"But that won't last long," objected Jennie.
"The water'll force it out again. And what will we do with the water that is already in here?"
Indeed, the girls were barely out of the wash of the water, and their feet and ankles were soaking wet.
They dared not move suddenly, either; the gunwales of the boat were so low that, if it pitched at all, the river would flow over the sides.
"Why! it will sink any minute and leave us sitting here in the water!" groaned Jennie, again.
"Take off one of your shoes—careful, now," commanded Nancy. "We can bail with them," putting into practice her own advice.
They managed each to remove one of the low, rubber-soled shoes they wore. But these took up so small an amount of water, although they bailed vigorously, that Jennie began to chuckle:
"Might as well try to dip the sea out with a pail, Nance! What a ridiculous position we're in!"
But it was really more serious than that. It was fast growing dark, and no matter how loudly they shouted, their voices would not reach to the landing. The wind was against them.
On the other side of Clinton River, opposite the scene of their accident, were open fields and woods. Few people lived within sight; indeed, only two twinkling lights from house windows could they now see on that side, and both of those were far away.
"Do you suppose we could slip overboard without swamping the boat, and so lighten it?" demanded Nancy.
"What good would that do?"
"Then it wouldn't sink and we could cling to the gunwales. It would keep us afloat."
"Oh, that plug's come out!" gasped Jennie.
It had. Nancy stooped and forced the cloth into the hole again; but her motion rocked the boat dangerously. A ripple came along and lapped right in, and the girls were almost waist deep!
"Oh, dear me!" wailed Jennie. "We might just as well be drowned as be like this. We are drowned from our waists down."
"Nev—er—say—die!" gasped Nancy, struggling with the jacket-sleeve to make it stay in the hole.
"We've got to get out!" cried Jennie. "This is where we get off—even if it is a wet landing. If we're out of the boat, it will only sink so that the gunwales are level with the water. Isn't that so?"
"I believe so," admitted Nancy.
"Then out we go," said Jennie, working her way toward the bow.
"What you going to do?"
"Lighten the boat. You slide out over the stern. We've got to do it, Nance."
"I guess that's so," admitted her chum. "Do be careful, Jennie. And if the boat does sink, don't lose your head. We can swim."
"Well, I can't swim to shore in all these clothes. I wish I had loosened my skirts at the start. Oh, dear!"
The daylight had drifted out of the sky and there was no moon. The stars shone palely and it seemed as though a mist had suddenly been drawn over the surface of the river.
The lights of the steamboat had long since disappeared around the bend. There didn't seem to be another pleasure boat on the river this evening. And yet there must have been a lot of the girls out, somewhere.
Jennie and Nancy got their feet over the ends of the boat and slid carefully down into the water. Their skirts buoyed them up a bit; but they knew that once the garments were saturated, they would bear them down instead.
"Are—are you all—all right, Nance?" gasped Jennie, from the bow, as the water rose about her. "Oh, oh! Isn't it wet?"
"Cling to the boat, Jen!" begged Nancy, from the stern. "I—I don't believe it will sink."
And even as she spoke the skiff, lurching first one side and then the other, sank slowly down into the depths of the river.
Both girls screamed. They came together with a shock and clung to each other in something like panic. And, so struggling, both dipped under water for a moment.
But when they came up, Nancy held her chum off, and cried:
"Don't do that again, Jennie! If you have to dip, hold your nose. Let's not lose our heads about this. We've got to swim for it!"
"Swim!" gasped Jennie Bruce. "I feel as if there was a ton of lead around my legs. I can't kick any more than the mule could with his legs tied!"
"Get rid of the skirts," said Nancy, struggling to unfasten her own. "You can do it—if you try. There! mine's gone."
"Oh, my—blub! blub! blub!" came from poor Jennie, as she went under.
Nancy reached and caught her by the hair. Both their caps had floated away. She dragged her chum to the surface and held her until she got her breath again.
Meanwhile Nancy was trying to undo the fastenings of Jennie's clothes; and she succeeded after a time.
"Oh, dear, me!" she gasped. "I never wished to be a boy so much before."
"Well, even a boy would find himself somewhat mussed up here in the middle of the river," sobbed Jennie.
"But he'd have a knife in his pocket, and could cut his clothing off," returned Nancy, with some vigor.
In these few moments that they had been out of the boat the current, of course, had carried them down stream. But now, partially relieved of their clinging garments, they wanted to strike out for shore. But which shore?
"I believe we're nearer the westerly side," said Jennie.
"If we swim over there we won't know where to go to dry off and get clothes. And there'll be an awful time at the school," said Nancy.
Just then the horn at the boathouse sounded mournfully across the water. It was first call for the scattered boats to return—half-past eight. If all the girls were not in by nine they had to explain the reason to Miss Etching.
"Well, then, shall it be the boathouse?" queried Jennie.
"We've drifted a long way below it. See! there's the bend," said Nancy, rising to look. "Let's make for the nearest point on that side."
"Come on, then!" said Jennie, and side by side, but heavily, the two girls struck out.
Neither was quite sure that she could swim that far under the present conditions. Yet they were too plucky to say so to each other.
For at least five minutes they plugged away and then Nancy, rising up again, uttered a startled exclamation.
"What's the matter?" demanded Jennie.
"Why! we're below the point!"
"The current's taking us down stream!"
"Goodness me!" exclaimed Jennie. "We'll land somewhere about at the Academy, if we don't look out."
At that instant they both heard the swish of oars, or a paddle. In unison they raised their voices in a shout:
"Help! This way!"
They could not see the craft approaching, for the mist on the river had been growing thicker and thicker, all this time. But there was an answering cry:
"I'm coming! Holler again!"
"Oh, it's a man!" gasped Jennie.
"It's a boy!" declared Nancy.
"Shout again!" cried the voice in the mist.
"Well, I'm going to be saved if I'm not dressed for company," declared Jennie, and she raised her voice again:
"This way! We're in the water!"
Then into sight flashed a ghostly craft, which came straight for them.
"Oh! it's only a canoe!" wailed Jennie. "We can't climb into a canoe."
"My goodness! It's two girls!" ejaculated the person paddling the canoe.
"Mr. Endress!" exclaimed Nancy, recognizing the boy from Dr. Dudley's Academy.
"What?" shouted Bob Endress. "Is it Nancy Nelson?"
"And Jennie Bruce. We lost our boat. It sank," explained Nancy, breathlessly.
"Each of you grab the gunwale of my canoe. Easy, now!" admonished Bob.
They did so, one on either side, astern.
"Now I can paddle you to shore. Just let your bodies float right out. It's lucky I came along. The current's so strong around this bend."
"I never saw a boy so welcome before!" gasped Jennie, getting back her courage immediately.
"And now I can return your compliment, Nancy," said Bob, laughing. "You saved me from drowning, and if you hang on long enough I'll manage to save you, I guess."
He could not paddle the canoe very swiftly with the weight of the two girls dragging it down; but in ten minutes they were in shore and knew that they were safe.
"We could wade in," said Nancy, gasping a little for breath.
"Wait," commanded the boy. "Hadn't I better take you right up to the landing?"
"Oh, mercy! no!" cried Jennie. "We want to run right home across the fields. The back door won't be locked."
"We'd better go to the gym. first and get skirts," said Nancy, the practical. "Maybe we can slip in then without anybody being the wiser."
"How under the sun did you manage to sink that skiff of yours?" Bob demanded, showing thereby that he knew more about Nancy and her chum than Nancy had supposed.
"The plug came out," said Nancy, shortly.
"Why didn't you put it back?"
"It wasn't an accident!" exclaimed Jennie. "One of the girls drew the plug and just stuffed the hole with rags. We didn't know it. Of course, the water forced the rags out when we got half-way across the river."
"Why, that was criminal!" cried Bob, angrily. "That was no joke."
"Well, we didn't laugh ourselves to death about it," agreed Jennie.
"What girl did it?"
"I'd hate to tell you," snapped Jennie. "There were two of them in the trick, I'm sure. But I certainly will pay them off!"
"They ought to be punished. You might have been drowned," declared Bob.
But Nancy said nothing. She did not propose to discuss Grace Montgomery's shortcomings with her cousin.
The two girls got ashore in the semi-darkness, and thanked their rescuer again.
"I'll ask after you to-morrow over the 'phone," declared Bob. "I hope you won't get cold."
"Oh, goodness me! don't ask," cried Jennie. "Then we will have to explain the whole business. And I don't want to go before the Madame."
"That's right, Jennie," agreed her chum. "Please don't ask after us, Mr. Endress."
"Then let me know how you get along through Grace. I see her a lot," said Bob. "But you girls are never with her."
"Aw—well," drawled Jennie, coming to Nancy's rescue. "You know, we girls go in bunches. Nancy and I chum together, and it's a close corporation. We don't often go about with other girls."
Then they said "Good-night!" and ran off through the bushes. Their wet garments hampered them somewhat in running; but they came at last breathless to the gym. and Samuel had not yet locked up for the night.
So they got into gym. togs—both blouses and skirts,—and managed to enter the Hall by the rear door of their wing and get up to Number 30 without being caught by any teacher, or the Side captain.
The wet clothes were flung out of the window and, very early in the morning, Nancy arose, slipped out of the house, and carried the garments to the drying yard.
So they got over this adventure without the teachers being the wiser. There was a hue and cry about the lost skiff, however.
"What are we going to say?" demanded Jennie, of her chum. "You won't let me go at Grace and Cora and make 'em pay for it. What'll we do?"
"Let folks think the skiff floated away from the landing. What do we care if they say we didn't tie it?" returned Nancy. "It's our loss; isn't it?"
"But those girls ought to be made to pay for the skiff."
"How would you make them pay? Cora never has any money, anyway," said Nancy, remembering the sum that her ex-roommate already owed her from the year before. "And they'd both deny touching the plug, anyway. We can't prove it."
"Well, I don't care! I hate to have those girls get the best of us. I'll think up some trick by which we can pay them back."
"Nonsense, Jennie!" reproved Nancy. "You wouldn't be mean just because they are mean."
"I don't know but I would—if it wasn't for you," admitted her chum, sighing.
But in the end nothing was done about the skiff and the girls' adventure. The matter blew over. There was so much going on at Pinewood Hall that fall, and the sophomores were so very busy, that the loss of the boat soon ceased to be a topic of conversation—saving between the owners and, possibly, the two other girls who knew all about the incident.
The seniors and juniors promised the school a very lively social season this winter. And of course the sophs. were "in on it," as Jennie said, to a degree.
As early as October the big girls got permission to plan a dance, with the Academy boys invited, for Thanksgiving Eve. It was to be a masquerade, too, and that gave the girls a delightful time choosing costumes and—in some cases—making them at odd hours themselves.
Those who would, might gather, twice a week, with Jessie Pease and learn to sew. Nancy and Jennie were faithful to this "extra" and both made their own costumes under Jessie's sharp eye.
Jennie was going to be dressed as an owl, and wear huge spectacles and carry an open book.
"I'd never look wise at any other time," giggled the irrepressible. "So I will do so now."
And in her fluffy gray and white garments, with the skirts drawn close around her feet and slit only a little way so that she could barely walk and dance, Jennie really did look too cute for anything.
Nancy was costumed as a "drummer girl"—a brilliant uniform with knee skirt, long boots, a little, round, "Tommy Atkins" cap with chin-strap, and a little snare-drum at her hip that she really learned to beat.
The big hall was cleared for dancing and decorated by the girls themselves with the loot of the autumn woods. No more brilliant affair, everybody declared, had been arranged since Pinewood Hall had become a preparatory school.
Dr. Dudley's boys marched over at eight o'clock, every one of them fancifully attired. Despite the fact that the tastes of the boys ran a good deal to costumes denoting the Soldier of '76 and Blackbeard, the Pirate, the novelty and variety shown by the girls made the scene a delightful one.
Nancy Nelson and her mates of the sophomore class were not likely to be wall-flowers this year, or to lack for partners. The former's striking costume marked her out, too, and after the grand march, she was sought out by Bob Endress.
"Oh, I'm afraid I don't dance well enough, Mr. Endress," the girl said in a whisper, and blushing deeply.
"You do everything well, I believe," declared he. "Now, don't disappoint me. I've been trying ever since that night I found you and your chum in the river, to get a talk with you. But you're so shy."
"I—I'm always busy," replied Nancy. "And—and you know the Madame is very strict about us talking with any of you boys."
"Wow! we won't bite you," laughed Bob. "Besides, I meet Grace and Cora Rathmore often. I tried to pump them about your accident; but they declared they knew nothing about it. I guess you warned them not to tell."
Nancy had nothing to say to this, but she could, not refuse to go on the floor with Bob, although she saw Grace, dressed to represent a gaudy tulip, glaring at them with blazing eyes from across the room.
Jennie Bruce did not go home that Christmas. Instead, she remained at Pinewood Hall with Nancy and was "coached" for the after-New Year exams. So she was able to send home better reports for her first half-year's work than she had had before.
Nancy took to study naturally; it was a "grind" for Jennie, and she was frank to admit it.
Nancy stuck to her books just as closely after Thanksgiving as she had before; but as a sophomore she had more freedom than was usually granted to the freshies. Therefore she was able, if she wished, to enter more fully into the social gayeties of her classmates.
And after the very successful masque on Thanksgiving Eve, she could not escape Bob Endress altogether. He was a nice boy, and Nancy liked him. Besides, there were two topics that drew the two together.
Bob never got over talking about that August afternoon, that seemed so long ago, when Nancy had helped to rescue him from the millrace. On the other hand, Nancy was quite as grateful to him for saving her and Jennie from the river.
So, as well as might be, Bob and Nancy were very good friends. Bob would be graduated in June, and at that same time Nancy would become a full-fledged junior. Bob was going to Cornell; but that was not too far away, as he often told her, for him to come back to Clintondale to see both the girls and boys there.
The only thing that troubled Nancy about this semi-intimacy between herself and the Academy boy was the fact that Grace Montgomery was so angry. She seemed to have an idea that the only person who had any right to speak to her cousin was herself.
Nancy was not so afraid to demand her rights as she once had been. If Grace and Cora scowled at her, and belittled her behind her back, Nancy had learned to go serenely on her way and pay no attention to them.
What if they did say she was a "nobody?" Nancy knew that she was popular enough with her classmates to win the high position of class president twice in succession.
"Let the little dogs howl and snarl," Jennie said. "What do we care?"
Yet the slur upon her identity could always hurt Nancy Nelson. Many a night, after Jennie was sound asleep in her bed, Nancy bedewed her pillow with tears.
She reviewed at these times all the important incidents in her short life.
The few brief notes that Mr. Gordon had sent to her she treasured carefully. She could not admire that peculiar gentleman; yet he was the one link that seemed to bind her to her mysterious fortune.
She received characteristic notes from Scorch O'Brien, now and then; they got past the Madame's desk unopened because they were addressed on the typewriter, and purported to come from the office of Ambrose, Necker & Boles.
So the weeks sped. Spring came and then the budding summer, and again the long line of white-robed girls walked the winding paths of Pinewood Hall. The school year seemed to have fairly flown and Nancy and her mates found themselves facing the fact that they were no longer sophomores, but juniors!
The Montgomery clique "got busy" again and tried to balk the election of Nancy for a third time to the office of president of the class. To be president in junior year was just as good as an appointment to the captaincy of a Side in senior year.
But Nancy had kept on the even tenor of her way. Her marks were just as good as ever, and she stood at the head of most of her classes. The teachers liked her and most of her own class considered her a bright and particular star. So there was little chance of Grace and Cora accomplishing their ends.
The graduating exercises at Pinewood occurred the day before that same ceremony at Dr. Dudley's school. The older boys of the Academy were usually invited guests at the exercises of the Hall; and some of the first and second-class girls remained over a day after graduation to see their friends in the boys' school graduated.
Nancy and Jennie received each an engraved card requesting "the honor of their presence" at Clinton Academy, with Bob Endress's name written with a flourish in the lower corner.
So, although Nancy was going home with Jennie for the summer once more, they begged the Madame's permission to remain over for the boys' graduation.
And how angry Grace Montgomery was when she learned that Bob had invited Nancy and her chum! Bob had stood well in his class—was quite the cock of the walk, indeed—and Grace wanted to show him off to the older girls as her especial property. She worked the cousinly relationship to the limit.
And after the exercises, when Bob came down from the platform particularly to lead Nancy and Jennie to his parents and introduce them, Grace and Cora went away in anything but a sweet frame of mind.
Mr. and Mrs. Endress spoke very kindly to Nancy. Bob, it seemed, had often spoken of the girl whose quick wit had saved him from the millrace almost two years before.
"And you are in Grace Montgomery's class?" observed Mrs. Endress. "It is odd we have never heard Grace speak of you, Nancy. And where will you spend your summer?"
Nancy told her how kind the Bruces were to invite her for the long vacation.
"I hope we shall see you both," said Mrs. Endress, nodding kindly to Jennie, too, "before fall. We are not so very far from Holleyburg, you know. Ah! here come Grace and the Senator."
Nancy and her chum fell back. A tall man dressed in a gray frock coat and broad-brimmed hat—the garments so often affected by the Western politician—was pacing slowly up the aisle with Grace and Cora.
He was in gray all over, from hat to spats, save that his tie had a crimson spot in it—a very beautiful ruby pin.
"My goodness me, Nance! The Man in Gray!" whispered Jennie, chuckling.
"What's that?" gasped Nancy.
"Why, you remember the man Scorch told us of?"
"The man in gray who came to see your guardian, Mr. Gordon?"
"Oh! Well," and Nancy recovered her composure. "I guess Grace Montgomery's father has nothing to do with me. But I have seen him before."
"You have?" returned Jennie, in turn surprised.
"Yes. Last year just about this time. He came to the Hall to see Grace. I wonder——"
She did not finish. She wondered if the Senator would remember her. He did. But to Nancy's confusion he scowled at her as he passed, and did not speak.
"My!" murmured Jennie in her chum's ear. "He's just as unpleasant as his daughter; isn't he? I guess Grace comes by her mean disposition honestly enough!"
MR. GORDON AGAIN
Once that summer Nancy plucked up courage to go in to Cincinnati from Jennie's home, and called upon Mr. Gordon. She did not tell him to expect her, but bearded the lion as she had once before.
Jennie went with her, of course; only she remained waiting in a tea-room near the big office building where the lion had his lair. Even Scorch was amazed to see Nancy Nelson, dressed in her best and outwardly composed, walk into the outer office of Ambrose, Necker & Boles.
"Such a shock!" gasped Scorch, pretending to faint away in his chair beside the gate in the railing. "And, say! Miss Nancy, how tall you're getting!"
"So are you, Scorch," she told him, holding out her hand.
"And good-looking—My eye!"
"Your hair is a whole shade darker, Scorch."
"You couldn't say nothing handsomer, Miss—not if you tried for a week," declared the office boy, shaking hands vigorously. "What's turned up? Are you going to crack the whip over Old Gordon?"
"How you talk, Scorch! You mustn't be so disrespectful. And why should I crack any whip over Mr. Gordon?"
"You will when you get the best of him—eh?"
"I certainly shall not. He—he's been very kind to me, as far as I know."
"Go in and see if he's kind now," grinned the red-haired one.
"Oh, no, Scorch! You announce me."
"Yah! you're too easy on him," growled Scorch, and went off to do as he was bid. When he came back he didn't look very pleasant.
"He says you can come in," snapped Scorch.
"What's the matter?" asked Nancy, a little fearfully.
"He acts like a bear with a sore head trying to open a honey tree. He'll eat you alive, Miss Nancy."
"All right. The banquet might as well begin right now," returned the girl, bound not to show how shaky she really was.
So she walked directly to Mr. Gordon's door, knocked lightly, and without waiting for any encouragement, walked in upon the big man in the armchair before the flat table.
Again he was silent, but Nancy knew that he was looking at her in the mirror. Nancy was very glad, for a moment, that she was looking her best. She flushed a little, took another step forward, and said:
"How do you do, Mr. Gordon?"
"What do you want now?" demanded the lawyer, ungraciously.
"I want you to see me and tell me if you are satisfied with my progress, sir," she said, boldly, as she had intended.
"Humph! I receive reports from the woman who runs that school."
"But you don't know how I look—how much I've grown."
"Come around here, then, and let's look at you," he growled, although he had been staring at her, she knew, since the moment she entered the office.
His big face was quite as expressionless as it had been nearly two years before when she first remembered having seen it. If the little eyes showed any expression when she first entered it was now hidden.
"You look like a well-grown girl—for your age," he said, with some hesitation. "What do you want?"
"To know if you can tell me anything more about myself—or my people—or what is to become of me when my schooling is done?"
"I can tell you nothing," he replied, his brows drawing together.
"I have learned typewriting, and I am excellent in spelling, and Miss Meader is teaching me stenography," she said, simply. "If—if the money should—should stop coming any time, I thought I would better know how to go about supporting myself."
"Ha!" He stared at her then with some emotion which sent a quick wave of color into his unhealthy cheek.
"What's that for?" he demanded, at last.
"What is what for, sir?"
"Your getting ready to earn your livelihood?"
"You say you do not know anything about the source of my income. It may stop any time."
"Then wouldn't it be necessary for me to go to work?"
"You wouldn't want to take money from me, then?" he snapped.
"Why, I—I—You say you're not even my guardian. I've no reason to expect anything from you if the money stops coming. Isn't that so?"
"Independent—eh?" he said, with a brief chuckle.
"I hope to be able to get along when I have to."
"When you have to?"
"If I have to, then," she said, nodding.
"Well! Maybe you're right. No knowing what might happen," he said, as though ruminating. "Say! Anybody ever talk to you about this money I have to spend on you?"
"No-o, sir. Only my chum and I talk about it," said Nancy, slowly.
"Curious, I suppose?"
"Yes, sir," replied Nancy, slowly. "And yet, it is more than curiosity. Suppose my—mother was alive—or, my father——"
Mr. Gordon passed a big hand over his big face. He smoothed out something there—either a wry smile or a spasm of pain.
"Suppose, instead, you had a bad-tempered step-mother, or a drunken brute of an uncle, or a miser of a grandfather, or some other evilly-conditioned relative. Wouldn't you rather be as you are than to know such relatives?"
He looked at her sharply.
"Ha! you don't know how well off you are," grunted Mr. Gordon. "Well! I'm busy. What more do you want?"
"No—nothing, sir," said Nancy, disappointedly.
"Want some more money for your vacation? Those Bruce people must be very fond of you to keep you so long for nothing."
"They are very kind."
"There is money here for you if you want it," said the lawyer, carelessly. "You want nothing?"
"I—I'd like to see Miss Trigg again. She was kind to me—in her way."
"Who is Miss Trigg?" he demanded.
Nancy explained. He reached into his pocket, selected some bills, and gave her more money than she had ever had at one time before.
"Go on back there to Malden and see your old teacher, if you like. Take the Bruce girl with you. Now, good-bye. I'm busy."
He was just as brusk and as brief of speech as he had been before. Nancy went away, again deeply disappointed. But she and Jennie went to Malden that week and visited Miss Trigg at Higbee School. Miss Prentice was with a party visiting the Yosemite; but poor Miss Trigg never got away from the Endowment.
The good, wooden, middle-aged woman was really glad to see the girl who had spent so many tedious summer vacations in her care. She tried to be tender and affectionate to Nancy; but the poor lady didn't know how.
The girls had a nice time about Malden, however. Nancy took her chum to the millpond, where the water-lilies grew, and showed her where Bob Endress had come so near being drowned in the millrace.
Jennie grew very romantic over this place.
"Just think, Nance! Suppose, years and years from now, after you've finished at college, and Bob Endress has got through college, too, you should come here to see Miss Trigg, and he should come here, too, and you should meet right here walking in this path.
"Wouldn't that be just like a storybook?"
"Nonsense, Jen!" exclaimed Nancy, laughing.
But sometimes, after all, the story books are like real life. And if Nancy had had fairy glasses that she might look ahead the "years and years" Jennie had spoken of, how amazed she would have been to see two figures—identical with her own and Bob's—walking here in the twilight!
But girls of the age of Nancy Nelson and Jennie Bruce are usually much too hearty of appetite, and wholesome of being, to be romantic—for long at a time, anyway.
The chums were as wild as hares that summer. They ran free in the woods, and went fishing with Jennie's brothers, and "camped out" over night on the edge of the pond, and learned all manner of trick swimming, including the removal of some of their outer clothing in the water.
"We're not going to be caught again as we were there in Clinton River, when our boat sank," declared Nancy, and Jennie agreed.
When they went back to Pinewood Hall they were as brown as Indians, and as strong and wiry as wolves. Miss Etching complimented them on the good the summer seemed to have done them.
Now came the time when Nancy Nelson and her chum "went higher" in more ways than one. They were full-fledged juniors, and they had to give up old Number 30, West Side, which they both loved, to incoming freshies.
They drew Number 83—a lovely room, much larger than their old one and more sumptuously furnished. It had a double door, too, and the walls were almost sound-proof.
"What a lovely room to study in!" cried Nancy.
"And a great one to hold 'orgies' in," whispered Jennie, her eyes twinkling.
So they determined, a week after school opened, to have "a house-warming." Nancy had a good part of her spending money, given to her by Mr. Gordon during vacation, left in her purse. They invited twenty of their closest friends of the junior class and, as Jennie expressed it, "just laid themselves out" for a fine spread.
There was to be fudge, too, which Nancy had the knack of making. The chums had a chafing dish hidden away, and this was brought forth and the ingredients made ready, while Nancy hovered over the dish like a gray-robed witch.
"Do you know what Cora Rathmore said?" chattered one of the visitors.
"Everything but her prayers!" declared Jennie, with sarcasm.
"No, no! about this racket to-night."
"Didn't know she knew we were going to have a house-warming," said Jennie, looking up quickly. "I hope not!"
"She does know," said another girl.
"Then somebody must have told," declared Nancy, warmly. "We tried to keep it very quiet."
"And from Cora, too!" said Jennie, shaking her head.
"Well! she said you were just too mean for anything when you did not ask her—and she right on this corridor," said the first speaker.
"Well, wouldn't that jar you?" commented Jennie Bruce.
"And she said she hoped you'd get caught," pursued the other girl.
"Wow, wow, says the fox!" exclaimed Jennie. "What do you think of that, now, Nance?"
"I think if we are caught we'll know whom to blame it to," responded her chum, decidedly.
"My goodness me! Do you suppose she would be so mean?" cried another of the visiting juniors.
"There's nothing too mean for Cora to try," answered Jennie.
"And I saw her outside her room just as I came in here!" exclaimed another girl.
"Oh, me, oh, my!" cried Jennie. "I've got to go and see to this."
She dashed out of the room, leaving the other girls in a delightful tremor. She was gone but a moment.
"Oh, girls! Scatter!" she gasped, when she stuck her head in at the door again. "Cora's out of her room and there's somebody coming up the lower flight."
"The Madame herself!" gasped Nancy.
The other girls grabbed handfuls of the good things, and ran. The fudge was not quite done.
"Quick! Out of the window with it!" gasped Jennie, seizing the handle of the pan.
"But she'll smell it!" wailed Nancy.
"Will she? Not much!" declared Jennie, and grabbing a rubber shoe from the closet held it for thirty seconds over the flame of the alcohol lamp.
Nancy, meanwhile, had been hiding away all the goodies. The candy, pan and all, had gone out of the window. Nothing but the awful stench of the rubber shoe could be smelled when the lights went out, and the girls hopped lightly into bed.
"Rat, tat, tat!" on the door.
Jennie yawned, rolled over, and yawned again.
"Rat, tat, tat!"
"Oh, yes'm!" cried Jennie, bouncing up.
"Nancy Nelson! Nancy Nelson's wanted!" exclaimed the sleepy voice of Madame Schakael's maid, who slept downstairs.
"Oh, dear, me! What's happened?" demanded Nancy, unable to carry out the farce now. This was not what the girls had expected.
"Wanted down in the office, Miss. Telegram. The Madame wants to see you right away."
The maid went away.
"What do you suppose has happened?" demanded Nancy of her chum.
"It isn't anything about fudge," groaned Jennie. "I'm sorry I told you to throw the fudge out of the window. And I've spoiled a perfectly good rubber!"
"I must run down. Come with me, Jen!"
"All right," agreed her chum, and together the two girls in their flannel robes scuttled out of Number 83 and down the two flights to the lower hall.
There was a light in the principal's office. When Nancy and Jennie went in Madame Schakael was sitting at her broad desk. It was not yet midnight.
"I was sorry to break up your party, Nancy," said the little lady, with a quiet smile. "But it seemed necessary."
"Oh, Madame! did you know——"
"I was kindly told by one of your classmates," said the Madame, grave again. "I am sorry it so happened. I do not encourage meannesses of any kind at Pinewood Hall. The tattler is one of the most abominable of our trials.
"As for the breaking of the rules by girls who wish to stuff themselves with goodies after hours, I have little to say. A junior who is president of her class, and on the road to being one of our most prominent pupils, knows best what she wishes to do."
"Oh, Madame! Forgive me!" begged Nancy, greatly troubled. And even Jennie saw nothing humorous in the incident.
"You are forgiven, Miss Nelson," said Madame Schakael, cheerfully. "I expect, however, my junior and senior girls to help rather than hinder the general deportment of the school. And 'orgies' after hours do not set the younger girls a good example.
"However," said the principal, kindly, "this was not my object in calling you down, as I said before. A telegram has arrived for you. I do not understand it, but perhaps you will. Here is the evening paper—it in part solves the mystery. But who, my dear, signs himself or herself 'Scorch'?"
"Scorch!" gasped both Nancy and Jennie together.
The Madame pushed the yellow slip of paper toward the startled Nancy. She read at a glance what it contained:
"Come to Garvan's Hotel at once. G. in bad way. See P. & O. accident. —Scorch."
"Scorch is Mr. Gordon's office boy," said Nancy, trembling.
"And 'G.' stands for Mr. Gordon," whispered Jennie, looking over her chum's shoulder.
The Madame had rustled open the paper and now displayed the front page to the eyes of the girls. Spread upon it was the account of a terrible accident on the P. & O. Railroad. At the top of the list of injured, printed in black type, was:
"Henry Gordon, lawyer, Cincinnati, seriously."
THE MAN IN GRAY AGAIN
"Do you understand it, Nancy?" asked the principal, quietly.
"Oh, yes, Madame!"
"I suppose it is natural for them to send for you if your guardian is hurt?"
"Scorch would be sure to send for me," whispered the girl, nodding.
"A very peculiar name, Nancy."
"He—he is a peculiar boy. But I know him. I have been to his home. He is my friend."
"And Garvan's Hotel?"
"Is where Mr. Gordon lives. He is a bachelor."
"Ah! Then I presume it is all right. But to go to Cincinnati at night—there is a train in an hour——"
"Dear Madame Schakael!" cried Jennie. "Let me go with her. I'll take care of her."
"She's better able to take care of you, I think, Miss Flyaway," observed the Madame, with a smile.
"We'll take care of each other, then," said Jennie, promptly. "I'll wire my father, or my brother John. They'll come in to the city to meet us to-morrow morning."
"That may be a good way to handle the matter," said the principal, accepting Jennie's suggestion with relief. "Miss Nelson should go at once, I believe. I'll 'phone Samuel at the stables and have him here at the door with the light cart before you girls can possibly get ready. Each of you pack a bag—and pack sensibly. Be off with you!" commanded the little woman, handling the matter with her customary energy, once her decision was made.
Nancy and Jennie ran up to their room once more. The whole house was still now, especially on the junior floor.
Only they thought they saw Cora Rathmore's door ajar.
"That's the nasty cat who told!" hissed Jennie, as she and her chum began to dress.
"Never mind. We won't do it again, Jennie. We were wrong."
"I suppose we were. But, Nance!"
"What is it, dear?"
"I hate like time to have to be an example for the greenies and sophs.," wailed Jennie, cramming things into her traveling bag quite recklessly.
The girls were ready for their strange journey in twenty minutes. There was no dawdling over dressing on this occasion. When they returned to the Madame's office Samuel was just bringing the dog-cart to the door.
"Are you warmly dressed, girls?"
"Yes, indeed, Madame."
"Have you sufficient money?"
"I have nearly ten dollars," said Nancy.
"And I have half as much," added Jennie.
"Here is twenty more," said the Madame, putting it into Nancy's hand. "Your guardian, Mr. Gordon, has always left a sum for emergencies in my hand. It seems he has been very liberal. I hope, Nancy, that you will find him not so seriously injured as the circumstances seem to suggest."
She kissed them both warmly and went to the hall door with them.
"Get their tickets and see them aboard the train. Speak to the conductor about them, Samuel," she said to the under gardener.
"Indeed I will, Madame," replied the good fellow.
As they rattled down to the lodge gates, the door of the little cottage opened and Jessie Pease hurried out in her night wrapper.
"Wait! Wait, Samuel!" she called, and held up a little basket. "You'll be hungry on the train, girls. Some chicken sandwiches, and olives, and odds and ends that I managed to pick up after the Madame telephoned to me about your trouble.
"I hope it isn't so bad as it looks, Nancy. And take care of her, Janie—that's a good lassie!"
"Oh! aren't folks just good!" exclaimed Nancy to her chum, as Samuel drove on. "It just seems as though they do like me a little."
"Huh! everybody's crazy about you, Nance! You ought to know that," returned Jennie. "I don't see what a girl who's made so many friends needs of a family—or of money, either. Don't worry."
But Nancy wiped a few tears away. Never before had she appreciated the fact that here at Pinewood Hall she had made many dear and loving friends. "Miss Nobody from Nowhere" was just as important as anybody else in the whole school.
Samuel drove almost recklessly through the streets of Clintondale in order to make the night train that stopped but a moment at the station. They were in good season, however, and the man put them, with their bags and the basket, aboard.
It would not have paid to engage sleeping berths at that hour. The two girls had comfortable seats, and of course, were too excited to wish to sleep. Jennie proceeded to open the lunch basket at once, however.
"No knowing when we'll get a chance to eat again," declared Nancy's lively chum, who was enjoying to the full the opening of this strange campaign.
What should they first do when they reached the city? Would the hotel be open so early in the morning? Would Scorch be at the station to meet them?
And this question brought Nancy to another thought. Scorch had not been communicated with.
So she wrote a reply to his message, saying that she and Jennie, were coming to Cincinnati and were then on the train, and had the brakeman file it for sending at the first station beyond Clintondale at which the train stopped.
She addressed it to Scorch O'Brien's home, believing that it might reach him more quickly in that way. She did not suppose that the red-haired youth would be allowed to remain at Garvan's Hotel over night.
As it chanced, it was a very good thing Nancy Nelson sent this message, and addressed it as she did. But, of course, neither she nor Jennie Bruce suspected how important the matter was at the time.
And, within a few minutes, something else gripped the attention of the girls. They were discussing Jessie's chicken sandwiches, "and other odds and ends," when a man walked down the aisle of the rocking coach toward them.
"Oh, look, Nance!" whispered Jennie.
Nancy looked up. The towering figure of a man dressed in a gray suit, with hat and gloves to match, stopped suddenly beside them. It was Senator Montgomery, Grace Montgomery's father.
"Hul-lo!" he muttered, evidently vastly surprised to see the girls in the train bound for Cincinnati.
"How do you do?" said Nancy, softly.
"Yes! you're the girl. I thought I was not mistaken," spoke the Senator, and although he frowned he seemed to wish to speak pleasantly. "You go to the same school as my daughter?"
"Yes, sir," repeated Nancy.
"What is your name?"
"I thought I could not be mistaken." The frown was gone from his face now and his sly eyes twinkled in what was meant to be a jovial way. "You girls are not running away, I suppose?"
"Oh, no, sir," said Nancy, timidly.
"What is the matter, then?" he asked, quickly. He held a folded paper in his hand which he had evidently been reading.
"My——A gentleman who looks after me has been hurt and I am going to him," responded Nancy, hesitatingly. "They have telegraphed for me."
It seemed as though the Senator's face paled. "You don't mean to say he sent word to you?" he demanded.
"Oh, no! not Mr. Gordon."
The Senator's face became suddenly animated again. He smote one hand heavily upon the chair back.
"Not my old friend, Henry Gordon—a lawyer?"
"I saw he was hurt. Why! I myself am going to Cincinnati for the special purpose of seeing if he really is seriously ill!"
"Quite so," declared the Senator. "And he sent for you? I didn't know he had a relative living, my dear."
"No," explained Nancy. "It was Scorch who sent for me."
"Mr. Gordon's office boy."
"And I am not related to Mr. Gordon," explained Nancy, wishing to be perfectly open and aboveboard. "But Mr. Gordon has always looked after me and—and I didn't know but I might be of some use to him if he is alone and injured."
"Ahem!" returned the Senator, grimly. "I do not know that I quite approve. I cannot understand what your principal was thinking of when she let you two girls come off alone on such an errand. But——Ahem! I will see you when we arrive at Cincinnati."
Jennie had not said a word during this conversation. She waited until Senator Montgomery had gone along the aisle and was out of earshot. Then she seized Nancy's arm suddenly.
"I've got it!" she whispered.
"Ouch! Got what?" demanded Nancy, striving to free her arm.
"I see it all!"
"Then let me see a little of it, Jennie. And, goodness me, dear! don't pinch so. What do you mean?"
"Do you know who that man is?" demanded Jennie, in an awed whisper.
"Of course. He's Grace Montgomery's father."
"Yes!" cried Jennie, impatiently. "But who else?"
"I don't understand why we did not see it before!" exclaimed Jennie, mysteriously. "At any rate you ought to have remembered it when Scorch was talking that day."
"I really wish you would say what you mean, Jen," said her chum.
"That man—that Senator Montgomery—who knows your Mr. Gordon so well and says he is hurrying to him now——"
"Well?" asked the wide-eyed Nancy.
"That fellow is the man in gray of whom Scorch told us so long ago. Don't you remember? The man who came to Mr. Gordon and seemed to object because he had sent you to school at Pinewood Hall?"
Nancy was stricken dumb for the moment. Scorch's description of the mysterious man who had left Mr. Gordon in tears came back to her mind now, clearly.
"The man in gray," repeated Jennie, nodding her curly head vigorously.
SCORCH "ON THE JOB"
"Oh, dear! Do you suppose that can be possible?" Nancy demanded, finally.
"You know I'm right," Jennie returned, firmly.
"It—it might be another man."
"Two big men, who look important, and who both dress so peculiarly?"
"It's he, all right," declared Jennie, vigorously. "And he knows as much about you as Gordon does."
"Do you think so?"
"But he isn't as kindly-intentioned toward you as even Old Gordon. I know by the look he gave you as he went away."
"But Grace Montgomery's father!" gasped Nancy.
"Maybe you're related to Grace," ventured Jennie, with a sudden chuckle. "And after all the stuff she's said about you 'round Pinewood, too!"
"Oh, I hope not!" exclaimed Nancy.
"Don't want Grace for a relation—eh?"
"Dear, me! No!" cried Nancy, quite honestly.
This amused Jennie immensely; but soon she became more serious and the two girls discussed the possibilities of the matter most of the way to Cincinnati.
Mr. Montgomery did not come back to them. They were free, therefore, to wonder what he would do when they reached the city.
"Perhaps he won't want you to see Mr. Gordon," suggested Jennie.
"Why is he so much interested in your affairs?"
"Do we know that he is?" demanded Nancy.
"Well! Scorch heard him——"
"If it really was the same man."
"Dear me!" said Jennie, wearily. "You are such a Doubting Tomaso——"
"I don't believe that's the feminine form of 'Thomas,'" chuckled Nancy.
"I don't care. It's as plain as the nose on your face——"
"Now, don't get too personal," begged Nancy, rubbing her nasal organ. "Let's wait and see."
"But he may try to stop us, I tell you."
"Not likely. And why?"
"Oh! you've asked that before," cried Jennie, petulantly.
But all they could do was to wait and see. Mr. Montgomery might not even notice them again, although he had intimated that he would speak to them when they arrived at the station.
However, the two girls got off the train at their journey's end without at once seeing the Senator. It was very early in the morning and the big train-shed seemed all but deserted.
Nancy knew, however, that there was a cab stand just outside, and she and her chum hurried out to it. Before they could find a cabman or speak to the officer on duty in front of the building, Mr. Montgomery came bustling up.
"Are you girls going immediately to Mr. Gordon's hotel?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," replied Nancy.
"Come right along with me, then. I have a taxi waiting."
Jennie held back a little; yet even she did not see how they could refuse the offer. They followed him around the nearest corner, and so did not see a figure that shot panting across the square to the entrance of the station they had just left.
This was a youth whose hair, even in the early morning light, displayed all the fiery hue of sunrise. It was Scorch—but for once Scorch was just too late.
Nancy and Jennie were out of sight with the "man in gray" before the boy reached the railway station in answer to Nancy's telegram.
Mr. Montgomery escorted the two girls to a cab standing in a dark street. It seemed to have been waiting some time, for its engine was not running and the chauffeur was pacing the walk.
Possibly Mr. Montgomery had done some telegraphing ahead, too.
"Get right in here, girls," he said. "Lucky I was coming on the same train with you. Your folks will certainly be worried about you."
"Now, wasn't that a funny thing for him to say?" asked Jennie, as she stepped in after Nancy.
There was no chance for Nancy to reply, however, for Mr. Montgomery was close upon their heels. The chauffeur jumped to his seat, the door slammed, and the cab was off.
"How far is it to Garvan's Hotel?" asked Nancy.
"It's some distance," replied Mr. Montgomery. "I only hope Gordon is not hurt as badly as the paper says. Of course, if he is in the hands of doctors and nurses they may refuse to let any of us see him."
"Oh! I hope not!" exclaimed Nancy.
"We can wait till he's better, then," Jennie suggested. "John will be in town this morning and we'll go to his office and then go home with him and wait until you can see Mr. Gordon."
Mr. Montgomery snorted, but said nothing. Indeed, he seemed very glum after they were in the cab.
What a distance it did seem to Garvan's Hotel! The cab traveled at high speed, for there was not much traffic at this hour and the few policemen paid no attention.
"This isn't at all the part of the city I thought Mr. Gordon lived in," observed Nancy, once.
Mr. Montgomery made no comment. Jennie squeezed her chum's hand and sat closer to her. To tell the truth, Jennie was getting a little frightened.
The cab passed through a web of narrow streets. The girls, although they knew something about the city, were soon at sea as far as the locality was concerned.
"Where are we?" cried Nancy, at last.
"We have arrived," spoke the Senator, harshly. "Jump out. I'll take you right indoors. I have been here to see Gordon before."
"But—but this doesn't look like a hotel," murmured Nancy, first to reach the sidewalk.
The houses were rows of mean-looking, three-story brick edifices. They were in a narrow street near the corner of a wider thoroughfare.
"This is the side entrance," said the Senator, and taking the girls firmly by the arm, ushered them up the steps of the nearest house.
He did not even have to knock. Somebody must have been on watch, for the door swung open instantly.
Neither Nancy nor Jennie saw the person who opened the door. It was very dark in the hall.
"How is our patient?" asked Mr. Montgomery, rather loudly, as they stepped in.
"Not very well—not very well," said a wheezy voice. "You can go right up to that room, sir—the sitting room. Ahem! You'll have to see the doctor before you can speak with Mr.—Mr.——"
"Mr. Gordon," said the Senator, briskly. "All right, girls. Hurry upstairs."
Nancy and Jennie were quite confused. They did just as they were urged to do by Senator Montgomery. At the top of the flight he pushed open a door and the chums went into the room. The curtains were drawn. One feeble gas jet was burning. It was a fusty-smelling, cluttered room, furnished with odds and ends of old furniture and hangings.
"I'll be with you directly," said Mr. Montgomery, and closed the door.
"Oh!" squealed Jennie.
"Did you hear it?" whispered Nancy, seizing her chum.
The key had been turned in the lock. They tried the knob—first one shook it and then the other. The door could not be opened and there did not seem to be another door leading out of the room.
"He's locked us in!" said Nancy, amazed.
"I knew he was a villain!" declared Jennie, with a vicious snap of her teeth. "Isn't he just like Grace?"
"But—but how dares he do such a thing?" gasped Nancy.
"He's a rich man—he can do anything. Or, he thinks he can," returned Jennie. "But you wait till my father gets hold of him!"
"Do—do you suppose he'll dare do us any bodily harm?" queried Nancy, anxiously. "Oh! I wish I hadn't got you into it, Jennie."
"Stuff and nonsense!" exclaimed the more reckless Jennie. "He only wants to keep you from seeing Gordon."
"He's afraid Mr. Gordon will weaken and tell you all about yourself," responded her practical chum. "That's plain enough."
"Oh, dear, me! do you think so? And suppose poor Mr. Gordon dies?"
"Then you'll never know who you really are, Nance. At least, you can be sure Grace's father will never tell you."
"If he knows."
"If he doesn't know, and isn't afraid of your finding out, what does he bother with us this way for?" demanded Jennie, angrily.
"Maybe we can get out of the window?"
"It's at the back of the house. We couldn't get out of the yard."
"Who'd hear us here? Might as well save our breath," said Jennie.
"I—I wish Scorch was here," declared Nancy.
"So do I—with all my heart. Bless his red head! He'd get us out of this in short order."
As she spoke there came a tapping on one of the window-panes. Jennie and Nancy both ran to the window, drew aside the heavy curtain and raised the shade.
Only a little light filtered in. But it was sufficient to show them a pale face flattened against the glass.
The face suddenly grinned widely. Then a hand waved. They saw his red hair under his cap, and the two girls clung together with a cry of delight.
Scorch O'Brien was "on the job."
ALL ABOUT NANCY
The red-haired youth drew himself up to the window-sill (he had climbed a rickety arbor below) and motioned to the girls to unlock the sashes. They did so and Scorch forced up the lower one.
"Hist!" he whispered, in a tone so hoarse that it almost choked him. "Where is he?"
"We don't know," said Jennie, hastily. "He's locked us into this room."
"Of course he would," said Scorch, airily. "Don't they always do that? It's the gray man; isn't it?"
"Yes, yes!" said Nancy. "Senator Montgomery."
"That's the man. I got onto his name lately. And I seen him again, too. Now he'll keep you from Mr. Gordon."
"Is he hurt very badly?" asked Nancy, anxiously.
"You bet he is!"
"But you're goin' to have a chance to talk with him first. He'll see you, too. He told me so only last evening. I was with him all night. Then I ran home for breakfast and found your telegram. Then I beat it for the station. But you'd got away before I got there."
"Senator Montgomery came down on the train with us," explained Nancy. "And he said he was coming right to Garvan's Hotel to see Mr. Gordon——This is not the hotel; is it, Scorch?"
"I should say not!" returned the boy. "He fooled you. I asked among the cabmen at the station, and they all saw you and the gray man. So I knowed there was trouble afoot.
"He took you around the corner, and there a milkman saw you all getting into the taxi. So I grabs another taxi—I had money belongin' to Old—to Mr. Gordon—in my pocket.
"That taxi-driver was a keen one, he was. He trailed your machine like he was trackin' a band of Injuns. Cops saw you pass, and switchmen at the trolley crossin's.
"So we got here just as the taxi was whiskin' his nibs away——"
"Then he's not in the house?"
"I knew he wasn't when I asked," said Scorch, calmly. "He's beat it for Garvan's. That's where we'll go, too."
"Oh, Scorch!" cried Jennie. "You're wonderful. How you going to get us out?"
"Not by the window, I hope," murmured Nancy.
"Of course not," the young man replied. "See here."
He produced from either trousers leg the two parts of a jointed steel bar. It went together with a sharp click and proved to be a burglar's "jimmy" of the most approved pattern.
"Scorch O'Brien! Where did you get that thing?" demanded Nancy. "You could be arrested with it in your possession."
"Forget it," advised Scorch, easily. "My next-door neighbor is a cop. He let me have it, and I'll show you how to use it."
The youth went to the single door of the room, inserted the point of the bar between door and frame near the lock, and the next moment the dry wood gave way, splintering all around the lock. The door came open at a touch.
"Sup—suppose they stop us?" breathed Jennie, trembling.
"Let 'em try!" exclaimed the valiant Scorch, and led the way into the dark hall.
They marched downstairs, the girls clinging together and trembling, without a soul appearing to dispute their advance. The outside door was chained; but Scorch had no difficulty in opening it. And so they passed on out into the grimy street just after sunrise.
The house was merely an old, ill-kept lodging house, the person who ran it being under some sort of obligation to Senator Montgomery. The girls never learned what street it was on.
"My taxi's waiting," said Scorch, proudly, hurrying them around the corner. "Come on, before it eats its head off and breaks me."
"Oh, I've got money, Scorch!" cried Nancy.
"All right. You may need it later."
The taxi-cab driver paid no attention to the girls as they got in. Scorch took his seat beside him, and they were off. In a very few minutes they stopped at Garvan's Hotel, in a much better-looking neighborhood, and Scorch paid for the cab.
"Come on, now, and let me do the talking," said the red-headed youth. "That gray man is ahead of us; but he isn't the whole thing around this hotel. They know me better than they do him."
Nobody sought to stop them, however. They went up in the elevator and got out at the third floor. Scorch led the way along the corridor, and suddenly turned the knob of a door without knocking. The door was unlocked.
"Here! What do you want in here, young man?" snapped a voice that Nancy and Jennie recognized.
It was Senator Montgomery. Scorch pushed ahead.
"I must see Mr. Gordon," he said. "I've been with him ever since he was brought in from the wreck. I'm takin' my orders from him."
"He is in no fit shape to give orders. You can't see him——"
He broke off with a startled cry when he saw the girls.
"Where—where did they come from?" he gasped.
"Right from where you locked them in, Mister," replied the boy, boldly. "But you didn't count on me; did you? I was on the job. Mr. Gordon has asked to see Nancy Nelson, and he's going to see her."
"You young scoundrel!" exclaimed the man in gray. "I'll have you arrested for breaking and entering."
"All right, sir," returned the youth, quite calmly, but walking swiftly to the window of the room. "See yonder, Mister? See that cop on the corner? Well, that's Mike Dugan. He's my next-door neighbor. And if you were the President of the United States, instead of a senator, Mike Dugan would be a bigger man than you.
"Understand? Nancy Nelson sees Mr. Gordon just as soon as the nurse says it's all right. You try to interfere and I'll call my friend up here!"
The inner door opened and a white-capped nurse appeared.
"Not so much talking, please!" she said, severely. "You are disturbing Mr. Gordon. Has the girl appeared yet?"
Nancy Nelson ran forward. Senator Montgomery tried to stop her; but Scorch was right in his path.
"Stand back!" exclaimed the red-haired youth, emulating his favorite heroes of fiction. "She's a-going to see him!"
"Of course she is," said the nurse, taking Nancy's hand. "I believe it will do him more good than anything else. He is worried about something, and if he relieves his mind, the doctor says, he has a very good chance of recovering."
"He's mad. He's not fit to talk with anyone," declared Senator Montgomery, as the door closed behind Nancy and the nurse stood on guard.
The man was dripping with perspiration and showed every evidence of panic.
"Say, boss," advised Scorch, "if Mr. Gordon is likely to tell anything that is goin' to incriminate you, as the newspapers puts it, take my tip: Get away while you can."
And whether because of Scorch's word, or for other reasons, Mr. Montgomery tiptoed from the room, and was not seen again about the hotel. Nancy and Jennie remained, however, for several days, being assigned to a room next to Mr. Gordon's suite.
Just what passed between the injured man and Nancy Nelson nobody but the two will ever know. Nancy did not tell everything even to her chum. But Mr. Bruce likewise had a long interview with the lawyer that very day and at once went to work under the injured man's direction to obtain certain property which might be tampered with by those who had kept Nancy out of her rightful fortune for so long.
Henry Gordon was equally guilty with his old partner, Montgomery. But the latter had benefited more largely from the crime, and Gordon had been a party to it under duress.
Years before, when he lived in California, Henry Gordon had been tempted to commit a crime. Had it become known he never could have practised law again—in any state. Montgomery knew of the lawyer's slip and held it over him.
The Senator's wife had a sister who was married to a very wealthy man—Arnold Nelson. It was supposed that Mr. Nelson's family—himself, his wife, and little daughter—had died suddenly of a fever during an epidemic in a coast town.
With the child dead, the entire property belonging to the Nelsons came to Senator Montgomery's wife, and he had the handling of it. But Gordon, who had known and loved, as a young man, Nancy's mother, after the parents' death found the deserted little girl, placed her with Miss Prentice at Higbee School, and forced Montgomery to pay, year by year, for the child's board and education.
Where Nancy was, Montgomery did not know until he came across her at Pinewood Hall. Gordon had no idea that the Senator intended sending his own daughter to Pinewood, too.
So that, in brief, was the story the broken and injured lawyer told his charge. Later he explained more fully to Mr. Bruce, Jennie's father, and with the aid of good counsel, Mr. Bruce made the Montgomerys disgorge the great fortune that they had withheld from Nancy's use all these years.
In the end Mr. Gordon did not die. He remained an invalid for some time, but slowly recovered. Nancy, by that time, had become such a necessity to him that he went to Clintondale for the weeks of convalescence when the doctors refused to let him get back into legal harness again.
He was really a changed man. He could not act as Nancy's guardian; Mr. Bruce, Jennie's father, did that. But there was scarcely a pleasant afternoon during the remainder of Nancy's junior year, while Mr. Gordon was at Clintondale, that a very red-haired youth, in a smart auto outfit, did not drive up to the school entrance in a little runabout, and whisk Nancy down to the village hotel to see Mr. Gordon for an hour or so.
And Nancy learned to like Mr. Gordon better than she had ever expected to when she first bearded the lion in his den.
NO LONGER A NOBODY
After Jennie Bruce's father, on behalf of Nancy, made his first demand upon Senator Montgomery in reprisal of the latter's diversion of Nancy's fortune, Grace Montgomery disappeared suddenly from Pinewood Hall.
It had been so sudden that the girls—especially those who had been so friendly with her—could scarcely recover from the shock.
At first, when Nancy and Jennie had gone off at midnight, it was rumored around the school (said rumor starting from Cora Rathmore's room) that the two chums had been expelled for holding an "orgy" after hours. And there was nobody to contradict this statement, eagerly repeated by the Montgomery clique, until Jennie came back.
She was bound not to tell Nancy's secret, however; otherwise Grace Montgomery would have "sung small." The latter, however, was her bold and mischievous self right up to the very day—some weeks later—when she received a long letter from her heart-broken mother.
Mrs. Montgomery had never known the truth about her sister's child. It became known somehow that Grace's mother begged Grace to make a friend of Nancy and try to influence her to make her lawyer's demands less severe upon the Senator, for his fortune was toppling.
But Grace would never have done this. She had talked of, and to, Nancy Nelson too outrageously. She could not have asked a favor of the girl she so disliked—whom she doubly disliked now!
So she borrowed her fare of Madame Schakael and took the first train home; and Pinewood Hall never saw her again. Indeed, the girls she left behind scarcely heard of Grace Montgomery. She never wrote to Cora, even; and had Bob Endress not come over from Cornell for the New Year dance, Nancy and Jennie would not have heard much about her.
"They have all gone back to California," said Bob, who did not at all understand the rights of the matter. "Somehow the Senator has lost most of his money, and they had just enough left to buy a little fruit ranch down in the state somewhere. Too bad!"
Nancy did not explain. Why should she have injured his cousin in his estimation? But she and Bob remained very good friends.
Nancy lived quite as plainly as she had before. She saw no reason for changing her mode of living because the lawyers told her there were great sums of money in store for her.
That summer, however, she did insist on taking the entire Bruce family to the mountains as her guests; for they had been very kind to her, and that while she was still "A Little Miss Nobody."
Mr. Gordon had gone back to his practice ere this. He was much aged in appearance and would always walk with a limp; but his confidential clerk, a certain red-haired youth in whom Jennie Bruce would always have a particular interest, was at hand to take the burden of work from the lawyer's shoulders when need came.
Perhaps Patrick Sarsfield O'Brien outstripped everybody else in the changes that came. In six months (during which he diligently applied himself to the night school course) he shed his slang like a mantle. Instead of cheap detective stories hidden in his desk, he had text-books.
He is, in fact, a rising young man, and will be a good lawyer some day. Mr. Gordon is very proud of him.
And so is Nancy. Scorch was her first friend, and she will never forget him or cease to be interested in his growth and welfare.
Nancy and Jennie are climbing the scholastic hill together. Already the girls and teachers of the Hall are beginning to brag about Nancy Nelson. She stands at the head of her class, she is stroke of the school eight, champion on the ice, and has won a state tennis championship medal in the yearly tournament of school clubs. She is no longer "A Little Miss Nobody."
Yet she remains the same gentle, rather timid girl she always was. She can fight for the rights of others; but she does not put forth her own claims to particular attention.
"Pshaw! You let folks walk all over you just the same as ever, Nance!" her chum, Jennie, declares. "Haven't you any spunk?"
"I—I don't want to fight them," Nancy replies.
"Goodness to gracious and eight hands around!" ejaculates Jennie, with exasperation. "If it hadn't been for Scorch and me you'd never got hold of your fortune and sent the Montgomerys back to the tall pines. You know you wouldn't!"
But Nancy only smiles at that. She doesn't mind having her chum take for herself a big share of the credit for this happy outcome of her affairs.
* * * * * *
Something About AMY BELL MARLOWE And Her Books For Girls
In these days, when the printing presses are turning out so many books for girls that are good, bad and indifferent, it is refreshing to come upon the works of such a gifted authoress as Miss Amy Bell Marlowe, who is now under contract to write exclusively for Messrs. Grosset & Dunlap.
In many ways Miss Marlowe's books may be compared with those of Miss Alcott and Mrs. Meade, but all are thoroughly modern and wholly American in scene and action. Her plots, while never improbable, are exceedingly clever, and her girlish characters are as natural as they are interesting.
On the following pages will be found a list of Miss Marlowe's books. Every girl in our land ought to read these fresh and wholesome tales. They are to be found at all booksellers. Each volume is handsomely illustrated and bound in cloth, stamped in colors. Published by Grosset & Dunlap, New York. A free catalogue of Miss Marlowe's books may be had for the asking.
THE OLDEST OF FOUR
"I don't see any way out!"
It was Natalie's mother who said that, after the awful news had been received that Mr. Raymond had been lost in a shipwreck on the Atlantic. Natalie was the oldest of four children, and the family was left with but scant means for support.
"I've got to do something—yes, I've just got to!" Natalie said to herself, and what the brave girl did is well related in "The Oldest of Four; Or, Natalie's Way Out." In this volume we find Natalie with a strong desire to become a writer. At first she contributes to a local paper, but soon she aspires to larger things, and comes in contact with the editor of a popular magazine. This man becomes her warm friend, and not only aids her in a literary way but also helps in a hunt for the missing Mr. Raymond.
Natalie has many ups and downs, and has to face more than one bitter disappointment. But she is a plucky girl through and through.
"One of the brightest girls' stories ever penned," one well-known author has said of this book, and we agree with him. Natalie is a thoroughly lovable character, and one long to be remembered. Published as are all the Amy Bell Marlowe books, by Grosset & Dunlap, New York, and for sale by all booksellers. Ask your dealer to let you look the volume over.
THE GIRLS OF HILLCREST FARM
"We'll go to the old farm, and we'll take boarders! We can fix the old place up and, maybe, make money!"
The father of the two girls was broken down in health and a physician had recommended that he go to the country, where he could get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. An aunt owned an abandoned farm and she said the family could live on this and use the place as they pleased. It was great sport moving and getting settled, and the boarders offered one surprise after another. There was a mystery about the old farm, and a mystery concerning one of the boarders, and how the girls got to the bottom of affairs is told in detail in the story, which is called, "The Girls of Hillcrest Farm; Or, The Secret of the Rocks."
It was great fun to move to the farm, and once the girls had the scare of their lives. And they attended a great "vendue" too.
"I just had to write that story—I couldn't help it," said Miss Marlowe, when she handed in the manuscript. "I knew just such a farm when I was a little girl, and oh! what fun I had there! And there was a mystery about that place, too!"
Published, like all the Marlowe books, by Grosset & Dunlap, New York, and for sale wherever good books are sold.
A LITTLE MISS NOBODY
"Oh, she's only a little nobody! Don't have anything to do with her!"
How often poor Nancy Nelson heard those words, and how they cut her to the heart. And the saying was true, she was a nobody. She had no folks, and she did not know where she had come from. All she did know was that she was at a boarding school and that a lawyer paid her tuition bills and gave her a mite of spending money.
"I am going to find out who I am, and where I came from," said Nancy to herself, one day, and what she did, and how it all ended, is absorbingly related in "A Little Miss Nobody; Or, With the Girls of Pinewood Hall." Nancy made a warm friend of a poor office boy who worked for that lawyer, and this boy kept his eyes and ears open and learned many things.
The book tells much about boarding school life, of study and fun mixed, and of a great race on skates. Nancy made some friends as well as enemies, and on more than one occasion proved that she was "true blue" in the best meaning of that term.
Published by Grosset & Dunlap, New York and for sale by booksellers everywhere. If you desire a catalogue of Amy Bell Marlowe books send to the publishers for it and it will come free.
THE GIRL FROM SUNSET RANCH
Helen was very thoughtful as she rode along the trail from Sunset Ranch to the View. She had lost her father but a month before, and he had passed away with a stain on his name—a stain of many years' standing, as the girl had just found out.
"I am going to New York and I am going to clear his name!" she resolved, and just then she saw a young man dashing along, close to the edge of a cliff. Over he went, and Helen, with no thought of the danger to herself, went to the rescue.
Then the brave Western girl found herself set down at the Grand Central Terminal in New York City. She knew not which way to go or what to do. Her relatives, who thought she was poor and ignorant, had refused to even meet her. She had to fight her way along from the start, and how she did this, and won out, is well related in "The Girl from Sunset Ranch; Or, Alone in a Great City."
This is one of the finest of Amy Bell Marlowe's books, with its true-to-life scenes of the plains and mountains, and of the great metropolis. Helen is a girl all readers will love from the start.
Published by Grosset & Dunlap, New York, and for sale by booksellers everywhere.
WYN'S CAMPING DAYS
"Oh, girls, such news!" cried Wynifred Mallory to her chums, one day. "We can go camping on Lake Honotonka! Isn't it grand!"
It certainly was, and the members of the Go-Ahead Club were delighted. Soon they set off, with their boy friends to keep them company in another camp not far away. Those boys played numerous tricks on the girls, and the girls retaliated, you may be sure. And then Wyn did a strange girl a favor, and learned how some ancient statues of rare value had been lost in the lake, and how the girl's father was accused of stealing them.
"We must do all we can for that girl," said Wyn. But this was not so easy, for the girl campers had many troubles of their own. They had canoe races, and one of them fell overboard and came close to drowning, and then came a big storm, and a nearby tree was struck by lightning.
"I used to love to go camping when a girl, and I love to go yet," said Miss Marlowe, in speaking of this tale, which is called, "Wyn's Camping Days; Or, The Outing of the Go-Ahead Club." "I think all girls ought to know the pleasures of summer life under canvas."
A book that ought to be in the hands of all girls. Issued by Grosset & Dunlap, New York, and for sale by booksellers everywhere.
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GIRL SCOUTS SERIES By LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY Author of the "Polly Brewster Books"
Handsomely Bound. Colored Wrappers. Illustrated Each Volume Complete in Itself.
Here is a series that holds the same position for girls that the Tom Slade and Roy Blakeley books hold for boys. They are delightful stories of Girl Scout camp life amid beautiful surroundings and are filled with stirring adventures.
GIRL SCOUTS AT DANDELION CAMP This is a story which centers around the making and the enjoying of a mountain camp, spiced with the fun of a lively troop of Girl Scouts. The charm of living in the woods, of learning woodcraft of all sorts, of adventuring into the unknown, combine to make a busy and an exciting summer for the girls.
GIRL SCOUTS IN THE ADIRONDACKS New scenery, new problems of camping, association with a neighboring camp of Boy Scouts, and a long canoe trip with them through the Fulton Chain, all in the setting of the marvelous Adirondacks, bring to the girls enlargement of horizon, new development, and new joys.
GIRL SCOUTS IN THE ROCKIES On horseback from Denver through Estes Park as far as the Continental Divide, climbing peaks, riding wild trails, canoeing through canyons, shooting rapids, encountering a landslide, a summer blizzard, a sand storm, wild animals, and forest fires, the girls pack the days full with unforgettable experiences.
GIRL SCOUTS IN ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO The Girl Scouts visit the mountains and deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. They travel over the old Sante Fe trail, cross the Painted Desert, and visit the Grand Canyon. Their exciting adventures form a most interesting story.
GIRL SCOUTS IN THE REDWOODS The girls spend their summer in the Redwoods of California and incidentally find a way to induce a famous motion picture director in Hollywood to offer to produce a film that stars the Girl Scouts of America.
GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK
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THE OUTDOOR GIRLS SERIES By LAURA LEE HOPE Author of the "Bobbsey Twins," "Bunny Brown" Series, Etc.
Uniform Style of Binding. Individual Colored Wrappers. Every Volume Complete in Itself.
These are the tales of the various adventures participated in by a group of bright, fun-loving, up-to-date girls who have a common bond in their fondness for outdoor life, camping, travel and adventure. They are clean and wholesome and free from sensationalism.
THE OUTDOOR GIRLS OF DEEPDALE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT RAINBOW LAKE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A MOTOR CAR THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A WINTER CAMP THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT OCEAN VIEW THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN ARMY SERVICE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS ON PINE ISLAND THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT THE HOSTESS HOUSE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT BLUFF POINT THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT WILD ROSE LODGE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN THE SADDLE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AROUND THE CAMPFIRE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS ON CAPE COD THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT FOAMING FALLS THE OUTDOOR GIRLS ALONG THE COAST THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT SPRING HILL FARM
GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK