The Merriweather Girls

IN

QUEST OF TREASURE

BY

LIZETTE M. EDHOLM

THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING COMPANY

CHICAGO

COPYRIGHT 1932 BY

LIZETTE M. EDHOLM

Made in U. S. A.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

     I On Their Way
    II A Street Leading to the Capitol
   III The Wash-Out
    IV The Desert
     V A Solitary Explorer
    VI Casa Grande
   VII The Map of Mystery
  VIII Kit's Home Folks
    IX Lost Canyon
     X The Professor's Job
    XI Staking a Claim
   XII Double Dealing
  XIII The "Orphan Annie" Claim
   XIV Treasure Trove
    XV A Spy
   XVI Missing
  XVII Indian Trading
 XVIII The Old Chief's Daughter Walks
   XIX A Brass Bound Chest
    XX "Compliments of Kie Wicks"

In Quest of Treasure

CHAPTER I

ON THEIR WAY

The four Merriweather Girls were assembled at the railroad station where the long string of Pullman coaches stood ready. The girls were starting on a vacation trip to the southwest.

"What's the matter, now, Joy Evans? Why all the tears?" Bet Baxter, her blond hair in disarray, caught the girl by the shoulders and gave her a rough but affectionate shake.

"Oh, let her alone, Bet," laughed Shirley Williams. "That's Joy's good-bye. She likes to weep when she goes away."

"But why?" insisted Bet, her blue eyes serious for a moment. "We've been planning on this western trip all winter. We've thought of nothing but Arizona for months. Tell me why you are crying?"

"Because I feel like it, Bet Baxter," snapped Joy. "It's so thrilling to be going away for a long trip, and when it comes to the luxury of a private car, why it's twice as thrilly." Joy choked as a laugh and a sob got mixed up together. Then making an elaborate but not very polite grimace at her chum, she disappeared into the car that was to carry her and her chums westward.

"There, she's herself again," laughed Bet. "That face indicates that
Joy is happy."

Bet was glowing with excitement. It was her first long trip away from her home in Lynnwood on the Hudson, and the promise of a summer of adventure in the Arizona mountains was almost too good to be true. Or so it seemed to the girl.

Her one regret was that her father was not coming with her. From the observation car she was calling her farewell messages to him as he stood on the platform of the station. Bet was his only child and the responsibility of looking after her and trying to make up for the loss of her mother, was sometimes a heavy burden on Colonel Baxter. There was an anxious look in his face now, although he knew that his daughter would be well taken care of by Judge Breckenridge and his wife, who had invited Bet and her chums to be their guests for the summer.

Anyone but an over-anxious parent would have felt confident that Bet Baxter could look out for herself under any circumstances. Her straight young body had poise and assurance of power and she had a resourcefulness of mind that made her a leader among her friends.

Bet was nearer to real tears than she would have admitted to any one. Back there was her father, the very best chum she had, and to be going away where she could not see him every week-end made a strange catch in her breath.

Shirley realized what Bet was experiencing and stepping to her side, called gaily to the Colonel.

"Hold that pose, Colonel. I'm going to take a picture of you."

Wherever one saw Shirley, they usually saw a camera for she rarely let it out of her hands during a trip, and now as the shutter clicked she said to Bet: "That's the third picture I've taken of him. You'll have those to look at."

"Thanks, Shirley, that's good of you. And I shouldn't feel so frightfully homesick for Dad may come out to see us in a few weeks."

"Oh, won't that be great," exclaimed Shirley. "He is just like one of the boys."

"Doesn't it seem strange not to have the boys here to bid us good-bye.
It's never happened before."

The boys were Bob Evans, Joy's brother, and his chum, Phil Gordon, favorites with the girls and always included in their activities when boys were wanted at all. The week before, the girls had waved them good-bye as they started on an auto trip with Paul Breckenridge.

The girls missed their parting nonsense. It didn't seem like going away at all, without the boys to keep up the fun.

As the train began to move, Bet smiled bravely back at her father and waved until a curving road carried them out of sight of the station.

Only then did she answer the insistent calls of the girls inside the car.

"Bet Baxter, do come here and see this," cried Enid Breckenridge, a large blond girl whose serious face told of trouble lived through that had been too heavy for her young shoulders. Her gray-blue eyes were sad.

Bet was about to speak to Enid when the other chum, a tall dark-eyed girl, grabbed her by the hand and dragged her across the room.

"Look at this, Bet!" Kit Patten exclaimed. "You're missing everything!"

But Bet stood stock still and gazed about her in surprise. This was not a bit like an ordinary train. It gave the impression of a very homey living room in a small house, with its shaded reading lamps and the easy chairs that invited one to their soft depths.

"Isn't it wonderful?" breathed Bet with a happy sigh. "I'd love to sit right there and watch the scenery go by."

But that was only the impulse of a moment. There were too many things to see in this marvelous train. And Kit was demanding her attention from one side and Enid Breckenridge from the other.

Kit won, and opening a door, displayed a small bedroom beautifully arranged and furnished.

"Isn't it just too lovely for anything?" asked Kit as she heard Bet's gasp of astonishment.

"I didn't know trains were ever fixed up this way," Bet was taking in all the delightful details of the room. "I always thought it was a lower berth if you were lucky and an upper one if you were out of luck. Why this is just like a lovely little playhouse. Who will sleep here?"

"This is for mother," said Enid. "She gets the best room."

"Of course she does," assented Bet. "But where do we get put away for the night?"

"In here!" Kit suddenly opened a door and at Bet's look of surprise she went on: "You didn't know there was a door there, did you? It's almost like magic."

And magic it seemed to the girls as they wandered from one thing to another. The electrical appliances in the dressing room!

"Why, girls, we don't know what half of them are for," laughed Bet.

"We'll have to have a maid to show us how to get dressed here." And as Kit spoke a trim little colored maid appeared as if she had heard a call.

"Is everything all right?" she asked looking at Enid.

Bet had always taken the lead and was chief spokesman. She was about to answer when she remembered that Enid was hostess. "Here's where I'll have to take second place," thought Bet. But in her heart she was glad to see Enid in the position of hostess. Her life had been full of tragedy. Stolen from her wealthy parents, she had not known a home or friends until the previous year when she had been rescued by the chums on Campers' Trail.

The car in which the girls were travelling belonged to Enid's father, and the girl was glad to show her friends around the place.

"Here's one compartment with two beds, and opposite is one with three beds," said Enid. "How will we divide up?"

"As usual, I guess, you and Kit and I in one and Shirley and Joy in the other."

When the maid had left, Enid laughingly pushed Kit into a chair in front of the dressing table. "Sit still now, while I curl your hair!" she directed.

The other girls joined the laugh, for Kit's hair was a mass of dark ringlets that clung close to her head. Bet Baxter, with her straight, blond hair always envied Kit those curls, while her own unruly locks were flying out at all angles.

"But do come and see what I discovered," said Enid at last, pulling Bet by the sleeve. "It's a darling little dining room! Why it's—it's…" And Enid stopped because in all her experience she could find nothing to compare with the tiny room which glittered with crystal and silver.

"I do believe that lunch is getting ready," said Joy Evans. "And let me tell you, it can't come too soon to suit me. I'm starved."

"As usual," laughed Shirley. "You're always hungry, Joy. And it's so nice you can eat everything! And still you're thin!" Shirley was inclined to plumpness and had to choose her food more carefully than the others.

As they turned toward the salon once more, Bet dropped into an easy chair and picked up a book.

"Oh, Bet, don't get interested in a story yet! You'll have heaps of time to read before we get to Arizona. Come on, let's see if we can peek into the kitchen. To my way of thinking, that's the most important room on the train," laughed Joy.

"That's what we'd expect you to think, Joy," teased Shirley.

Enid rose and motioned the girls to follow her toward the kitchen compartment, then gave a shrug of disgust as she noticed a sign on the door, "Private."

"Why, the idea," pouted Bet Baxter. "Right on our own car, too! I don't think we ought to stand for it." Then a spirit of mischief overcame Bet. She tiptoed toward the door and shoved it open, bouncing into the room without even looking. The girls watched to see what would happen.

Plenty happened, for at that moment Sam Wilkins, the huge colored cook, was bringing in a large tray of ice water. There was a loud crash. Two glasses fell to the floor, and the man himself almost lost his balance.

Sam's usual smile faded. "Ain't you seen that sign, nohow?" he demanded pointing a long, black finger at the word "Private."

"Why how stupid of me!" Bet tried to look innocent. "Was that there all the time? Imagine me not seeing it!" There was remorse in her voice but a merry twinkle in her eyes that did not escape Sam.

"Maybe you can't read yet," he said, frowning.

Bet bestowed on him one of her compelling smiles. "I'm very sorry," she said with her sweetest accent. "I'll promise never to come in here again—that is unless you want me to see your darling kitchen. I know I'd just love it."

Sam's white teeth showed in a broad smile. After that, he was willing to do anything for Bet Baxter. He ushered her into his kitchen as if she were a queen.

When Bet came back triumphantly to the drawing room a few minutes later, Enid greeted her with a shake of her head:

"You certainly have a way with you, Bet Baxter. No one can resist you, no one!"

"What about Edith Whalen?" Bet reminded her.

"Oh, that girl!" said Enid contemptuously.

"Every rule has to have one exception. She doesn't count at all."

"Speaking of Edith, I wonder where she is this summer?" asked Kit.

"Why spoil a perfectly good day by speaking of Edith at all. She's just nothing in my young life. She belongs to the dim and distant past. A summer of real happiness is before us!" exclaimed Bet.

"Huh! That's just what you said last year when we went to Campers' Trail, and see what happened! Edith was there and managed to make our lives miserable for a month and more," Joy reminded her with shrug of her dainty shoulders.

"Well, there is one thing sure, girls," laughed Kit Patten. "She will not be in Lost Canyon. So you are safe in planning on a happy summer."

"Now if we can only persuade Bet not to find any problems to solve, we will have a heavenly time." Shirley had been working hard during the winter. She was the level headed, business girl. She was always ready for a good time, but if she were asked to choose, it would be a quiet one with no great excitement. But Shirley always took things as they came and enjoyed herself.

Joy Evans was different. Her impatience often made her miss the good time that was right at hand. Now she was looking forward to her vacation in the Arizona mountains on Judge Breckenridge's ranch.

"Oh, I'm so glad we're off. I can hardly wait until I see the cowboys.
I think they must be marvelous!"

"Joy, do try to use a little bit of sense. There's nothing remarkable about a cowboy," Kit Patten, the mountain girl, replied. For Kit had lived most of her life in Arizona at the head of Lost Canyon, and as luck would have it, only about half a mile from the ranch belonging to Judge Breckenridge.

Kit had been away from her home for two years and at present was all excited about seeing her father and mother.

"What are you looking forward to, Enid?" asked Shirley. "Joy wants to see the cowboys, I want to rest and Kit wants to see Dad and Ma Patten."

"I want to see what my western home is like. It's so good to have a home, girls," Enid replied, and the girls gave her a tender smile, remembering the experiences on Campers' Trail.

"And I suppose Bet wants some wild adventure," teased Joy. "Problems to solve, great deeds to be done!"

"Oh, I'm not so sure. Maybe I'll be a cowgirl and learn to ride like Kit, and rope a steer like her friend, Seedy Saunders. There are heaps of things I'd like to do. I'd like to meet a western bad man that you read about."

"If you want that, Bet, you'll have to go to the movies. Western bad men are a thing of the past," Kit answered decidedly. "In the early days, Lost Canyon was a wild place but now it's the most peaceful spot in the world."

"Just my luck!" pouted Bet. "I did want to catch a western bad man, single handed, and turn him over to justice."

The girls laughed. They were each looking forward to something different, some particular plan or desire of her own, as far apart as they could possibly be, yet these five girls had bound themselves together, one for all and all for one.

Two summers ago, Bet Baxter, Joy Evans and Shirley Williams had first met Kit Patten, the homesick western girl. They had formed a little club that took its name from Colonel Baxter's estate, Merriweather Manor, a delightful old mansion on the Hudson with its romantic story of Revolutionary days when Lady Betty Merriweather reigned in its stately rooms. Her story inspired the girls to find adventure in life and to be true to their highest ideals.

In the story The Merriweather Girls and The Mystery of the Queen's Fan, these four girls solved the problem of the stolen fan. They had tense moments when it seemed as if they had failed, but they held on and won out.

The next year a new member was added to their club. In The Merriweather Girls, On Campers' Trail, they found Enid, then known as Tilly, The Waif of the Woods. The girls with quick thinking, daring and devotion were able to discover the girl's parents, and as a proof of their gratitude, Judge Breckenridge and his wife had invited them on this lovely vacation trip to Arizona.

Suddenly the train gave a little jerk and Bet looked up quickly to see Enid Breckenridge staring at her. Each knew that the other had been looking back for a moment and being thankful that they had met and were now journeying together for a summer of happiness.

At that moment Sam's grinning face appeared at the door with the announcement that lunch was ready. Enid jumped to her feet and hastened to help her invalid mother to the table. Years of anxiety and worry over her daughter's disappearance had broken her health. Strength was coming back slowly and it was hoped that a summer in the southwest would complete her recovery.

With the judge on one side and Enid on the other, the frail invalid walked the few feet to the table. Her face was aglow with happiness. Virginia Breckenridge was still young and the white hair only emphasized the youthful lines of her face. She did not appear much older than the group of girls who surrounded her at the table.

"Isn't this wonderful!" cried Bet in her enthusiastic way, waving her hand toward the passing landscape. "I could keep on like this forever."

"So could I," laughed Joy. "But when do we get to Washington?"

"Not until four o'clock! Why all the hurry?" Shirley was enjoying her day of travel. When the train stopped at stations she was all ready with her camera in case some interesting bit presented itself. Shirley was in her glory. Colonel Baxter's parting gift to her had been a new camera and plenty of films, so Shirley felt that she could take pictures to her heart's content.

"We've got a good cook," whispered Joy across the table to her hostess. "I don't know what he calls this mixture, but it's wonderful!" Joy's face was expressive and Sam noticed her approval of his lunch so during the remainder of the trip it was to Joy he turned if he wanted to make sure that any dish was appreciated.

And while the girls did not find the time dragging, they were ready and waiting when the train pulled into the station at Washington. They were shunted about for a few minutes and finally stopped on a side track where the car would remain while they were in the Capital.

As Bet emerged from the station she gave a little scream of delight. "There it is, girls!" she cried. "The dome of the Capitol! At last my eyes have really seen it!"

"Wait a minute till I get a picture of it," said Shirley. "I might not get such a good view again."

"That view isn't worth taking," interrupted Mrs. Breckenridge. "You'd better wait. That dome is visible from all parts of the city. It's wasting a film to take it here."

"Oh, girls, I can hardly wait until I see everything. The
Congressional Library, the….."

"The place where the money is made! That's what I want to see. I hope they'll be making thousand dollar bills. I think that would be fun," sang out Joy as the Judge helped her into the taxi.

When they reached the hotel steps, Shirley was thankful that she had not wasted her film on the other view of the Capitol. In the haze of the late afternoon, the dome looked like a huge bubble.

"There's your picture, Shirley," gasped Bet. "And see, the street in front of us leads right up to the Capitol."

The girls followed the Judge rather unwillingly into the hotel. They were anxious not to miss any of the sights of the city and it seemed a waste of time to go indoors.

"Come on Bet, don't be so slow," called Kit from the doorway.

"This is so nice I'd like to look at it forever," she said with a sigh.
The girls laughed for Bet was always wishing things to last forever.

Mrs. Breckenridge had not stood the trip as well as they had expected.
She seemed completely tired out and Enid refused to leave her.

"You go along and have a good time," Enid proposed to the girls, but without their friend they felt they could not enjoy anything, so a short walk was all they saw of Washington that evening.

They retired early, for even youth gets weary with excitement and new scenes. The girls were glad to get into bed.

"We'll have a hard day ahead of us tomorrow, if we want to see everything we plan on seeing," said Bet as she snuggled down.

Within half an hour they were all asleep.

When Bet opened her eyes it was daylight and she felt ready for the strenuous day ahead. She scrambled out of bed, gave Kit a shake and then ran across the hall to see if Shirley and Joy were up.

Shirley was still sleeping. But Joy was not there.

"Why, she's up and dressed! Her clothes are gone!" exclaimed Bet in vexed tones. "I think she might have wakened us."

Dressing quickly they went down stairs to find Joy.

The lounging rooms and halls and the foyer were empty at this hour. No one had seen Joy or knew anything about her.

She had simply disappeared.

CHAPTER II

A STREET LEADING TO THE CAPITOL

And when breakfast was over there was still no Joy.

Finally one of the porters was found who said he had seen a girl leave the hotel about seven o'clock. "She walked up the street in front of you, up toward the Capitol."

"There, didn't I tell you! Joy's all right. Nothing can happen to her here," said Shirley reassuringly.

"Let's walk up that way. We'll probably meet her coming back." Kit looked anxiously toward the hill. "I can't imagine why she stayed so long. She can't get inside any of the buildings."

"Maybe I won't have something to say to that girl!" exclaimed Bet angrily. "She hasn't any right to run off like this and frighten us." And if Bet had met her at that minute, the girl would probably have been told many things about herself.

But they did not meet Joy. There was no sign of her on the street leading up to the Capitol, and no sign of her on the grounds.

Where was Joy?

Even the Judge looked worried. "Not that I think anything will happen to her, but I'm responsible and I wish she had not gone out by herself," he declared.

The girls were seeing the Capitol in a very different way than they had planned. They were in no mood to be impressed by the majesty of the building. They were watching for the tiny figure of Joy to appear at every corner.

"It's no use, we might as well go back to the hotel and wait. Maybe she's there by this time," suggested Judge Breckenridge.

Still Joy had not returned when the party reached their quarters.

"There may have been an accident!" Bet shivered at the thought. Their laughing Joy! That would be too terrible to think of.

The Judge was about to notify the authorities when Sam Wilkins the colored steward on their train, walked in leading Joy, a woe-begone little creature, tear-stained and tired.

"Why Joy Evans! You——" Then catching sight of the girl's white face, Bet ran and threw her arms about her. "You darling! We thought you were lost and you were at the train all the time. Oh, Joy dear!" Tears came to Bet's eyes.

Joy did not break down and cry again until she had reached her own room. Then the tears came in a flood.

"Oh, I was so frightened," she sobbed.

When she had quieted down, half an hour later, she told her story. "I woke up hours and hours before the rest of you and I couldn't sleep. And when I'm at home I always go walking early in the morning. So I walked up the street leading to the Capitol."

"Yes, we know. We went up there, thinking we'd meet you coming back.
How did you get lost? The hotel is at the end of the street."

"Just you go up there and look!" Joy's eyes snapped, but in a minute her sense of humor returned. "I wouldn't have believed it possible to get lost, for, as you say, the hotel is at the end of the street leading up there."

"Then what happened?"

"Oh, I'm so dumb!" began Joy.

"Tell us something we don't know!" laughed Kit.

"Well, I didn't look at the name of the street. And that old Capitol! Girls, I don't care if I never see it again! It stands up there on that hill as if it were the most important thing in the world, and streets lead up to it from everywhere, like the spokes of a wheel. All the streets lead to the Capitol!"

"And you didn't know which street you came up?" asked Kit.

"That's it. So I walked down all those streets, up and down and up and down. Why I've seen that building from every angle. It was terrible!"

"Why didn't you just take a taxi to the hotel?" asked the practical
Shirley.

"Oh, I'm not so dumb. I thought of that!" exclaimed Joy with a toss of her head. "But the taxi man laughed at me. I didn't know the name of the hotel or the name of the street, and I'd already told him I didn't have any money."

"You poor little kid," soothed Bet.

"He finally went away and I saw him make a sign to another taxi driver as much as to say I was crazy. Then I got frightened for fear they'd speak to me and laugh some more, so I ran away."

"And did you go down all those streets again?" asked Shirley.

"No, I was tired of that. I'd been on all of them, I guess. Then I remembered the train at the station, and I walked there."

"Oh Joy! All that long way? You could have taken a taxi there," said
Enid.

"No, I couldn't! I didn't have any money and I wasn't going to be laughed at any more. I couldn't be sure that Sam was there to pay for me."

"Well, it's over now, and we'd better go sight-seeing. We've wasted half the morning," exclaimed Bet sharply.

"I don't want to go sight-seeing!" said Joy decidedly.

"Don't be a spoil-sport, Joy. We're not angry at you or anything. But we do want to see Washington." Bet's voice was raised to a point where angry words were apt to come. At a signal from Kit, she quieted down however.

Kit turned to Joy. "You wouldn't want to leave this city without seeing everything—the Congressional Library and the Capitol……"

"Please don't take me to the Capitol! I think I'll scream if I ever lay eyes on that dome again! I've seen it a million times to-day, and that's plenty."

"All right, you can sit in the car while we take a look at it," laughed
Shirley, patting the still half frightened girl.

Still Joy shook her head. "I can't go!" she finally exclaimed. "The breakfast at the hotel is over and I'm so hungry I'm weak."

"You poor little girl!" spoke up the Judge with a twinkle in his eyes. "Enid, you take her down the block to that restaurant and get her a good breakfast. She'll be ready for anything when she gets back."

"Not the Capitol, Judge! I draw the line at that." She laughed like the old Joy once more.

Half an hour later Joy returned and announced that even the sight of the Capitol would not prevent her from accompanying them.

For the rest of the stay in the city she had to put up with a good deal of teasing, and the Judge noticed that she did not allow the girls to get out of sight for a moment.

Joy had learned her lesson.

"We're just like tourists," sighed Bet when the day was almost over. "We've rushed around from one thing to another. I don't like it. My eyes ache from looking at so many pictures. Imagine two galleries in one afternoon, besides the White House and the Capitol. That's too much sight-seeing! I'll be glad when we go."

But the trip down the river to Mount Vernon the next day was enjoyed by all the girls, and when they caught sight of the old mansion, Bet cried, "Why, it looks something like Merriweather Manor."

"A little," said Joy, "but I think Merriweather Manor is much nicer."

"Thanks, Joy. I'm always so proud and happy when you girls say you like my home. To me it's just the loveliest place in the world. I wouldn't change it for anything modern. Sometimes Auntie Gibbs gets fussy and says it's too much work."

"Your dear old housekeeper is getting old," said Enid.

"Yes, Auntie Gibbs is almost seventy and Dad wants her to have plenty of help. But she won't hear of it and she won't retire. So what are we to do?" said Bet wistfully. "You know Dad and I love Auntie Gibbs and Uncle Nat as much as if they were really members of our family."

The girls were thrilled as they stepped inside the old mansion. Here Washington had lived. He once sat at that very table, used those dishes, drank from those glasses. They could scarcely believe it.

They tried to imagine him as he had been before the responsibilities of the great war lay heavy on his shoulders. The young Washington, owner of the estate. There must have been gay parties in this house. Bet shut her eyes for a second and could see the belles of that day. She wondered if Lady Betty Merriweather had ever been a guest in the house. It would not be impossible. She hoped that it was so.

"Some day," said Bet, as they were returning to Washington on the boat, "let's come and live for a winter in Washington. Then we can see things thoroughly. This is just skimming the surface. We haven't seen anything well."

"Oh yes, we have!" laughed Joy. "There's that Capitol. I could draw it with my eyes shut!"

But the girls were tired enough so that, a few days later, they welcomed the announcement that they would leave Washington at midnight.

The train with their cozy berths looked good to them and they settled down for the two days' trip to Arizona. It was good not to have to go sight-seeing for a while.

Shirley strapped her camera in its case and laid it away. She had taken so many pictures in Washington that she was tired, for once in her life.

But that did not last long. Very quickly the nature of the country changed and they were going through the south-land, where the huts of the negroes added a picturesque touch to the landscape. Charming little black-eyed pickaninnies were at the stations and grinned at Shirley while she took their pictures.

"Girls, I'll have pictures enough for my shop this winter, and for half a dozen more!" Shirley exclaimed. Shirley was the business girl and had made a success of a little gift shop in Lynnwood. She had helped to support her parents and been able to continue at school with her chums. In this venture, The Merriweather Girls had all joined. They had worked and planned under the leadership of Colonel Baxter, and the little shop had given them many interesting adventures.

Shirley had developed a commercial instinct and, together with her talent for photography, was what the girls liked to call a business success.

The sameness of the desert country through Texas, the dust and dirt was a bit trying to the nerves of the girls. But there was no complaint. They looked ahead to the wonderful experience that would be theirs when they would leave the train and journey into the cowboy land.

"Kit, do tell us about them," begged Joy.

"I won't do it. You've got your own ideas from the movies and I can't change them. Now you'll just have to get disappointed. There aren't any handsome cowboys in my country."

Kit spoke impatiently.

"Isn't Seedy Saunders handsome?" Joy asked again.

Kit shouted with laughter as she brought a picture of the old cowboy to her mind. He was a small man, bow-legged and thin. A sort of dried-up desert rat. In looks Seedy was nothing at all. Only when he was in the saddle did he shine, for he could throw a rope better than anyone Kit had ever seen, and as for taming a wild horse, there was no better cowboy in the mountains than this old hand at the game.

"No, of course Seedy isn't handsome. He's old, and plain and common looking," Kit answered.

"I'll not believe it until I see one. For I'm very sure that some of the cowboys on the screen are the real thing. Just see how they can ride and throw the ropes and catch the cows by the horns! Why, they're wonderful!"

Bet Baxter laughed. "Go on, Joy, rave some more! And don't worry, we'll find a handsome cowboy if we have to import one from the movies for you."

"Thanks, Bet," laughed Joy, blowing her a kiss from the ends of her fingers. "I'll pick my own. Kit is trying to discourage me, but I'll find a handsome cowboy. You just wait and see!"

CHAPTER III

THE WASH-OUT

"This time tomorrow we'll be at Benito!" exclaimed Kit. "I do wonder if mother will be there to meet me. I'm homesick for a sight of her."

The heat was intense as they sped through the desert. Small sand-storms swirled across the flat land, and filled their train. They were dirty and tired. They would all be glad when the little desert station of Benito would be reached and they could transfer to the automobiles that would carry them to the hills and the ranch.

Summer storms raged ahead of them, big black clouds that threatened.
The girls watched from the windows the deluge of rain in the distance.

"That's what we call a cloud-burst," said Kit with a pleased smile.
"It's good to get home again!"

"Do you mean," asked Joy, "that you are glad to see that terrible storm? You must be homesick if that pleases you."

"I love it!" Kit answered.

Suddenly the train jerked to a stop, and all heads came to the window to see the cause of the delay. The train had been flagged. "Danger ahead!"

"What's the matter?" Bet called to the conductor, who had descended and was walking toward the engine. "A wash-out! That cloud-burst you saw tore away a bit of the track. We'll be stalled here for hours, very likely."

The heat seemed worse than ever now. As long as the train was going, there was some breeze, but at a stand-still, the sun blazed down on the roof of the car and made it almost unbearable.

Soon it became apparent that the delay might be longer than they anticipated.

"There's a good hotel at the next station," said the conductor. "If you will ride in the work train ahead, you can go in there in a few minutes."

"Oh, do let us!" cried Bet who was always ready for something different. "We've never ridden in a work train in our lives."

With Sam's help they carried Mrs. Breckenridge across the broken tracks and into the work train. The girls laughed with pleasure as they settled themselves in the box car.

Bet suddenly had a new idea. "Judge Breckenridge, the engineer says I
can go in the engine with him, if you will let me. Please say yes,"
Bet's face was rosy with excitement. "This might be the only chance
I'll ever have to ride in the engine, and I'd hate to miss it."

The Judge hesitated but finally gave in. And when Bet joined her friends at the hotel in Willowmere she said:

"It doesn't seem quite fair that we are starting out with so many adventures. It will make the summer seem so uneventful."

"That's just what I was thinking," added Kit anxiously. "I'm so afraid you'll be disappointed. There aren't many adventures in the mountains. It is just one day after another. Nothing new, nothing to do, no place to go, and absolutely nothing ever happens, nothing thrilling, I mean."

"That's what we've decided that we want this year. We'll learn to ride horseback well and we'll learn to use the rope, that is if we ever can, which I doubt," laughed Bet. "And we can read and lazy around. I call that an ideal summer."

After lunch at the hotel, the girls started out to explore the settlement. "I love those adobe houses of the Mexicans," said Enid. "Let's go over and get acquainted with some of the women."

But the women were shy. Most of them disappeared into the huts as they saw the girls approaching. Only the children remained and stopped in their play to stare at the newcomers.

"Aren't they pretty when they're little! Look at those dreamy black eyes!" whispered Enid to Bet, who was trying to coax one small girl to come and get a piece of candy.

Suddenly there was a scream and from the house at the end of the street a small boy dashed out of the door, his clothes a mass of flame.

"It's Pedro Alvarez!" cried a Mexican woman nearby. But she made no attempt to do anything. And the other women were screaming but seemed helpless to rescue the child.

Bet did not wait to ask for a quilt or rug, there was no time for that. She quickly slipped out of her dress, and catching the little fellow wrapped him tight in the gown, smothering out the flames.

One look at the burns and she cried, "Oh the poor boy! Get the doctor quickly, Kit."

While Bet held the child, Enid tore the half burned clothes from his body.

"Bring oil!" Bet shouted, but the women seemed dazed and did not understand. Bet looked about her desperately. "Run to the hotel, Enid, and get oil, lots of it. Will that doctor never come!"

Kit at that moment came running back with the word that the doctor was away and would not be back until noon.

The child's mother stood helplessly by, wringing her hands in despair.
She watched as Enid returned and poured the oil upon the burns.

"I wonder what they would have done if we had not been here," whispered Shirley as the screams quieted down in the settlement. "They don't act as if they knew anything about such things."

Bet held the little fellow in her arms until his cries ceased, then getting clean sheets and pillows from the hotel they fixed up a bed for him.

Later on, when the doctor arrived and examined the boy, he declared he could not have given any better treatment than the girls had done.

"I'm so glad we were right here on the spot," said Bet. "We were trying to get acquainted with the children when it happened."

After the accident, it was an easy matter. The children followed them about the settlement and the women offered them all that their small stores contained. They insisted that the girls must eat tamales, enchilades, tortillas and all the other Mexican dishes that they cooked, with corn meal and peppers.

And when the train left late that night, the whole settlement turned out to bid them good-bye.

"What a miserable time we would have had," exclaimed Joy as she waved her hand back toward the station, "if it hadn't been for those Mexicans."

Much to the disgust of Sam, a package had been sent aboard by the grateful mother of Pedro Alvarez. It contained more of the Mexican cooking that the girls had praised.

But only Joy really cared for it. "Of course it burns, but can't you get that wonderful flavor?" she exclaimed as Shirley and Bet turned up their noses at the food.

"You like anything that can be eaten!" said Bet with a laugh.

Shirley had brought away many picturesque bits of western life from the little settlement. "If they just come out as lovely as they were in the finder, I'll have some beauties to send back to Colonel Baxter."

The girls were too excited to drop to sleep quickly that night. Early the next day they would reach Benito.

"Dad says that Tommy Sharpe will be there to meet us," said Enid. "I wonder if he has grown?" Enid had found this boy on Campers' Trail. He was half starved and ill. And when her parents had found her, Enid insisted that the child who had helped her, should be looked after. Judge Breckenridge, on the advice of the doctor, had sent the boy to his ranch in Arizona, hoping that he would grow strong.

"Oh, I almost forgot about Tommy," said Bet. "Won't we be glad to see him!"

"I do wish Dad and Mum would come to meet me. I don't suppose they will, but I don't see how I can wait until I get to the hills."

"I think they'll come," said Enid.

At the first peep of dawn Kit was awake. She dressed quickly and went to the window in the drawing room to watch the sun rise on the desert.

Out of the violet-grey mist, streaks of rose shot out like long fingers, reaching far up into the sky. Kit stood it as long as she could alone, then ran and wakened the girls.

"Do come, girls, you don't know what you're missing."

Slipping into robes, they quickly joined Kit at the window.

"Isn't this gorgeous!" Kit's breath came almost in gasps, so excited was she at the spectacle. "Now you never saw anything as gorgeous as that in the way of a sunset over the Hudson. Own up, Bet, you know you haven't!"

"No, Kit, this is magnificent. Do you have this every day?"

"Almost," she answered.

The mountains caught the glow and turned to purple and rose, and deep shadows of blue, and sometimes a bare mountain side shone out like gold.

Shirley had pointed her camera toward it, then put it away, saying, "It won't look like anything in black and white."

"I am going to try and make a sketch of it," said Bet as she flew back to her room for her note book and colors. "But if I painted it that way, no one would believe it. It's too vivid, too spectacular!" she sighed.

Kit often tried to sketch when Bet was at it, but this morning she was too excited to settle down. She walked about the car like a restless animal.

She was glad when Sam announced an early breakfast. Not that she was hungry, but it put in time and that was good. The hour to wait until they reached Benito was one of the longest she had ever known.

"The next station is ours!" called the Judge. "Everybody ready!"

But Kit was already standing at the door, her suitcase beside her.

Kit had tears in her eyes. It wasn't often that she gave way, but when the train pulled into the station, the tears were running down her cheeks.

The Judge's car came to a stop at last at the siding of the station. Benito was a typical desert settlement, the very last link with civilization. For beyond the three squat adobe shacks, lay the sandy, cactus-dotted land that stretched far out in every direction to the rising foothills that skirted the rugged peaks.

"Oh, girls!" cried Bet. "Isn't this wonderful?"

"Yes, just like the movies. I've seen it dozens of times, and I almost expect to see the villain and the handsome cowboy ride up this very minute!" laughed Joy.

"Kit, come here!" called Bet.

But Kit was missing from the group. Her arms were thrown about a tanned, alert little woman. What she was saying the girls could not hear, but they could guess.

Finally she broke loose and with a wave of her arm she cried: "Come on, girls, it's Mum!"

CHAPTER IV

THE DESERT

It was not the strange country that interested The Merriweather Girls at the moment of their arrival, but an old friend.

A tall boy was shaking hands vigorously with Judge Breckenridge. And Enid stepping from the train at that instant, stood and stared in astonishment hardly believing that she was seeing aright.

"Tommy Sharpe!" she cried, running to him with both hands outstretched. "Why, you've grown! You're almost as tall as I am. And what a grand cowboy's outfit!"

Tommy did not speak. He shook Enid's hand but words would not come. The boy's face was burned to a rich shade of brown, his eyes were bright and the huskiness was gone from his voice. Health had come to him in this dry climate. Tommy looked as if he belonged there. He was tall, thin and muscular, a desert dweller, not at all like the sickly boy that Enid had known and cared for on Campers' Trail.

In a moment the boy was surrounded by the girls and everybody was talking at once. It took some time for Tommy's embarrassment to wear off.

Even Mrs. Patten was inclined to be shy with these friends of her daughter but Mrs. Breckenridge in her tactful way soon put her at ease. Kit's mother was a born nurse and one glance at the sick woman made her realize that she was needed. She helped to get the invalid into the car with the least possible jar; she arranged pillows and a footstool in order to ease the bumps on the rough road.

"See, she's deserted me already," laughed Kit as she watched her mother. "I knew I wouldn't count when she saw Mrs. Breckenridge."

Suddenly there was a sort of war whoop and Billy Patten, who had hidden behind the station, dashed out at Kit, much to the amusement of Tommy Sharpe.

"Why you little imp! You haven't changed a single bit, Billy Patten!
You're just as bad as ever," declared his sister. "You're a pest!"

"I am not! You're another!" said the boy, and to Kit it seemed as if she had never been away from home, for the brother and sister had started again just where they left off, half teasing, half in earnest as their quarreling always was.

Billy Patten was not bashful. "Bold," would have described his attitude more than anything else.

"See this stick!" He addressed Bet suddenly at the same time frowning defiantly as he caught Kit's eye.

"Of course I see the stick. What about it?" laughed Bet Baxter.

"It's a humming stick that grows out here in Arizona. Isn't it wonderful! You just tap it gently like that and you can hear it hum."

Kit made a gesture to interfere but the Judge smiled tolerantly and signalled the girl to keep quiet.

Bet took the stick, which seemed like a hollow tube, and tapped it gently on the ground. A strange, buzzing started, continued for a few moments, then quieted. And Bet raised the stick once more.

Billy put forth his hand to capture the rod, but before he could interfere, Bet had brought it down with a thud on the ground. A wasp flew from the hole with an angry buzz and lighted fair and square on Billy's nose, burying its stinger deep into the flesh.

The boy gave a howl, then choked back the tears. He was too much of a sport to make a fuss, especially as the joke was on him. The hollow stem was the insect's nest.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Billy! Please forgive me," pleaded Bet contritely. "I didn't know there was a wasp inside that stick. I really thought it was a strange Arizona plant."

Kit was chuckling. Never before had retribution come so quickly to her young brother who delighted in playing tricks on a newcomer to the desert.

But she only smiled at the boy. She wanted to say, "It serves you right," but she had only been back for ten minutes and decided that it was too soon to plague the child. But Billy saw her gleam of triumph and decided he would get even with Kit at some later date.

"Let's get started, girls! Everybody pile in!" commanded the Judge. "You girls go in that car with Matt Larkin. I want Tommy Sharpe with me."

There wasn't a prouder boy in the whole world at that moment than Tommy. Judge Breckenridge wanted him, and maybe someday he would be his right-hand man, as the Judge playfully called him. To himself Tommy promised that it would not be his own fault if he did not measure up to the Judge's estimate of what a right hand man should be. Bet was amused to notice the slight swagger that Tommy assumed as he took his place beside his friend in the car. She exchanged a smile of understanding with Enid.

A shower of sand hit the chassis of the car as the driver started along the road. The girls gave a cry of alarm as they saw a jack rabbit that had been startled, bound ahead of them for a few yards, then with a wild jump it landed in the shelter of the sage brush.

"Doesn't everything smell good?" Shirley sniffed the air in long indrawn breaths.

"Didn't I tell you it was wonderful!" said Kit. "I used to get so lonesome just for a whiff of the desert. And you girls could never understand it."

"Of course we didn't understand. How could we? We'd never been here!"
Bet Baxter's face was glowing with happiness.

It was only ten o'clock but already the sun was blazing hot. There was a fury about the heat that the girls had never before experienced. They were glad to be under the shelter of the automobile top.

"Oh, Matt," called Kit, when they had driven a few miles, "let's stop and get the girls some of those cactus fruits. They've never tasted them, think of that!"

"You don't say so!" The driver smiled back at the eager young faces and brought his car to a stop. The girls jumped out glad to get nearer to the strange plants of the desert.

Suddenly a rasping whirr seemed to come from the ground at their feet. It was a sound to hold the nerves taut, to send the cold shivers up and down the spine.

"A rattler!" exclaimed Kit delightedly. "Now I do feel as if I were really home again. Where is it? I want a good look at my old friend," she added as another insistent whirr was heard.

Matt Larkin had taken his automatic from his belt and pointed it, and in that instant the girls saw a black and yellow skinned snake coiled, its head poised with darting tongue, ready to strike.

There was a menace in that coil.

But the next minute the head had been neatly severed by a shot and the long body writhed and squirmed on the ground.

"Oh!" cried Bet. "Look at the pretty pattern on its skin."

"Pretty!" snapped the man beside her. "When you live in Arizona you never see any beauty in a rattler. He's just plain pizen to everybody. There ought to be a reward offered fer every snake killed. Then maybe they could be exterminated."

The girls were glad to get back into the automobile again, out of the glaring sun. Each held a luscious cactus fruit gingerly in her fingers, trying to open it without getting the tiny pronged spikes in their fingers. The driver climbed into his place and set the car going once more, headed toward the hills that seemed to beckon them.

They had outdistanced the other car, for Judge Breckenridge was driving slowly for the sake of the invalid.

When they saw the foothills ahead of them, Kit began to get excited.
"I've been up that road," she exclaimed. "Once Dad and I went up to
Jasper Crowe's claims to sell him a horse."

But Shirley was staring ahead. Suddenly she cried: "There's a lake! Isn't it refreshing after so many miles of desert? I had no idea you had such large bodies of water in this country."

The driver turned and glanced at Kit, then spoke to Shirley: "How far away do you reckon that lake is, Miss?"

"A mile!" replied Bet decidedly.

"No, it's more than that," corrected Shirley. "I remember of reading somewhere that distances in the desert are very deceiving. It's probably a lot farther off than it seems. I'll say five miles."

"Let's hurry and get there so we can eat our lunch at the water's edge," suggested Joy.

"That's an idea!" replied Matt with a sly glance at Kit. "We'll try and get there by lunch time."

"And look at the lovely trees!" cried Joy. "It's like an oasis in the desert, isn't it?"

But half an hour later they were no nearer the lake than when they had first seen it. A haziness now hung over the water, partly hiding it, and the trees seemed to be floating in mid air.

"That lake might be called 'Lake Illusion,'" laughed Bet. "It certainly is unreal enough! Don't let us wait until we get there to eat lunch. I'm starved. After we've eaten we'll appreciate the view more, anyway."

Even as they watched the mistiness increased and then suddenly seemed to dissolve, leaving the desert stretched out before them, hard, sullen and cruel.

The lake was gone. The waving trees were gone.

Then the girls realized what they had just witnessed. The mirage of the desert! That enticing promise of water that had been the undoing of many a pioneer of the early days!

A thoughtful expression came into the faces of the girls, and their enthusiasm vanished for a few minutes. Stories of by gone days came into their minds, stories of weary travellers who had been beckoned by the mirage and taken miles out of their way by this false promise, perhaps to die of thirst.

"How hard life used to be for the pioneers," said Bet wistfully. "And so easy for us!"

"But why did the pioneers go out on the desert?" asked Joy lightly.
"They didn't have to do it, did they?"

"Of course not, Joy," answered Bet. "But they wanted adventure and they were seeing another sort of mirage. It was the hope of gold and a fortune in the hills."

Bet gazed out over the vast stretch of mesa as if she were living through those early days herself, instead of being carried along by a high-powered car that ate up the miles easily and swiftly.

A low whistle from Matt brought the girls out of their day dreams to follow his glance ahead.

Far along the sandy road was a man trudging along with a bundle over his shoulder.

"That ain't no desert man," said Matt quietly.

"How can you tell from here?" asked Bet.

"You can always tell a desert man by his walk. That fellow looks as if he were used to walking on city streets," Matt returned.

"And he hasn't even a burro," exclaimed Kit contemptuously. "Let's give him a lift and see what he's doing here so far from civilization."

The man ahead had turned at the sound of the automobile, deposited his bundle on the ground and stood waiting expectantly.

The girls smiled as they greeted him. His clothes, a neat business suit and light colored shirt, were soiled, his face was streaked with dust but in his eyes there was that indefinable gleam that marks the soul of an adventurer. He was offered a lift.

"I'm very dusty," said the traveller.

"We don't mind at all," answered the girls. They liked the little man with his far-away look as if he belonged to another world and were seeing sights that no one around him was seeing.

"Isn't he a dear!" whispered Bet. "I like him!"

Little did the girls dream that most of their summer adventures would center around this shabby figure; adventures that would thrill them and at times almost overcome them.

If they had guessed it, they could not have been more cordial in their greeting and more eager to help him. Although none of them realized it, a problem to solve was already presenting itself.

CHAPTER V

A SOLITARY EXPLORER

As Matt Larkin brought his car to a stop, the traveller greeted them as if he were an old acquaintance and had made an appointment for them to meet him at this very spot in the desert and had been waiting and expecting them to come along. He took it as a matter of course that he would be invited to ride and the moment the door of the car was opened he scrambled in with quick, nervous movements.

He was a thin faced little man, stoop shouldered as if he had spent his life bent over books, but there was a charm in his twinkling eyes that made friends at once for him, no matter what society he entered. He was equally at home with people of wealth as he was with the poorest of his friends.

So eager was the old man to be seated, out of the scorching rays of the sun, that he left his bundle lying at the side of the road.

"Your pack!" called Kit, as Matt was about to start the car. "You've forgotten your pack!"

The man gave her a grateful smile. "That's just like me to leave it.
Alicia said I was sure to do just that," he laughed nervously.

He jumped out of the car and quickly recovered his property. "Don't know what I would have done if I'd lost it—all my sustenance and books."

"Listen to the old chap," whispered Joy in Shirley's ear. "He's a regular highbrow. Hear him talk! 'Sustenance', what does that mean?"

"Why, his food, of course," replied Shirley with a laugh.

"Then why didn't he say so? Isn't the word 'food' polite enough for him?" giggled Joy.

"I wonder who he is?" Kit was puzzled by the man. He did not belong to the desert, of that she was sure.

As if in answer to her thought, the stranger announced: "I am Anton
Gillette of Dorsey College. I'm on an exploring expedition."

"A professor!" gasped Joy in a low voice. "He'll spoil all our fun. We'll have to pretend we're clever or something of the sort." This was whispered in Bet's ear and brought forth a laugh.

"Be yourself, Joy! Don't try to be clever. It might strain you." Bet leaned forward eagerly and addressed the old man. "An exploring expedition! How interesting that sounds. What are you going to explore? And where?"

"Are you going to find a buried city?" asked Enid excitedly.

"Hardly a buried city in this country," he returned.

"But why? When there were seven cities of Troy and maybe more, why can't it be possible that there is one buried city here?"

"And maybe we could find a King Tut grave," suggested Shirley.

"That's an idea," said Bet, and the girls joined in the laugh, but the professor was serious.

"I don't mind telling you that it is something of that sort that I am after. I want to find the ruins of an old Indian village and find the grave of a certain old chief. How did you guess it?"

"We didn't," laughed Kit. "We were just hoping it might be so."

"This old chief was supposed to have been buried with many historical objects of the tribe, and it is his grave that I must find. It is all very interesting—very," nodded the professor.

"There are Indian mounds all over Arizona," said Kit. "I don't see how you will ever find the right one."

"I have a clue. It may be only an old legend without any foundation of truth in it, but I don't think so. It was at the scene of an Indian massacre. A common enough story it is. The white men encroaching on the Indian lands," began Professor Gillette but Kit interrupted.

"There are thousands of legends like that. They are like the cactus, they grow everywhere in Arizona."

But the old professor was not to be discouraged so easily. "The Indians killed some white men and then soldiers came and there was a massacre—mostly whites."

"There's nothing unusual about that story, Professor Gillette."

"True. But in this case a princess, the daughter of a chief, cursed her own people for their cruelty. And within a year the tribe at that village died out. Every man of them."

"Why that's the legend of Lost Canyon!" exclaimed Kit excitedly. "And does this princess come back and haunt the canyon, does she appear when anything crooked is being done around that section?"

"Yes, yes, that's the story. Lost Canyon, do you know where Lost
Canyon is?" asked the old man with trembling eagerness.

"Lost Canyon was my playground since babyhood. It's like my front yard. I love it!"

"How wonderful! Then maybe you know this man." He fumbled in his pockets, taking out the contents of all of them, before he found the letter which he handed to Kit. "This is an introduction to a man who may be very useful to me."

Kit laughed happily as she read the name on the envelope. "Mr. William Patten." Returning the paper to the professor she said, "I should know that man well. He's my father!"

"Oh isn't that jolly, Kit!" cried Joy. "Imagine meeting someone who is on the way to see your father! That's a bit of luck, isn't it?"

"Dad will be very glad to help you," continued Kit.

"What a strange coincidence!" remarked the professor glowing with pleasure. His boyish smile offset the formal style that might have bothered the girls. His dark eyes were small and twinkling and he was so very nearsighted that it was necessary for him to look intently in order to see anything.

At that moment a loud report startled them. Joy gave a scream of fright. "What is it?" she cried excitedly. "Indians!"

"Shooting?" exclaimed the professor, half rising in his seat. "Is it a hold up?" He looked around in all directions. But the desert seemed devoid of human life.

"It means that we've blown out a tire," smiled Matt as he brought the car to a stop at the side of the road and got out muttering, "Of all the ding-busted places to get a flat! Not even a spear of grass for shade and no water hole nearer than Coyote Creek and that's ten miles away." Matt puffed as he unstrapped the spare tire and prepared to jack up the wheel.

The girls stood around, anxious to make themselves useful, but Matt paid no attention to their offers of help. He even scowled at Professor Gillette, and went on without answering him. Matt's face was red with the effort under the burning sun that scorched the flesh with its blistering rays. It seemed impossible that life could exist in that burned-out sandy waste.

Bet Baxter had not spoken. She was tremendously interested in the things she saw around her. Suddenly she gave an exclamation of surprise as her foot touched what appeared at first to be a light-colored stone, and saw it move.

"What under the sun is this?" she cried as she stooped over the now motionless little creature.

"Oh, that's a horn toad, it won't bother you," laughed Kit. "You'll see plenty of them around."

"Isn't it pretty!" Bet picked up the little creature between her thumb and forefinger gingerly. "Just look at its funny little tail! I never knew a toad had a tail."

"And look at the thorns all over its body. Isn't it funny?" Enid poked her finger at the toad, prodding it in the sides.

The toad was motionless now as if dead, only an occasional blinking of the eyes showed that it had life.

"If it isn't poisonous, I'd like to take it along for a pet." Bet turned toward the car.

"Oh, leave it where it is, Bet. Maybe it wouldn't want to be parted from its family," said Shirley in her quiet way.

Kit burst into a peal of laughter. "That's what I call considerate. Its mother mightn't like to have it go out for a ride in an auto with strange people."

Bet paid no attention to Kit's nonsense. She was fascinated by this strange creature, covered with horn-like spines.

But at that moment Matt's voice rang out: "Let's go! And here's hoping we'll have no more tire trouble before we reach the ranch."

Bet turned to put down the horn toad, then exclaimed excitedly: "Look,
Kit, what kind of a bird is that?"

"That's just a road runner. You'll see plenty of them before the summer is over."

"What a funny name for a bird!" answered Bet.

"You can call it a Chapparal Cock, if that suits your fancy," laughed
Matt Larkin.

"I'll do it!" Bet said with a toss of her head. "That name sounds very stylish. And it suits it much better. Look at its lovely blue crest, and its bronze-green body!" The girls gave a little gasp as the large bird, evidently startled by the engine, went off on a run that looked ridiculous in a bird. Aided by its large wings, it made rapid progress.

"I like that bird!" cried Joy with enthusiasm. "I believe it could be taught to dance."

"You can have the job of teaching it," remarked Shirley Williams with a shiver. "I wouldn't want to get a nip from that long bill."

"If you want to know what that bill can do, just get the opinion of the rattlesnakes and lizards around here. Those birds are the worst enemies the snakes have. They certainly fade away when Mr. Road Runner is out for a walk. And by the way, Bet, this bird has a third name, it's 'Snake killer'."

But Matt was calling impatiently and the girls finally left their observations of desert life and took their seats in the car.

For a few miles Matt sent the machine ahead at a rate which troubled the girls but finally his impatience wore away and he slowed down to his ordinary careful driving.

Kit nodded approval and whispered to Bet: "Matt forgot he was driving a car; he thought he was riding a bronc."

"I am greatly relieved," said the professor quietly. "Speed is the curse of the age. We should take lessons from the Indians."

"That's all you know about Injins, Injins ain't so slow as you might think. I've seen 'em with plenty of ginger in 'em. They're only slow when there's work to be done." Matt Larkin had made the longest speech that Kit had ever heard from him at one time. He was not a talkative man, and rarely addressed anyone.

But that did not shake the professor in his conviction that Indians had led a quiet, placid existence and should be an example.

"Yes, we have much to learn from the red man," he continued just as if Matt had not spoken. And if he heard the contemptuous snort from the driver, he did not let on.

Mile after mile slid by quickly and soon the walls of the ranch house were visible.

"There it is!" cried Kit, hardly able to sit still. "We're almost home!"

"At long last!" Joy burst out impatiently. "I had almost given up expecting it. It's been ages since we left the station."

"But wasn't every minute of it perfect!" Enid Breckenridge was enjoying the feeling of ownership in the land. Part of this strange country was hers, her home. "Didn't you enjoy it all?"

"No, I didn't," Joy answered. "I got so tired of those tall smoke-stack cactus things that I wanted to scream." She pointed her hand at the towering pillars of the suhuaro, or giant cactus. "And I hope I'll never have to see a cow again. They're everywhere! Only one thing I dislike more, that's cactus."

"Why, Joy Evans, I think they are the most romantic looking objects
I've ever seen. They're wonderful!" exclaimed Bet.

"And as for me, I've taken pictures every time Matt has slowed down enough. That shows what I think of them. I'm enthused over everything! I've taken six pictures of cattle." Shirley, the quiet one, rarely spoke so whole-heartedly over things. She appreciated but seldom expressed her emotions.

Bet had half risen in the auto and craned her neck to catch a glimpse of the ranch buildings, but all they could see for the moment was the high wall of sun-dried bricks.

"What's the idea of that wall about a ranch?" she asked. In spite of Bet's lively imagination, she always wanted a reason for everything she saw. "They don't have Indian raids any more, do they?" Bet's tone indicated that she almost wished they did.

"Oh, I hope not!" cried Joy. "Those fierce-looking Indians that we saw racing toward the station didn't look exactly peaceful. I'm sure I don't feel so very safe."

"Don't worry, girls, the Indians are tame enough now. But the walls date back to the time when they weren't," Kit explained. "When that wall was built the settlers needed it badly."

"Isn't it romantic!" Bet thrilled as she looked at the old adobe wall fully ten feet high with small porthole openings at intervals. "And there are the tiny windows they used to shoot through at the Indians. I'd love to have seen it."

"Oh, Bet, you make me ashamed of you! And you know well enough you wouldn't have wanted to see an Indian raid," sniffed Joy contemptuously. "You're just trying to appear brave and wild."

But there was a look in Bet's eyes that confirmed her remarks. She longed for adventure, wild fighting and glorious deeds of valor. If she had been born earlier and been a boy she would have chosen the life of a soldier or a pirate. Of that she was very sure.

"And down back of that wall is the canyon, where the Indians hid and then rushed the ranch before the people inside knew they were there. The old Indian trail runs off over the mountain on the other side of the canyon," Kit informed her friends.

"Think of having to live out here in those days when there was so much danger! I'm glad I didn't have to," Enid sighed. The memory of her own isolated existence on Campers' Trail through that hard winter was still too fresh in her memory. She did not often mention the unpleasantness of her life. Most of it was too bitter.

Eagerly the girls watched for the first sight of the ranch house, but it was not until the car reached the wide gateway that they were able to glimpse it. It stood far back toward the edge of the cliff and was so completely surrounded by trees that it was impossible to tell just what kind of a house it was. If it had not been for a few windows it might have been taken for part of the old wall. There was no attempt at ornament, in that adobe structure. The front was bare and without imagination. The door was in the center with a stone walk leading to it.

Bet especially felt disappointed. She had planned on a Spanish castle or something equally imposing. A romantic setting for Enid, a gorgeous frame that would bring out all the loveliness of her friend.

Everything was quiet. There was no sign of life.

Matt brought the car to a stand-still, and jumping out, opened the doors. The girls dismounted and stood there hardly knowing what to do.

Then a Chinese boy opened the door of the house and Bet caught a glimpse beyond him of a great patio, or interior court, full of tropical plants like a hot house.

Here at last was a spot romantic enough to suit her taste. Bet clung to Kit's arm as they went along the stone walk to the door.

"It's perfect, Kit, it's perfect!" she gasped.

CHAPTER VI

CASA GRANDE

The soft, tinkling ripple of a fountain in that interior court added to a feeling of unreality. It was a stage set for a play. Palm trees and many flowering plants grew in profusion and The Merriweather Girls, unused to the luxuriant verdure of the south, stood looking about them in surprise.

Even Kit was astonished, for Casa Grande had been neglected for years before Judge Breckenridge had bought it and restored its beauty.

Enid's face shone with happiness. She was the first to speak. "Isn't it glorious!" she cried as she clasped her hands together. "Just think of being miles and miles away in the desert and having a place like this. It's like a miracle! I love it!"

"Who wouldn't?" laughed Joy. "You are a lucky girl, Enid. You simply can't appreciate it!"

"Can't I?" Enid smiled as she gave a little sigh.

Joy noticed the wistful look and hastened to add: "Of course you appreciate it, Enid. I'm just envious, that's all."

Bet was so moved by the loveliness of the garden that tears stood in her eyes. "I'd like to stay here always," she said with a catch in her voice.

"Do you mean it, Bet?" asked Joy. "I think it's great, of course, but it's too much like a hothouse to suit me. I wouldn't think of living here forever."

At that moment they were interrupted by the silent appearance of Tang, the Chinese cook. A tea wagon was being wheeled in by two young Chinese boys, Tang himself being too dignified to help in the serving. When he wanted to give an order to his boys he clapped his hands and they responded as quickly as if he delivered his command in a loud voice.

Tea was served in small Chinese bowls with preserved fruits, ginger and wafer-like cakes. A bland smile covered the face of Tang as he glided softly about the veranda; a well satisfied air expressed his content with life. He motioned to the boys to place a stool here and another there beside the chairs. These were to be used as tables.

"Some service!" whispered Shirley in Bet's ear. "Don't you love it?"

"I feel like a million dollars—or maybe two!" answered Bet.

The old professor seemed quite at ease. He accepted the attention of the servants without the least surprise or embarrassment over his soiled clothes.

The honking of an auto horn announced the arrival of the second car. Somewhere during the trip the silent Judge seemed to have lost much of his reserve. He hailed Tang as if he were an old friend, and the dignified Chinaman placed the pillows on a reclining chair which awaited Mrs. Breckenridge, as the Judge carried her into the patio. The invalid might have been a child, so easily did the tall man lift her and move her from place to place.

"How lovely this is!" the woman cried. "I'm sure I'll get well now. I believe all the peace in the world is right here."

Enid was standing beside her mother, arranging and rearranging the pillows to make sure that the invalid was comfortable.

"Of course you'll get well," laughed the Judge. "Before long you'll be busting broncos, as Kit says. You can't help but feel better in this glorious air," he said, stroking her thin hand.

The woman smiled at the happy faces about her then her eyes rested hungrily on her daughter. Her heart had not yet been satisfied, she was eager to make up to that daughter for the years of separation.

The Judge had owned the ranch for three years, but this was the first visit his wife had made to it. The doctors had tried to persuade her to leave the Long Island home where the memories of her lost daughter surrounded her, but she had clung to the place, always waiting, always expecting the child to be returned.

She had had a long wait, but happiness had come at last. And in finding Enid, they had found The Merriweather Girls, those four chums that had crept into their hearts.

Tang was once more gliding about the veranda, following after the boys to see that tea was served properly. And when a sudden shaft of sunlight struck across the face of the sick woman, Tang clapped his hands sharply once more and the boys ran to his side. As the older man indicated the chair, the boys picked it up gently and carried it to a shaded spot. Not a word had been spoken.

"Service!" chuckled Joy. "That's service!"

Shirley was already busy with her camera. She had it pointed toward the invalid's chair.

"Don't take a picture of me, yet, Shirley," exclaimed Mrs.
Breckenridge. "Wait a few weeks until I am well."

But Enid interrupted: "No, Mother, we want one now. You know you do look lovely there, and besides we want a picture to show how much you improve."

"Before and after taking!" Mrs. Breckenridge's cheery laugh echoed through the corridors.

The Judge smiled back at her. It was good to see her happy once more.

The old professor had found his way into the hearts of the Judge and his wife. He had a charm about him. Most people immediately liked him, and his childlike qualities brought out a protective feeling in others. And everybody from Tang and his boys to the Judge were eagerly watching a chance to do him a favor.

And without trying to do it, the professor had gained the Judge's interest in the Indian excavations. Not that the Judge was interested in Indian relics in themselves, but the professor had a way of passing on his enthusiasms to others.

Kit's mother was hovering about the sick woman, eager to serve, suggesting all sorts of things that might help her. One could see that already Mrs. Breckenridge was looking toward the mountain woman for advice.

"They are going to be good friends, those two," whispered Kit to Bet as she watched them. "Isn't it good!"

"Who could help being friends with your mother, Kit? I love her already," returned Bet a little wistfully. While Colonel Baxter was doing his best to make up to his daughter for the loss of her mother, it couldn't entirely satisfy her when she saw other girls being cared for.

Suddenly footsteps were heard on the walk outside and a queer couple introduced themselves to the Judge. The man had the face of a hawk, a long beak that seemed as if it were prying into the most private affairs of his audience. His loose-jointed body sprawled as he stood, leaning against a post.

He was very different from the compact little woman beside him, who held her plump body stiffly erect.

"My name's Kie Wicks," the man explained. "And this is the missus!" Then on seeing the familiar face of Mrs. Patten he grew confused for a moment and added: "Mrs. Patten there can tell you we're O. K. We have the store over at Cayuga and I thought as how I'd better be a welcoming committee and drop in and say howdy."

"Come right in," greeted the Judge, amused at the manners of the mountaineer.

"We'll probably be seeing a good deal of each other, so I says to Maude, (that's the missus) we'll just go over first thing and get acquainted."

"That's very kind of you," smiled Mrs. Breckenridge from her chair. "Do sit down, Mrs. Wicks. There's a nice shady place right here beside me."

The Judge sized up the pair at once and did not care to be alone with them at this time. Seeing that Mrs. Patten was getting ready to leave, he begged her with a glance to delay her departure.

"You was just a-goin' wasn't you, Mrs. Patten?" enquired Kie Wicks.
"Don't let us stop you."

"Oh, I'm not in a hurry. I'll sit a while. It's been a long time since I've seen Mrs. Wicks."

This did not seem to please Maude Wicks, but were was nothing further to say. Mrs. Patten settled back in the easy chair and smiled.

Kie Wicks and his wife talked about the weather, the stock and the sheep men, who should be run out of the country, he asserted vehemently, and when finally he rose to go he said: "I'll be over some day and have a talk with you private-like, Judge. There's people in these mountains that you should be warned against. And I'm willing to give you the inside facts about them. It's come to such a pass that you can hardly trust anyone around you."

"Oh, now, Mr. Wicks," laughed Mrs. Patten. "You know that isn't so. I think the people around here are a fine lot. They're neighborly and kind when you're in trouble. Only last year when Dad cut his foot, the men and boys came every day and helped with the cattle."

"Sure, that's right, Mrs. Patten. They are kind hearted even if they are ignorant," broke in Maude Wicks, her sharp little eyes shining out from the depths of her fat cheeks.

Kit at that moment made a face behind the back of Kie Wicks and Bet smothered a giggle and hastily left the veranda, motioning the girls to follow her. Once outside they ran far enough away to indulge in a good laugh.

"Where's Tommy?" asked Enid suddenly. "He disappeared and I can't find him anywhere."

"We're looking for Tommy Sharpe," called Kit to a boy who stood near the ranch house. He was dark-skinned and handsome.

The boy turned and Joy gasped with surprise. "Who is he?" she whispered to Kit. "Who is that boy?"

"Oh, just one of the cow hands," answered Kit.

"You mean a cowboy?"

"Sure."

"But Kit Patten, you said there were no handsome cowboys! Did you notice his eyes?" Joy pulled at Kit's arm to stop her. "He's wonderful! So romantic!"

"Come along, Joy Evans, and don't be a little fool. That's just a
Mexican boy and I don't see anything romantic about him at all."

"But his eyes!" thrilled Joy. "I don't think I ever saw such beautiful eyes. Can't I speak to him?"

"No!" snapped Kit. "Not now! Wait until you get a little bit of sense. We don't make friends with the Mexican laborers."

Joy turned reluctantly away. "Just my luck!—when I find a handsome cowboy to be told I can't make friends with him."

"Oh, come on, Joy. You're silly!" laughed Bet.

"Don't you think he's handsome, Bet?" asked Joy.

"Well, maybe, a little bit. But if Kit says you're not to be seen talking to him, that goes. Kit knows the ways of the mountains."

"Yes, and like as not she'll introduce me to some man as ugly as that fellow who just called on the Judge, and I'll be expected to be satisfied with that."

"Who is that man, Kit?" demanded Bet. "I don't like him!"

"Few people do like him and those who do are not the kind to chum around with," answered Kit. "I've known Kie Wicks ever since I was a little girl, and I've never yet heard any good of him."

"He looks crafty," said Shirley.

"Like a cat that's just eaten the canary," added Enid.

"Well, let's not spoil our day by thinking up mean things about that man. Let's nail down the furniture and anything that can be carried away." Bet laughed merrily as she strode toward the center of the court. "Come on, let's find Tommy."

"Oh, look at that lovely dog!" cried Enid. A large collie was coming toward them leisurely. "He looks like the owner of the ranch."

"He is! Judge Breckenridge told me about him one day when we were comparing him with Smiley Jim, my own dear dog. I get lonesome for Smiley some days. I do hope Auntie Gibbs is looking after him all right." Bet patted the head of the collie.

"What's his name?" Enid stooped to examine the brass plate on his collar. "It's Rex. That's a nice name for a dog."

Rex showed his friendship by waving his tail around and going from one to the other of the girls. But a moment later he growled menacingly when Kie Wicks and his wife appeared.

"Evidently he doesn't like that pair any more than we do," smiled Bet.

And the dog continued to growl until the couple had gone.

"There's a man we want to steer clear of." Bet was in deadly earnest.
"Rex has warned us."

At that moment Tommy Sharpe appeared. "Come on over and see my home," he called.

Bidding good-bye to Mrs. Patten and the professor who were just leaving and after promising that Kit would be allowed to go home soon, the girls hurried out to see Tommy Sharpe.

The boy was as proud of his own little corner of the ranch as if he had an estate. It was the first home the poor fellow had ever known.

Enid took the boy by the arm as they walked across the court toward the rear wall. Billy Patten was dancing ahead of him eager to show off Tommy's house. The boy, although a few years younger than Tommy, had become great friends and Billy was often to be found in Tommy's home.

As they reached the door, the boy took off his sombrero and made a sweeping bow.

"The Merriweather Girls are welcome in the castle of Tommy Sharpe!" he said.

"The Merriweather Girls are proud to enter," she answered with a laugh.
"We are honored!"

CHAPTER VII

THE MAP OF MYSTERY

Tommy Sharpe had been given an old shed on the edge of the cliff from which he could look straight down into the canyon behind the ranch house. He had made it over into a home. There were two rooms; one he used as a bedroom and the other was his den into which he put all the treasures he had collected.

Outside, a narrow veranda had been built out over the cliff and it was here that the boy loved to sit and watch the sky grow bright with the morning sun and again at evening see the rosy glow of sunset.

Tommy Sharpe's cabin met the approval of the girls.

"You make me very proud of you, Tommy," laughed Enid. "You do credit to my teaching."

"You were a good teacher," and Tommy put on such a doleful expression that the girls screamed with laughter. "Do you remember the time you made me clean out the cabin three times before I got it right?"

"Tilly was a cruel lady! But aren't you glad now? See what a good housekeeper I made of you." Enid looked proudly about the clean little shack and showed her approval.

"Sure," said Tommy simply.

"That boy is just as much of a bluffer as ever," exclaimed Kit. "I saw Cheerekee here with a broom. She disappeared as we came in. Tommy never dusted this place today, I know he didn't."

"Of course today is different. I couldn't go to the station to meet you and clean house at the same time. Cheerekee did the work today." Tommy agreed without a smile.

"And every day. Look here, Tommy Sharpe, tell the truth and say you have never swept or dusted this cabin in your life!" Bet grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him around. "Look me in the eye and tell the truth."

"Well, if I don't, I see to it that Cheerekee does," he acknowledged at last.

"What's more, Mr. Tommy Sharpe," cried Enid gleefully, "you give her strict orders not to touch anything up on that shelf. Heavens! Look at the dust, girls, it's an inch thick."

"Ah ha, Tommy, we caught you there!"

"You would! I might have known you girls would see a little thing like that. But what's the difference?"

"None at all, Tommy, only we won't allow you to take credit for things that you don't do," scolded Enid playfully.

"That's because you are all hard-hearted girls," Tommy answered with a scowl.

"Now, let's see your treasures." Bet was already peering on the high shelf. "I want to see every one of them."

The girls looked eagerly about on the shelves that ran three deep about the room, and each shelf was full to overflowing with his strange collections. Enid smiled as she noticed several little pine cone figures that she had given him for his own. These he had treasured and they now held a conspicuous place in his assortment of knick-knacks.

There were stuffed birds, arrowheads, old bits of pottery, and many
Indian baskets.

"And look at that snake skin! Ugh, Tommy, how could you bear to touch the wriggling thing?" exclaimed Joy with a shudder of disgust.

"It had stopped wriggling when I touched it," returned Tommy. "Can't say as I like them squirmy, myself."

"And what is this, Tommy?" called Enid. "Girls do come and look at this ugly thing in the jar. What is it? It's like a big brown lizard."

"That's a baby Gila monster. Isn't it a beauty? If you'll look at it closely you'll see that it's not ugly at all. Look at the design of his back, like an Indian rug." Tommy took the jar in his hand caressingly.

But Enid shuddered and turned to something more interesting which Bet was already examining.

"What's he got there, Bet?" asked Enid laying her arm across her friend's shoulder.

"Looks like an old map! Isn't it quaint?" Bet was looking at it intently. "I love old maps. Where did you pick this up, Tommy?" she inquired.

"Oh, a Mexican wanted some money and offered to sell it to me for five dollars," the boy answered with a smile. "He was such a wicked looking old fellow that I figured I might as well buy something from him as have him rob me. So I gave him five dollars. The map was all in tatters but I pasted it together. I rather like it myself."

"Five dollars!" exclaimed Bet. "And I'm almost sure you could sell it to a museum for fifty. That map is a beauty."

"If I ever get my five dollars back from it, I'll be surprised. Personally I don't believe it's worth fifty cents, Mex." Tommy shrugged his shoulders, and rather scorned Bet's enthusiasm.

"Why it's worth more than that just as a curiosity. Look at the arrows and X marks. And that weird looking tree! I wonder what it's all about?"

"It's a useful map," declared Tommy with a smile. "It hides a stovepipe hole in that chimney. I couldn't do without it in the summer."

The girls all laughed. Only Bet was seriously interested in the map.

"I believe it's a treasure map," she murmured half to herself as if dreaming. "I'd love to hunt for treasure." Then she turned to Tommy Sharpe: "Judge Breckenridge says there is an old legend of a treasure here in Lost Canyon. Of course he makes fun of it, but it might be true. What do you think about it, Kit?"

"I'd hurt too many people's feelings if I told you what I think about it," answered Kit.

"Go on, don't mind us. Say what's on your mind," laughed Tommy.

"Well, I'm surprised, Tommy Sharpe, that you would fall for that old story about a treasure being buried here. I thought boys were supposed to be clever," Kit said contemptuously.

"There's a treasure there all right," Tommy stated it with certainty. "I have Ramon Salazar's word for it. He looked me in the eye and told me."

"Now I know you're not telling us the truth. Ramon Salazar couldn't look one straight in the eye." Kit dropped into a chair, shrieking with laughter as she visualized Ramon Salazar trying to look anyone straight in the eye, for he was the most weirdly cross-eyed person she had ever seen.

"Maybe that's why he could look at me and lie like a pirate," replied
Tommy. "I paid him five good dollars for that map."

"You must have been crazy, Tommy."

"I wasn't. Ramon knew I had that five dollars, and if I hadn't given it to him, he would have stolen it."

"There's something fishy about the whole story, Tommy. There must have been some other reason for Ramon Salazar wishing that old map off on you." Kit knew the dwellers in the hills. "I can bet a nickel on it that he thought you might get interested and dig for the treasure and maybe find it." Suddenly Kit jumped up, "And I bet a dime on top of that that Kie Wicks was back of it."

"And I have reason to think you are right, Kit. Kie came in one day, saw the map and claimed that Ramon had stolen it from him, but when I offered it to him for nothing, he refused. Said that would be taking advantage of me."

Kit gave a boisterous shout of laughter. "Oh girls, if you only knew Kie Wicks, you'd see the joke of that. Why that man lives by taking advantage of people, and he never puts through a deal of any kind without cheating. He's notorious. That's his business in life, to take advantage of people."

Tommy smiled. "I think Kie had a lot to do with it. I think he put
Ramon up to selling it to me. But I don't know why."

"I wonder why Kie didn't take back the map when you offered it to him?
That surprised me. Usually he doesn't turn down any kind of a gift."

"He didn't need this map," said Tommy quietly.

"How do you know?"

"Because the map had been copied before I got it. The tracing marks were on it for a full day, then disappeared. I don't pretend to know why," Tommy turned away from the map, and one could see that he was not interested.

"It's a mystery," exclaimed Enid. "Get to work, Bet Baxter. The mystery of the treasure map! We'll give you a week to solve the problem."

"Don't do it, Bet, please don't! If you go mooning away about treasures and all that sort of thing, we'll miss half the fun of the ranch. When you hunt for treasure, it's work, work, work! And a big disappointment in the end," advised Kit Patten.

"I've always had a yearning to dig for something. Once when I was a little girl, Uncle Nat was digging in our garden and he found an old rusty cannon ball and a piece of a flintlock, and ever since that I've always wanted to get a shovel and dig." Bet's voice had a longing in it that set the girls into screams of laughter.

"You ridiculous girl!" cried Joy affectionately. "You would try to start something!"

"But you'll have to acknowledge that Bet usually finds what she goes out after," remarked the quiet Shirley, pointing her camera toward the canyon wall opposite Tommy's door. "And while we usually object, we've never had more fun or thrills than when she leads us into adventure."

"Maybe so. But…" began Joy.

"And so I say," continued Shirley, "let Bet lead the way and we'll follow. If it's treasure, we'll help her dig. And if she goes in for fancy bronco busting, that's O. K. too."

"Oh, Shirley, don't say that! You make me feel responsible and I don't want that. Let's not make any plans at all. Just be ready to do whatever comes our way. That's always more fun." Bet liked to have the thrill of unexpected adventure, hoping that something new would come their way.

"I have my heart set on teaching some of you to rope a steer," Kit spoke up.

"Sure! It wouldn't do at all for them to go back east before they'd learned that," agreed Tommy, his eyes glowing at the prospect of showing off his skill with the rope.

"It isn't as hard as it looks," Kit encouraged the girls.

"I imagine we'll find it harder than it looks," laughed Bet as she tore herself away from the map. "It doesn't look a bit difficult when that rope twirls through the air. I've seen it in the movies and once I tried it with the clothes line but I couldn't do more than get the rope around my own neck. I know I'll never learn."

"Before the summer is over, Bet, you'll be a regular cowboy. I'll teach you myself," Tommy asserted.

"And I don't want to be taught. I'm sure I'd hate it," exclaimed Joy.

"Nobody will learn if we are going to get interested in treasure maps and that sort of thing," pouted Kit.

Bet spoke up firmly: "I've decided not to go treasure hunting. As a work of art, that map is a treasure in itself, I love it, but I'm going to leave the treasure hunting to Tommy and Kie Wicks and the cross-eyed Mexican."

Bet was so positive in her assertion that the treasure could remain in the ground for all she cared, that no one guessed that before the month was out, not Bet alone, but all The Merriweather Girls would have no thought of anything except that treasure, and all the adventure it brought.

From early morning until late at night their one interest would be unravelling the mystery of Lost Canyon.

Even the old professor whose mind was set on Indian relics, would forget his errand to the hills and all that it involved and be heart and soul in the venture of the hidden treasure.

For Fate upsets all plans and leads into strange and undreamed-of adventures.

CHAPTER VIII

KIT'S HOME FOLKS

Kit's greeting to her quiet, undemonstrative father was as effusive as he would allow it to be. She threw both arms about him with a cry of joy but all he said was: "You're home! That's good!" His tall, stooped figure was that of a hard working man, an outdoor man. His face bore criss-cross wrinkles stamped by the winds and heat of the mountain.

It was from him that Kit had inherited her deep-set brown eyes, her tall, slight body. Father and daughter were very much alike in looks but her mother had given her a disposition of joyousness that her silent father admired but utterly lacked.

Kit knew her father's way. She saw the happiness in his eyes and knew that he had missed her, perhaps even more than her sociable mother had done. Ma Patten could make friends with everybody who came near, and in that way she had worked off a lot of her loneliness at her daughter's absence. But Dad Patten confided in no one, not even Ma knew what was in his heart.

After the greeting was over the old man turned to the professor and continued his conversation without another glance at Kit. One could see that the professor and the mountaineer were already friends. Not many words had passed between them by way of introduction but the vigorous handshake assured the city man that he was welcome, and only when they began to talk of Indians and their ways did Dad Patten speak. The two men were in the middle of a discussion when Kit arrived home.

After a few minutes she disappeared and the next thing the professor saw was Kit trying to embrace a stout old squaw. But the two years separation from Indian Mary had made Kit a stranger to her, at least one would judge so by the graven image attitude she put on.

Kit grabbed her by the shoulder. "Now look here, Mary, don't put on any airs with me. Didn't you pretty nearly bring me up? Why, I'm almost like your own child. Tell me, don't you love me almost as much as you do Young Mary?"

The Indian woman shook her head for no, but Kit laughed. "I don't believe you! You always liked me better than Young Mary.—Where is she? I brought her something from New York."

"Where? What?" asked Old Mary.

"I want to give it to Young Mary myself. It's so pretty that if you saw it first you'd never let Mary have it. Where is she?"

"Way off visiting at the reservation. Pretty soon she come home. Lots of Indians come soon."

"I'm so disappointed," exclaimed Kit. "Here, I brought something for you, too." And Kit held out a large package.

The old Indian woman unwrapped the large bundle and disclosed a dress. Kit had chosen it with the idea of pleasing her old nurse, who, above everything else, delighted in bright clothes. A pleasing mixture of reds and yellows; modernistic, they called it in New York, but in Arizona it was just plain "Injun Caste."

The old woman gave grunts of satisfaction as she patted the bright cloth, then scurried away to show her treasure to her husband, Indian Joe. He hurried out and shook hands with Kit and beamed on her when Old Mary displayed her gown. The Indian was more up-to-date than his wife. He had been to school when young and knew the ways of the white people.

Kit extended a package to Indian Joe.

"Ah!" breathed Mary excitedly when Joe undid the string and she saw a pair of comfortable felt slippers. "He like much," she said with a nod of her head.

But when they saw a stranger watching them from the window they became embarrassed and wanted to hide away until Kit told them that Professor Gillette was a great friend of the Indians and would want to meet them and get acquainted.

Old Mary shook her head with disapproval. It took her a long time to make up with strangers. But Joe was different. When Kit told him that the professor was going to pitch a tent in the canyon and live there for the summer, he nodded and said: "Me fix him up. Joe knows where."

And Kit knew by that that Indian Joe and the stranger would be friends.

The professor had studied his Indians well. He waited patiently for the proper chance to introduce himself. It came the first evening. Joe and Old Mary always built a little bonfire back of their shack and sat around it, as they had done in previous days when outdoor cooking was their custom. In fact they had never outgrown the habit of preparing a meal over the glowing coals.

But on this evening the fire was only to look at. And very quietly the professor approached and squatted down beside them. He merely nodded and then stared into the fire as Indian Joe was doing.

This continued for a long time, then the professor got up as quietly, said goodnight and left.

After that Indian Joe and Old Mary were his devoted friends.

The professor returned to the house as pleased as if he had already found the ancient ruins that he was seeking.

"I'm afraid you can't expect to get much help from the Indians," remarked Dad Patten. "There's a legend in these mountains to the effect that Indians massacred a band of white men, and the daughter of the old Indian chief cursed her own people. Within a year the tribe had died out or wandered away. The village was deserted. Now the daughter is supposed to appear at times when there is treachery going on, a sort of warning to those who are doing wrong."

"That's a good idea," laughed Professor Gillette. "It has probably kept many a man on the straight path."

"Maybe so, but I haven't ever noticed it. There is plenty of crookedness goes on in the canyon. And no one, Indian or white man, is safe from the ghost."

"Ah, that's interesting!" exclaimed the professor rubbing his hands together in his excitement.

"The Mexicans believe it to a man," broke in Kit. "They will hardly come into the canyon at night, especially if they have anything on their conscience. Some white men are afraid of that ghost. Maybe you believe in ghosts yourself, Professor Gillette?"

"No, I'm afraid not. But that ghost does complicate matters. The Indians will not want to give me any information and I had planned to save time by winning their confidence."

"Don't worry," replied Dad Patten. "Make friends with them and sooner or later they'll let it slip out without meaning to. That is if they know anything about a lost village. And truly, Professor, we always thought that was just a lot of silly talk about there being an ancient Indian town near here. I've never seen it and I've never seen anyone else who has. So I doubt it."

"We'll see." The professor's eyes were aglow once more at the prospect of finding the ruins and winning glory for himself. "If there is one here, we'll find it, if it takes all summer. And now I'm very tired and I'd like to go to bed," he added as simply as a child.

Ma Patten was in her glory. Here was another person for her to mother.
And she fluttered around the old man as if he were indeed a child.

Long before daylight the next morning, Professor Gillette was awake and he waited impatiently for the first sign of life in the house. It would never do, he thought, to disturb the family on his first morning in their house.

But he did not have to wait long. Dad Patten was an early riser and at the first sound the professor was ready to go out in the yard. Here he found Indian Joe already busy, going doggedly about his work, never in a hurry, never flustered but accomplishing a surprising lot of jobs during his long day.

He had brought in Kit's horse, a beautiful, dark, slender animal that pawed the ground and whinneyed impatiently.

Kit slipped from the house with a cry of joy. "Oh, Powder, you dear, dear old thing! I love you! And you'll never know how much I missed you!"

There was a sparkle in Joe's eye as he hastily put on the saddle while Kit ran into the house for her riding knickers. The professor watched admiringly as she swung into the saddle. Then he stood paralyzed with fear as the horse stood straight up on his hind legs, then with a sudden spring he reversed his position with his hind legs in the air.

Kit had half expected this performance and had put on spurs which she dug into his sides. Not for a second did she leave the saddle. She finally turned the horse's head toward the road and with a prod of the spurs sent the animal down it at a speed that made the professor gasp in fright. Every moment he expected to see the girl thrown against the jagged rocks at the side of the narrow thoroughfare. But Kit held the reins. Soon she was out of sight and the old man went in search of Dad Patten.

"Kit's horse is running away with her," he exclaimed, his hand trembling.

But Dad Patten and Indian Joe merely smiled. "It had to come," said the girl's father. "Whenever Kit leaves that horse, even for a week, she has to go through this. Powder wants to be boss and tries to win, but Kit is always master."

"She knows what she's doing," Ma Patten reassured the old man when he excitedly pointed out Kit far over the mesa, struggling with her pony who was once more bucking. "Kit has been riding a horse ever since she was a baby."

Kit returned half an hour later, her cheeks glowing, her eyes dancing with excitement. And when the professor voiced his fears to her, she replied: "You know I don't believe that horse would throw me. I think he goes just as far as he knows I can handle him. He's brainy, that pony! No one knows how I've missed him."

The professor looked at her with the same admiring glance as Jim Hawkins, the riding master on Campers' Trail, had done. His eyes were not seeing the fancy riding in quite such a professional manner as Jim, but nevertheless he gloried in the poise and daring of this slight bit of a girl. Things were very different when he was a boy. Then girls clung like plants and were sheltered.

The professor had never seen such riding and he stood staring over the mesa as Kit once more gave her horse the spurs.

In spite of her parents' confidence, he could not believe that Kit had the horse under control for the animal raced madly, then suddenly without any warning, stopped short and tried by every method known to a horse, to throw off his burden. He reared, he bucked, he "sun-fished" but all to no avail. The girl stuck to her saddle.

"Won't somebody help her?" the professor prayed desperately. "She will be killed!"

CHAPTER IX

LOST CANYON

The four girls at Casa Grande were hardly awake that first morning, when a shout brought them to the window.

It was Kit, seated on her spirited pony, that pawed the ground as she drew him up by the wall.

"Wake up, lazy girls!" cried Kit. "The Judge has been out for a ride before breakfast, and here you are missing the best part of the day. Come to the window and meet my friend, Powder."

"Oh, Kit," called Bet excitedly, "is that Powder? Do wait and let me ride him."

Kit laughed. "As I told you before, if you want to ride Powder after seeing how he acts with me, you can take a chance. He's trying to show me how much he loves me. Hurry up and get a bite to eat. I see Tommy getting the horses ready."

Much to the disgust of Tang, the girls hurried through their breakfast, hardly knowing what they were eating, so excited were they over the prospect of a ride in Lost Canyon.

"Are your western horses very wild?" asked Joy as she joined Kit in the courtyard. "I—I don't know how to ride very well."

"Don't worry, Joy! I brought you a safe one. We always give Dolly to people who can't ride well. She's as safe as a rocking chair."

Even Joy could feel no apprehension when she got into the saddle. Dolly was decidedly safe. On the least upgrade she puffed and stopped short to rest.

"Poor thing! She's all tired out!" exclaimed Bet, watching Joy's horse lumber up a heavy grade. "I think it's a shame, Tommy Sharpe, to let an old horse like that carry a load."

"I do sort of feel sorry for that horse, Dolly," drawled Kit. "Joy is such a heavy-weight that Dolly just has to puff. Why, she tips the scales at ninety-two pounds."

Everybody laughed and Tommy drew in his horse and waited until Joy came abreast on a level stretch. Then he reached over and dug into the horse's side.

Dolly leaped forward as Joy gave a cry of fright, but this only lasted for a moment. Dolly's speed was soon over and she settled back into her usually lazy pace.

"That horse is a cheat. If I were riding her she'd step along lively without urging. But she has a lot of sense and knows who is on her back," laughed Kit, offering Joy her quirt, which she carried only because it looked pretty. Powder never needed a quirt.

"Dolly isn't so very old. She's lazy!" said Tommy.

"Don't say that, Tommy. She isn't lazy, she was born tired," reproved
Bet.

Joy refused the quirt. "Oh, I just couldn't use a whip, Kit. I just couldn't. Dolly's a nice horse and I wouldn't think of hurting her. I think you people are terribly hard-hearted and cruel." And as if Dolly understood just what was being said, she made for the shade of a large tree and stood still, and no amount of coaxing on Joy's part would make her budge.

"She won't do as I tell her, at all," pouted Joy.

"Then maybe you'll accept a quirt now and say 'thank you'," and Kit extended the quirt once more.

"I hate to use it," Joy looked bewildered, but the others were going on and would soon be far ahead. She brought the braided leather down on the side of the horse. Dolly sprang into action, galloped for a few minutes, then settled down to a jog trot. But by this time Joy was getting impatient. Again and again the quirt descended, and for a full minute at a time the horse trotted.

"Why you cruel, hard-hearted girl!" Bet shouted over her shoulder.
"How can you bear to hit that gentle creature?"

Joy wrinkled up her nose at Bet and motioned her to go on.

"Keep up the good work," called Tommy Sharpe. "We'll never get over to Sombrero Butte to-day, if you let Dolly set the pace. I wish I had given you Oso. That's a mean little imp of a burro. But at that I believe he'd have gone faster than Dolly."

"Oh, Tommy, I'd love to ride a burro. Will you let me, truly?" begged
Joy.

"And so do I want to ride a burro, Tommy. I'm always thrilled to pieces when I see the picture of one." Bet had a sudden inspiration. "Let's have a burro party some day and all ride burros. I think that would be fun."

"That's O.K. for me, if you ride them, Bet. As for me, I'll ride Powder," spoke Kit contemptuously. "Why should anyone want to ride one of those contrary little beasts? I think they are horrid."

They had suddenly followed a trail into a canyon, which brought them down into the bed of a stream.

"This is Lost Canyon!" Kit called to the girls.

"I wonder how places get their names?" asked Bet. "Why did they call this Lost Canyon?"

"Nobody knows," responded Kit. "When I was a very little girl I always felt sorry for it. I truly thought it was lost and in my childish mind I planned to have the canyon find itself someday. Wasn't that silly?"

The girls laughed heartily, and the echo of their voices came back to them from the walls of the canyon.

But soon they left the large stream and rode up over the mountain. Tommy had his heart set on reaching Sombrero Butte, a high and inaccessible peak shaped like a huge cowboy hat, that rose above a flat-topped mountain. On reaching the foot of the butte, the young people drew rein and dismounted.

"I'm glad to be on the ground again!" Joy exclaimed with a heavy sigh.
"I don't care for horseback riding very much."

"What do you like, Joy? I mean in the way of sports. What do you like to do more than anything else?" asked Enid Breckenridge.

"I like dancing. I'm not as much of an outdoor girl as the rest of you. I go along, not because I like it, but I like the company. Now it's different with dancing, I could dance all day and all night."

"She's the ladylike member of The Merriweather Girls' Club," smiled Bet with an affectionate glance toward Joy. "She's a butterfly. As for me, I can't imagine why Fate played me such a mean trick as to send me into the world a girl, when I'd just love to have been a boy." Bet shot out the words with a vicious snap.

"Say, you girls don't know when you're well off." There was a wistful note in Tommy's voice. "People expect so much more of boys and are never satisfied with what we do, while you girls have your paths strewn with roses."

"Listen to him talk!" exclaimed Shirley. "I guess we girls have to struggle to live."

"And what girl wants her path strewn with roses anyway?" demanded Bet in disgust. "I want to have to fight my way, I want to do worth-while things. Right now, if I were a boy, I'd try to climb Sombrero Butte."

"Would you really do a silly thing like that, Bet Baxter?" asked Joy seriously. "I mean it. Tell me just why you'd do it?"

"I don't know why, but I'd do it because it would seem like a big thing to do. It would be hard work and when I accomplished it, I could always say, 'I climbed Sombrero Butte'."

"That's not much of an ambition. I should call that simply foolhardy!" Joy could never understand such a desire. It was too far away from her own temperament.

"Then," continued Bet, "I'd travel. I'd discover things, I'd find a new continent or a river or something. I'd like to go to South Africa and dig for diamonds. That would be romantic."

Joy laughed. "Now I can half-way understand that. Diamonds are worth while. If you were a man, whom would you bestow those diamonds on?"

"You—most likely. Men who do big things always fall hard for a handful of fluff like you," returned Bet, her eyes flashing dangerously.

"And there you'd show your good sense," Joy smiled in a provoking way.
"I almost wish you were a man, Bet."

As everybody laughed Bet soon regained her poise. Such flare-ups were frequent with Bet, a sudden flash of fire and then calm. The girls understood her and did not resent her bursts of impatience.

Tommy Sharpe leaned over and picked up a small stone from the ground, exclaiming: "Look here, girls, while you're talking of discovering things, I find a treasure."

"What is it?" cried Bet grasping Tommy's closed hand. "Let me see?"

"An arrowhead!" Kit burst out contemptuously. "Not much of a discovery in that. I'm sick and tired of arrowheads."

"Why, I think it's wonderful to find one!" Bet examined the little sharpened piece of flint. "I wish I could find one."

"I'll let you have this one," Tommy offered.

"No, that wouldn't be the same. To make it a real treasure I must find one myself," answered Bet as she looked longingly at the stone.

The girls began to search the ground for arrow-heads, but Shirley was the only successful one and even her find was a doubtful treasure as it had a large nick in it.

"You don't need to worry, girls, you have all summer to find arrowheads, if that's what you want," laughed Kit.

"I have a cigar box full of them at home," said Tommy. "I'd like to give you some. But now we'd better be going. It will be dinner time before we get back to the ranch."

"Let's go!" Kit swung herself into the saddle and as Powder's spirit had returned he gave an exhibition of bucking and rearing that made Joy scream for she was certain that Kit would be dashed against the rocks. At Joy's scream, Powder took fright and madly raced down the steep trail with Kit clutching the saddle horn for dear life.

"Oh, Bet, she's going to be killed, I know it!" sobbed Joy. "Oh, I hate horses. Bet, do something! Kit will be hurt!"

"Don't worry about Kit. Just watch her and see how she sits in the saddle, for all the world as if she were part of the animal." Bet was fascinated by the skill with which Kit handled her horse, and she urged her pony forward so as to watch Kit more closely. It took all of Enid's and Shirley's persuasions to get Joy into the saddle.

"Come on, Joy, don't be a silly! Kit's a trained cowgirl. That horse can't unseat her."

Knowing that she was headed toward home, Dolly kept up a steady trot that covered the miles rapidly. There was no more stopping to pant and blow. Dolly knew that food and drink was waiting at the ranch.

Just as they reached the end of the canyon and prepared to take the trail to the ranch house, a slouching figure rose from the side of the canyon.

It was Kie Wicks.

"Well, well, and what are you folks doing in the canyon this morning?" he asked, for all the world as if he owned the whole district and feared that they were stealing from him.

"I took them over to Sombrero Butte," replied Tommy Sharpe. "I'm to show them all the interesting places in the mountains this summer."

Kie Wicks smiled, but the girls could see that he resented their presence there.

"That's a fine idea. I hope you'll bring them over to Cayuga. Maude will show them around," he invited cordially, yet as the girls turned their horses' heads up grade, Bet turned suddenly and was surprised at the look of hatred and distrust that was in the face of the storekeeper.

"I wonder why he dislikes us so much," thought Bet, but decided not to pass on her knowledge to the others. Joy would be sure to get nervous and Kit might get into an argument with Kie or Maude and Enid Breckenridge would certainly tell her father and he would insist on them having an escort, or not allowing them to go into the canyon again.

So Bet kept her secret, and the girls did not suspect that Kie was actively unfriendly, they thought him a brusque, ignorant desert dweller whose friendship they could depend on, if needed.

They had not yet learned that Kie Wicks could not be depended on for friendship or loyalty to anyone. He was a suspicious man, always believing the worst of people, and when The Merriweather Girls showed an interest in Lost Canyon, old Indian relics, and even the pleasure of finding arrowheads, Kie Wicks was certain that they had heard of the treasure of Lost Canyon and were going to hunt for it.

And Kie Wicks considered that to be his own special mission in life. He believed implicitly in the old legend that there was a treasure buried in the canyon, and all of his spare time was used up in a search that had continued for ten years. Twice he had formed a company to locate the treasure, he had spent all the money subscribed and had failed. Still his faith held that he would eventually find it.

Maude usually tended the store and Kie spent days at a time drifting around the canyons and hoping that he would stumble upon a clue that would reveal the hidden gold.

He watched the girls ascend the steep hill, gazed after them until they disappeared over the summit, then shook his fist toward the place where they had been.

"Let them take care not to cross me. I can only stand just so much," he muttered.

Kie turned slowly away, mounted his horse and rode down the canyon toward Cayuga.

Ahead of him was a great hole in the rock, an undertaking of his dated some years before and financed by his friends. He frowned at the tunnel dug into the bank, then his frown became a scowl and a ferocious one, for a man was standing there studying the workings, so intent on it that he did not hear the approach of the rider.

"What you doing there?" roared Kie Wicks. And as the man turned he recognized the little professor whom he had met at Judge Breckenridge's ranch the previous day. Kie laughed to himself. Here was one man he need never fear. Inefficiency and irresponsibility were stamped upon ever line of the little man's figure.

"He's childish and perhaps a bit off," thought the mountaineer. He turned to the professor. "That's a mining claim belonging to me. It has promise of wealth in it. You're not by any chance looking for some likely claims, are you?"

"No," replied the professor truthfully. "I've come out here to hunt for Indian relics."

Kie eyed the professor distrustfully. To himself he said: "That's a likely story! Indian relics! What would a grown man want with them?" Then he turned to the old man. "You are in the wrong district," he asserted. "Who ever told you there were Indian relics in this section? Why, we don't even find arrowheads in this part of the country. Now over on the San Pedro there's lots of mounds and things. There's where you ought to go."

"That's a great disappointment. I've come a long way to unearth an old village or something of the sort."

"You're barking up the wrong tree, mister! There ain't nothing around here."

As the professor took leave and rode up the trail, his face was a puzzle. "That's queer," he sighed. "Judge Breckenridge certainly told me that he had made some very important discoveries himself. But this man who belongs here should know more about it. I can't make it all out."

Even Ma Patten's good cooking and her cheerful chatter could not restore the old man's optimism.

"He's tired himself out the first morning," whispered Kit to her mother, after the professor had left the table and seated himself on a large rock overlooking the canyon.

Then, as they watched, they saw him slap his knee vehemently as he arose with a smile.

"That fellow is a fraud! He's trying to mislead me! I know his type now. He wants to keep everything for himself."

He would have been certain of this if he had seen Kie Wicks emerging from the canyon. Kie shook his head decidedly. "There, I put a spike in the professor's gun. He simply wilted. I'm rid of him all right."

But, as the horse followed the well worn trail, he mused. "There's treasure there, I know it! It's my treasure! Mine!"

CHAPTER X

THE PROFESSOR'S JOB

Within a few days the professor's tent and cot arrived, and after that Ma Patten pleaded in vain for him to stay with them. The old man was independent and insisted on getting established in his own quarters. He had already chosen a spot in Lost Canyon with the aid of Indian Joe, who knew the best springs and the best place to pitch a tent.

And Professor Gillette could not have had a better helper. Under a huge cottonwood tree, there was a bubbling spring, cool and clear, and down the creek a short distance was a small pool.

"Why, there's my bath room!" laughed the old man. "Talk about modern conveniences, I have them all."

The Merriweather Girls were eager to help the old man get settled. And when the five of them with Tommy Sharpe got to work they soon had everything in order. Tommy levelled a space and beat it down until it was smooth. Judge Breckenridge had suggested that boards be laid for a floor but at this the professor protested vehemently.

"I've come out here to live the simple life, the life of an explorer. I want to rough it, even endure hardships. It will do me good," he asserted, objecting to anything that might seem like luxury.

But after a day or two of trying to cook his meals over a small outdoor fire, he accepted a tiny stove from Mrs. Patten. Primitive living was all right, but it was a waste of time to cook over an open fire.

And one day he returned from a long hike over the hills and settled into a rocking chair that the good neighbor had placed before his door, in his absence, and did not protest but took it gratefully. After a strenuous day, it would be good to drop into the restful depths of an easy chair and enjoy the glories of the canyon.

But he refused her help very decidedly when she dropped in one morning and found him at his weekly wash. His shirts and overalls were spread out on a large flat stone in the creek and he was beating them incessantly with a small paddle.

"I'm enjoying the washing," he declared with a laugh. "I don't mind it at all."

"But your work, your discoveries?" inquired Ma Patten.

"They can wait while I get clean! Anyway I haven't had much luck. The
Indians will give me no help at all."

"Why are you so keen about these Indian relics? We can give you any number of arrowheads and baskets and stuff. You're welcome to them if it will help you any," offered Mrs. Patten sympathetically.

"That's not exactly what I want," the professor said. "I'm interested in American Indians, and have always been considered an authority on the subject. But I'm getting old and younger men are stepping into the field. They think I'm just a musty old professor with nothing but a book knowledge of Indian ruins. So I have to show them."

"What's the use?" answered Ma Patten contemptuously. "These young fellows always can beat us in the end and we might as well give up gracefully."

"But that isn't all. My job's at stake. If I don't do something to get up-to-date I'll be shoved out. They want men who go out and do spectacular things that get them into the newspapers. I was told that my department would have to be snapped up a bit! Isn't that terrible language for educators to use? And if my job goes, I don't know what I'll do. I've got responsibilities, heavy ones."

"Have you a large family, Professor Gillette?" asked the woman.

"No, I have only one daughter but she is an invalid. She was studying to be a dancer and one slippery day in winter she fell and broke her hip. And she has never been able to dance since."

"Oh, that's terrible! The poor child!"

"She's as happy as a lark. She has never given up faith that as soon as she is taken to see a specialist in the city, she will be cured. It is for that operation that I must earn more money. And with the fear of losing my position in the college you can see why I must make good this summer."

"Well, you'll find plenty of Indian signs around these mountains," Mrs.
Patten informed him.

"That's strange!" The professor exclaimed, "That man, Kie Wicks, claims that there never were Indians in these hills. None to speak of, he said. Told me I was barking up the wrong tree. Oh yes, he was quite certain I was going to fail. But I mustn't fail! I can't fail!"

"Of course you won't fail! And you needn't believe a word that Kie Wicks says. He doesn't want people to come into this canyon. He believes in the myth about the treasure and he makes it hard for anyone who comes in. One old prospector had to leave because Kie had it in for him. He just couldn't stay."

"What did Kie Wicks do?" asked the old man.

"Well, for one thing he would sell the prospector meat and at night steal it all back. And the old chap was shot at in the dark and threatened until he gave up after putting in several months working on the claims. So you needn't expect any help from that ruffian," stormed Ma Patten.

"I don't know what to do. I must find that Indian village." Professor Gillette had no notion of giving up, not for all the western bad men he had ever heard about. He had come to Arizona to find an Indian village and that he must do.

"Why don't you go over the hill there? We used to find bits of pottery and arrowheads and even some Indian ornaments made of silver. I have a few of them at home. Be sure to remind me to show them to you. You'll be interested."

The professor's face glowed with excitement. "I'd like to ask you for more particulars as to the exact place," he exclaimed.

"I'll do better than that. Kit will take you over there some day and like as not you'll find just what you are after," Mrs. Patten assured him.

While they were still talking Tommy Sharpe arrived with a note from
Mrs. Breckenridge. It was an invitation to supper that evening.

"Isn't that kind! I'll be so glad to go. She's a beautiful and gracious woman."

"It's a sort of party, I judge," said Mrs. Patten, beaming with pleasure and opening a note that Tommy had passed her. "We're all invited to dinner."

That was Virginia Breckenridge's way of keeping in touch with her neighbors. On learning of Professor Gillette's business in the mountains, she had sent to New York for books on Indian legends, Indian ruins and anything that might give the professor a clue to what he wanted to find. And much to her surprise, a book on Indian legends was written by Anton Gillette.

"Our professor is a modest man," laughed Enid. "Imagine him not telling us that he had written a book. He's got his typewriter with him, I wonder if he is planning another book."

"Let's go and ask him," announced Bet, jumping up and starting toward the door.

"It's ten o'clock! He'll be sound asleep," said Shirley. "Don't you think you can wait until morning?"

Bet had waited and then asked the old man, but she got little satisfaction. The professor was shy about his work.

But that was exactly what he was planning to do. If he could make some discoveries, get some practical knowledge and then write about it, he would save his job and increase his income so that his daughter might get the treatment to restore her health.

A sum of money had been offered to the old man for research work, and he had accepted it gladly. He knew from the history of Arizona that a large Indian village must have been situated in the region of Lost Canyon, and it was here that he hoped to find the burial place of the wealthy chief.

The younger teachers heard of his plan and smiled with condescension. They did not imagine for a minute that the old man could stand the strenuous trip to the southwest and find the Indian village. It was a stunt that they would have hesitated to undertake.

But Anton Gillette was made of different stuff. Here was his chance, he must win out. As he looked into the pale face of his daughter, Alicia, her eyes glowing with hope both for her father and her own future, he had vowed that no hardships would be too great for him to overcome.

And here he was in the mountains, camping in Lost Canyon within, he believed, arm's length of the ruins. But so far he had not found them.

Luck was with him, that he knew. Everywhere from the time he had left home, he had found friends to help him. They gladly gave him advice, and in the case of The Merriweather Girls, they would have been happy to serve him in every way. They were quite indignant when the old man pitched his tent far from the ranch where they could not see him so often.

"It will never do," thought the professor. "I'll get soft if they wait on me and give me the idea that I can't do things for myself."

But the invitation from Virginia Breckenridge was another thing. These visits he loved. They were always helpful. The Judge was as interested in the finding of the ruins now as the old man himself. It was his only way to help the independent professor, who refused all financial aid, and the two men were often seen riding the hills together, speculating on the prospect of an ancient village there.

But still they had not found it, after a week of search.

Someone else was anxious to accompany the old man on his trips. It was
Kie Wicks.

And while Professor Gillette enjoyed the daily visits of the girls and the occasional calls from Judge Breckenridge or Dad Patten, he found the storekeeper very trying. Kie arrived at the tent early and stayed late.

"That man acts as if he were spying on me. I wonder what he's afraid of. There is nothing here to steal that I can see."

This continued for a week and then ended abruptly. After that Kie
Wicks came only once in a long time. This had been Maude's doing.

"You ain't getting no where at all, Kie. You keep that old book-worm from hunting or doing whatever he wants to do. Now if I were you, I'd let old Booky do his searching, then cook up a plan to do him out of whatever he finds."

"Maude, you're a wonder! Why didn't I think of that myself? I couldn't have found a better wife anywhere than you."

So Kie did not appear the next morning.

But it was not until noon that the professor knew that he had been deserted. His patience was at an end so he had risen before dawn and left the tent, striking off over the hills where Mrs. Patten had indicated. He returned at noon with arrowheads and a stone axe but there was no sign of ruins.

But the old man was not discouraged. These signs of Indians merely gave him the necessary urge to investigate.

Before he had finished lunch the girls arrived.

"Where's your bosom friend today?" they asked mockingly. "You and Kie Wicks are almost inseparable. It's quite touching to see such devotion," laughed Bet, who knew of the old man's impatience.

Bet laughed and the contagion of her merriment started the other girls and their voices echoed back to them from the canyon wall opposite.

While they stood there, a strange procession appeared around the bend in the trail. A band of horses one after the other, filed by.

"Poor horses!" exclaimed Bet in sympathy.

"Horses!" sneered Kit. "Those are not horses, they are just racks of bones, that's all. And that's the way most of the Indian ponies look."

The professor was speechless. He watched the procession with interest. Fat squaws rode huddled over their nags, each carrying a baby strapped to her back. Small boys ran beside the horses or clung on behind the mother. The men usually rode free and on one of the animals, the professor saw an old Indian.

"I wish I could talk to him," he whispered to Kit, who was standing near him.

"You'll have your chance before the day is over. They usually camp right here where you are. I'm surprised that Indian Joe suggested this spot. They are not apt to go far away from here."

As Kit spoke the squaw heading the procession stopped, and it looked as if she rolled off her horse as she dismounted. She had evidently found a suitable place to camp. The professor was delighted that it was on the opposite side of the stream where he could watch them. A tepee was made almost before the squaws were all out of their saddles. A large piece of sacking was thrown over small bushes which were tied together at the top to form an arch. This was the only shelter put up by the Indians when on the march.

The men dismounted, sat down by the stream and smoked their pipes, while the women and children scurried about, gathering fire wood and starting a blaze.

In a few minutes they had settled down to life for a few days, the life that the Indians loved, carefree, indolent and happy.

The professor was greatly elated. Here was a chance to watch the modern Indian at least and see how he lived. He would have something to tell his class.

"That's Old Mapia," confided Kit. "He's supposed to be about a hundred years old. You're in luck if you can get him to talk. Some of the young ones will translate for him if he gets stuck. I'll send Old Mary over, if he won't talk to you. She can make him tell stories."

Before the afternoon was over, the professor had invited the old Indian to have a smoke with him, then offered him cookies and other delicacies, and while he accepted without a sign of appreciation, the ice was broken and when the professor began to ask questions the old Indian answered as well as he could, and Young Wolf supplied the missing words that his grandfather had forgotten.

"Yes, once a very long time ago there were many Indians here, a city!" droned the old fellow and the professor edged closer to hear him, fascinated by the wrinkled face.

"My father—my grandfather, yes, he know. Up yonder somewhere a large village, where the Indians make baskets and rugs and silver and pottery, long ago. There were good times then. Indians plenty rich. No white men. My grandfather tell me heaps."

"Where was the village?" asked Professor Gillette.

"No find any more,—gone!" The Indian shook his head and with a wave of his hand indicated every hill surrounding the canyon.

"I think he knows," the professor confided to the girls that afternoon when he went up to see Dad Patten. "But it's probably a secret."

"No, it's on account of the curse," said Kit.

"But what has the curse to do with it?" the professor asked.

"Plenty. The daughter of the old chief still walks at times, and she cursed that village, and the Indians try to forget that there ever was such a place. None of them will go near it."

"What does the ghost look like, Kit?" asked Bet.

"She always wears a costume of deerskin and feathers. And at night she just appears out of nothing in Lost Canyon. One minute she isn't there and the next she is. And when she appears she is supposed to curse those who see her. They run for their lives."

"Is that true?" Joy's voice was trembling. "If it is, I won't ever go into this canyon again."

"Don't worry, Joy. If you are good you'll never see the ghost. Only those who are planning to do wrong see her."

The girls laughed at the timid Joy. "Don't worry, dear," Bet patted her hand lovingly. "I'll take care of you."

"Some say," went on Kit, "that the ruin of the village must be left untouched, and that any one disturbing it will see the ghost."

"And that's why Old Mapia won't talk," said the professor. "He's afraid of the curse. It would hasten matters very much if I could get some reliable information as to the location of the village."

"And are you really going to hunt for the village after that?" Bet's eyes were glowing.

"Yes, I'm not afraid of the curse. I'll find that village. Alicia is expecting me to. I must make good."

"That's the way to talk, Professor Gillette! And remember this, The Merriweather Girls will help you in any way we can. We're not afraid of any curse. We're with you, every one of us."

Joy started to speak. She turned pale then suddenly gave up. "All right. If Bet leads, I follow!"

But there was no wild enthusiasm in her promise.

CHAPTER XI

STAKING A CLAIM

But it was rarely ever that the professor wanted company in his search. Bet was inclined to feel offended, for she had hoped that he would accept her offer of help and consider The Merriweather Girls as partners.

"All right, Kit, let's do something by ourselves. What's the use of just looking at the glorious scenery? If an old man like Professor Gillette can go out and hunt for a lost village, we should be able to find some copper claims or other interesting things. Let's do it."

The girls were in the saddle while Bet discussed the possibility of discovering something. It was really adventure that Bet was seeking.

The horses stepped gingerly over the slippery rocks of the creek bed as the girls chatted and laughed on their way to Table Mountain, a great flat-topped summit in the high hills.

Joy Evans suddenly laughed outright. "Bet Baxter, it would take you to think of a thing like this. What under the sun will we do with a copper mine if we do locate one? I'm very sure I have no use for one."

"Don't be a spoil-sport, Joy! Think of the romance and the fun. Why, we'll be mine owners!"

"What I want to know is, who will do the actual work?" It was Shirley
Williams, the practical girl of affairs who put the question.

"We'll hire the work done, of course. It would be foolish for us to waste our valuable time digging holes in the ground," returned Bet.

"Certainly," giggled Kit. "We'll do the brain work and let the greasers do the digging."

"Please don't call the Mexicans that horrid word again. It doesn't sound nice. I think the Mexican boys have such wonderful dreamy eyes."

"We've heard that before. Go on, Joy, rave some more!" Bet treated Joy's outbursts of enthusiasm over boys with contempt. "I'm going to do something useful in life."

"Like finding copper mines! Hm! What use are they?" snapped Joy.
"I'd rather think about boys any time."

"Of course you would! Go on and dream then!" Bet was angry. She and
Joy were often near to a quarrel, but somehow it was always averted.

"Quit your fighting, girls," laughed Enid. "What's to hinder us from finding our mine and letting Joy dream of romantic brown eyes at the same time?"

"I'm for the mine! I've always had a secret passion to locate claims, myself, and see them develop into a big mine." Kit caught some of Bet's enthusiasm and wanted to start out at once. She continued: "It's lots of fun to locate a claim. Once I followed an outcropping of ore up over a high hill, but when I got to the top I found it already located."

"Oh, what a shame!" cried Bet. "And did you give up then?" Bet looked her disappointment at Kit's lack of enthusiasm.

"I did for a while but I've never really given up wanting to and had a feeling that I would sooner or later. Guess I was waiting for you to help me. Say, girls, let's follow this stream."

"What for?" asked Shirley. She was looking about her in a bewildered way, which set Kit into peals of laughter.

"Well, you see the stream carries bits of ore and if we follow it, we may find the place the ore comes from. Watch for copper stain on the rocks."

"But it's such a tiny stream!" protested Joy.

Kit had already guided her horse to the right and led through a narrow passage between the high canyon walls. "This is the Iron Gate, girls. It's a landmark around here."

Bet looked up at the high cliffs. They towered above her.

"The Iron Gate! Doesn't that sound romantic?"

Suddenly Enid called excitedly, "Oh, Kit, is that greenish color on the rock copper stain?"

"That's it," said Kit, "but here there is hardly more than a tint.
Let's go on farther," and Kit urged her pony ahead.

After half an hour of slow travel through the creek, the girls were rewarded. The tiny canyon had widened out, the stream was larger and they found sufficient emerald green stain to suggest that there might be a large deposit of copper nearby. They also found more fragments of ore.

Dismounting, the girls left their horses standing with trailing bridles. Bet suggested unfastening the rope she had brought for practising, to tie her pony to a tree. Kit laughed.

"The very idea! Don't insult a mountain horse in that way. He'd never forgive you. Never! Look, here's a small outcrop!"

Kit led the way up over the hill, following an exposed vein of copper ore that appeared at intervals. Bet squealed with delight.

"Just look at it! Isn't that lovely? Kit, do you think it's rich ore?"

"I can't tell you that, Bet, but Dad said there were a lot of fine claims up this way."

"Oh, isn't it glorious?" enthused Bet. "We'll stake them out and own a mine!"

"And if we find any good claims, we'll locate them today, for Dad gave me some location blanks to give to the professor. Dad thinks that it is all foolishness to hunt for a lost Indian village, so he was trying to persuade the old man to go in for mining. And I have those blanks in my saddle bag right here." And Kit waved her hand back toward the canyon where Powder was standing patiently waiting his mistress's return.

The girls had reached the flat and here they found a large outcropping of greenish ore. Delightedly they set to work. On the legal forms that they had brought with them, they filled in a description of the claim. They erected a monument built of stones in the center and then paced off the required number of feet and placed a small pile of stones at four corners.

"It's a good thing I've watched Dad and other folks build their monuments. Now I know just how to do it." Kit was jubilant. It was thrilling to be able to show the girls the way to locate claims.

Kit took the blank that had been filled in and placed it in the center of the monument. "There!" she exclaimed. "The first time we come back here we'll bring a tin can and put that paper in it and bury it in the rocks again. That will keep it dry."

"What a funny thing to do," laughed Bet.

"It's the rule up here. We're doing it the same as all the prospectors did. Every claim was located that way!" Kit carefully covered the blank, then folded up another, a duplicate and handed it to Bet. "Keep this one."

"What for?" asked Shirley.

"That is the one we send in to be recorded at the County Office."

"I'm excited!" cried Bet as she dropped beside the pillar of rock in the center of the claim. "Isn't it just too wonderful for anything to own a mine like this? I feel rich already. And just think there may be a big mine on this very spot some day!"

"Bet, you should have been a prospector. Every old miner in the hills thinks that his own particular claims are going to be the biggest mine in sight," laughed the Arizona girl. "As soon as he builds a monument he begins to talk of private cars and mansions."

"I almost wish I were a prospector. It must be lots of fun to have marvelous hopes of success. If I hadn't come a girl, I'd be a prospector. Just think of it, not having anything to do in life but roam around the hills and look at the rocks!" Bet lost herself in her dreams.

"And build funny little play monuments!" added Enid.

"Yes, and half starve to death before you get ore enough mined to sell," Kit reminded her.

"Oh, Kit, that isn't fair to wake me up so rudely. Why not dream pleasant things while you're about it?" Bet laughed. "Where do we locate the next claim?" They followed Kit to some distance from the monument and when they had found sufficient outcropping they repeated the same process.

There was a hot breeze that seemed to intensify the heat of the sun and brought the aromatic scent of the greasewood. The wild beauty of the canyon was not lost on the girls. From the cliff they could see down into the depths, they could hear the rippling of water over the rocky bed of the creek, the flash of a bright bird in the trees would bring them out of their day dreams. It was good to be alive, good to be roaming through the hills looking for romance and adventure.

"I'm glad we gave up the idea of hunting for treasure," declared Bet with a shade of contempt in her voice as she paced off the required number of feet for marking the fourth and last claim. "Somehow or other that seems silly now. This is far more important and worth while."

"After seeing those excavations that were made, I could never think of it seriously," Enid said quietly. "Kie Wicks must have spent a fortune trying to find treasure in that spot."

"Yes, but not his fortune! He formed a company and sold stock, so it wasn't his own money he spent," Kit reminded them.

The girls stood looking over their claims with affectionate glances. "I love them, Bet, and I'd just hate to have anyone else do the digging. Why can't we do it?" asked Kit.

Enid spoke up. "Don't do it, girls. Take my advice and hire it done, it will be cheaper in the end."

"Maybe Enid's right," agreed Bet. "We mustn't get too ambitious or we'll miss half the fun."

"Say, when do we eat?" demanded Joy suddenly. "I'm famished! I can't do another thing until I get my lunch."

"Poor starved child!" laughed Enid. "Do you suppose you could roll down the hill so we can build a camp fire by the stream? If you think you can't, we might fix up a stretcher and carry you."

Joy answered with a toss of her head and a puckered-up grin. "I think
I can manage to crawl there, if I am sure of a feed immediately."

The girls scrambled down the steep cliff side and began to unpack the lunch. Joy chose a large granite rock in the middle of the stream and perched thereon, she surveyed her surroundings.

"Isn't that a lovely copper stain? And to think it's coming from our mine!" she enthused in a mocking tone, while the other girls unpacked the lunch or hustled around to find sticks for a fire.

Their lunch preparations were to be quite elaborate, roast potatoes and corn on the cob and steak. Enid and Kit built the fire with care and soon a bed of coals was ready. While the two girls worked over the fire and Shirley gave attention to spreading the feast, Bet sat on the cliff, dreaming of the mine to be.

"This is adventure! This is romance!" she cried to her friends.

"Romance!" chuckled Joy. "It's not what I call romance."

"Dark brown eyes and a heavenly smile on the face of a boy, is your only idea of romance. You are a silly girl!" Bet shrugged her boyish shoulders and laughed at Joy as she undid her long rope, and standing up straight, tried to send the loop over a stump in the manner approved by Tommy Sharpe, her teacher. Her efforts were not very successful. Out of twenty attempts she managed one that coiled over the spot that she was aiming at. Bet decided then and there that she would not make a good cowboy. While she practised the throw again and again, she continued to talk to Joy who seemed half vexed as she snapped:

"You needn't talk about liking boys, Bet Baxter. I don't blush every time the mail arrives and a letter is handed me. And you seem to have no objection to dreamy brown eyes yourself. I've seen the way you looked at Phil Gordon. Now Phil's eyes haven't got enough snap in them for me—they're altogether too brooding to suit me. I think that young Mexican's eyes are much more exciting."

"Why, Joy Evans, how dare you say that I like to look at Phil's eyes? He's a dear boy, one of our best chums, but I don't think at all about his eyes," retorted Bet.

"You don't think his eyes are nice? Answer me, Bet?" teased Shirley.

"They're all right I tell you, but I think you girls are just too horrid trying to insinuate that I'm in love with Phil," protested Bet, her face flushing, her blue eyes snapping with anger.

"We don't have to insinuate anything, Bet. You give yourself away every time his name is mentioned," was Joy's emphatic reply.

"I move we change the subject. It's a sore point with me for I'm half in love with Phil myself," laughed Kit. "He's one of the nicest boys I've ever seen. But when Bet's around he won't even notice me."

"What will Bob say to that?" laughed the impish Joy for it was no secret that Bob Evans had lost his heart to the Arizona girl from the first time he met her. His heart was hers to crush or treasure as she saw fit. But at present Kit preferred to hold on to her girlhood and not allow the thought of love and grown-up responsibilities to enter her head.

That was one nice thing about the relationship of the girls and their boy friends. There was comradeship and loyal friendship.

Bet suddenly jumped down from her perch on the cliff and said disgustedly: "Joy Evans, I think you are corrupting all of us with your silly ideas regarding boys. I love Bob and Phil and Paul Breckenridge and Tommy Sharpe just exactly the same, and I won't be teased about any one in particular."

"Methinks thou dost protest too much, my dear!" exclaimed Joy tantalizingly. "We'll change the subject for the time, but when I get you alone, Bet Baxter, I'll make you own up that Phil Gordon is a little dearer to you than any of them." Joy dodged and slid from the granite rock just in time to miss the loop of rope that Bet had aimed at her with no gentle hand.

"Come on girls, you selfish things, give your horses a chance," and Kit stroked Powder's muzzle and gave him a nosebag of oats. All the girls followed her example, then while the potatoes were getting ready, Bet took a book from her pack behind the saddle and lost herself in a story.

"Do read aloud, Bet," begged Enid, dropping down beside her friend. "I will always remember how you read to me on Campers' Trail when I was hurt."

So while Kit tended the fire, keeping a bed of hot coals just right for the baking, and Shirley fried steak and cooked the corn, Enid stretched out on a flat rock and listened to Bet. She had chosen "The Wonderful Window" by Dunsany, and when she finished Enid sighed softly.

"I like a story that gives you something to think about," said Bet, moved by the loveliness of the tale.

"I don't see anything particularly nice to think about in that story,
Bet," objected Joy with a shrug. "It isn't lively enough to suit me."

"Of course you wouldn't!" laughed Enid. "Your idea of a story is Cinderella. There has to be a girl, a prince and a wedding. Isn't that right?"

"Of course," answered the butterfly girl, twirling about on her toes as usual. "It's the only kind that counts. I wouldn't give a snap of my finger for any other kind."

With a bound, Bet jumped to her feet, caught the slight form of Joy, lifted her clear off the ground, then ran with her down to the creek.

"Come on, Enid, this girl needs to have her head soaked in cold water.
Let's do it." And in spite of the protests of the kicking, shrieking
Joy, the girls managed to get her to a pool of water in the creek bed.

"Now, Joy Evans, will you behave yourself?"

Bet held Joy's head under her arm, and using her arm as a dipper she poured water freely over the girl's head.

Kit and Shirley came to the rescue at Joy's screams, but Shirley held them off.

"She had it coming to her, girls. It will do her good."

Between Bet's bursts of laughter she managed to say, "Promise you won't talk about boys and love for a week at least, then I'll let you go."

"Don't be as unreasonable as all that," protested Shirley. "She might live through twenty-four hours of it, but not much longer."

"Then promise that you won't mention a boy's name for two days!" and for good measure another handful of water splashed into Joy's laughing face.

"I promise! I promise! Please let me go!" choked Joy who had opened her mouth just in time to get it full of water.

"All right! Here you go!" And Bet gave a quick shove, landing the dripping girl on her feet, then she stood back admiringly. "There is one fine thing about you, Joy Evans. You're a good sport. I couldn't be as good natured as that." Bet threw an arm about the smaller girl affectionately.

"Yes, I am good natured. I let you abuse me just turrible! I'm so kind and lovable and……"

"Give her another bath!" cried Kit, making a bound to catch Joy. But quick as a flash the girl had sprung to a rocky ledge and was scrambling up the cliff-side like a mountain goat.

The girls shrieked with laughter and the echoes resounded back and forth across the canyon like the voices of a thousand imps. This set them deliberately to letting their voices out in strange calls and weird whisperings in order to hear the echoes coming back to them.

"Isn't it wonderful!" exclaimed Bet. "There are so many more things to entertain one here than in the cities. And after this, Lynnwood will seem dull."

"I could never call Lynnwood dull," said the sensible Shirley. "We always managed to have plenty of adventure there, thanks to Bet who can find a thrilling mystery anywhere."

"Say, girls, I wish you'd get that silly idea you have of me out of your heads. From now on I'm a business woman, a mine-owner, and all other adventures are out. I'm going to be known as Sensible Bet."

"Listen to her! She thinks it will be an adventure to work a copper claim. My idea of an adventure is altogether different. I can't see any thrill in five girls getting out in the hills, miles away from nowhere, and without the boys……"

Bet made a dash toward Joy, who had just stepped down to the creek from her place of refuge.

"Put her in the creek!" Bet shouted. "This time she goes in all over!"

"Oh please!" begged Joy, taking refuge once more on the steep trail.
"Truly I forgot! I won't say it again."

"All right, come on down, and we'll let you off this once, but next time, in you go, head and all!"

Kit had drawn away at some distance from the girls and was looking anxiously at the sky. "Looks to me as if a storm was coming up. We'd better get home at once."

On mountain weather forecasts, Kit was authority so the girls quickly seized their horses' bridles, tightened the cinches as Kit directed, then hastily mounted and started toward home.

"It's beginning to look worse and worse! Don't waste a minute. We must reach the pass down there before it catches us. Otherwise we'll be in a jam."

The horses sensed the excitement and the tenseness that goes before a storm and raced through the creek-bed without any urging. Even the old horse, Dolly, needed neither spur nor whip. Snorting and blowing in good earnest, she held her own with the more spirited animals as they picked their way around boulders and pools of water.

At the first drop of rain, Kit drew in her pony. "We can't make it, girls! We'll never make it in time," she cried in a panic of fear.

"Of course we can make it. There it is right ahead of us," Enid encouraged them. "We can get through the pass."

"No, we can't!" declared Kit anxiously.

"Then we'd better stay right here where it's dry," said Bet.

"We can't do that either," screamed Kit. "In ten minutes this will be a raging torrent instead of a little trickle of water. You don't understand."

It was not often that Kit lost her presence of mind, but the responsibility of looking after the girls quite unnerved her.

"Then what shall we do?" asked Shirley, who never got excited or lost her head.

Kit looked at the canyon walls on both sides. They were steep, they seemed straight up.

"Oh, I shouldn't have started back, I should have waited," in Kit's voice was a sob.

Heavy clouds had shut out all the blue of the sky. Never before had the girls seen such black and menacing clouds. They rolled and seethed like foaming billows. It looked as if the demons of some underworld were engaged in a tremendous battle. Black, castle-like shapes piled up, to be tumbled into the abyss, the next second. It was an inferno through which a flash of lightning darted from time to time, followed by thunderclaps.

The girls were terrified.

Joy was sobbing outright and at every blast of thunder a high-pitched, uncontrollable shriek broke from her lips. The horses stood still, trembling with fright.

"We're in terrible danger here. We must get out!" cried Kit, frantically. "Come on back. Let your horse take you wherever he wants to, and hold on for dear life."

Kit wheeled her horse back the way they had come and the girls followed. And just at that moment the downpour came and looking back toward the pass, the girls saw a strange sight. A body of water came roaring through the narrow opening as if a gigantic fire-hydrant had burst. A cloudburst in the mountain beyond had sent the water roaring and tumbling down the bed of the stream.

Just what happened the girls could hardly tell afterwards. They held on as Kit had directed and the horses raced madly away from the oncoming torrent.

Bet's heart almost stopped beating as her pony took the trail up the wall of the canyon, so steep that she would not have dared to attempt it on foot. Half way up the wall, the horse stopped.

"I've never seen anything braver than that! This is thrilling!" breathed Bet as she held on to the horn of the saddle with a grip that strained her hands. Although she was as frightened as any of the girls, she still had an eye to the adventure.

The stream bed was a river now, swirling, foaming and roaring. It made one dizzy to look down into it.

Bet finally got up the courage to turn her head to see if the other girls were safe, and behind her on the trail, she made out Joy's horse.

The animal had followed Bet's lead and it stood on the trail dejected and drooping, a picture of woe.

And the saddle was empty.

"Joy! Joy!" screamed Bet. "Where are you? Joy!"

No one, even a few feet away, could have heard her call and if there had been any answer, the roar of the storm deadened it.

The rain came down in a heavy sheet, soaking her to the skin and shutting out the hills across the canyon. She was alone in this blinding downpour. It seemed as if the inferno she had witnessed in the sky had fallen upon her and was eager to swallow her up. And yet Bet was thrilled.

She wanted to huddle over her pony, hold on to the saddle horn, but she dared not do it. She must find Joy.

What had happened to the other girls? Kit was probably with them, and leading them to safety. Joy was near and in need of help.

Bet carefully took her feet from the stirrups and slid to the ground with a death-grip on the saddle. There was only room for one foot on the tiny shelf of rock, and that slight space was slippery with the rain. Slowly Bet lowered herself, with the aid of the stirrup, and clutching at the tough-fibred plants, she lay down flat on her stomach. Sliding and wriggling, an inch at a time, down that slippery incline, she managed to hold on to the narrow shelf.

"Joy! Joy! Where are you?" she cried.

At last Bet could hear the heavy breathing of Joy's horse, got hold of a stirrup and clung there trembling.

Again and again she called, then listened.

Finally above the roar of the storm she thought she heard a faint cry from the trail below. Bet crept along the trail, this time under Dolly's feet. She had to take a chance even though one move on the part of the horse might send her over the side of the cliff.

Then Bet saw Joy. She was clinging to a mass of bear grass, her face white and her eyes wild with fear. It was impossible to reach her. She seemed to be clinging there only with her hands, her feet swinging without any support. But of that Bet could not be certain.

It would be sure destruction to attempt to climb down that wall.

Then quick as a flash Bet thought of the reata on Joy's saddle. Bet had insisted that the girl carry the rope with her, and Joy had protested as usual.

That rope was her only chance.

Bet slowly crept up the incline to Joy's horse and managed to get to her feet and undo the long coil of rope. Then crouching to her knees once more she made a loop, thankful that she had learned to do that stunt as a child. The other end she tied to the saddle.

Bet heard a groan from the cliff and hastened toward it.

But haste was one thing that could not be attempted with safety. Bet regretted that effort. Her body slipped, a plant gave way and her feet slid over the wall.

Bet's mind was clear. She heard once more Joy's faint cry in the distance and knew that it depended on her to rescue her friend. The empty hand clutched and found another tough root, and slowly, now, she brought first one foot then the other to the ledge. She was saved! But would she reach Joy in time?

With greater caution she crept the few feet along that treacherous path until she came close above Joy's head.

"Hold on, Joy, don't give up! I'll help you in a minute." Bet encouraged her.

Working desperately, Bet got to her feet and clung there. It was the only hope for Joy. The rain had ceased to pour down in such a torrent, and Bet could now see her friend clinging to that slender plant. Leaning over as far as she dared, she dropped the loop over Joy's head and shoulders.

"Joy dear," she called. "Put one arm inside the loop, quick!"

Joy heard and understood. She let go with one hand. There was a shriek, a groan, a shower of rocks descended as Joy slipped down that steep wall.

For Bet, everything went black. She grew faint and closed her eyes, then suddenly pulled herself together, and looked over.

The rope was taut. It had held.

A second shower of rocks came from the trail, started by the sudden jerk on the saddle. The horse pawed the ground in an effort to keep its footing.

It held. And Bet gripped the stirrup with her foot and drew on the rope.

It was well that Joy was tiny. Even then, Bet had difficulty in bringing her up. She tugged, she pulled, trying to ease the girl's body over the sharp projecting rocks.

Bet was weak and trembling when she clasped Joy in her arms, perched on that narrow shelf of rock.

And that was the way Kit found them ten minutes later, when the storm had passed and the sun shone fiercely down once more.

Joy was sobbing as if her heart would break and Bet was saying in a crooning voice: "Joy dear, you can talk about the boys as much as you want to from now on. I'll never again object to anything you do."

CHAPTER XII

DOUBLE DEALING

An anxious group was waiting for the girls to arrive in camp. Ma Patten had run over to make her daily call on Mrs. Breckenridge. Even Tang and the two Chinese hoys were watching eagerly and scowling toward the tempestuous sky. A thunder and lightning storm in the hills was not a thing to laugh at. A flash! A roar! And a large mass of rock was cleft apart as if a mighty hammer had struck it.

Tommy Sharpe and Seedy Saunders had saddled their horses and gone in search of the girls as soon as the storm threatened, but not knowing in which direction they had headed, it was like hunting for a needle in a hay stack.

They did find Professor Gillette, however, soaked to the skin, a bedraggled, shivering figure that set the boys laughing in spite of the pathetic look of the old man. They helped him up the hill to the Patten household where he could be taken care of, and once more went in search of the girls.

But it was not until the storm was over and the girls were climbing up the last trail to the ranch that Tommy spied them.

"There they are, Seedy! They're safe!" Tommy's voice trembled with emotion. The mountain | storms still terrified the boy, although he had experienced so many of them.

By the time the girls reached the house, the strain they had undergone was beginning to wear off and they were able to laugh at their adventure. That all except Joy, who shuddered whenever she thought of it and turned pale when the women asked excited questions.

"I hate these mountains," whispered Joy to Shirley. "I wish I were going home tomorrow!"

"Why, Joy Evans, you know you don't." Shirley put her arm around the frightened girl. "You're having a grand time here, and the fun is just beginning. You're not going to quit over the first unpleasant thing that happens to you. That's not playing the game. What would Lady Betty Merriweather do?"

Joy laughed in spite of herself. "We always used to ask that question when we were in Lynnwood. Lady Betty meant a lot to us, didn't she? I guess she wouldn't have cried and taken on the way I did down there on the cliff."

"Do you remember," said Shirley softly, "how Lady Betty rode through the night to help her wounded husband? That was bravery!"

"But that was so long ago. The Revolutionary War seems like a story and not real life," Joy said with a toss of her head. "Maybe it didn't happen at all."

Lady Betty Merriweather had been the first owner of the Merriweather Estate, Bet's home on the Hudson, and from an old picture of her that adorned the great entrance hall of the Manor, the girls had come to feel that she was their friend and companion, an ideal for them to live up to.

"Anyway," continued Joy, "she liked horses. And I don't. And I don't like their old cactus plants with their sharp needles that seem to jump at you. And the sun is cruel. It bites. And even the mountains look hard and angry as if they wanted to do you a mean turn.—And that storm! Did you ever see anything more terrifying? I thought the day of judgment had come. I don't believe Lady Betty would have been any braver than I was. Well, not much braver!"

Shirley laughed softly. "Joy dear, how you exaggerate things! Arizona is wonderful. Did you ever see such glorious sunsets? I'm crazy about them."

"The sunrises are just as wonderful!" interrupted Bet. "And I'm wondering who is going to be game enough to start to Saugus before daylight some morning. Kit says we will have to take an early start if we are to make the trip in one day."

"Why are we going there?" asked Joy.

"To record our claims. We could mail the filled-in blanks but it's lots more exciting to take them. And it's good experience for us. Besides the County Recorder should get acquainted with us, for someday we'll own a great big mine and be people of importance."

The girls laughed at Bet's seriousness.

"Are you going to say you don't want to go?" Bet asked in a vexed tone.

"Of course we'll go!" assented Enid. "We're The Merriweather Girls; one for all and all for one! What day do we start?"

"Why not go tomorrow, if our folks agree? I'm anxious to see those claims put on record," said Shirley, "and the sooner business matters are attended to, the better for everyone. And just think, girls, it's our second business venture. Shirley's Shop was a success and still is, for mother is keeping it going, and she said in her last letter that she was not doing badly at all."

"Shirley's Shop was a success and the Merriweather Mining Company will be, too," Bet declared. "It must be a success."

"It will be!" determined Enid.

Only Joy did not share their optimism. "I think the storm was a bad omen, don't you, Kit? It's hoodooed!"

"Joy Evans!" cried Bet her eyes flashing. "Half an hour ago I would have let you say that, but now if the creek were near, in you'd go!"

Joy laughed and got beyond the reach of Bet's hand, then said impishly: "As for boys, I think they are simply wonderful! Mexican boys have beautiful eyes and Phil Gordon always smiles at you, Bet."

For answer Bet ran into the house and slammed the door to her own room. Joy had wept after the storm, and thus relaxed her nerve tension but Bet had not had any such relief. As a result of the strain she found herself irritated by Joy's nonsense and got out of the way to avoid a quarrel.

It was two days later when the girls started on their trip to Saugus. The first faint flush of dawn was in the sky as they set out, the exhilarating air acting as a stimulant. Even the horses seemed to feel it as they tossed their heads and pawed the ground when the girls were getting ready to start. The restless animals were as eager to be off as their riders, and at the first touch of the reins they sprang forward as if for a race.

"Take it easy, Powder," laughed Kit as she tightened the rein and drew up the horse's head. "You have a full day to show how clever you are." Kit talked to the pony as if it were a human being and the horse seemed to respond to whatever mood she was in. He slowed to a prancing trot, high-stepping along the level like a spirited race horse.

Kit leaned over and patted his neck with pride as she called: "Look,
Bet, isn't he a beauty?"

"He is!—That is in looks. But I don't like his disposition. You are welcome to ride him." Bet laughed aloud in her joy as she made her pony dance along the trail.

"But if Powder didn't act up like a perfect fiend at times, I'd be bored to death with him. I like them naughty. I hate a horse without any spirit. Powder keeps me on my toes all the time." Kit ran her finger along the horse's mane and with a spring Powder reared and bucked, and did all the things that an untamed bronco would do when he was first introduced to the saddle.

"You can have it all to yourself," said Bet, as Kit finally brought her quieted horse to a standstill. "I like riding, but I don't want to be a bronco buster."

Although they planned on being in the town by noon, the girls carried a lunch strapped to their saddles. A rest and a bite to eat along the way was half the fun and they had not gone more than a mile before Joy was digging into the little bag that hung from the horn of her saddle.

By ten o'clock when the other girls were ready for a rest and something to eat, Joy was down to the bottom of the bag.

"Never mind, Joy, you can have half of mine. Mother always puts up enough for an army."

"Aren't we ever going to get there?" complained Joy, as she squatted in the scant shade of a mesquite tree and ate some fudge.

"Five miles more!" Kit announced.

"I'll never be able to do it! If they only had a change of scenery, I wouldn't be so bored. And those tall, smokestack cactus make me sick."

"Smokestack cactus!" snapped Kit with contempt. "If you'd only take enough interest to learn the names of the trees and things you see, you wouldn't be so bored."

"Well, what are they called?"

"Sahuara. And if that word is too big for you to remember, call them
Giant Cactus."

Suddenly Bet shook Joy by the arm. "Keep quiet and watch that road runner. Isn't he a beauty?"

The bird had risen and poised above the mesa, then with fluttering wings darted downward. There was a rattling brr, and the girls knew what was happening. The road runner was attacking a rattlesnake.

"That bird isn't much of a sport," declared Bet, watching the little drama with eager eyes. "It doesn't give the snake a fighting chance. I feel sorry for it."

Kit laughed. "Don't waste your sympathy on rattlesnakes. Take something worthy of your respect."

Kit watched the struggle with little emotion but the other girls turned away not wanting to see the end of the uneven fight.

"Let's go," said Enid, jumping to her feet. "I've seen enough."

An hour later when the girls were entering the little desert town of Saugus, and just as they came to the first adobe houses, they saw a horseback rider coming toward them. As he rode nearer the man waved them a greeting.

"It's Kie Wicks! And he's good-natured," grunted Kit suspiciously. "Wonder what he's doing over here today? Up to some meanness, I know, otherwise he wouldn't be so cordial to us."

"Well his meanness doesn't concern us," answered Bet.

"You can't be sure of that. He's probably bought up some second hand food stuff that he plans to work off on the ranchers during the summer."

"And what's your errand over this way?" inquired Kie Wicks bluntly.

"I came to visit an ice cream parlor and go to a movie," chuckled Joy.

But Kit did not deign to answer the man. She dug her spurs into
Powder's sides and he leaped past the rider and raced toward the town.

"That fellow looks as if he had been taking advantage of someone. Wasn't he feeling good? On top of the world! The old cheat!" blustered Kit, as she dismounted at the stables where they were to leave their horses for a rest and a good feed.

The girls took their time, went leisurely about the town, ate their lunch at the Grand Palace Hotel and later went to the County Recording Office.

"Why, that's funny!" said the clerk, giving them a searching look. "Those same claims were recorded not more than an hour ago. Man by the name of Ramon Salazar. What are you trying to do, jump his claims?"

"Why, we wouldn't do such a thing," exclaimed Bet indignantly.

"Was Ramon here in person?" asked Kit.

"No, he sent the papers in by a neighbor," returned the young man. "A fellow by the name of Kie Wicks."

"Kie Wicks!" That explained everything.

The girls suddenly wilted. All their sparkle was gone as they watched the clerk checking over the descriptions with the ones already recorded.

"You have one here that has not been recorded," the clerk announced when he had finally finished the checking.

"Wonder how he happened to leave out that one?" snapped Kit.

Bet held out her hand for the blank. "Let's see which one it is. Oh, girls, what a shame! It's the most unpromising claim of all. That's the last one we located, the one we called, 'Little Orphan Annie.' It's too mean for anything." There were tears of disappointment and anger in Bet's eyes.

"Do you want it recorded?" The girls heard the clerk's voice but it seemed to come from far away.

"What's the use of one claim? You can't make a mine out of just one miserable claim!"

"I don't care, I want it anyway!" Bet shrugged her shoulders defiantly.

"I told you there was a hoodoo on those claims," Joy spoke cheerfully, as much as to say, "I told you so."

Joy's pessimism was all that was needed to decide Bet.

"Yes, we'll record it, and we'll be locating some more soon," she announced with determination. "We are not going to let Kie Wicks and Ramon Salazar beat us. We'll get even with them somehow."

"They wouldn't have dared to do this if we were men. Just because we are girls, they think they'll get away with it."

"Oh, by all means!" Joy taunted provokingly, "Be sure to locate some more claims and let that man take them away from us again."

Bet turned her back on Joy and watched the clerk as he put the blank through the usual routine and then turned to leave the office. The Merriweather Girls were the owners of one very unpromising copper claim.

They dragged wearily out into the fierce sunlight. There was a discouraged droop to their shoulders, but Bet suddenly straightened. Her eyes were flashing as she said:

"I have a hunch! Something tells me that we are not down and out on this deal."

Joy squatted on the steps of the General Mining Supply Company's office and laughed. "You ought to win with a disposition like that, Bet Baxter. I don't admire your judgment, but I do like your spunk. I'm with you. I'll never say a discouraging word again."

"I don't know why, but somehow that Little Orphan Annie claim is going to help us win out!"

"But how?" whispered Kit to herself.

CHAPTER XIII

THE "ORPHAN ANNIE" CLAIM

Disappointments could not long dampen the spirits of The Merriweather Girls. Youth soon conquered discouragement and by the time they were awake the next morning, they were happy and ready to take the next step in the adventure.

But Judge Breckenridge, with his strong ideas of justice, was not so easily appeased. And when the girls told him of what had happened he sat for a long time with a worried frown on his brow, then got up and walked in the court. It was plain to be seen that he was agitated about the claim jumpers.

"If you are bothered about us, Judge Breckenridge," said Bet, linking her arm in his and skipping into step beside him, "You might just as well not think about it. We didn't like it at first either, but now we don't care at all—not much, I mean. It will save us lots of work. And probably we couldn't be mine owners very well, anyway."

"You're a great little girl, Bet!" The Judge patted her hand affectionately. "You're a sport, all right. Now, I'm mad clean through!"

"That's what I thought, and I have never seen you angry before."

"I'm sorry, child, I didn't mean to have you see me in this mood, ever," said the Judge with a trembling voice.

"But I'm so glad I did. I usually snap and snarl when I have a temper spell, and I did not know it could be done in such a dignified way. I think it was wonderful!"

The Judge stopped short in his walk and laughed, his voice echoing through the patio.

Enid heard it in her own room and came on the run to see what amused her father so greatly. When she saw Bet, she smiled.

"I might have known it was you. Dad always laughs at you." And the tall girl slipped up at the other side of her father, and snuggled close with her head on his shoulder.

"Two daughters are better than one!" The grey-haired man clasped his girl to him as if he had not seen her for weeks. Then turning to Bet he said:

"Aren't you going to work your one claim?"

"Is it worth it?" she asked.

"I think I would. You can get a Mexican to do the assessment work, and he'd be glad of the money. You never can tell what may happen," advised Judge Breckenridge.

"I had a sort of hunch that we ought to keep it, but then again in the night I decided that it would be foolish. We can go elsewhere and locate more claims."

"I'll take a trip over there with you this afternoon and have a look at
'Little Orphan Annie.' Tommy Sharpe is threatening to lay in wait for
Kie Wicks with a shotgun."

"Tommy's a fool! He always was!" exclaimed Enid impatiently. "He can't imagine there is any way of getting the better of a person except by shooting him. He even wanted to go after Sol Curtin. I believe he had the notion that he could do it all by himself. He's a funny boy!"

The Judge frowned. Although a year had passed since Enid had been found, the father could not talk, without emotion, of the man who had kidnapped his daughter when she was a child. Sol was in jail and would be there for many years, but still the father was uneasy.

"This Kie Wicks makes me think of Sol," he said bitterly. "And I want you to keep as far away from him as possible. Have a man do the work for you if you keep this claim near his."

That afternoon the Judge rode with the girls down Lost Canyon, through the Iron Gate to the smaller creek and picked their way around the boulders of the river bed.

About a mile from the claim, they met Professor Gillette. He had been far over one of the hills in search of the ruins. Half a dozen arrowheads were his reward. He was preparing a belated dinner in the creek-bed, over a smouldering fire.

The girls were impatient to go on, and dragged the Judge away from his friend.

"Come on up over that hill when you finish your lunch," invited the
Judge. "I have to obey, so I'm off."

"What made you think of coming away up here to locate claims, Kit?" the
Judge asked as they brought their horses to the summit.

"Dad said there were some good claims over this way, and I've had experience. I've lived out here all my life and know how they go about their location work."

"I'll say your view is worth as much as 'Orphan Annie,'" enthused Judge Breckenridge, as he looked over the ranges of mountains and the deep-cut canyons.

"But views are not worth a Mexican dime out here. You can't cash in on a good outlook," returned Bet with a chuckle. "It's the mine that counts. Now tell us, don't you think we made a good job of locating those claims?"

"I think you did, Bet. However as Ramon Salazar and Kie Wicks will reap the benefit, I think we might go on to other promising spots and let them have a free hand here. You are only girls and can't fight men like them."

No other remark could have roused all the spunk in the girls.

"I don't see why we can't hold our own against any man," sniffed Kit. "Ramon Salazar is a cross-eyed Mexican with a lame leg, and Kie Wicks is a coward. I guess The Merriweather Girls could beat them with their eyes shut."

"That a girl, Kit! Of course we can," cried Bet indignantly. "And we will!"

The Judge chuckled at their flare of independence, and turned to Joy, the timid one.

"What about you, Joy? Do you want to help the girls fight for the claim?"

"I'm not saying that I want the old mine, if we can hold it, but I'm willing to help fight, if the girls say so. The Merriweather Girls stand together."

"Good for you, Joy Evans! I didn't expect it of you."

"You didn't? What are you trying to insinuate, Bet Baxter? I'm not a traitor!"

"Why, of course not, Joy, but you don't like digging mines and riding horseback and all that sort of thing."

"Maybe not. But you've never known me to back out of anything, especially where the honor of The Merriweather Girls was at stake."

"That's right," responded Bet quickly. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You've always been a sport when it came to doing things, although you've sometimes made a frightful fuss about it."

"That's part of the game," laughed the butterfly girl. "Somebody has to be a kicker. And I'm it."

"Please do it with your feet from now on, it's much more graceful!" teased Enid.

"I may do it with my feet and I may do it with my tongue," returned Joy with a happy laugh, "but you'll find me ready to back up any one of you."

"Well said, fair lady. Now let's have a look at 'Orphan Annie.'" The Judge's eyes were sparkling with amusement as Bet led him up the gentle slope of the mountain. Suddenly Bet threw herself from the saddle.

"See folks, I found an arrowhead! Oh, boy! Isn't that lucky?"

The girls dismounted and grouped about her, all except Kit, who had picked up arrowheads since babyhood.

"It's a perfect one. I'm the happiest girl in all the world!"

"Doesn't take much to make some people happy," began Joy, then she started to laugh. "Come on, where's our little orphan?"

"This way, follow me," called Shirley Williams. "This is it, isn't it,
Bet?"

"Yes, that's our baby. Poor little thing." Bet was trying to be cheerful but there was a tinge of bitterness in her voice. There was always a great soul conflict when Bet's well developed plans went amiss and in this case, where it involved double dealing, it was harder than usual to give up.

"Nine chances out of ten," remarked Enid quietly and with little emotion, "those other claims have all the ore and this one has nothing."

"For my part, I don't care if it hasn't any ore in it at all, I like it anyway," and Bet squatted down on a big flat rock within the boundaries of the claim. "It feels good to be on my own property," she added with a sigh of contentment.

But in a moment she had started up with a little cry of surprise. "What's the matter, Bet? Be careful! If it's a strange bug, it might bite you. There are so many stinging things out here," cautioned Kit.

Bet's head was bent over the rock. She did not hear what was said. Suddenly she called, "Judge Breckenridge, do come here and look at these strange markings on the rock."

"Markings on a rock," said Joy Evans contemptuously. "I thought it was a tarantula or something."

"Well, you wouldn't have liked to see a tarantula any better than the markings, and these at least are not poisonous," Bet retorted.

Judge Breckenridge was examining the markings with interest, and gave a low whistle of astonishment. "This is the sort of thing one reads about. I'm wondering though if Kie Wicks put them here to fool you."

"It might be markings that tell of a buried treasure. See the arrow!
Look the way the arrow points."

"Yes, look the way the arrow points," mimicked Joy. "Now at last you have your mystery, Bet. I wish you joy of it. Follow the arrow and then you'll come to a tall cactus, and in the cactus you'll find a bullet…"

"Oh, keep quiet, Joy Evans!" flashed Bet angrily.

"We haven't found a mystery and I don't believe there is a treasure here. This is far away from Lost Canyon," said Kit.

"I'm going to believe in the treasure!" cried Bet, fired with enthusiasm at the prospect of finding something unusual. "Why, I could easily believe in a buried treasure. What's more I'll find it."

"I'm going to go and call Professor Gillette," called Enid, already in the saddle. "He can probably tell us what it means and what the Indians looked like who made the markings."

"These lines were not made by Indians," remarked the Judge thoughtfully. "There's a Spanish word there."

But when the professor came a few minutes later, he was all at sea as to the meaning of the tracings on the rock.

"It is very much like the sort of thing people used to draw when they buried treasure. You've seen the map in Tommy Sharpe's room but that doesn't say that if we located the proper spot that there would be any treasure left. Other people can read signs the same as we can, and many people have been over this ground since that sign was carved," Judge Breckenridge explained to the girls.

"Why be so sensible, Judge?" laughed Bet wistfully. "Why not let us think that there is a treasure hidden in the ground somewhere? I'm thrilled all to pieces just thinking about it."

"And that's right, too, Bet. Don't let an old fellow like me spoil your dreams by my common sense." The Judge acted as if he wanted to believe it himself and only needed a little urging.

"And there is just as much chance that no one has passed over this rock since the early days and that we may find a fortune hidden." The professor smiled around at the group with a happy, child-like stare as if he were one of the characters of a fairy story.

"Now that's the way to talk, Professor Gillette. You never can be sure unless you look around." Bet nodded at him approvingly.

The Judge suddenly looked at his watch. "I move we get home to dinner.
Tang will be waiting and he hates that."

Bet very carefully spread some tiny twigs and sand over the rock so that no one else would see the markings on the stone.

"Come along up with us to dinner, Professor," suggested the Judge cordially. "We'll have a meeting tonight and talk things over and see what is best to do. I have a feeling that the shrubs and rocks have ears around these claims of Ramon's."

"That's what I say. Otherwise how did Ramon and Kie Wicks find out about the claims in the first place?" asked Bet.

"There's no mystery in that, Bet. Kie saw us coming here and followed. He spied on us, saw us building the monuments and then came and jumped the claims," explained Kit.

"All but one!" cried Bet as she clapped her hands. "And on that one little neglected claim, we find the tracings that will perhaps lead us to the buried treasure. That's luck!"

"Oh Bet, wake up, you're dreaming!" laughed Shirley, the quiet, sensible girl. Never in the world would Shirley have dreamed or let her imagination run wild. She was a practical, well-balanced girl, a clear thinker and not given to romantic flights of fancy.

"The bubble's burst!" sang Joy tantalizingly.

"It has not!" Bet swung easily into the saddle. "The bubble isn't blown yet. Just wait and see!"

In single file they rode down into the canyon below them and let their horses pick a way through the rocks of the creek bed.

Just as they passed through the Iron Gate, the narrow pass that led to
Lost Canyon, they met Kie Wicks.

"Nice weather for a picnic!" he called to them gaily with a wave of his dusty sombrero. "That's an interesting canyon!"

"Yes," the judge replied with his most courteous air. "We find it very interesting. The girls located a claim up that way, and have started work on it."

"You don't say so! Well, everybody to his liking. I'm through with locating claims. It's a slave's life, forever digging, digging, digging! I don't care if I never see another copper claim as long as I live," Kie Wicks returned with decision. "I run a store, that's a good, clean business."

"You're right, Mr. Wicks. Stick to storekeeping," advised the Judge as he took the trail toward the ranch.

The girls smiled back at Kie Wicks and waved him good-bye. They had decided to play a part with this man. And not for worlds would they let him know that they suspected that he had anything to do with the claim jumping. Later, much later, they might get strong evidence against him. They would deal with him then. Just now they could not afford to antagonize the man. Open enmity might be worse than the present situation. Kie and Maude, as long as they were making a pretense of friendliness, might let drop some of their plans without meaning to. People who talked so freely often did that.

"We'll string 'em along," said Joy slangily. "Maude Wicks can't keep a secret, if I know anything."

"Which is doubtful!" laughed Bet.

"Say, who are you talking about? Maude Wicks or yours truly?" retorted
Joy, at the same time making a face at her friend.

"Both!" cried Bet and gave her horse a tap on the neck, getting out of the way of Joy's quirt.

Everybody liked to tease Joy, perhaps because she flushed so prettily as her slight anger rose. But whatever the reason she was always the butt for their good natured teasing. And no matter how much she resented it, she turned it off with a joke. Yet it could be seen that she always turned to Shirley Williams, who never teased her.

Tang was watching anxiously from the kitchen door when they rode up the trail. He was always punctual and frowned on the late comers.

In the corridor of the patio, after dinner, the council met. Mrs. Breckenridge, although she could scarcely hope to be able to take such a long ride to see the claim, was the most enthusiastic one of the group. She was a dreamer by nature, and the thrill of hidden things always intrigued her. Bet threw both arms impulsively around her.

"You're a darling," Bet cried. "You are a real chum, a person after my own heart."

"But you see I've been reading lately and it seems that there is basis for the story of hidden treasure in Lost Canyon. Lots of people have believed it."

"And lots of people have hunted for the treasure and failed," returned
Kit skeptically.

"Perhaps we won't fail. It's that word 'perhaps' that adds the greatest spice to life. It won't do any harm to spend a little time studying out this sign on the rock. Tomorrow I'll make an accurate copy of it and then we can have it here at home to puzzle over. And if you say so, I'll begin that assessment work on your one claim so that there will be an excuse for being over there so much." Professor Gillette suggested.

"You're a dear! That's an awful good idea! But what about your Indian ruins? You must find them." Bet was anxious for the old man to realize his desire and find the ancient village of the vanished tribe. It meant so much to his crippled daughter.

"That can wait for a little while. This looks as if it might be much more interesting." The professor's wrinkled face was flushed with the excitement of a mystery to be unearthed. "I'll begin tomorrow," he declared as he rose to join Kit and her mother and accompany them home.

Bet's face was radiant. "Here's where the fun begins!" she laughed at the prospect.

But little did Bet realize that the hunting for a treasure was to bring to the girls, not only the most thrilling adventure of their lives, but danger, suspense and fear.

CHAPTER XIV

TREASURE TROVE

To the delight of the girls, the next morning was clear. It had rained in the night and they had been sure that it would storm and they might have to stay at home.

The sun rose pleasantly warm, but the hour was five o'clock and the girls knew that before breakfast time it would be almost unbearably hot.

"But what do we care?" laughed Bet gaily. "We're out for adventure.
Today is the grand and glorious event. We will hunt for treasure."

"Oh, no, we won't," Enid returned decidedly. "You forget that Professor Gillette and Dad decided that it would be better to do the location work on that claim first."

Bet frowned. It was not her way to be patient. At last she said, "Oh, well, if it has to be done, we'll do it. We'll go over early and finish that ten foot hole by noon, then we'll have all afternoon for the treasure."

"Kit said it would take us at the very least, a full week, to do that work," returned Enid.

"Don't be a spoil-sport," pouted Bet. "You don't know anything about it."

But Shirley Williams and Joy Evans both backed up Enid. "Why, Bet, that hole has to be dug through solid rock, almost."

"How stupid!" shrugged Bet.

"If you should dig right into a vein of rich copper ore, you won't think so. Why not have hopes of a mine and forget the treasure?" said Shirley quietly. "Have you given up the idea of being a mine owner?"

"Not exactly. But to tell the truth, 'Orphan Annie' doesn't look very hopeful to me." Bet shook her head dolefully. "Well, it's no use fretting. If that hole has to be dug before we start looking for the treasure, it has to be, that's all."

"Now you're being sensible, Bet. It's just as the professor says, it's wise for us to have a real claim on the land around that tracing. It might be worth something. Perhaps there is a treasure buried there, but it isn't likely." Shirley was not a dreamer and Bet, for the moment, was disgusted. She turned away and left them.

"Let's get breakfast over," called Enid, leading the way toward the dining room. "We'll be pleasing Tang and that's a good start for the day. Then we'll be ready for Kit when she comes."

"Where do we meet the professor?" asked Shirley.

"He'll be waiting for us by the pass into the small canyon. Isn't he a dear to help us out instead of looking for his village? I like him!" declared Bet.

It was only seven o'clock when the girls bade good-bye to Mrs. Breckenridge, listened to her instructions about taking care of themselves, and started down the trail, Kit in the lead.

Although it was twenty minutes before the appointed time, Professor Gillette was waiting for them. On his burro, borrowed for the occasion from Dad Patten, he carried all the tools needed for prospecting.

"You look as if you expected to dig twenty mines," laughed Bet, as she drew up her pony beside the old man.

"Only one," insisted the professor. "At least I hope that is all we will need. But no one can tell for sure."

"I think it is all foolishness anyway," Joy exclaimed. "What we want now is that treasure, and instead of looking for it, you are going to dig a well."

Kit laughed as she always did at Joy's mistakes. "Call it a well if you want to," she said patronizingly, "but don't let Tommy Sharpe or Seedy Saunders hear you say it. They'll tease you unmercifully."

"It's this way, Joy," explained Bet, impatiently. "Kie Wicks might get wise to it, and come in at the end of two months and snap up this claim too, if we haven't done our work. That has to be done within two months."

"Then he'd get the stone with the markings?"

"Yes, that's it. And he might find the treasure, if we don't watch out," added Kit.

"Then let's get to work at once!" cried Joy, digging her spur into
Dolly's side.

"You mean, Professor Gillette will get to work at once while you and the rest of us stand around and look pretty," said Enid.

"Why we don't mean any such a thing, Enid Breckenridge. I'm perfectly willing to work and do my share," snapped Bet, her face red with anger. "I'll not have Professor Gillette imposed on like that."

"We'll all do what we can," soothed Kit. "Although I'm not sure we'll make much headway with the pick and shovel."

"I think we should have a Mexican do the work, girls," said Enid.
"He'd do it in half the time."

"Professor Gillette said it was better not to have anyone else around for a while until we could find out something about this treasure," Bet said. "So we might as well make up our minds to dig right in and work hard."

Once on the site of the claim, the professor unloaded his tools and looked about for a suitable place to put down the ten-foot shaft. His knowledge of mining was not very great but he and Kit finally decided on the best spot.

The old man started in at once, swinging the pick as if it were a hammer. He soon dug away the thin layer of earth and crushed rock, and reached solid stone.

"It's a good thing I brought the drills along!" the professor threw down his pick and took up a drill and heavy hammer.

"Isn't it exciting!" cried Bet. "Do let me try to use the drill.

"All in good time, child, all in good time," he promised her as he adjusted the tool. "This is a two-man job anyway. Somebody has to help me."

Bet crouched down close beside him and held the drill steady while the old man prepared to hit. She glanced up at him, dubiously. The old man laughed.

"Don't know as I blame you any," he said as he twisted a piece of heavy wire about the drill and gave Bet an end to hold. "There, you can steady it with that, so I won't hit your fingers."

"Oh, I wasn't afraid," began Bet but the professor laughed and Bet did not finish her sentence.

"You looked as if you were very much frightened indeed. You were certain I would hit your fingers, and I'm not sure I wouldn't have," he chuckled.

And his first strong blow did miss the drill and the girls, watching him, laughed.

"Gee, if Bet's fingers had been there!" gasped Joy.

"Well, maybe I'd have been more careful if her hand had been there. I never take chances."

While Bet held the drill in place the professor dealt blow after blow until he was ready to drop with exhaustion.

"And some men keep that up all day, I'm told," he gasped as he threw down the tool and dropped to the ground. "I don't believe they do," he added.

"I've seen men keep at it pretty steadily for hours," interrupted Kit, "but they don't go at it so strenuously. You put all your soul and body into it. They don't get excited and they don't wear themselves out with wild flourishes. You see when a prospector has that work to do, he doesn't have to hurry. He has all the time there is."

"To tell you the truth," laughed the professor sheepishly, "I'm so anxious to start looking for the treasure that I don't want to dig this shaft, I'm like a child with a new toy."

"Come here, Kit," called Bet. "You hold this drill for a while and let me swing the hammer. I'm just dying to do it."

"And maybe I'm not glad there is a wire to hold. You'd hit me, sure."

"Don't trust me even yet," Bet returned with a gay laugh.

"That's right, Kit," trilled Joy. "You are only two feet away from her hammer, she might easily miss the mark by that much." Joy was glad of a chance to tease Bet.

Bet swung the hammer with vigor, bringing it down on the drill with a force that seemed impossible from her slender arms.

"Go it, Bet. You'll get there yet," shouted Joy.

Bet was soon worn out and the girls took turns and had the joy of finishing one hole to the required depth for setting the charge.

The professor was bending over the tracings on the rock. He had forgotten all about the location work that had to be done. While the arrow pointed southwesterly and showed the direction in which to look, it pointed over a deserted country that stretched for miles into Mexico.

"If there is anything thrilling about this, I'd like to be shown," pouted Joy. And in sheer boredom she got up, walked to a rocky ledge and scrambled up the steep face of it.

Enid and Shirley, who were watching the professor studying the markings on the rock, heard a cry of surprise from Joy, but before they could turn toward her, they saw her falling, clutching wildly at the ledges in an attempt to save herself.

Joy had turned her head to speak to her friends and had missed her footing. As she touched the ground, her ankle bent under her and she fell with a groan.

Bet ran to her help. "Speak, Joy, speak to me," we said shaking the girl. Joy's face was deathly white but her eyes fluttered open and seeing Bet she cried hysterically:

"I found it! I found it!"

"Found what, Joy? What did you find?"

"Another arrow. Right there on the rock!" Joy was struggling to her feet, but at the attempt she fell back with a groan.

"For the love of Mike, is that all? Why, Joy Evans, you'd get so excited over an arrowhead that you'd lose your footing!" Kit cried. "I thought you had more sense than that."

Between clenched teeth Joy answered, "It wasn't an arrowhead! It was an arrow carved on the rock."

"Don't be silly, Joy. You're dreaming!" laughed Kit.

"If I thought you were just teasing me, Joy, I wouldn't be sorry about your poor foot." Bet stared at the girl with a threatening look. "It isn't nice to tease about things as serious as hidden treasure."

"But the arrow's there," Joy answered.

"Which way did it point?" asked Professor Gillette, the only one who seemed to credit Joy's story.

"Why, really, I don't know. I never thought to notice. I saw an arrow and I think it was pointing toward that hill over there—but then again it might be pointing away from it. I'm not sure." Joy stopped helplessly, and clutched her aching foot.

"You're helpful at least," Kit shrugged her shoulders. "I do believe she's just teasing us. Joy would never find anything!"

"Then go and see for yourself!" snapped Joy.

"I'll do it," replied Bet suddenly letting go of Joy in her excitement.
Joy collapsed with a groan.

Bet turned to help her but Enid shoved her aside. "Here is where I shine. You go and find your arrow and I'll play nurse and fix up Joy's ankle. You're lucky, Joy Evans, that it isn't broken."

"It feels as if it were," sobbed Joy.

"I don't see any arrow," called Bet in a disgusted tone. "Don't be mean, Joy. If there isn't one here, say so."

"Go on, Bet, up a little higher!" cried Joy.

Bet crept along the ledge, climbing from one projection of rock to the next.

There was a sudden cry of joy. "Here it is!"

The professor craned his neck to get a glimpse of the arrow. "Which way does it point, child?" he asked eagerly.

"It points toward the hill, that way," replied Bet, studying the markings carefully.

"That's our good luck. If it went the other way, it would be across the claims of Kie Wicks and his friend Ramon. Come on down, child, before you fall."

Bet slid down easily, her nimble body could cling to the sheer cliff, or so it seemed to those who watched her.

"I think we'll call you the goat girl, Bet, you sure can climb rocks," exclaimed Kit admiringly. "I never could do it."

"And you an Arizona girl?" laughed Bet.

"An Arizona girl only knows how to ride horses," retorted Kit.

"And if they can all ride the way you can, they need no other accomplishment." Bet ran to join the professor.

The old man was examining the ground in the direction the arrow was pointing.

"Who ever would have thought to look up at that rock for an arrow," Bet said excitedly.

"But you see, Bet, we're starting in the middle. Somewhere there's a map that shows all this, and by that map you would know you had to look at that cliff for the arrow," explained the professor seriously.

"But where to next?" asked Bet.

"Follow the arrow, that's all we know," answered Kit.

There was no more digging on the claim that day. Even lunch was eaten by them in a half-hearted way. Joy was suffering with her ankle or she might have done justice to Tang's picnic spread.

The professor was in a delightful dream. This was the sort of thing that he loved.

"Do eat something, Professor Gillette. You'll be sick if you don't," pleaded Bet.

"Why, I'm not hungry in the least. I do wonder why the arrow is pointing that way. There doesn't seem to be a thing in sight."

"Maybe if we climbed the hill, we'd find it," suggested Enid. "Suppose we divide up in teams. Some go over the hill and some hunt on this side."

"Who's going to stay with me? I won't stay alone," cried Joy her voice trembling with fear, "I'm afraid of buzzards. I've read about them. When they see people sick or crippled, they fly around, waiting for them to die. And sometimes they don't wait, they pick at them while they still live."

"Don't worry, Joy. I'll stay with you!" Enid looked longingly toward the hill, then turned to Joy.

The two girls watched the other members of the group, scramble up the steep ledge to the flat-topped hill.

"It's stupid to have to stay here," said Joy with impatience. "Couldn't you help me over there to that wall? There's some low bushes that will keep this horrible sun out of my eyes."

"Let's try it anyway. Come on!" Enid lifted Joy to her feet and supported her. "Now lean on me and just hobble along. Don't put any pressure on that ankle. Hop like a rabbit!"

Joy groaned as she limped along. By resting many times the girls reached the clump of Palo Verde trees, and were glad to drop down in their scant shade. Joy's face was white and strained.

"I know what I'd do if I had my way," announced Enid anxiously. "I'd get you home at once."

"But I won't go. I want to wait for the others."

Enid sat down on the ground beside Joy, crouched under the bushes.
They were close to the wall of the cliff.

"What a funny rock!" said Enid. "I wonder what causes these strange formations. Doesn't that look like an altar? And there is a figure of a man in a long robe. And the professor will tell us that it is all made by the rain."

"Yes," said Joy indifferently. "You know, Enid, I'm tired of this Arizona country. I hate these bare mountains, and I hate the herds of cattle that stare at you and then race madly away. Everything is unfriendly. Yet, I'm almost sure I'll be homesick, like Kit, when I once get away."

"It's glorious!" answered Enid.

"It frightens me. Everything seems cruel. I'd give a dollar this minute to see a soft, green meadow."

"I'm perfectly happy right here, I wouldn't have it different." Enid was gazing over the ranges of mountains that seemed to go on and on.

It was half an hour later when the girls heard Bet's familiar call.

"She's found the treasure!" whispered Enid. "You can hear the happiness in her voice."

But the girls were mistaken. The group had searched high and low but nothing was in sight. The professor had found a bit of old ruin, part of a wall that he claimed was Indian fortification. But that was all. No mounds or signs of a village.

"Why Joy and I found something just as interesting as that," laughed
Enid. "Under the trees here, the wall of that small cliff has the most
peculiar weather markings. Take a look at it, Professor Gillette.
It's interesting."

The professor bent away some of the branches of the trees so as to get a good view of the rock. The girls standing near, heard him give a gasp of astonishment.

"What's the matter now?" asked Bet Baxter.

"Those markings were never made by the weather. They were carved by human hands. And our arrow is pointing straight toward it. I don't understand why we didn't see it before."

"It's the treasure!" exclaimed Bet. "Let's see what's there!"

CHAPTER XV

A SPY

The professor's hand trembled with excitement as he scratched the surface of the rock, tapped the face of the wall for a possible hollow sound, then called on Bet to bring him a pick.

He dug at the base of the wall, but soon came to solid rock.

"There's nothing there!" he exclaimed. "But this is interesting." The desert weeds had grown over all the crevices in the rock, and when the professor had carefully scraped them away, he found what he had hoped for; a small opening. Behind that wall there was a tunnel. As he looked into the darkness, a rattlesnake glided through the hole, and the old man sprang back just in time to save himself.

"That was a close shave!" Wiping his forehead with his handkerchief, Professor Gillette sat down on the rock to decide what the next step would be.

"Guess we'd better call it a day. We are all tired out. We can just get back in time for dinner," said Enid. "And Dad said you were to come home with us, Professor."

"I'd like to consult with the judge," said the old man. "He can give us valuable advice I'm sure." He wouldn't for the world acknowledge that the hot dinner, already prepared, tempted him to accept the invitation.

The girls turned away from the wall, unwillingly. They now felt sure that they were leaving a treasure behind them. And tomorrow seemed so far away!

Bet and Enid helped Joy to hobble along to the edge of the cliff, and Kit hastened down the incline to where they had left the horses near the stream.

"I'll bring Dolly up, that is if she'll climb, the lazy thing!" called Kit as she disappeared. By this time Joy's foot was badly swollen and was giving her acute pain.

Before leaving the wall, the professor had concealed the opening that he had found. As he turned to go he picked up a bit of the rock that he had pried loose.

It was this rock that kept the secret of the tunnel from Ramon Salazar, hidden in the brush of the hill opposite, where he had been set to spy on the girls by Kie Wicks.

He had become rather weary of his job until he saw the professor examining the wall of the cliff, then he braced himself up expectantly, but relaxed again when he saw the old man looking closely at a rock in his hand, which he carried away with him.

"He's found a colored stone that he likes," Ramon said to himself with a sneer of contempt at the professor who was always treasuring the brightly colored mineral specimens.

And it was this report that he carried to Kie Wicks: "They just fooled around, had a picnic, and climbed the hill above the claims. I don't believe they even know you jumped them."

"You mean you jumped their claims," corrected Kie Wicks.

Ramon laughed and slapped his leg. "That's a good one, yes, I jumped their claims."

"And you'd better get busy with the assessment work, too," advised Kie.

"Who pays me for that?" demanded the cross-eyed Mexican.

"There you go again! Always wanting money! I find you some good claims and a chance, maybe, to sell out at a big price in the future, and you want pay for doing the assessment work. You're an ungrateful cur!"

"Then I won't do the work. No pay, no work!"

But even as he spoke, Ramon knew that he would do whatever Kie Wicks asked him to do. The habit of obedience to this man was too strong in him. He had been a tool for this unscrupulous rogue for more than ten years. Just why, he could not have told, for Kie Wicks was not a generous master and the Mexican got little enough for his work. Rarely ever did he get any cash out of the storekeeper, and the supplies that Kie doled out were given grudgingly. Yet the man always returned, after promising himself many times that he was through.

Kie had given him a small shack in the canyon, that had once been used by some friends of his for a summer vacation, and it was this home that sheltered his wife and eight children, which kept the Mexican faithful to Kie.

Ramon had a bad name in the hills. He had tried his hand at every kind of rascality. Cattle had disappeared, horses rustled and Ramon was suspected of knowing more about them than he should. Yet it was Kie Wicks behind him, threatening and driving him on, that made Ramon the character he was.

And while Ramon refused, at first, to go on with the assessment work on the stolen claims, he knew that he would do it in the end, and that Kie would also give him supplies while he was working on the job.

Ramon did not like to meet the girls and perhaps Judge Breckenridge. The professor, he felt, was harmless, a silly old man who roamed through the hills, but the impressive looking judge was a different matter.

Yet the next morning when the professor arrived with the girls, Ramon was digging away at the farthest claim, and did not even look up.

"Guilty conscience!" whispered Bet to the professor.

"He complicates matters considerably," frowned the old man. "I hardly know how we are going to proceed, if he stays around here."

"With Ramon watching, the only thing to do was to go on with the drilling on the Orphan Annie claim. Bet fumed and fussed, scolding anyone who came near her. She insisted on being the professor's helper, holding the drill in place with the strong wire while he hammered. This gave her an audience and was an outlet for her anger against Kie Wicks and his Mexican hanger-on.

"Take it easy, child. There's lots of time to find that treasure—that is if there is one. We don't need it right away, you know," soothed the professor.

But it took Bet a long time to regain her poise. The other girls had recovered from their disappointment and were trying to make friends with the Mexican before Bet would even smile.

"I do wish we could tell which of us he's talking to. His eyes are so crooked they overlap," whispered Enid to Bet. The Mexican did not want to make friends with the girls. He answered a few words to their questions then went moodily on with his work. But not for long. Without a master over him, the man grew lazy and before the morning was far advanced he had disappeared in the canyon.

"I thought he'd get tired of it," smiled Kit. "A Mexican miner has to have someone to keep him on the job. And I don't believe that Kie Wicks will spend much time over here."

Ramon was no sooner out of sight than the professor dropped the drill and they rushed for the wall to begin digging there. They had just started to work when Judge Breckenridge rode up.

"Let's have a look at that treasure tunnel, Professor," greeted the
Judge with a laugh. "How much bullion have you found?"

"Not any yet, but who knows?" returned the old man, his eyes shining with excitement.

"Stranger things have happened!" The Judge followed the girls and looked at the wall. "Well, well," he exclaimed, "this certainly looks interesting."

The professor had already begun to pick away the crumbling rock at the small opening, and found that they had hit upon the spot where the mouth of the tunnel had been filled up. After half an hour's work he had opened it sufficiently to look in. Using a flashlight, he could see that the tunnel was very shallow, another wall confronted him and this appeared to be the solid rock of the mountain.

He was about to give up when he noticed a peculiar stone on the floor of the tunnel, or what appeared to be a stone. With the pick he dragged it forward and was able to reach it. Drawing it forth, he stood before the Judge with glowing face.

"See this!" he exclaimed excitedly. "This comes up to any story of buried treasure that I've ever read in my life." He displayed his find, a tiny disc of copper and on it were engraved strange figures and signs. They had no meaning to the group of people that stood about the tunnel. But that little copper plate was telling a story, of that there could be no doubt.

"What do you think of it?" the professor gasped in a hoarse whisper. The old man was almost too excited to speak. He made several attempts then gave up, but he held the disc as if it were a jewel.

"Let's sit down away over here and have a look at it," the Judge suggested. "And if anyone is spying on us, he'll not be apt to suspect anything."

Judge Breckenridge examined the disc carefully then spoke.

"Now there is a possibility—a slight one, we'll say, that there is a treasure in that vault somewhere. Do you think your friend Ramon is suspicious?"

"It's hard to say," Kit burst out. "Kie Wicks may be watching us this minute from over the hill across the canyon."

"We will want to carry on the work as quietly as possible, but if Kie hears about a treasure, we'll not have a minute's peace," said the Judge, rising and surveying the ground. "The first thing we ought to do," he continued, "is to stake out a claim covering this wall. Then we'll own it."

"Yes, and have Kie Jump that claim, if he is watching us." Bet shrugged her boyish shoulders.

"We'll get ahead of him on that. We'll stake the claim and I'll send a man over to record it first thing in the morning, and tonight we'll have a watchman—two in fact. We'll not leave the tunnel unguarded for a minute until we find out what it contains."

"Oh, please, Judge, let us guard it!" cried Bet.

"No!" There was a harsh, decided ring in the Judge's voice and the girls did not urge him further. That "no" meant exactly that.

"I think it might be a good idea for me to go back to the ranch and get Tommy and some of the boys to move the professor's tent up here and Tommy and Seedy Saunders might stay for a few nights to guard your claims. You'll have all the excitement there is in it, even if there is no treasure."

Bet flared up at once. "We're not so silly as to want excitement and nothing else. We want the treasure now that we have started out to find one. Nothing else will do."

The Judge laughed as he mounted his horse and rode down the trail.

But when he returned to the ranch and informed the boys what he wanted, he was met with roars of laughter.

"You want us to guard a buried treasure! That's a good one!" said
Seedy Saunders, the old cowboy who was now staying with Judge
Breckenridge. "Let Tommy do it! He has a treasure map in his shack
that he paid five dollars for. He'd love to do it!"

However, when the cowboys heard how much it meant to the girls to have the tunnel guarded against Kie Wicks, they entered into the spirit of it, and even though they laughed and joked, they carried out the Judge's instructions.

They moved all the professor's belongings over the mountain, and took another tent and cots for themselves.

"There just naturally has to be two of us," insisted Seedy. "We'd be scared stiff to sleep alone there, even with the professor."

"Which are you scared of?" laughed Tommy Sharpe. "Kie Wicks or the ghost of the Indian Chief's daughter?"

"Both," returned Seedy pretending to shake with fright. "But I'm mostly scared of that there ghost that walks."

The boys were hilarious as they unpacked their stuff at the Orphan
Annie claim.

"By rights we ought to camp in the canyon, we'll have to pack all the water up the hill," suggested Tommy.

"You'll camp right at the mouth of that tunnel, boy!" insisted Enid, and there was something of Tilly the Waif in her command. Tommy looked up at her quickly, then burst into laughter.

"Yes'm," he said meekly with a twinkle in his eye. "I obey!"

They had the tents pitched and the girls were arranging the beds and making them cozy when Judge Breckenridge returned, with a boy driving a burro loaded with provisions.

In his hand he held something white which he waved as he came up the mountain?

"It's a letter!" exclaimed Bet. "I hope it's from my Dad. I haven't had a letter for a week."

"It's a letter for me," announced the Judge, "but it may contain news that will please you. The boys will arrive this week. Phil and Bob are going to join us."

A shout went up and echoed through the hills.

Tommy gave an Indian war-whoop and the girls danced about, hugging each other in their joy.

"Won't it be good to see them!" exclaimed Bet.

"Is Paul coming with them?" asked Enid. "I'm homesick for my brother," she murmured with a happy sigh.

"Yes, the three boys will come together by airplane to Phoenix," said the Judge.

"By airplane!" echoed Bet Baxter. "If they don't let me go up with them, I'll never speak to them again, never. I want to fly!"

The hunting for treasure took second place now. The coming of their friends was more important than anything else.

"You know," said Kit solemnly, "we shouldn't get so fond of those boys.
We'll spoil them."

"I've never seen any spoiling!" Billy Patten had helped Judge Breckenridge bring over the supplies, and now confronted Kit. "Don't pretend you're soft-hearted, for you're not."

Kit laughed at her teasing brother and with a wave of her hand pushed him aside. "Children should be seen and not heard," she said.

"What did Joy say when you told her that Bob was coming?" asked Bet.

"She shed a few tears; perhaps she was afraid she would miss all the fun with her sprained ankle."

"She's in luck if she only knew it," laughed Enid. "A girl with a sprained ankle will just appeal to the sympathy of those boys. Joy will be the center of the stage."

"And won't she love it?" chuckled Kit.

With many final instructions to the boys to guard the tunnel, the girls mounted their horses and hurried toward home, their faces glowing with joy.

From the mountain opposite, where Ramon had watched the previous day, Kie Wicks was on guard. He saw the preparations for camping at the claims and wondered what it was all about.

His eyes narrowed to pin-points when he saw the professor examining the wall of the cliff.

"What's he got there?" he muttered to himself. "But he can't put anything over on me. If I could get my hands on Ramon, I'd teach him to do as I tell him. If he had stuck around, I'd know what all this fuss is about."

But that was all that Kie was to know for some days. He watched by the hour, he questioned every man, woman and child he met, but the professor and his men were not talking. The location work on the Orphan Annie claim and the digging of a tunnel seemed to be their only interest.

Kie noticed that a monument had been built to cover the claim where the tunnel was being driven and smiled to himself. "These city fellows think they've got a mine with a couple of claims. They've got a lot to learn!"

The secret had to come out, of course. And when Kie Wicks heard it a few days later, he was wild with fury.

"Digging for treasure, are they?" he snorted. "I'll get them yet, those two-faced, underhanded robbers. They haven't got no business in these mountains. I'll show them!"

"If they've found a treasure, it's mine! I've hunted for it for years! I'll get it somehow!" Kie Wicks was almost beside himself with rage when he reached the store and told his discovery to Maude.

"Oh, maybe it's not the treasure," Maude tried to soothe the angry man.
"Come eat your supper."

But Kie was too unhappy to eat. He glared about the cheerless kitchen and did not seem to see anything. He stared moodily. Finally he rose and went outside, grumbling like a spoiled child.

He sat for a long time, his head in his hands, not looking up to greet his customers.

"What's the matter with the old man?" inquired a neighbor. "'T ain't often you see Kie Wicks sick or under the weather."

"Somebody's stolen some property from him, and he's thinkin' out a way to get even. Let him alone," counselled Maude. "The more down he seems, the better schemes he can think up. And this one will be a dandy. He ain't eat a bite and he won't talk." Maude seemed quite elated.

It was not until some hours later that Kie came to life once more and demanded his supper. On his face was a determined scowl, as if he were ready to challenge the whole world. As he went into the store he was whistling cheerfully.

Maude smiled at him. But no words were exchanged. That smile expressed everything. Kie had a scheme, a big one, and Maude could afford to wait until he was ready to tell her what it was all about.

Meanwhile on the hill near Orphan Annie, the professor was dreaming of Indian villages and treasure, and with the two watchmen beside him, had no uneasiness.

CHAPTER XVI

MISSING

The boys were still asleep the next morning when the professor got up quietly and went into the canyon for a dip in the creek.

He wandered up the stream a short distance and was surprised to see a saddle horse standing dejectedly on the trail. The next moment Kie Wicks had hailed him genially from the cliff above.

"Say pard," he called. "Last night when I was going home over the hill here, I found what looks like the ruins of an Indian village. Do you want to take a look at them?"

"How far away is it?" asked the professor. "The boys are camping over there with me, so I'd better go back and tell them where I'm going.

"It won't take you ten minutes, my friend," Kie answered. "You'll be back before they have breakfast ready." Kie descended the steep mountain and leading his horse, he urged the professor on with a description of the marvelous ruins that he had discovered. Professor Gillette was almost wild with excitement. He fairly danced from boulder to boulder along that rocky trail, and when they reached a narrow pass between the high canyon walls, Kie stopped his horse for a moment.

At that same instant two men suddenly sprang into the trail in front of them, grabbed the unsuspecting professor, bound and gagged him and tied him to a horse.

Professor Gillette could not imagine why he should be treated like this. Why should he be robbed? He had nothing. And where was Kie Wicks? Had the men kidnapped him as well? It took the kindly mind of the professor a long time to grasp the idea that Kie Wicks might have something to do with the affair.

The old man did not struggle as he had an impulse to do. He knew it would be useless. The men were powerful, while he was frail, and helpless in their hands. It would be much better for him to save his strength so that his mind could work out a scheme for escape.

He was not the sort of person to waste energy in worry. He believed that nothing could harm him, and he lay quietly in the uncomfortable position on the horse, wondering where he was going and how long they would hold him captive. What would The Merriweather Girls do when they heard about it? He had to smile at the thought of the adventure they would make of it. Yet perhaps it was nothing to smile about. He might never return alive.

The boys did not miss the old man until breakfast was ready. They knew that it was his custom to start the day with a dip in the stream and so they went on with their breakfast preparations without giving him a thought. Finally they sat down and started to eat.

Still the professor did not come.

Tommy Sharpe called him from the summit of the cliff, waited, and called again many times. But there was no answer.

"Guess you'd better take a walk down there and see what's keeping the old chap," advised Seedy Saunders. "He never goes far away without his breakfast."

Tommy returned in a few minutes without seeing anything of the professor. He said: "I saw tracks going up the creek and there are fresh hoof prints, but that doesn't tell a thing."

"Oh, he's all right. I won't worry about him," laughed Seedy. "I can just see his face if he thought we imagined he was lost. He's such an independent old fellow, he'd be displeased."

Nine o'clock came and still the professor did not make his appearance. The boys each took turns in riding down the creek and calling, but when the girls arrived at ten, the missing man had not returned. He had not been to the ranch and the girls had seen nothing of him.

"Something has happened!" exclaimed Bet anxiously. "The professor isn't the sort of man to wander away like a lost soul. He's too interested in this treasure to leave it for a minute. Some enemy is at work."

"Melodrama from the movies," laughed Kit. "Bet is bound she's going to have some western bad man stuff."

"Don't be silly, Bet," said Enid impatiently. "Our old professor hasn't got an enemy in the world."

"Hasn't he? How do you know? Just suppose Kie Wicks found out about the treasure. He'd want to get rid of the professor first thing."

"That's an idea, Bet," replied Enid, suddenly growing excited. "I never thought of Kie."

"But what good would it do him to get rid of the professor?" asked the sensible Shirley. "Kie Wicks knows we are all backing the old man, so what would be the use of making away with him?"

"That's true," agreed Bet with a puzzled frown. "If I thought that Kie
Wicks had a hand in this I'd… I'd…."

"What would you do, Bet?" asked Shirley.

"I'd tell him right to his face what I think of him."

"Heaps of good that would do," Kit shrugged. "Kie has heard about himself from lots of people."

But Kie Wicks' scheme worked out just as he planned. In their anxiety over the professor's disappearance, the treasure was left unguarded and when the girls returned to the camp, they were confronted with guns held in the hands of two burly ruffians, swarthy, heavy giants who terrified them by their looks.

The four girls wasted no time in that neighborhood. They raced their horses into the canyon and were heading toward the ranch.

"Say, what's the matter with The Merriweather Girls?" cried Bet, bringing her horse up sharply. "We're letting two cowardly ruffians frighten us away. I'm going back this minute."

"You are not, Bet Baxter! Father would be frightfully angry if you do.
He trusts us not to take any big risks. I know he wouldn't want us to
go back where those men are." Enid put her hand on Bet's shoulder.
"Come on, Bet, be good!"

"But are we going to let those fellows get our treasure?" Bet cried hysterically. "No, I won't run away! I'm going straight back there and tell them what I think of them."

Shirley laughed quietly. "What's the use, Bet. They probably know more mean things about themselves than you can tell them. They're like Kie Wicks."

But Bet was stubborn. She hated to give up.

"I won't go home! I'm going to stay right here for the present and think out a plan."

And it was there that Judge Breckenridge found them, heard their story and commanded them to return to the ranch house without any delay.

Judge Breckenridge's word was law. Bet turned her horse's head down the canyon toward the home trail, her eyes flashing dangerously. She muttered:

"To think of being sent home when the excitement gets good! Oh, I wish
I were a boy!"

"Well, since we have to go, let's hurry and have the fun of telling it all to Joy."

But Joy and Mrs. Breckenridge were a disappointment. They did not thrill to the danger, as Bet did. They were decidedly angry and afraid.

"You must never go into that canyon again while you are here!" exclaimed Mrs. Breckenridge.

"Please don't put that down as an order! That would be a tragedy. I don't believe that even the Judge would be willing to deprive us of that joy." Bet's voice was pleading.

"All right, dear, I'll take back the order and will leave it entirely to the Judge. But you must abide by his decision, that I insist upon."

"We will," said Bet. "I hope he'll be a good sport about it. I want to know what's going on."

Mrs. Breckenridge walked up and down the corridor in an anxious manner. She had been gaining strength so rapidly in the mountains that she had even threatened to try horseback riding. But the Judge had put her off. He wanted to be certain that the trial would be a success.

"I'm glad I wasn't with you, today, I'd have screamed," said Joy. "I know I would."

"That's probably what those bandits wanted. To scare us so we wouldn't go back. I hate to have them get away with it."

At noon when the men returned to lunch, they had no good report. Although they had hunted the hills for miles, not a trace of the professor had been found. He had disappeared.

Before lunch was over Kie Wicks appeared at the ranch house. "I just heard of the old man being lost, so Maude wanted me to come right over and join the search party. I think a lot of the professor and want to do my bit."

Bet looked at the man in astonishment.

"I would never have believed it," she whispered to Kit. "It just shows how we misjudge a person. I thought he would be the last man in the world to appeal to for help, and here he comes of his own free will and offers it."

"People always have some good in them."

Joy shook her head. "From the first I hated that man and feared him."

"And now you see, Joy Evans, how mistaken you were. He's a good man at heart," exclaimed Bet.

But Kit was skeptical. "I wish I could believe it. I feel as if I were playing with a rattlesnake. He's treacherous! I think we'd better watch our step."

"Of course, I know that Kie Wicks is unscrupulous in the matter of jumping claims, but you see he has a human side after all. He seems quite cut up about the professor being lost," Bet interrupted.

"And did you notice how indignant he was over the ruffians at the claim? I believe he'll help us to get rid of them," said Enid confidently.

"But those men didn't do a thing worse than Kie Wicks! Not half as bad, for they were open and above board. They pointed guns on us and Kie sneaked up after dark and stole our papers. No, girls, his change of heart is altogether too sudden to be sincere. Keep an eye on him!" advised Kit.

Whether the men at the ranch believed in Kie's innocence or not, they accepted his offer of help and let him organize the searchers.

"Let's go over and see what Ramon Salazar is up to. He's a scoundrel and looks it. Maybe he knows something about your old man," suggested Kie.

"Can't we go, too?" begged the girls. The judge was about to object, but when he saw the look of disappointment in Bet's face, he changed his mind.

"Why, it's all right, I think. I don't see that there will be any danger if you stay with me."

Bet ran for her horse. "Come on, girls, let's go!"

The group divided into two sections. The judge and the girls and Tommy went under Kie Wicks' leadership. Tommy was very contemptuous at the idea of help from Kie, but he followed without any remarks, deciding that the man needed watching. And that job would be his!

Instead of being offended at the arrival of a searching party, Ramon Salazar seemed to welcome them and even his wife acted as if she had been expecting a visit.

"Take a look around, folks," said Kie Wicks as he himself opened a door and looked into a bed room, littered with mattresses and soiled blankets.

"He ain't here," said Kie. "I didn't more than half think he was. But you never can be sure unless you take a look."

Bet caught a quick glance of understanding between the two men, but in the next second decided that it was a glance of approval.

"They're up to some mischief," whispered Kit in Shirley's ear. "I don't trust that Kie Wicks and he is altogether too sugary today to suit me. But don't say a word to Bet. She will flare up and then we won't be able to watch him."

Shirley agreed with Kit, who knew Kie Wicks better than the others.

Tommy was watching the two men, his nerves keyed up and every sense alert to the slightest movement of the men. He had noted the quick look between Kie and the Mexican and felt sure that it was a danger signal. It conveyed a message. Not for a second did the boy doubt that Kie and Ramon knew where the professor was.

The boy was angry clean through, but he held his temper under control. Only in that way could he keep in touch with these rascals and watch them. Sometime he would catch them off their guard.

Ramon joined this group of searchers and made some suggestions as to possible places to look.

"What we ought to do is to round up them fellows at the tunnel and make 'em talk. They probably killed the old man and threw his body over a cliff." It was Ramon who spoke.

Kie Wicks looked startled. He had not told Ramon that the men at the claim were being paid by him. He frowned toward the Mexican, then his face relaxed suddenly. "Now that's an idea, too," he said. "Only I should think it might be just as well to leave them in possession until we find the professor. Someone has to stay there and we need all the men we have to hunt for the old man."

"I think you're right, Mr. Wicks," agreed Bet.

Kit looked her disgust. To herself she was thinking, "I never would have believed that Bet could be such a tenderfoot. To let Kie Wicks pull the wool over her eyes like that! She certainly is an easy mark!"

But Bet was not such an easy mark as Kit imagined. She had figured it out that it would take days for the men to dig their way to the treasure and by that time they could find their old friend and then form a party to drive the ruffians away from the tunnel.

An hour later, when they were returning to camp, Kit pointed up over one of the small mountains. "Bet, I'll take a short cut with you. The trail over that hill leads into Lost Canyon. Let's go and beat them home. Who's coming?"

"I am!" exclaimed Bet turning her horse's head toward the up grade.

"I'll stay with Dad," called Enid.

"And so will I!" Shirley held her horse toward the canyon trail.

"Wise girls!" smiled the Judge. "You know good company when you have it."

Kit waved her sombrero as they reached the summit and disappeared over the ridge. But once on the other side, Kit was not so sure that she knew the way. "This doesn't look like the trail that leads into Lost Canyon, after all, Bet. Do you think we'd better go back?"

"I should say not. I'd love to get lost in the hills with you, Kit."

"Oh, we're all right, only I'm not sure that we will save any time.
They'll probably get home first, if we go this way," returned Kit.
"I'm not lost, I've been here before, but I just got mixed up. Lost
Canyon is over the next ridge."

"It's all right with me, let's keep on."

The girls rode for an hour, and still Kit declared that they had not reached Lost Canyon.

"Are you afraid, Kit?" asked Bet, as she looked at her friend's frowning face.

"No, of course not, only I'm disgusted that I made such a mistake. Let's climb to the ridge there and look around, then I'll know in a minute where I am."

The girls urged their horses up the steep trail. Kit was ahead and as she reached the summit she signalled Bet frantically to stop. Sliding from her saddle she ran back.

"We're coming out right by the tunnel, I see the two ruffians."

The girls crept along, keeping out of sight of the camp.

But suddenly Bet grabbed Kit by the arm. The men were descending the trail to the creek, leaving the tunnel unguarded.

The girls did not wait to think whether they were wise or not. They ran forward. Two shotguns lay on the ground. The men had taken off their belts. They were in the canyon unarmed.

Bet choked with delight. "Here's where we get the drop on them," she laughed. "I'll be a regular wild westerner."

"Don't do anything rash, Bet," advised Kit anxiously as she watched her friend's flushed face.

"Trust me!" Bet picked up a weapon and held it awkwardly in her hand. It was the first time she had handled a loaded gun and it gave her a thrill.

"Can you shoot, Bet?" asked Kit. "Do you know enough to pull the trigger?"

"No, I don't know a thing about it, I'll have to put up a bluff!"

When they heard a step on the trail. Bet aimed her gun.

"Hands up!" ordered Bet and there was no sign of fear in her voice.

The ruffians raised their hands high in the air, but the foremost one smiled.

Bet's anger rose. "Don't come a step nearer! And don't fool yourself!
We know how to shoot—and shoot to kill!"

Kit wanted to laugh, for Bet was repeating word for word what she had read only a few days before in a western story.

But Bet's next question was her own. "How much is Kie Wicks paying you for this job?" she asked.

One man started to take a step forward, but Bet's gun menaced him.

"Stand right where you are! Not a step nearer! Answer my question!"

"Five dollars apiece!" growled the second man. "'T ain't enough!"

"Of course it isn't. He short-changed you. The job is worth twice as much," said Bet indignantly.

The men looked pleased.

"We got a five spot between us for catching the old man and tying him up. And we are to get five each for this."

"Your master isn't very generous. Do you often work for Kie Wicks?" asked Bet.

"No, we never saw him before. We were just passing through the country. We went broke and he offered us this job."

"Where are you going from here?" demanded the girl.

"El Paso is home, and we want to work our way toward there," answered the man who had done all the talking.

"Suppose I was to offer you ten apiece, would you get away from here and not come back? In fact it wouldn't be good for you to come back where Kie Wicks could take a shot at you."

"We'd not stick around, honest we wouldn't. By night we'd be at the nearest railroad station." Both men made a motion to come toward the girls but were stopped by Bet's menacing weapon.

"All right, go to the edge of the cliff there, and stand with your backs to us. If you dare to turn around, you'll be dead men."

The ruffians backed away for a few feet, then turned and walked to the cliff.

"Halt!" shouted Bet, and the men stood still.

"Now Kit, you hold the gun on them and I'll get the money. That's one thing Dad has always insisted on that I keep a little money fastened to me, when I'm away from home." She fumbled in her dress and brought forth a small roll of bills.

With Kit protecting her, Bet walked toward the cliff, and when she got to within ten feet from the men she put the money on the ground, and made a second trip, hauling their packs to the same spot.

When her gun was once more levelled at the ruffians, she ordered: "Turn around!"

The men wasted no time in obeying. They turned.

"Now walk slowly and get your money and belongings. If you run, you drop!"

The men grabbed their money and hastened back to their position on the cliff, as if they were anxious to put distance between themselves and the shotguns.

"Now go, and go quickly! Kie Wicks is due over this way in half an hour and if he finds you gone and us in charge, he's going to send a posse after you!"

The men hastened down the trail. They saddled and mounted their horses, with the shotguns pointed in their direction.

From the opposite end of the canyon two riders were coming nearer, and the ruffians galloped their horses to get out of the way.

Kit and Bet recognized Seedy Saunders and Billy Patten, who had gone out by themselves to search for the professor.

They answered Kit's hail and raced their horses up the grade.

By the time they reached the summit, Bet and Kit were almost hysterical from laughing. Bet put the gun down gingerly. "I wonder what I would have done, if they had called my bluff!" she exclaimed.

"Oh, boys, if you could only have heard her," shrieked Kit, at last getting her breath. "You'd have thought she had just stepped out of a western two-gun story, the way she threatened those men, it's a wonder they didn't see through her. And she hardly knows how to hold the gun. It was a scream!"

"I don't believe I'd enjoy that sort of thing for regular work," laughed Bet. "I guess I don't like to give orders that much."

But the two ruffians, hastening toward the railroad station thirty miles away, never dreamed that the girl who menaced them so daringly, had never pulled a trigger.

"We're lucky to be out of it," they agreed. "Girls have a way of always making trouble and getting their own way!"

CHAPTER XVII

INDIAN TRADING

Much to the disgust of Tommy Sharpe, Kie Wicks was a guest at the Judge's table that day. Kie was beaming with self-satisfaction. He felt that he had put over a good deal and could afford to be genial.

Kie's plan was to let the ruffians hold the claim until he could make arrangements to put men to work and dig out the treasure in the tunnel. Kie did not doubt for a moment that the treasure was there. And tonight he intended to investigate and see how much needed to be done. If he could handle it alone, so much the better.

Kit and Bet arrived when the meal was half finished and pretended to be hurt at the teasing that they encountered. They decided to wait until the family was alone before saying anything about the capture of the tunnel. Kie might get ugly and actually harm the old man.

"Saw your playmate, Young Mary, coming up the canyon today," said Kie, glad of some new excitement for the girls, to take their minds off the professor for a while.

"Oh, is Mary home?" cried Kit happily. "I do want to see her!"

"Yes, Young Mary is here with a dozen other Indians of all sizes and shapes," grinned Kie. "They sure are a funny looking crowd."

Kit herself might have made the same remark, but coming from Kie, she resented it.

"Where are they?" exclaimed Bet. "I'll pay them a visit. Do you think they will make some baskets for me?"

"You can never tell a thing about them. If they need money, they will, but like as not they'll refuse. This is their vacation, they come up every year to pick mesquite beans and piñon nuts," Kit informed them.

"Let's go down right after lunch and see them," proposed the girls, but
Kit hesitated.

"We might frighten them away if we are too anxious," she said.
"Indians are very shy."

"I'll say they are," smiled Tommy. "And about as friendly as a block of ice."

"Why Tommy Sharpe, how can you say such a thing? There's Old Mary and Indian Joe, they are the most friendly people in the world. There isn't anything they wouldn't do for Mum and Dad and me. And they think you're a great man!" Kit defended them.

"Old Mary and Joe are altogether different. Indian Joe is just like a white man!" answered Tommy.

"And good as gold!" emphasized Kit.

"The only good Indian is a dead Indian," Kie Wicks exclaimed dramatically.

Kit flared up, but Bet soothed her.

"Remember we are already even with Kie Wicks," she whispered.

Kit nodded her head. "Just the same I don't like to hear Indians talked about like that. It always makes me angry."

After lunch, much to the joy of Kie Wicks, the girls decided to walk down into the canyon and see the Indians.

Kit ran home first, for she was sure that she would find Young Mary there, and she wanted to see the girl alone. With the other girls she might be shy.

So it was Bet who called the Judge aside, to a safe distance, from Kie
Wicks' eager ears, and told him of the capture of the tunnel.

"And those fellows said that Kie put them up to it and that it is Kie who took the old man. He's safe, they said, but I'm not so sure about that."

"I wouldn't worry about him. Kie Wicks has no reason to harm the professor," declared Judge Breckenridge. "Now I'll tell you what we'd better do. You and the girls go along down the trail and visit the Indian camp. That is evidently what Kie wants you to do. I'll send Tommy over to the tunnel with two men to start the excavation work and maybe by the time we get the professor back, we'll have something to show him. Who knows, Bet? Sometimes I'm half hopeful, although my common sense tells me there isn't anything there."

"Don't use so much common sense, Judge. It's lots of fun to dream. I wish Dad were here, he'd love this. He'd have the whole thing worked out, he'd be able to see the Spaniards who buried the treasure and all the rest of it. Dad's wonderful!"

"He is, Bet. I agree with you, and I wish that he would make us a visit, he half promised, you know."

"Yes, but in his last letter he said he'd not be able to come," Bet added with a sigh, for the separation from her father was a trial to the motherless girl.

"All right, now you run along and don't say anything to the girls—not yet. Make a lot of fuss about going to see the Indians and pretend you're crazy about them."

"I don't have to pretend that, I am crazy to see them. Oh, I do hope they will like me and want to be friends."

The Judge laughed at the girl's enthusiasm.

"They will, Bet, they can't help themselves, if they are human at all."

Bet turned away without noticing the delicate compliment that the Judge had paid her. In her heart she was really concerned for fear she might not be able to get on friendly terms with the Indians.

Judge Breckenridge joined Kie Wicks and his party, after giving instructions to Tommy Sharpe, and he followed Kie on what he knew to be a "wild goose chase." Kie flattered himself that he was being very clever in keeping the searchers away from the old man.

The girls waited impatiently for Kit. "I do wish she would hurry," fussed Bet. "What's keeping her?"

"Maybe she found Young Mary there, as she hoped, and as it's been such a long time since they've seen each other, they'll need to do a lot of talking to make up for lost time."

But Kit's meeting with her Indian friend was very different from what the girls pictured.

Even Kit was surprised and a little hurt at the lack of interest in her childhood friend.

The Indian girl was already dressed in the bright silk gown that Kit had brought her. Kit caught the girl in her arms and squeezed her tight. But Young Mary was as rigid as a post. Not by word or sign did she betray the fact that she was glad to see Kit.

But Kit understood. She saw a bright light in Mary's eyes and was satisfied.

"Why Mary, you're a beauty in that dress. I want you to come over and meet my friends."

Mary shook her head. She was already gliding away toward the canyon where the Indians were camped by the stream. They had chosen the same spot that the professor had used for a camping site.

And when Kit joined the group of Indians by the side of the creek she realized that Mary was now a grown-up Indian woman. She did not run or dance about any more, but seated herself with the squaws and seemed happy.

Mary had returned to her people. There was no doubt about it. She would never again be the chum of the white girl. There were times when Kit felt angry; it seemed like a reflection on herself, on her loyalty.

The girls watched with amusement Young Mary's pride in her new dress. There was a buzz of unintelligible comments from the squaws as they pressed about the girl, fingering the material and patting the silk.

Kit learned before long why Mary was so preoccupied with herself. She was in love. In love with a man of her own race.

Old Mary shrugged her shoulders and grunted her disapproval.

But in spite of her shrugs, the older woman was proud. Young Mary was making a good choice. Andreas was a fine young Indian. He had a farm of his own on the San Pablo. They were both young and could work and would have many children to bless them.

As Kit had prophesied, the Indian women were not interested in basket weaving. They shook their heads vehemently. Then at Bet's proposal that they sell her some that were already made, the ones they carried along, their heads shook more than ever and their grunts and frowns were decisive. Kit translated it to the girls as a flat refusal. Flat refusals always spurred Bet on to further efforts.

"I'll get those baskets yet," she declared. "I want them. What's more
I've got an idea."

"Go ahead Bet and dream your little dream. You never dealt with an 'injun' before. Now you've met your Waterloo." Kit laughed. At heart she was rather pleased to see Bet go up against a losing proposition for once.

Bet tossed her head impudently at her friend but made no answer. The determination in her glance proved that she had not given up the struggle.

And late in the afternoon when the girls again walked down the canyon, Bet was decked out in such brightly colored beads that she might have been mistaken for an Indian girl herself. Strings of red, blue, amber, green and orange encircled her neck.

"What are you trying to do, Bet?" exclaimed Shirley with a laugh. "Are you trying to show off in front of the squaws to make them jealous?"

Enid laughingly began to count the strings.

"Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like this," Kit interrupted.

"Oh, keep quiet, all of you! I can wear as many strings of beads as I want to. It's the latest style," she retorted with a grimace. "I have an object in wearing them."

"It's a bribe to get those baskets!" cried Kit delightedly. "And maybe you will, at that. Your methods are sound and business-like. I thought you'd met your match, but now I'm inclined to think they have."

They were nearing the Indian camp and Bet noticed with pleasure the surprised glances of the squaws. They did not look at the other girls. Bet was the center of attraction.

Finally one Indian woman drew near and put out a brown finger to touch the bright objects. Bet smiled and waited. "You like beads?" she asked.

The squaw nodded and was joined by another one. Soon Bet was surrounded. "You want them?" There were as many grunts of acceptance as there were women there.

"You sell me some baskets?" asked Bet. "Then you can have the beads."

The squaws looked at each other then back at the bright beads. They sidled away, without a word.

Bet's heart stood still. She had lost! Kit's eyes were shining with triumph.

But only for a moment. The Indian women were busily at work emptying the contents of their baskets into blankets. They were evidently preparing to give her the best they had. Bet got several small jar-like baskets besides two large ones that were used to carry things on their saddles.

They looked on in surprise when Bet paid them a good price for their baskets and passed over the strings of beads as well.

There was a chorus of grunts and Kit again translated. The squaws were congratulating themselves on their bargain. They were more than satisfied. "I've known Indians all my life," Kit whispered to the girls, "but I've never before seen them so pleased about anything! You win, Bet!"

"I certainly do, Kit Patten. Come on, girls, lend a hand and let's get these baskets home before they change their minds."

As they were going up the trail toward the ranch, Young Mary suddenly appeared from a thicket of Palo Verde.

"Kit," she said softly.

Kit turned as if she had been shot. "Mary," she answered uneasily.
"What's the matter?"

Kit ran to the girl who now hesitated as if she were addressing a stranger. Then suddenly, with what appeared to be an effort, she whispered: "Your old man! He's in the hut over in Rattlesnake Creek, and he's being guarded by some bad Indians from down the valley. Be careful!"

And before Kit could stop her to ask any more questions, the Indian girl glided away as softly as she had come.

CHAPTER XVIII

THE OLD CHIEF'S DAUGHTER WALKS

"If the professor is really hidden in that hut, perhaps we can get him tonight," exclaimed Bet Baxter, as she swung up the trail carrying her Indian baskets.

"I wish we could find him before tomorrow afternoon when the boys come," said Enid. "It would be nice to give the boys our full attention."

"You'll spoil them if you do," Shirley responded.

Bet was quiet the rest of the way home. Thoughts of the professor kept crowding into her mind, schemes for his release; these things demanded her attention. Kit spoke to her three times without getting an answer, then with a smile turned to her chums.

"Bet is trying to solve a problem. She is never this way unless she is making plans of some sort."

By the time they reached the ranch house, Bet's eyes were glowing in an absent-minded way and she passed Ma Patten in the patio without speaking.

She was so intent on the problem that was bothering her that she stood staring at her father a long time before she recognized him, then with a cry she threw herself into his arms.

"Oh Daddy! I've been so lonesome for you! How did you get here and when did you come?"

"Easy, girl, or you'll choke on all those questions," laughed Colonel
Baxter. "I just arrived an hour ago, and I would have let you know if
I'd been sure that I could come. And then at the end, I decided to
surprise you. Are you glad?"

Bet laughed happily, her blue eyes glowing now with a very different light. There was snap and joy in them as she held tightly to her father's hand.

In her joy at seeing her father she had not paid any attention to what the other girls were doing. Now as she heard the sound of happy voices she turned and saw the boys, Phil and Bob and Paul.

"Oh, you boys! Why we didn't expect you until tomorrow afternoon," she said, extending her hand to Phil Gordon.

"If you don't want to see us tonight, perhaps we could go back and sit in the station at Benito."

"Don't be silly, Bob Evans. You're just the same as ever." Bet laughed as she always did at Bob.

"What did you expect me to do in three weeks time? Get grey headed and grow a beard?"

Bob had helped Joy to her feet when they heard the girls arriving and he now stood supporting his sister while he laughed and teased.

"Isn't it good to see them?" cried Joy.

"Does that include me, too?" inquired Colonel Baxter.

"Of course it does! You don't know how often we've talked about you and wished you were here," answered Enid, before Joy could reply.

There was a real change in Paul Breckenridge since the girls had seen him the previous winter. The old brooding, shy look was gone, and now he entered into the pleasures around him as the other boys did. One could see that he liked to be near Enid, teasing her constantly as if he had to make up for those years of separation.

Judge Breckenridge smiled around at his happy family, well pleased with everything.

"The one thing that would make it perfect would be to have the old professor here," he said. "But we'll find him before long."

Kit gave a little cry. "How terrible of me to have forgotten to tell you, Judge! We know where the professor is."

"Where?" asked the Judge eagerly.

"Young Mary says that he is in the shack in Rattlesnake Creek."

"But Kie Wicks took us through that hut this afternoon," replied the
Judge. "He isn't there!"

The girls showed their disappointment.

"Maybe they just moved the old man out for an hour until you finished your search," said Bet. "I wouldn't put that past Kie Wicks. Nothing is too bad for him to do."

"We hunted inside and outside of that hut," insisted the Judge. "If he had been there, surely there would have been some sign."

"I have an idea!" cried Bet, jumping to her feet. "I believe he's in that hut, they put him back after you'd been there. I'm going to find him tonight."

"You'll do no such thing, Bet. Chasing around among a lot of bad men is no place for a girl," began her father, but Bet interrupted:

"Just wait until I have worked out my plan and you'll see I'll be as safe as if I were at home. You can come with me, Dad. Will you help me, Judge? I'll need several men."

"Let us in on this," exclaimed Phil and Bob in the same breath. "We'd like to have a hand in solving your latest mystery."

Bet flew to her room and returned in a few minutes in a strange costume, a long dress of buckskin. Dark braids fell over her shoulders and feathers rose from her hair. She had no resemblance to the boyish girl they knew.

The Colonel looked puzzled but Judge Breckenridge caught the idea. "You're a wonder, Bet! And I do believe you are right. You'll be as safe as if you were in your own bed."

An hour later, the watchers by the hut rubbed their eyes and stared about them. A wild, weird cry rang through the canyon, and in the moonlight Kie Wicks and his bad men saw, far above them on the cliff, the figure of an Indian girl.

"She wasn't walking, she was just floating in the air, it seemed, and as she moved, she moaned and shrieked. It was terrible! There was no doubt about it. It was the ghost," Kie Wicks told his wife when he was safely at home.

"What happened?" Maude urged him to continue the story.

"You should have seen those Indians go! 'The Old Chief's daughter walks! It's the ghost girl!' they cried hoarsely. And that's the last I saw of them."

"And what did you do?" Maude pressed him further.

"I—well, I ran, too. I got out of there in record time, let me tell you. I don't mind shooting it out with a human being, but I don't take no chances with a ghost. I vamoosed."

"And the old man?" she inquired.

"He's there yet. One thing certain, I'll never go into that canyon late at night again."

Bet's ruse had worked better than she had hoped. In less than two minutes after she stepped out on the cliff, the place was deserted, the hut left unguarded and Judge Breckenridge and his men rushed in, broke open the door and found the old man asleep on a sack of straw.

The Judge touched him and the professor tried to shake him off.

"What are you going to do with me now?" he asked peevishly, "I want to go to sleep. Can't you let me be?"

"Ssh! Don't talk! We've come to take you home. This is Judge
Breckenridge."

The professor recognized his voice and breathed a sigh of relief. He rose unsteadily and did not speak again until they were a long way up the trail.

Then he suddenly got weak and felt as if he were going to faint.

"Don't worry, I get this way sometimes. I have some medicine over at the tent."

As it was only a short distance to the claim, the Judge decided to get him there as quickly as possible.

The professor was like a child in his eagerness to stay at the camp, and finally toward morning the Judge left him there in charge of the boys and Seedy Saunders.

And when Kie Wicks, deciding that he would have a look at the tunnel which he had left in charge of the two ruffians, climbed the trail to the summit the next morning about dawn, the first person he saw was the old professor, smoking his pipe and gazing far off over the hills with a smile of happiness on his face.

Kie wheeled his horse as if he had been shot at and raced madly away.
He was muttering excitedly:

"The mountains are bewitched! That ghost has spirited the old man out of the hut and back to the tunnel."

When his horse finally stopped before the store in Saugus, he was covered with foam and the man who bestrode him was trembling in every limb.

Yet he said nothing to Maude. What was the use? She would only worry and fret, and besides he had always made light of ghosts and said he didn't believe in them.

"But seein' is believin'," he said to himself as he dismounted. "I'm outdone by a ghost."

And Bet, as she put away the Indian costume the next morning, hugged it to her as if it had been responsible for the whole affair. "Whatever made you think of it, Bet?" asked Enid.

"Thoughts like that just come to her. It's what you might call inspiration, or intuition," laughed Shirley.

"Why give it such a big name," returned Bet. "I simply had a hunch, and it worked out."

"Just like that!" exclaimed Joy, as she tried to dance on the lame foot, snapping her fingers in time to the step.

"What's the next thing on the program, Bet?" asked Bob Evans. "Have you a bulletin board with the adventures scheduled?"

"I wish you'd stop teasing me. It isn't my fault if I'm always getting into the middle of a problem."

"Whose is it, Bet?" laughed her father.

"Yours, I think, Dad. You brought me up." She slid an arm around her father's neck. "And are you very much disappointed in me?"

"Fishing for compliments?" Colonel Baxter pinched her rosy cheek.

"No, I only want a little appreciation," she replied.

At that moment Billy Patten poked his head into the corridor.

"The old man at the tunnel. He says for the girls to come quick."

"Something important has happened!" insisted Kit. "Hurry up, let's go!"

Colonel Baxter hurried to his horse and followed after the girls. His mind was not, for the moment, on possible treasure, he was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the hills, their rugged outlines and the blazing sun that beat down upon them.

When they reached the summit, the girls spurred their horses across the flat.

What they saw was an excited little old man, waving his arms and dancing about a huge box.

As the girls approached, he cried.

"Come quickly. It's a brass-bound chest. It's the treasure!"

Tommy Sharpe pried the rusty lock, and as the cover was swung back, the girls gave a gasp of astonishment and dismay.

The chest was empty!

CHAPTER XIX

A BRASS BOUND CHEST

At the sight of the empty chest, Professor Gillette opened his mouth to speak, but no words came. His face was white and drawn. And the girls were no less moved than he. All their hopes had been dashed to the ground.

Tears came to Bet's eyes. Angry tears! Why was it that they always had so many disappointments? Why couldn't the treasure have reposed in that chest ready for them? Why couldn't things have gone smoothly just for once?

"What a silly thing to do! To bury an empty chest!" Bet said in a protesting voice.

"But that's the trouble. Maybe it wasn't always empty. Maybe it was once full of gold and jewels," sighed the professor wearily. He had planned on this treasure more than he realized at first. He thought of Alicia, his patient daughter, whose hope of recovery depended on his summer's work.

"Then what happened to it?" demanded Bet.

"Someone has been ahead of us, that's all. There must have been treasure in that chest," repeated the old man.

"I think you are right," interrupted Colonel Baxter. "But don't be discouraged! Unless I'm very badly mistaken, that chest will be worth a small fortune in itself. Look at those brass straps across the corners. The carving is unusual and beautiful."

"I don't see anything beautiful about it, at all," snapped Bet. "If it had been filled with treasure, then I could admire it."

Colonel Baxter laughed. But the girls at that moment could see nothing to be happy about. Their faces were serious and troubled. It was not alone for themselves that they had wanted the treasure. They had planned on being able to help the professor, to make it possible for Alicia to go to the famous specialist and be cured.

"Guard the chest well," continued Colonel Baxter. "It's valuable!"

"But there is no bullion or jewels!" Enid expressed her disappointment with a frown.

"And no doubloons or louis d'or!" said Kit. "And I did want to see one."

But Shirley laughed. "Come on, girls, what's the use of fretting over a treasure that didn't exist. Let's be satisfied with the old chest and call it a summer. For the rest of the time we'll complete our study of rope throwing and bronco busting."

"Yes, we can do that—but where's the romance?" sighed Bet. "The treasure had all the romance of the old days in the west. I did want it to come true."

"Why, Bet Baxter!" exclaimed Kit Patten. "You say you've had no romance! What do you call it when you stand off a couple of western bad men, and recapture the tunnel all by yourself?"

"Did you do that, Bet?" asked her father, turning on his daughter with a frown.

"Please don't think I intended to keep it from you, Dad. I was waiting until we went back to Lynnwood," Bet answered penitently.

Her father laughed. "Oh, Bet, girl, when will you learn to be cautious? And when are you going to grow up and be ladylike?"

"Not yet, Dad. There will be time enough to grow up when I get to be thirty. Until then, I want to be just a girl and have lots of fun and adventure."

"You seem to be getting your wish, as you always do," Enid said as she tried to pat Bet's tousled locks into place.

"I didn't get my wish this time. Far from it. I wished for heaps of treasure, and I get nothing but a brass-bound chest."

Tommy Sharpe was gazing at the mud-crusted box with interest and suddenly burst out; "Say, Judge, if Kie Wicks gets an idea that the chest is worth more than a dollar and a half, he'll try to take it away from the girls. Don't you think we'd better take it back to the ranch?"

"You're right, Tommy. It may not be what we planned for, but just the same, the professor and the girls put up a fight for it and it belongs to them."

"And I love it, Dad!" exclaimed Enid, examining the carving on the box.

"Well, what are we going to do now?" asked the business-like Shirley.
"Will we abandon the tunnel and claims and let Kie Wicks have them?"

"No!" cried Bet decidedly. "I won't let him have anything! Not even the worthless old tunnel."

"That's the way I feel about it," said the professor. "Kie didn't treat me fairly and I don't wish him to be near my camp. On the other hand, we shouldn't be a burden to Judge Breckenridge, who has supplied men to guard the tunnel and help do the digging."

Bob interrupted with a shout. "Let us live here and guard the tunnel part of the time. What about it, Paul, can you think of any more interesting way to spend a vacation? To cook and live out like this?"

"I'm with you, Bob, if Dad says it's O. K." answered Paul Breckenridge.

"It's all right if you want to," agreed the Judge. "You could change your camp down to the creek-bed if you wish."

"I'd rather stay on top of the mountain," answered Phil. "This just suits me."

So it was agreed that the boys would camp with the professor and keep
Kie Wicks at a safe distance.

But Kie had had enough. Word leaked out that they had not found any treasure. Kie did not want the claims. He was not a mining man by temperament and hated the toil and privation that went into the working of claims in the hills.

Day after day now Professor Gillette went in search of the Indian ruins, hoping to find something that would give him credit in his college. A few bits of broken pottery, some arrowheads and a foot of crumbling wall were not the things that would bring him fame as an explorer.

The vacation was almost over.

Only once did the girls get the old man away from his search. Before returning home they wanted to visit the summer range where the large herd of cattle grazed, that belonged to Judge Breckenridge. It was five miles over the Cayuga Range.

It was Joy's first outing after her accident and she mounted the broad back of Dolly with the same fear that she always felt with a horse.

"I'll never get used to it," she sighed, as the other girls leaped gaily into their saddles.

But Paul Breckenridge was at her side encouraging her. Joy's sweet helplessness appealed to the boy. The other girls often annoyed him by their self confidence and efficiency. The gay but child-like Joy amused and pleased him.

He liked the way Joy looked to him for protection when they rode out on the broad flat where the cattle were grazing. There were hundreds of cattle on that range. Joy shivered. There was no pretense in her terror. She did not like cattle.

"Oh, look at Tommy Sharpe. He'll be killed," she cried.

"He's all right, Joy. He understands the game. Just watch and you'll see what he is going to do," returned Paul.

Tommy had spurred his horse forward and was now riding straight toward the herd. It seemed to the girls that he was right in the midst of that stamping, struggling mass.

The boy was after a certain cow with her calf and as he kept his eye on the animal he wanted, he untied the rope fastened about the saddle horn, and held the other end ready to throw when he had a chance.

The girls watched proudly as the boy rode confidently into the herd, divided it and then singling out the animal he was after, threw the loop.

No sooner did the loop twirl through the air than the trained cowpony braced itself backward. There was a swirl of dust in the air. The herd raced madly across the flat to the safety of the canyon beyond and the girls saw that Tommy had succeeded. A cow was scrambling to her feet, bellowing with rage.

Twice the animal was thrown down before she gave up the struggle, and the reason for that was the appearance of a calf that answered her hoarse call.

Tommy led the animal toward the trail and the calf followed. Tommy had won.

"Do you like being a cowboy, Tommy?" asked Enid as she spurred her horse to have a word with the boy.

"It's the best sport in the world, Enid. I wouldn't ask for nothing better."

Whether it was the long ride over the mountain, or something that the professor had eaten; that night he was a sick man.

"Go for Mrs. Patten," he gasped. "She knows what to do."

And the girls, hearing about it from Kit, soon followed her to the camp. They found the professor tossing uneasily on his cot, holding his head to try and stop the pain. Even after Ma Patten's treatment it was an hour before he quieted down.

The girls had been wandering about the camp and Bet suddenly exclaimed, "Come on girls, let's be sports and visit the site of our fondest hopes, and of our bitter disappointment."

"Aw, why rub it in?" said Kit with a shrug, as she followed Bet into the tunnel.

"I never even looked to see where that old chest came from, and I want to see," Bet let herself down into the hole. "I can't believe that anyone found the treasure, stole it, then sealed the tunnel up again. That doesn't spell sense, at all."

"I think those old Spaniards showed very little sense anyway," remarked
Kit. "Why didn't they hide their treasure in some easier place?"

Bet laughed. But at that moment her foot scraped against something hard. There was a metallic ring. Stooping she dug away the dirt and crumbled rock with her hands.

"Kit!" she gasped. "It's the treasure! Call the professor! Hurry!"
Bet's voice rang out.

There was no need to call the professor. Forgetting his weariness and headache, he leaped from the cot at Bet's cry, and ran to the tunnel.

Bet appeared, carrying a small metal box, held tightly in her arms.

"Call the girls!" she said, and disappeared into the shelter of the professor's tent.

When the box was pried open, the girls had all the thrill they had ever planned. Old coins, nuggets and jewels were scrambled together in the casket. Enid's fingers closed about a long gold chain, tarnished and stained with the years.

"That's what I've dreamed about!" she said with a gasp. "Isn't it wonderful!"

A loud "Hullo" came to them from the hill above. Bet shut the box with a snap and placing it on the cot, sat down upon it.

"Anyone who gets this box, has to take me along!" she said in a tense voice. "No one shall have it! No one!"

A moment later there was a scramble from the trail and Bob, Phil and Paul rushed into the tent. They started back as they saw the frightened faces of the girls.

Then Bet laughed.

"We thought it was robbers! After the treasure!" she exclaimed, jumping to her feet and displaying the precious box.

"Three cheers for The Merriweather Girls!" shouted Bob.

The professor was delighted. He had forgotten his sickness. "It shows how one should keep at a thing long after it seems useless," he told the girls. "Why, I may even find my Indian village, yet."

"Of course you will. This is just the beginning of our good luck!" cried Bet excitedly.

"And we'll all help you hunt for your village," promised Phil Gordon.
"That will be the next adventure!"

"What about your claims?" asked Tommy. "Aren't you going to work them?" He cast a longing look over the flat-topped summit.

"Dad says we'd be foolish to go on with them!" replied Enid. "If we were going to be out here to look after the work it would be different."

"Will you sell them?" Tommy's eager face expressed more than the simple question. Tommy wanted those claims.

"You can have them, Tommy!" began Enid.

Bet burst out with a decided "No!" and the girls looked at the impulsive, generous girl in surprise. They had never known Bet to act like this.

"We'll sell Tommy the claims," she said in her decided way. "We'll sell Tommy the claims—for that treasure map!"

The boy looked relieved. "It's a bargain!" he laughed.

"Nothing for nothing!" smiled Joy contemptuously.

"No such thing!" protested Bet. "That map was worth a lot to us. If we hadn't seen it on Tommy's wall, I'd never have thought of those carvings on the rock meaning anything."

"And who knows? Maybe there'll be a big mine on this mountain some day!" Tommy looked around with the pride of possession. "I'm going to get the assessment work done on my claims right away," he added.

Kit came close to him. "Look here, Tommy Sharpe. You keep your eyes open after we go, and if Kie Wicks doesn't do his assessment work, jump his claims. They belong to us, anyway, and they're included in the sale."

Bet carried the treasure to the ranch. The others acted as escort for the safe transfer of the box.

"All gone crazy!" said Tang to his boys, as the young people rushed in and all began to talk at once to the Judge and Colonel Baxter.

There was excitement and happiness on the ranch. Everybody had been interested in the adventure. But it was only the favored ones who ever saw the treasure. Bet gladly gave it to Judge Breckenridge for safe keeping.

"Now the tunnel doesn't have to be guarded any more," exclaimed Bob. And even the professor agreed that it would be better to stay at the ranch. Kie Wicks might try to get back at them, if he found out about the treasure.

So the camp on the summit was broken up. As the professor urged the burro through the canyon, loaded down with his tent and supplies, the contrary animal made a rush toward the flat where the Indians were camped, and nothing could turn him from his purpose.

The professor had a sudden inspiration. He signalled Mapia who was sitting by the stream, smoking his pipe as usual. Unstrapping the tent, the old man presented it to the Indian. And while Mapia's face did not change expression, somehow the professor knew that he was pleased.

As he turned to go, the Indian rose and followed. "Wait! I show you! Come!" he said, and mounting his bony horse, he headed it up Lost Canyon. It was slow travelling, the burro had to be brought back to the trail many times with prods from a heavy stick that the Indian had given the old man.

After a mile they left the creek and followed a smaller stream that had no visible trail. They clambered over slippery rocks for another mile and still another and then the Indian brought him out to a broad shelf of rock. And there hidden by the hills, was the extensive ruins of the ancient town.

"The village!" said Mapia with a sweep of his hand.

The professor could only stare. He had no words to express his joy. Wall after wall of adobe ruins had withstood the weather in this sheltered spot. And from these walls he could picture the village as it had once been.

Mapia interrupted his thoughts. "Be careful! The Old Chief's daughter walks!"

"Are you afraid of the ghost, Mapia?" the professor asked him, looking steadily into his eyes.

"No, I don't believe! But bad men believe and that is good."

The professor laughed. Years seemed to have dropped from him. He felt like a boy.

Mapia was talking. "The Old Chief, he's buried there—or maybe over there. Who knows? It is not good to disturb the bones of the dead!" he added in a warning voice.

CHAPTER XX

"COMPLIMENTS OF KIE WICKS"

The last week in the hills was a busy one for The Merriweather Girls and their friends.

Professor Gillette worked from early morning until late at night. The few excavations he made proved beyond doubt that he had found the ancient village that so many men had tried to locate.

His job was secure. And with his share of the treasure he would be able to realize his hopes in regard to the invalid daughter. There was no happier man in the world these days than the old professor.

His time was spent in making a careful map of the village. The ruins were photographed from every angle by Shirley Williams. Everyone had a hand in helping their old friend in the realization of his undertaking.

Bet was quiet. Something seemed to be troubling here these days.

"What is it, Bet?" asked Colonel Baxter one morning after his daughter had been following him around for an hour, with a question in her eyes.

"There is just one thing I want to do more than I anything else in all the world," she answered.

"Speak, child!" smiled the Colonel indulgently. "What is it that your heart desires?" he added playfully.

"Let me fly back with you to New York! I've never been up in an airplane."

"I'm sorry, Bet. I can't do it this time. Not yet," he answered.

Bet looked disappointed. "Oh it's all right, Dad, I won't whimper.
I've had a wonderful time this summer."

"And what's more, you will have your chance this year."

"Oh, what do you mean, Dad?"

"Up at Rockhill School, where you are going this winter, they have a class in aviation for the girls," said her father.

"Do you mean it? Is it really true? Will you let me learn to fly?"

"Yes daughter, I want you to. I believe in modern sports for young people. It's a great game and the earlier you get into it, the more chance you have of becoming an expert."

"Dad, you're wonderful!" exclaimed Bet.

With this promise Bet was satisfied and not unhappy when her father and the boys left the next day for Benito, where the airplane was guarded in a barn.

In fact Bet was too busy during the next few days to be unhappy. The girls were sorting over all the collections they had made in the hills. It would have needed a special train if Bet had taken all the things she had brought to the ranch so it was necessary for her to go over the lot and take only the treasures that she could not give up.

"You'd better get an old trunk that's out in the garage and fill it up.
Then we can send it by express," suggested Judge Breckenridge.

But Bet objected. "Some of my things are too precious to put in that trunk," she said.

"For instance, what?" asked Kit.

"My arrowheads and my turquoise specimens. I'll carry them in my small suitcase. The ore samples, from those copper claims are heavy. They can go in the trunk. And what say we put our hiking and riding shoes in that."

"Sure, that's an idea! All the heavy things that we don't care for can go into the old trunk."

Judge Breckenridge took the small casket of treasure in his car. He started out a full hour before the others, as he still felt the necessity of driving slowly with his invalid wife. The genial little professor entertained her on the way with details of his village.

Bet sighed as the last good-bye was said and she settled down in the car.

"We've had a marvelous time! We never dreamed we'd have such an adventure."

"Maybe it's just as well we couldn't forsee the struggle with Kie Wicks over that treasure," Shirley said with a happy smile. "Isn't it good to win out, no matter what you are doing?"

"Yes, we have the treasure and had the fun of the contest, but what did
Kie Wicks get out of it?" demanded Bet.

"Nothing at all!" chirruped Joy. "He's just out of luck. And he deserves it for kidnapping our professor."

"Atta boy, Joy! Dad says to be generous to your enemies, but I'm afraid I haven't one little generous thought for Kie Wicks. Isn't it good that he didn't hear about us finding the treasure? He knows about the chest but not a word about the other."

But Kie Wicks knew more than the girls realized. He had heard more and seen more than they had any idea of. He suspected that treasure had been found and at that moment he was giving instructions to his hired men.

He had formed a gang of ruffians from the hills and they were collected now in a ravine through which the automobiles must pass. Without any suspicion that the treasure was safely stowed away in a car that had passed fully half an hour before, the storekeeper huddled his men behind the rock and waited.

As the car driven by Matt Larkin came out on the main road, Kie ordered his men and his voice was hard:

"There's the chest of treasure. Go get it! Don't fail!"

A shot rang out! Matt Larkin tried to put on speed and get away from the small car that had suddenly sprung into the road, and having a higher-powered engine he succeeded for a while. But the pursuing machine had only two men in it and the five girls and their luggage was a drag on the big car.

Joy became hysterical with fright. She crouched low in the car, but Bet was excited. Her head bobbed up every minute to see what was taking place.

Matt caught her as she peered through the back window and spoke angrily. "Get down there! Are you crazy? You'll be shot if you don't look out."

Bet sighed as she obeyed. "Just my luck! To miss all the fun! Now if I were a boy…." The sentence was jerked out as Matt Larkin took a bump without easing it.

"Ouch!" screamed Joy. "My head!"

"Keep quiet, Joy Evans! It serves you right for being such a cry-baby," snapped Bet.

But Shirley comforted her. Joy was trembling as her friend clasped her in her arms.

"I wish the boys were here," sobbed Joy.

"Well, I don't!" said Kit. "They'd think it was their duty to put up a fight, and it doesn't pay."

Another shot!

Another burst of speed that shook the car.

Then Matt slowed down. There was nothing else to do. The men were gaining and it was foolish to try to out-speed them.

Matt turned. "Keep perfectly quiet," said the man. "They won't hurt you. They're only after the treasure."

"But that's in the car ahead," protested Bet.

"You'd better yell it loud enough for them to hear," suggested Enid from the depths of the tonneau.

Matt once more warned them to be quiet. "Put up your hands if they tell you to. Don't take any chances. Don't speak unless they ask you a question. I'll do the talking."

With a gun pointed in their direction, they lost no time in putting up their hands. Bet hesitated, her defiant nature rebelled at the idea of such surrender. But a second command from Matt, brought the girl's hands toward her head.

"The chest! Off with it!" commanded Ramon Salazar to the man by his side. "And here, Jake, you hold the gun on them!"

"Not that chest, Ramon," cried Bet. "You can't have that chest!"

"What's to stop us," sneered the Mexican with an ugly scowl.

"My ore samples! My birds' nests. They're in that chest."

"Ha, ha, that's a good joke. Birds' nests!"

"Keep quiet, Bet, not another word!" Matt Larkin spoke with decision. And Bet slumped down in the seat, her arms still extended above her head.

Ramon did not wait to untie the rope that held the huge trunk. He slashed the strings with his knife. Then bringing his gun once more toward the car, he ordered:

"Now get along out of here as fast as you can. You are covered until you are out of sight." As Matt started his car the Mexican called. "Kie Wicks sends his compliments!"

As the car got under way, Bet suddenly began to scream. It was something between a laugh and a cry. The girls looked at her in astonishment. Bet hysterical! They could hardly believe it.

When a safe distance was reached Bet tried to speak. "That old trunk!
They think it's the treasure chest! And they've stolen my riding shoes
and my birds nests and some copper ore. Oh, girls, isn't it funny?"
And Bet was once more convulsed with laughter.

"To think of Bet getting hysterical!" exclaimed Enid.

"I wasn't hysterical. I just had to laugh, and I thought they'd catch on so I screamed."

"That explains everything, Bet," came Joy's voice from the floor of the car. "I'll remember that excuse myself and use it sometime."

Bet glared but said nothing. Then she started to laugh once more:

"What wouldn't I give to see Kie Wicks' face when he opens that chest?"

Back in the ravine, the men had carried the trunk to a cave and Kie grabbed it.

"Fine!" he said. "Those folks will learn who's boss here."

"You're clever, Kie. You let those greenies do the hard work while you watched and then you grab the treasure. I call that smart!"

Kie beamed with satisfaction.

"Here, lend a hand, Ramon, and help me pry open this chest. I know a man who says he'll give me a fancy price for this treasure. This is my lucky day."

The cover of the trunk was thrown back and the men stared down into the greatest array of old clothes and camping equipment they had ever seen.

"Ain't this wonderful!" said Ramon picking up a huge chunk of copper ore. "That's a valuable specimen. It will bring a fancy price."

Kie Wicks tried to speak, but a choking sound came in his throat.

The rough men beside him knew that for once they had Kie Wicks at their mercy. They roared with laughter.

"Compliments of Kie Wicks!" shouted Ramon.

Kie made as if to draw his gun, but instead he turned to his horse, mounted it and rode away.

"They've out-smarted me this time!" he muttered. "But they'd better watch out!"

As Kie Wicks spurred his horse along the canyon road, he knew that his days at Saugus were over. He had gone too far. The sheriff would never stand for a hold-up. Prison threatened him. What was more he would be the laughing stock of the whole country. Kie Wicks, the man who had boasted of his cleverness had been outdone by a bunch of girls.

"This place ain't healthy for me, no more," muttered the man. "Me and Maude will get away, to-night. We'll never stop till we get clear out of the state. Then we'll be safe."

And on Judge Breckenridge's private train that was taking The Merriweather Girls and their friend toward their home, Bet would burst into a peal of laughter from time to time.

"What now, Bet?" asked Enid.

"Oh, I'm thinking of all the fun we've had—and I'm wondering if Kie
Wicks will keep my birds' nests and start a collection," she giggled.

Even the old professor, who had been invited to join the party, had to chuckle at the thought.

Shirley Williams was gazing from the car window. "Look at that sunset, girls. Did you ever see anything so beautiful?"

"I'd love to paint it," enthused Bet.

"Then why don't you?" Shirley reproached her. "You brought your color box and some canvases with you to Arizona and you haven't made a single picture. I'm ashamed of you!"

"Oh, I'll make up for it this winter at Rockhill School. I'll work hard. See if I don't."

"No, you won't, Bet Baxter. You get so interested in the sports, the motoring, the flying and all that outdoor science course, that you'll never take a brush in your hand. And you won't study either!" declared Joy.

"I'll have to," protested Bet. "Dad wouldn't like it if I failed to come up to the high standard of the school. Dr. Dale's idea is that modern sports develop the brain and make us wide awake and keen."

"Sounds fishy to me," returned Joy slangily. "I may be wrong but I have my doubt that it works. If I had to go up in an airplane I'd be so frightened I couldn't think straight for a year at least."

Suddenly Joy sprang up, her face white. "Say, Bet, does everyone at
Rockhill have to fly?"

"Of course not, Joy. There probably won't be more than six in the whole school who will go in for aviation."

"Thank goodness! I wish The Merriweather Girls wouldn't go in for flying."

"Why, Joy Evans, I've already signed up for the aviation course. I wouldn't miss it for worlds."

"Personally, I'd be content to stay on the ground," spoke Shirley.

No one else spoke. Joy was staring at Kit.

Then Bet turned to Kit and the western girl replied to her unspoken question: Kit's bright eyes and daring smile told that she was game to ride anything that could run or fly. "I'm with you, Bet," she said heartily.

"We're all with you, Bet. We'll not be left behind. If you girls are going to fly, we will, too," Enid drew Shirley toward the two girls.

"I was just thinking," exclaimed Shirley Williams, "that I can make some wonderful photographs from the air."

"Well, since you're all going in for aviation, I suppose that includes me. But I'll not do a thing unless I can wear one of those lovely white leather costumes. I'm sure I'd look well in one!" This from Joy, the butterfly girl.

"Then The Merriweather Girls stand together!" laughed Enid Breckenridge.

"Of course, 'One for all and all for one!'" said Bet, with a happy smile on her face.

"And this year it will be THE MERRIWEATHER GIRLS—AT GOOD OLD ROCKHILL." Kit waved an imaginary hat in the air. "I wonder what adventures are in store for us there?"

"We've had so many wonderful experiences this summer that it seems as if there couldn't be any more adventures left," mused Enid.

But Bet Baxter's face was glowing with the promise of future joys. "Don't worry about that, girls! At Good Old Rockhill, we'll find lots of fun, new thrills, and something tells me that adventure is waiting for us there!"

"If we follow close on your heels, Bet, we're sure to find it!" laughed
Kit.

"Three cheers for Good Old Rockhill!" Bet shouted as the train carried them nearer and nearer to the exciting experiences that were before them.

THE END