The Outdoor Girls on Pine Island - Or, A Cave and What It Contained
by Laura Lee Hope
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"You little soldier," Allen murmured. "But can't you see, Betty, that I am here to protect you from danger if there is any—not let you run right into it?"

"Then there is no reason why you should, either," she said obstinately.

"Will it make you feel any better if we get the others?" Allen asked, just a little exasperated, for he liked mysteries and hated to leave them unsolved. "We can get to them in five minutes if we run."

"Yes, that will be better," Betty agreed, seizing the suggestion eagerly. "But do you think we can find the cave again?"

"Easily," said Allen. "You see, we are pretty near the water right here and that bent old tree at the edge of the lake—see what I mean?—well, that's right on the line with the mouth of the cave. I guess it will be easy enough to find."

So it was settled, and they raced back hand in hand to the spot where they had left their friends, eager to tell the news.

"So here you are," cried Mollie, at sight of the runaways. "We thought you were never coming back."

Allen wasted no time, but told his story in the fewest words possible. They were all tremendously excited, and followed the two adventurers eagerly as they led the way along the shores of the lake.

"Are you sure you can find it again?" Grace was asking when Amy seized her arm and pointed out over the water.

"Look!" she cried. "Gypsies!"



"Gypsies?" Betty echoed. "Where?"

"Can't you see?" returned Amy. "They are fording just as that old man said they could. Oh, what are we going to do?"

The boys had been gazing with interest toward the little group of wanderers, but at Amy's cry they were aroused to sudden action.

"Get to a place where we can see, and not be seen," said Frank. "I'd like to watch this thing through."

"They are coming right this way, too," said Grace, delightfully afraid. "Oh, what have they got on their backs?"

"Looks like loot of some sort," Will volunteered, peering forth from his tree trunk. "Say, this promises to be a lark, fellows."

"We'd better get back a little farther, if we don't want them to run right into us," Roy suggested. "They are headed this way."

The watchers retreated still farther into the woods until they came to a dense overgrowth of foliage which effectually screened them from prying eyes.

"This is just the thing," Roy exulted. "I tell you we are running in luck to-day."

"I am glad you think so," said Amy. "If one of those gypsies discovered us, I am afraid we wouldn't live long."

"Well, they are not going to," said Roy, overhearing the last remark. "Don't be a wet blanket, Amy. Anyway, just because they are gypsies they needn't be murderers."

"I'm not a——" Amy was beginning, when Allen hissed a sharp warning. "Keep still, everybody," he said. "They are not a hundred yards away!"

After that silence reigned, broken only occasionally by a nervous whisper from one of the girls as they watched the approach of the enemy—or so they regarded them—with breathless interest.

There were about twenty in the group, of which the majority were men. As they came nearer, the girls and boys could see how greatly their ages varied. Some were old men with white hair and flowing beards, while others were young striplings scarcely out of boyhood. Their clothes were many hued and picturesque, while each one carried on his back a huge bundle. They traveled along the bank, speaking in a low mellow tone, a language which the Outdoor Girls and the boys had never heard before.

Grace crowded close to Betty, and the Little Captain squeezed her arm reassuringly. "I kind of like them," she whispered. "They look so interesting. They look like bandits or——"

Frank's hand closed abruptly over her mouth—for low as her tone had been the gypsies were near enough now to hear the slightest whisper.

On, on came the little procession so near that the girls, by stretching out their hands, could almost have touched them. They scarcely dared to breathe.

The gypsies moved on for a short distance, then gathered about something the nature of which the girls and boys could not discern. In his curiosity, Allen forgot caution and rising from the protection of the bushes he tip-toed over to a more advantageous lookout. In a moment he was back again on his knees beside the crouching group crying in an excited manner: "It's our cave—the cave Betty and I discovered—they are going into it. Say, I wish we had gone in when we had the chance!"

"I don't," said Mollie, "they might have found you there and knifed you in the back or something."

"Especially something," mocked Roy. But Mollie was too excited to hear him.

"Look!" Grace cried. "Now that they are all inside, you wouldn't know that there was any opening there at all."

"It is tough to have to sit outside and look at nothing," Roy began.

"Don't look at me when you say that," complained Mollie, with a little grimace.

"When we ought to be in there capturing the thieves—if that is what they are," he finished.

"I'd bet on it," said Frank. "All gypsies are born robbers. Just the same, I wouldn't mind having some of their loot."

"Frank!" Grace exclaimed, in a shocked voice. "You know you wouldn't like anything of the sort."

"Why not?" he said, his eyes twinkling, for teasing Grace was one of his greatest delights. "I wouldn't go in anybody's house and deliberately steal anything, but if somebody is kind enough to do it for me——"

"It will do you as much good as it will them, eh, Frank?" finished Will, companion in crime.

"I think you are just talking to hear yourselves talk," Grace commented, and Betty heartily approved. "That's the most sensible thing I ever heard you say, Grace."

"I'm getting stiff sitting on my heels," Mollie complained. "I wish those old gypsies would go home where they belong, and let us get up."

"Seventh inning," said Frank. "All get up and stretch."

Willingly they followed his example, but no sooner had they risen to their feet than they were sent scuttling back again like rabbits into a burrow. The bushes were pushed aside and an aged gypsy stepped forth from the opening. With a little gasp of excitement the girls realized that he was without his heavy pack. Whatever it was they had brought evidently had been left behind in the cave. One by one they emerged until their number was complete. The last of the little band, a lad apparently no more than sixteen years old, replaced the screening bushes very carefully across the mouth of their hiding place. Then they turned, and retraced their steps, still speaking that strange melodious tongue of theirs, until they had reached the shore and departed the way they had come. It was not till then that the watchers ventured to speak above a whisper.

"Now for the cave and what it contains!" cried Will, and started for the spot the gypsies had so lately occupied.

The girls and boys followed him, the former excited yet half fearful.

"Do you think we had better?" asked Amy, as Will pushed aside the curtain of foliage and peered inside. "It's getting dark, and besides the gypsies might come back. Please don't, Will."

"Do you mean to say that you girls want us to go home without seeing what is in there?" asked Frank incredulously. "It can't be done, Amy."

Nevertheless, the boys hesitated before the entrance to this mysterious hole. After all, it was getting dark and the very blackness of the place was forbidding.

"If we only had some matches," said Roy uncertainly. "It wouldn't do us much good to go stumbling around in the dark."

"And I presume Mrs. Irving is back and will be terribly worried," Mollie added, seizing upon the most effective argument she could think of. "She told us to be home before dark."

"Yes, and we can come here to-morrow, anyway," Amy added. "What do you think about it, Betty?"

"Well, I am just crazy to see what the gypsies left there," the Little Captain answered, "but I do think it's a little late now to begin exploring. It isn't as if this were our last day on the island."

"I think Betty is right, fellows." It was Roy who spoke. "Mrs. Irving left the girls in our care and she won't do it again in a hurry if we don't get them home pretty soon."

"That's so, of course," Allen admitted reluctantly. "Just the same, it's a crime to leave a discovery like this without getting to the bottom of it."

"But we can come to-morrow," Betty pleaded. "It isn't as if——"

"Oh, I know all about that," he interrupted. "But we probably can't find the place to-morrow."

"Well, we will have to take our chances on that," cried Mollie, tapping her foot impatiently. "The rest of you may stay here all night if you want to, but I'm going back to 'The Shadows.'"

"Hold on a minute, Mollie, can't you?" said Will. "I wish it weren't so late, but since it is, I suppose we shall have to act accordingly. Who's got the lunch basket?"

"Frank had, the last time I saw it," said Amy, looking about her at the gathering shadows uneasily. "Oh, please let's hurry."

"I forgot all about the basket," Frank confessed. "I think I left it over there behind the bushes."

Allen went with him to find it, while the girls stood huddled together, wishing themselves back at the bungalow. Mystery is wonderful in the glaring sun of noon-day, but in the chill dusk of evening, with a damp mist rising and touching all the land with clammy fingers—at such a time it is not so alluring. All they wanted was home and a fire and a chance to talk things over.

Allen and Frank, carrying the basket between them, soon rejoined those who were waiting at the cave, and they started along the shores of the lake, keeping a sharp lookout for anything that looked like a gypsy.

However, they reached home at last without encountering anything more formidable than their own shadows.

"But I would like to know what they had in those bags," sighed Betty, as the boys took leave of them. "Can we go back the first thing in the morning, Allen?"

"We can't go too soon to suit me," Allen agreed. "But aren't you going to let us fellows come over to-night to talk things over?"

"Of course," said Mollie, "and we'll have a fire."

"That sounds good," said Roy. "We won't keep you waiting."

Then the girls went in to relieve Mrs. Irving's anxiety and to tell her the wonders they had witnessed that afternoon.



Before the cheerful glow of the fire, the young people talked long that night, while Mrs. Irving listened with interest. Her eyes sparkled at the description of the cave and the gypsy troupe and once she broke in with:

"You needn't think you are going to leave me behind when such exciting things are happening. After this, I am going to be on the spot with the rest of you."

"I wish you would," Mollie answered. "We thought you didn't care to go along."

"Ask me in the morning," she said.

And now the morning had come at last. Betty had lain awake most of the night, too excited to sleep and impatiently awaiting the first streak of dawn.

Now it had come after a wait that had seemed interminable and she slipped silently out of bed, determined not to awaken the sleeping girls. But before she had time to move half way across the room, Grace hailed her.

"Hello, Betty!" she called, "I'm glad you are up—I haven't been able to sleep for the longest while. What are you going to do?"

"Get dressed, I suppose," Betty answered. "I simply couldn't lie in bed any longer."

"Guess I will, too," said Grace; and that being the first time she had ever agreed with Betty on that subject, the latter looked at her in surprise.

"You must be all worked up, Gracy," she commented, "to be willing to get up at this time in the morning. I don't think it can be six o'clock, at the very latest."

"Well, anything is better than lying in bed awake," yawned Grace, sitting up in bed and curving her arms behind her head with that slow, instinctive grace that was part of her. "Look at Mollie staring at us for all the world like a little night-owl," she added.

"Thanks," said Mollie dryly. "I feel highly complimented, I'm sure. I'd hate to tell you what you look like."

"Don't," said Grace. "What I don't know won't hurt me."

"Let's all agree that you both look as bad as you can," said Betty crossly, for the strain of a sleepless night was beginning to tell. "It would be a relief to know the worst, anyway."

"Oh, for goodness' sake, Betty, don't you begin to disturb the peace, too," Amy broke in sleepily. "It was bad enough before with Grace and Mollie always at swords' points, but if you begin it, I don't know what I shall do."

Amy's despair was so comical that the girls had to laugh in spite of themselves. As if at a signal, the sun broke through the heavy mist that had risen over night and flooded the room with golden beams. Somehow the world suddenly seemed a better and a happier place to live in, and the girls' spirits rose like mercury.

"Do you suppose Mrs. Irving will really want to go?" Amy asked, as they finished dressing. "She seemed eager enough last night, but she may have changed her mind by this time."

"I don't think so," said Betty. "She is as game as we are for things like that."

"Yes, and she is feeling better now," said gentle little Amy.

The boys called for them bright and early. It seemed that they, also, had spent a rather restless night, and were glad of the sunshine and warmth of the morning.

The party started off in high spirits to find the cave and solve its mysteries. Mrs. Irving was with them, for, as Betty had said, she was a game little person and in for a good time whenever one could be found.

"Suppose we can't find the place?" it was Grace who voiced the thought that had been secretly troubling them all. "Betty just found it by accident yesterday."

"Don't cross bridges till you come to them, Grace," Frank admonished her. "We'll find it, all right, if we have to cover every square inch of the island."

"I vote that we let Allen and Betty take the lead," Roy suggested. "They know more about it than we do—or at least they ought to."

"What's that?" asked Betty, who had been deep in a conversation with Amy. "Who's talking about me now?"

"They are shifting the responsibility to our shoulders, that's all," Allen explained. "Roy says because we found the cave in the first place, it's sort of up to us not to disappoint them now."

"You may be sure we'll do our best," said the Little Captain, with her whimsical smile, "since we'd be disappointing ourselves at the same time."

"Wasn't it somewhere about here, Allen?" asked Mollie, pointing into the woods. "The place looks familiar."

"I don't think so," said Allen, puzzled. "Betty and I noticed a big tree that was almost directly on a line with the cave, but I don't see it to-day. I wonder——"

"It's a little farther ahead, I think, Allen," Betty volunteered, trying to force conviction into her tone. "I'm sure we haven't passed it."

"Well, I'm not," said Mollie, abruptly. "I'm positive I saw the bushes where we hid yesterday quite a distance down the road."

"Well, why on earth didn't you say so," Grace demanded, "instead of letting us wander on ahead?"

"Well, I wasn't sure," Mollie retorted. "And besides, I thought Betty and Allen knew what they were doing——"

"Sh-h!" warned Mrs. Irving. "There's nothing to get excited about. We all want to find the cave, and we are all going to do our best to find it. Remember, we are equally interested."

"Well, but it's very strange that we can't locate that tree," said the Little Captain, a troubled frown on her forehead. "Allen and I were so particular about it yesterday."

"Well, we surely won't accomplish anything by standing here," said Will, a shade impatiently. "Let's travel ahead a little—it seems to me it was farther on."

So they started again, troubled and perplexed and scanning every step of the way. Half an hour later they halted for another conference. The tree was nowhere to be found—neither was the cave. It seemed as if their adventure of the day before had been a dream which had faded and vanished into thin air with the advent of the morning.

"Every place we look at seems to be it, and then it isn't," wailed Amy.

"That's fine English, I must say," Will teased. "Where did you go to school?"

"Oh, for goodness' sake, let her English alone, Will!" Grace admonished. "It isn't that we're interested in just at present. Oh, where has the old thing gone to?"

"I guess it never was," Roy replied gloomily. "We just imagined it."

"Imagined it!" sniffed Betty. "If I thought I had an imagination like that I'd write books or something."

"I wish I knew what the something stood for," said Frank, laughing at her. "It must be good."

"I imagine it would be," said Betty, laughing back at him, "if I only knew myself."

"Stop fooling, you two, and help us think of something," Mollie demanded. "We can't stand here and admire the view all day."

"What would you suggest?" Frank asked politely. "We are willing to give weighty consideration to anything you say."

Mollie looked weakly about her for support. "Grace, can't you do anything with him?" she pleaded. "He does nothing but talk nonsense all day long."

"And just after he's paid you a compliment," Grace drawled. "I wonder you call that nonsense."

Mollie had opened her mouth for a stinging rejoinder, but before she could voice it there came a disturbance from a new and unexpected quarter. The bushes parted and two figures emerged—a young man and a girl.

Astonishment held the little group motionless, but the strangers, or so they appeared, stepped forward impulsively.

"It's no wonder you don't remember me," said the girl impulsively, "since I was dressed very differently when you last saw me. I am Anita Benton—the girl you rescued the other day."

As usual, Betty was the first to find her voice. "Oh, we are glad to see you!" she said warmly. "We were wondering when you and your brother were coming to pay us that promised visit."

"Oh, we would have been here long ago, but, you see, I was rather, well—shaken up," Anita explained, with a merry little laugh that made the girls warm to her at once. "Conway could hardly wait to come to tell you all how grateful he was—and is," she added, with a quaint little sideways glance in the direction of her tall brother.

"Anita's right. I almost came alone when I found she was inconsiderate enough to get sick," said Conway, who had been regarding the scene with lively interest. "You see, I never knew before what it was to almost lose a small sister."

"He speaks as if he had any number of them," cried Anita, gaily; and one could see at a glance the perfect understanding and union between the two. "But, really, this is the very first day I have been able to walk any distance at all, so Con and I thought we'd take advantage of it."

"Well, we are mighty glad you did," said Roy heartily, and Mollie glanced at him sideways. "I wonder if you two could help us solve a riddle," he added. "We had just about given it up for a bad job when you came along."

"What is it?" asked the girl eagerly. "I love riddles."

"Don't let him get your hopes raised," Betty warned. "It isn't a riddle at all. The thing is, we found a cave yesterday, and to-day it has simply vanished, disappeared, gone up in smoke."

"A cave?" said Conway, interestedly. "A cave around here? Why, I never heard of any."

"Well, we are beginning to think that we dreamed it," said Allen, pessimistically. "The only strange thing about it is that we all should dream the same thing."

"But please tell me what you mean," begged Anita. "Caves are even better than riddles. Why did you say you dreamed it?"

There could be no escaping this emphatic young person—that they realized—so Allen started to explain. When he had finished the two visitors were almost, if not quite, as excited as the Outdoor Girls and their boy chums had been.

"You think it was somewhere about here, don't you?" Anita asked. "It ought to be easy enough to find."

"That's what we thought before we started," said Grace, "but after you have been hunting for an hour or two you begin to realize your mistake. I vote we do something else."

"Grace! And leave the cave?" Amy cried, amazed at her friend's lack of romantic fervor.

"Why not?" said Grace. "It won't run away. Besides, I guess everybody's forgotten this is the day we set for the race."

They stared at one another dumbfounded. It was as Grace had said—this was the day they had decided on for the race and they had forgotten all about it. Had ever such a thing happened before in the annals of history? If so, they could not remember it.

"A race?" demanded Anita. "What race?"

Betty looked at her dazedly. "What race?" she repeated. "Why, the race, of course. Oh, I beg your pardon—I forgot you didn't know. The fact is, we have been planning a swimming race for—oh, ever so long—and now this gypsy-cave business put it clear out of our heads. Oh! how could we have forgotten it?"

"Well, it isn't too late yet," said Will, practically. "That is, if you aren't too set on finding this elusive cave to do anything else."

"Oh, that's safe enough where it is," said Allen. "If we can't find it, it's a pretty safe bet that nobody else can."

"I vote we get into our bathing suits just as fast as we can," said Frank. "That is, if our visitors don't mind seeing a crazy race," he added, half-apologetically; for he remembered his manners just in the nick of time.

"There's nothing we would like better," Conway assured him heartily. "And I don't think it will be crazy, either, from the way you fellows demonstrated your swimming ability the other day."

"Oh, it would be all right if we fellows could be in it alone," said Roy, wickedly. "But, you see, the girls have a mistaken idea they can swim, too, and so, just to encourage them, we have let them in on it."

"Let them in on it, indeed!" sniffed Betty. "If I remember correctly, we were the first to propose the race. That doesn't look as if we were particularly afraid of getting beaten."

"Sheer nerve, that's all," said Frank, snapping his fingers with an air of superiority.

"We don't need to talk," said Mollie; "we will show you what we can do."

"All right, we're from Missouri," Will announced, cheerily. "All we want is to be shown."

By this time they were well on their way to the bungalow, and now the subject of the cave was overshadowed by the excitement of the approaching race.

As the young people neared "The Shadows" their excitement grew, and when at last they reached the house the girls fairly flew up the stairs, dragging Anita with them, Conway going with the boys, of course.

"Don't you want a suit?" Betty inquired of her visitor, pausing in the act of slipping her skirt over her head. "I brought an old one in case of emergency that I think would fit you."

Anita shook her head. "Thanks just the same," she said. "But the doctor says I mustn't think of swimming for some time."

"It's pretty hard luck," said Mollie, sympathetically, "to have to stay out of the water on days like this. Say, girls, do you think we have a chance in the world of even keeping up with the boys?" she asked, anxious, now that the moment of the test had come.

"Why, of course we can," said Betty, pretending a confidence she did not feel. "Especially if the boys give us the heavy handicap we agreed on. I didn't want them to, but I guess it may come in handy."

"Well, are you ready?" cried Mollie, jumping up. "I am. Come on, girls, let's show them something!" and she was off down the stairs with the others close behind.



The Outdoor Girls found the boys waiting for them, and evidently as eager as the girls to begin the race.

"Well, it didn't take you very long," Frank remarked; for the boys had never ceased to marvel that girls could be on time.

"What point do you start from?" asked Conway, as they started off together. "How long is the race, anyway?" he added.

"Well," said Allen, electing himself spokesman, "we decided on a starting point about a quarter of a mile from here. You see, from a sharp turn there, there is, for about three-quarters of a mile, a course almost straight. So, you see, that makes a fairly good course."

"I should say so," Conway commented. "Why didn't you say something about it to the folks over at the hotel—you'd have had considerable of a crowd for an audience."

"Oh, we didn't want it," cried Amy, shrinking from the very mention of such a thing. "I couldn't swim at all if I thought anybody was looking at me."

"Don't you make any exceptions?" asked Anita, twinkling. "Con and I don't feel like going home just yet, and Mrs. Irving has elected to be audience instead of actor."

"Oh, of course I didn't mean you!" Amy exclaimed, embarrassed at the slip. "I don't mean one or two——"

"Of course you don't," said Anita remorsefully. "I only wish I could go in with you."

They soon reached the bend of the river which Allen had indicated, the girls growing more nervous with every step.

"I tell you what you can do," said Allen, struck by a sudden thought. "You and your sister can be the judges. In case there are any ties—although, of course such a thing is improbable"—the girls refused to become indignant at this shot—"we'll need somebody to settle our dispute, and Mrs. Irving has flatly refused to interfere before this."

"All right, that will be fine—provided everybody agrees to abide by our decision. You see, we are absolutely neutral."

"Oh, we won't kick at anything you say," Frank promised. "There is not much I can say for this crowd. But one thing—we are good sports. All in favor of Allen's proposition say 'Aye.'"

The vote was carried unanimously, and the newly made judges were instructed by Will to "trot along to the finishing point" and wait till they saw him leading the van. Then they would know who had won the race. There was an ironic shout at this assertion and Conway's laugh came back to them as he and his sister started to obey orders.

"Well, now, is everybody ready?" Roy asked, surveying the group critically. "Suppose you girls get started. We won't jump in until one of you gets well past that jut in the shore—then it's our time to show a little speed."

"All right, we are ready," said Mollie. "Frank, when you say the word we'll start."

The girls lined up with beating hearts, waiting for the word that would relieve their taut muscles.

"One—two—three—go!" Frank counted, and the Outdoor Girls made a running dive into the water, which was deep at this point, and struck out strongly for the goal.

"Those girls sure can swim some," was Will's admiring comment.

"For girls," grunted Roy.

"Get ready now, fellows," commanded Allen. "They've almost reached the point."

"I think we gave them too big a handicap," said Frank doubtfully. "They swim like fish."

"You old croaker!" Will exclaimed. "Why, we ought to be able to beat them with twice that handicap."

"Look out, Mollie has reached the point, fellows!" Allen shouted. "Now's the time!"

Without more ado, the boys struck out bravely, determined to overtake the girls in the shortest time possible. They found it was not so easy, however, as might have been anticipated. The girls had had a big advantage and were still swimming strongly. Will and Roy began to agree with Frank that they had given them too long a handicap.

On the other hand, the girls were not so confident. The strain was beginning to tell even upon their tried young muscles. Their breath was becoming labored and the goal seemed terribly far away.

Mollie and Betty had fallen a short distance behind the other two. They had felt the tax the speed was making on their strength, and had decided wisely to save the rest of it until it was more needed then at the present.

Naturally Amy and Grace thought their friends were giving up and marveled at it. How on earth could they have lost out so soon? Had they been more versed in races they could have answered that question themselves.

Meanwhile the boys, pulling hard, had managed to make up half the distance between them and the girls, and in sight of Betty's and Mollie's evident weariness their hopes soared high. Why, with these last two out of the running the race was as good as won.

On, on they came, hand over hand, stroke following stroke, rhythmic and strong and confident.

Betty looked at Mollie and Mollie looked at Betty, and each knew she had discovered the other's secret and at the same time recognized a rival.

Amy had come to the limit of her strength with the goal an eighth of a mile away. She knew that for her the race was over. The waters pushed her back, forced her back, seeming like some pitiless enemy bent upon her downfall.

And what of Grace? She would not acknowledge to herself that her strength was leaving her—why, she had swum as far as that many a time before—it was absurd that she should give up now. Besides, she was leading them all. With this thought she put the remainder of her waning strength into a few last desperate strokes.

Meanwhile, the boys had caught up with Mollie, and seeing this she quickened her stroke, forging ahead again. But Betty kept the same calm, steady stroke which had so deceived the boys—and the girls, too, for that matter, with the exception of Mollie.

On, on they came—almost abreast now. The boys, tired from the long chase, were resting, gathering strength for the last spurt.

The finish line had been very conveniently marked by a slender tree which had evidently been torn down in some terrific storm and now lay half on the shore and half upon the water. This, then, was their goal.

Conway was the first to see them coming. "Look, Nita!" he cried, seizing his sister's arm and drawing her to the edge of the water. "From the way they are all lined up I should judge this is nobody's race yet. That's the kind of a thing I enjoy—where there is occupation at the end. And look——"

"Look at Betty," cried Anita, interrupting him. "She can swim better than I can, and I thought I was pretty good." There was no conceit in this remark—it was simply a statement of fact.

Out on the water the girls and boys knew the time had come when they must show what was in them. Grace and Amy, with the discomfited Will, had fallen to the rear, and the race lay between the other five. Allen was leading, and the two young judges on the bank had just decided that either he or Frank would be the winner. Then it happened! The two girls gathered all their energy, that splendid reserve strength they had kept so well in check—summoned every ounce of vitality they had and gave it full rein.

Their muscles, trained to outdoor life, gallantly responded to the call. They passed first Frank, then Allen, who stared after them stupidly. You see, the boys were not believers in miracles. However, they rallied their reserved strength and shot ahead until they were even with the girls again.

The goal was close before them. Now, if ever, must come the last desperate spurt. Could they make it? They must! they must! The thought kept hammering itself over and over in the girls' consciousness. They were so near now—they couldn't lose—oh, they couldn't!

And the girls were right. Anita almost fell into the water in her excitement as the four swept on, swimming as though they had just touched the water.

"Mollie! Betty!" she cried. "Go it—for the cause!"

Whether this encouragement reached the ears it was intended for is doubtful. Suffice it to say, the girls followed her instructions to the letter.

Conway stretched forward eagerly as the swimmers rushed on toward the mark. Four hands closed over the fallen tree trunk almost at the same instant—but not quite. Mollie reached the goal a fraction of a second ahead—the race was hers.

As the dripping contestants drew themselves up upon the bank, Anita and Conway rushed forward eagerly. "Mollie had it!" they cried together, and Nita added:

"I don't see how you ever did it—it was the closest thing I ever saw."

For a few seconds the swimmers were too spent even to congratulate the winner. But when they did recover sufficient breath, they fairly overwhelmed her with praises. As Roy had said, "they were nothing if not sports."

"It was lucky you did have a judge, or, I should say judges." Conway glanced apologetically toward his sister. "Otherwise I don't believe anybody would have known which of you got there first. It was as near a tie as anything I have ever seen."

As the four lagging participants in the race came up to them, rather sore and disgruntled, the young folks delicately forbore to look in their direction and Frank covered their coming with a remark. "I don't know how you girls ever accomplished it—I thought you were done almost at the beginning. Tell us the secret."

Mollie and Betty looked at each other significantly. "That's our secret," said Betty. Then, springing to her feet, she cried: "Let's give three cheers for the winner of the race, Miss Mollie Billette!"

The cheers were given with a will that awoke the answering echoes on the island.

Mollie flushed gratefully. "Thank you," she said. "It was only luck anyway that I happened to touch the tree a second before the rest of you."

"Don't be modest, Mollie," Roy entreated. "You beat us all fairly—especially me," he added ruefully. They laughed and Betty added whimsically: "I thought I had you up to the last, Mollie. It wasn't fair to lead me on like that."

"Well, you sure know how to swim—all of you," Conway commented admiringly. "You must do a lot of it."

"Oh, we are at it a good deal of the time," Frank agreed carelessly. "And the girls—well, they have formed a club for all sorts of outdoor stunts. You see the results."

"Oh, isn't that great!" exclaimed Anita with genuine enthusiasm. "I love all those things, too. I wish I could belong to such a club."

"If you lived anywhere near Deepdale," said Betty warmly, "we should be very glad to have you join us."

Only too soon—for Anita and the Outdoor Girls had taken a great liking to one another—the former declared that it was time she and her big brother must be starting for home. "Dad and mother worry whenever I am out of their sight nowadays—even though Con is with me," she explained.

"Come again soon," Betty called after them.

"Will you have another race?" asked Anita.

"Yes, especially for your entertainment," laughed the Little Captain. "And we won't let Mollie win it either."

"All right, then, I'll come," Anita promised.

"Humph, we'll see about that," said Mollie, referring to Betty's last remark. "History often repeats itself, you know."

Allen sighed as they started homeward. "We won't be able to come anywhere near them now, fellows," he said. "They'll have suffrage banners hung all over the house."

The girls laughed, for after all they had won through Mollie, and the taste of triumph was very sweet.

"Wasn't it grand!" cried Betty.

"The best ever!" returned Grace, as she popped a chocolate candy in her mouth.

"I'd like another such race," said Mollie, wistfully.



The week that followed the Outdoor Girls remembered as just one endless round of fun. With the exception of two days, the weather was perfect. They traveled over to town on the rickety ferryboat several times. They took the cars out of the garage for short spins about the country, and otherwise amused themselves.

Then, too, the fish in the unrivaled fishing pool proved just as agreeable as they had on that first day, and provided many delicious suppers for the young people. The only thing that served to mar their pleasure was the continued reluctance of the mysterious cave to come to light—it was as though the earth had opened and swallowed it up.

"I'm beginning to think it just never was," Grace remarked, as she contentedly munched some chocolates that Frank had laid on her altar. "Will is terribly worried about it. He thinks since he is in the secret service that he ought to investigate it."

"How can he if there isn't anything to investigate?" asked Betty. And in truth there seemed some reason in her query. "It makes me angry every time I think of it."

"Yes, the fellows say Will even talks in his sleep about the cave," Amy volunteered. "Probably they exaggerate, but I don't wonder he is all on edge about it."

"And we have to leave so soon, too," Mollie commented. "We haven't much more time to look for it."

"It doesn't seem possible we have to go back home in less than a week," sighed Amy. "I just hate to leave this place."

"To change the subject," said Betty, "I wonder what's keeping the boys. Let's get the lunch and go to meet them."

The girls agreed, and Betty ran in to get the luncheon and tell Mrs. Irving where they were going.

Before they had gone more than a hundred feet from the house they were met by the boys, who seemed in a great hurry.

"Oh, did we keep you waiting?" Roy inquired anxiously, evidently relieved to see them. "Old Will here disappeared and we had to go on a still hunt to find him."

"Yes, he still has that confounded cave in his head. I'd given the thing up. Why worry about a thing you can't find?" Frank demanded.

"But we saw it," Will argued, relieving the girls of the basket. "And as long as we saw it, it's got to be on this island somewhere—that's a sure thing—and I'm going to find it."

"Well, I wish you luck," said Allen gloomily. "Blow a horn when you find it—we all want to be in at the death."

"If you are going to be so lazy I'll keep it all to myself," Will retorted. "That cave is somewhere on this island, and I intend to find where if I have to stay for another six months."

"Hear! hear!" cheered Roy. "That's the way I like to hear a fellow talk."

"Yes, you do," Will was beginning when Betty interrupted him.

"I'm on your side, Will," she said staunchly. "I'm not going to stop looking for the cave until we have to go home. Why, just think of the things we might find. There is probably loot in that place that is worth a great big lot of money, and in some cases they might be things that money couldn't replace. It's not a question of mere curiosity, it's a duty we owe to society."

"Speech! speech!" Roy cried again. "We have some little orator in our midst! But may I ask," he added, with exaggerated politeness, "how we are to go about accomplishing this service to society?"

Betty's patience was at an end. "Ask something you can answer yourself!" she said shortly, and Roy was silenced.

They deposited the basket at what seemed to them an ideal spot and were about to examine the contents when a sharp cry from Mollie arrested their attention.

"Look! look!" she cried. "I've found it! Girls—boys, come here! Quick."

There was no need of urging, for they fairly flew in the direction of her voice. There she was down on her knees before an opening much lower and narrower than the one they had discovered before, but nevertheless unmistakably another entrance to the cave.

"I caught my foot in a twig," she explained, as they crowded around her, wild with excitement, "and I almost fell into the cave." So, as in the first place, the discovery had been made through an accident.

The cave seemed to have been formed in a rise of the ground—it could hardly be termed a hill—and as the young people looked inside, its black interior stretched as far as they could see.

"Who wants to go in first?" asked Amy, her tone low and awed in the presence of the unknown. "The boys will have to stoop to get in."

"I'll go," said Will, pushing his way past them, and in his tone was a ring of command. "Come on, anybody that wants to. I'm going to find what's in this place before it disappears again."

The place had a damp and earthy smell, and Amy drew back uncertainly. "The rest of you go first," she said. "I'll come—later."

Nothing loath, Mollie, Betty and even Grace pressed into the opening after Will, the boys standing aside—this last bit of self-control proving that chivalry was not all dead yet. The first temptation had been to run pell-mell after Will, regardless of girls or any other disturbing element that might be about.

However, as has been said, they allowed the girls to go in first and followed them as closely as they dared, Amy, however, going last of all.

After several feet of back-breaking progress the girls came out into another portion of the cave, where the roof was high enough to admit of an upright position. As they stood up, nerves aquiver with suppressed excitement, Will rushed back to them.

"There is another entrance at the other end," he cried. "That must be the one you and Allen found, Betty. Come over here where you can get more light," he added. "It filters through the leaves and twigs at the opening."

All this time he was leading the way to the spot that he was describing, the others following breathlessly. Once there, he grasped Allen's arm excitedly, crying in a tense voice: "Look here, old man, here is one of those bags they carried the other day—the place is full of them. Now I am going to open this one. You keep a good lookout."

"Hush!" cried Allen, and they listened, scarcely daring to breathe. From the mouth of the cave, soft but unmistakable, came the sound of voices—voices speaking in a tongue the boys had heard before. There could be no mistake—the gypsies were visiting their hiding place!

"Get back," breathed Will. "Back into the other mouth of the cave." He pushed the others before him with all his force and they obeyed without question.

They shrank back in the darkness and waited for what was to come. They might have fled, but curiosity held them chained to the spot.

Once Amy uttered a weak protest, saying: "Don't you think we had better go back?" when Will silenced her, none too gently. The moment was a critical one.

The little group of young people held their breath while the gypsies entered, silent now. In the dim light of the cave their features could not be seen, but there was something about the bent old figure of the foremost gypsy that proclaimed the leader of that other day. They were as velvet-footed as cats, and as the girls' eyes became more accustomed to the gloom they discovered that the gypsies were not hunch-backed, as had first appeared, but merely carried upon their backs packs like those others scattered about the cave. These they deposited on the floor without much ceremony and were gone before the girls and boys had fairly realized it.

The watchers stood motionless even after the footsteps had died away in the distance. It seemed as though a mystic spell had been woven about them, which, for the time, they were powerless to break.

It was Roy who first "came to life," as Mollie expressed it. "I say, what's the use of standing here?" he inquired. "Let's have a look."

"Oh, hush, please!" begged Grace, alarmed at the unrestraint of his tone. "They might come back."

"No, they won't," Will asserted, for he had suddenly acquired great dignity. "They have probably gone for another haul. In the meantime it is up to us to inform the authorities, and mighty quick, too."

"But we don't even know that it is loot, Will," Betty protested. "We ought to make sure first."

"That's easy enough," Allen commented. "Besides I've been anxious to examine the contents of that bag for a long time. Now, I'd like to see anybody keep me from it!" and he rushed over to the other side of the cave and was opening one of the bags even as he spoke.

The others crowded close beside him as he knelt on the ground, taking advantage of the meager light from the cave mouth to examine its contents. What they did see literally made them gasp. Gold and silver and strings upon strings of beads—some very valuable, others less so—and trinkets of all sorts and descriptions.

"Say, those gypsies are experts!" Frank exclaimed, awe in his tone. "I think I'll go into the business."

The girls didn't even pretend to be shocked at this—they were too taken up with their own emotions—too excited to notice such trivial remarks.

"Oh, aren't they wonderful?" cried Amy, down on her knees before the bag, and running her fingers through the brilliant mass delightedly. "How do they ever get such things?"

"That's a funny question to ask," Grace remarked. "They steal them, of course."

"But what are we going to do?" asked Betty practically. "If all the bags contain things like these, this cave is a mighty valuable place. Oh, and to think that we were the ones to discover it!"

"Well, you people can stay here and guard the loot if you want to," said Will. "But I'm going over to the mainland to hunt up a couple of ancient sheriffs—I suppose they are ancient," he added whimsically. "In stories, you wouldn't recognize a sheriff without his whiskers."

"Never mind the whiskers," said Mollie impatiently. "The thing is, somebody has to stay and guard the cave or it will disappear the way it did the other time, and you will bring the authorities over here for nothing."

"Well, of course you will have to stay until I get back," Will decided. "In the meantime, you can eat lunch. Good-bye, I'm off." And he led the way into the sunlight, which dazzled their eyes after the semi-gloom of the cave.

"But you will have to wait for the ferry," Allen called after him, "and it may not be along for some time."

"I'll take a chance," Will flung back. "I'll get there if I have to swim!"

"Maybe if you swim you can beat the ferry," suggested Allen, with a laugh.

"Say, that's a scheme! I guess I had better try it."

"Nonsense! You take the boat, old as it is."

"All right, Allen."



Somehow the lunch did not taste as good that day. Excitement had robbed the Outdoor Girls and their boy friends of appetite. They ate in a preoccupied way, eyes now on the cave so close at hand, now wandering in the direction from which the gypsies had come. If these latter should return before Will—well, then it would be time for a hurried exit on their part. They had no intention of being caught in the wolf's lair.

It was Will, however, who reached the place first, and those waiting for him could have danced with relief when they heard his voice. A moment later they caught sight of him, accompanied by two men from the town. Judging from their gesticulations, the latter were more than ordinarily excited. Incidentally, let it be recorded that neither of them, the sheriff nor his deputy, had a beard.

"Here they are!" Will cried, as he caught sight of his friends. "I thought I was on the right track. Any news since I left?"

"Not a thing," Frank answered. "The place has been absolutely deserted."

"Good," said Will, then, turning to the men beside him, added: "This is the entrance we found to-day—you see the bushes hide it completely. But there is another and a larger opening at the other end—that's the one we stumbled into in the first place."

The two men listened to his words attentively, and when he had finished set about little explorations of their own.

"You say there is another opening at the farther side?" one of them inquired, pausing in the act of pushing aside the bushes. "That probably is the main one."

"I think so," Will agreed, "but they both lead to the same place."

Satisfied on this point, the two continued their investigations. They disappeared within the cave and the young folks waited impatiently for their reappearance.

"Do you suppose they will bring the bags out here?" asked Mollie eagerly. "If they do, then we can really see what the things are like."

"I hope so," Amy stated. But Betty started to speak dreamily, saying:

"What will those poor old gypsies do when they come back and find the place cleared out?"

"They'll probably all go to the penitentiary," said Frank calmly. "The authorities will be on the lookout for them and they'll get caught all right when they do come back."

"Oh!" said Grace, horror in her tone; for so far that side of the question had not occurred to her. "It's terrible to think of sending those poor things to jail."

"Well, but they have earned it," Allen argued. "They must have been getting away with this thing for years."

"It's a wonder Aunt Elvira never suspected anything," said Mollie, frankly puzzled. "Why, she didn't even mention the gypsies."

"Probably thought the story too old to tell," Roy suggested. "We wouldn't have believed there was such a place on Pine Island ourselves if we hadn't seen it with our own eyes."

"I suppose not," Mollie admitted, and then the sheriff and his deputy emerged into the daylight once more and each brought with him a bag.

"Now we will find out how far their rascality has gone," one of the men, the elder of the two, asserted. "Perhaps you don't know it," he added, untying the fastenings of the first bag, "but you young people have done the community a great service. People all over are complaining of stolen property, and, although we have suspected the gypsies for some time, so far we haven't been able to prove anything. However, this discovery of yours changes things considerably. Ah, what have we here?"

The sun struck full upon the brilliant mass, making it glow and sparkle like a jewel. There were other and real jewels, too, in the collection, which they were soon to discover.

"Oh," murmured Mollie, "if I could only find some trace of mother's silver service among those things!"

The detective looked up sharply. "Have you folks lost anything?" he asked.

"Oh, yes!" Mollie explained. "Mother lost her silver tea service that has been in the family for ever so many years, besides an expensive jet necklace. And, besides that, Miss Ford's father had his pet thoroughbred horse stolen."

"And one of the big stores in Deepdale was looted," Betty added. "Oh, there was tremendous excitement there for a time."

"Hum," said the spokesman, stroking his beardless chin thoughtfully. "It looks as if we might be able to trace a good many things." And he continued to explore the contents of the bag to the very bottom.

The other one was treated in like manner but nothing familiar met the watching eyes. Of course, all were disappointed, but Mr. Mendall, for such was the sheriff's name, warned the young people that it was not yet time to give up hope—there were plenty more bags where these had come from.

"But we haven't time to go through all of them now," he stated. "I simply wanted to assure myself that the things were valuable. Now that I am satisfied on that score, the best thing to do is to get the loot away as soon as possible and then set somebody to watch for those gypsies. I never saw anything like them when it comes to nerve," he added, waxing enthusiastic on the subject. "Why, I believe if you were crossing a chasm with only a board between you and eternity, and they happened to need that board for kindling wood they would pull it out from under you without the slightest compunction."

The girls laughed, but they could not help thinking that the statement was somewhat exaggerated.

"But you are not going to leave the cave unprotected until you get the loot away?" Mollie cried. "Suppose they should come back in the meantime?"

"Then they would fall into a very prettily laid trap," was the grim answer. "No, my dear young lady, we are not going to leave the cave unguarded. I'll have men watching day and night until we catch them red-handed. It is sure to come sooner or later."

The girls drew a relieved sigh. They had not liked the idea of being alone on this end of the island when the gypsies returned to find the cave empty.

Mr. Mendall rose to his feet, gripping a bag in each hand, but together they were all that he could carry. "Here, Trent, you take one of these," he ordered. "I'll take the other and, armed with proof like this, we ought to be able to convince even those skeptical people on shore." Then he added, turning to Will: "If you will keep watch for another hour we will be back with more men to relieve you."

Will readily promised, and once more the young folks were left alone.

"You people don't have to stay just because I do," said Will, meaning to be generous. "You can go home, or go in swimming, or anything else to amuse yourselves you wish, while I do the sentry act."

"Go home!" Mollie cried indignantly. "Why, how can you think of such a thing, Will, when you know how interested we all are? I, for one, can't do anything but wait."

"Nor I," said Grace. "They may be able to find your mother's silver, Mollie, but I'm afraid our poor dear Beauty is gone forever."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Betty argued cheerfully. "Just because they didn't sew him up in a bag and stick him in a gloomy old cave is no reason why we can't find him. We may come across him any time."

"Well, maybe," sighed Grace, and her tone was anything but optimistic.

The friendly sheriff had set an hour for the time of his absence, but long before the hour had sped he returned, bringing with him six other men and a small hand-cart.

"I don't see how you managed to get it through the woods," said Allen, referring to the hand-cart.

"Oh, we stuck to the shore most of the time," said Mr. Mendall, cheerily, "and the rest of the way there are pretty broad paths. Now for the clearing up," and he led his half dozen followers after him into the cave.

They made several trips until the crazy cart was heaped high with veritable treasure bags.

"Oh, aren't you going to let us see what is in them now?" Betty entreated, intense disappointment in her voice. "We are so anxious to know."

"Sorry," said the big man kindly, "but I'll feel safer when this loot is safely locked up on shore. We'll let you know exactly what's in them as soon as we know ourselves," he promised.

"Nothing could be fairer than that," said Allen cheerfully. "I guess since we've waited so long, we can afford to wait a little longer."

"It won't be much longer," Mr. Mendall responded. "We want you all to know how grateful we are for this assistance. Without it we would probably have been a long time getting to the bottom of things. As I said before, you have rendered a great service to the community."

And with this graceful little speech, Mr. Mendall and two of the men he had brought with him took their leave, carrying with them the precious bags, one of which Mollie so hoped would contain some, at least, if not the whole, of her mother's silver. The other four men were left behind to watch for the return of the gypsies.

"Oh, I don't know how I can wait till to-morrow," wailed Mollie, as they started homeward. "I'm simply dying to know. I think they might have opened the things while we were there. Horrid old things! The gypsies probably wouldn't be back for another two weeks, anyway, and there really wasn't any danger."

"But to think we had the luck to find it!" cried Betty, her eyes still glowing. "And after we had given it up, too. Goodness, I'm glad you had that tumble, Mollie."

"Thank you," sniffed Mollie. "Just the same," she added with a gleeful little laugh, "I'd give a great deal to see Aunt Elvira's face when she hears the story."



"I guess they will never come," said Mollie, gazing despairingly out over the water. "They must have been gone at least an hour."

"Goodness, Mollie!—an hour," echoed Betty, in imitation of Mollie's tragic tones. "Don't you know that it would take at least three hours for the boys to go over, find out what Mr. Mendall has to say to them and get back here? Remember they have to wait for the ferry," she added significantly.

"Well, I know, but if it is going to take that long, we won't get home to-day," Mollie grumbled. "Besides, I've got to hear the news."

It was early in the morning of the day on which the Outdoor Girls and the boys had decided to start for home. For days they had expected word from Mr. Mendall. The boys had haunted the town hoping to hear from him—but no word had come. Then suddenly Will had burst in upon the others with the great news that he had almost run into Mr. Mendall turning a corner, and that genial man had expressed great pleasure at sight of him.

"Why, he said——" Will had reported excitedly, "he said that if he hadn't met me, he fully intended coming over to camp—that he had something to tell me that might be of great interest. And he wants us fellows to come over first thing in the morning," he had finished exultantly.

So it was that the girls were waiting impatiently for confirmation of their hopes.

"We don't really have to go home to-day," Amy was saying doubtfully. "I don't see why we couldn't have waited until to-morrow."

"It does seem a shame to leave this wonderful place," sighed Grace looking about her. "It seems to me it is more beautiful now than it ever was. September is the best time in the year, anyway."

"Why can't we stay over anyway—to-morrow is Saturday. I think we might as well finish out the week," cried Grace, seized with a bright idea. "Maybe Mrs. Irving will consent, since it is bound to be late when we do get home." She popped a chocolate in her mouth as she finished.

Betty regarded her chum pityingly.

"That is clever," she said. "Especially since the boys have taken down their tents, and we have everything packed up."

Grace looked rather crestfallen.

"Well, I suppose we couldn't," she admitted. "Just the same I would be glad of any excuse that would keep us on the island a few days longer. Oh, dear——" and she gazed about her longingly.

"Haven't we had a good time?" asked Betty, as she settled herself on the steps. "This last week has been great, too—even though we were so anxious to hear about Mollie's silver."

"Oh, and do you know what Anita said the other day?" Amy broke in suddenly. "She said she had some distant relatives in Deepdale, and that if she could fish around and get an invitation, she might see us there."

"Oh, wouldn't that be great!" said Mollie, with genuine enthusiasm.

"Yes, she's a fine girl," Betty echoed. "I only wish she lived in Deepdale, so we might invite her to join our happy little party."

"Yes, and the boys like her brother, too," said Grace. "Will says he is a fine fellow; and Will never says a thing like that unless he means it."

"Do my eyes deceive me?" cried Betty, springing up and pointing toward the mainland, "or is that the good old Pine Island dreadnaught steaming majestically from the harbor? Tell me some one—am I right?"

"You are!" cried Grace, dramatically. "That noble ship could be no other."

"Oh, do stop your nonsense," cried Mollie impatiently. "Are you sure that's the ferry?"

"Since it is the only apology for a boat that ever comes this way," Grace remarked lazily, "I guess it must be."

"Oh, Grace, don't tease," warned the Little Captain, in an aside. "Can't you see how worked up Mollie is? No wonder she is excited—the news may mean a lot to her."

Grace glanced at her chum and saw that Betty had spoken the truth. Mollie's hands were clenched tight to her side, crimson flamed in her face, and her foot tapped nervously on the ground.

"Oh, they'll never get here," she was saying over and over again. "Can't the old ferryboat get up any steam at all?"

"Perhaps we might help tow it in?" Betty suggested, striving to break the tension. "I think we could paddle lots faster in the canoes."

"Goodness, I would almost like to try it!" Mollie exclaimed. "I think they might get something modern on the lake—something real modern—around the eighteenth century."

"Oh, isn't she sarcastic," said Amy, putting an arm about her friend and patting her hand gently. "Never mind, Mollie, all things come in time."

Of course she was right, even Mollie had to admit it.

At the end of one of the longest half hours the girls had ever spent, the rickety little ferryboat scraped against the dock, and they ran down to meet the boys. The latter almost fell out of the boat, careless of what any one might think. At the first sight of them the girls were convinced their news was of the best.

"Oh, oh, hurry!" cried Mollie. "I thought you would never get here. Oh, you have something wonderful to tell us—I know it!"

"You bet we have!" cried Allen. "We have the very finest news you ever heard."

"Oh, what is it?" the girls cried in unison, and Mollie added pleadingly: "Don't keep us waiting any longer, boys, please."

"All right," Will agreed; for he was as anxious to tell as the girls were to hear. "Come to the house and we will tell you the whole story."

"But did you get them?" Mollie demanded. "I don't see why you have to wait till you get to the house to tell me that."

"You can see by their faces they have, Mollie," Betty assured her. "You had better not interfere—they will tell the story their own way, whatever you say."

By this time they had reached the house and called to Mrs. Irving to come and hear the news.

She joined them in a moment, and Will began.

"Well, you see," he said, "in the first place, Mr. Mendall didn't want to raise our hopes until he found out definitely whether anything there belonged to us."

"Yes," broke in Mollie quickly.

"Don't interrupt," Will warned her. "You might sidetrack me or something."

"Oh, Will, don't be a goose!" cried his sister. "Go on."

"I'm not a goose," he declared with dignity, "and I expect to go on if I am given half a chance."

He paused for a reply, but as none was forthcoming and as only threatening looks met him on every side, he continued hurriedly.

"Well, as I was saying," he went on, "Mr. Mendall did finally succeed in getting the information he wanted. Then yesterday afternoon I happened to meet him——"

"Yes, we know all about that," said Betty, dancing with mingled excitement and exasperation. "Please get to the point."

"Since you insist," Will answered gravely. "The fact is, Mollie, that all your mother's silver is there—even down to the little sugar bowl."

"Oh!" gasped Mollie, and for a moment she could say no more.

Then the flood gates of speech opened, and her questions poured forth.

"Oh, Will! isn't that wonderful?" she cried. "I didn't dare really to believe till this very moment. Are you sure everything is there—not a thing missing? The creamer and teapot? And oh, Will!" she grasped his arm beseechingly, "did you find the necklace?"

Will looked evasive.

"Why, you see——" he was beginning, when Frank interrupted him.

"The necklace is probably gracing the swarthy neck of some fair gypsy damsel," remarked the latter, rather flippantly. "Here we offer you a whole silver service, and you're not satisfied."

Mollie looked from one to the other of her two tormentors in pathetic bewilderment.

"Please, please!" she begged. "Mother'll be wild when she hears about the silver. But oh, I do want that jet necklace almost more than anything in the world! Don't tease me any more, please."

At this appeal, Will's heart softened, and, with a quick movement, he drew his hand from behind him, disclosing to four pairs of incredulous eyes the precious jet necklace.

"Here it is," he announced triumphantly.

Mollie grasped the heirloom with a little cry of joy. Then she threw her arms about Betty's neck, and began to laugh hysterically.

"Don't mind me," she gasped, as the boys looked on mystified. "I—I can't help it! I'm just so—so happy!"

Betty patted her chum's shoulder, soothingly.

"Now, see what you've gone and done," she accused poor Will.

"I—I didn't know——" he was beginning, but he seemed destined not to finish his sentences that day.

Mollie, a creature of moods, withdrew herself from Betty's arms and favored the promising young detective with an ecstatic little hug that amazed and delighted that young gentleman immensely.

"I say, Mollie, do it again," he pleaded, while the other three boys hastened to demand their share of the reward.

But Mollie had caught Grace about the waist and they were engaged in what might be called a cross between a Virginia reel and an Indian war dance.

When they were forced to stop from sheer lack of breath, the volcanic Mollie flung herself upon the steps, and beamed upon them.

"And that's not all," Will said, and glanced instinctively toward his sister.

Grace started, and leaned forward beseechingly.

"Will?" she breathed.

"Yes," he continued, answering her unspoken question, "we found Beauty."

The girl's eyes opened wide at this new disclosure, and Grace grasped her brother's arm imploringly.

"Oh, Will, where?"

"He was found by one of the farmers near the town. Looked as though he'd broken away from whoever'd had him. The farmer saw he was a thoroughbred, and guessed at once that he had been stolen. Luckily for us he was an honest man."

"Darling old Beauty," murmured Grace, tearfully. "Oh, wait till dad hears!"

"I guess he'll get a welcome, all right," Will agreed gleefully. "Poor old Beauty! I saw him myself this morning."

"Mr. Mendall says," Allen volunteered, "there are traces of a good many other things from Deepdale. We'll probably have a triumphant home coming. And they have captured the gypsies and put them in jail."

"Oh, oh, and to think we did it!" sighed Amy, contentedly.

So joyful were they at the outcome of their detective work, that the long journey to Deepdale was almost forgotten. It was Mrs. Irving who brought them to their senses.

"I'm afraid," she said, "that if we don't start pretty soon, Deepdale won't see us until to-morrow morning, and that will never do. Come, girls, get ready."

"Oh, I don't want to go home," wailed Amy, as they rose to follow instructions.

"But just think what we will have to tell them when we get there!" said Betty, and the thought lent wings to their feet.

Once more the Outdoor Girls and their comrades assembled on the wharf, waiting for the ridiculous little ferryboat that had been the butt of their jokes during the summer. Now that they were going away, however, the sound of the shrill little whistle, as it panted up to them, seemed somehow strangely typical of their life on the island, and they felt an unexpected throb of home-sickness.

"We'll have to come back to it some time," Betty said. "I love the place."

"I wonder if there are any more mysteries floating around loose," said Roy, pausing for one last backward glance over his shoulder. "If there are, I'm going back."

But Allen seized him and drew him aboard.

"Come on," he cried, "we're off!"

The four girls linked arms, as they gazed back at the familiar bungalow.

Suddenly Mollie chuckled irrepressibly.

"Oh, girls," she murmured softly, "I must be on the spot when Aunt Elvira hears the news."

The little ferryboat steamed away from the dock, carrying with it our happy Outdoor Girls, to whom we must once more wave a reluctant farewell.




Author of "The Bobbsey Twins Series."

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* * * * *

The adventures of Ruth and Alice DeVere. Their father, a widower, is an actor who has taken up work for the "movies." Both girls wish to aid him in his work and visit various localities to act in all sorts of pictures.

THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS Or First Appearance in Photo Dramas.

Having lost his voice, the father of the girls goes into the movies and the girls follow. Tells how many "parlor dramas" are filmed.

THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS AT OAK FARM Or Queer Happenings While Taking Rural Plays.

Full of fun in the country, the haps and mishaps of taking film plays, and giving an account of two unusual discoveries.


A tale of winter adventures in the wilderness, showing how the photo-play actors sometimes suffer.


How they went to the land of palms, played many parts in dramas before the camera; were lost, and aided others who were also lost.


All who have ever seen moving pictures of the great West will want to know just how they are made. This volume gives every detail and is full of clean fun and excitement.

THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS AT SEA Or a Pictured Shipwreck that Became Real.

A thrilling account of the girls' experiences on the water.


The girls play important parts in big battle scenes and have plenty of hard work along with considerable fun.

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Author of the "Bobbsey Twin Books" and "Bunny Brown" Series.

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* * * * *

These tales take in the various adventures participated in by several bright, up-to-date girls who love outdoor life. They are clean and wholesome, free from sensationalism, absorbing from the first chapter to the last.

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS OF DEEPDALE Or Camping and Tramping for Fun and Health.

Telling how the girls organized their Camping and Tramping Club, how they went on a tour, and of various adventures which befell them.

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT RAINBOW LAKE Or Stirring Cruise of the Motor Boat Gem.

One of the girls becomes the proud possessor of a motor boat and invites her club members to take a trip down the river to Rainbow Lake, a beautiful sheet of water lying between the mountains.

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A MOTOR CAR Or The Haunted Mansion of Shadow Valley.

One of the girls has learned to run a big motor car, and she invites the club to go on a tour to visit some distant relatives. On the way they stop at a deserted mansion and make a surprising discovery.

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A WINTER CAMP Or Glorious Days on Skates and Ice Boats.

In this story, the scene is shifted to a winter season. The girls have some jolly times skating and ice boating, and visit a hunters' camp in the big woods.

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA. Or Wintering in the Sunny South.

The parents of one of the girls have bought an orange grove in Florida, and her companions are invited to visit the place. They take a trip into the interior, where several unusual things happen.

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT OCEAN VIEW Or The Box that Was Found in the Sand.

The girls have great fun and solve a mystery while on an outing along the New England coast.

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS ON PINE ISLAND Or A Cave and What it Contained.

A bright, healthful story, full of good times at a bungalow camp on Pine Island.

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* * * * *


* * * * *

Here is a series full of the spirit of high school life of to-day. The girls are real flesh-and-blood characters, and we follow them with interest in school and out. There are many contested matches on track and field, and on the water, as well as doings in the classroom and on the school stage. There is plenty of fun and excitement, all clean, pure and wholesome.

THE GIRLS OF CENTRAL HIGH Or Rivals for all Honors.

A stirring tale of high school life, full of fun, with a touch of mystery and a strange initiation.


Telling of water sports and fun galore, and of fine times in camp.


Here we have a number of thrilling contests at basketball and in addition, the solving of a mystery which had bothered the high school authorities for a long while.


How the girls went in for theatricals and how one of them wrote a play which afterward was made over for the professional stage and brought in some much-needed money.

THE GIRLS OF CENTRAL HIGH ON TRACK AND FIELD Or The Girl Champions of the School League

This story takes in high school athletics in their most approved and up-to-date fashion. Full of fun and excitement.

THE GIRLS OF CENTRAL HIGH IN CAMP Or The Old Professor's Secret.

The girls went camping on Acorn Island and had a delightful time at boating, swimming and picnic parties.

* * * * *




* * * * *


* * * * *

These spirited tales convey in a realistic way the wonderful advances in land and sea locomotion. Stories like these are impressed upon the memory and their reading is productive only of good.

TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR CYCLE Or Fun and Adventure on the Road

TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR BOAT Or The Rivals of Lake Carlopa

TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIRSHIP Or The Stirring Cruise of the Red Cloud

TOM SWIFT AND HIS SUBMARINE BOAT Or Under the Ocean for Sunken Treasure


TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIRELESS MESSAGE Or The Castaways of Earthquake Island

TOM SWIFT AMONG THE DIAMOND MAKERS Or The Secret of Phantom Mountain

TOM SWIFT IN THE CAVES OF ICE Or The Wreck of the Airship

TOM SWIFT AND HIS SKY RACER Or The Quickest Flight on Record

TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE Or Daring Adventures in Elephant Land

TOM SWIFT IN THE CITY OF GOLD Or Marvellous Adventures Underground

TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIR GLIDER Or Seeking the Platinum Treasure

TOM SWIFT IN CAPTIVITY Or A Daring Escape by Airship

TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIZARD CAMERA Or The Perils of Moving Picture Taking


TOM SWIFT AND HIS GIANT CANNON Or The Longest Shots on Record

TOM SWIFT AND HIS PHOTO TELEPHONE Or The Picture that Saved a Fortune

TOM SWIFT AND HIS AERIAL WARSHIP Or The Naval Terror of the Seas

TOM SWIFT AND HIS BIG TUNNEL Or The Hidden City of the Andes

* * * * *




* * * * *


* * * * *

Moving pictures and photo plays are famous the world over, and in this line of books the reader is given a full description of how the films are made—the scenes of little dramas, indoors and out, trick pictures to satisfy the curious, soul-stirring pictures of city affairs, life in the Wild West, among the cowboys and Indians, thrilling rescues along the seacoast, the daring of picture hunters in the jungle among savage beasts, and the great risks run in picturing conditions in a land of earthquakes. The volumes teem with adventures and will be found interesting from first chapter to last.

THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS Or Perils of a Great City Depicted.

THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS IN THE WEST Or Taking Scenes Among the Cowboys and Indians.

THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS ON THE COAST Or Showing the Perils of the Deep.

THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS IN THE JUNGLE Or Stirring Times Among the Wild Animals.


THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS AND THE FLOOD Or Perilous Days on the Mississippi.

THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS AT PANAMA Or Stirring Adventures Along the Great Canal.


* * * * *




* * * * *


* * * * *

In these stories we follow the adventures of three boys, who, after purchasing at auction the contents of a moving picture house, open a theatre of their own. Their many trials and tribulations, leading up to the final success of their venture, make very entertaining stories.

THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS' FIRST VENTURE Or Opening a Photo Playhouse in Fairlands.

The adventures of Frank, Randy and Pep in running a Motion Picture show. They had trials and tribulations but finally succeed.

THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS AT SEASIDE PARK Or The Rival Photo Theatres of the Boardwalk.

Their success at Fairlands encourages the boys to open their show at Seaside Park, where they have exciting adventures—also a profitable season.

THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS ON BROADWAY Or The Mystery of the Missing Cash Box.

Backed by a rich western friend the chums established a photo playhouse in the great metropolis, where new adventures await them.


This time the playhouse was in a big summer park. How a film that was shown gave a clew to an important mystery is interestingly related.

THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS' NEW IDEA Or The First Educational Photo Playhouse.

In this book the scene is shifted to Boston, and there is intense rivalry in the establishment of photo playhouses of educational value.

THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS AT THE FAIR Or The Greatest Film Ever Exhibited.

The chums go to San Francisco, where they have some trials but finally meet with great success.


Through being of service to the writer of a great scenario, the chums are enabled to produce it and win a prize.

* * * * *




The outdoor chums are four wide-awake lads, sons of wealthy men of a small city located on a lake. The boys love outdoor life, and are greatly interested in hunting, fishing, and picture taking. They have motor cycles, motor boats, canoes, etc., and during their vacations go everywhere and have all sorts of thrilling adventures. The stories give full directions for camping out, how to fish, how to hunt wild animals and prepare the skins for stuffing, how to manage a canoe, how to swim, etc. Full of the spirit of outdoor life.

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS Or The First Tour of the Rod, Gun and Camera Club.

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS ON THE LAKE Or Lively Adventures on Wildcat Island.

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS IN THE FOREST Or Laying the Ghost of Oak Ridge.

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS ON THE GULF Or Rescuing the Lost Balloonists.

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS AFTER BIG GAME Or Perilous Adventures in the Wilderness.

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS ON A HOUSEBOAT Or The Rivals of the Mississippi.

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS IN THE BIG WOODS Or The Rival Hunters at Lumber Run.


12mo. Averaging 240 pages. Illustrated. Handsomely bound in Cloth.

* * * * *




Never was there a cleaner, brighter, more manly boy than Frank Allen, the hero of this series of boys' tales, and never was there a better crowd of lads to associate with than the students of the School. All boys will read these stories with deep interest. The rivalry between the towns along the river was of the keenest, and plots and counterplots to win the champions, at baseball, at football, at boat racing, at track athletics, and at ice hockey, were without number. Any lad reading one volume of this series will surely want the others.

THE BOYS OF COLUMBIA HIGH Or The All Around Rivals of the School




THE BOYS OF COLUMBIA HIGH ON THE ICE Or Out for the Hockey Championship


THE BOYS OF COLUMBIA HIGH IN WINTER SPORTS Or Stirring Doings on Skates and Iceboats

12mo. Illustrated. Handsomely bound in cloth, with cover design and wrappers in colors.

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* * * * *

American Stories of American Boys and Girls

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* * * * *


* * * * *

THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL Or The Cadets of Putnam Hall

THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN Or A Chase for a Fortune

THE ROVER BOYS IN THE JUNGLE Or Stirring Adventures in Africa

THE ROVER BOYS OUT WEST Or The Search for a Lost Mine

THE ROVER BOYS ON THE GREAT LAKES Or The Secret of the Island Cave

THE ROVER BOYS IN THE MOUNTAINS Or A Hunt for Fame and Fortune

THE ROVER BOYS ON LAND AND SEA Or The Crusoes of Seven Islands

THE ROVER BOYS IN CAMP Or The Rivals of Pine Island

THE ROVER BOYS ON THE RIVER Or The Search for the Missing Houseboat

THE ROVER BOYS ON THE PLAINS Or The Mystery of Red Rock Ranch


THE ROVER BOYS ON THE FARM Or The Last Days at Putnam Hall

THE ROVER BOYS ON TREASURE ISLE Or The Strange Cruise of the Steam Yacht

THE ROVER BOYS AT COLLEGE Or The Right Road and the Wrong

THE ROVER BOYS DOWN EAST Or The Struggle for the Stanhope Fortune

THE ROVER BOYS IN THE AIR Or From College Campus to the Clouds

THE ROVER BOYS IN NEW YORK Or Saving Their Father's Honor

THE ROVER BOYS IN ALASKA Or Lost in the Fields of Ice

THE ROVER BOYS IN BUSINESS Or The Search for the Missing Bonds

THE ROVER BOYS ON A TOUR Or Last Days at Brill College.

* * * * *




* * * * *

A Series That Has Become Very Popular

* * * * *

DICK HAMILTON'S FORTUNE Or The Stirring Doings of a Millionaire's Son.

Dick, the son of a millionaire, has a fortune left to him by his mother. But before he can touch the bulk of this money it is stipulated in his mother's will that he must do certain things, in order to prove that he is worthy of possessing such a fortune. The doings of Dick and his chums make the liveliest kind of reading.

DICK HAMILTON'S CADET DAYS Or The Handicap of a Millionaire's Son.

The hero is sent to a military academy to make his way without the use of money. Life at an up-to-date military academy is described, with target shooting, broadsword exercise, trick riding, sham battles, etc. Dick proves himself a hero in the best sense of the word.

DICK HAMILTON'S STEAM YACHT Or A Young Millionaire and the Kidnappers.

A series of adventures while yachting in which our hero's wealth plays a part. Dick is marooned on an island, recovers his yacht and foils the kidnappers.

DICK HAMILTON'S FOOTBALL TEAM Or A Young Millionaire on the Gridiron.

A very interesting account of how Dick developed a champion team and of the lively contests with other teams. There is also related a number of thrilling incidents in which Dick is the central figure.

DICK HAMILTON'S TOURING CAR Or A Young Millionaire's Race for a Fortune.

Dick's father gives him an automobile made to live in, which enables him and his companions to have a good time.

DICK HAMILTON'S AIRSHIP Or A Young Millionaire in the Clouds.

Tells how Dick built an airship to compete in a twenty thousand dollar prize contest, and of many adventures he experiences.

12mo. Handsomely printed and illustrated, and bound in cloth stamped in colors. Printed wrappers.

* * * * *


The Putnam Hall Series

Companion Stories to the Famous Rover Boys Series


Open-air pastimes have always been popular with boys, and should always be encouraged. These books mingle adventure and fact, and will appeal to every manly boy.

12mo. Handsomely printed and illustrated.

THE PUTNAM HALL MYSTERY Or The School Chums' Strange Discovery

The particulars of the mystery and the solution of it are very interesting reading.

THE PUTNAM HALL ENCAMPMENT Or The Secret of the Old Mill

A story full of vim and vigor, telling what the cadets did during the summer encampment, including a visit to a mysterious old mill, said to be haunted. The book has a wealth of fun in it.


The boys had good reasons for running away during Captain Putnam's absence. They had plenty of fun, and several queer adventures.


In this volume the Putnam Hall Cadets show what they can do in various keen rivalries on the athletic field and elsewhere. There is one victory which leads to a most unlooked-for discovery.

THE PUTNAM HALL CADETS Or Good Times in School and Out

The cadets are lively, flesh-and-blood fellows, bound to make friends from the start. There are some keen rivalries, in school and out, and something is told of a remarkable midnight feast and a hazing that had an unlooked for ending.

THE PUTNAM HALL RIVALS Or Fun and Sport Afloat and Ashore

It is a lively, rattling, breezy story of school life in this country written by one who knows all about its pleasures and its perplexities, its glorious excitements, and its chilling disappointments.

* * * * *


The Flag and Frontier Series


These bracing stories of American life, exploration and adventure should find a place in every school and home library for the enthusiasm they kindle in American heroism and history. The historical background is absolutely correct. Every volume complete in itself.

12mo. Bound in cloth. Stamped in colors.

WITH BOONE ON THE FRONTIER, Or The Pioneer Boys of Old Kentucky.

Relates the true-to-life adventures of two boys who, in company with their folks, move westward with Daniel Boone. Contains many thrilling scenes among the Indians and encounters with wild animals.

PIONEER BOYS OF THE GREAT NORTHWEST, Or With Lewis and Clark Across the Rockies.

A splendid story describing in detail the great expedition formed under the leadership of Lewis and Clark, and telling what was done by the pioneer boys who were first to penetrate the wilderness of the northwest.

PIONEER BOYS OF THE GOLD FIELDS, Or The Nugget Hunters of '49.

Giving the particulars of the great rush of the gold seekers to California in 1849. In the party making its way across the continent are three boys who become chums, and share in no end of adventures.

WITH CUSTER IN THE BLACK HILLS, Or A Young Scout Among the Indians.

Tells of the experiences of a youth who, with his parents, goes to the Black Hills in search of gold. Custer's last battle is well described.

BOYS OF THE FORT, Or A Young Captain's Pluck.

This story of stirring doings at one of our well-known forts in the Wild West is of more than ordinary interest. Gives a good insight into army life of to-day.

THE YOUNG BANDMASTER, Or Concert, Stage and Battlefield.

The hero is a youth who becomes a cornetist in an orchestra, and works his way up to the leadership of a brass band. He is carried off to sea and is taken to Cuba, and while there joins a military band which accompanies our soldiers in the attack on Santiago.

OFF FOR HAWAII, Or The Mystery of a Great Volcano.

Several boys start on a tour of the Hawaiian Islands. They have heard that there is a treasure located in the vicinity of Kilauea, the largest active volcano in the world, and go in search of it.

A SAILOR BOY WITH DEWEY, Or Afloat in the Philippines.

The story of Dewey's victory in Manila Bay as it appeared to a real, live American youth who was in the navy at the time. Many adventures in Manila and in the interior follow.

WHEN SANTIAGO FELL, Or The War Adventures of Two Chums

Two boys leave New York to join their parents in Cuba. The war between Spain and the Cubans is on, and the boys are detained at Santiago, but escape across the bay at night. Many adventures follow.

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* * * * *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 53, "Gracie" changed to "Gracy" to conform to rest of text. (Oh, Gracy, dear)

Page 105, "girmy" changed to "grimy". (shaking a grimy fist)

Page 162, "Molly" changed to "Mollie". (will we?" cried Mollie)

Page 197, "splended" changed to "splendid". (that splendid reserve)

Two cases of "fire-light" and three of "firelight" were retained.


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