
For some seconds no one seemed to know just what had happened. The
steamer was clear, and the motor boat was running safely. Three
very wet girls were thanking their good fortune that the water was
their only damage—and water in the shape of a shower of spray is
not much of a matter to complain of, after you escape a collision.
"What happened?" asked Belle, when she had the courage to uncover
"Bess turned wrong," said Cora.
"I couldn't tell which way to go," put in the frightened girl. "I
was simply stage-struck. But what saved us?"
"I jerked the wheel just enough to get a little to one side, and
then the steamer had a chance to turn away," replied Cora. "I tell
you we had a close shave, but that makes our first trip all the more
interesting. Bess, can I trust you now to take my place while I
look at that wheel? The rope may have slipped?"
"Oh, don't do anything," pleaded Belle. "Call to that boat over
there, and let us have help. See, they are coming this way."
"Why, it's the boys—our boys!" exclaimed Cora. "Why have they gone
out without telling me, when they knew I wanted to use my boat?"
In a canoe that looked like a big eel as it slipped over the water
could be seen Jack, Ed and Walter.
"Well!" called Jack. "I like that! Where did you get the—ocean
"Don't say anything about the accident," she had a chance to whisper
to the girls before replying to her brother. "I found my boat tied
up at the dock," she answered gaily. "Isn't she a beauty?"
"What are you going to call her?" asked Walter.
"The Whirlpool, I guess," replied Cora, "that would go nicely with
my Whirlwind, don't you think?"
"Oh, no, don't," objected Belle. "I should always feel that we were
going to be—"
"Whirlpooled?" finished Jack. "Better make her the Petrel, Cora,
for two reasons. We bought it from Mr. Peters, and she can walk on
the water like the old original sea-fowl. Just see how she does
"All right. Petrel will do, but it will be Pet for short," said
Cora as now she allowed the boat to drift a little way from beside
the boys' canoe.
"What was the matter with the steamer folks?" asked Ed. "Thought I
heard something as we passed."
"Yes, you might have heard them talking about us if your ears had on
their long distance," replied Cora quickly. "The Blakes are
"I saw their trunks at the station," said Jack "and they were tagged
to The Burrow."
"That's the hole in the hill, isn't it?" asked Walter. "Well, I'm
glad they have come up—the Benny Blakeses. I like a lot of folks
around here. It is apt to have a depressing effect upon me if
company is scarce and fishing shy."
"Or weather wet," put in Ed. "But say, Cora, I'd like to try the
Pet." He remembered he was in a blue bathing suit, ever the most
appropriate costume for a canoe. "But I'll wait until later, though
I hate to. We have, as a matter of fact, an engagement at Far
Island. Have you heard?"
"No, what?" asked the girls in chorus.
"Just a suspicion yet, but it may be true. We think—shall we give
it away boys?"
"No; sell it," suggested Jack. "They sold us on this first trip,
why should we give them anything?"
"Oh, Jack! You know I expected you to take me out the first time,"
said Cora reproachfully.
"Yes, and you know all about a boat, and start out without giving a
fellow the slightest warning."
"But why didn't you come up when you knew the boat had arrived?"
questioned the sister.
"Because—but that was what Ed was going to give away. It's a
mysterious secret, and it is situated on Far Island. So long girls,
I suppose you know how to land."
"Oh, yes indeed," said Cora in spite of the protest that was
trembling on Belle's lips. "We started out, and we will get back
all right. Wish you luck in whatever you are after," and she winked
at Bess, who was now beside her at the engine, as Cora had concluded
to guide the boat by the auxiliary steering wheel.
The boys veered off.
"I wonder what they are up to?" asked Cora. "As soon as we can do
so, without being noticed, I think we will follow them. There must
have been something important on, when Jack did not wait to take me
"Oh, don't let us go farther out on the lake," begged Belle. "I am
"Then suppose we take you in? Nettie is at the camp, and then Bess
and I can go out to the island. There was really nothing the matter
with the boat, the mistake was all due to our own nervousness."
"Well, I would feel better not to sail any farther," admitted the,
pretty blond Belle, as she tossed back some of her breeze stray
curls. "I am subject to sickness on the water, anyhow."
"On still water?" asked Bess archly. "Well, we will take you in,
Twiny. And we will then go out. I want to redeem myself."
"Good for you, Bess," said Cora. "There is nothing like courage,
unless it be gasoline," and after starting the engine, she turned
the boat toward the shore. "There are the boys heading for the
other island!" she exclaimed a moment later.
"They are trying to fool us. I wonder why?" asked Bess. "See,
Belle. There are Nettie and Mary an shore—two of the best maids on
the island. You will be all right with them, won't you, dear?"
"Of course," replied the twin, rather confusedly. "I don't need
"But you are tired," put in Cora, "and those girls have not done a
thing since lunch time. Just command them."
"'Very well. But do be careful, you two girls. A bad beginning you
"Oh, don't you worry about us," replied Cora confidently. "I feel
as if this boat was a top in my hands. It is so much easier to
handle than an auto. No gears, differentials or things like that.
Good bye, Belle. Have supper ready when we return," and she sounded
the small whistle that told of the start again.
"Good bye. Be careful," cautioned Belle. Then the two girls headed
the craft for the little island around which they had just seen the
"I thought the boys looked very serious," said Bess, as she put her
hand on the wheel Beside Cora's. "I wonder what is wrong?"
"Jack certainly had something very important on when he neglected
me," said his sister. "I hope there is nothing really wrong. There
are no people on that island, I believe."
"Then perhaps we had better not land?" suggested Bess. "It might be
horribly lonely and we might not be able to find the boys."
"Well, when we get there we will be able to judge of all that,"
replied Cora. "Doesn't the Petrel motor beautifully?"
"And this lake," added Bess. "I never saw anything like it. Why
some of those islands are big enough to inhabit."
"Yes, there is one island over there," answered Cora, pointing to
the extreme eastern shore of the water, "and since I have seen it I
am just dying to explore it. They call it Fern Island, and the
store man tells the most wonderful tales about it. But we will have
to wait until we all assemble. When did Hazel say she would come?"
"Tomorrow or next day. She has to take some special 'exams.' I am
sorry that girl is so ambitious. It always interferes with her
"Hazel will make her mark some day, if she does not spoil it all by
having someone make it for her—on a flat stone. But honestly Bess,
I do hope she will come up before the others. Next to you and Belle
I count more on Hazel Hastings than on anyone else in our party."
"And not a little on her brother Paul?" and Bess laughed in her
teasing way. "Now Cora, Paul Hastings is acknowledged to be the
most useful boy in all the Chelton set. He can fix an auto, fix an
electric bell, fix an alarm clock—"
"And no doubt could overhaul a motor boat," finished Cora, as she
turned the Petrel toward land. "Well, this is Far Island, and I am
sure the boys headed this way. Let's shout."
Putting her hands to her mouth, funnel fashion, Cora sent out the
shrill yodel known to all of the motor girls and motor boys. Bess
took up the refrain; but there was no answer.
"If they were ashore wouldn't their boat be about?" asked Bess. "We
can see all this side of the island, but you said it was too rocky
to land on the other shore."
Cora looked about. Yes, one edge was all sandy and the other rocks.
If the boys had come ashore they must have done so from the north
"My, what a lot of boats!" exclaimed Bess. "Cora, just see that
flock," and she pointed to a distant flotilla of various craft
across the lake.
"Yes, and so many canoes, we could hardly tell the boys in that
throng. Do you suppose they are in that parade?"
"Oh, no. They had only bathing suits on, and that really looks like
some fleet," replied Bess. "Yes, see there is their club banner.
My! I had no idea that Cedar Lake boasted of such style."
"We may expect water picnics every day now," said Cora. "But just
see that old man in the rowboat towing that pretty canoe. Do you
suppose he has it for hire?"
"Likely. But how would anyone hire it out here? Why not from
shore?" questioned Bess.
"Well, perhaps he is taking it to the dock," and Cora allowed her
boat to touch the island shore. "At any rate if we are to find the
boys we had better be at it, for I want to start back before that
throng of boats gets in my way. I feel sure enough, but I like
Both girls stepped ashore as Cora caught the boat hook in the strong
root of a tree and pulled the craft in. Then she shouted again.
"Jack! Jack!" she called. "Isn't it lonely here," she said
suddenly, realizing that while she had expected the boys to be on
the island, they might have gone to any of the other bits of land.
"Yes," said Bess. "I never felt so far away from everything before.
On an island it is so different from being on real shore!"
"Yes, it is farther out," and Cora laughed at the description.
"Bess, I guess I was mistaken. The boys do not seem to be here."
"Then do let's go back," pleaded Bess. "I am actually afraid."
"Of what? Not those 'jug-er-umms.' Just hear them. You would
think the frogs were trying to drive us away from their territory."
"I always did hate the noise they make," declared Bess. "It sounds
like a dead, dark night. Why do they croak in the daytime?"
"Night is coming," Cora explained, "and besides, it is so quiet here
they do not have to wait for nightfall. But listen! Didn't you
hear those dry leaves rustle?"
"Oh Cora, come!" and Bess pulled at her friend's skirt. "It may be
Cora stood and listened. "No," she said, "that was no snake. It
sounded like something running."
"Come on, Cora dear," begged Bess, so that Cora was obliged to
agree. "See, all the boats have gone the other way. And if
anything happened we might just as well be on this desert island as
on that desert water."
They had not ventured far into the wood, so that it was but a few
steps back to the boat. Cora loosened the bow line and presently
the engine was chugging away.
"Oh," sighed Bess, "I felt as if something dreadful was going to
happen. Ever since those gypsies took you, Cora, I am actually
afraid of everything in the country. It did seem safe on the water,
but in those woods—"
"Now, Bess dear, you are to forget all about the gypsies. I have
almost done so—that is, I have forgotten all the unpleasant part.
Of course, I occasionally hear from Helka. Do you want to steer,
"I would rather not," confessed Bess, "for I am actually trembling.
Where do you suppose the boys could have gone?"
"Haven't the least idea, and we have no more time to speculate.
There! Didn't you hear a strange noise on the island? I declare,
that store man must be right. Those islands are haunted!"
"Wasn't that a queer noise! Oh! I am so glad we are safe in our
boat," and Bess breathed a sigh of relief. "I would have died if
that noise happened while we were there."
"But I should like to know what it is, and I will never be satisfied
until I find out," declared Cora. "That was neither bird nor
beast—it was human."
But the motor boat, girls headed straight for shore—the sun seemed
falling into the lake as they reached the camp to be welcomed by
Belle. The story of the trip to the island and the disappearance of
the boys was quickly told.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BOYS
"What can have happened to the boys?" murmured Belle. "I am afraid
they are drowned."
"All of them?" and Cora could not repress a smile. "It would take a
very large sized whale to gobble them all at once, and surely they
could not all have been seized with swimming cramps at the same
moment. No, Belle, I have no such fear. But I am going right out
to investigate. I know Jack would never stay away if he could get
here, especially when he knew this would be your first evening at
the lake. Why, the boys were just wild to try my boat," and she
threw her motor cape over her shoulders. "Come on girls, down to
the steamer landing. There may have been some accident."
Belle and Bess were ready instantly. Indeed the twins seemed more
alarmed than did Cora, but then they were not used to brothers, and
did not realize how many things may happen and may not happen, to
detain young men on a summer day or even a summer night.
"Oh dear!" sighed Belle, "I have always dreaded the water. I did
promise mamma and Bess to conquer my nervousness and not make folks
miserable, but now just see how things happen to upset me," and she
was almost in tears.
"Nothing has happened yet, Belle dear," said Cora kindly, "and we
hope nothing will happen. You see your great mistake comes from
what Jack calls the 'sympathy bug.' You worry about people before
you know they are in trouble. I feel certain the boys will be found
safe and sound, but at the same time I would not be so foolhardy as
to trust to dumb luck."
"You are a philosopher, Cora," answered the nervous girl, her tone
showing that she meant to compliment her chum.
"No, merely logical," corrected Cora, as they walked along. "You
know what marks I always get in logic."
"But it all comes from health," put in Bess. "Mother says Belle
would be just as sensible as I am if she were as strong."
"Sensible as you are?" and Cora laughed. Bess had such a candid way
of acknowledging her own good points. "Why, we have never noticed
"Oh, you know what I mean. I simply mean that I do not fuss," and
Bess let her cheeks glow at least two shades deeper.
"Well it is sensible not to fuss, Bess, so we will grant your
point," finished Cora as they stepped on the boardwalk that led to
the boat landing. "Why, I didn't suppose they would light up with
that moon," she said. "That's the old watchman over there."
A man was swinging a lantern from the landing. He held it above his
head, then lowered it, and it was plain he was showing the light to
signal someone on the water.
Cora's heart did give a quickened response to her nerves as she saw
that something must be wrong. But she said not a word to her
"What are they after?" asked Belle timidly.
"Probably some fishermen casting their nets for bait," Cora answered
evasively. "You stay here, while I speak with old Ben."
Bess and Belle complied, although Bess felt she should have been the
one to ask questions. What if anything had really happened to the
boys! Jack was Cora's brother.
"Have you seen anything of some boys in a canoe?" Cora asked of the
man with the lantern. "They set out this afternoon, and have not
"Boys in a canoe?" repeated Ben, in that tantalizing way country
folk have of delaying their answers.
"Yes, my brother and two of his friends went out toward Far
"Fern Island?" interrupted the man.
"No, when we last saw them they were going away from Fern and toward
Far Island," said Cora.
"Well, if they're on Fern Island at night I pity them. There ain't
never been anyone who put up there after dark who wasn't ready to
die of fright, 'ceptin' Jim Peters. And the old boy hisself
couldn't scare Jim. Guess he's too chununy with him," and the
waterman chuckled at his joke.
"But you have not heard of any accident?" pressed Cora.
"I saw them young fellers myself. They was in a green canoe; wasn't
"Yes," answered Cora eagerly.
"Well, I asked Jim Peters if he had sawed 'em, and he said—but then
you can't never believe Jim."
"What did he say?" excitedly demanded Cora, as Bess and Belle
stepped up to where she was talking.
"He said they had tied their boat up at the far dock, and had gone
on the shore train to the merry-go-'round."
"But they were in their bathing suits!" exclaimed Cora.
"There! Didn't I tell you not to take any stock in Jim's news! I
knowed he was fibbin'. But—say miss. There's this about Jim. He
don't ever take the trouble to make up a yam unless he has a motive.
Now I'll bet Jim knows something about them lads."
"Where does this man live?" asked Cora.
"He don't live no place in particular, but in general he stays at
the shanty, when he ain't on the water. But he's a regular fish.
The young 'uns calls him a fish hawk."
"How could we get to his place? Do you think he is at the shanty
now?" went on Cora, determined to find out something of the man, for
she had reason to believe that the dock-hand knew what he was
"Bless you, child! It ain't no place for young girls like you to go
to any time, much less at night. But I'll tell you what I'll do.
I'll jest take a look around myself. I sort of like a girl who
knows how to talk to old Ben without being sassy."
"Thank you very much, Ben, but I really must hurry to trace the
boys. I suppose you have no police around the island?"
"Wall, there's Constable Hannon. He is all right to trace a thing
when you tell him where it is, but Tom Hannon hates to think." Ben
raised the lantern above his head and then, as if satisfied that the
signaling was all finished, he placed the lantern on a hook that
hung over the edge of the dock.
"Oh, Cora," put in Bess, "it is almost eight O'clock. We must hurry
"I know, Bess dear, but I had to find out all this man knew. Now I
am satisfied to start for the other end of the lake."
Cora's voice betrayed the emotion she was feeling in spite of her
outward calm. The matter was now assuming a very serious aspect.
"One thing seems certain," she said to all who were listening, "they
could not all have been drowned. They were all expert swimmers.
Nor would they go to any merry-go-'round and leave us waiting for
them. The question now is, what could have detained them?"
"Well, here comes Jim now," said Ben. "Just you keep quiet, and
I'll pump him."
A man came slouching along the dock. He had the way of seeming much
younger than he pretended to be—that is he walked with his head
down although his shoulders were straight and broad as those of any
well trained athlete. The three girls instantly decided that this
man had some strange motive in his manner. He was shamming, they
"Hello there, Ben," he called to the dock hand jokingly. "How's the
"Not much tide on this here lake," replied Ben sharply. "Never
knowed much about them tides, as I've lived at this hole most all my
born days. But how was business to-day? That was quite a fleet.
How'd you make out?"
"Oh, same as usual," and Jim Peters looked from under his big hat at
the girls. "Got company?"
"Yes, a couple friends of the old lady's. They're camping here."
"Oh," half-growled the man understandingly as he made his way to the
"Where're you goin' now?" asked Ben.
"Up the lake," replied the man.
"Oh, say," spoke Ben as if the thought had just occurred to him,
"where did you say them young fellers went? The ones who started
out in a canoe?"
Now Cora saw that this was the man who had come down the lake with
the canoe trailing behind his rowboat. He stepped into the
lantern's light, and both Bess and Belle must also have recognized
him, for they shot a meaning glance at Cora.
"What fellows?" drawled the man in answer to Ben's question.
"The ones I asked you about. You said they went to the
merry-go-'round. Did they?"
"Yep," replied the man sententiously.
"Where is that?" asked Cora, unable to restrain herself longer.
"At the Peak," he said vaguely. Then he stepped into his rowboat
and before anyone could question him further he was pulling up the
"Well, I'll be hung! Excuse me ladies, but I am that surprised,"
said Ben apologetically. "Say, that fellow knows about the kids,
and we've got to follow him. But how?"
"In my motor boat," proposed Cora quickly. "We could overtake him
in that before he had any idea we were following him!"
"Have you a motor boat? Good! Where is it? Here, I'll call Dan.
He kin run faster than a deer. Dan! Dan! Dan!" shouted the old
man, and from a nearby rowboat, where, evidently, some boys were
having some sort of a harmless game, Dan appeared. He was a tall
youth, the sort that seems to grow near the water. "Hey Dan, I want
you to go where this girl tells you, and fetch her boat," said Ben.
"Quick now, we've got something to do."
"It's up at the new camp," said Cora. "It's the new boat you must
have seen come up this afternoon."
"Oh, yes'm, I know it, and I know where it is," replied the lad, and
then he was off, his bare feet making no sound. He called back
through the darkness "Got any oil or gas?"
"Yes," replied Cora, and away he ran.
"Ain't he a regular dock rat," said Ben with something like pride in
"I hope we do not lose sight of that man," remarked Cora.
"Oh Jim can't pull as hard as he thinks, especially on a lazy day
when he has been out some," affirmed Ben. "Now suppose you girls
just sit on this plank while you wait? 'Twon't cost you nothin'."
He dusted off the big plank with his handkerchief, and upon the
board, Cora, Bess and Belle seated themselves.
"I suppose Dan will haul the boat down," said Cora. "It isn't
locked, but he may not want to start the motor."
"Oh, you can trust to Dan to get her here. When he isn't a dock rat
he's a canal mule. There! Ain't that him? Yep, there he comes and
he's got her all right," said old Ben proudly.
The boy could now be seen walking along the water's edge, as he
pulled the motor boat by the bow rope. The girls were quick to
follow Ben to the landing, and there all three, with Ben, got
The girls helped Cora light the port, starboard and aft-lights; then
they were ready to start.
"Better let me run her," said the man, "as I know all the spots in
this here lake. Besides," and he touched the engine almost fondly,
"there ain't nothin' I like better than a boat, unless it's a fish
"This is a very simple motor," explained Cora, showing how readily
the gas could be turned on and how promptly the engine responded to
"It's a beauty," agreed Ben, as the "chugchug" answered the first
turn of the flywheel.
Belle and Bess sat in the stem and Cora went forward. It was a
delightful evening and, but for the urgency of their quest, the
first night sail of the Petrel on Cedar Lake would have been a
"Isn't that a light?" asked Belle, loud enough for Cora to hear.
"Yes. Ben see, there is a light. Do you suppose that is on Jim's
boat?" asked Cora.
"Never," replied Ben, "he's too stingy to light up on a moonlight
night when the water's clear. Of course the law says he must, but
who's goin' to back up the law?"
"Which way are you going?" she questioned further.
"See that track of foam over yonder? That's Jim's course. We'll
just pick his trail," said Ben. "Now there! Watch him turn! He's
headin' for Far Island!"
At this Ben throttled down, and, a few minutes later he turned off
the gas and cut out the switch.
"We'll just drift a little to give him a chance to settle," he said.
"We don't want to get too close—it might spoil the game."
Belle and Bess were both too nervous to talk. It seemed like some
pirate story, that they should be following a strange fisherman to a
wild island in the night, in hopes of finding the boys—possibly
Cora listened eagerly. She, too, was losing courage—it was so
slight a hope that this man would lead them to where the boys might
"There! See that!" exclaimed Ben. "He's talking to some one on
"Yes, I heard Jack's voice," exclaimed Cora. "Oh, I am so glad they
"But how do we know?" asked Belle, her voice trembling.
"Jack's voice told me," replied Cora, "for if they were in distress
he would not have shouted like that!"
"But he was mad," said Ben, and in this the old fisherman made no
mistake, for the voices of the boys, in angry protest, could be
heard, as they argued with some one, who succeeded in keeping his
part of the conversation silent from the anxious listeners.
A few minutes later the rowboat of Jim Peters came out from Far
Island, and in it were the boys!
"If we have to bale her out all the way" Ed was saying, "I can't see
why we should pay you a quarter a piece. Seems to me we are earning
They were now almost alongside the drifting motor boat.
"Jack! Jack," called Cora. "We are here, waiting for you. What
ever happened to you?"
"Well," exclaimed the boys in great surprise. "Glad to see you
girls—never gladder to see anyone in my life. Can you take us on?"
"Of course we can," replied Cora. "My! We thought you were lost."
"Not us, but our boat," answered Walter. "Some one stole our canoe
and left us on the island, high and dry."
"There," said Ben, "didn't I tell you?"
"Well, you fellows owe me just the same as if you went all the way,"
growled Jim Peters. "I've lost my night hire waitin' fer you."
"How'd you know about them, Jim?" asked Ben, in a joking sort of
tone. "Wasn't it luck you happened up this way to-night?"
The other man did not reply. Cora had stepped down to the seat in
front of the engine where Ben sat.
"Do you think that man stole their canoe?" she asked.
"Hush! 'Taint no use to fight with Jim. He'd get the best of you
sure, and besides, then he would be your enemy. Just make a joke of
it, and I'll tell you more later," and Ben prepared to start as soon
as the boys, who were climbing into the motor boat, were ready.
"I'll pay you when we get to land," said Jack to the boatman, "I
have no money in my bathing suit."
"Well, see that you do," said the man in a rough voice. "I'm not
goin' to leave my work to tow a couple of sports just for the fun of
"Oh you'll get paid all right," Jack assured him, "and so will the
fellow who stole our boat—when we catch him."
"I'll chip in for that," said Walter. "Never saw such a trick.
Hello Bess, also howdy Belle. My, isn't it fine to be rescued from
a desert island by three pretty girls?"
"Wallie! Wallie. There's a stranger aboard," warned Cora.
"Oh yes, this is Ben—Ben—"
"Just Ben," interrupted the man at the wheel, with a chuckle.
"But he has been so kind," added Cora. "Only for him we should
never have found out where you were."
"If you hadn't taken us off that old sieve," put in Ed, "I think we
would soon have had to swim back to the island. We never could have
made the shore in that thing, neither could we swim that distance."
"S'long Jim!" called Ben, as the old rowboat was sent off in the
"See, he isn't balin' her now," he told the boys.
"How's that?" all asked in chorus.
"Oh, that's a great boat—leaks to order," replied Ben, as he turned
over the fly wheel and Cora's craft shot swiftly away from the
The boys were too busy talking to the girls, and the latter were too
busy asking questions, to go further into the matter of the leaking
boat, but Cora did not fail to notice that the craft must have
"leaked to order." "What could that man have intended doing? Did
he want to sink the boat?" she was wondering.
"Well, if we haven't had a pretty time of it," said Ed. "First, we
had to go up trees to get out of the way of something—we are not
yet sure whether it was man or beast. Then when we crawled down,
and made for the shore the canoe was gone clear out of sight."
"Haven't you any idea who took it?" Cora asked.
"Wish we had—I'll wager he would have to sleep out of doors
to-night," threatened Jack. "It was the meanest trick."
Cora gave Bess the signal to keep still about having seen a canoe at
the back of Jim Peter's rowboat that afternoon. Cora was convinced
that Ben knew what he was talking about when he warned her to be
careful of Jim Peters.
"But why did you go back to the island?" asked Cora. "I thought you
were going to spend the afternoon with us girls?"
"We were, then again we couldn't," answered her brother. "We had a
very important appointment at Far Island."
"Ben, don't you want one of us to run her?" asked Ed. "We were to
have had a try—"
"Nope. This here is the best fun I can have, and this boat is a
beauty," replied the old man. "If I had one that could go like this
and carry so many passengers I'd give up the dock."
"Yes, a boat like this would earn its own living," agreed Jack.
"Run her as long as you like to, Ben. It gives us a chance—ahem—"
"To sit nearer your sisters," finished Ben, with a sly laugh.
"All's well that ends well," quoted Belle to Ed, for she was
scarcely able yet to draw a free breath—her anxiety had been too
keen. "I cannot believe that we are all here together again."
"Just pinch me," said Ed laughing, "and if I don't give our war
whoop you may be sure this is not me—I am still on the Robinson
ranch—there, that was an unpremeditated pun; I mean the old
Robinson Crusoe and I forgot that he was great-grandfather to the
present Robinson twins."
"Say, Ed," put in Walter, "what do you say if we buy a houseboat?
This has the camp beaten to a frazzle."
"It's all right on such a night," replied Ed, "but houseboats, I
believe, cost money, and our camp is rented to us for the season.
Oh fickle Wallie! To fall in love with a motor boat, just because
her name is Pet."
Walter was talking to Cora before Ed had finished speaking to him.
That was Walter's irresistible way with the girls.
"No use talking, sis," said Jack, "this sail was worth being
stranded for. If you are in no hurry, Ben, suppose we prolong it.
Take us some place where we haven't been. You know the rounds of
This plan was agreed to, and, though the boys were not dressed as
they would wish to have been, it was evening on the water, and their
jersey suits were not altogether out of place.
"But what I would like to get at," began Ed, not being able to
dismiss the subject, "is who stole our boat?"
"It may have drifted away," suggested Cora wisely. "There was a
great fleet on the lake to-day, and any small boy might have let
your boat go."
"Well, if I should lay hold of such a chap," declared Jack grimly,
"he will grow up quickly. He will never be a small boy again."
"Now I'll tell you," offered Ben obligingly. "There's a lot of
strange things likely to happen to you young 'uns while you're at
this here lake. So take my advice an' go slow. Every one here goes
slow, and it's the best way. If you suspicion a feller don't go at
him. Just wait and he will walk right into your hands," and Ben
sounded a warning whistle as he turned a point.
"He'll eat out of my hands if I get training him," prophesied Jack.
"But all the same, Ben, I think that's first-rate advice. It saves
us much trouble and that's the most important consideration. It
takes time even to polish off such a specimen."
"And when you're done, you've got dirty hands," went on Ben in rough
philosophy. "All the same, there is them that can't be otherwise
dealt with, and when the time's ripe I'd—help myself. I know a
man or two I'd like first-rate to get at, and stay at till I'd
"Then, Ben," spoke Cora, "when you get your man we'll all help you,
and when we get ours you can return the compliment."
Cora had a way of joking that invariably turned out prophetic—and
this case was no exception.
"Well, if there ain't Dan sailin' around!" ex, claimed Ben suddenly.
"He's lookin' fer me. Hey there, Dan! What's up?" he cried as he
faced the boat with the brilliant lamp at the stern.
"Everything!" yelled back Dan. "Come up to the dock! There's
Ben swung around the timer to gain more speed in a spurt of the
"It's that Jim Peters, I'll bet," he declared, as they headed for
Center Landing. "He's there ahead of us. He cut through the
Whether Jim Peters had taken leave of his senses or was simply
unreasonably angry, folks were never able to say with certainty. At
any rate, now, on this evening, the man seemed furious about
something. No sooner had the motor boat come up to the dock to
allow Ben to land, than Peters turned upon the young fellows he had
been arguing with at the island, and in unmeasured terms spoke
against all gasoline water craft. He said he couldn't see why the
law allowed them to use the lake, for they made such a racket,
filled the air with vile odors, and scared all the fish.
"You all ought to be arrested and deported!" he stormed. "The idea
of peaceful folks being bothered with such nuisances! I'm not going
to stand it if there's a law in the land! Why the idea! It's not
right! I'll—" He stopped for breath.
"Now look here, Jim, you just quit!" said Ben quietly, as the fellow
started off on another tirade, using still stronger language, and
almost boiling over with rage. "Go easy," advised Ben. "There's
that friend of yours, Tony Jones, comin'. Take a jab at him for a
As Ben got out, Jones sauntered along, and it was easy to see that,
personally, he was quite a contrast to Jim. The situation seemed
"It's all right now," spoke Cora in a low voice, and with an easier
air. "Let's go." With pleasant words for Ben and Dan she and her
friends prepared to start off again. Walter gave the flywheel a few
vigorous turns, but there was only a sort of apologetic sigh from
"Prime it a bit," suggested Ed.
With gasoline from a small oil can, Walter injected some of the
fluid into the cylinder through the pet cock.
"Now for it!" he exclaimed. "Cross your fingers everybody," and
once more he did the street-piano act, as Ed termed it. The engine
only sighed gently.
Walter gave a quick glance over his shoulder toward the bow.
"Is that forward switch in?" he asked a bit sharply.
"Oh!" exclaimed Cora, "I accidentally pulled it out when I removed
the bulkhead to look at the battery connections. There," she added
after a quick motion, "it's in, Walter."
"Now for it! Hold your breaths," ordered the engineer. There was a
sudden motion to the wheel, a whizzing buzz, a churning of the water
under the stern and the boat moved away.
"We'll have to have a regular schedule—gasoline, switch,
ground-wire, pet-cocks primed—oil cups up, and all that sort of
thing," murmured Cora as they glided swiftly onward. "I'll print it
on a card and hang it near the engine."
"Thanks," whispered Walter, as he took the wheel. "Where to?" he
"The bath house," suggested Ed. "Our togs are there."
Gracefully the craft approached the group of bath houses, whence the
boys had started in their canoe that afternoon. But no lights
gleamed out to welcome the returning ones.
"My word!" exclaimed Walter a bit dubiously, "our togs are likely
locked up in the safe, and here we are, forty miles from the pile of
ready-to wear habiliments that hide behind Jack's trunk! Eh, what?"
"Sure thing!" agreed Ed with a sigh.
"Oh, never mind," consoled Cora. "Come over with us for a while,
anyhow, if only to report progress."
A MAN IN THE SHADOW
When the engine had been carefully covered, on arrival at the camp
dock, and the boat securely tied up for the night, the party were
all literally shaking hands in gratitude for the rescue. It was
only a short distance along the shore path to where the lads
"bunked," but the young men shivered during the trip. The girls
thought of their own coats and promptly offered them, for Walter, Ed
and Jack were really suffering in their bathing suits.
"But we have heavy dresses on," insisted Cora, "and really Jack it
is cool. Please take our coats," for her brother had objected.
"Well, if you insist," replied Jack, "but it seems to me we have had
more than our share of bad luck for one day. First our boat is
stolen, then our clothes are locked up. Who would think that that
old boathouse man would go to bed so early."
"I am sure you are perfectly welcome to our coats," insisted Belle,
as she and her sister divested themselves of their long automobile
garments, "and they will look—"
"Lovely on us," put in Walter. "Let me have the blue one, please.
It is so becoming."
Jack took Cora's heavy linen, Ed accepted the brown that Bess had
worn, while Walter got the blue.
"Not so bad," said Jack, thrusting his hands deep into the patch
pockets. "Don't know but what I'll get one like this, Cora."
"And I rather like the empire effect," said Ed turning around so
that all, might admire the short-waisted coat he wore. "This is the
Roman empire I believe, Bess; is it not?"
"No, the first Empire," corrected the girl. "My but you do look
nice! You have a wonderful—outline."
"Yes, my nurse always complimented me on my outline. But do behold
Wallie! Isn't he a peach?"
"He's a picture girl," declared Cora laughing. "Well, it is a good
thing that we girls all wore coats when we went on the rescuing
expedition. But say boys, what do you think was the trouble at the
wharf? Ben seemed quite excited."
"I didn't like the looks of the fellow who offered us the boat
ride," commented Ed. "And the queer part of it was, how did he know
we were on the island?"
"And then his boat leaked and stopped. I'll bet his game was to
make us fear drowning, and then save us at so much more per save.
Like the philosopher and the ferryman, don't you know?"
"What philosopher?" asked Bess innocently.
"Oh, that old friend of mine who went to sea with his knowledge.
Don't you remember?"
"I never heard of him," declared Bess falling into the trap.
"Then let me tell you," and Ed slipped his arm within hers as they
walked along toward Cora's camp. "There was once a boatman and at
the same time there was a philosopher. The former took the latter
to sea, or to cross a small body of water, it doesn't really matter.
All the way as they sailed the philosopher would say: 'Did you ever
study astronomy?' The ferryman had not. 'Then half your life is
gone,' said the philosopher. 'Did you ever study philosophy? No?
Then another quarter of your life is gone.' And so on he went,
Belle dear," continued Ed, "until suddenly the boatman interrupted
him with: 'Say, did you ever study swimming?' And the philosopher
admitted that he had not. 'Then,' said the boatman, 'the whole of
your life is gone for this boat is sinking!' So you see, Belle, our
boatman might have given us that little fairy story and charged
"Yes, indeed!" put in Jack. "I think it was the luckiest thing that
you girls came along. And Ben! We must give Ben a banquet or
"Ben is a great friend of mine," declared Cora. "I feel we would
all have gone astray but for him. We girls would never have known
Then she stopped. She had no idea of telling the boys that they had
followed Jim Peters with the hope of finding the missing ones
whither he would lead them. Bess and Belle also had taken pains not
to betray their story to the boys, for, as Cora said, Jim Peters was
not a man to quarrel with, and the stolen boat was not a matter to
"Here comes Nettie!" exclaimed Belle. "I wonder what's her hurry."
"You've got company, miss," the maid said as she came up to the
party walking toward the camp. "Miss Hasting and her brother have
been waiting all evening."
"Hazel and Paul!" exclaimed Cora, almost running to the bungalow.
"Oh, isn't that splendid!"
"And us in these!" wailed Walter. "Do you think Hazel will like me
in baby blue?"
The boys really did look funny in the girls' long coats, but it all
added to the merry-making. Paul Hastings was waiting outside the
bungalow. He stood where the porch light fell upon him, and the
girls all secretly agreed that he had grown handsomer since they had
last seen him. Hazel, too, looked very attractive in her plain blue
dress, with its turn-over collar and Windsor tie.
"What a pleasant surprise! We were afraid you would not come for
some days Hazel!" said Cora in greeting.
"Oh, Paul had to come up here. Of course he has taken a position."
"What did I tell you!" cried Jack, folding the cloak about him in
dramatic style. "Paul Hastings for the enterprise. Cedar Lake is
the field; eh, Paul?"
"Well, I had a fine offer," said Paul modestly. "And I have been
wanting to get out this way. They say there are all sorts of things
to do in this locality."
"Looking for work! What do you think of that! Why, Paul dear, we
are looking for a camp cook. Wallie nearly poisoned us on pancakes
today," said Ed, "and if you would accept—"
"Come in doors," interrupted Cora. "We have had rather a strenuous
afternoon, and I am almost tired. How did you get up from the
train? Or did you come by boat?" she asked the new arrivals.
"A fellow rowed us up—"
"Yes and charged us fifty cents each," interrupted Hazel. "Wasn't
"Some one like Jim Peters, I'll bet," said Ed. "But as Cora
advised, let's go in doors. We really haven't dined!"
"Oh! you poor boys," cried Belle. "We almost forgot that you were
stranded. Let me help Nettie fix up something."
"Yes, do. Fix up a lot of something," urged Jack. "That's the way
I feel about it. But do we dine in these?"
By this time Hazel and Paul saw the queer attire of the three young
men. Then a part of the situation was explained. The bungalow was
one of those roomy affairs, built with a clear idea of affording
every summer comfort. Cora was to be the hostess, and with her was
the trusted maid, Nettie. There the girls were to visit as they
chose, while the boys had taken a camp for themselves near the
fishing grounds of the big lake.
"Now, make that coffee strong, girls," called Jack as the odor of
the beverage came from the kitchen. "We are almost, if not quite,
He cuddled up on a big couch and threatened to do damage to Cora's
"There's someone on the porch," suddenly whispered Bess, for a step
sounded, so soft and stealthy, that she imagined someone was trying
to look in the window.
"Yes, I heard it," said Ed, getting up and going to the door. A man
stood in the shadow, stepping out quickly at the sight of the youth.
"I came for my money," he muttered. "You fellers ain't got no right
to try to do me that way."
"Who tried to do you?" answered Ed, in no pleasant tones. "See
here, Peters! This is not our camp, and we don't carry money in our
bathing suits as we told you before. If you can't wait until
to-morrow for the seventy-five cents you know what you can do."
"Oh I'll give it to you, Ed," said Cora, fearful that the man might
become abusive. "I have plenty of small change."
She went into her room and got her purse. It was a pretty little
affair, too frail to have been brought to camp, and too good to have
left in the locked-up Chelton house. As she went back to Ed she
held out the purse. "Here," she said, "take it and help yourself.
My coffee will boil over."
Ed and Peters were standing near the edge of the porch. As Ed put
his hand out to take Cora's purse it fell over the rail.
"Well," he exclaimed, "that's too bad. I must get a match."
At this Ed stepped to the door to ask for a box, while Peters
hurried down the steps to look for the missing trinket. When Ed
came back with a light Peters was looking industriously for the
purse, but declared he had not seen it.
"Now see here, Peters," cried Ed angrily. "You have picked up that
purse, and I want you to hand it right over here," and Ed dropped
the cloak from his shoulders. "If you don't I'll teach you a
"Oh, you will, eh?" sneered the man. "Well you'd better get at it,
kid," and with that he struck Ed a tantalizing blow on the cheek.
Ed clutched the man by the arm. By this time the confusion had been
heard within doors, and the other boys hurried out.
"What's up?" asked Jack, just as Ed, with all his strength, almost
bent the older man over backward.
Jim Peters was fairly roaring now. He was strong, but this young
giant was a surprise to him, and after the way of the cowardly
class, as soon as he found out he would be bested he "quit," and
"Hand me back that purse," demanded Ed. "I know you've got it as
well as if I had seen you take it."
"What's that over there?" snarled Peters, pointing to something
bright in the grass.
Ed picked it up. It was the purse, but it was empty. Ed's
exclamation told them that.
"My ring," cried Cora. "I had my ring—oh no. I forgot—that was
not the purse," and Cora went in doors, presently returning with
some small coins. "Here, Ed," she said, her voice trembling. "Do
pay that man, and let him go. I—I am so frightened!"
"Cora," whispered Bess, "was your ring in that purse?"
"Hush," cautioned the other girl. "Let us try to make things
brighter. Since that man sailed down the lake to-day with our boys'
canoe we have had nothing but mishaps. Now let him go. I'll manage
to reckon with him without endangering the life of anyone. He's too
desperate a character to deal with in the ordinary way. Remember
what Ben told us."
There had been three delightful days at Camp Cozy. Cora managed
most of the delight, with the able assistance of Belle and Bess,
while Hazel did much toward discovering things that she declared all
the girls ought to know, for Hazel's happiness was ever in obtaining
The boys had almost lost hope of getting back their canoe. They had
searched the lake from shore to shore, offered rewards and had gone
through the rest of the lost formula, but the boat was not returned.
Cora kept to herself her suspicions about Jim Peters. She also said
nothing of the ring that was in the purse when it left her hands,
but not in it when the purse was returned to her.
It was a splendid morning for a trip on Cedar Lake, and although
Belle and Hazel had planned a trip to the woods, Cora and Bess were
going out in the Petrel.
Passing Center Landing, Cora called a pleasant good morning to Ben,
who sat on the end string piece, his feet aiming at the water and
his broad brimmed hat caught on halo fashion at the back of his
"Oh, I must ask him something," said Cora, suddenly turning her boat
toward the wharf. She drew near enough to speak quietly.
"Ben," she said, "where is that shanty you told me about—Jim
"Lands sake miss! you ain't goin' there?" asked the man in some
"Why not?" demanded Cora. "Can't I take care of myself in broad
"But you don't know how ugly that feller can be," insisted Ben. "I
tell you miss, I'd give him plenty of room, if I war you."
"Don't go," urged Bess.
"But, Ben," argued Cora, "I am afraid you have all let Jim Peters
bully you. I am going to try him another way. Where does he live?"
"Well a hour ago he went up the lake. He goes up there every
mornin' regular. Like as if he had some important business on the
island. When I asked him about it he said there was a fellow who
had some dangerous disease, and was campin' out there, and Jim
allowed that he had to fetch him things."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Cora. "That's a queer story for a man like
Peters. But I'm going to his shack first, even if he is not at
home. It would suit me just as well to find him out on my first
"But that young feller who lives with him? He's just as sassy as
Jim, when he's around the shack. Of course he don't stay there
always, as Jim does."
"Who is he?" questioned Cora. "I hadn't heard of such a person."
"Oh, he gives the name of Jones but it don't fit him fer a cent. I
wouldn't be surprised if his real name was Macaroni or even Noodles.
He's foreign, sure."
Cora laughed. "And he's young, you say?"
"A lot younger than Jim, but he could be that and yet not be very
young, fer I guess Jim has lost track of time," replied Ben. "Yes,
Jones is a swell, all right."
"But the shack? Where is it? I must be off," insisted Cora.
"It's quite a trip down the lake. Then you come to a point. Go to
the left of the point, and when you come to a place where the
willows dip into the lake, get off there. The shack is straight
back in the deepest clump of buttonball trees."
"All right Ben, and thank you," said Cora as she started up the
motor. "I feel like exploring this morning, and your directions
sound interesting. I will come back this way to show you that I am
safe and sound," and with that she sheered off.
"I hope it will be all right," faltered Bess. "Cora, are you never
afraid to risk such things?"
"What is there to risk? The land is public, and we have as much
right to follow that track as has Jim Peters or Mr. Jones. I wonder
what Mr. Jones is like?"
"Maybe he would be very nice—a complete surprise," ventured Bess,
at which remark Cora laughed merrily.
"You little romancer! Do you imagine that anyone very nice would
chum in with Jim Peters? Isn't there something in your book about
birds of the same quills?"
"It's aigrettes, in my book," retorted Bess. "But it all applies to
the same sort of birds. Just the same, I am interested in Mr.
"I fancy perhaps that we are," said Cora. "But there is the point
Ben spoke of. We are to turn to the left."
Gracefully as a human thing, the boat curved around and made its
path through the narrow part of the lake.
"And there are the willows," announced Bess, as she saw the great
green giants dipped into the water's surface.
"Yes. I thought it would be much farther on. But this is an ideal
spot for hiding. One could scarcely be found here without a
"Hear our voices echo," remarked Bess. "An echo always makes me
"Don't you like to hear your own voice?" asked Cora lightly. "I
rather fancy listening to mine. An echo was always a delight to
"There's a man sitting under that tree!" almost gasped Bess.
"So there is, and I am glad of it. He will be able to direct us. I
shouldn't be surprised if he were Mr. Jones," said Cora turning the
Petrel to shore.
Under a big willow, in a sort of natural basket seat, formed by the
uncovered roots of the big trees, a man sat, and as the boat grazed
the shore, he looked up from some papers he held in his hands. Cora
could see that he was very dark, and had that almost uncomfortable
manner of affecting extreme politeness peculiar to foreigners of
certain classes, for, as she spoke to him, he arose, slid the paper
into his pocket, and bowed most profusely.
"I am looking for the cabin of Mr. Peters," said Cora, stepping
ashore toward the tree. "Can you direct me to it?"
"The cabin of Mr. Peters?" and when the man spoke the foreign
suspicion was confirmed. "Why, who might Mr. Peters be?"
"Jim Peters; don't you know him?" asked Cora determined not to be
thrown off the track. "He lives just in here—I should think in
"Oh, my dear miss no! You are mistaken. No one lives around here.
I am simply a rustic, looking about. But Jim Peters?"
"Are you not Mr. Jones?" blurted out Cora.
In spite of himself the man started.
"Mr. Jones?" he repeated. "Well, that name will do as well as any
other. But allow me to tie your boat. Then I will take pleasure in
showing you one of the prettiest strips of land this side of
"Oh, thank you. I have secured it," said Cora. "But I would like
to explore this island."
Bess tugged at Cora's elbow. "Don't go too far. I am afraid of
that man," she said in a whisper.
"Were you drawing as we came up?" Cora asked the stranger. "This is
an ideal spot for sketching."
"Yes, I was drawing," he replied.
"Couldn't we see your picture?" asked Cora. "I do so love an
"Oh, indeed it is not worth looking at. I must show you something
when I have what will be worth while. This is only a bare idea."
"Well," said Cora starting off through the wood, "I must look for a
cabin, or something like it. I have particular business with Jim
"But you will only hurt your feet miss," objected the man. "Allow
me to show you the island," and he bowed again. "Such wild swamp
flowers I have never seen. It is the everglades, and well worth the
There was something about his insistent civility that betokened a
set purpose, and since Ben (what a wonder Ben was) had told Cora
that a man named Jones "hung out" with Jim Peters, Cora instantly
guessed that this was the man, and that he was determined to keep
her away from the shack. The situation gave zest to her purpose.
Bess was fairly quaking as Cora could see, but what danger could
there be in insisting upon finding that shack?
"I have only a short time to be out," objected Cora, "and perhaps
some other time I will come to see your everglade. Come, Bess, I
see a path this way, and I fancy if we follow it we will find an end
to the path," she concluded.
"But may I not have the pleasure of your name?" the man called after
her. "Perhaps we might meet—"
"Don't," whispered Bess. "Pretend you did not hear him."
"Oh, just see those flag lilies!" Cora called to Bess, covering the
man's question without answering it. "Let us get some."
"Oh, aren't they beautiful!" replied Bess, in a strained voice. "I
certainly must secure some of those."
They hurried away from the dark-browed man. He took his hand out of
his pocket and upon the smallest finger his eyes rested. He sneered
as he looked at a diamond ring that glittered on that slim brown
"Foolish maid," he said aloud, and then the web of a strange force
threw its invisible yet unbreakable chains over the summer life of
DEEP IN THE DARK WOOD
"Cora, dear, please do not go any farther. Somehow I am afraid that
man will follow us."
"Why, Bess! I thought you were going to be interested in Mr.
Jones," and Cora stooped to pick up a wonderful clump of flag
"Jones! How could he be a Jones? He's a Spaniard."
"I thought so myself, Bess. But we do not have to plant his family
tree. Now don't be a baby, girlie," and Cora squeezed the plump
hand that hung so close to her own. "Let us get to the shack, and
see if the boys' boat is about there. I am determined to run down
Bess sighed. When Cora was determined! But the man had left the
"Cora, see!" said Bess. "He is getting into a boat!"
"Yes and the boat belongs to Peters. There! He is surely the one
who helps Jim out in all his affairs. Now we may seek the shack in
safety," said Cora, as she watched the man at the water's edge push
off. "I know the shack is over there, for I smell smoke in that
direction. But we will turn the other way until he has cleared
off," finished Cora as she and Bess stepped lightly over the dainty
ferns that nestled in the damp earth.
"He is quite a boatman," remarked Bess, watching the man ply his
oars, and make rapid progress up the lake.
"Yes, he must have been brought up near the water," replied Cora.
"They say such skill as that is not accomplished on dry land. Jack
always declared he could tell a fellow at college who had ever been
near the water when a lad. They take to it like a duck."
"You can easily see that he is a foreigner," went on Bess with her
speculations. "He must either be an Italian or a Spaniard."
"Now we may turn up the path. Yes this is a path, for everything is
trodden down on it," declared Cora. "I hope the hut will not be too
deep in the wood."
"We won't go if it is," objected Bess. "I don't fancy being taken
captive by any wild woods clan."
"There," exclaimed Cora. "I just caught sight—of—it's a woman's
"Yes, and there is a woman in it," added Bess. "See, here she
"No, I don't think she does. I think she is standing still. We
must have frightened her."
"What a looking—woman!"
"Great proportions," described Cora. "I guess wherever she lives
they must feed her well."
Cora led the way, and Bess timidly followed.
"Don't go too near," whispered the latter.
"Why, she cannot eat us," replied Cora, smiling over her shoulder to
the timid one.
"Well, what do you want?" roared the woman, as soon as she could be
heard by the young ladies.
"We are looking for Jim Peter's shack," replied Cora bravely. "I
have been sent here to speak with him."
"Have, eh? Well go ahead. Speak with me. I'm Mrs. Jim Peters,"
said the woman with a sneer.
"My business is with him," again spoke Cora, not in the least
frightened by the voice which she knew was made coarser just to
"Well, he don't have no business that ain't mine," said the woman,
"'specially with young 'uns like you, so you kin just clear off here
"Come on Cora," begged Bess. "I am shaking from head to foot."
"All right, dear," replied Cora, in a voice for Bess alone. "But,
Mrs. Peters, can you tell me when your husband will be about here?
I have some work to do on a boat and I understand he does that sort
The woman's face changed. "If that's what you want I'll tell him.
You see it is always best to let the woman know first, fer Jim does
do some foolish things. But just now he's got one boat to do?"
"I wonder if he might have a canoe to sell?" interrupted Cora, as
the thought of thus trapping the woman occurred to her.
"He will have one in a few days," the other 'answered. "But it has
to be fixed up."
"Could I see it?" asked Cora. "I may not be able to get over here
"Well, the shack is locked and I couldn't show it to you, but when
Jim comes I'll tell him. Who will I say?"
Cora hesitated. "I hardly think it will be worth while really to
order it," she said, "as I must have my brother look it over. I
have a motor boat."
"I heard it chuggin' and I thought that lazy Tony had got a new way
of wastin' his time. Tony is all right at writin' letters but he's
a lazy bones else ways."
"Who's Tony?" asked Cora as if indifferently.
"He's Jim's side partner. Say, girl, I'll just tell you. I came up
here a few weeks ago from a newspaper advertisement. I never knowed
Jim Peters before, but if them two fellers think I'm goin' to cook
in that hut and never go no place off this dock they're foolin'
themselves. They don't know all about Kate Simpson."
Both girls were utterly surprised by her change of manner. Cora was
quick to take advantage of it.
"You are quite right," she said. "This is no place for a lone
woman, and some day when I have my brother along I will fetch my
boat, and show you the big islands about here. It would do you good
to get out in the clear—away from these dense woods."
"That it would, and I'm obliged to you miss," said the woman while
Bess fairly gasped. "I want to go to one island—Fern Island they
call it. Have you ever been there?"
"I know where it is," replied Cora, wondering what the woman's
interest in that place might be. "I have been all around it."
"They say it's haunted," and the woman laughed. "It's a great game
to put a haunt on a place to keep others off."
"Well, some day when you can leave your work, I'll take you over
there," and Cora meant it, for she had not the slightest fear,
either of the woman or her rough ways.
Besides, she felt instinctively that the woman's help would be
valuable in the possible recovery of her ring and of the lost canoe.
"I'll be goin' back to the shackt fer if Jim comes along held raise
a row fer me talkin' to strangers. You'd think I was looney the way
he watches me."
"And is he a stranger to you?"
"Well, to tell the truth my mother and Jim's was cousins, but I
never knowed him to be such a poor character as he is, or I'd never
have come up here. But I don't have to stay all summer,"' she
"Well, good-bye, and I'll see you soon again," said Cora turning
toward her boat.
"Good-bye, miss, but say," and she half whispered, "is that girl
Cora burst out laughing. Bess a mute!
"No indeed, but she always lets me do the talking," answered Cora
with a sty look at the blushing Bess.
"She has good sense, fer you know how to do it," declared Kate
They could hear her bend the brush as she passed up the narrow way.
"What a queer creature," remarked Bess, when she felt that it was
safe to try her voice.
"She is queer, but I think she knows a lot about things of interest
to us. What did you think of her remark about Fern Island? To that
pretty little spot we will make our next voyage," declared Cora,
pulling on her thick gloves and taking her place in front of the
motor. "Turn out into the open lake," she told Bess as they started
off. "We will make a quick run and get back to the bungalow before
the others have done the marketing. I am glad it is not our turn to
get the lunch for I want to make a trip to Fern Island directly
after we have had a bite. Seems to me," and she increased the speed
of the engine a little, "it takes more time to get a meal at camp
than it does at home. The simple life certainly has its own
"Oh, there comes that man back! I am so glad we are away from that
place," exclaimed Bess, as the boat of Jim Peters, with the smiling
foreigner called "Jones" floated by.
THE HAUNT OF FERN ISLAND
The four motor girls started out in the Petrel. Never had the lake
seemed so beautiful, nor had the sky appeared a deeper, truer blue.
The pretty Placid lake was dotted all over with summer craft, the
sound of the motor boat being almost constant in its echoing,
"cut-a-cuta" against the wonderful green hills that banked shore
Hazel was steering, and of course Cora was running the engine. The
pennant waved gaily from the bow of the boat, and of the many colors
afloat it seemed that those chosen by the motor girls shone out most
brilliantly on the glistening, silvery waters.
"I'm not a bit afraid now," admitted Belle, "I do think it is all a
matter of getting used to the water. I thought I should never
breathe again after that first day we went out."
"Yes," said Cora, "the water has a peculiar fascination when one is
accustomed to it, and I am sure Belle will want to live on a
houseboat before we break camp. There go the boys! What a fine
"Yes," said Hazel, "that's one from Paul's garage. Paul promised
Jack he would speak to Mr. Breslin, the owner, about letting it out
for the summer, as the Breslin family is not coming out here until
later. It's the Peter-Pan, and the fastest boat on the lake."
"See them go! I guess they don't see us,"' remarked Belle.
"I am glad they do not," Cora said, "for I want to do some
exploring, and if the boys came along they would be sure to have
other plans for us. Now, Hazel, run in there. That is Fern
"Oh, there's a canoe!" exclaimed Belle. "See! and a girl is
paddling. What a queer looking girl!"
"Isn't she!" agreed Bess. "Why she has on a man's hat!"
"She sees that we are watching her. Look how she is hurrying off,"
remarked Cora. "I wonder how far this cove goes in?"
"We had better not try to find out," cautioned Belle. "I think we
have had enough of happenings around here. This is where the boy's
boat was stolen from; isn't it?"
"No, it was over there, but I guess we will put in at the front of
the island, as there is no telling how deep the cove is," said Cora.
"But see that girl go! Why she's actually gone! Where can she have
"This ought to be called the 'disappearing' land," suggested Hazel.
"I was sure that little canoe was directly in front of us, but now
it is out of sight."
"Maybe that is the 'Haunt Girl of Fern Island,'" ventured Cora with
a laugh. "I got a pretty good look at her, and I am willing to say
she looked neither like a summer girl nor a winter girl—that is,
one who might live here the year around. But just what sort of girl
she might be I shouldn't like to speculate. Her hair got loose as
she hurried, and she reminded me of some wild water bird."
"Be careful getting out," Belle cautioned Bess. "This new boat is
new to slipperiness."
"Oh, I will get hold of a tree branch," Bess replied. "Then, if the
boat drifts out, I can swing to safety."
All were ashore but Bess, and as such things often happen when they
are looked for, the Petrel did careen from the waves of a passing
launch, and just as Bess grasped an overhead willow branch, the boat
swung out and she sprang in. Everybody laughed, but Bess lost her
breath, a condition she disliked because it always added to the deep
color of her plump cheeks.
"There!" cried Belle. "Didn't I tell you?"
"I wish that next time, Twin, you would leave me to guess!"
exclaimed the other twin, rather pettishly.
"Isn't this perfectly delightful!" exclaimed Hazel, running over the
soft earth where ferns were matted, and wild flowers grew tangled in
their efforts for freedom. "I never saw such dainty little flowers!
Oh! they are sabatial I have seen them in Massachusetts," and she
fell to gathering the small pink blooms that rival the wild rose in
shade and perfume.
"Here are the Maiden Hair ferns," called Cora. "No wonder they call
this Fern Island."
"Let us see how many varieties of fern we can gather," suggested
Belle. "I have ferns pressed since last year, and they look so
pretty on picture mats."
At this the girls became interested in the number of ferns
gatherable. Belle went one way, Bess another, and so on, until each
had to call to make another hear her.
Cora ran along fearlessly. She was diving very deep into the ferny
woods, and she was intent on coming out first, if it were only in a
race to get ferns.
Suddenly she stopped!
What was that sound?
Surely it was some one running, and it was none of the girls!
Standing erect, listening with her nerves as well as with her ears,
Cora waited. That running or rustling through the leaves was very
close by. Should she call the girls?
But before she could answer herself, she saw something dart across a
big rock that was caressed by a great maple tree that grew over it.
"Oh!" she screamed involuntarily. Then she saw what it was. A man,
a wild looking man, with long hair and a bushy beard.
He had stopped just long enough to look in the direction of Cora.
She saw him distinctly. Oh! if he should run toward Bess or Belle!
Hazel would not be so easily alarmed but surely this was a wild man
if ever there was such a creature.
"That is the ghost of Fern Island," Cora concluded. "I must get
back to the girls."
She turned and hurried in the direction from which she had heard
voices. "If they have not seen him," she reflected, "I will not say
anything until we get back to camp."
"I have ten different kinds of ferns," suddenly called Belle, in a
voice which plainly said that no wild man had crossed her path.
"I've got eight," said Hazel. "How many have you, Cora?"
Cora glanced at her empty hands. She had dropped her ferns.
"I have tossed away mine. I was afraid of black spiders," she said
"Isn't that too bad," wailed Bess, "and none of us picked any maiden
hair because we thought you had it. Let us go and get some."
"Oh, I think we had best not this time," said Cora quickly. "I
really want to get to the post office landing before the mail goes
out. We can come another time when I have something to kill spiders
with. I never saw such huge black fellows as there are around
here." This was no shading of the truth, for indeed the spiders
around Cedar Lake did grow like 'turtles', Jack had declared.
"Oh, all right," agreed Belle. "But this is the most delightful
island and I am coming out here again. I hope the boys will come
along, for there are such great bushes of huckleberries over there
that we simply couldn't climb to them alone."'
"We will invite them next time," said Cora, and when she turned over
the fly wheel of her boat her hands that had held the ferns were
still trembling. She looked uneasily at the shore as they darted
"What's the matter, Cora?" asked Hazel. "You look as if you had
seen the ghost of Fern Island."
"I have," said Cora, but the girls thought she had only agreed with
Hazel to avoid disagreeing.
"What boat is that?" asked Bess a moment later, looking at a small
rowing craft just leaving the other side of the island.
"It's Jim Peters'" replied Cora, "we were lucky to get back into
ours before he saw it. I wouldn't wonder but what he might like to
take a motor boat ride in the Petrel."
"Do you suppose he really would steal a boat?" exclaimed Belle.
"He might like to try a motor, I said," replied Cora. "They say
that Jim Peters tries everything on Cedar Lake, even to running a
shooting gallery. But see! He is reading a letter! Where ever did
he get a letter on this barren island?"
"Maybe he carries the mail for the ghost," said Hazel, with a laugh.
JACK AND CORA
"Cora, where is your ring?"
The sister looked at her finger. "Oh Jack," she replied, "I will
get it—but not just now. Why?"
"I thought you always wore that ring when you put on your frills,
and I haven't seen you so dressed up since you came to camp.
Somehow, Cora, I feared you might have lost it."
"I did," she said simply.
"Your new diamond!"
"Yes, but I feel sure of finding it. Now, Jackie dear, please don't
cross question me. I shouldn't have taken it off, but I did, so and
that is how I came to lose it. But I want to tell you something
while we are alone. I saw the ghost of Fern Island to-day."
"Nonsense! A ghost?" sneered Jack. "Why, Cora, if the other girls
said that I should laugh at them."
"Well I want to tell you. We were on the island-the girls and I—and
I got a little away from them when suddenly the wildest looking
man rushed across the path. He had a beard like Rip Van Winkle and
looked a lot like him too."
"Rip might be summering out this way, though I rather thought he had
taken a trip in an airship," said Jack. "But honestly, Cora, what
was the man like? Paul had a story of that sort. He declares he,
too, saw this famous ghost."
"Do you suppose he might have taken the canoe? The wild man I mean.
We saw a strange looking girl in a canoe and somehow she vanished.
We could see her boat and then we couldn't, although we could not
make out where she went to. It was the queerest thing. There must
be some strange curves on those islands."
"Oh there are, lots of them. They are as curvy as a ball-twirler's
best pitch. But the ghost. That is what interests me, since—ahem—since
he has a daughter. Was she pretty?"
"I should say she was rather pretty," replied Cora, quite seriously,
"but she did have a wild look too. I do believe she is a daughter
to the wild man, whoever he may be."
"Well, everyone around here declares that is land is haunted, but
fisher-folk are always so superstitious. Yet we must hunt it up. I
will go out with you the next time you go. Did the other girls see
him?" went on the brother.
"No, and I decided not to tell them. You know how timid Bess and
Belle are, and if they thought there was such a creature about the
island I would never get them to put foot on shore there again, and
I do so want to investigate that matter. I believe Jim Peters has
something to do with it for I saw him coming away from there with a
letter. Now what would he be doing with a letter out on a barren
"Oh Jim is a foxy one. I wouldn't trust him as far as the end of my
nose. But here come the others. Will you go over to the Casino
"Yes, we had planned to go. That is why I am dressed up. Hazel may
have to go to town to-morrow, and I want her to see something before
she goes," replied Cora, just as the girls, and Walter, Ed and Paul
strode up to the bungalow.
"Oh! we have had the greatest time," blurted out Bess. "Cora, you
should have been with us. Ben got angry with Jim Peters, and he and
Dan threatened to throw Jim overboard, and—"
"Jim seems to have a hankering after fights," put in Ed. "I haven't
settled with him yet."
"Ed, you promised me you would call that off," Cora reminded him.
"You know it was all about me, and you have given me your promise
not to take it up again. That Jim Peters is an ugly man."
"All the same we heard that you were not afraid of him," said Walter
with a tug at Cora's elbow. "Didn't you beard the lion in his den?"
"Who said I did?" asked Cora flushing.
"I promised—crossed my heart not to tell," said Walter. "But all
the same the folks at the landing are talking about the pretty girl
who went all the way up the cove, and stopped at the place where
Peters and his pal land. I would advise you to be careful. They
say that tribe is not of the best social standing," went on Walter
"I won't go there again," put in Bess.
"What! Were you along?" demanded Jack. "Then you must have been
the pretty girl referred to at the landing."
"I was a pretty scared girl," declared Bess. "I tell you, I don't
want to meet any more Peters or Joneses or Kates," she finished.
"But what was the trouble between Jim and Ben?" asked Cora.
"Let me tell it," Belle exclaimed. "We were just standing by the
boathouse, watching some men fish, when Jim Peters, came along. He
stopped and took a paper out of his pocket. The wind suddenly blew
"And took the paper out of his hand," interrupted Hazel. "It blew
across to where Dan was standing, and what was more natural than
that Dan should pick it up?"
"And did Jim get angry at that?" inquired Cora.
"Angry! He fairly fell upon poor Dan," put in Walter, "and when Ben
saw him—I tell you Ben may stand a lot of trouble on his own
account, but, when it comes to anyone trying to do Dan, Ben is right
there to fight for him. Didn't he almost put Jim over the rail?"
"There must have been quite a lively time," said Jack. "Sorry I
missed it. There is so little excitement around here that we need
all we can get. And what was the answer?"
"Jim took his old letter and slunk off," finished Belle. "And Dan
said he couldn't have read even the name on the out side if he had
tried. He said it must have been written in Greek," and Belle
laughed at the idea of the classics getting mixed up in any such
"Seems to me," said Cora thoughtfully, "that Jim had some very
important reason for fearing that one might see that letter."
"Yes," declared Hazel, "that struck me right away. I shouldn't be
surprised if it had been addressed to—the ghost!"
"Well, if you young ladies intend to see what is going on at the
Casino this evening," Ed reminded them, "we had better make a start.
This is amateur night, I believe."
"And the Blake girls are going to sing," announced Jack. "Then I
shall have a chance to clap my hands at pretty Mabel," and he went,
through one of those inimitable boys' pranks, neither funny nor
tragic, but just descriptive.
"I think it is awfully nice of the Blake girls to take part," said
Cora, "for in this little summer colony everyone ought to be
"But I notice you are not taking part," Ed said with a laugh. "Just
fancy Cora Kimball on the Casino platform."
"Don't fancy anything of the kind," objected Bess. "We are willing
to be sociable but we have no ambition to shine."
"Come along," called Jack, who was on ahead with Hazel, "and mind,
if anything brushes up against you, it is apt to be a coon, not a
cat, as Belle thought the other night."
They started off for the path that led to the public pavilion on the
lake shore. Cora was with Ed, Walter had Belle on one side and Bess
on the other, because he declared that the twins should always go
together to "balance" him. Jack and Hazel led the way.
At the pavilion the seats were almost all occupied, for campers from
all sides of the lake flocked there on the entertainment evenings.
A band was dreaming over some tune, each musician evidently being
his own leader.
The elder Miss Blake, Jeannette, who sat on an end seat, arose as
they entered and made room for the Chelton folks to sit beside her,
meanwhile gushing over the prospect of the evening's good time, and
the good luck of "meeting girls from home."
Walter allowed Bess and Belle to pass to the chairs beyond Miss
Blake and thus placed himself beside the not any too desirable
He made a wry face aside to Jack. He liked girls but the elder Miss
"Mabel is going to sing 'Dreams,'" she said sweetly. "I do love
Mabel's voice in 'Dreams.'"
"Yes, I think I should too," said Walter, but the joke was lost on
Jeannette. "Who is that dark man over there?" he asked.
"Oh that's a foreigner. They call him Jones, but that's because his
name is so unpronounceable. Isn't he handsome?" asked the lady.
"Rather odd looking I should say," returned Walter, "but it seems to
me he is attracted in this direction. Why should he stare over this
"He knows me," replied Miss Blake, bowing vigorously to "Jones" who
was almost turned around in his chair in his determination to see
the Chelton party.
"He's mighty rude, I think," Walter complained again, leaning over
to speak to Cora who was just beyond Bess. "Do you feel the draft
from that window, Cora?" he asked.
"Oh I—" then she stopped. Something in Walter's voice told her
that it was not the window draft he was referring to. She glanced
across the room, and her eyes fell upon the man she had met at Jim
Peter's landing place.
"I think those seats over there—up near the stage are much
pleasanter," said Jack, who also saw that something was wrong.
"Suppose we change?"
"All right" assented Cora, taking the cue. "There are just four."
"I will stay here with Hazel, while you and Wallie go over there
with the girls," suggested Jack. "And say Wallie," he whispered,
"if I catch you fanning that young lady in the row ahead I'll—duck
you on the way home."
Walter apologized profusely for leaving Miss Blake. She evidently
was sorry that the window had been open for she was "so enjoying
talking of dear old Chelton." The place had only been thus
mentioned by herself.
"Who is that dark man?" Hazel inquired of Jack, for, as if his eyes
were magnets, every girl in the group felt they were riveted upon
"I don't know," replied Jack, "but he seems to be very much
interested in someone here. There, he is watching Cora. I wonder
who the fellow is?"
The curtain rising interrupted the speculation. A man cushioned
like a cozy corner laughed at himself while waiting for his audience
to do so. Then he gave a yell and started to sing a ridiculous song
about the milkmaid and the summer boarder. When he had finished one
verse he took another "fit" of laughter, but somehow the audience
did not see it his way, and when he tried it again, he broke off
with an explanation. He felt sure that the people did not quite
understand the joke, and he tried to tell them how very funny it
was. To relieve the situation another person came on. One side of
the figure was draped in the evening garb of a lady, while the other
wore the full dress suit of a gentleman. The illusion was not at
all bad, especially when the "person" waltzed with himself, with his
arms around the other side of the evening dress the effect was
"That's Spencer," declared Jack to Hazel. "He did that at college.
Isn't it great?"
"Very funny," admitted Hazel, while the man made in halves bowed on
one side first, then on the other, to his applause.
"Mabel is going to sing now," announced Miss Blake getting a firmer
hold on her chair. "I just love to hear Mabel sing."
Jack said he did also, then outside the dropped curtain stepped
She was pretty, a little thing with brown eyes and brown hair. She
wore the most babyish dress made in empire, and it was evident she
knew something about making up for good effect on the stage.
Applause instantly greeted Mabel, and Jack was not the one who first
tired of clapping his hands. This pleased Miss Jeannette immensely,
and she did not fail to express her pleasure to those about her.
The dark man in the seat across the aisle glanced first at the stage
and then at the seat where the elderly lady sat. Jack was watching
him, and noted his peculiar glances. Presently Mabel started to
sing. Her voice was sweet, and her stage manners attractive.
"Isn't she lovely!" exclaimed Bess to Ed. "I do believe she is
studying for the stage."
"Shouldn't wonder," replied the young man under his breath. Then
the girl finished the song and bowed with such pretty piquancy that
everybody demanded more of her talent.
Jack was still watching the dark man. As the girl left the platform
the latter left his seat and went outside of the pavilion.
Presently a messenger tapped Miss Blake on the shoulder, "Your niece
wishes to speak to you," the boy said, and at that Jeanette Blake
also left her seat and the room.
"Something mysterious about that," said Jack to Hazel, "and I
propose seeing it out if I can. I will take you over to the others,
and run outside."
Just as he said that, a boy appeared on the platform and announced that
owing to an important message Miss Blake was obliged to leave the hall
and could not accommodate with her second number, but that some one
else would try to fill her place.
A murmur of dissent arose from the audience.
"How could she get an important message here," Cora asked Ed.
"Where in the world could it come from?"
Jack pushed a chair for Hazel in line with the others.
"I am going outside for a moment," he said. "Take care of the girls
until I come back."
"All right," agreed the other young men.
"But don't run after Mabel," put in Walter with a laugh.
But that was exactly what Jack Kimball did.
MYSTERY UPON MYSTERY
Cora, healthy though she was, did not sleep well that night. Jack
did not return to the hall, and had left word with the doorkeeper
that he could not get back in time to see his sister but would run
up from his bungalow early the next morning. It was early now, and
next morning, but Jack had not kept his word.
No one but Cora and Hazel had any idea that this might mean anything
"It was so strange, the way that man acted," said Hazel to Cora, as
the two made their way to the spring for fresh water. "First he
watched you, then when Mabel Blake appeared he kept his eye on her.
And such eyes! I believe he could hypnotize any one."
"I hope he did not hypnotize Mabel," replied Cora.
"Or Jack," added Hazel.
"No fear of the latter," declared the sister. "Jack is too
level-headed to take any cue in that direction."
"That's just the way I feel about Paul," spoke Hazel. "Isn't it
lovely to have such splendid brothers?"
"Nothing could be more satisfactory," declared Cora, "unless it
would be having a sister besides. I have often wondered what I
should have done if I had not had such splendid girl friends. Do
you feel as if a sister would have made your life more complete?"
"I have never thought of it," said Hazel.
"But Cora! Look at that woman!"
Almost creeping through the tall grass the form of a woman could be
distinguished. She had evidently come from a boat that was lying
along shore—a rowboat. Seeing the girls, the woman stood up.
"It's Kate Simpson!" exclaimed Cora, "and she seems to be looking
for our camp!"
"Miss!" called the woman, her voice shaking. "Wait, wait for poor
Kate! Oh! I'm droppin' down!"
"What is it, Kate?" asked Cora kindly. "You seem exhausted."
"Oh, indeed I am that," replied the woman, brushing the straggling
hair from her forehead. "I am all but dead!"
"What has happened?" asked Cora further.
"I can't tell you here. They might find me, and they'd know the
"We can hide the boat in the bushes, and you may come up to the
camp," suggested Cora. "That boat is not hard to lift."
"If you only could, but I'm too done up to help," faltered the
Cora and Hazel easily shifted the light canoe up into the deep
grass. Kate got on her feet again, and, following the girls, all
made their way to a spot entirely closed in with heavy hemlock
"We may talk here," suggested Cora. "This is what we call our
annex—the annex to our camp."
"It's better than the shack I've been living in," murmured the
woman. "I'm done with that. Here," and she slipped her hand in her
dress, carefully taking from a patched place in her skirt a small
article. "This is yours—I know it!"
Cora's eyes sparkled akin to the gem at which she was gazing. Hazel
looked on dumbfounded.
"Yes, it's your ring, but don't ask me how I got it," said Kate,
"though I'm pretty sure you can guess."
"I knew who had it, and I felt I would get it back," Cora replied,
"but I never dreamed how I might recover it. Mother gave it to me
on my last birthday."
"Well I'll tell you this much, miss," and Kate Simpson glanced
furtively around her, to make sure that no one might be approaching.
"If there ever was two bigger villains than Jim Peters and Tony
whatever-his-other-name-is-if-he's-got one, then I never heard tell
of them. They're up to some new trick every day and another new one
every night. But the worst—"
She seemed afraid to go on. Evidently even a woman so used to
hardship as this one could be frightened.
"The worst?" asked Cora.
"Is the one that goes on at Fern Island," almost whispered the
"Goes on?" exclaimed Hazel, who had hitherto been silent, too
interested to interrupt.
"Yes, miss, it goes on, and it will go on I'm afraid while them
There was a shout from the camp. The others were looking for Hazel
and Cora. The familiar yodel was sent back, then Cora told Hazel:
"You run over, Hazel, and do something to interest them, while I
take Kate up the back way. I want to get her some of those things
the last maid left, and I want to refresh her a little."
"But I couldn't wait, dear," sighed Kate. "If I don't get a train
or boat away from this place soon, they'll be sure to catch me."
"But you have done nothing wrong! Why shouldn't you go or come as
you want to?" asked Cora.
"I can't tell you, miss, but them men seem to have some power and I
want to get away from it. Where might I find a train or a boat?"
"If you have to go, I'll take you to the landing in my motor boat,"
replied Cora. "It has a canopy and you will not be seen on the
"If you could. I'd be very thankful. You see I'm not much used to
the water, and rowing over from the shack nearly did me up."
"But I want to give you something for getting me my ring," insisted
Cora. "It is quite valuable, you know."
"I heard them say so, and now that the other girl is gone I'll tell
you this much. Never you go over to that shack again," and the
woman raised a warning finger. "It was a good thing you met me
instead of Jim Peters the day you did go over. They'll be like
tigers when they find I've got the ring. It was last night that
gave me the chance. They had been out very late, and Tony didn't
have any letters to copy so he fell asleep and—and I slipped away
with it. I slept a bit under a tree, but indeed I was glad to see
"And you have been out all night? You must not think of taking a
journey without first having something to eat. If you are afraid to
come up to camp I'll have something put in the boat for you,"
declared Cora. "But let me ask you, did you overhear anything about
a girl named Miss Blake? I saw Jones leave a hall where she was
singing last night, and I suspect he met her as she went out. My
brother followed, but I have not seen him since. He stops at the
boys' camp," Cora explained.
"Blake? So that was the pretty girl who sang. Well, she had better
be careful that she doesn't join the ghosts at Fern Island," said
the woman, mysteriously.
"I know the girl. She's from my home place. And that is why my
brother went to see that nothing happened to her," Cora said.
"Well, you are good people, one can see that," declared Kate. "But
wait. I can't read much, but I picked this up to wrap the ring in."
She handed Cora a soiled and crumpled telegram blank. Upon it was
made out, in message form, these words:
"Can place your friend at twenty-five week. Answer at once."
Cora pondered for a moment. "Who could have sent Jones such a
message?" she asked.
"Sent it?" repeated Kate. "He sends his own messages. He can copy
any handwriting. I heard him say the trick worked," she finished.
The truth flashed into Cora's mind. That man somehow knew the
Blakes. He was pretending to place little vain Mabel with some
theatrical company. When he left the Casino it was to show her the
bogus message. And Jack must have been somewhere around within
hearing distance. Surely things were getting complicated and
mysterious in the summer colony. But Cora had her ring back, and
for the rest she felt certain that the "ghost" of Fern Island, also
the wild looking girl of whom they had gotten a glimpse, were in
some way being wronged by Jim Peters and his associate, the
"Of course we will enter," declared Cora. "I know my boat and I
think it is as good as any little motor craft on the water."
"But suppose we should get stuck away out in the lake," objected
Bess. "Then what would we do?"
The girls and boys were talking together a few days after Cora had
helped mysterious Kate to get away, and had entered the water
"There would be plenty of boats to give us a tow," replied Cora, "but
I have not the slightest idea of getting stuck. My engine works
She found an opportunity to whisper to her brother: "What about Miss
"I'll tell you later, sis," he whispered back. "It isn't very
important. Don't ask me now," and then he went on fussing over the
engine and oil cups.
"If we only had our canoe," wailed Jack.
"That was different from any boat I have seen here. It was built
on racing lines. Funny what became of it."
"Funny?" repeated Ed. "Tragic I think!" and he gave his sleeves
another upward turn just to be doing something.
"Deplorable," added Walter. "I think I looked just sweet in that
canoe. Don't you, Hazel?"
"Well, when I saw you—you did," she admitted, "but three boys in a
canoe are not quite as attractive—"
"As one girl and one boy," he put in. "Well, that is my own
opinion, but Jack and Ed are so inartistic. I never can get them to
see things my way."
"We will race in the Peter Pan," Ed announced. "Of course she
cannot be beaten. But it is not half as much fun to depend upon an
engine as to rely upon muscle. The canoe for me."
"But the glory!" exclaimed Belle. "That boat is beautiful."
"The boat is! Look at us," and Jack stood almost on his head.
"Boats are all right, but in the beauty class we come first."
"What time do they start?" Cora inquired. "I've forgotten."
"Motors at three, smaller craft earlier. I am going over to the
Point to see the hand-boats," said Jack. "Of course everybody is
interested in them."
"Then girls," advised Cora, "get ready. We will have an early
lunch, and go out for the afternoon. Perhaps we will bring the cup
"Lucky if you bring your boat back," Jack cautioned. "Don't you
want me to look the engine over, Cora?"
"No, indeed. That would be a dangerous thing to do, for I now have
every part clear. I have put on a bigger oil cup, have had the
water circulation increased so the engine can not heat so, I have
had a throttle control put up at the steering wheel so that I can
slow down from there, and I tell you, Jackie, I have worked out the
secrets of that engine until there are no more."
"I should say you had, sis. I never knew there were so many
attachments. Well, I know I can depend upon you to keep up the
honor of the Kimball family. Come along fellows. Let's see that
the Peter Pan is not done by the 'Peter Petrel.' I noticed she was
puffing out a lot of oil this morning as we came over."
"Then," said Cora, "you want to be careful. Your oil will run out
and the best engine made will stop short if that happens."
"Whew!" exclaimed Ed. "Suppose we get Cora to look over our boat?
She seems to know."
"Better have Paul do it," suggested Cora. "That boat is worth three
thousand dollars, and I wonder they ever allowed you boys to rent
"They would not if Paul had not vouched for them," Hazel explained.
"They have a great regard for Paul's skill."
"And is he not going in the races?" asked Bess.
"I haven't heard him say," replied the sister.
"Bet he'll be a dark horse," suggested Ed. "Well, we can't wish
Paul any too much good luck, but I do wish he would not stick so
dose to his boats and tools. We scarcely see anything of him."
"Nor do I," agreed Hazel with a sigh. "I miss him dreadfully."
"Poor child," and Walter affected to put his big brown arm around
the girl. "Let me make up for Paul. Does he kiss you very often?"
and he brushed her cheek.
"Walter Pennington!" gasped the circumspect Hazel, "Do have sense!"
"That's what Cora taught me—to help the needy," he floundered.
"Come now, no more nonsense," ordered Cora. "If we are to race we
have to get ready." A few hours later Cedar Lake was alive with
craft. The rowboats and canoes were lined up first and our friends
from Chelton, the girls in the Petrel and the boys in the Peter Pan,
kept a sharp look out for the lost canoe. Of course they knew it
would be repainted, but the lines being different from those of
other boats they hoped to be able to distinguish it, should it
appear for the races.
The judges had taken their places. The platform at the Point was
gaily decorated for the occasion, and all sorts of banners were
flying. The course was to cover one mile, and it ran clear out into
the open lake so that the delightful view was unobstructed.
Of all the canoes a bright red craft with a girl in Indian garb
attracted most attention. The girl had her hair flying and was
indeed a striking figure in the brilliant bark.
There were many green boats, all having Indian names, and there were
those of wood in the natural color. Girls vied with boys in point
of numbers, and had it all their own way in point of attractiveness.
"They are all ready," Cora told her friends, as the man on the bench
who held the pistol allowed it to glimmer in the sunlight. The next
moment a crack rent the air and the boats shot off.
For some moments no one spoke. All attention was riveted on the
graceful canoes that so motionlessly covered the deep blue lake.
The dip of the paddles was the only sign of movement although the
dainty boats were making good time in covering the courses.
Suddenly when all others had left and were off a light canoe shot
out from some place, and a girl with her hair flying, and dressed
most peculiarly, started off after them all.
"She gave them a handicap," said Cora, then something occurred to
her. The same thought came to the others for each held her breath.
"The ghost girl!" whispered Belle, finally. "However did she get
"It surely is! See her go! And there—there is that man from
Peters'," exclaimed Bess to Cora, "and he, too, is in the race."
"They can beat anything on the lake," declared Hazel. "See her go!"
"See him go!"
In a few seconds those who had so mysteriously entered, the race
were far up in the line with those who had first started. The girl
was wonderfully graceful, and the man showed marked skill at the
paddle. He was trying to keep close to her, that was evident, but
at a cheer from the shore and from the outlying boats the girl shot
ahead and was soon out of hearing of the man, who evidently was her
"She will beat him—she will beat them all!" declared Cora, and this
was the opinion of most of the thousands of spectators.
"But if she does," faltered Belle, "do you suppose she will go to
the stand dressed like that to receive the prize?"
"We shall see," said Cora. "At any rate this combination is far
more interesting than the real race."
A red canoe was alongside the girl in the light one. For a few
moments it seemed she would be outdone. Then, with a clever light
dip of her paddle, that scarcely seemed to touch the water, the Fern
Island girl was again ahead.
The first course had been covered and the boats were turned back for
the final run.
"The man has dropped out," said Belle, "See there he is just
"He wouldn't be beaten, I suppose," Cora surmised, "Any one could
see that the girl would come in first."
"They are coming back and she has not started," said Belle, who had
the marine glasses.
"But she will," declared Cora.
"Yes, there she comes! Oh isn't it exciting! To have the queer
girl beat all those who pride themselves on their skill. I wonder
who or what she can be?" queried Hazel.
"Here come our boys," said Belle, as the beautiful golden Peter Pan
motored over to the smaller Petrel.
"What do you think of that?" called Jack. "Look at the Wild Duck!"
"Isn't she a—bird!" confirmed the voice of Ed.
"A Sea Gull," added the more polite Walter. "I say, girls, do you
happen to know her?"
"Yes," called back Cora, "We have met her."
Then there was an exchange of words understandable only to those
expressing them, and to those for whom they were expressed, but any
one might have guessed that the boys in the Peter Pan were asking
the girls in the Petrel to let them "meet" the wild bird of the
"They are almost in," said Bess, breathlessly. "Oh I hope she does
not back out."
"No danger," said Cora. "One can see that she is making for the
"There are two boys who have been saving themselves," Hazel
remarked. "I shouldn't wonder if they could beat our friend."
"Oh, I hope not," exclaimed Belle. "I should be so disappointed."
"And it would be impolite of them," added the innocent Bess, whereat
every one laughed.
The boys had been saving their strength. Now they paddled off and
their craft, one of brown and one green, seemed equal to any of the
"Hello there!" called Jack. "Did you notice?"
"What?" asked Cora.
"The canoe—the Gerkin?"
"He means it has lines like the lost boat," said Cora. "I have not
seen it enough to know," she finished, but at the same time she took
the glasses to look at the new rival of the wild girl.
"Yes it has, I remember," said Bess. "I had a good look at it the
afternoon that they lost it. I was waiting for you to fix up your
boat Cora, and I saw the boys' canoe."
"Well, I suppose they could never be certain, as there must be more
than one boat built even on those lines," said Cora. "My! See how
close they are—the girl and the boys!"
"She's ahead!" exclaimed Belle, clapping her hands. "How I hope she
"We all do!" declared Hazel.
Then they were silent. The first canoe was almost in, and it was
the one called the Gerkin, paddled by the boys.
"Go it girl!" screamed the boys from the Peter Pan.
"Beat them, girlie!" called the girls from the Petrel.
For one brief second the wild-looking girl turned in the direction
from which the voices had come. Hats were waved to her,
handkerchiefs flaunted and then she paddled—paddled straight ahead
and came into the finish first!
"Hurrah! Hurrah!" went up shout after shout.
"I knew it!" cried Cora joyously. "Now let us watch her."
"There's that dark man!" Bess told them. "Oh! I just wish he would
keep away from her."
But he did not. The girl in the light canoe turned from the
spectators as if she had been deaf and dumb. And it was the dark
man—the fellow called Tony Jones—who went up to the judges to get
ONE WAY TO WIN
"We have no time now," Jack told Cora, "but as soon as the races are
over I will ask what that fellow told the judges. Certainly he must
have said that he had a right to, the girl's prize, or they would
not have given it to him."
"But how the poor thing hurried off! Why, she hardly had a chance
to know that she won," replied the sister. "I think it a shame that
the creature should be treated like something really wild," and she
turned to watch the foamy wake that the little canoe was tracing, as
the girl from Fern Island hurried to hide herself again where ever
she might go. The signal precluded the possibility of further
interest just then in the strange case, but indeed Cora's mind was
not so readily shifted. She wanted to know about that girl.
The speed boats were next to be tried out. What a splendid showing!
Who would have dreamed that such handsome craft were on the waters
of Cedar Lake? Of course they were all private boats, and their
flags flaunted proudly before the spellbound spectators.
The Peter Pan was among the very finest. In this were our boy
friends from Chelton, and as they lined up the admiration expressed
was unstinted. The Sprint was another splendid speed boat, built
with torpedo stern and a queer spray hood at the bow. This was
being run by a girl—a young lady noted for her skill at any sort of
"Oh, I hope our boys win," exclaimed Bess, as if that hope needed to
be made known.
"They have a good chance," argued Cora. "Of course so many things
may happen that there is absolutely no surety of any machinery on
the water." She looked to see that the oil cup levers of the Petrel
were down to prevent the lubricant flowing before it was needed and
also gave a critical survey of the little wire that connected on the
cylinder. It emitted a clear "fat" spark as she touched it to the
metal, and this seemed to satisfy her.
"I guess ours is all right; isn't it?" asked Hazel. "Wouldn't it be
fine if we won something!"
"I fully intend to," declared Cora.
"That means that we will," responded Belle. "If Cora intends!"
"They're off!" called out Hazel, "look at Jack!"
He was standing over the engine evidently making sure that even at
the start he should not loose a single atom of the power that
twirled the propeller. Ed was at the steering wheel. Walter was at
the side, and with him was Paul Hastings.
"There's Paul!" exclaimed Bess, when they could make out that the
fourth figure in the boat was that of the boy's friend. "I thought
he would run another boat."
"He wouldn't want any other to beat the Peter Pan," explained Hazel,
"and at the same time he would not take the glory of it from the
boys who have it for the season. That's Paul," she finished
The first "leg" of the course had been covered, and the three best
boats, the Peter Pan, the Sprint, and the Lady B. were all in line.
A dozen others were trailing, and while they showed less speed it
was not safe to say that they could not catch up with the three
stars. From buoy to buoy over the triangular course the boats
fairly shot, and a beautiful sight they made on the green-hilled
basin of Cedar Lake.
The course was covered once and then the second round was started by
the boats that had qualified. These were only five in number, one
of them being a very queer looking craft, built high on the sides
like a huge box and showing at the bow a double point, like a pair
of slippers. This of course attracted considerable attention, and
it shot past the Sprint, which was run by the young lady who had
hoped to meet with no rival such as a home-made boat, to say the
"Can't that go? Look at it!" the spectators were exclaiming.
"See, Paul is at the Peter Pan's engine!" said Cora, as the color
of that boy's cap made it plain that he had taken Jack's place. "I
hope Jack has not strained his wrist, or done anything like that."
"Very likely Paul is just seeing if everything is right," said
Hazel. "See, there, Jack has his place again."
During the second and third trials all interest was centered on the
Peter Pan, the Hague, (the home-made boat), and the Sprint. Now this
would be ahead, and now that, until it seemed that there could be
but little difference in the merits of any of the three. Of course
most of the sympathy was with the Sprint, because a girl was
striving to outdo the boys. At the same time, the Hague, being such
an oddity, and the lake folks knowing that this had been built by
the boys who were running it, came in for its share of applause.
"There is not a boat on the lake that can fairly beat the Peter
Pan," Hazel declared almost feverishly, for the others were
threatening to do so. "I have heard Paul say so."
"He ought to know," said Cora with a sly wink, "but that big tub,
the Hague, is something new. Perhaps it has the power of a
"It is big and clumsy enough to have any sort of power," remarked
Belle. "I should just be sick if it did win."
"All's fair, in a fair race," remarked Cora. "See the Hague is
One more course was to be made, and every eye and every mind was
centered on this, the final test.
The Peter Pan shot out bravely and safely. The Sprint made a
splendid second! Then the Hague! Something seemed wrong. It was
"missing." That could plainly be heard from the girl's boat. Away
they flew, yard after yard being made in wonderfully short time.
The Sprint was doing well with the Peter Pan. The Hague suddenly
shot forward, passed every thing—passed the Sprint—passed the
Peter Pan and won!
"Hurrah for the tub!" yelled the crowd. "Hurrah for home talent!"
shouted the throng. But the young lady in the Sprint throttled down
and her boat drifted over to the boys.
"How was that?" she asked breathlessly.
"I don't know," replied Paul "but I'm going to find out. We were
second and you made a splendid run—but I'm going to look into the
glories of the Tub!"
So keen was the disappointment of the girls in the Petrel that they
seem to have lost heart for their own race, which came next. But
when Ed and Jack called out to them, and Paul waved his cap in his
own quiet way, the encouragement dispelled their lost of interest.
Cora spun the flywheel, and the boat took its place. She looked
every inch a girl to win, while Hazel kept close to the steering
wheel and the twins did their part in just looking pretty. The
motor girls' boat was the cynosure of every eye, as it happened to
be the only boat in that class run by girls.
The signal was given and they started off.
"Steady!" Jack called. "Go it, sis!"
He should hardly have done this, but his boyish love for the girls
and their boat could not be restrained. Then they waved, and the
maroon and white flag stood out tense and defiant like some animate
Not a word was spoken by the girls. It seemed so important to pay
all attention to the machine upon which depended the loss or gain of
a victory—if we may say that a victory can be lost.
"Look out!" called Hazel suddenly and a boat crossed their path so
closely that Cora was obliged to throttle down, and Hazel had to run
straight for a buoy to avoid a collision, and the craft hit the
course marker. Then the Petrel stopped short! It simply wouldn't
"Oh!" sighed Belle and Bess in one voice, but Cora jumped up and
tried for a spark. None came!
She looked at the connections. They seemed all right.
"Maybe it's in the gas," she said nervously, while the other boats
were passing them by.
She yanked down the bulkhead board that hid the gasoline tank. Then
she saw the cause of the trouble.
"Short circuited!" she exclaimed. "That happened when we struck
the buoy. It jarred the battery wires together," and the next
instant she had adjusted the difficulty and the engine, glad to be
off again, seemed to try to make up for the lost seconds.
Every one in the Petrel breathed a sigh of relief. The anxiety had
"I was certainly afraid we would have to row to shore," Belle said,
taking a more comfortable position.
"We will make up for it," declared Cora, throwing on full speed and
directing Hazel as to the best way to hold the wheel exactly
straight and in doing so to get all possible distance out of each
explosion of the engine.
They finished in a tie over the first course. This was encouraging,
for the little Mischief, their closest opponent, was acknowledged a
Two more courses were to finish the race, unless there was another
tie. The girls scarcely noticed the frantic efforts of the boys in
the Peter Pan who were encouraging and directing at the top of their
lungs. The young men in the Mischief were anxious. They could
never stand it to be beaten by a couple of country girls! But, on
the second trial Cora's boat won, and then came the final test.
Up the lake they went again! Now the Petrel was ahead and now the
Mischief until the closeness of the two became absorbing.
"The best race of the day!" the judges were declaring. "Neither has
it all her own way!"
"Plucky girls," said another of the men at the stand. "Whatever
happened when they stopped they must have been well able to handle,
from the way they caught up again. I thought they were out of it
"We all did," put in some one else, "but I have seen that little
girl on the lake before. She knows something about a motor boat."
"Here they come!" Jack yelled. "Just look at Cora! Isn't she
"And Hazel!" put in Paul with a smile.
"How about Bess and Belle?" asked the fickle Walter. "I think they
look just sweet!"
Only two more "legs," and the Petrel was still ahead!
One was covered, with the Mischief so close that only those in the
best position could tell which one led.
"Steady, Hazel!" cautioned Cora. Straight as an arrow she directed
Then there was a splash from a nearby motor boat. A shout and
"Overboard!" yelled the frantic onlookers. "A child overboard!"
It was just at the side of the Petrel!
"Hazel! The engine! Bess, the wheel!" shouted Cora, and before any
one knew what she was about, she had jumped into the water and was
making for the spot were the child had gone under.
The boys in the Mischief did not stop. Hazel took the engine and
Bess the wheel, realizing that Cora meant for them to finish.
Presently she came up with the child in her arms!
"Go it, girls!" she called, "Win! Win!"
The Mischief was close alongside. Cora was clinging to the side of
the boat from which the child had dropped, while the almost fainting
mother was recovering her little one. The others assisted Cora in,
and forgot all about her race.
But Cora stood spellbound in the cockpit, dripping wet. She stood
there ignoring the thanks poured out on her.
"Steady, Hazel!" she called. "Win—win for me!"
That was enough. The motor girls, those in the Petrel, realizing
that their leader was safe, now determined to "win for her."
The Mischief had gained in the time that Cora swung overboard, and
now was just abreast of the Petrel. The slight change of course
also told in the last few yards, but now Hazel and Bess forgot
everything but the call of Cora to win, and their boat, like a
flash, sprang up to its opponent and passed it by the closest record
made in any of the races.
"Hurrah! Hurrah!" rang out in their ears.
"A double victory!" shouted one of the judges. Then the Petrel was
turned back to get Cora who was in the other motor boat.
The boys in the Peter Pan had not seen Cora dive over for the child,
but as quickly as they heard the report, that was now being spread
about, they made for the boat from which the accident occurred.
Back with them went the boat of the accident crew, and when Cora
finally returned to her own craft she had an escort of honor to the
"First prize for the Petrel!" announced the head judge. "And the
honor medal for life-saving to Miss Cora Kimball, the leader of our
brave little crew of motor girls."
VICTORS AND SPOILS
"Wasn't it exciting!" Belle was saying to the little party that had
gathered around Cora as she received their praise and congratulations
after it was all over. "I never dreamed that boat races could furnish
so many kinds of excitement."
"I don't call it all delightful," objected Bess putting her arms
around the still wet form of the girl who had made the rescue, "and
I don't want to see Cora jump overboard that way again. I shall
never forget it."
"A good way to find out how much folks think of me" replied Cora.
"I really didn't mind it a bit, once I knew that I could get the
child before she got under a boat. That was all that worried me."
"Your cup is a beauty though, sis," said Jack, who was examining the
trophy. "I think it's prettier than the one we lost. Paul is not
satisfied that we lost fairly though, and he's up there now
"What good can that do now?" asked Belle.
"No telling. Paul knows what he is about," replied Jack. "But say,
did you know that the wild girl in the canoe is deaf and dumb?"
"No!" exclaimed all the girls in one voice.
"Yes that's what the dark fellow who was trailing her told the
judges, and that is why, I guess, she scampered off so. Too bad!
She is pretty too."
"And did the man take her prize?" asked Cora.
"Sure thing," replied the brother. "He said he was her guardian."
Cora thought for a moment. "Seems to me," she said finally, "that
she turned towards us when we shouted to her."
"Sometimes deaf people know such things by instinct," Jack offered
as an explanation. "I thought too, that she gave us a knowing
"Pure conceit," said Ed. "Wallie claimed the glance, but I saw her
hair float in my direction."
"She's a star canoeist," declared Jack, "and I should like to be
better acquainted with her."
"Can you talk with your fingers?" asked Belle. "I know a little of
the sign language, but I would not be too sure that I could carry on
"But you could introduce one," insisted Jack, "and once she knew I
wanted to know her—I might depend upon—true love to make known all
"Here! Here! Jackie!" cautioned Cora, "you are not to talk of
love—until mother comes home. You have promised to look after me."
"As if Ed and Walter couldn't do that ten times better than I can.
But hello! Here comes Paul—the Paul."
"It's ours," called Paul, before he was dose enough to talk in the
regulation tones. "Come on up! The judges want to see the crew of
the Peter Pan!"
"Ours!" echoed Jack, Ed and Walter.
"It certainly is ours. Those fellows had the gasoline doped?"
"What's that?" asked Ed.
"They had camphor and some other stuff in their gas," went on Paul,
"and the engine nearly kicked out of the boat."
"Did they admit it?" inquired Ed.
"Not until I charged them with it," replied Paul. "I knew there was
something up when they got ahead on that jump. Then I asked if I
might take a look at that freak engine, and they allowed me to do
so. I smelled camphor the minute I stepped aboard. They even had
not sense enough to hide the bottle, and it's against the present
racing rules on this lake to doctor gas. So I taxed them with it,
and they finally admitted it and we went together to the judges.
They were pretty decent chaps and did not seem to mind, very much,
relinquishing the prize. You know what it is, don't you?"
"Certainly, it's a dandy canoe," said Jack, "And you really mean
that it is to be ours?"
"If you don't hurry along some one else may claim it," said Paul.
"It isn't mine, it's yours."
"And to think that we and our boys both got prizes!" exclaimed
Hazel. "Isn't it too good to be true?"
"And too good to be false," answered Paul. "Now, boys, let's run
along. I have something to do before evening."
"And I had better make for camp," said Cora. "These togs are wet."
"Of course," said Belle with sympathy in her voice. "But when do
you get your medal, Cora?"
"I believe it comes from Philadelphia. Some wealthy man has it
stored there waiting to be claimed."
"It's a wonder the mother of that little girl didn't want to adopt
you, Cora," said Jack, as the boys started off with Paul. "I
thought from the way she hung on to you she had intentions. Well,
so long. We will give you first ride in our new canoe, and let us
hope we will have better luck with this one than we had with the
other," and then the boys went off for the prize.
"I can't get over that girl being deaf and dumb," said Hazel, as the
girls made their way to the camp. "I can scarcely believe it."
"Well, now we have a double interest on Fern Island," Cora answered.
"If there is really such an unfortunate creature hid or hiding there
she ought to be rescued. I cannot understand, either, how that
foreigner can be her guardian."
"That Jones?" asked Bess, as innocently as if she had not seen the
girl race and heard about the man claiming her prize.
"Why, yes, of course," replied Cora. "And he says she is deaf and
dumb. Who's calling? Didn't you hear some one?"
"Yes, there's Mabel Blake hurrying after us," said Belle. "She
The girl who was running along the path did indeed "look excited."
The motor girls waited.
"Oh, I thought I would never catch up to you!" Mabel panted. "You
do walk at such a pace!"
"Why, how are you, Mabel?" asked Cora graciously. "I heard you had
gone back to Chelton."
"We did intend to—but we haven't," she faltered. "Jeannette has
"Ill!" exclaimed more than one voice.
"Yes, that's what I want to see you about. I don't know what to
do," and Mabel's pretty brown eyes filled to the lashes.
"Can we help you?" Cora asked.
"I would like to speak with you alone, Cora," she said. "But I know
what you did this afternoon, and I see you have still to change your
"They are almost dry now," Cora replied. "Yet if you could wait
five minutes I could easily change in that time. Here we are. Home
again. And there! Nettie has heard all about our victories;
haven't you Nettie?"
"Indeed yes, Miss Cora. But I was afraid for you," replied the
maid. "The child's father sent a message up here to ask when he
might see you?"
"Oh, they make too much fuss over a trifle," replied Cora. "Sit
here on the porch with the girls, Mabel. I will be out soon."
Finally Mabel pressed her handkerchief to her eyes and murmuring
some sort of unintelligible excuse she rushed indoors.
She was met in the hall by Cora.
"Why, what is it, Mabel?" she asked, putting her arms about the
"Oh, I cannot stand it," wailed Mabel. "The disgrace!"
"The—that—man!" she stammered. "But I must go back to Jeannette.
I am afraid she is losing her mind. Of course, you could not go
with me, Cora. It would be too much after your hard afternoon. But
Jeannette got your letter."
"Yes? I hope she understood it."
Mabel tried to dry her eyes. "I suppose she did if any one could
understand such a thing," she replied. "But to think it is in the
"When was it in?" Cora asked.
"It will be out to-morrow!" replied the tearful one.
"To-morrow," Cora repeated thoughtfully. "Perhaps Jack could stop
it. He is well acquainted with the editor."
"Oh, if he only could," and Mabel brightened up. "That's what makes
Jeannette feel so dreadfully."
"It was very unfortunate," Cora said. "He is a dangerous man."
"Dangerous! I think he should be put in jail," declared Mabel
"But it is so difficult to catch such people," Cora remarked. "You
could scarcely name your charge against him?"
"Name it? Never!" exclaimed the girl.
"There you are. One woman who might put him in jail flies off to
New York. You could at least accuse him of fraud and you refuse. I
myself know of one wrong doing that affected me and I prefer to keep
quiet—for the present at least. You see what cowards we all are
where our pride is concerned.
"You are not a coward, Cora Kimball," exclaimed Mabel, "and I know
perfectly well you would denounce him if you thought that safest."
"At any rate, Mabel, I think it will all come out right," Cora
assured her. "Just wait until I have a glass of milk and I will go
over and see Jeannette."
"I can never tell how it all happened," sighed Mabel, "I really
think he had me hypnotized."
"He is a clever rogue," agreed Cora, and she knew now more about his
roguery than she cared to sum up even to herself.
TALKING IT OVER
The interview with Miss Jeannette Blake was not altogether
satisfactory, but Cora was too careful of the sick one's feelings to
ask deliberate questions. She could not really find out how far the
Blakes had gone with Tony Jones in the matter of paying him for the
alleged placement of Mabel with a theatrical company, but she
guessed they had either actually paid a large sum, or had given
a note that might be equally compelling.
Also the notices that had been prepared for the press announcing her
coming "debut" were very embarrassing.
It was the day after the races, and Cora sat with her brother on the
porch of their bungalow. She had told him of Mabel's plight and was
asking him to help her clear up some of the shades and shadows.
"Tell me, Jack," she asked, "what happened the night you followed
Mabel out of the pavilion—the night that man gave her the false
message?" Jack thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and looked
very serious—for him. "To tell the truth, Cora," he began, "I had
to make love to Mabel to get her out of his clutches."
"Make love to her, Jack!"
"Nothing smaller would do but you know, sis, the love was only a
sort of sample, the kind a fellow might safely give away to any
Cora laughed. "You funny boy," she said, "to flatter a girl to save
"But didn't you ask me to? Didn't you say to watch Mabel that time
you whispered as I was leaving? You are the funny one. It was you
that put the wicked plot in my fair young head," and he sighed in
"But honestly, did you see that man give her the telegram? It seems
to me you might be a witness should there be trouble."
Jack jumped up. "Oh, no, you don't, sis!" he declared. "You don't
get me in any further mischief. Mabel is too fond of me now."
"Jack, don't be silly! I want you to wire the editor of the Chelton
paper that, owing to the sudden illness of Miss Jeannette Blake, her
niece, Miss Mabel Blake, has been compelled to stop her musical
studies, and postpone her debut as a singer. That is all true and
if the other notice does appear you can arrange to have this given
as the latest."
"Foxy!" declared jack. "'Not a word of fib and not a grain of
truth. Well, you would beat Jones if you went at his game, but I do
think it a good idea to wire Nat Phillips. I'll go and do so at
once," he added, feeling in his pocket to make sure he had with him
change enough to pay for the message.
"And Jack," Cora went on, "since you have been so good, don't you
think it would be lovely for you to sort of keep track of Mabel for
a day or two? That man, I am afraid, has her under some sort of
influence, and there is no telling what he might not try to do to
get some Blake money."
"Make more love to her? Suppose she takes me up?"
"I really cannot explain it all, Jack," said Cora gravely, "but the
man has frightened more than Mabel. The woman who kept house for
him and Peters was so afraid that he would find out she was leaving,
that I could scarcely persuade her to wait while I changed the
batteries in my boat. She kept saying she wanted to get out of his
power. And now Mabel declares he had her hypnotized. Then that
sort of queer girl who won the canoe race—surely he has her somehow
in his power, as they express it."
"Powerful man," answered Jack, "but how is it, Cora, that you talked
with him and he did not hoodoo you?"
"Oh I'm immune I suppose," and she smiled with her handsome face
turning up in becoming hauteur.
"Guess Ed thinks that, too," said the brother mischievously. "He
has been growling to me about it."
"Ed is a dear, nice boy," she said simply.
"That's the sort of compliment a girl always pays the fellow she is
going to turn down," Jack declared.
"I think, brother, making love to Mabel has gone to your head. But
hurry along to the station and send off the message."
Cora sat there silent for a few moments. There was no one about the
camp but herself, and she would soon go down to the lake for a run
in her boat. She was thinking that of all the peculiar cases of
other people's troubles in which she felt she had a right to
interfere that of the girl who was said to be deaf and dumb and who
was probably hidden somewhere on Fern Island was the case most
urgent. If only she could really find her, and find that poor
demented old man who had so strangely crossed her path. Cora had
not the least fear of either of them and suddenly she resolved to go
alone to Fern Island and try to find them.
Ten minutes later, when she had left a note dangling from the
hanging lamp in the dining room, saying to the girls that she would
be back by supper time, Cora was gliding up Cedar Lake in the
She was glad that she did not meet any of her friends who would, of
course, ask where she was going. And now she was too far away to
meet any boats of summer fisher folks or pleasure seekers.
"I am beginning to believe in the psychic," she mused, "for I have a
feeling that a cry for help comes from that perfectly silent
Her heart beat quickly as she throttled down her engine, stopped it,
and finally stepped ashore. Her landing was made on a different
side of the island than before and she saw instantly that feet had
been treading down the ferns from shore to inland. This path served
to guide her along. Then she noticed particles of food.
"Hardly picnic folks along here," she thought. "Perhaps the canoe
girl is somewhere about—"
But what was her terror when she faced the shore at a dear spot in
the woods and against it saw the boat of the man Peters.
"Oh!" she gasped. "He must be on the island!"
Then she listened. Yes, there was a step! She sank down behind a
clump of thick bushes and while hiding there she saw, not Peters,
but Jones saunter down to the water's edge!
How she trembled! A half-fainting sensation overcame her. From a
crouching attitude she sank flat on the ground and felt too weak to
attempt to raise herself.
Meanwhile the man had reached his rowboat and pushed off. He
glanced along and saw the motor boat.
"That girl!" he muttered. "She is interfering with my plans again.
This would be an ideal place for a—" Then he stopped. "Bah! I'll
just give her a chance to think over her courage."
Cora was still under the bush, and did not hear the gentle purr of
her engine as the man started down Cedar Lake in her own precious
motor boat, dragging his rowboat behind.
TWO GIRLS ON THE ISLE
"He's gone!" Cora murmured, as creeping out from her hiding place,
she could see that the rowboat had left the shore. "Well, I am safe
again, for I have not the slightest fear of any one who may be on
Cora glanced about her in a dazed way. Then she noticed that the
bent grass and fern led toward a hill in a deep part of the wood.
"Strange," she was thinking. "I feel so absolutely certain that the
young girl is about here, and that she needs help."
The path was so faintly outlined that Cora could scarcely trace it,
but she knew if any one was in hiding the place of concealment must
be at the end of the path.
Several times she looked back of her to make sure that the man Jones
was not following. Then suddenly she thought she heard a faint
She listened. Yes, that was a sob and in a girl's weak voice. Cora
quickened her steps, and forgetting now to watch the path she was
covering, forgetting all except that a human creature must be in
pain, and that she could probably help that person. Cora Kimball
almost ran until she reached the hill, where she saw a sort of
screen made from the broken branches of trees.
Another moan! It was behind that screen! Quick as a flash Cora
jerked down the branches, thrust her head into a cave and there
beheld the one who was sobbing and moaning.
It was the canoe girl! She lay on a bed of pine needles her pretty
face as pale as death, and her lovely hair tangled in the pine
As Cora pushed her way into the queer cave, the girl turned, and
seeing her, screamed—such a scream as one might expect from the
insane. At the same moment the brush was again pushed from the door
and there stood the wild man! His white hair and his white beard
showed Cora that he was the same person who had so strangely crossed
her path in the woods the day she was fern-gathering.
"I want to help you," Cora spoke timidly, while the girl on the
ground moaned pitifully.
"Help?" whispered the man, and his voice was as gentle and soft as a
woman's. "They have killed my girl," and he knelt down beside the
prostrate figure. He kissed her passionately. Then she opened her
"Father, dear," she murmured, "You must go—quick!"
He kissed her again; then he turned to Cora.
"Young woman," he said gravely, "you must not harm my darling. She
is innocent." Then he left the cave.
What could she do? What should she do? This girl was neither deaf
nor dumb, and for that Cora was grateful, but if that dangerous man,
who had said she was both, should return, and find Cora with her!
"Dear," said Cora gently, "try to trust me. Tell me what I can do
"Oh, if I could but die!" the girl sobbed, "but there is father!"
Then Cora saw that she was becoming unconscious. Feeling about the
half-dark cave place Cora came upon a pail of water. Beside it was
a tin cup and this she filled and carried to the sick girl's lips.
"Try to drink," she whispered. "Then if you can stand I will take
you to my house in my boat."
The girl did sip some of the water. Again she opened those
wonderful eyes and looked at Cora.
"You are kind," she said. "He did not send you?"
"No one sent me, dear, and I promise never to betray you."
"At last," she murmured, "a friend!"
"Yes, a friend," Cora assured her, "and I am going to prove it to
you. I saw you one day as we—some girls and myself came to this
island. Then I saw you win that splendid race, and since then I
have been determined to find you."
"'He made me do it, he made me go in the race," said the girl, "and
now he brings this letter."
"What has shocked you so?" Cora asked. "Was it the letter?"
"Yes, he says they are coming for father!"
"Who?" Cora asked, but the girl's face went so white that again she
pressed the tin cup to her lips.
"There," Cora went on, "we will talk of nothing now but of what we
shall do to make you well again. Could you walk ever so little a
distance? To my motor boat?"
"If I could, what then?" asked the girl.
"Then loving hands would bring back the color into your checks, and
then the best boys in the world would come to help your father."
"Help father!" she repeated. "But that can never be done. Father
"But he has no disease," Cora said, remembering what Kate, had told
her was Tony's excuse for going to see a victim of some dreadful
disease, who was on Fern Island.
"No, thank God, his body is well, but his soul is sick—so very
"Let me see if you can sit up?" asked Cora. "It will soon be night
and we must try to get away."
"It will, be much better to leave him, and return, soon, well and
strong enough to comfort him again," Cora said, "than to stay here,
and perhaps die."
"You are right," said the stranger getting up on her elbow. "Oh,
what it means to speak with a girl again. Heaven must have sent
"There, you are up now," spoke Cora quickly, realizing the
importance of urging the girl to get up while she felt so inclined.
"See, you can stand! There, now you can walk."
"But I must say good-bye to father. Oh! should I leave him?" she
"Just for a little while, dear," Cora again assured her. Then the
girl put her finger to her mouth and gave a queer whistle.
"I will be outside so he will know that I am better," said the girl.
"Father has been so frightened."
The next moment the man appeared again.
"Father," said the girl, "I am going with this friend some place to
get well. Should I go?"
"Friend? Yes, she is all of that. Daughter go!" and the man
pressed her to his breast.
"And you will be all right? No one will come for you?"
A look of horror swept over his face. "They shall not find me," he
faltered, releasing his daughter from the embrace.
"Let me tell you, sir," ventured Cora, "that the man I just saw
leave this island is a villain. Don't believe one word he says."
"Villain? Yes! He is that, for he would have carried off my
"Hush father, you showed him that you had more strength than a
coward can have. I feel so much better. I am almost cured since
this girl has taken my hand."
"My name is Cora Kimball," said our heroine, "and I have a camp at
the lower end of the lake. It is there I am taking Laurel."
"And she may come to see me?" almost sobbed the aged man. "My
little wild Laurel."
"Yes, indeed, and some day I feel that we may take you, too, away
from this island. There, I do not mean anything to harm you. Come,
dear, it is growing dark."
"I will leave a branch of laurel to guide you back to me," the man
said to his daughter. "When you come, look for it as I shall place
it fresh every day."
"Go now, before I go," his daughter urged. "Then I shall feel that
you are safe."
He turned, and the girls stood to watch the last of that queer form
as it disappeared over the hill. He was going to one of his many
"Now we may go," said the lonely one. "Poor, dear father!"
"Be brave," urged Cora, as she led her toward the shore. "I am so
glad I found you."
"If you had not I feel I should have gone insane. That man was
always terrible, but today he wanted to take me away!"
"Once in my little boat and you will almost forget all those
terrible things," said Cora. "I left—it—here!"
Then she stopped in dismay, as she saw that the boat was gone!
A TERRIBLE NIGHT
"The boat is gone!" Cora almost gasped. Then the girl, the sick
frail creature, did a remarkable thing—she came to the rescue of
the stronger one.
"No matter," she said calmly. "I feel so much better with a girl to
speak to, that if you will put up with my strange life for a night,
perhaps it will be all right in the morning. There," as Cora
showed by her change of color that she felt it would be a risk,
"lots of people think sleeping, out of doors is the very best sort
of life. Don't you want to try it?"' and her arm stole around
"Why, of course we can only try, but I am afraid that you will
suffer, Laurel. You are very weak," said Cora.
"No, I was only frightened," and she made an effort to show that she
did really feel better. "Now, when we go back we must not let
father know that we are still on the island."
Cora did not question this. That the girl had a good reason for
keeping her presence a secret from her father she felt certain. But
to turn back to those woods! And night so near!
"I suppose there is absolutely no way of getting a boat?" Cora
"Even my canoe is gone. That awful man is to blame," replied the
"Did he take it?" asked Cora.
"When I refused to go with him, he said I might die here," replied
Laurel. "That was to get more money from father. Oh, you cannot
know how I have wished to speak with some one!" and her big, brown
eyes filled with tears.
"And I am so glad I did come," Cora assured her, "even if our first
night must be a lonely one. I am used to queer experiences."
"Then I will have no fear in showing you how I have lived here. Of
course, it was for father."
They retraced their steps, and in spite of all the assurances that
each pledged to the other it was surely lonely.
"Shall we go to your little pine cave?" Cora asked.
"I think it would be better not to," replied Laurel, "for indeed,
one never knows what that man might do. He might come back just to
"And he saw how ill you were?"
"Oh, most men think girls get ill to order. Very likely he thought
I was acting," and the strange girl almost laughed.
"Our folks will be frightened about me," Cora said. "Are there no
means of getting away from here?"
"There is not a person on this island that I know of," replied
Laurel. "Of course, Brentano took your boat."
"Brentano?" Cora repeated.
"Yes. Did you not know his name?"
"He seems to have a collection of names. One calls him Tony,
another Jones, and now it is Brentano."
"But we knew him abroad. That is his name."
Cora wondered, but did not feel inclined to ask further questions
then. It was almost dark, and under the pine trees shadows fell in
"Hark!" exclaimed Cora. "I thought I heard an engine!"
They listened. "Yes it is an engine," replied Laurel, "but I am
afraid it is over at Far Island."
"Couldn't we shout?"
"I would rather not. You see father wants to stay here," she said
"You mean if any one came for us they would know we were not alone
"They might suspect. Or they might just happen to see father."
Cora was sorry. She wanted so much to call to the possible
passerby, but she saw that the other girl had some very strong
motive in wishing to leave the island secretly.
"Do you never go away from here?" she asked.
"Only when I am forced to, as I was the day of the race. He made me
race, threatening to expose father if I did not."
"And then he said that you were deaf and dumb," added Cora
"I did not mind that at all. In fact it was the easiest way for me
to get out of meeting people." Laurel sighed heavily. "I do wonder
when our lives will change," she said finally.
"Let us hope very soon," Cora said. "I, of course, do not know your
story, but I feel that in some way that man is wronging you."
"Yes, he has been our evil genius ever since he crossed our path.
You see father's mind is not entirely clear, and I do not myself
know what to believe."
In the distance they could now see the lights of several boats, and
behind the great hill that made Far Island look like some strange
mountain place, the sun was all but lost in the forest blackness.
"Oh," sighed Laurel suddenly. "I feel faint again."
She sank down before Cora could support her. And they were away
from the little hut where the water was! Away from every thing but
the pitiless night!
"Oh, how dreadful," moaned Cora. "What shall I do?"
For a long time Laurel lay there so still that Cora feared she might
really die. Then at last, she managed to sit up and grasp Cora's
"I have never been ill in my life," she said. "It was all from that
shock the day he compelled me to go in the race."
"Then you have every chance of getting perfectly well again," Cora
assured her. "If that dreadful man had only left my boat."
"Perhaps in the morning we may be able to go," Laurel said. "Now
that I have made up my mind I feel it will be better for father as
well as for me, for if anything happened to me I fear he would die."
A light in the distance for a time gave them hope that a boat might
be coming to the island, but, like a number of others, it turned
toward the pleasure end of the lake.
"I guess we will have to make the best of it for to-night," Cora
sighed. "Shall I try to find the hut and get you some food?"
"And you have not eaten! In my misery I forgot you. Of
course—there now—I am better, and we will have to make our way to
the pine hut. But if that man comes back!" and she shuddered.
"Why does he hold such power over you?" asked Cora, as she put her
arm protectingly around her companion. "Does he supply you with
your things out here?"
"We supply him," replied the girl bitterly. "He is never satisfied
but always demanding more, until father will soon have nothing
Cora was mystified but this was no time for the strange story. She
must help the girl to the pine hut.
"I believe you are more weak for want of food than from illness,"
Cora said. "I hope we find something to eat."
"Oh, yes, he brought things, but he should have done so before. I
am weak for food."
It was difficult to find the way back now in the darkness, but the
two lonely, frightened girls trudged on. At last Laurel was able to
feel the stone on the path that gave the clue to her little hut.
"Does Brentano know you?" she asked Cora suddenly.
"I know him. I have been to his shack, and I have heard a lot about
him from a housekeeper who left Peters. Do you know he is a
"A hand-writing expert!" gasped the girl. "Does that mean he could
copy a signature?"
"Perfectly," replied Cora, "but how you tremble? What is it now?"
"Girl! girl!" she gasped. "What that may mean to us! Oh, I must
find father! He will know. I must signal to him."
"Please do not to-night," begged Cora, fearing a new collapse from
the excitement. "Wait until daylight. Here, now we shall get our
They were within the pine hut and had lighted a lantern. A loaf of
bread and some salt meat were easy to find in the rudely-made box
that served for a closet.
"I am actually starved," Cora remarked, with an effort to be
pleasant. "I guess your pine trees make one hungry."
"Hark!" breathed Laurel. "I heard a step!"
The next moment Cora stood at the entrance to the hut, and waited.
The step was coming closer and closer! And it was plainly that of a
"Oh, what can it be?" gasped Laurel. "Or who is it?"
"I—I don't know," whispered Cora, her voice trembling in spite of
herself. "But we must be brave, Laurel, brave."
"Oh, yes, I will be! Oh I how glad I am that some one is with
me—that you are here!"
Cora felt the other's frail body trembling as she put her own strong
arms around the shrinking girl. Then Cora peered from the door of
the hut. Still that stealthy footstep till the approach of that
unknown. Cora felt as if she must scream, yet she held her fears in
check—not so much for her own sake as for the other.
Suddenly there was a crash in the underbrush, the crackling of
brushes, the breaking of twigs.
"He—he's fallen!" gasped Laurel.
"Tripped over something," added Cora. "Oh, maybe he will turn back
Them was silence for a moment and then, to the relief of the girls,
they heard footsteps in retreat. Their unwelcome visitor was going
"Oh, he's gone! He's gone!" gasped Laurel in delight.
"Maybe it wasn't a man at all," suggested the practical Cora. "It
might have been a bear—or—er some animal."
"There are no bears on this island," replied her companion with a
wan smile—"no animals bigger than coons, and they couldn't make so
much a noise. Besides, I heard him grunt, or moan, as he fell. So
it must have been a man."
"Well, he's gone," rejoined Cora, "and, now that he's left us alone
I'm going to hope that he didn't hurt himself. He interrupted our
supper and now it's time we finished it," and in the dim light of
the lantern they ate the coarse food and waited—waited for what
would happen next.
THE SEARCHING PARTY
"I know something has happened to Cora," Hazel was lamenting, "and I
am afraid we have lost good time in not going with the boys. Let us
get ready at once. Here Bess and Belle, you take these lanterns,
Nettie carry matches—and take a strong mountain stick, and—"
"Oh, mercy!" exclaimed Belle, in terror, "why should we need a
"To make our way with," replied the practical Hazel. "It is not
easy to get about in woods on a dark night like this," and she gave
a look at the lights to make sure they were all right. "The boys
were to send word here, or to leave word with Ben if they found her.
Now let's hurry."
It was a sad little party that started off from Camp Cozy. When,
that evening, according to the note Cora had left on the hanging
lamp, she did not appear, for some little time, there was scarcely
any anxiety. Cora was so reliable, and of course they could
conjecture a dozen things that might have detained her. But when an
hour passed, and she then was not to be found, Jack jumped up, Ed
and Walter followed, and as they hurried off, left the word that
through Ben, or by message to camp, they would report to the girls.
Now another whole hour had passed, and there was no message.
"Which way shall we go—?" asked tenderhearted Bess.
"To the landing first," Hazel replied. She was always leader in
This was but a short way from the camp. At the landing stood Ben
with his faithful lantern.
"They've got her boat," he blurted out.
"Where?" asked the girls in chorus.
"Just in the cove. But nothin' could hev hurt her there. She ain't
drownded in that cove."
"But how could her boat get there?" demanded Hazel.
"No way but to be run in there," answered Ben. "I tell you, girls,
this is some trick. 'Taint her fault of course, but she's all right
The thought of the man Jones flashed through Hazel's mind. And he
had threatened Cora. She had interfered in taking away Kate, the
house keeper, she had found out about the man and girl on Fern
Island, and she had saved little Mabel Blake! Now all that—
"Trick!" repeated Bess. "That could not be called a trick."
"For want of a better word," said Ben, with apology in his voice.
"But when the boys found the boat they started off in her and left
word you were not to follow."
"But we must," insisted Hazel. "We might find her and they might
not. But how can we go?"
"I could get you another boat if you're set on it," offered Ben,
"but I wouldn't like to displease the young men."
"Oh, we will answer for that," Hazel assured him, "just get the
boat. We will go up the lake."
"Yes, you've got it right. Up the lake, fer I saw Tony comin' down
Only Hazel understood him. He, too, suspected the man of many
It was not more than five minutes later that Dan brought the small
motor boat from the dock, and scarcely more than another five
minutes passed before the girls were off.
There were many small boats dotted about the water, and the girls
looked keenly for the flag of the Petrel which they could have
distinguished even in the darkness for the white head-light always
showed up its maroon and white, but old Ben took no heed of the
craft in the lower end of the cove. He headed straight for either
Far or Fern Island—the twin spots of land far away.
Out in the broadest part of the water they suddenly came upon a
rowboat without a light.
"Look out there!" shouted Ben. "Where's your light?"
There was no answer. Ben turned as far out of his course as it was
possible to do at the rate his own boat was running.
"There is no one in that boat," declared Hazel. "See, it is just
"Might be," said Ben, throttling down his gasoline so that he might
turn nearer the other craft for inspection.
"There does not seem to, be any one in it," declared Bess, who also
looked over the edge of the smaller boat.
Ben did not reply. He had recognized the other craft as that
belonging to Jim Peters, and guessed that the man might be up to
some trick. When he had almost stopped his motor he jumped up and
peered into the rowboat.
"'Low there!" he called "Sleepin—?"
There was no answer.
"Hum," he sniffed, "thought so. It's Jim. Say there Jim, you're
not over friendly."
Thus taunted the man in the other boat moved to the low seat. He
growled rather than spoke, but Ben was not the sort to take offence
at a fellow like Jim.
"Joy riding?" persisted Ben.
"Say, you smart 'un," spoke Peters, "when you want to be funny
better try it on some 'un else. Leave me alone," and he picked up
the oars and sculled off.
"What do you suppose he was hiding for?" asked Belle.
"Oh he always has somethin' up his sleeve," replied Ben with a light
laugh, "and the best we can do is to follow him."
"But then we cannot look farther for Cora," Objected Hazel.
"The best way to find her is to make sure that he does not find her
first," said Ben. "She's all right so long as we keep her away from
her enemies," and he turned the boat down the lake toward the
From the finding of Cora's boat to the landing at Fern Island the
boys lost little time. Somehow Jack felt the night's work had to do
with the hermit and his daughter; also he feared that the man Jones
might know of it, so that he lost no time in hurrying to the far end
of the lake in hope of there finding his sister.
Few words were spoken by the three boys as they landed, took the
lanterns from the motor boat, and after detaching the batteries, to
make sure no one would run off with the craft, they sought a path in
Good fortune, or kind fate, led them in the right direction. They
could see that the way had been beaten down. They walked on, one
ahead of the other, when Jack, who was in the lead, stopped.
"What's this?" he exclaimed, stooping to pick up a white thing from
the ground. "A letter," he finished, holding out a square envelope.
The other young men drew nearer to Jack, to examine what might prove
to be an unexpected clew.
"What do you make of it?" asked Ed.
"It's—er—" Jack paused suddenly. On the envelope he had caught,
in the light of a slanting ray from a lantern a girl's
name—"Laurel." He had been on the point of taking the missive from
its cover, but the glimpse of that name prevented him. Somehow he
felt that it might have to do with the disappearance of Cora—she
was always getting mixed up with girls, he reflected. And it might
not be just the best thing to publish broadcast what this was Jack
"I guess it's some shooting license a hunter has dropped," he
completed his half-finished sentence. "I'll just stick it in my
pocket until we get to a place where I can look at it better. I
might lose something from the envelope in the woods. Come on,
"I think we're on the right trail," spoke Walter.
"But where in the world can Cora be?" asked Jack. He was beginning
to be very much disturbed and was under a great mental strain.
"Let's yell!" suggested Ed. "If Cora is within hearing distance
she'll hear us."
"Good!" cried Jack. "All together now!"
They raised their voices in a shrill cry that carried far.
As the echoes died away there seemed to come, from a distance, an
echo of an echo. They all started as they heard it.
"Hark!" commanded Jack, standing at attention.
"It's a voice all right—an answer," declared Walter.
"Yes," agreed Cora's brother. "It was over this way. Come on,
Together they dashed through the bushes, trampling the underbrush
beneath their feet. The lanterns they carried gave but poor light
and more than once they crashed into trees. But they kept on,
stopping now and then to call again and listen for the answer.
"Look! A light!" suddenly cried Jack, pointing off to the left.
"Come on!" shouted Ed, and they changed their course. Five minutes
more of difficult going, for they had gotten off the path, brought
them to the pine hut. In the doorway stood two girls with their
arms about each other.
"Cora!" gasped Walter and Ed in one voice. "And the other may
be—Laurel," murmured Jack, and then he too cried: "Cora!"
The next instant he had his sister in his arms, and there arose a
confused clamor of joyful voices, each person trying to talk above
"And—and you are really alive!" cried Jack, holding his sister off
at arm's length and gazing fondly at her.
"Yes, Jack," was the glad response. "You see, Jack dear, it takes a
good deal to do away with me."
"But—but something surely happened!" he insisted.
"Of course it did, but I'm not going to tell you about it now."
"Yes, make her, Jack!" insisted Walter and Ed.
"And your friend," added Cora's brother in a low voice.
"Oh, I almost forgot," she replied. "Boys, this is Laurel—Wild
Laurel if you like. Laurel, these are the boys, including my
brother. You can easily tell who he is," she added dryly. "More
formal introductions can wait."
"Tell us what happened," demanded Jack, and then Cora briefly
related what had taken place since she came to the island, how she
had discovered the loss of her boat and had found Laurel and the old
hermit. She told of their parting from Laurel's father and how she
and her companion had returned to the hut.
"And then—then some one came toward the hut after we got here," she
finished. "And, oh, how frightened we were! But whoever it was
went away again and didn't bother us. Then we ate something
and—and well, you know the rest."
"It's all right," Ed soothed, realizing that both girls had been
terribly frightened. "We just came from the lake by your path. It's
splendid to find you Cora," and he went over to press her hand.
"And I am sure you and your friend are glad to be found."
Cora looked up, and in the dim lantern light she could be seen to
smile. "It was all because someone took my boat," she said in a
braver voice. "Laurel and I were just going to the main land."
"As soon as you feel able we will take you to the boat," suggested
Jack. "It must have been very bad here for you, and with some one
else loose in the woods."
"Oh, it was," said Cora. "Jack, I have been in many dreadful
places, but on an island with an enemy prowling about seems to be
the most fearful."
"An enemy?" repeated Walter.
"Yes, that man Tony, or Jones, took my boat," declared Cora,
indignantly, "and this time I will not try to make the laws myself.
I am sure he took your canoe, and now my boat!"
"Well, we have you anyway," said Jack giving his sister a great warm
embrace, "and now we are going to take you both back to
civilization. Walter, can you care for Miss Laurel?"
And then Jack, seeing a good chance, slipped into Laurel's hand the
envelope he had picked up in the woods. The girl started, stared at
him for a moment, and then hid the missive from sight. She did not
speak, but looked her thanks to Jack.
So happy were the girls to get away and to be in such safe company,
that the shock and exhaustion following it were almost forgotten.
Cora felt much stronger, and so did Laurel. They looked like two
very much tossed and tousled girls, but the boys were not thinking
of their looks just then.
"Are we going in my own boat?" asked Cora, showing how the ownership
of that boat had been so dear to her.
"In the Pet!" replied Ed, "Jack, let me help Cora; you take the
Walter, waited for Laurel. She seemed to have things to take with
her from the hut. "A queer camp, isn't it?" she asked, "but it's a
great little place on a warm clay."
"Or a dark night," dared Walter, whereat Ed threatened to take both
girls and so leave the wily Walter alone—for punishment.
The girls laughed. "Walter is our champion," explained Cora. "I
shouldn't wonder if it were he who found us."
"Never," contradicted Jack. "I—found you."
"That's a good, dear, old Jackie," replied Cora assuming something
of her old-time lightheartedness. "Of course, Jack, you knew!"
Laurel was fumbling in her blouse. The others noticed the movement.
"Just a picture I want to take," she explained. "You see, this is
quite an old camp."
They saw but they did not understand. Then they started out in the
"Did you ever see such a black night?" asked Cora, "I had no idea
Cedar lake was so—so threatening!"
"Never!" replied Ed.
"But the water is just as friendly as ever," declared Jack. "Now
let us try it." He untied the boat, and the party stepped in. Cora
pressed Laurel's hand in silent encouragement for she saw her
turning her eyes toward Fern Island.
"A lovely boat," Laurel remarked too quietly for the young men to
"Shall I speed her?" asked Jack opening the gas valve.
"Oh, yes, let us get home," begged Cora. "The girls must be
frightened to death."
"They are," Walter assured her. "Belle was smelling kerosene to
keep up, when we left," he went on superciliously.
"And Hazel was looking for a club," Jack announced.
"What about Bess, Ed?" asked Cora.
"Bess—oh Bess, she was puffing—for breath. Bess had the puffs,"
he volunteered in a weak attempt at nonsense.
They were running down the lake. It seemed as if the boat knew
exactly where to go, and also that her own mistress was aboard.
"Why, there's the landing!" exclaimed Cora, "how quickly we got
"And there is a crowd around. I'll wager they are there to welcome
us," said Jack happily.
For a few moments all waited to see how the crowd would take the
news of the finding of Cora.
"There are a lot of lights," remarked Ed in puzzled tones.
"And boats," added Walter.
They were looking intently at the center of the crowd on the water.
"What's going on over there?" asked Jack, looking up from the engine
which he was slowing down.
"Something must have happened," answered Cora. "Hark! There's a
lot of excited talk."
Across the water floated the murmur of voices, some of them raised
high in discussion.
"What's going on?" called Jack to a man who slipped past the side of
the Petrel in a rowboat.
"Fight!" was the quick answer. "Jim Peters and a fellow they call
Tony. They had a quarrel about some papers and a girl, and I don't
know what not."
"A girl?" gasped Cora, wondering if she could be involved in the
"Well, that's what some say. I don't rightly know. Guess it didn't
amount to much. Anyhow they've got Peters over there in his boat.
They're bringing him to a doctor. It seems Tony whacked him with a
boat hook, and then, thinking he'd done serious damage, he leaped
overboard and swam for it. They can't find him."
"And I don't believe they ever will," put in another voice, and as a
second boat came up Cora recognized old Ben. "Ah, it's Miss Kimball
and her friends," he added as he saw Cora and those in the Petrel.
"Now here's a chance for you to use your brains, Miss Cora. Can't
you find Tony for us?"
"No, why should I," she answered somewhat coolly.
She did not quite like this familiarity.
"Oh, I didn't know," laughed Ben genially. "I just thought you
always like to be doing things."
"Not that kind," put in Jack.
"Is Peters much hurt?" asked Ed.
"It's hard to say," answered Ben. "He's pretty tough and I guess
it's hard to do him much damage. I'm going over to see about it."
He rowed over toward where the other boats were congregated and the
Petrel with the slow progress of which he had been keeping pace,
swung on to the dock. Cora and the others could see the return of
the little flotilla about the boat in which was Jim Peters.
IN BRIGHTER MOOD
It takes but a small happening to furnish excitement for a small
place, and the fact that Jim and Tony had quarreled, and that near
the landing, created quite a buzz. Of course, much disliked as Jim
was, he was one of the regular fishermen, while Tony was a
comparative stranger. This caused the latter to disappear when he
saw that he had knocked Jim down and had perhaps seriously injured
The landing of Cora and the meeting with her friends was almost
unnoticed. It was the fight, and the possible hope of more of it,
that occupied the morbid crowd.
"Cora! Cora!" the girls were exclaiming, each evidently trying to
be the most exclamatory.
"Where have you been?" asked the ever-wise Hazel.
"Why, just getting Laurel," replied Cora as Belle loosed her hold on
Cora's neck. "Belle dear, be careful," she begged, "my neck is
"We were scared to death," declared Bess, fanning herself with her
handkerchief. "We thought you had been kidnapped."
"No, it was the boat that was kidnapped," replied Cora, "A boat is
more useful than—"
"Now, Cora," interrupted Ed, "just be careful. Didn't we go after
you? And didn't we carry you off?"
Laurel had taken Jack's advice and was resting on an old beam that
lay alongside the dock. She was very pale, as one could see even in
the uncertain light. Yet her sudden restoration to something like
strength might be accounted for by the fact that she had eaten some
food in the hut, the previous fast having weakened her greatly. Or
was it the letter Jack gave her?
"It's wonderful to be back again," remarked Cora. "You have no idea
how far away Fern Island is at night."
"Oh, dreadful!" exclaimed Belle. "I would have died."
"Poor place for dying," put in Ed. "'Twould be like the babes in
the wood, and the birdies and the leaves and all that sort of thing.
Even to die, Belle, one may do it up in style."
"I don't think you should make a joke of death," objected Belle,
"Oh, I didn't," declared Ed. "I was only trying to make a joke out
of the idea of you being able to die—any place. You never will,
Belle. You will go on being nice forever, like the brook."
The crowd had now scattered, so that the girls might make their way
along to camp without brushing through the throng. They had left
their boat at the landing, in order to see the girls, who, Jack
declared, were waiting there. They could now go aboard again and
finish the journey.
"Say folks," said Ed in a merry voice, "I propose that we make for
the camp. We are starved, every one of us.
"And Laurel must be actually weak," added Cora, "for all sorts of
adventures interfered with our supper."
Seeing the canoe girl, the others drew up to her. Whispered remarks
were politely passed, but Jack kept winking and making queer signs
toward Walter. Cora joined in the mirth as well as she could but
was still nervous. As Cora's boat was setting out, Ben leaned over
"Don't listen to word from any one, and what's more, if you know
anything about the cause for this fight keep it close-to yourself.
I told your brother the rest," and he covered her small white hand
with his own brown rough palm.
"Thank you, Ben, and yes, I will remember," said Cora, with more
stress in her voice than in her words. Then the Petrel puffed up to
There all attention was bestowed upon Laurel. The girl had gone
from shock to shock until she was really in need of rest and
nourishment. Of course Cora made light of her own predicament. She
admitted she had been frightened when she found the boat gone, and
Laurel sick, but tried to laugh and call it just one more
experience, that would add to her general knowledge. But her face
was white, and even Belle and Bess who had risen from prostration to
over-joy could not be deceived.
"It's about that man Peters," Bess whispered to Belle. "You know
she had some interest in him because she felt he knew about the
hermit and the girl. But the girl is here now," she finished,
unable further to explain Cora's agitation.
It was Jack who made the opportunity for Cora to talk privately with
him, and the sister was not averse to seizing it.
Jack called her to the side porch directly after she had had some
"What's worrying you, sis?" he asked kindly, putting his arm around
"Oh, Jack, I don't know. If you hadn't come!" and she shivered as
she thought of that dire possibility.
"Oh, but we did come. We found you much sooner than we thought we
would, and I must say you weren't half so frightened as you had a
right to be under the circumstances. You are one of the bravest
girls I ever saw—that's right and so is that Wild Laurel."
"Oh, I just love her Jack," said Cora warmly, "and if only this
other thing about her father comes right, I shall not in the least
regret the experience that brought us together. It is a great
story, Jack. You know we have still to rescue her father."
"The hermit?" he asked.
"Yes, an outcast, for some mysterious reason. But we shall soon
clear that up when Laurel is strong enough to be questioned. I feel
so much better," and she kissed him as if he and she were just the
babies they felt themselves to be on such occasions.
"Jack," she whispered, a little later, "I am just going to think it
is all right. You can count on me. I am not going to have nervous
prostration from so small a thing as to-night's happenings."
"Good, sis," and his second kiss was applause for her own. "Of
course, you are the brickiest kind of brick. And so is Laurel, a
Russet brick. Isn't she that?"
"Exactly that," and Cora started toward the room. "She will be a
perfectly dear girl when she gets back to civilized ways. Hush,
here she comes?"
"Cora," breathed Laurel, who now had on a robe that Belle insisted
had been made for her, though her own mother had ordered it for
Belle, "Cora, who was the man in the boat that was hurt?"
Wondering how the girl could have escaped overhearing the name
Peters, Cora replied:
"A fisherman I believe, but he may not have been much hurt. Folks
in such places as these cling to every sensation, and fix it up to
"But how will they find his assailant?" asked the girl, interested
for some unknown reason.
Cora glanced at Jack. "They will look for him of course," Jack
replied for his sister.
"Where was he hurt?" Laurel persisted.
"We have no reason to think he was hurt at all," said Jack
decidedly. "It's only rumor, and if you don't mind my dictation, I
should suggest that this be a forbidden subject. It is about the
worst thing either of you can think of."
"Right brother, always right!" said Cora. "Now let us go in and try
to make the girls happy with a little part of our story. You can
trust me, Laurel," she said aside. "I know just what they want to
"Oh," breathed Bess, as Cora and Laurel entered the pretty, bright,
little sitting room, "is it possible that our troubles are over for
"No, I see more kinds of trouble ahead," and of course she looked at
the irresistible and irrisisting Walter. "Don't they match?" aside
to Belle, whose ideas of color schemes and whose regard for the
beautiful were blamed for the inflection of nerves.
"They do," she agreed. "Her hair is just russet-brown, and her eyes
hazel. Oh, I have always loved that sort of face when it goes with
the olive skin."
"How did you know that I had named her Russet?" asked Jack, touching
with mock concern one stray yellow curl that threatened Belle's
"I did not," she replied, "but I think it suits her exactly. And
Walter is all of a shade."
"Oh, Belle. I am going to tell him? Wallie shady!"
"You know perfectly well, Jack Kimball, I said shade—in color."
"Oh, yes. Color blind. Poor, afflicted Wallie. I have often
wondered about his neckties. But doesn't Laurel take to him? And
isn't she a beaut in that bag?"
"Bag! My best kimono! Look what teeth she has when she laughs."
"And you not jealous? Belle I think, after all, I shall have to
return to my first love," and he slipped his arm all the way back of
her steamer chair, for Jack dearly loved to tease either Bess or
Belle, declaring what happened to one twin would react on the other.
"Hazel cannot take her eyes off of Cora. I might be jealous there,"
reported the blonde twin.
"You may 'jell' all you like on that score," Jack consented. "But
hello! Here's Paul!"
The tall, dark boy, Paul Hastings, Hazel's brother, had just entered
the door. Instantly he was overcome with the welcome, for while the
boys fell to kissing him and smoothing his hair in the most approved
lover-like way, the girls crowded around and offered him empty
plates and glasses of flowers, to say nothing of Bess, with the
Japanese parasol, who stood over his chair while Cora fanned him.
Laurel looked on like one who enjoys a play. There seemed in her
eyes something to indicate that such a scene was not entirely new to
her, but was for some time forgotten. Presently Cora remembered
that Laurel had not met Paul before, and so introduced them. She
merely said Laurel in mentioning names, but the omission of anything
so unimportant as a last title would never be noticed among these
"Say now, let a fellow breathe" begged Paul, "and also let him puff
out a little. There! I feel better! And I just want to remark
that I have found the lost canoe!"
At the words "lost canoe" Laurel started. Cora saw her, and slipped
over to her side.
"You need not worry, dear. Everything is safe with us," whispered
Cora, pressing the other's hand.
"Our old original! You don't mean it?" exclaimed Ed.
"None other," declared Paul. "And I wonder you did not find it
"Where was it?" asked Walter.
"Tied up to your own dock. I just spied it as I landed."
"Oh, you go on," threatened Jack. "Do you think we are teething?"
"No, jollying," vowed Paul. "I just this minute guessed it."
Without more comment the entire party hurried out the door, and made
for the dock. Jack won first place and so held the lantern.
"She's red," he declared. "While ours was green."
"Just a matter of time," said Paul in his delightfully easy way.
"Most girls are green when they come up here, and—"
Ed's hand was over Paul's mouth so he could not complete the joke.
Jack was looking for the tell-tale piece of wood that had been
inserted in the end of the canoe to mend a slight break.
"Yep, sure it's her," he declared.
"SHE!"' yelled the girls. "Jack!" Cora's voice came, "how can you
so shock our English?"
"Pardon me, ladies," he murmured. "But this is it."
"Painted red," Belle was trying to realize out loud.
"Yes, and it's right becoming," agreed Ed, "but where did she get
"The Mystery of her Complexion, or, the Shade of Her Pretty Nose,"
quoth Jack. "Well, I don't mind. But I would like to get hold of
The Silent Artist of Cedar Lake," he finished, in crude eloquence.
Paul was looking carefully inside the canoe. Presently he stood up
straight, and held a note in his hand. "Let's have the light Jack?"
he asked. "I have something."
Jack held the lantern so that it's gleam fell on the paper. "Miss
Cora Kimball," they both read, then they handed the paper to Cora.
It was enclosed in an envelope of very fine linen; Cora saw this
instantly, for she felt, as well as saw, the texture. Just as she
was about to tear open the missive a thought occurred to her.
"I had best wait until I get indoors," she said. "I might drop
something out of it here and break the charm."
A murmur of disapproval followed this remark. But Cora won out, and
with much apprehension carried the strange letter inside. Under the
light she looked first at the signature. It was Brentano!
"What is it? What is it?" demanded the girls in chorus.
Cora made light of her actions as she hid the note, but in reality
she had no idea of reading it before any one. What might it not
"I get so few love letters," she remarked, "that I want a chance to
"Then as that's the case," said Ed, "it's us for the Bungle. Come
on, boys," and he pretended offence, "Us is hurt."
"Now Ed, I said letters—not lovers," corrected Cora.
"The pen and ink!" demanded Ed. "I will to thee a letter indite,"
and he opened the small desk in the darkest corner of the room.
This was a signal for every boy to pretend to write a love letter to
every girl. Jack could get nothing better than a feather from the
Indian headpiece that hung on the wall. This he dipped in Belle's
shoe dressing, and wrote a note on the back of Cora's best piece of
sheet music. Walter sat on the floor poking his whittled stick
into the dead embers in the fire-place, and managed to scratch
something on a fan—it belonged to Bess. Paul did not much care for
nonsense, but appropriately made Indian characters on the wooden
bowl with his pen knife. The whole turned out more fun than was
Walter proffered his love letter to Laurel, and she surprised them
all by reading this:
"My Mountain Laurel:
Meet me when the buds come and we will wait for the blossoms.
Your Bending Bough."
The cue that Laurel furnished was taken up by the others and when
Jack offered his "note" to Hazel she read.
"My Dear Burr:
Be patient and you will loose the green, Hazelnuts are never soft!
The Fellow Who Fell Down Hill with Jill."
Cora read what Ed did not write:
When stranded I know what to grab—Your larder is ever my rock of
Belle and Bess both partook of Paul's note, and as Paul was
acknowledged the artist of them all the double missive was gladly
accepted by the twins—as doubles.
Belle pretended to read:
"Two to one, or two in one,
Double the wish and double the fun."
The merry making that followed this little farce was of too varied a
character to describe. Some of the boys insisted on standing on
their heads while others took up a low mournful dirge that might
have done credit to the days of the red men and wigwams.
Finally, Cora insisted that it was late—disgracefully late—for
campers to have lights burning, and the boys were obliged to leave
for their own quarters. Going out, Jack whispered to Cora:
"Ben told Paul to say to you that under no circumstances were you to
go down to the landing to-morrow. I know he has some good reason
for the warning. The row between Peters and Brentano may not have
ended there," and he kissed her good night. "We have had a jolly
time and to-morrow when I come you must let me see the mysterious
Cora promised, and then the lights were turned out.
Making sure that all, even Laurel, were sleeping Cora slipped out
into the sitting room, relighted the lamp and unfolded the note that
had been found in the canoe.
She felt her heart quicken. Why did she fear and yet long to know
what that man had to tell her? She read:
When you receive this I shall be too far away to further meet your
daring, baffling challenge of my plans. What I intend to do I can
not even tell myself, for everything seemed so easy of evil until
you crossed my path. So easy was it that there was even no victory
in the spoils. But first you came boldly to the den of poor Peters.
Then you deliberately took from us that simple-minded, harmless old
woman, Kate; next you did not call out when she gave you back your
ring—not call out against us. All this to me was incomprehensible.
Why should a young girl not fear us? Why should she not denounce
us? Then you saved that little doll, Mabel Blake, until finally I
began to wonder why I, a talented high-born Italian, should pretend
to love crime when a mere girl could be a noble defender?
The difference made me feel like a coward, and I decided finally to
go away. Before I left I had trouble with Peters. This hurried me
and I have not time to write more now. I know you got back from the
island—boys of your kin do not wait long to find their sisters. By
to-morrow noon, if all goes well with me on the journey, I shall be
able to write that to poor little Laurel which will release her from
her bondage. I will send the letter care of you. Thank the boys
for use of their canoe.
For some moments Cora sat looking blankly at that fine foreign
paper. What a splendid hand! What direct diction!
And her conduct had influenced him to turn away from his evil ways.
She had done nothing more than others, except perhaps she had more
courage, born of better and more complete experience. She sighed a
sigh of satisfaction as she again hid the paper in her gown. Then
with one great heart-beat of prayerful thanksgiving, she, too,
sought "tired nature's sweet restorer."
It was the sound of dishes and the tinkle of pans that awoke Cora
next morning. Day so soon! And all the others up!
"Now, we have fooled you," said Belle with a light laugh. "You have
Cora had been dreaming very heavily, and her sleep seemed but a
reflection of the previous day's troubles. Now she was awake and
instantly she remembered it all about Ben telling her not to go near
the landing; then about the letter.
"Is Laurel up?" she asked.
"No, we let her sleep to keep you company," said Hazel, "and we are
going to give you such a surprise for breakfast! Don't tell,
Cora slipped into a robe and stepped across the room to peer into
the little corner where Laurel had gone to her rest.
"Laurel is up," she declared. "She is not here!"
"Not there! Not in bed! Laurel—she has not gotten up yet,"
declared Belle, who with frying pan in hand had hurried from the
kitchen when Cora spoke.
"She certainly is not in bed," again declared Cora. "You may see
"Laurel gone!" exclaimed more than one of the astonished girls.
"She may have gone out," suggested Hazel. "I thought I heard someone
about very early."
Following this thought the girls looked around called, and again
returned to the empty room.
"What is this?" asked Bess, seeing a piece of ribbon-tied paper
floating from the night lamp.
Hazel was first to handle it. She saw that it was a note addressed
"It's for you, Cora," she said as she snapped the fragile ribbon
from its fastening.
Cora read aloud:
"Forgive me for going this way but I could not wait longer to know
about my father. I will return before dark and bring with me the
canoe I have borrowed. You may, trust me and need not be anxious.
"Gone in the canoe!"
"I know why, girls," Cora admitted, "and if you will all come in
here together I will tell you as much, as I myself know. The real
story I have not yet been able to learn, but must do so very soon."
Then she told of the first discovery of the man on Fern Island,
following with the account of her second and third visits there, and
finally of how she found poor Laurel in such distress the night of
her own exile. The loss of her boat they all knew about, and that
part was a certain kind of clear mystery.
"Laurel has gone back to see about her father," she finished. "It
is only natural, and I should have thought it strange had she not
"Of course," added Bess, brushing away a tear. "Poor little wild
Laurel had to go back, it was almost as cruel to keep her as to pen
up a brown bunny."
In spite of the seriousness of the moment every one smiled. First
Laurel was russet, now compared to a little brown rabbit.
"We had just gotten acquainted with her," murmured Belle. "I
thought her so romantic."
"And I thought her so intelligent," put in the ever-studious Hazel.
"Even Paul took the trouble to notice her."
"Well, we will have her back again," promised Cora. "I am positive
she will keep her word. I think her a splendid girl. All she needs
is the chance to get over the state of chronic fright she has been
living in. Then she will be just as normal as any of us."
"Then, that being the case," said Hazel, with a jump, "I propose we
keep normal by eating our breakfast. I am famished, and those boys
almost emptied the ice-box."
"Nettie had to go away into town for eggs," Bess orated, "and
therefore we had to do all the cooking."
"It smells all right," Cora said, as they pulled the chairs to the
table. "Let us hope we will get through one meal without
interruption. My appetite is positively canned."
"And I took the trouble to gather those morning glories," Belle
announced. "I thought Laurel would like them."
"They are beautiful, Belle," said Cora, looking with admiration at
the dainty green vines with their freshly-blown, colored bells that
trailed from the glass bowl in the center of the table. "Nothing
could be more artistic, and we enjoy them even if Laurel has missed
them," Cora finished.
"But the food," demanded Hazel. "It is of that we sing. Food,
food! Isn't it good; a girl is a loon who can't eat what she
could," sang Hazel, with more mirth than English.
"Eggs, eggs, bacon and eggs."
"She eats all she can, then sits up and begs," sang Cora helping
herself to that portion of the fare, and keeping time with the
Bess was taking her third slice of bread. That inspired Belle.
"Bread, bread, Nettie's good bread—"
"When Bess took the loaf, we nearly fell dead," sang out Belle,
rescuing the much-worn loaf from which Bess was trying to get a
"The toasts are very well as far as they go," commented Cora, "but I
notice that the food stuffs go farther."
"And the boys are coming at ten," remarked Hazel. "I'm glad I
cooked. I don't have to wash the dishes."
"But the boys were going out in the canoe and now it's gone," Belle
reminded them. "They were going to take the prize canoe, and the
red one, and we would all then have a chance to float out together.
Now, of course, we won't be able to go."
"We can go in our own boat," Cora said, "and really the lake is
quite rough for canoeing this morning. When Laurel comes back she
will likely bring her own boat and then we will have three in our
"Why couldn't you, and she come home in her canoe when you found
your boat gone, Cora?" asked Bess suddenly.
"Hers was not at the dock—someone had borrowed it," Cora explained
They had about finished their meal. Belle was already snatching the
dishes, in spite of protests that there was some perfectly good
eating which had not yet been eaten.
"There come the boys now," announced Hazel. "They look sort
Cora glanced out of the window and saw Ed, Jack and Walter strolling
along the path. She, too, thought they looked "gloomy," but it was
not her practice to anticipate trouble.
The "hellos" were exchanged before the young men had time to enter
the camp. Then Belle asked:
"Aren't we going canoeing?"
"Guess not to-day," replied Ed, his handsome black hair almost
sparkling in the sunshine as he tossed his head in nonchalance. "We
are still too cramped up. Had to sleep on the roof last night."
"Why?" demanded Cora.
"Choosin' that. My little joke," he replied, "Girls, I'm cuttin'
up," and he tried to hide a serious air with a ridiculous remark.
"But we'll do something. We'll go fishin"' he declared.
"We thought it best to keep out in the cove this morning," Jack was
explaining to Cora. "There is so much going on around the landing."
"What is going on?" she asked rather nervously.
"Oh, that Peter's affair," replied her brother with assumed
indifference. "They are looking him over to-day to see how much
"Oh!" said Cora vaguely. Then she went indoors from the porch to
prepare for the fishing trip.
"It is strange Laurel does not come back," remarked Bess, as the
girls sat on the porch after a most unsuccessful fishing trip (as
far as fish were concerned), "Somehow I feel she would if she
"That's it exactly," Cora corroborated. "If she could get back here
this afternoon, we would have seen her. But then her father may
have been too lonely without her, or any of many other things may
have detained her."
Cora jumped up suddenly, and skipped down the path to where her
motor boat was fastened. She would look over the engine. The wire
connections had slipped, and she would tighten them, and make some
other minor adjustments.
Cora found more to do on her boat than she had expected. The boys
had had the craft out latest and had neglected to put down the oil
cup levers. This caused the cylinder to be flooded with lubricant,
and if there was one thing Cora disliked more than another it was to
run an oil puffing boat, and "inhale the fumes."
She pulled on her heavy gloves and got to work to drain out the oil
through the base cock. Bending over her task she did not see,
neither did she hear, an approaching person. It was Ben.
"Busy, eh?" he said in his splendid, candid way. Cora was so glad
it was only Ben.
"Oh yes," she replied, "the boys never seem to know how to leave a
boat. This is thoroughly oil-soaked."
"They're careless that way," admitted Ben, stepping into the boat to
see what the trouble was. "If I were you I would make some rules and
tack 'em down by the license card."
"They would never read them," Cora declared. "There—just look at
that oil," as she collected some in a funnel. "This would have made
the muffler smoke like a locomotive."
Ben looked at the oil cups. "There isn't any thing meaner than
running a boat that throws out soft coal smoke," he admitted.
"Those boys left the plungers up. But I say, girl, where's your new
"Laurel?" asked Cora as she put the wrench in the tool box.
"Yes. I thought she had come down here to stay."
"Well, we thought so too, but then she could not be expected to
leave the island—all at once," and Cora wondered if she were saying
"It's queer to me," went on Ben. "Them fellows have something to do
with that," and he nodded his head toward the landing.
"You mean—Peters and Tony?"
"Yes. And what I want to say, Miss, is this. You had best keep
clear of them. The row at the landing isn't exactly fixed up. I
think it had to do with something at Fern Island."
"Yes. I have suspected for a long time that the little runs that
Peters makes up there must have paid him pretty well. Now that he
has fallen out with Tony, likely it'll all come to Jim. Best thing
we can do, miss, is to keep a sharp look out for the girl. If you
can get her to come to camp with you I fancy all the rest will soon
Cora wondered just how much Ben knew of the mystery of that island.
She felt obliged to withhold Laurel's secret, yet she felt, too,
that Ben would do everything to help her get the girl and the hermit
away from their place of exile.
"I'll tell you, Ben," she said finally. "I'll come to you for
advice just as soon as I find it is time to act. Depend upon it we
are not going to leave Cedar Lake until the mystery of Fern Island
is cleared up."
This seemed to satisfy Ben, for beneath the deep brown of his cheeks
there showed the glow of color that came with pleasure.
"All right, little girl," he said, "if you want me before I come
again, just let me know. Ben will be only too glad to stick by you
and all the rest of them," meaning the campers at Camp Cozy and
those who bungalowed at the Bungle.
He went off, shambling along with his face turned toward the sky and
his feet taking care of themselves. Cora looked after him.
"Dear old Ben," Cora mused, "everything seems worth while when it
takes 'everything' to make such a friend as you can be." Then she
went back to her engine. She must tighten the wires, and leave the
craft in readiness for a quick run.
"Oh, Cora!" came the voice of Bess suddenly, "you've missed it. We
have had the most glorious time."
Bess approached, her cheeks as red as the sumac she carried, and her
eyes as bright as the very ragged sailors that hung rather
dangerously from her belt. "Hasn't Laurel come yet?"
"No, not yet," replied Cora, intent upon her task at the wires. "I
am afraid she will hardly come to-night."
"Then we have got to go after her," declared Bess. "Jack said so.
He said she could not stay alone on that island all night."
"Oh, did he?" Cora replied in an absent-minded way. "I have had
such—a time—with this boat," and she pulled on the wires to make
them taut, breaking one and necessitating a splice.
"Can't we take the boat to look for Laurel?" persisted Bess, with
more concern than she usually showed.
"Why, of course, I suppose so," said Cora. "There, I guess that
will do," and she straightened up with a sigh, for the use of the
pliers made her hands ache.
"Why, Cora!" exclaimed Bess, "you look actually pale. You must be
"Me pale," and she laughed. "Now, Bess, don't get romantic. Just
fancy me being pale!"
"Well, you are, and I insist that you come back to camp at once and
get a drink of warm milk. Cora Kimball, you—look—scared!"
"Oh, I am. Think what it would mean if the boys had knocked my
engine out. And it did seem for a time that there was no 'if' in
it." Cora jumped lightly out of the boat and was ready to greet the
other girls. Soon a discussion of color and its causes was in
progress, Cora maintaining that her cause of anxiety had been that
awful engine and its troubles.
Ed, Walter and Jack had joined the others.
"I say," began Ed, "where do we, go to look for the wild Olive or
was it the mountain Laurel? Jack is in a fit, and Walter can't be
held. What do you say if we all start out in a searching party? No
one has been lost for twenty-four hours, and this state of affairs
is getting monotonous."
Without waiting for an answer the girls and boys clambered into the
Petrel while Bess went to the camp with Cora who insisted upon
washing her hands before making the trip.
"Did anything happen, Cora, while we were away?" asked Bess kindly.
"Not a thing, Bess. I only wish something real would happen; we
have so many imitations of excitement."
THE LAW AND THE LIGHTS
"I want to find her this time," insisted Jack. "Cora, please let
me? I promise not to frighten her, and not even to speak to her if
you object, but I do so want to find her."
"Seems to me you found her last time," objected Walter who was
looking particularly well to-night, for his suit of Khaki and his
brown skin seemed all of a piece. "You nearly knocked me down in
your haste to find the hut first."
"But," Cora said seriously, "Laurel may not want you boys to find
her. She may not even want me to do so. I am just taking chances.
Suppose you allow Bess and me or Hazel or any two of us to go up to
the hut first? Please do be reasonable, and not silly," Cora
finished in a voice she seldom assumed.
"You may come along as dose as you like, until we are just up to the
hut," Bess consented, with marked good sense, "as the woods are so
thick and black, but when we get to the hut—"
"We can 'hut' it I suppose," snapped Jack. "All right, girls; all I
can say is I hope a couple of Brownies, or a mountain lion pay their
respects to you both for being so daring."
The boat was running beautifully. The cleaning out that Cora gave
the base, and the regulating of the oil cups together with adjusting
the wires, helped to make the mechanism run more smoothly, and she
glided along without "missing," which means, of course that every
explosion was in perfect rhythm to every other explosion. There was
a "hot fat" spark as Cora explained.
"There's a big steamer," remarked Hazel, as a large boat glided
Cora swung so that the red light of the Petrel showed she was going
to the right. The steamer gave two whistles indicating a left
course. Cora answered with one blast which meant right. The
steamer insisted on left and gave one more signal.
"What's the matter with them?" Jack demanded, taking the steering
wheel from Cora. "They seem to own the lake."
No sooner had he said this than the big boat came so close to the
smaller craft that a huge wave swept over the small forward deck and
instantly the colored lights went out, being drenched. For a moment
every one seemed stunned! The shock to the Petrel was as if she had
been suddenly dipped into the depths of the lake. But as quickly as
it happened just as quickly was it righted, and the offending boat
steamed off majestically, as if it had merely bowed to an old
"What do you think of that!" exclaimed Walter, indignantly.
"I think a lot of it," replied Ed, "but the captain of that steamer
would not likely want to see my thoughts."
"Small trick," declared Jack, "Even if he had the right to pass us
so close, common lake manners obliged him to give in to the smaller
"The lights are both out," Cora said anxiously.
"Well, we are almost to shore," Jack replied, "and it won't be worth
while to stop here. We can light up again when we get in."
This seemed reasonable enough and so they sailed along.
"Hello!" exclaimed Walter, "is this another boat trying the same
A launch was steering very dose to the Petrel. The lights were
conspicuously bright, and the engine ran almost noiselessly.
"What is it?" asked Jack, seeing that the captain wanted to speak
with some one.
"I want you," replied a voice of authority. "You have no lights."
"Oh, you're the inspector," said Jack candidly. "Well, that steamer
that just passed doused our lights, and we are going to land here to
"Sorry, but that's against the law," replied the officer. "You
fellows always have an excuse ready, and I can't accept it. You
will have to come along with me."
"Arrested!" exclaimed Belle aghast.
"That's about what it amounts to," replied the man coolly. "Can you
get in here?"
"Who?" asked Jack.
"The captain," replied the officer grimly.
"Where does he go?" Jack further questioned.
"See here, young man," spoke the inspector rather sharply. "Do you
think I've got all night to bother with you?"
"I don't know as I do," replied Jack in the same voice, "but if you
will just explain what you want us to do we will give you no further
trouble." Jack knew one thing—to refuse to comply with the request
of an officer is about the last thing to do if one values either
money or liberty.
"That's the way to talk," replied the inspector. "So just suppose
you take this rope and I'll tow, you along. I fancy the party
would, rather come than let one go alone."
"Of course we would," declared Cora. "In fact I am the captain of
Jack gave her a meaning bump on the arm—it meant, "let me do the
talking," and Cora understood perfectly.
"But where are we going?" wailed Belle, as the man threw the towline
"Not far," answered the man. "I just have to take you in, and then
you have to do the rest."
"What's the rest?" inquired Walter.
"Oh, pay a fine," said the man carelessly.
"How much?" inquired Ed.
"From five to twenty-five; as the judge sees fit. There, are you
"Guess so," growled Jack, to whom the arrest seemed like a case of
"And we can't go to Laurel?" Hazel inquired with a sigh.
"Shame," commented Walter under his breath, "but Jack knows the best
thing to do with the law is to jolly it."
"Law nothing," muttered Ed, as he took the steering wheel, Jack
being busy with the towing line.
"Never mind," Cora suggested. "It will give us a new experience. I
had the fool-hardiness to wish for some real excitement this very
"But to be arrested!" gasped Bess with a frightened look.
"A distinctly new sensation," said Hazel with an attempt to laugh.
"Just think of going before a real, live judge!"
But evidently the other girls did not want to think of it. They
would rather have thought of anything else just then.
"Which way are you going?" Jack asked the man in the official boat.
"I thought your judge lived on the East side?"
"He does, but we may take some other fellows in yet to-night. This
is only one catch," and the inspector laughed unpleasantly.
"They are actually going to tour the lake with us," declared Ed.
"If that isn't nerve!"
"Don't complain," cautioned Cora, "perhaps the longer the run the
lighter the fine. And we are just waiting for our next allowance."
"And, being a pretty motor-boat, they will make it a pretty fine,"
mused Walter. "I would like to dip that fellow."
"Yes, they are going to let us tour the lake hitched on to the
police boat! The situation is most unpleasant. But there is no way
out of it," said Ed, sullenly.
"Suppose they won't take a fine, and want to lock us up?" asked
"If it were only one night in jail, I'd take it just to fool the man
who wants the money, but I am afraid it might be ten days and that
would be inconvenient," Jack remarked, as the police boat steamed
off with the Petrel trailing. "They call this law. It may be the
law but not its intention. We were almost landed, and just about to
light up. I tell you they just need the money."
When they reached the bungalow, where judge Brown held his court,
the three young men entered with the inspector, and when the judge
had satisfied himself that he could not ask more than five dollars
and costs for this "first offence" the fine was paid and the matter
settled. Belle and Bess were greatly relieved when the culprits
came back to the Petrel. They had a hidden fear that something else
disgraceful might happen; perhaps the judge would detain the boys,
or perhaps the girls would have to go in to testify. Cora's mind
was pre-occupied however, and when the Petrel started off, and Jack
asked her where to, she said back to Fern Island.
A NIGHT ON THE ISLE
It was too late now for Cora to think of making her way to the pine
hut without the boys, too dark, too late and too uncertain, so she
agreed to allow Ed and Jack to go with her while Walter and the
girls followed at some distance.
"There's a light," announced Jack, when they had covered the first
"Yes, that's in the hut," Cora said.
Hurrying before her brother, Cora reached the thatched doorway. She
pushed back the screen and saw Laurel leaning over the bed on the
floor. As she entered Laurel motioned her not to speak. Then Cora
saw that the girl was bending over her father.
"They shall not take me," he murmured. "I am innocent!"
"Hush, father dear," his daughter soothed. "'There is no one here,
just your own Laurel," and she bathed his head with her wet
Cora instantly withdrew. She whispered to Jack, and he turned to
meet the others, to prevent them coming nearer. Laurel followed her
to the open air.
"Father is so changed!" she said under her breath, "while he seems
worse, his mind is clearer, and I almost hope he will soon remember
everything of the past."
"If his mind is clearer there is every hope for him," Cora replied.
"I do hope, Laurel dear, that your exile and his will soon end."
Laurel put her hand to her head as if to check its throbbing. Yes,
if it only would soon end!
"What happened?" asked Cora.
"He fell and struck his head on a rock," answered Laurel. "It was
that night we were in the hut. It was he who came walking along in
the darkness, and we thought it was some one else. He came to look
for me after I signaled that time. It was my father!"
"He slipped and fell," she resumed in a moment. "We heard him, you
remember, and then—then he went away—my poor father!"
Cora gasped in surprise. "Is he badly hurt?" she managed to ask.
"No, hardly at all. It was only a slight cut on his head, but the
shock of it brought him to him self—restored his reason that was
tottering. When he got up and staggered off his mind was nearly
clear, but he did not dare come to the hut where we were for fear it
might contain some of his enemies. He went looking for me, but I
had gone with you.
"Since then he has talked of matters he has not mentioned in years
and years. But he is not altogether better. Oh, Cora, if his mind
would only become strong again, so he could clear up all the
'The girls clung lovingly to each other. Then a moan from the hut
suddenly called Laurel away, Cora knew Jack was waiting for her in
the woods, and she hastened to him.
One whispered sentence to her brother was enough to explain it all
"We must arrange to get him away from here—Laurel's father," he
said, as he put his arms about Cora. "Do you think he is strong
enough to be moved?"
"I'll ask Laurel," replied Cora joyfully. If only now both the
hermit and his daughter could leave that awful island. The other
girls stepped to the door in answer to Cora's signal.
"Oh, I am afraid he is too weak for that now," Laurel whispered.
"But when he is able I will have him taken to a hospital. That man
kept us in terror. Now he is gone and I feel almost free."
"You have heard that he is gone?" questioned Cora.
"I had a letter," replied the other simply, and this answer only
served to make a new matter of query for Cora. But she could not
ask it now.
"He is sleeping," said Laurel. "Look!"
Cora went over to the pallet and looked down at the man who lay
there. Yes, he was noble looking in spite of the growth of his hair
and beard, and Cora could see wherein his daughter resembled him.
There seemed something like a benediction in that hut, and as the
thought stole over her, Cora breathed a prayer that it should not
come in the shape of death.
"He's lovely," Cora said to Laurel. "Let us go out and not disturb
Jack and the others were waiting silently outside. Cora spoke to
her brother. He understood.
"You girls had better go back," he said, "Ed and I will stay here to
"Oh, no, I must stay too. Perhaps in the morning we can take him
away," insisted Cora.
Bess and Belle clung together. They had a fear of "the wild man"
and it had not yet been dispelled. Hazel tried to induce Laurel to
go back to camp and allow her and Cora to care for the father, but
of course such an appeal was useless. Laurel would not think of
leaving the sick man. It was finally arranged that Cora and Jack
should remain, and then reluctantly the others started off with the
promise of returning very early the next morning.
"I have some things to eat," Laurel told them. "I thought poor
father would like a change, and I got them when I was at the Point."
"Oh, you save them," Jack said. "We had a good supper, and will
make out all right until morning. But now tell me where I can get
you fresh water."
Cora knew, and she took the extra lantern and started off with her
brother. They talked of many things as they stumbled on through the
"There's the spring. Look out! Don't fall in. My isn't that water
clear even in the lantern light!" exclaimed Cora suddenly.
Jack filled the pail easily and then they turned back.
"But Jack," Cora began again, "you know there is some mystery about
Mr. Starr. That must be his name, for Laurel signed hers so in the
note she left."
"Whatever the mystery is, I feet certain it is nothing disgraceful,"
Jack assured her. "Very likely it was some plot to injure them,
concocted by that fellow Jones."
The unfailing reason of this astonished Cora. How could Jack have
guessed so near the facts?
"At any rate I think the poor man will be able to be moved in the
morning," she finished, as they made their way up the hill. "It
will be a wonderful thing if, after all, it comes out all right;
that he is a free man, and that his slight injury may restore his
"Let us hope so," said Jack fervently.
Cora wanted to tell him about the letter from Jones otherwise
Brentano, but there was not time to do so before they reached the
hut, so she reasoned it would be best to postpone it.
Laurel was sitting, holding her father's injured head when they
entered the hut. He was awake now, and looking with such great,
hungry eyes into his daughter's face.
"Now we have fresh water, father," she said. "Do you know my
"The girl, yes," he said 'feebly. "But the boy?"
"Her brother," said Laurel quickly, delight showing in her voice.
"Isn't it good to have friends, father?"
"Good, very good," he said. Then he dosed his eyes again, and
neither Cora nor Jack ventured to speak.
"It does not seem possible that he can talk so rationally," Laurel
whispered. "Oh, I have now such hopes that he will get well."
"Of course he will," Jack assured her. "But you girls had better
get some rest. I will sit up and watch."
Cora added her entreaties to those of her brother, and Laurel
finally agreed to throw herself down on the straw bed in the far
corner of the hut. Cora found room at the other end of the same
bed, and presently their young natures gave in to the urgent demands
of rest. Jack sat alone watching the white faced man who tossed and
turned, muttering incoherent words.
"I did not do it," he would say. "I never saw the note."
"There, you want a drink," said Jack kindly, pressing the tin cup to
the trembling lips.
"But Breslin knows! Oh, if I could only find Breslin!"
"Breslin," Jack repeated, astonished.
"Yes, Brendon Breslin. He knows!"
"Brendon Breslin!" Jack said again. This was the name of the
wealthy man for whom Paul Hastings ran the fast steam launch.
"Oh, my head!" moaned the man, closing his eyes in pain.
Jack realized that this remark about the millionaire might mean a
sudden return of memory, and he resolved to test it further, even at
the risk of giving the aching head more pain. For if the memory
lapsed again it might never be awakened.
"What does Breslin know?" he asked, leaning very dose to the sick
To his surprise the hermit sat bolt upright. "He knows that I never
forged the note. It was that sneaking office boy."
That was the story! This man had been made to believe he had forged
a note. His exile on the island was because of the supposed crime!
"Of course he knows," Jack soothed. "And to-morrow he will come to
But the sick man was either unconscious, or sleeping. He did not
"I heard a boat," Cora whispered to Jack, as on the following
morning, he rubbed his eyes endeavoring to put sight into them.
"Well, what of it?" he asked.
"It seemed to stop at this landing," replied the sister.
"The girls most likely," and he got to his feet. "How is the old
"Much stronger, and his mind, Laurel thinks, is clearing."
"I think so too. It is an outrage that he has been allowed to
suffer here without help. That scoundrel Jones must have fixed this
"Did you sleep any, Jack dear?" Cora asked. "I'm afraid you had a
"Oh, I got a wink or two, and my patient was no trouble. Is that
Laurel talking to him?"
"Yes, she seems overjoyed that he can talk rationally to her. But
listen Jack! There are voices."
Brother and sister hurried to the door. Strangers were approaching—two
"Is—er—Miss Cora Kimball here?" asked one of them, in rather a
"Yes, what is it?" asked Jack, suspiciously for somehow he did not
like the appearance of the strangers.
"We'll do business with her," put in the taller of the two men.
Cora gave a gasp. Somehow she felt as if something unpleasant was
about to happen.
"No, you won't do any business with her!" exclaimed Jack, "that is,
not until you tell me first. What is it? Out with it!"
"Say, you're quite high and mighty for a young fellow," sneered the
short man. "Who be you, anyhow, a lawyer? Because if you are you
ought to have sense enough to know that we're detectives, after
information, and if we can't get it peaceable we'll get it
otherwise. How about that?"
"It doesn't worry me a particle," declared Jack easily. "Now, Cora,
leave this to me," for he saw that his sister was much affected.
"I'm her brother," he went on, turning to the men, "and not a
lawyer, but I guess I can do just as well in this case. Now, what
do you want?"
"Well, it's this way," began the tall one. "We heard that Miss
Kimball might know something about the quarrel between Peters and
Tony, or whatever his name was, and she might be able to put us on
his track. Peters is hurt worse than we thought he was at first,
and we want Tony. Does she know where he is?"
"No, she doesn't!" exclaimed Jack, before his sister could speak.
"Well, we have a tip about her and another girl being in a hut on
Fern Island and being scared by a man," persisted the tall man. "No
offense you know, only we thought she could help us out. The man
who scared her and her friend may have been Tony."
"I—I didn't see any one—it was dark," explained Cora, before Jack
could speak. "Some one approached, fell down and went away again."
"That may have been Tom!" excitedly said the short detective.
"'No, it was—" began Cora.
"Wait a minute," cried Jack. "Before she answers I want to know if
you really have a right to the information. How do I know but you
may be some one seeking to get evidence for a civil suit for Peters
or Tony, and will drag us in as witnesses?"
"Oh, we're not," said the tall man hastily.
"Here's my court-house badge," and he displayed it. "This has
nothing to do with a lawsuit. We just want to find Tony. If that
wasn't him on the island who scared the girls, who was it? Surely
she can't object to telling; it can't hurt her. Who was it?"
Before Cora could answer there was a sound at the door of the hut
and a voice exclaimed:
"It was my father!"
There stood Laurel, and the officers shifted their gaze from Cora to
her. They started eagerly forward, hoping to get the information
they sought from the new witness.
"Tell us about it," urged the short man.
"No, let me, Laurel dear," interrupted Cora. "I can explain, Jack,
and have it all over with. Really it's very simple."
Then, without at all going into the details of the mystery of the
hermit, which information Cora felt the detectives had no right to
possess, she told how she and Laurel had been in the hut and how the
unknown man who so frightened, them had turned out to be Laurel's
father, and that even now he was under care because of the injury he
"And he lived on Fern Island all this while?" asked one of the
officers. "Why did he do that?"
"For his health I guess," said Jack sharply. "That doesn't concern
your case against Tony, or whatever his name was, and this Peters.
You've found out that my sister doesn't know anything to help you
in your hunt, and you might as well skip out. This is private
ground, you know."
"That doesn't make any difference to the law," growled the short
"Oh, yes it does," said Jack sweetly. "You're trespassers as much
as any one else if you haven't a warrant, and I don't believe you
"No, I guess you're right," admitted the tall man, with as good
grace as possible. "Come on," this to his companion, "we can't
learn anything here. Let's go see old Ben."
Cora and Laurel had gone into the house. Jack did not want them
annoyed again, and he wondered how the men had come to think that
Cora might know something of the quarrel between Peters and Tony.
"It was probably just a guess," decided Jack. "There is certainly
something like a mystery about the hermit, and—"
He interrupted his thoughts as he saw one of the men coming back.
"Hang it all! I wonder what he wants now?" thought Jack. The man
soon informed him.
"I say, do you think the hermit, as you call him, would be well
enough to testify in court about this case?" the detective asked.
"What case?" inquired Jack, wondering if the man suspected the
reason for the hermit's exile.
"The Peters case."
"No, I don't think he would," was the young man's answer, and once
more the man went to his boat.
As he and his companion started off, Jack saw the Petrel containing
Bess, Hazel, Walter and Ed swinging up to the small dock. The
young, folks looked closely at the two detectives.
"He may have to testify whether he wants to or not!" called the
short officer back to Jack who was still watching them. "The law
gets what it wants you know. This isn't the only case against Tony.
He is an old offender."
"All right, have your own way about it," responded Jack easily, and
he noted that the occupants of the Petrel seemed rather alarmed.
Then they hastened to disembark as the police boat chugged away, and
Jack ran down to meet them.
"Oh, where is Cora!" gasped Bess, as she landed at the island rock,
and almost fell fainting into Jack's arms.
"Why, she is with Laurel—in the hut. What ever is the matter,
"We thought—thought they had taken you all to jail! Oh, those
horrible men! Those detectives!"
"You silly," exclaimed Jack, seeing that the poor girl was really
exhausted from fright. "Don't you know better than that?"
"But they would not believe us! They made us tell them where you
were, and Belle is sick in bed. Their boat passed ours as we were
coming in. We had a delay. Oh, we've been so alarmed!"
"Poor Belle," Jack murmured. "Now, Bess, just step up here and make
sure for yourself that Cora is just as intact as when you last saw
her. I am here to speak for myself. If anything she is better for
a night's rest in the open. We expect to start a camp on this plan.
It can't be beat."
Ed motioned Jack aside. "Wasn't that the police boat?" he asked.
"Yes, and Cora and I gave them all the clues they wanted. None at
all in other words. They're after Tony."
"Oh! and Cora, is she all right?" Ed questioned further.
"Splendid. Did you hear the latest?"
"Which?" asked Ed, significantly.
"Laurel's father is almost better. The hermit, you know."
"You don't say! Can he testify?" asked Ed.
"He may be able to if they require it. But the queer part is it
seems to have been the shock that awakened his brain. I have read
of such cases."
Ed was silent, for the girls were returning. Hazel had her brown
arms around Cora while Bess looked at Laurel as if she expected
every moment her chum might evaporate. Walter towed on behind the
"I must go down to the landing, Jack," Cora said. "I expect a
registered letter, and it is most important that I get it at once."
Now this was the very thing that Jack did not want her to do—to get
into the crowd of curious ones that would be sure to be congregated
about the landing.
"Could I not fetch it? You don't want to leave the girls when they
have just come up," Jack interposed.
"I am afraid this time I will have to get my own mail," said Cora
with a smile. "Ed can run me down and we will come straight back."
This was finally agreed upon, although Jack did not like the
arrangements. He called Ed aside and warned him not to let Cora
leave the boat, not to let her speak to anyone, and not to let any
one intercept her. "You can tell about those lawyer fellows," he
finished. "They might think it their legal duty to interview her,
for they know she has been let into the hermit's secret."
Ed readily promised all Jack said, punctuating his remarks with a
display of arm muscle which meant that anyone would have to pass
pretty close to it to reach Cora while she was in his company. Then
Jack sat down on the ledge near the water. He was not given to the
"glooms" but surely he had had more than his share of serious
business lately. How it would end was his cause for anxiety. So he
was pondering when Laurel touched his arm.
"Father would like to speak to you," she said in a faint voice. "He
seems to think he knows you."
Jack jumped up suddenly. "He spoke to me very rationally last
night," he said; "perhaps that is what he means."
He followed Laurel into the hut. The old man had gotten up and was
as nicely washed and fixed as a sick person is usually when loving
hands hover around.
"Good morning, sir," Jack said pleasantly, taking the seat beneath
the opening in the boughs that served as a window.
"Good morning, good morning, and a really good morning it is," said
the older man. "I wanted to speak with you. Laurel dear, is there
not water to fetch?"
Laurel took the cue and hurried out, leaving Jack alone with the
"Young man," he began, "something has happened to clear my brain. A
shock some fifteen years ago, if I have not lost all track of time,
almost, if not altogether, deprived me of my reason." He paused and
put his hand to his brown forehead, in a motion that seemed more a
matter of habit than of necessity. "Then I came here, or he brought
me here. I was all alone. Little Laurel must have been a baby,
when one morning I found her at my side. Dear, sweet little cherub.
He told me since that her mother had died!"
Jack did not venture an interruption. It all seemed too sacred for
the lips of strangers to break in upon.
"Then we lived here. That man—!" He clenched his fist and Jack
feared the excitement might be bad for his weakened head.
"Don't let us talk of him," Jack advised. "Let us consider what is
best to do now."
"My brave boy!" and the hermit put his arm on Jack's shoulder.
"That is always the mighty question for right; what is best to do
A flush had stolen into his sunken cheeks, but Jack could see that
it was not years, but trouble, that had marred his handsome face.
"He said I would be convicted—of that… crime!" The words seemed
to burn his throat, for he put, his hand up as if to, choke further
"A crime you never committed," Jack ventured, without having the
slightest knowledge of what it might mean to his listener.
"Can you prove it? Can you prove it!" gasped the man and for the
moment Jack was frightened. He felt he was again in the presence of
the mad hermit of Fern Island.
"Of course we can prove it. My sister has gone now for the absolute
proof!" Jack was daring more and more each second. "But you spoke
of Breslin. You said you knew him."
"I do! Where is he! Breslin always believed in me, and he could
save me now," replied the man.
"Well, listen and try to be calm, or Laurel will not let me talk
further to you," Jack cautioned. "Last night you mentioned the name
of a wealthy banker, for whom my best friend works. This friend is
a mechanical genius and he runs a racer boat for Brendon Breslin,
"Where? Here? On these shores?" and the man was panting.
"Only a short distance off. But I tell you, Mr.—?"
"Starr," volunteered the man.
"Mr. Starr, if you will only get strong enough you can do a great
deal for yourself and Laurel. The night that you fell a man was on
this Island. Did you know Jim Peters?"
"Jim Peters!" repeated the hermit. "Yes, he was here the night
Laurel went away with that nice young lady who looks like you."
Jack started at that. The night Laurel went away was the night Jim
Peters had quarreled with Tony and been hurt.
"Did he come to the hunt?" asked Jack.
"No, but the other man did. Brentano and he quarreled, and he drove
Jim Peters down to his boat. I saw them for I was wandering about
wishing for Laurel, and I remember it all."
"If that man, Brentano, you call him, chased Peters into the boat
did he get in with him?" Jack asked anxiously.
"Yes, I saw them shove off, but Peters was ugly and wanted to come
"I had to hide then, as they might have injured me if they caught
me. I did not see the boat go out or come back. I went to one of my
many hiding places," finished the old man with evident effort.
"Well, Mr. Starr, you have relieved my mind greatly, and I hope I
have not taxed your brain too strongly. But the fact is the
detectives are trying to find out about those men and every bit of
information helps. The police, you know, like to clear things up to
suit themselves," Jack said.
At the word "police," the man winced. Jack noticed the change of
manner, and at once turned the subject to that of the health of his
listener. He urged him to get up enough strength to leave the
island, for Laurel's sake, as well as for his own.
"But I have lived here like a wild man," argued Mr. Starr, "in fact
I fear I have grown to be one in ways and manners. Solitude may be
good for some, but for those in distress—"
"Exactly. But you are not going to have any more solitude. You see
we have invaded your camp, and when my sister Cora makes a discovery
she always insists upon developing it. I never did see the beat of
Cora for finding things out," and the pride in Jack's voice matched
the toss of his handsome head.
"And my little girl will have a friend," mused the elder man.
"Well, in moments when I could think, that torturing thought of my
dragging her down with me was too much. It drove me back always to
the old, old despair." The look of terror, that Jack noticed before
came back into the haggard face. It was as if he feared to hope.
Laurel was at the door. Her face was a picture of happiness as she
stood there gazing at her father. Her skin was as dark as the
leaves that outlined the entrance to the hut; her eyes lighted up
the rude archway: and her lithe figure completed the bronze
Jack's eyes fell upon her in unstinted admiration. Generations of
culture are not easily undone even by the wild life of a forest.
"You are better every minute, father," she said simply, "I think the
cure you need comes from pleasant company."
"None could be more pleasant than your own, my dear," he answered,
"but now I want to go and see my birds. And I must feed that
cripple rabbit. He was shot," to Jack, "but the leg is mending
nicely. I missed him so, for he knew us so well and would eat from
our hands. You see we established a little kingdom here. Laurel
was queen and we, the birds and other life creatures, were all her
Laurel blushed through her tan. "Yes, he had to do something," she
said, "else the days would have been too long."
The chug of a motor-boat interrupted them. "That's Cora," said
Jack, and so it was.
IN SEARCH OF HONOR
Cora brought back with her the letter promised by Brentano in his
note of mystery. This time she confided in Laurel her scheme for
unraveling the tangled skein in the web of dishonor that had been
woven about the strange girl's father.
Ben had spoken to Cora at the Landing. He seemed to think that Cora
might know more about the trouble between Peters and Tony than he
had expected at first.
"But I don't, Ben," she insisted, while Ed was absent getting mail.
"You give me credit for being better able to solve mysteries than I
am. Is he worse hurt than they thought, Ben?"
"Much worse, miss. Of course, he's not dangerous, but the officers
want Tony the worst way. Now if you could tell where to find him—"
"But I can't," she explained. "They came to me—"
And then she stopped suddenly. If Ben did not know of the visit of
the detectives she was not going to tell him. She had had a faint
suspicion that Ben might have sent them to her. But he evidently
"Yes—yes," he said eagerly. "You were sayin', Miss Cora, that—"
"Oh, nothing, Ben," she answered quickly. "I think I am really so
happy at having helped Laurel, that I don't know what I am saying."
"Yes, indeed you can well be, Miss," and Ben looked at her with what
Cora thought a strange gaze. Still, she might be mistaken. Then
she made some excuse to stroll away.
Walter had rambled off with Hazel and Bess. The day was now one of
those so wonderful in August, when nature seems tired of her
anxieties, and rests in a perfect ocean of content. The haze had
cleared from the water, the hills were shimmering in the rival
honors of sunlight and shadows, and Cedar Lake from far and near was
glorious. Not a breeze broke the spell:
"No brisk fairy feet, bend the air, strangely sweet,
For nature is wedding her lover!"
This line prompted Cora. Somehow the joy of relief was the one
thing that had ever overcome her, and now, although nothing in all,
the strange things that had happened around her, or had warped the
life of Laurel and her father seemed really cleared away, still
there was that odd look on old Ben's face, there was a new light in
Laurel's eyes, and something like vigor in the voice of Mr. Starr.
Oh, if he could and would only tell about that note! Then
everything else might await time for adjustment.
Cora took Jack and Laurel down under the broken chestnut tree to
tell them about the letter. It was best, she concluded not to
mention it yet to Mr. Starr.
"You know," she began, "that Brentano, that is the man of many
names," she explained to Jack, "promised to send me information that
would clear Mr. Starr of his supposed crime."
Laurel drew a deep breath. The word crime made her almost shudder.
"And this is to-day's letter." She opened the bulky envelope. "He
says so much about a girl's power of influence," Cora explained, as
if not wanting to read that part of the letter. Then he says this:
"'I have some excuse for my folly. When I was a very little child
my mother died. My farther was an expert mathematician employed by
the Mexican government. From a tiny lad I watched him make those
fascinating rows of figures, and I always wanted to know what they
meant. He told me money, riches, gold, and I got to believe that
the way to acquire money was to make figures, and do wonderful
things with pen and ink. When I was twelve years old my father
died, and I was left, with considerable money, in the care of an old
nurse who idolized me. Poor old Maximina! She meant no wrong, but
who was to guide me? Then the money was gone and the nurse was also
gone. I had to follow some occupation, and a friend coming to
America brought me with him. At fifteen I was a bank runner. It
was there I met Mr. Starr, the respected first clerk of the bank.
He liked me, talked to me and was my friend. Then I got in with a
set of so called scientific cranks. I knew something about the ways
of hypnotism, and when I wanted money the temptation came."
Cora stopped, for Laurel had clutched at Jack's arm. Her face was a
faded yellow and her eyes were twitching.
"Shall we wait for the rest, Laurel?" Cora asked. "Perhaps it
is—too painful for you now!"
"Oh, no! It is not pain, it is agony. This boy whom my father
"But you see he was not born a scoundrel," Jack interrupted. "He is
now trying to make amends."
"Yes," sighed Laurel, "please go on, Cora."
Cora read: "I have kept proofs of everything, but if the authorities
refuse to accept these proofs I am willing to come back to America
and give myself up. You will find the papers marked 'bank records'
in a chest in the back kitchen of Peters shack. They are sealed in
a big tin can marked 'red paint.' What are they saying about
Peters? That must be a hard nut for the Lake people to crack, but
since they know so much, or they think they know, it might be a good
thing to let them find out how little they really do know. I am
sorry for poor Peters. He got ugly, however, and it was his own
As Cora read these last few words her, eyes left the paper. What
did he mean? Why did he not say more? He knew Peters' shack held
the needed proofs of that forgery case. It would take many days to
write to and hear from Mexico. All this was dashing before Cora's
"The thing to do," spoke Jack, "is to go to the shack at once. When
we find those papers we may believe the man."
"I believe him now," said Laurel, "for all that he says of my father
I have heard in his ravings. Poor, dear father! And to think I was
too young to help him!"
"It was evidently not a question of age," said Jack, "when one is
hypnotized into the belief that he has committed a crime it would
take scientific treatment to restore him to his correct view of the
case. To remove you from the possibility of this, I suppose, is the
very reason that Brentano brought you here."
"We cannot go for the papers to-day," Cora said, "for we must, if
possible, get Mr. Starr either to the boys' bungalow, or to our
camp. Which do you think, Jack?"
"We will take him to our bungalow, certainly. And it seems to me he
is smart and bright enough for the trip now. If we wait later he
might have some reaction," Jack replied.
Laurel agreed with him, and presently they broached the matter to
"But I cannot go just now," the hermit argued. "I have that little
"Why, father," and Laurel folded her arms around him, "don't you
think it would be dreadful to disappoint our friends when they have
waited the whole night? And they must want to get back to their
"Looking at it that way," he faltered, "I suppose I ought to. But
how can a man leave the woods when he has been in them for ten
"It must be hard," Cora agreed, "and if you want to come back we
could arrange to build you a real camp out here, one in which Laurel
might have some comforts. But first you must get strong. Just
think of beef tea-broth—can't you smell it?"
"Girl! Girl!" he exclaimed with a real smile brightening his
benevolent face, "you have a way! Laurel, we have no trunks to
pack," he said, half grimly, "have we?"
"But we have things to take with us," 'and she jumped up so pleased,
believing that he had almost, if not entirely, consented to go.
"Where's that rabbit?" asked Jack.
Walter and the girls were coming the other way.
"It's in a mossy bed just back of where Bess stands," said Laurel.
"Then he's the first thing to be packed," said Jack, walking
straight for the path where the others stood.
From that time until the Petrel landed at the lower end of Cedar
Lake Mr. Starr, the hermit, felt that he was in a dream. At the
same time he allowed himself to be guided and managed with the
simplicity of a child, for his awakened memory seemed stunned by
this new turn of affairs. He was weak, of course, but with all the
hands that now crowded around him his every need was well looked
"I'll get Dr. Rand," Ed volunteered. "They say he is wonderful on
"But he needs rest first," insisted the busy Cora, for she and
Laurel had gone directly to the boys' bungalow with Mr. Starr.
Between them all the illness seemed overwhelmed. In fact, the man's
eyes, the safest signal of the brain, were as dear as those of the
young persons who so eagerly watched his every move.
Dr. Rand came at once. He diagnosed the case as one of mental
shock, and called the patient convalescent. A nurse however was
called in to hurry the recovery, and this necessitated the renting
of another bungalow for the boys.
There had never been more excitement around the wood camp. The boys
ran this way and that, each anxious to outdo the other in the
accomplishment of something important. Finally Cora suggested that
they all go away to make sure that Mr. Starr would have real quiet.
"Can't we go for the papers? To the shack?" Laurel ventured.
"We might," Jack replied. "I see no reason why we should not."
"Let us three go," proposed Cora, "I mean you and Laurel and I,
Jack. It might be best not to attract attention."
Once more the Petrel sailed up the lake, this time toward the
Everglades. Cora thought of that day when she and Bess dared take
the same journey, when the strange man sat at the willowed shore
ostensibly making sketches. She thought now that his work then must
have been the forging of a letter to hand the poor demented hermit
of Fern Island.
"The shack is just over there, Jack," she said, pointing out the
"There's another boat anchored there," Jack said. "It looks like an
important craft too."
He had seen it before. It was the very boat in which the detective
and the police officer sailed up to the far island the morning they
came searching for evidence in the Jones' case.
"The path is narrow," Cora said, "but I happen to know it." She led
"There are men!" exclaimed Laurel as they neared the shack.
Two men were trying to force open the low window. Cora drew back,
for one of the men was in uniform.
"I suppose they have not finished the case," Jack ventured, and at
that very moment he would have given a great deal to have had his
sister and Laurel back at camp.
The men had not yet seen them. They forced open the window, and
were now inside.
"Let us turn back," Jack suggested. "They may ask us questions—"
"But the papers," begged Laurel. "They mean so much to father. And
what if those men should take them?"
"They will likely take everything they can lay their hands on," Jack
answered, "and I suppose it will be best for us to go on."
"Certainly," Cora said, knowing well that it was on her account that
Jack hesitated. "They cannot do more than ask questions."
But scarcely had she uttered the words than they saw the two men
walk out of the shack, and one of them had the can marked "red
A BOLD RESOLVE
Seeing their precious papers, or the receptacle that was said to
contain them, in the hands of the detective, Cora and Laurel both
drew back. They could not now demand them, was the thought that
flashed to the mind of each, and yet to leave them in possession of
the officers, was the very worst thing that could have happened, for
there was always the danger of the old story coming up and then the
risk to Mr. Starr, after all his years of evading the law!
"They have no right to them," Jack said under his breath.
"Hush!" Cora whispered, "they are going the other way!"
The two men were talking. Suddenly one of them said loudly enough
for the listeners to hear:
"It might be dynamite. Not for me! Here goes!" and he carefully
set the can down under a bush.
"Yes," said the other man. "You are right. Those two fellows were
up to most anything. We will get Mulligan. He could smell
dynamite," and with that they turned, took a new path toward the
shore, and were soon sailing off in their boat.
For a few moments neither of the three, who were standing there
watching, spoke. Then Cora's face brightened.
"They are ours, Laurel's," she said, "and we have a right to take
"But the law is queer on such points," Jack argued. "I have known
men to be put in jail for what they call interfering with an officer
when the officer could not do just what he wanted to with some
spunky citizen. I should not like to touch the can of red paint."
"But my father," said Laurel, in the most pleading of tones. "Think
what it means! How we have suffered; and now, when this is at our
"But suppose it were something other than the papers," cautioned
Jack. "Those men had a pretty bad reputation."
"I will take all the risks," declared Cora, and before Jack could
detain her she ran to the bush, pushed it aside, and grasped the
Jack hurried to take it from her. "Let me have it, Cora; if there
is a risk it must be mine."
"All right, Jack dear," she replied, "I am sure there is nothing in
it heavier than papers. Wouldn't you think those men could have
"Perhaps they did not want to," said Jack. "You can never tell what
they want or mean. They have a system even the country fellows, and
it covers a multitude of failures." He shook the can, put it to his
ear, rolled it a few feet, picked it up again and laughed. "Mr.
Mulligan won't find this can," he said, "Somehow it is attractive,
and I am anxious as you girls to see what is in it. If we get in
trouble for taking it—well, we'll see," and he led the way down to
On the water they passed the police boat, but the can of "red
paint," was snugly resting under Laurel's skirts in the bottom of
"Will you tell your father at once, Laurel?" Cora asked.
"If he is well enough. Oh, I can scarcely wait. Coral, what
wonderful good luck you brought to us," and she reached out her hand
to press Cora's.
"Don't be too sure," cautioned the other, "it is not all cleared up
"But I feel sure," she insisted. "Brentano was too clever to do
anything half way."
"He certainly was a star," Jack admitted. "But I hope he will not
insist upon keeping up the correspondence with Cora. He might give
us the hoo-doo."
They were soon at their dock. The Peter Pan was tied, there, and
that meant that Paul Hastings was at the bungalow. Jack thought
instantly of Paul's employer, the banker, whose name Mr. Starr had
mentioned. It did seem now that things were shaping themselves to
tell all the story.
"Who is the stranger?" Cora asked, noticing a man in a dressing robe
sitting on the little rustic porch.
"I—wonder—" Jack said.
"It's father," almost screamed Laurel, "and he has had his hair cut
and his beard taken off! Doesn't he look lovely!"
"It can't be," Cora said hesitatingly. "That man is so young!"
"He's my dear father, just the same," declared the delighted girl,
hurrying from the boat up to the bungalow.
The man did not turn his head to greet her, but she was not to be
deceived by his little ruse. "What a surprise!" she exclaimed. "I
scarcely knew you."
"But you did know me," he replied, with a happy smile. "I feel
years and years younger, my dear."
"Indeed you look it," Cora said. "I wonder how you ever hid such
The nurse was fetching the beef tea, Paul took the cup from her
hand. Jack made a wry face at Laurel, indicating that they would
have to watch Paul and the pretty new nurse. Then he took the chair
nearest Mr. Starr. The can of "red paint" had been safely hidden in
a locker of the Petrel.
"Your friend has been telling me the wonders of his fast boat,"
began Mr. Starr to Jack, speaking of Paul.
"Yes. This is the young man who is employed by Brendon Breslin,"
"Employed by Brendon Breslin!" exclaimed Mr. Starr. "Is Mr. Breslin
"Gone to the city to-day," replied Paul, "but I take him home every
night in the Peter Pan. That's what he wants the best boat on the
"He always believed me, and never wanted me to go away," Mr. Starr
said. "And now if I could see him—"
"I don't see why you cannot," put in Jack. "He often rides by here,
doesn't he Paul?"
"He thinks this the prettiest end of the lake," Paul replied. "But
if you ever knew him and he was your friend I am sure he would be
only too glad to make a special trip to see you, for he boasts he
never forgets an old friend," Paul said.
"That's him—that's Brendon," exclaimed Mr. Starr, moving uneasily
in his chair. "I feel I must be dreaming."
There was a general pause—for realization. Everyone felt indeed it
was like a dream, and almost beyond human power to grasp. Mr. Starr
swept his hand over his forehead.
"Laurel," he called, "I wonder if I couldn't take a ride in the
Peter Pan. Ask the nurse, please—?"
"Oh, no," objected that young lady. "It would not be wise for you
to take another boat ride to-day. We will ask the doctor about it
"Don't be impatient, father," pleaded Laurel. "You must not forget
how weak your head has been."
"All right, child. But I want it cleared up," he murmured. "I feel
there is no safety for me until I'm vindicated."
"Come on, Jack," whispered Cora. "We must open that can."
Paul was leaving. Cora and Jack walked to the dock with him. He
assured them both that Mr. Breslin would call very soon, and also
promised to be on hand on the following Wednesday evening when the
girls and boys were planning to have a celebration.
"They will never know but that it is really paint," Cora remarked,
as she and Jack walked boldly up the path with the precious tin can.
"Just take it around to the back, and be careful opening it."
"Dynamite?" asked Jack with a smile.
"No, but you might damage something," she replied.
"No worry about damaging myself?" he persisted. "Well, Cora, I hope
it contains—some jewels. Wouldn't that be nice?"
There was no chance for further conversation. Cora went to the
porch while her brother carried out her instructions. Presently she
made some excuse, and left Laurel alone, talking with her father.
She found Jack sitting on the wash bench with the can opened and in
"Didn't go off?" she asked, peering into the tin.
"Not a go," replied Jack, "but look! What did I tell you! There's
an envelope marked for Laurel, and feel! Are they not stones?
Diamonds or pearls?"
"You romancer!" exclaimed Cora, as she felt the bulky envelope. "I
admit they do feel like stones, but they may be merely corals. But
oh, Jack! Do let me see!"
"Lets call Laurel," he suggested. "We cannot read any of those
papers. They are for her, or her father, to open."
"Oh, of course," and Cora looked rebuked. "I had no idea of reading
anything, but I thought we should make sure of what was in the can
before we got Laurel excited over it," and she slipped around the
side of the bungalow to beckon to Laurel.
The girl's face turned white when she saw why she was wanted. "I am
so afraid of disappointment," she murmured with a sigh.
"Well, there's something in here," Jack told her. "Look at this,"
and he handed her the heavy envelope.
She read her name—then she tore open the paper. A necklace fell
out on her lap!
"Mother's!" she exclaimed, pressing the golden chain to her lips
reverently. "Darling mother's!"
"And the stones are amethysts!" Cora exclaimed as Laurel held up the
"Yes, it was father's wedding present to mother," Laurel told them.
"Oh, I scarcely know how to tell him all this."
"Tony was a pretty decent robber after all," remarked Jack. "He
kept them for you, at any rate."
"Yes, poor man. Perhaps, as he said, his one temptation was to do
clever things with a pen. Let us look over the papers."
"Perhaps your father had best see you do that," Jack suggested.
"Oh no. I think I had better know first," Laurel insisted. "Let me
open this," and she carefully broke a large red seal on a packet of
documents yellow with age.
Paper after paper she took out. Finally what she was looking for
she found. It was a check that had been cashed and cancelled! It
bore the marks also of "forgery!"
"That's it," she exclaimed. "That is the ten thousand dollar
ALL ENDS WELL-CONCLUSION
"I remember it all—it's like a book open before me!"
Laurel had insisted upon her father reclining in the hammock, and
she was now fussing with his pillows, that he might nestle deeper in
their softness. It was he who was speaking. On the porch sat
Brendon Breslin, looking into Peter Starr's face like one enchanted.
There was Cora moving a big fan so that apparently without her doing
it, the breeze reached the man in the hammock. Jack was there and
Ed was inside the bungalow teasing Walter who had "discovered" the
new nurse. Hazel, Bess and Belle were busy—there was to be
A day had passed since the opening of the can of "red paint." In
fact it was the evening following that eventful performance. Paul
had only to say "Peter Starr"' to Mr. Breslin, and the latter was
ready to be at the bungaloafers' camp. So the story was unwinding.
"Do you really feel able to talk?" asked the millionaire banker. "I
will insist now—you got, the better of me once, Peter."
"Yes, Mr. Starr," Cora added to the request. "Do be careful."
"And she asks me to be careful!" He actually seized Cora in his
trembling arms. "She! Why she risked her life for us. It was she
who found my Laurel! She who came to us at night to be sure we
would not repel her! She who followed up that—"
"Oh, please, hush!" Cora begged, "or it will be she who causes your
relapse," she insisted.
"Indeed no," and the man held in his hands before him the flushed
face of Cora. "What you have done cannot be told of in this rude
"Father, I'll be jealous," said Laurel, trying to relieve the
Cora slipped away. It was Mr. Breslin who spoke next.
"And you really remember?" he asked of Mr. Starr. "How was it that
you ran away?"
"The bank president's name had been forged to a check for ten
"Yes, I know that well," said Mr. Breslin.
"And they traced the forgery to me!"
"But you knew you were innocent!"
"I knew it, but I was frightened by the accusation, and they had
found trials of the signature in my desk!"
"I have a letter that explains that," Cora imparted, and then she
told how Brentano had confessed to the forgery, and to his almost
hypnotic influence over Mr. Starr.
"And then?" inquired Mr. Breslin.
"Brentano told me I must go. He fixed everything. I have been on
the island ten years," and the hermit sighed heavily.
"How did you live?" asked the banker.
"He fixed that," and there was bitterness in his tone. "He brought
me letters regularly. These were alleged to come from those who
would prosecute me if I did not keep on paying money!"
At this statement the banker dashed up from his seat. "The
scoundrel!" he almost hissed. "He ought to be jailed! If I had him
here I'd do it too. I'm mayor of this borough."
"Oh, Mr. Breslin!" exclaimed Laurel. "He must not have been
entirely bad. See how he saved the papers—the proofs—and how he
kept for me my mother's jewels."
"That's the sentimental mire that foreign criminals wallow in," he
replied with irony. "I cannot see that it mitigates the crime."
"And yet," interrupted Mr. Starr, "see how the influence of a mere
girl turned him to right? I did like that boy!"
Cora and Laurel had crept away to the far end of the porch. Two men
came up the path.
"Hello!" said Mr. Breslin. "Officers!"
There was surprise on the officers' faces when they saw Mr. Breslin,
their superior officer, the mayor of Cedar Lake, sitting on the
porch. Greetings were exchanged and finally they ventured to make
known their mission.
They had heard that someone saw Cora Kimball take the state's
evidence—the can of "red paint!"
"But what was a can of paint?" asked the mayor. "As if a girl would
want that," and his voice was almost mocking.
"Well, it might have been dynamite," and the man who wore brass
buttons shook his head sagely.
"A girl steal a can of dynamite," repeated Mr. Breslin mockingly.
The officers were trying to see who was in the hammock. But the man
therein sank back into the cushions, while Jack carelessly slipped
his chair directly in front of him.
"Why didn't you take it when you saw it?" asked the town's mayor.
"Well," explained the other man, "we didn't fancy the blow-up. We
went for Mulligan who knows about such things, and when we came back
it was gone."
"You had better tell that story before the jury," and the sarcasm in
Mr. Breslin's tone was unmistakable. "Suppose you tell them that a
girl took what you were afraid to touch!"
Seeing that it was useless to argue with the mayor, they turned to
"Wait," he said good naturedly, "I have my boat here. Take a ride
with me. It's better than walking the dusty roads. Good evening,"
he said. "Mr. Fennelly," (to Mr. Starr,) "I hope you will regain
your health by the time your son has to return to college!"
"Fennelly," said one officer to the other. "That's not the name, it
was Starr! We're on the wrong trail." And they hurried away. Thus
had Mr. Breslin saved the hermit from having to testify.
"Laurel," Cora said wearily, "let us go for a little walk. My
nerves are all snarled up, and only a walk will unravel them. We
will have time to go as far as the hemlocks before those girls and
boys make up their minds to disband."
"But it is dark," objected Laurel.
"All the better; the quiet will be more effective. Come on, Laurel.
Surely you do not mind a dark evening."
"Oh, no indeed, Cora," she replied, winding her arm, about her
friend's waist, "but I was thinking it might shower."
"Oh, we could beat any shower," insisted, Laurel, "Come let us get
away before they miss us."
It was getting very dark indeed, but they heeded it not, so
interested were they in their chat.
They talked of many things, as girls will, and Laurel told much of
her half-wild life, on Fern Island, while Cora related some of her
own experiences. Then they returned to the house, where they found
the others assembled.
"Let's have some fun," suggested Walter.
"I vote for charades," said Jack. "I'll be a fish."
"All right!" exclaimed the nurse, entering into the spirit of the
fun, "here's where you swim!" and she poured a glass of water down
Jack's back. He accepted the challenge and made exaggerated motions
as if he were struggling in deep water. There was a gale of
laughter, and that was the beginning of a gay time. The troubles of
the past seemed all forgotten.
The now happy party remained together for several days and in the
meanwhile there were many developments.
Through the efforts of Mr. Breslin everything regarding the former
hermit was cleared up, and his name was once more restored to its
untarnished honor. There was absolutely no charge against him, and
on learning this, his health took a big change for the better. As
for Laurel, she was happier than she had been in many years.
The injury to Jim Peters did not amount to as much as had been
feared at first and he gradually recovered. There was no trace of
"Tony," as everyone called Brentano. The search for him was given
up, but the officers who had been fooled by the can of "red paint"
had a hard time living down the joke against them. Cora destroyed
all the correspondence she had received. It was like a bad dream,
all but that part about helping Laurel and her father, and she
wanted to forget it. Laurel also destroyed the letter Jack had
picked up the night of the search. It was one from Brentano, and
she, too, wanted no remembrance of him. This epistle had a slight
connection with the mystery.
Old Ben proved a good friend and Cora was sorry for the momentary
feeling she had had against him. He showed the boys many woodland
haunts and took them to secret fishin' "holes" unknown to the
general public. The lads voted him a "brick."
It was a bright, beautiful day and every one was happy—happy
because of the fine weather and because everything had turned out so
"I feel just like doing something!" exclaimed Cora, who, came in
from a walk in the woods.
"What, sis?" asked Jack, making a grab for her which she adroitly
"Oh—almost anything. Since so much of our summer was spoiled in
exploring and in solving mysteries, suppose we dispel the gloom with
a spell of reckless gaiety."
"Suppose," agreed Hazel. "What shall it be? I vote for water fun.
We can have parties and that sort of stuff all winter."
"Fishing! The very thing!" exclaimed Cora, "and give prizes for
fish, near fish, and no fish."
"Oh, the boys would be sure to win on the fish number," said Hazel,
"but let's try it. We have to have live bait, I suppose."
"And we can haul the bait nets. Did you ever see them cast one of
those thirty feet ones?" asked Cora.
"Never," replied Hazel. "But when shall we start, and what do we
start? I'll dig for worms."
"To-night we will go for the bait, and you can go out with a lantern
in the darkest parts of the woods to dig for worms," Cora said,
knowing, that this would put an end to Hazel's offer.
"In the woods? In our own back yard. I know how to turn stones
over. I have often helped Paul," Hazel attested.
But it was casting the big thirty foot net that really furnished the
best sport. It was dropped from a rowboat by Bess and Cora while
Laurel and Belle rowed. Then when it was all spread out they had to
row very quickly in a circle to close the bottom and to drag in the
unsuspecting little fishes that were to make the live bait.
The first trial resulted in Belle resigning as oarsman. She had
lost a gold-rimmed side-comb overboard, besides getting very wet
when the boat turned suddenly and "took a wave."
"I can row alone," insisted Laurel. "Cora and Hazel must manage the
This time they did bring up some fish—a whole drove of wiggling,
frightened little minnies.
"How do we get them out?" asked Bess, more frightened than the fish.
"Pick them out and put them in the bait box," Cora explained, while
Bess made a negative face.
"It seems a shame to use them for bait," Laurel said, as on the pier
they opened the net carefully and saw the pretty silvery things slip
around. "Couldn't we put them some place to grow up?"
"The fish-orphans' home," suggested Cora. "But I must have a few.
You know, girls, fish have no brains. That's the reason I suppose
they go into the brain business when they get a chance at humans."
The very next afternoon the girl's fishing party rowed out from
Center Landing. Walter went along to take the fish off the hooks of
Belle and Bess who declared they would never be able to do that.
The other boy's composed a rival party.
Ben was at the landing, and he wished them all sorts of luck besides
telling them the secret spots where fish dwelt. They went deep into
the cove, as Ben said the pickerel loved to lay in the grasses
Bess and Belle insisted upon following the directions on the box of
a patent "plug" they had purchased and cast near a lily pond,
reeling in so slowly that Hazel and Cora had both had "strikes"
before the twins saw their white make believe fish come to the
surface. This sort of casting was for bass of course.
"I've got one! I've got one!" shouted Cora, as she pulled in a
handsome big, black bass.
This won the first and last prize, for it was an exceptionally fine
"We knew you would have the best luck, Cora," Hazel said without
malice, as she dragged up a very small, scared sunny. "We knew it.
You always do."
"It isn't luck," added Laurel, "It's skill. She knew that she must
pull up as soon as the fish struck. I lost something. It might
have been a snake but it got away because I was not quick enough."
There was quite a laugh when Jack, after a hard struggle, during
which he protested that he must have the biggest pickerel in the
lake, pulled in a large mud turtle. Later, however, he redeemed
himself by catching one of the long fish which gave him quite a
battle of the line. The other boys did well, and the girls were not
far behind them.
"Well," remarked Cora, during a lull in the proceedings when they
had gone ashore to eat the lunch they had brought along, "we really
haven't had so much fun as this since we came to the lake. There
was so much excitement."
"There are other vacations coming," predicted Ed. "There is no
telling what may happen since she has learned to adjust a spark
plug, and regulate a timer."
Ed was right; there were other adventures in store for the motor
girls, and what they consisted of will be related in the next volume
of this series to be entitled "The Motor Girls on the Coast or The
Waif from the Sea."
The afternoon waned. No one felt like going fishing after lunch.
Besides, as Cora said, they, had enough, and they were all cleaned
up from the "mess" of baiting hooks.
And now, for a time we will take leave of the girls, as they are
sitting on the shady shores of Cedar Lake, talking—talking—and the
boys listening, with occasional remarks.
"And I'm so glad it all came out right," Cora murmured. "You are to
go to school with me, Laurel—mother has planned about that."
"And it was so good of Mr. Breslin to arrange to have father do
clerical work for him," added the woodland maid. "Oh, how lovely
And the sun, sinking to rest, cast a rosy glow over the peaceful
waters of the lake.