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The Campfire Girls Go Motoring
by Hildegard G. Frey
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"It's the children," said Mrs. Martin. "They've got scarlet fever. I was so worried about Bobby yesterday that I sent for Dr. Caxton from B——. We'll have to keep him now, I suppose, but do you want to look at them anyhow? Mary doesn't want to take her medicine, and maybe you could—"

"Certainly I'll go up and see them," said Dr. Lane. He was the kind of man you would love to have for your grandfather. His pockets bulged suspiciously as though they contained bags of lemon drops or peanuts. Talking cheerfully all the while he entered the sick room and looked at the patients.

"So Dr. Caxton said they had scarlet fever!" he said, musingly.

"Yes," said Mrs. Martin.

"Scarlet fever your grandmother!" returned Dr. Lane. "They've got prickly heat. If Dr. Caxton called that scarlet fever, what would he call a real case of scarlet fever?"

A minute later the man on guard heard a laugh that almost shook the windows of the house. Not long after that he was pedaling down the road on the bicycle that had brought him, very red in the face and very hot under the collar. The quarantine ended right then and there. Whether Dr. Caxton came again or not we never found out, for the girls left immediately. They sped over the road to Ft. Wayne as fast as the Striped Beetle could carry them. They went to the Potter Hotel and naturally discovered that we had not stayed there. I believe they had held to the hope all the time that we had arrived after the telegram had gone back undelivered. They stood around irresolutely until the check man to whom we had talked spied them and told them that we had left not half an hour before and were on our way to Chicago by way of Ligonier. They could hardly believe their ears when they heard that Nyoda had gone off and left them the second time. But as they were so close behind us the only thing for them to do was to follow.

Gladys stopped at a service station and had the Striped Beetle's carburetor adjusted, or something that sounded like that, and then started post-haste on the road to Chicago. Pearl looked from one to the other of the girls with fear and suspicion in her face. "Is there—is there really such a person as you say you are taking me to see, or are you taking me somewhere else?" she faltered.

And the girls had a hard time convincing her that Nyoda was not a myth, although they began to wonder if she had not turned into one. Gradually Pearl began to thaw out under their persistent cordiality and was really not such a bad companion after all. She still furtively watched the road behind them as if she feared pursuit, but some of the scared rabbit look was going out of her eyes when she began to realize that the width of a whole state lay between her and her persecutors and they had absolutely no clue to her whereabouts. She repeatedly expressed her amazement that a group of girls so young had the courage to travel by themselves in an automobile, and were not frightened to death to have gotten separated from their chaperon, but were calmly following her up as fast as they were able.

She was much interested when she heard they were Camp Fire Girls, and wanted to know all about the Winnebago doings.

"I wish I could have belonged to something like that in the city where I worked," she said with a sigh, "maybe I wouldn't have been so lonesome all the time. And I would have had a Guardian—is that what you call her?—to go to when I got into trouble."

"Maybe you'll get into a group yet," said Hinpoha, optimistically. "There are some in the city where you live."

Pearl was as great a curiosity to them as they were to her. How any girl of eighteen could be so babyish and helpless as she was was a revelation to them. Everyone of them wished devoutly that she could become a Winnebago so they could make something out of her. Hinpoha began making plans right away.

"As long as you have no people and it doesn't matter where you work, why couldn't you come to Cleveland and find work, and possibly join our group?" she suggested. "I'm sure Nyoda would take you in. When Migwan goes to college she won't be able to attend the meetings regularly and there will be a vacant place. Couldn't you?" she cried, warming to her plan, and the rest of the girls voiced their approval.

"Oh, do you suppose I could?" asked Pearl timidly, clasping her hands before her in a nervous manner. "Oh, I never could do it. I'm afraid to go to a bigger city for fear I'll get into trouble again. And I never could do the things you girls do, I just never could." And she looked at them with appealing helplessness in her big blue eyes.

"Nonsense," said Hinpoha, "you can do anything you want to if you only think you can do it." And she told her a marvelous tale of how I earned the money to go to college when things seemed determined to go against me. Which is all perfectly nonsensical; the chance of earning money to go to college fell right into my lap. Pearl only opened her eyes wider at Hinpoha's recital and answered with a sigh, "Oh, I never could do it!"

The girls went on happily planning how they would take her back to Cleveland with them and make her one of the Winnebagos.

They had to slow up the Striped Beetle along the road for a cow and a calf that were monopolizing the right of way and Hinpoha decided to take a picture of them. "Oh, this film's finished," she said impatiently, examining her camera. "I'll have to stop and reload. Oh, Gladys, do you mind if I open the trunk here on the road? My extra films are all in there."

"Go ahead and open it," said Gladys good-naturedly, handing her the key.

Hinpoha got out and went behind the machine to get her film from the trunk, all the while calling out to the cow and her calf in a friendly and coaxing manner not to walk away before she could take them. But she stopped suddenly in the midst of a persuasive "Here, bossy, stay here," to utter a surprised exclamation.

"What's the matter?" asked Gladys.

"There isn't any trunk here." cried Hinpoha. "It's gone!"

Consternation reigned in the Striped Beetle. The trunk, containing all their extra clothes, had vanished from the rack at the back of the car!

"And my scarf was in it," said Hinpoha, ready to cry with distress, "that mother sent me from Italy!"

"Don't worry, we'll get it again," said Gladys soothingly, although she was as much dismayed herself. "Where did we have it last? We had it in Ft. Wayne, I know, because we opened it there. It must have been taken off in the service station where we had the carburetor adjusted. We'll have to go back and see if it's there."

Accordingly they turned around and drove swiftly back to Ft. Wayne. Inquiries at the service station at first brought out nothing, because the proprietor declared that the trunk had not been touched—whoever heard of taking off a trunk to adjust a carburetor? But a repairman coming in just then, heard the talk about the trunk and said he was the man who had made the adjustment on the car and he noticed that the trunk rack seemed to be sagging and took off the trunk to fix it. He had not put the trunk on again, because just then he had been called to help install new gears in a car for a man who was in a great hurry and had called one of the helpers to put on the trunk and fill the tank. The helper was called and admitted that he had put a trunk on a car, but it was not the Striped Beetle; it was a similar car owned by a man who was driving to Indianapolis. He had thought the trunk belonged to him.

The girls looked at each other tragically. Their trunk on the road to Indianapolis!

"How long ago did he start?" asked Gladys.

"About an hour," answered the repairman.

"We'll have to go after him," said Gladys, resolutely. "We need that trunk. Can you tell us what the man's name is?"

"Hansen," replied the repairman. "George Hansen. Driving seven passenger touring car, brown, with black streamer and gold striping. He was driving to Indianapolis over the road that goes through Huntington, Marion and Anderson; I heard him talking about it. That's one of the main roads out of here. You ought to be able to overtake him on the way; he's a slow driver and his motor was missing pretty badly. Wouldn't let me fix it though, because it would take too long and he wanted to get to Indianapolis in time to see the races. He lives there, so you ought to be able to find him; runs some kind of a store."

He poured out his information eagerly; he seemed anxious to do anything he could to aid in the recovery of the trunk, since he had put it on the wrong car. "Funny how well it fitted that other rack!" he said. But Gladys says there is nothing peculiar about that because the two cars, being the same make, had the same style rack, and the trunk was the ordinary one carried by automobilists.

She hastily looked up the route to Indianapolis and started in pursuit of the unconscious thief. It was then nearly five o'clock in the evening. They really did not have much hope of catching the other car on the way, since it had an hour's start, but they were confident of recovering the trunk in Indianapolis, where they could find out the man's address and follow him to his home. Fortune played into their hands in that they found good roads all the way and had no breakdowns, and sometime after eight they reached Indianapolis. There were half a dozen George Hansens in the telephone book, four of whom were away on automobile trips. But further inquiry brought out the fact that one of them did own a seven passenger brown W—— car. He was expected home that evening, but had not yet arrived. His wife (it was she who was talking) was very sorry about the trunk, but if it had been placed on the rack of her husband's car it would undoubtedly arrive when he did. He would probably come home during the night, as he was very anxious to see the races, which were to take place the next two days. Would they call later?

Somewhere on the road they had passed him, but it was too late now to wonder where. The only thing to do was to wait until he came. At ten o'clock he had not arrived yet. The girls went down to the Young Women's Christian Association, where they could spend the night. Gladys concluded that Nyoda must be told if possible where they were, and judging that she had reached Chicago by that time she wired the Carrie Wentworth Inn, where they had planned to stay that night, telling what had happened and saying she would arrive in Chicago the next day.

They called the Hansen home the first thing in the morning and learned to their dismay that Mr. Hansen had not yet returned. But he was expected any minute and Hinpoha would not hear of leaving without the trunk. Shortly afterward their telegram came back undelivered from the Carrie Wentworth Inn in Chicago, with the notation, "Party not registered." That threw them into a state of bewilderment, but Gladys, after thinking hard and long about the matter, remarked that the Glow- worm had a habit of breaking down at inconvenient times and that probably accounted for our not having reached Chicago the night before.

Every half hour they called up the Hansen home to find out if Mr. Hansen had returned and every time they received a negative answer. Finally, Hinpoha suggested that they drive out to his house and sit on the curbstone where they could see him coming, before they spent all their substance in a riotous feeding of nickels into the public telephone. Which they proceeded to do. But their vigil was vain, for he came not and it became apparent that they must either depart without the trunk or stay there another night. Gladys was for going on and having it sent after them, but Hinpoha refused to budge until she had seen that scarf with her own eyes. Accordingly, they sent another wire to the Carrie Wentworth Inn, thinking surely Nyoda must have arrived by that time, and stayed a second night in Indianapolis.

The next morning they received the news that Mr. Hansen had arrived, but alas, he had brought no trunk with him. He knew nothing about the matter at all. He could remember no trunk being on the back of his car when he left the repair shop in Ft. Wayne, but then, he had not looked particularly. He had made several stops on the way home on business—he was a traveling salesman—and that was how they had passed him on the road. The car had stood for a time in a dozen different places, the trunk could easily have been stolen, and he had never known the difference. Possibly they could hold the repair shop responsible.

The girls were much downcast at this news, especially Hinpoha, on account of the scarf that had been the last gift of her mother. Where was the trunk now? It might be anywhere between the north and south poles in that length of time. Gladys's only hope was now that it had been mislaid and not stolen, and that it would fall into the hands of some honest person who would ferret out the owner.

They were just about to start out for Chicago again when they were handed a telegram. It was from the Carrie Wentworth Inn and was dated midnight of the night before. It read: "Wire from party you want says address Forty-three Main Street Rochester Indiana."

That wire threw them into great perplexity. What were Nyoda and the girls doing in Rochester, when they had been on the road to Chicago two days before?

"The Glow-worm is more like a flea than a glow-worm," said Hinpoha. "It's never where you expect to find it. I really believe Nyoda has lost control of the car and it is taking her wherever it wants to."

Gladys was consulting the route book. "Rochester is on the direct road to Indianapolis," she said. "We can make the run in a few hours. I'm going to wire Nyoda that we're coming and she should wait for us."

So she sent the wire we received that morning in Rochester:

"Where on earth are you? Wait Rochester for us. Coming to-day noon."

That was Friday, the day of the big races in Indianapolis. The town was full of people. Tourists from all over managed to make the city just at that time, and the streets were crowded with motor cars of every description. Gladys looked sharply at every car they passed on the way out of the city to see if her trunk was on the back of any of them, but in vain.

"I suppose I'll never see that scarf again," said Hinpoha, sadly.

Pearl looked a little enviously at the women who came to town in their big fine cars with drivers and bull dogs. "It must be lovely to be rich and taken care of," she said, with a sigh.

Pearl was the kind of a girl who should have been born to a life of luxurious ease. She certainly had no backbone to fight her own battles in the world. She was a Clinger, who would curl around the nearest support like a morning glory vine. She didn't seem to have any more spirit than an oyster. Hinpoha, still imbued with the idea of taking her in hand and making a Winnebago out of her, kept trying to draw her out with an idea of finding out what her possibilities were. It was rather a matter of pride with us that each one of the Winnebagos excelled in some particular thing. When Hinpoha asked her what her favorite play was she answered that she had never been to the theater and considered it wicked. She opened her eyes in disapproval when Hinpoha mentioned motion pictures. Hinpoha had been on the verge of launching out on our escapade with the film company the summer before, but checked herself hastily. She also suppressed the fact that I had written scenarios, which fact Hinpoha glories in a great deal more than I do and which she generally sprinkles into people's dishes on every occasion. The fact that Gladys danced in public seemed to shock her beyond words. Clearly she was unworldly to the point of narrowness, and Hinpoha began to reflect that, after all, she might be somewhat of a wet blanket on the Winnebago doings if she came and joined the group. Pearl showed such marked disapproval of Gladys when she remarked that she wished her father were in town so they could have gone to the races that an awkward silence fell on the group. No topic of conversation seemed safe to venture upon.

They were driving along country roads now and in one place they crossed a small river with the most gorgeous early autumn flowers growing along its banks. They caught Hinpoha's color-loving eye and she must get out and wander among them. Gladys and Chapa and Medmangi decided that they too would like a stroll beside the river, after sitting in the car so long. Pearl did not care to get out; she offered to stay in the car and hold the purses of the other girls until they returned. The four girls walked along the stream, admiring the flowers, but not picking any, because they would only fade and wither and if left on the stems they would give pleasure to hundreds of people. Now and then they dabbled their fingers in the cool water.

"It's such a temptation to go wading," sighed Hinpoha, who never will grow up and be dignified if she lives to be a hundred.

Gladys was afraid Hinpoha would yield to the temptation if it stared her in the face too long, and announced that it was time to be under way. Reluctantly, Hinpoha tore herself away from the river and followed Gladys to the road.

What a rude ending that little wayside idyll was destined to have!

For when they returned to the road where they had left the Striped Beetle there was nothing but empty air. Car, Pearl, and four purses, containing every cent the girls had with them, had vanished!



CHAPTER X.

At first the girls could not believe their eyes. But it was all too true. The deep tracks in the dust of the road showing the well-known prints of the Striped Beetle's tires told beyond a doubt that the car had gone on and left them.

"But I never heard it start!" said Gladys.

"It was the murmuring of your old brook, Hinpoha, that you were raving about," said Chapa, "that filled our ears."

It took them actual minutes to realize that Pearl, the spineless clinging doll-faced girl they had befriended, had sold them out.

"And we took her for such a baby!" said Hinpoha, in bewilderment.

"Who would ever dream she could drive a car?" gasped Gladys. "She was afraid to toot the horn." To lose your automobile in the midst of a tour must be like having your horse shot under you. One minute you're en route and the next minute you're rooted, if the reader will forgive a very lame pun. And the spot where the Striped Beetle had been (figuratively) shot from under the girls could not have been selected better if it had been made to order for a writer of melodrama. There was not a house in sight nor a telephone wire. The dust in the road was three inches deep and the temperature must have been close to a hundred. They were at least five miles from the nearest town. Chapa looked at Medmangi, Medmangi looked at Hinpoha, and Hinpoha looked at Gladys. Gladys, having no one else to look at, scratched her head and thought.

"Well," she said finally, "we can't stay here all day. We might as well walk to the nearest town and tell the police. They may be able to trace the car. It was stolen once before and they found it in a town forty miles away."

Whenever anyone mentions that walk in the heat the four girls begin to pant and fan themselves with one accord. They had gone about three miles when they came upon the Striped Beetle standing in the road, abandoned. With a cry of joy the girls threw themselves upon it. The cause for its abandonment soon came to light. The gasoline tank was empty. Otherwise it was undamaged. But before it could join the innumerable caravan again it must have gasoline, and naturally there was none growing on the bushes.

"You two sit in the car and see that no one else runs away with it," said Gladys to Medmangi and Chapa, "and Hinpoha and I will go for gasoline."

It was not until they had finished the two miles to town and stood by a gasoline station that they remembered that they had no money. The gasoline man firmly refused to give them any gas unless they paid for it. Gladys was aghast. Hinpoha leaned wearily against a post and mopped her hot face. Hinpoha suffers more from the heat than the rest of us.

"Pretty tough to be dead broke, aint it, lady?" asked a grimy urchin, who had been an interested witness of Gladys's discomfiture.

"Worse to be alive and broke," jeered another one. Gladys's face was crimson with heat and embarrassment. She turned and walked rapidly away from the place, followed by Hinpoha.

"You'll have to wire home for money now," said Hinpoha.

"And lose the bet," said Gladys, disconsolately. "And father'll laugh his head off to think how neatly we were beaten.

"I know what I'll do," she said, resolutely. "I'll not wire him at all. I'll wire the bank where I have my own money and have them wire me some."

Accordingly, she hunted up the telegraph office and sent a wire collect to her bank, feeling much pleased with herself at the idea of having found a way out without calling on her father for aid.

The telegraph office was in the railway station and she and Hinpoha sat down after sending the wire and waited for the ship to come in, wondering what the other girls would think when they failed to come back with the gasoline. It was past dinnertime but there was no dinner for them as long as they had no money. From jaunty tourist to penniless pauper in two hours is quite a change. An hour passed; two hours, but no gold-laden message came over the wire. Hinpoha had been chewing her fingers for the last hour.

"Oh, please stop that," cried Gladys irritably, "you make me nervous. You remind me of a cannibal."

"Isn't there a poem about 'My beautiful Cannibalee?" returned Hinpoha. "I'll go out and eat grass if that will make you feel any better," she continued. She strolled outdoors, leaving Gladys listening to the clickety-click of the telegraph instrument and growing more nervous every minute. Presently Hinpoha came back and said she couldn't stand it outside at all because there was a crate of melons and a box of eggs on the station platform, and she was afraid she wouldn't have the strength to resist if she stayed out there with them.

"And it's going to rain," she announced. "You ought to see the sky toward the west."

And then the darkness began to make itself felt; not the blue darkness of twilight, but the black darkness of thunder clouds through which zig-zags of lightning began to stab. A baby, waiting in the station with its mother for the train, began to wail with fright and Hinpoha forgot her hunger in an effort to amuse him. Then the storm broke. The train roared in just as it began and mingled its noise with the thunder. Hardly had it disappeared up the track when there came a crash of thunder that shook the station to its foundations, followed by a dazzling sheet of blue light, and then the telegraph operator bounded out of his little enclosure, white with fear. His instrument had been struck, as well as the wires on the outside of the building and the roof began to burn. Gladys and Hinpoha rushed out into the rain regardless of their unprotected state and found shelter in a near-by shed, from which they watched the progress of what might well be taken for a second deluge.

"If the water rises much higher in the road we won't need any gasoline," remarked Hinpoha. "The Striped Beetle will float."

"I only hope the girls got the storm curtains buttoned down in time," Gladys kept saying over and over again.

"If it starts to float," persisted Hinpoha, "do you suppose it will come this way, or will they have to steer it? Would the steering-wheel be any good, I wonder, or would they have to have a rudder? Oh," she said brightly, "now I know what they mean by the expression 'turning turtle'. It happens in cases of flood; the car turns turtle and swims home. If it only turned into turtle soup," she sighed.

Gladys looked up suddenly. "What time was it when we sent that wire to my bank?" she asked.

"A quarter after one," replied Hinpoha, promptly. "I heard a clock chiming somewhere. And I calculated that I would just about last until you got an answer."

"A quarter after one," repeated Gladys. "That's Central time. That was a quarter after two Cleveland time. The bank closes at two o'clock. They probably never sent me any money!"

"Now you'll have to wire your father after all," said Hinpoha.

For answer Gladys pointed to the blackened telegraph pole which was lying with its many arms stretched out across the roof of the station. There would be no wires sent out that day.

By the time the rain had ceased the darkness of the thunder clouds had been succeeded by the darkness of night, and Hinpoha and Gladys took their way wearily back over the flooded road to where the Striped Beetle stood.

"Did you have to dig a well first, before you got that gasoline?" called Chapa, as they approached. (They had put down the storm curtains, Gladys noted.)

Gladys made her announcement briefly and they all settled down to gloom.

"Talk about being shipwrecked on a desert island," said Hinpoha. "I think one can get beautifully shipwrecked on the inhabited mainland. We are experiencing all the thrills of Robinson Crusoe and the Swiss family Robinson combined."

"We haven't any Man Friday," observed Gladys.

"What good would he be if we had him?" inquired Hinpoha, gloomily.

"He could act as chauffeur," replied Gladys, "and supply the modern flavor."

"This is Friday, too," remarked Medmangi.

"That's why the car won't start," said Hinpoha, "it won't start anything on Friday."

"Couldn't we dig for oil?" suggested Chapa. "We're in the oil belt. There must be all kinds of gasoline in the earth under our very feet, and we languishing on top of it! It's like the stories where the man perishes of thirst in the desert right on top of the water hole."

"We really and truly are Robinson Crusoe-like," said Gladys, looking out at the flooded fields and deserted road.

"Robinson Crusoe had the advantage of us in one thing," said Hinpoha, returning to her main theme. "He had a corn-stalk, and clams, and things."

"'If we only had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs, if we only had some eggs,'" quoted Gladys.

"Here's where the Slave of the Lamp would come in handy," sighed Hinpoha.

"You might rub the lamp," said Gladys, pointing to the tail light, "and maybe the Slave will appear."

"I want baked potatoes on my order," said Gladys.

"And I want broiled chicken," said Chapa.

Hinpoha got down and solemnly rubbed the tail lamp of the Striped Beetle, exclaiming, "Slave, appear!"

Something black bounded out of the darkness at the side of the road and landed at her feet. It was Mr. Bob, who had gone off for exercise. He carried something in his mouth which he laid decorously on the ground beside her. She stooped to look at it. It was an apple.

The girls all shouted. Hinpoha straightened up. "Girls," she said solemnly, "coming shadows cast their events before, I mean, coming events cast their shadows before. Where there's honey you'll find bees, and where there's apples you'll find trees. The famine is over, and now for the feast."

She led the way down the road with Chapa and Medmangi on either side. They found the tree, close beside the road, and loaded with fruit. They filled their pockets for Gladys and returned to the Striped Beetle, and then for some time, as Hinpoha said, "Nothing was heard in the air but the hurrying munch of the greening."

"It must be a disadvantage to be a negro," remarked Hinpoha reflectively, "you can't tell the difference when they're clean."

"May I ask," inquired Gladys politely, "just what it was that caused you to make that remark at this time?"

"Greening apples," returned Hinpoha, calmly. "You can't tell which are ripe and which are green."

"You can tell by the seeds," said Gladys.

"All seeds are black by night," returned Hinpoha.

"Not changing the subject," said Chapa, "but where are we going to stay to-night?"

"You're not going to stay," replied Hinpoha, "you're staying. Right here. The Inn of the Striped Beetle.

"Under the wide and starry sky Fold up the seats and let us lie!"

"We'll sleep with the raggle taggle gypsies, O!" added Gladys.

"I want a fire," said Hinpoha. "We always have a fire when we sleep out."

"Well, build one in a puddle, if you can," said Gladys. "Your hair will be the only blaze we have to-night."

Chapa and Medmangi stood up together on the running-board and began to sing dolefully,

"Forsaken, forsaken, forsaken, am I, Like the bones at a banquet, all men pass me by."

"I wish a few would pass by," said Gladys, "By the way, have you noticed that not a single car or wagon has passed through here since we've been stranded? I thought this was the main road."

"If this is the main road," said Hinpoha, "I'd hate to be stranded on a by-path."

Of course, the girls did not know then that the storm had washed out the bridges on either side of them and the roadway had been closed to traffic. They sat peering into the darkness like Columbus looking for land and wondering why no one came along to whom they could appeal for a tow into the village. The moon shone, a slender sickle in the west that Gladys said reminded her of the thin slices of melon they used to serve for breakfast at Miss Russell's school.

"I think it looks more like a toe nail," said Hinpoha, squinting sidewise at it.

"Don't look at it squarely, it'll bring you bad luck," said Chapa.

"I'm not looking at it," said Hinpoha, "it's looking at me."

"Where does the man in the moon go when it turns into a sickle?" asked Medmangi.

"That doesn't worry me half so much as where Pearl went with my silver mesh bag," said Gladys. That brought them all down to earth again and back to the cause of their predicament, and the moon turned into a yellow banana and fell off the sky counter while they voiced their indignation. And, of course, they all turned on Hinpoha for being taken in by her in the first place, and Hinpoha vented her irritation on Mr. Bob, who was sitting with his head on her knee in a lover-like attitude.

"It's all your fault that we are in this mess," she said to him, crossly. "If you hadn't jumped out of the car after that yellow dog and chased him into the empty store I wouldn't have had to go after you, and if I hadn't gone after you I would never have discovered Pearl and brought her along with us. It's the last time I'll ever travel with you." Mr. Bob, feeling the reproach in her tone, crept away with his head down.

"O come, let's not quarrel about whose fault it was," said Gladys. "It isn't the first time people have been taken in."

"We seem to be left out, rather than taken in," murmured Hinpoha.

"You're unusually brilliant to-night," remarked Chapa. "It must have been the apples, because on an ordinary diet you never say anything bright."

"Is that so?" said Hinpoha.

"Look at the stars," said Gladys hastily, "aren't they brilliant to- night?"

"Almost as brilliant as Hin—" began Chapa.

"If we sit up late enough," said Gladys, cutting in on Chapa's remark, "we may see some of the winter stars. I actually believe there's Orion now."

"And the Twins," cried Hinpoha, forgetting her momentary offended feeling in the interest of her discovery.

"And Sirius and the Bull and the River," added Gladys. "It's just like getting a peep at the actors in their dressing-rooms before it is time for them to come out on the stage, to see the winter stars now."

"I hate to look at the stars so much," said Hinpoha, dolefully. "They make me feel so small."

"I should think that anything that made you feel small would—"

Gladys again interrupted the flow of Chapa's wit, directed this time against Hinpoha's bulk.

"I'm going to bed," she announced. There was a scramble for the robes and for comfortable places in the tonneau, and it took much adjusting and readjusting before there was anything resembling quiet in the bedchamber of the Striped Beetle. But weariness can snore even on the floor boards of a car and that long walk over the road had done its work for at least two of the girls. The last thing they heard was Hinpoha drowsily spouting:

"Let me sleep in a car by the side of the road, Where the hop toads are croaking near-by, With Medmangi's camera between my knees stowed, And Gladys's foot in my eye!"

And then, when they were all nicely settled and had dropped off to sleep, Hinpoha had the nightmare and screamed the most blood-curdling screams and cried out that the apple tree was hugging her to death, which sounded nonsensical, but was really suggestive. For, in the morning she discovered that green apples are gone but not forgotten when used as an article of diet and sat doubled up in silent agony on the floor of the car and announced she was dying.

"It serves you right," said Medmangi, in her best doctor manner. "You were in such a hurry to eat them that you ate every one that came along without waiting to find out whether it was ripe or not. The rest of us stuck to the ripe ones and we're all right."

"Well, the unripe ones are sticking to me," groaned Hinpoha, unhappily.

Mr. Bob laid his head on her knee with an air of sympathy. Where Hinpoha is concerned he never stops to think whether the sympathy is deserved or not.

"What family do apples belong to, anyway?" asked Gladys idly, seeing it was time to turn Medmangi aside from preaching to Hinpoha.

"Not my family," said Chapa, "we're all peaches."

"Forget-me-not family," said Hinpoha, with another groan.

They ate more apples for breakfast, except Hinpoha, who pretended not to see when they offered them to her. Then Gladys decided to walk to town again to see what cheer there was there.

"Up, up, Hinpoha," she cried, "and join me in my morning stroll."

"You should say 'Double up, Hinpoha', like 'double up Lucy'," said Chapa, and then dodged as Hinpoha's hand reached out for her hair.

Hinpoha tried to stand up, but immediately sat down again, and Chapa went to town with Gladys.

They sat and watched the repairmen fixing the wires of the telegraph and, after a while, the messages began to pour in again. And one of them was the one that brought joy to Gladys's soul and as soon as the formalities were gone through she had actual money once more. They bought enough gasoline to bring the Striped Beetle in and returned to the anchored ones in triumph. They found that during their absence Hinpoha had manufactured a large "For Rent" sign and hung it on the front of the car, intending, as she said, to go into business and rent out the car at a dollar an hour until they had enough money to proceed.

"How were you intending to rent it out without any gasoline to run it?" inquired Gladys.

"Make them pay in advance," replied Hinpoha.

"With the constant stream of foot-sore pedestrians over this road it would no doubt have been profitable," said Gladys, scanning the road up and down. There was not a living being in sight. But Gladys knew the reason now, for she had seen the washout.

To get the Striped Beetle back to town they had to drive through private property to reach the other road. After eating breakfast—the first real meal they had had since the morning before—they set out once more for Rochester to meet Nyoda.

"So it's money makes the Striped Beetle go," said Hinpoha reflectively, as they sped along. "And I had been thinking all the while it was gasoline."



CHAPTER XI.

When the gust of wind overtook us that night while Sahwah and Nakwisi and I were struggling to shut the gate we had run against in the darkness, Nakwisi and I jumped into the Glow-worm in haste and we all thought Sahwah was in too. But in running for the car she slipped in the mud and fell flat on her face in the puddle. By the time she had picked herself up and wiped the mud out of her eyes the Glow-worm was gone. Slopping along in the pools of water she ran shouting down the road. She could hear the engine of the Glow-worm throbbing in the distance; then the sound began to die away. She knew then that they had not yet noticed her absence, but they must presently and would return for her. So she set out in the direction in which the car had vanished, going, as she supposed, to meet them. The road was so dark she could not see her hand in front of her eyes, and what with the wind moaning mournfully and the rain falling all around her, it was rather a dismal walk. On one side of her was a stretch of swamp where frogs glumped and piped in every known key. Sahwah is not nervous, however, and to her the voice of a frog is simply the voice of a frog and not the wail of a banshee, and anyway, her mind was occupied with pulling her feet out of the mud in the road and setting them in again. And she was straining her ears for the sound of the Glow-worm, and all other noises made little or no impression on her.

It seemed to her that it was high time the others had missed her and were coming back to pick her up. "Probably stuck in the mud somewhere," was her consoling thought, "and I'll come upon them if I keep going far enough."

And so she kept on pulling her feet out of the mud and setting them in again. By and by the road narrowed down until it seemed no more than a path, and then without warning it ended abruptly against a building. Sahwah had been looking at her feet and not into the distance, and due to the force of inertia which we learned about in the Physics class, which keeps people going once they have started, she did not stop as soon as the road did and ran her nose smartly against the building, which proved to be a barn, Sahwah drew back with a start, rubbing her injured nose. Gradually, the fact dawned on her that she was lost. She looked for the road from which she had strayed, but it seemed to have rolled itself up and departed. The croaking of the frogs came from everywhere and she could not locate the swamp. She walked around for awhile, and finally, did walk into the swamp, but there was no road anywhere near. There was water, water, everywhere. Sahwah, who had once declared she could never get enough of water, got enough of it that night.

She thought of the wicked uncle brook in Undine which had risen up and covered the land, and she wondered if something of the kind had not happened again. She railed inwardly against the darkness of the country roads and wished with all her heart for the lighted byways of the city, with their rows of cheerful lights on posts and their frequent catch basins that were capable of subduing the most rampant uncle brook. Several times more she fell, and once she stepped into a puddle over her shoe-tops. Then she fell against a fence and tore her skirt. Then, when she was sure she had found the road again she ran plump into the barn again, from a different side this time. A window frame minus a window told that the barn was empty and with a grunt of utter disgust at the wetness of the world in general, Sahwah climbed in and stood on a dry floor. She made up her mind to stay there until the sound of the engine would tell her that the Glow-worm had come for her. As the time went by and no familiar throbbing rose on the air, she began to have cold chills when she realized that we might not yet have noticed her absence, and might be miles away by that time.

"At any rate," she decided, "I'm going to stay in here until it stops raining. If I get any wetter somebody'll take me for a sponge." She took off her jacket and wrung the water out of it and then wrung the water from the tail of her skirt, where it had been dripping on her ankles. Luckily she could not see herself in the darkness, for the green color from her veil had run in streaks all over her face and she looked like a savage painted for the war-path.

A half hour drizzled by and then she heard the most welcome sound in the world, the honk of the Glow-worm's horn. Then she saw the glimmer of the headlights coming toward her out of the distance. And the strangest part of it was that the road was in just the opposite direction from where she thought it was. She climbed out of the barn window and ran toward the lights, landing in a puddle in the road with a mighty splash. The next minute the lights were full on her and the car came to a sudden stop.

"You will run off and leave me, will you?" she called, running forward. Then she paused. The driver at the wheel was not Nyoda, but a man. There was no one else in the car.

"Excuse me," she said, stepping back. "I thought you were friends of mine." And the car moved on.

But if Sahwah had not found the Glow-worm she had, at least, found the road, and she made up her mind not to lose it again until she had come upon the others. Dawn found her still trudging along, very wet, very muddy, very tired and very much puzzled. For she had not come upon the Glow-worm stuck in the mud as she had expected.

The rain had stopped and the sun was opening a watery eye on the horizon. The east wind was rising and ushering in the day. The frogs ceased croaking and the birds began to twitter. It was a morning to delight the soul, that is, any but a lonely soul which was wandering around, wet to the knees, unutterably weary, separated from its kindred souls, and without a cent of money. Sahwah had left her purse in the Glow-worm. By the position of the sun she discovered that she was traveling toward the west. The events of the night before were like a dream in her mind. The storm, the ball, the finding of the necklace in Nyoda's pocket and the flight in the rain were all jumbled together. She sat down on a stone by the roadside to think things over, and let down her damp hair to fly in the wind. For once in her life Sahwah was at a loss what to do next. So she sat still and waited for inspiration. The sun dried her hair and her coat and the mud on her shoes. The wild asters along the road craned their necks to get a look at this great muddy creature that sat in their midst, and a bird or two paused inquiringly before her.

"I shall sit here," she said aloud, quoting the Frog Footman in Alice in Wonderland, "till tomorrow, or next day, maybe." It suddenly seemed to Sahwah as if she would like nothing better than to sit there forever. The stone she was sitting on was so soft and comfortable, and the sun was so warm and pleasant and the breeze was so soft and caressing. The song of the birds became very loud and clear; then it began to melt away. Sahwah's head nodded; then she slid off the stone and lay full length in the grass, sleeping as soundly as a babe in its cradle.

Mr. and Mrs. James Watterson of Chicago were motoring back to their home from the races in Indianapolis. The night before the Indianapolis papers had been full of the disappearance of Margery Anderson and the efforts her uncle was making to recover her. He even offered a reward for information concerning her whereabouts. The papers said he had gone to Chicago to follow up a clue. Mrs. Watterson had read every word of the article with great interest. She did not know the Andersons and she was not particularly interested in them and their troubles, but she had nothing else to do at the moment, her husband having gone out and left her alone in the hotel, so she read and reread the details of the affair until she knew them by heart.

The next morning, on their way north, they came upon Sahwah sleeping in the road. "Somebody dead or hurt here," exclaimed Mr. Watterson, and he stopped the car and jumped out. Sahwah's face was streaked with green from the soaked veil and she looked absolutely ghastly. And her arm was twisted under her head in the peculiar position in which Sahwah always sleeps, so that it looked as if she had fallen on it.

"Her heart's beating," announced Mr. Watterson, after investigating.

Mrs. Watterson came out and also looked Sahwah over. A handkerchief was dangling half out of the pocket of Sahwah's coat and a name written on it in indelible ink caught the woman's eye. That name was Margery Anderson. Sahwah had gotten something into her eye the day before, and not having a handkerchief handy—Sahwah never has when she wants one—Margery had handed her one of hers. At the sight of that name Mrs. Watterson was in a flutter of excitement. The story in the newspaper was fresh in her mind. "It's that Anderson girl!" she exclaimed, holding up the handkerchief.

Quickly they lifted Sahwah, still sleeping, into the car. They thought she was unconscious and I believe their idea was to take her to the next house they came to. But, of course, as soon as the car started Sahwah woke up and looked with a gasp of surprise into the faces near her. At first when she felt the throb of the engine under her she had thought she was in the Glow-worm. Mr. and Mrs. Watterson were as surprised as she was. They had not expected her to come to life in just that manner.

Of course, Sahwah wanted to know where she was and whither she was going.

"You are going to your friends, my dear," replied Mrs. Watterson.

"Do you know where they are?" asked Sahwah, wondering how they had come upon the whereabouts of the Glow-worm. Mrs. Watterson merely smiled ambiguously. Sahwah looked at her with instant suspicion. "Who are you?" she demanded. "And where are you taking me?" Mrs. Watterson smiled again, somewhat uncertainly this time. There is something about Sahwah's direct gaze that is a trifle disconcerting.

"I am a friend of your uncle's"—she told the falsehood glibly—"and I am taking you back to him."

"My uncle?" echoed Sahwah, wonderingly. "Taking me back to him?" She was completely at sea. Mrs. Watterson did not answer. She looked away, over the green fields they were passing. She was having visions of the reward.

Sahwah clutched her arm. "I don't believe it," she said. "I don't know you. Stop the car and let me out." Mr. Watterson drove a little faster. Sahwah rose in the seat and looked as if she were about to cast herself headlong from the car. Mrs. Watterson took a firm hold of her coat and pulled her back into the seat.

"Sit right where you are, Margery Anderson!" she said. "We will let you out when we turn you over to your uncle in Chicago and not before."

Sahwah looked petrified. Margery Anderson! "You've made a mistake," she said. "I'm not Margery Anderson."

"Don't tell lies, my dear," said Mrs. Watterson. "You are Margery Anderson." And she drew the handkerchief from Sahwah's pocket and held it before her eyes with a triumphant flourish. Sahwah was so overcome with astonishment that she could not speak for a moment and it was just as well that she could not, or she might have explained how she came to be carrying Margery's handkerchief and that would have revealed the whereabouts of the real Margery.

Mrs. Watterson was triumphantly quoting from the newspaper article: "Tall, slender, brown eyes and hair, one upper front tooth shorter than the remainder of the row—"

Sahwah, while actually resembling Margery no more than red-haired Hinpoha did, yet fitted the description perfectly!

An idea had come into Sahwah's mind. She abandoned her half-formed plan of jumping from the car the moment it should slow up for any reason. Since these people insisted that she was Margery Anderson in spite of all she could say to the contrary, well and good, there was so much less chance of Margery's being discovered. After all the trouble they had taken so far to return the girl to her mother it would never do for her to betray her. So she sat silent under Mrs. Watterson's fire of cross questioning as to where she had been since running away, which Mrs. Watterson took for conclusive proof that she was Margery.

"Did you say my—my uncle was in Chicago?" Sahwah asked at last.

Mrs. Watterson replied affirmatively. Sahwah was inwardly jubilant but the expression of her face never altered. It was all right as long as they were taking her to Chicago. Once confronted with Margery's uncle, if he were there, the truth would come out and she would be free to go as she pleased. Then she could go directly to the Carrie Wentworth Inn and await the arrival of the others. She chuckled to herself, as she pictured the meeting between this man and woman and Margery's uncle and their discomfiture when they discovered that they had bagged the wrong bird. Sahwah is keen on humorous situations.

But how was Nyoda to know that she was safe in Chicago? She might spend endless time looking for her, nearly wild with anxiety, thinking some misfortune had befallen her. Sahwah puzzled awhile and then her originality came to her rescue. Somewhere on this very road Nyoda had vanished the night before, and she herself had walked, as she supposed, in a straight line from the gate. She did not know that the light of the strange automobile she had seen from the barn had lured her across to an entirely different road. Well then, she reflected, it was reasonable to believe that Nyoda would be making inquiries for her along this road. Very well, she would drop a clue. With the swiftness of chain lightning she whipped her little address book out of her pocket and wrote on a leaf:

"To those interested:

Picked up by tourists. On way to Carrie Wentworth Inn, Chicago.

Sarah Ann Brewster."

For obvious reasons she made no mention of having been mistaken for Margery Anderson.

She tied the address book in the corner of her green veil while Mrs. Watterson looked on curiously. Then she tied the veil around her hat to give it weight and threw it out of the car into the road just in front of a house. The green veil shone like a headlight and could not fail to attract attention. Thus someone would get the information that would eventually reach Nyoda. Then, Sahwah-like, having overcome her perplexities, she settled down to enjoy her trip. Surely a worse fate might have befallen her, she decided, after being lost from her companions, than to wake up and find herself being hurried toward the city which had been her destination in the first place.

At that time Sahwah thought that the fates were kind to her, but ever since she has declared that they had a special grudge against her in making her miss the spectacular finish of our trip to Chicago. Sahwah, who was the only one who would really have enjoyed that exciting ride, was doomed to a personally conducted tour. I consider it unfair myself. But was there a single feature about the whole trip that was as it should have been?

Sahwah's ride to Chicago was tame enough although the circumstances of it were rather melodramatic. She did not make any thrilling escape such as jumping from the moving car onto a passing train the way they do in the movies, or shrieking that she was being abducted and, as a result, being rescued by a handsome young man who became infatuated with her on the spot and declared himself willing to wait the weary years until she was grown up, when he could claim her for his own. That was the trouble with our adventures all the way through; while they were thrilling enough at the time they were happening, they lacked the quality that is in all book adventures, that of having any permanent after-effects. While there were several men mixed up in our trip none of us came home with our fate sealed, that is, none of us but——

But I am rambling again. It is as hard for me to keep on the main track of my story as it was for the Glow-worm to stay on the sign-posted highway. If I am not careful I will be telling the end of it somewhere along the middle, and that would be rather confusing for the reader who likes to turn to the back of the book to see how things come out before beginning the story. Nyoda said I should put a notice in the frontispiece saying that the end was on page so-and-so instead of the last chapter, and save such readers the trouble of hunting for it. As it is, I am afraid the last chapter will be crowded with afterthought incidents which I forgot to put in as I went along, and which should really be part of the story. But after all, I suppose it is immaterial in what order they come, for, by the time the reader has finished the book she will have them all, which is no more than she would have done if they had all been fitted together in the proper order. And she always has the privilege of rearranging them to suit herself.

Mr. Watterson, as well as his wife, had doubtless been picturing to himself the dramatic moment in Mr. Anderson's office, when his niece should be turned over to him. He began to look important and self- conscious as they entered the city. Both he and his wife looked at the people around them in the street with a you-don't-know-whom-we-have-in- this-car expression, while Sahwah put on a very doleful countenance. Secretly she could hardly wait for the meeting to take place. They crossed the city and began threading their way through the down-town streets, crowded with the traffic of a busy week afternoon. Mr. Watterson, thinking of the coming interview on Michigan Avenue, failed to notice that a traffic policeman was waving peremptorily for him to back up from a crowded corner. The result was that he became involved in the line of vehicles which was coming through from the cross street and rammed an electric coupe containing two ladies and a poodle. The coupe tipped over onto the curb and the ladies were badly shaken and the poodle was cut by flying glass, or the ladies were cut by the flying poodle, I forget which. Mr. Watterson and his party emerged from the crush under the escort of a police officer who directed the finish of the tour. Their destination was the police station.



CHAPTER XII.

"What a tale of adventure we will have to tell Nyoda when we find her," said Gladys, as the Striped Beetle followed its nose Rochesterward. "It will make Sahwah green with envy. She is always so eager for adventure. And there never was such a combination as we have experienced. First, we picked up a girl in trouble, then we got quarantined; next, we lost our trunk and followed a man all the way to Indianapolis, thinking that he had it, which he didn't; then we were robbed of all our money and the Striped Beetle at one fell swoop, and were stranded on a country road without a cent or a drop of gas and had to spend the night in the car. There certainly never was such a chapter of events. The Count for the next Ceremonial will be a regular book.

"I wonder what the girls in Rochester have been doing all this time while they have been waiting for us?"

"Migwan's writing poetry, of course," said Hinpoha, "and Sahwah's getting into mischief and Nakwisi's staring into space through her spy- glass. It's easy enough to guess what they are doing."

"Well, anyway, they know why we were delayed," said Chapa. "You got a second wire off to Nyoda before the storm?"

"Yes," said Gladys, "I sent it right after I wired for money."

Hinpoha sat silent for a long time. "A penny for your thoughts," said Gladys. "I can't help thinking about the scarf," said Hinpoha. "I brought it along because I was afraid something would happen to it if I left it behind, and here we had to lose it on the way. I would rather lose anything than that." And she sighed and looked so woe-begone that it quite affected the spirits of the others.

"Nyoda can help us find the trunk," said Gladys confidently, thinking with relief as they neared Rochester that Nyoda would soon be at the helm of the expedition again. This thought filled them all with so much cheer that even Hinpoha brightened up. She ceased thinking about the scarf and looked at the flying landscape.

"As a sight-seeing trip this has been somewhat of a failure," she said. "And I had intended making so many sketches of the interesting things we saw on the way to put into the Count, but the only thing that comes to my mind now is the picture of ourselves, always standing around wondering what to do next."

"You might draw a picture of the pain you had from eating green apples," suggested Chapa.

"That pain was about the only real thing about the whole trip," said Hinpoha. "All the rest seems like a dream."

Hinpoha began idly sketching herself running away from a large apple on legs which was pursuing her. And that is the only picture we have of the whole trip!

The girls got to Rochester about noon and went immediately to Number 43 Main Street. Mrs. Moffat came to the door and when she saw the girls in tan suits and green veils she closed it all but a crack.

"My rooms are all taken," she said, coldly.

"We don't want rooms, we want someone who is staying here," said Gladys. "Is Miss Kent here with three girls?"

"No, she isn't," said Mrs. Moffat "They came here as bold as brass, but you can bet they didn't stay long after I found out about them. Do you belong to her company, too? You're dressed just like the rest of them."

"Why yes, we belong to her party," said Gladys, bewildered beyond words at this reception. "Will you please tell us what—"

But Mrs. Moffat closed the door in their faces with a resounding bang and no amount of ringing would induce her to open it again. The girls were simply staggered. What could be the meaning of the woman's words? "You can bet they didn't stay long after I found out about them." After she found out what about us? When had we left the house and where were we now? They stood around the Striped Beetle irresolutely.

"If she only hadn't shut the door in our faces before we could ask some more questions!" said Gladys. "I don't suppose it would do any good to try again; she'd do the same thing a second time."

Just then a small boy came whistling down the street and Gladys had an idea. Getting the girls quickly into the car she drove down to meet him. When they met him they were well away from the house. Gladys called him to her. "I'll give you ten cents," she said, "if you'll go to Number 43 Main Street and ask the lady where the girls in the tan suits, who stayed at her house, went when they left. Maybe you had better go around to the back door," she added.

"Give me the ten cents first," said the boy, squinting his eyes shrewdly.

"Not until you bring back the answer," said Gladys. "I won't go unless you give me a nickel first," he maintained, firmly. Gladys gave him the nickel and he departed in the direction of Number 43. Still keeping out of sight of the house, they awaited his return. In five minutes he was back.

"She says she doesn't know where they went," he said, speaking in an unnecessarily loud voice, the way young boys do. "She says she doesn't keep track of rogues. Where's the other nickel?"

Stupefied, Gladys gave it to him and he ran off down the street "What did he say?" she gasped. "She doesn't keep track of rogues? She turned them out of the house when she found out about them? Whatever has happened? What made her think the girls were rogues? And where did they go?"

They were standing almost within a stone's throw of Number 22 Spring Street, where we had gone from Mrs. Moffat's, but, of course, there was no sign on the house to tell them we had been there.

"Well," said Gladys, "they were here in Rochester, that much we know, and perhaps they are here yet. Somebody must have seen them. Where do you think we had better go to inquire?"

"Do you see a candy store anywhere?" asked Hinpoha. "Sahwah would surely have to buy some candy if she saw any. Whenever I lose her downtown at home I go straight to the nearest candy store, and I invariably find her, standing on one foot and unable to make up her mind whether she should buy chocolates or Boston wafers."

Accordingly, they visited each of the three candy stores on Main Street, and Hinpoha bought a mixed collection of stale chocolates and peppermint drops while they were making their inquiries, but they came out about as wise as they went in. The tan quartet they were seeking had evidently not invested in candy. "Sahwah's either reformed or short of cash," said Hinpoha, decidedly. Which half of that statement was true at that particular moment the reader already knows.

Next, they reached the "department" store which carried everything from handkerchiefs to plows. The proprietor started when they entered and looked keenly at their suits. To their questions about the other four he replied that he hadn't seen them, and if he had he wouldn't know where they were now.

"What a queer thing to say!" exclaimed Gladys, when they were outside once more. "'If he had seen them he wouldn't know where they were now.' It sounds almost like what the woman said, 'She didn't keep track of rogues.' What on earth has happened?"

While they were standing there the boy to whom they had given the dime came walking by again. He walked past several times, and finally he stood still near them. "Say," he called, "will you give me another dime if I tell you something?" He was very red-headed and very freckled, and his eyes were screwed up in an unpleasant squint which might have been dishonesty and might have been the effect of sunlight, but, at any rate, they weren't much taken with his looks. Still, he might be honest after all.

"What do you know?" parried Gladys.

"I saw the girls you're looking for," he said.

"Where?" asked Gladys, eagerly.

"Give me the ten cents first," he demanded. Gladys gave him a dime. "They had their car fixed at the garage over there," he said. "They came in with a lamp and a fender smashed. I was in the garage and I saw them. They were talking to a young fellow on a motor-bike. Afterward, I seen them leaving town and pretty soon I seen the fellow starting after them."

"What day was that?" asked Gladys.

"It was Thursday morning when they came in," he said, "and it was Friday afternoon when they went out."

Friday afternoon! And that was Saturday! The girls hastened over to the garage and inquired about the Glow-worm.

"There was a car like that in here Thursday morning," agreed the proprietor. "The right headlight and the right front fender were broken. They had run into a limousine in the fog the night before. I had it all fixed up by three in the afternoon and they came and got the car, but pretty soon they brought it back and said they weren't going to leave town that night. One of the girls was sick, they said. They got it the next morning and I haven't seen them since. But I heard them tell a young fellow that came in to get his motorcycle looked over that they were going to Chicago. By the way, you say there were four girls in tan suits. There were five when they brought the car in in the morning."

Well might the girls be puzzled by the three things they had found out that day.

First. Nyoda and the other girls were considered rogues by the woman at Number 43 Main Street.

Second. There were five girls in the Glow-worm instead of four.

Third. Nyoda had gone on to Chicago instead of waiting for them as they had requested in their message and had left no word for them.

"It's as clear as mud," said Hinpoha, who was plunged into deepest gloom again, now that Nyoda was not there and there was no one to advise them what to do about the trunk.

"Did she get our telegram?" wondered Gladys. "We might go down to the office and find out if it was delivered."

The first one was delivered, they were informed. The messenger boy who had delivered it (the company had only two) was in at the time and he testified that he had gone to Number 43 Main Street and was told that the parties had left, and he was on his way back to the office when he saw them standing in the road beside the automobile and gave it to them. He knew them because he had been delivering a message in the hotel the day before when they had come there and asked for rooms, and he had overheard the clerk telling them to go to Number 43 Main Street because the hotel was filled with convention delegates. He also said that there were five girls in the party instead of four. But no second telegram had been received at the office.

Gladys rubbed her head wearily. The puzzle was getting deeper all the while. For the hundredth time she wondered what could have induced Nyoda to keep running away from them like that. Nyoda, who was the chaperon of the party, and who had promised her mother that she would never let the girls out of her sight!

"Well, if Nyoda's gone to Chicago," she said, "there's nothing left for us to do but go too, although I don't know what to make of it."

So, puzzled and perplexed, they looked up the route to Chicago from Rochester and set out to follow it.

"We aren't very good hounds in this game," sighed Hinpoha, "or we'd have run down our hare before this."

"But it's such an uncommonly fast hare," sighed Gladys. "And it leaves such amazing and apparently contradictory footprints."

"Hi," said Chapa, "look at the crowd in this town. What do you suppose has happened?" In fact, the streets of the village through which they were passing were choked with vehicles of every kind and the sidewalks were crowded with people.

"It's a band," said Hinpoha, "I hear the music."

Mr. Bob began to quiver with excitement and whine, and Hinpoha caught him firmly by the collar and held him so he could not jump out again.

"It's a circus parade!" cried Gladys. And sure enough, it was. From a side street the crimson and gold wagons began to stream into the main street.

How it happened they were never able to tell, but the next thing they knew they were in the line of the parade and were being swept along with the procession. They could not turn out because the street was too narrow. They had to keep going along, behind a huge towering wagon with pictures of ferocious wild beasts painted on its sides, which drew shrieks of excitement from the children on the sidewalk, and just ahead of the line of elephants. Gladys slowed the car down to a crawl and wondered every minute if she could keep it going so slowly. They could easily be taken for a part of the circus, for the Striped Beetle is rather a conspicuous car outside of the fact that it had the Winnebago banner draped across the back, and besides the girls were all dressed alike.

"What do you suppose they are?" they heard one small boy shout at another.

"Look like snake charmers," answered the second. Hinpoha giggled. "That's meant for you, Gladys," she said. "Tain't either snake charmers," said a third small boy. "It's the fat lady." And he pointed directly at Hinpoha. Gladys laughed so she nearly lost control of the car while Hinpoha turned fiery red.

Without warning the elephant directly behind them thrust his trunk into the car and picked up Medmangi's camera, to the immense delight of the crowd on the sidewalk. After much prodding from his rider he released it again, dropping it safely into Medmangi's lap. All the rest of the ride Medmangi kept her head over her shoulder so she could watch what the beast was doing. He kept blinking at her knowingly, and every few minutes he would extend his trunk toward the car in a playful manner and send her into a panic, and then he would drop it decorously to the ground like a limp piece of hose, with a sound in his throat that resembled a chuckle.

"Poor beast," she said, after watching him plod rather wearily along for several blocks, "a circus life is no snap."

"He's better off than we are," said Hinpoha crossly, "for he has his trunk, and that's more than we have." Hinpoha's temper had been slightly ruffled by her having been mistaken for the fat lady.

"We'd still have our trunk if we carried it in the front the way he does, instead of in the back," said Medmangi.

Mr. Bob was nearly barking his head off at the shouting boys, and about drove the girls frantic with his noise. Gladys's hands were shaking as she held on to the steering-wheel, while Hinpoha vainly tried to silence him. Chapa dared Medmangi to reach out her hand and touch the elephant's trunk and she did so. The elephant sneezed a sneeze that nearly unseated his rider and blew Chapa's hat off. Medmangi screamed and ducked under the seat, thinking that the beast was about to attack her. Gladys turned around to see what she was screaming at and just then the red and gold mountain ahead of her stood still for a minute, with the result that she bumped into it. It resounded with a hollow clang and something inside set up a fearful roaring like a whole jungle full of wild beasts. Then the small boys shouted worse than ever and the perspiration stood out on Gladys's forehead.

"Stop that dog barking, or I shall go wild," she said.

After numerous ineffectual commands and shakes, Hinpoha rolled Mr. Bob in one of the robes, which nearly smothered him, but produced the desired result. Save for a few smothered growls and "oofs" nothing more was heard from him.

Then, as Hinpoha always said afterward, after the parade the real circus began. The man-killing anaconda got loose. How it happened no one ever found out, but the first thing anybody knew, there he was, tearing down the middle of the street like an express train. "How does he go so fast without wheels?" gasped Gladys, as he shot by them.

Then there was a scene of pandemonium. The crowd tried to scatter, but it was packed in so closely between the buildings and the street that there was no place to scatter to. Most of the stores had been closed in honor of the greatest show on earth, and the thieves that accompanied it and the people found only locked doors when they tried to enter the stores. Shrieks filled the air. The whole line of elephants began trumpeting.

"Oh, if we could only get out of this," cried Gladys.

The next minute they were out of it, but in a manner they had not foreseen. For down from one of the painted wagons a man leaped directly into the Striped Beetle, picked Gladys up as if she had been a feather, lifted her over the back of the seat into the tonneau and took the wheel himself. Round went the Striped Beetle into the side street through a gap in the line of wagons and after the snake. The scattering of the people told the trail it was taking, and a low cloud of dust lengthening rapidly along the road showed that it was still in the middle of the street. Up one street and down another they flew, as fast as the Striped Beetle would go, with the snake always a length ahead of them. At last, it darted across the sidewalk, up the front walk of a brick mansion, up the front steps and in at the open front door.

Wild screams from within indicated that his presence had been observed. The next instant two maids tried to issue from the door at the same instant and stuck there in the doorway, fighting to get out, until both were shot out as from the mouth of a cannon by the impact of the body of a man, coming behind them down the stairs. They rolled down the steps, picked themselves up, and rushed out of the gate and up the street, closely followed by the man in shirt sleeves, shouting wildly that it was only a drop he had taken for his rheumatism, but he would never take another. Shaken and breathless as they were, the girls laughed until they cried at the trail of superstitious terror left by the man-killing anaconda. The man who had taken such cool possession of the Striped Beetle jumped out and followed the snake into the house. When he returned some five minutes later the man-eater was wrapped around his body in great coils. Gladys got one look at the monster which the man evidently intended placing in the car, and then she was over the back of the seat and behind the steering-wheel, and the Striped Beetle went gliding off down the street.

"There's one thing I object to being, and that's careful mover of a circus," she said through her teeth. She was still too breathless to talk properly. "I'd just as soon take the man back to his wagon, but I won't sit beside a snake. There's nothing in the etiquette book about how to behave toward them and I'm afraid I might do the wrong thing and rouse his ire."

We were well into the country before she slackened her dizzy pace and the circus and the man-killing anaconda were left far behind. Hinpoha was still giggling about the man who thought he was seeing snakes and had forgotten all about poor Mr. Bob, who was still wrapped in his muffling blanket. A convulsive movement of the roll in her arms brought her back to earth and she undid the bundle in time to save him from being completely smothered. All the rest of the trip Mr. Bob retired under the seat every time anyone touched that blanket.

Later in the afternoon they stopped for gasoline and while the tank was being filled were entertained by the loud-voiced conversation of two men who were standing against the wall of the gasoline station.

"But I tell you it isn't my trunk," said the first, "and I'm not going to carry it. The rear end of the car hits the bumpers now every time we strike a bump in the road and I won't have any unnecessary weight back there."

"Oh say, be a good sport and carry it," said the second man. "It's a good looking trunk and I can get something for it when we get back to the city. But I hate to pay express on it."

"How did you get it, anyway?" asked the first man.

Gladys, who had pricked up her ears at the word "trunk" and was intently listening to the above conversation, was disappointed in not hearing the end of it. For, with the question just recorded the two men moved across the street toward a car which stood there. Just then the tank of the Striped Beetle was filled and they were released. Gladys steered across the street just as the engine of the other car started up. But she had caught a glimpse of the trunk under discussion, standing on the unoccupied rear seat of the car, and there, full in the sunlight, were the initials GME, Cleveland, O. Without a doubt it was her trunk.

The other car gained speed rapidly and began to draw away from them. Gladys put the Striped Beetle on its mettle and followed. They passed through several towns at the same high rate of speed, never gaining on the car ahead of them until it stopped in front of a hotel in one place. Gladys also stopped. She jumped out of the car and was alongside the other before either man was out. She began without preliminary. "Excuse me," she said, "but we have lost our trunk from our car and the one you have is exactly like it. Would you mind telling me whether it is your own or not?" The two men looked at each other.

One of them, the one who had objected to carrying the trunk, flushed red and looked uncomfortable. As he was driving the car it was to him that Gladys had addressed her remarks.

"It's not mine," he answered. "It belongs to Mr. Johnson, this gentleman here."

"Yes, it's mine," said the man referred to, as if daring her to dispute his statement.

Gladys was nonplused. There was something queer about their possession of the trunk she knew from the conversation she had overheard.

"You say your name is Johnson?" she asked. "Then how does it come that you have the initials GME—my initials—on your trunk?"

The man glared at her in silence. A crowd began to gather around them on the sidewalk. A policeman elbowed his way to the front. "What's the matter here?" he asked.

"Lady says the man stole her trunk," replied one of the bystanders.

Gladys grew hot all over when she heard that, because she had not said a word about the man's having stolen the trunk, although that thought was uppermost in her mind.

"How about it?" asked the policeman.

"It's none of your business," growled the man addressed as Mr. Johnson. "That's my trunk, whether those are my initials or not. It was given me in exchange for something else."

"But I believe it's mine," said Gladys, looking helplessly around the circle of faces. "It was stolen off our car in Ft. Wayne."

"It was no such thing," said Mr. Johnson, hotly. "We'll soon find out," said the policeman. "What was in your trunk, lady?"

Gladys described several articles which were inside, and mentioned that it was lined with grey and had the same initials on the inside of the cover.

"Open the trunk," said the Solomon in brass buttons.

Mr. Johnson had no key, which was another suspicious fact. Gladys produced her key and unlocked the trunk. It was absolutely empty. There was the grey lining all right and the initials on the inside of the cover, GME, Cleveland, O.

"Disposed of the contents," said a voice from the sidewalk.

Hinpoha, who had been on a pinnacle of hope for her scarf ever since they had recognized the trunk, slumped into despair again when she saw that it was empty.

"Is that your trunk, lady?" asked the policeman.

"It looks like it," said Gladys.

"It answered her description all right," said the voice in the circle.

"Where did you get the trunk and from whom?" asked the policeman of Mr. Johnson.

"None of your business," replied that individual, with a savage look. "But it's mine, I tell you."

Here his companion pulled out his watch and uttered an exclamation.

"Give her the trunk and come along," he said, in a stage whisper. "We'll never make it if we stand here bantering all day."

Scowling like a thundercloud, Mr. Johnson gave the trunk a savage kick as it stood on the sidewalk and got back into the car, snapping out that it was his and never would have given it up if he wasn't in such a tearing hurry. The grey car glided away in a cloud of dust and the policeman lifted the trunk to the rack of the Striped Beetle.

"Fellow stole it, all right," rose the murmurs on every side, "or he wouldn't have been so willing to give it up. Probably threw the contents away. Well, you've got the trunk, lady, and that's worth more than what was in it."

Hinpoha could not agree with this, of course. That scarf was worth more in her eyes than the price of a dozen trunks, and she was not very much overjoyed at having the trunk returned without the scarf, for it was certain now that the contents were stolen and would never be recovered.

They arrived in Chicago during the afternoon and went directly to the Carrie Wentworth Inn. As they got out at the curb a man lounged down from the doorway and approached them. "You are under arrest," he said, quietly.

"Arrest!" gasped Gladys, thinking of all the traffic rules she might have broken in crossing the busy corner they just passed. "What for? And who are you, anyway, you're not a policeman."

The man opened his coat and showed an official badge. "I'm a policeman all right, you'll find," he said, calmly.

"What have we done?" gasped Gladys. The trunk was in her mind now. What if it were not theirs after all and they were to be accused of stealing it!

"You are wanted in connection with an attempt to steal a diamond necklace from the home of Simon McClure," said the detective, for such he was.

"What?" said Gladys, in sheer amazement. "I never heard of such a person."

"Tell that to the police," said the man facetiously, "and in the meantime, just come along with me." He got into the car and motion them to follow. Too much dazed to resist, they obeyed.



CHAPTER XIII.

Sahwah's vanishing from the car was so uncanny and mysterious that, for a few minutes, we could think of nothing but a supernatural agency. The wind was like the wail of a banshee, and to our excited eyes the mist wraiths hovering over the swamp were like dancing figures. The croaking of the frogs was suddenly full of menace. They were not real frogs croaking down there in the mud; they were evil spirits dwelling in the swamp and they held the secret of Sahwah's disappearance. Shudders ran up and down our spines and the perspiration began to break out in our faces.

"Did Sahwah get into the car again after she helped you open the gate?" asked Nyoda.

At the sound of her voice our fear of the supernatural vanished and we were back to reality again. We were lost on a lonely road, it is true, but it was a (more or less) solid dirt road in the misty mid-region of Indiana, and not a ghoul-haunted pathway in the misty mid-region of Weir.

We all declared Sahwah had gotten into the car.

"She couldn't have," maintained Nyoda. "We haven't stopped since then and she couldn't have fallen out while we were going without making a splash that would have sent the water over the car."

"It's nearly a foot deep most of the way." We thought hard about the circumstances attendant upon our getting back into the car and it came to us that we were not positive, after all, that Sahwah had been with us.

"That wind—don't you remember?" said Nakwisi. "It whipped the corner of my veil into my eye and I couldn't open it again for some time after we started."

I remembered the wind. It had wrapped my veil around my face so that I couldn't see anything, and in my blindness I had slammed the door on my finger, and the pain made me forget everything else. It hadn't been a propitious time to count noses. I had dropped into the corner of the seat trying to get my finger into my mouth through the folds of my veil, and the effort not to cry out with pain made me faint. I had not even noticed when the car started. Margery was on the front seat with Nyoda and they had thought, of course, that Sahwah was in the back with Nakwisi and me. Well, it was evident that she wasn't.

"Poor Sahwah," said Nyoda. "Such a night to be waiting at the gate!"

"Backward, turn backward, Glow-worm, in your flight, Rescue poor Sahwah from her muddy plight!"

I spouted.

Which was easier said than done. That road was built for traveling ahead and not for turning. On one side was the swamp and on the other a steep drop off into a lake.

"We're in the straight and narrow path all right," said Nyoda, viewing the landscape. Then she sarcastically began to quote from a well-known automobile advertisement which emphasized the superiority of a long wheel base, whatever that is. "The Glow-worm simply won't make the turn," she said. "Here's one instance when the worm won't turn."

"It's a long worm that knows no turning," I misquoted.

Nyoda tried again, and this time, with its rear wheels in the swamp and its front lamps hanging over the precipice, the Glow-worm did turn. We were limp as rags from the strain by the time we were safely back in the road. I had been trying to make up my mind which would do the least damage to my clothes, landing in the swamp or in the lake, and had just about decided on the lake as the lesser of the two evils, as I couldn't get much wetter anyhow, when Nyoda called out, "It's all over."

"If you're speaking of the mud it certainly is all over," I said, feeling of the spatters on the back of the seat.

"Mud baths are hygienic," said Nyoda drily, if anyone can be said to speak drily when they are dripping at every corner. "Be a sport if you can't be a philosopher." Which statement contained food for reflection, as they say in books.

We made our way slowly and splashily back to the mud-wreathed gate, alas, we shoved sir—Gracious! I'm tobogganing into a quotation again! But, like the girl in the poem when the lover comes back to the gate after many years, Sahwah wasn't there. We called, oh, how we did call! With voices as hoarse as the frogs in the swamp.

"We might as well stop calling," said Nyoda, disgustedly. "She won't be able to tell the difference between us and the frogs."

But we kept on calling just the same and a hideous echo from somewhere threw our words back at us in a broken, mocking answer. That was all. We were paralyzed with fear that Sahwah had wandered into the swamp or had fallen over the precipice in the dark into the lake. We turned the lights of the car on the swamp for a long distance, but saw nothing.

I shuddered until my teeth chattered at that lonely stretch of marsh. Given the choice between a graveyard at night and a swamp, I think I should take the graveyard. The nice friendly ghosts that sit on tombstones are so much more cheerful than the nameless and shapeless Things that flit over a swamp at night. The yellow circle thrown by the Glow-worm's lamps was the only thing that linked us to earth and reason. Within that circle the mysterious shadows melted and no spirits dared dance. Then without warning the yellow circle dimmed and vanished, and left us completely at the mercy of the Shapes. The lights had gone out on the Glow-worm.

"Probably short circuited," we heard Nyoda's voice say. "Where was Moses when the light went out?" I asked, trying to be cheerful.

Margery trembled and clung to Nyoda. The swamp now seemed a living thing that clutched at us with hands. And somewhere in that darkness that pressed around us Sahwah was wandering around lost, or perhaps lying helpless in the water. It is not my intention to dwell on the unpleasant features of our trip any more than I have to. But somehow that night stands out more clearly in my memory than any of the other events. Nyoda says it is because I am gifted, or rather cursed, with a constructive imagination, and see and hear things that aren't there. I suppose it is true, because I can see whole armies marching in the sky, and boats and horses and dragons, when the other girls only see clouds. But I know I heard sounds in that swamp that night that weren't earthly; voices that sang tunes and children that cried, and things that fiddled and shrieked and sobbed and laughed and whispered and gurgled and moaned.

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