The Outdoor Girls on Pine Island - Or, A Cave and What It Contained
by Laura Lee Hope
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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island









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12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price per volume, 50 cents, postpaid.






For Little Men and Women




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"The boys will be here in five minutes!" cried Mollie Billette, bursting in upon her friend, dark hair flying and eyes alight. "You'd better get on your hat."

"What boys and why the hat?" returned Grace Ford who, pretty and graceful, as always, was provokingly calm.

"I'll answer any and everything if you will only get ready. Oh, have you got to go upstairs? Hurry then," and Mollie swung her feet impatiently as Grace detached herself from the great chair slowly and gracefully and started out into the hall.

"If you will come upstairs with me, Mollie," Grace suggested, "perhaps you will deign to tell me why you rush in here like a whirlwind and insist on my putting on my hat to go goodness knows where."

"Oh, all right, if you will only hurry," cried Mollie in desperation, and jumping from her chair she propelled her friend in most undignified haste up the broad stairway—Grace protesting at every step.

"Here's your coat. Now don't talk—act!" Mollie was commanding when Grace took her firmly by her two shoulders and backed her up against the wall.

"Now listen here, young lady," she said, looking sternly down into her friend's laughing eyes. "It's my turn to talk. I refuse to budge another step until you have explained, to my perfect satisfaction, the cause of all this rush."

"Well, since you feel that way about it," laughed Mollie, "suppose you let me—sit down."

"Will you tell me about it if I let you go? Promise!"

"Uh-huh," said Mollie, and so she was released. "There isn't much to tell anyway," she went on. "Betty and I met Frank Haley and Will a few minutes ago and Frank happened to remark that it was a splendid day for an auto ride. We agreed with him—that's all."

"Fine—but where's Betty?" and Grace adjusted her tiny toque with care before the huge mirror.

"Oh, she's coming, just as soon as she lets her mother know where she's off to. We wanted Amy to go along too—stopped in there on the way down—but Mrs. Stonington isn't feeling well and Amy thought she ought to stay with her."

"I'm sorry for that. But would there have been room for all of us in Frank's car, anyway?"

"Oh, yes, it's a big seven-passenger affair. Mr. Nelson says it is a wonder. Just think! I can only squeeze five into mine," and Mollie drew a long sigh at Fate.

"How ungrateful, Mollie—most girls would be glad of the chance to ride around in a neat little machine like yours. Why, I'd even be thankful for a tiny runabout."

"There it is now," Mollie said as a motor horn tooted insistently on the drive below. "Don't let's keep them waiting."

"Hello, girls, we'd have been here sooner if Betty hadn't delayed us." It was Frank Haley who spoke, a handsome young fellow, whose merry grey eyes showed that he deserved his name—the first part of it, at least. "Come, 'fess up, Betty," he added, turning to the bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked girl beside him.

"I'm afraid I did keep them waiting, girls—about two minutes," Betty Nelson admitted, then added in defense: "But I couldn't go looking the way I was, you know."

"I don't see why not. I didn't see anything wrong."

"That doesn't prove a single thing, Frank," Grace retorted as he opened the door for the girls. "Boys never do."

"Don't they though?" Frank objected. "Do you mean to say I don't know that that little whatever-you-may-call-it in your hat is quite considerable——"

"Class?" finished Will, who had been busy tucking in the robe about Mollie's feet. "Personally I think we're a pretty fine crowd, take us all together."

"Well, did you ever hear such—Frank, don't you think we'd better get started before he says anything worse?" and Betty turned appealingly to Frank.

"Just as you say," he answered obligingly, and at his words the great car glided noiselessly down the drive and out into the street.

"Where to?" called Will from the tonneau. "How about a little spin in the country, Frank?"

"Ask the girls," was the reply. "What they say goes."

"Oh, yes, let's," said Mollie eagerly. "It is just getting so green and beautiful now. Summer is the only time in the year anyway."

"The winter didn't seem to bother you girls much last year," Frank broke in. "If I could go to Florida every winter, the cold and wintry blasts would have no more terrors for me."

"Oh, well, it was wonderful—in more ways than one," this last so low that only Will heard it, as Grace squeezed his hand under cover of the robe. You see, Will was her brother, and they were very fond of each other, as well they might be.

"Whom did you wave to then, Betty?" Mollie asked, as the car swung off into the country road. "I didn't see them till we were almost past."

"Alice Jallow and her friend, Kitty Rossmore. They're always together," Betty answered, then added: "By the way, Mollie, it seems to me you were just saying you had something good to tell."

"My aunt has a bungalow out on Pine Island. It's a lovely place, the bungalow, I mean, not the island, although if all they say is true, I shouldn't wonder if that's all right too."

"But, Mollie, what has that to do with us?" Grace interrupted. "Is she going to ask you to make her a visit?"

"No. It's lots better than that. You see Uncle James wants to take her to Europe this summer and so——"

"Oh, Mollie!" Betty interrupted, her eyes sparkling. "You don't mean——"

"Yes I do—exactly," and Mollie settled back with a contented sigh.

"I'm afraid I am very stupid to-day," Grace remarked.

"More than usual?" asked Will, the irrepressible, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Why don't you see, Grace?" Betty's face was radiant. "Can't you see Mollie means that we are to occupy that vacated bungalow this summer?"

"But please, girls, don't get your minds made up to it yet, for nothing is really settled, you know. Perhaps I should have waited till I was sure before I spoke of it." Mollie seemed to be doubtful.

"Oh, it's certain to turn out all right," said Betty, with conviction. "Everything has that we have ever planned before, and there is no reason why this should be an exception."

"And even if it doesn't, just think what fun we will have thinking about it," added Grace, philosophically, at which they all laughed.

"Anyway you are a dear, Mollie, for having such lovely relatives," cried Betty gaily. "If I could only climb over this seat, I'd give you two great big hugs, one for each of them."

"Nobody calls me a dear and offers to hug me, and I've got the loveliest relatives in the world—you can ask them if you don't believe me," and Frank managed to look very pathetic and forlorn.

All this time they had been getting farther and farther out into the country and now Frank put on extra speed to ascend the rather steep incline directly in front of them.

"Your car runs like a dream, Frank," Betty was saying as they reached the top. "Look at that great big haystack down there—it must have taken some time to gather it in. Why don't you slow down a little? Don't you think—oh, what is it, Frank?" for she had noticed the set lines of his mouth and the look of terror that had flashed into his eyes. "Oh, Frank!" she cried again.

"Sit tight," he muttered through clenched teeth. "The brake won't work!"

On, on dashed the great machine, swaying from side to side and gaining velocity with each second, while the girls, with terror tugging at their hearts, sat still—and waited.



To those who are already acquainted with the Outdoor Girls, no explanations are necessary, but for the benefit of my new readers I will take advantage of this moment to make them better acquainted with the characters and setting of the story.

In the first book of this series, called "The Outdoor Girls of Deepdale," the girls, Betty Nelson, sometimes called the Little Captain, because of her fearless leadership, Mollie Billette, Grace Ford and Amy Blackford, had gone on their famous walking tour, and during their wanderings had solved the mystery of a five-hundred-dollar bill.

The second volume, "The Outdoor Girls at Rainbow Lake," tells of a summer full of interest and adventure during which the horse Grace was riding ran away with her. This misfortune led to the loss of some very valuable papers, with a subsequent strange happening on an island, about which, and the recovery of the papers, you may read, dear reader, if you will.

"The Outdoor Girls in a Motor Car" is the third book of the series. Yes, there really was a house where all sorts of weird sights and sounds might be seen and heard at night if one had the courage to stay around. And you may imagine the consternation of the Outdoor Girls when Mollie was captured by the "ghost."

At the end of a delightful summer, spent in touring the country in Mollie's car, the girls had a wonderful chance to spend the winter in the woods. Needless to say, they took advantage of the opportunity. The fourth book, "The Outdoor Girls in a Winter Camp," describes the settlement of a certain property dispute, involving Mr. Ford. The happy result was made possible by the good fortune that favors our girls. This volume tells also how Amy was claimed by a brother, of whose existence she was unaware.

Then followed their adventures in Florida during which the girls had succeeded in finding Will Ford, Grace's brother, who had been virtually kidnapped by a villainous labor contractor and had been set to work in a turpentine camp. The fifth volume, entitled "The Outdoor Girls in Florida; or, Wintering in the Sunny South," tells of many other adventures the girls had during their winter among the "orange blossoms," but now it was over, and Deepdale, which they had left covered deep with snow, had begun once more to stir with life beneath the gentle touch of spring.

In the sixth book, "The Outdoor Girls at Ocean View," the girls have many good times and stirring adventures. The discovery of a box, containing veritable riches in diamonds, led to the kidnapping of Betty and Amy and their subsequent rescue.

And now that spring had dipped into summer, and they were again in Deepdale, was this ride of theirs, begun so joyously, about to end in tragedy?

"Frank, Frank!" screamed Grace, "if you don't stop, I'll jump, I will—I will!"

"No, you won't! Sit where you are!" her brother Will commanded sternly. "Sit still, I tell you!"

On, on, they went with ever-increasing speed, while Frank tried desperately to jam the useless brake—but to no effect! The car was like a horse with the bit between its teeth, plunging madly to destruction.

"Oh, oh, oh!" screamed Grace, pressing her hands tightly before her eyes. "We're going to be killed, I know it!"

There was a shock, a sound like tearing cloth, the big machine plowed half its length through the big haystack and—stopped!

"Frank, I'm getting smothered; won't you dig me out?" It was Betty's voice, plaintive and half hysterical.

Will and Frank shook the hay from their own eyes and then went to the rescue of the girls. Then they stared at each other. Gradually the look of utter bewilderment faded from their faces and a smile flashed from one to the other like a ray of sunshine.

Then suddenly Mollie laughed. "Oh, you look so funny!" she gasped. "Just when I thought we were all going to be killed——"

"You get disappointed," Frank finished with a rueful smile. "Just the same, it's lucky for us that big haystack was just exactly where it is," he added. "When I hit the rock I sure thought we were all goners."

"Oh, don't," begged Grace, then added, with a shame-faced little smile, "I'm sorry I made such a fuss—I always am ashamed of myself when the danger is over."

"You needn't apologize, Grace," said Betty, quickly. "If there's one time you ought to be excused for making a fuss it's when you think it's going to be your last chance."

That was Betty all over—bright, generous, fun-loving, the acknowledged leader of the girls. Grace was tall, graceful, slender, with a pretty face framed in a wealth of bright hair. She was accustomed to take life more easily than Betty and, although not a coward in the true sense of the word, she was always willing to have the other girls go first. Then there was Mollie, dark eyed and quick tempered, with more than a touch of the French in her, but Betty's equal in bravery. The last of the little quartette was Amy Blackford (formerly called Amy Stonington), who has not yet appeared in this book. Up to a year before she had been surrounded by a mystery which would have held great interest for the girls even had they not loved and admired her for her own good qualities.

Such were the girls who, with Betty's help, were fast recovering their good spirits.

"If we can back the machine out of this haystack," Frank was saying, "I guess we had better start for home."

"But don't you think we had better walk," Grace suggested nervously. "I'm afraid to trust myself to the old thing again."

"Oh, there won't be any danger now," Will assured her. "We can go back by a roundabout route where there aren't any hills to speed us into haystacks. How about it, Frank?"

"You're right! We are not going to take any more chances, I can tell you that." Then, turning to the girl beside him, he added, "How are you feeling, Betty? Awfully shaken up?"

"Not a bit," she assured him, gaily. "Why, after the first shock I really enjoyed it."

"That's the way to talk and I'm mighty glad no one's hurt. Now for home."

After a great number of half starts and sudden stops they succeeded finally in backing the great machine away from the haystack and out on the road again.

"Now remember your promise," cried Grace as they started off. "No more speeding, Frank, and no more hills."

"Right," he sang back, cheerily. "We have had excitement enough for one day. Just watch me."

And, true to his word, after an hour's roundabout trip, they swung quietly into Deepdale, without having encountered further mishap on the way.



Early the next morning Mollie hailed Betty as the Little Captain went up the street.

"Where to, so early?" she called. "Why didn't you stop for me?"

"Oh, I was going to Amy's first, to find out how Mrs. Stonington is," said Betty as she turned back. "Then I was going to stop in to see if you would go with me to call on Grace. I promised her last night I would come over this morning."

"But isn't it early?" said Mollie, doubtfully. "Probably Grace won't even be up yet."

The Little Captain seated herself comfortably on the board step of the veranda. "Yes she will," she said decidedly. "I told her yesterday that if I came over this morning and found her in bed eating candy before breakfast instead of enjoying the wonderful morning air, I'd never come over again. She knows that I mean it, too."

"Well, in that case, she may be up," laughed Mollie. "If you will wait a minute I'll go with you to Amy's," she added and ran lightly into the house.

The girls found Mrs. Stonington very much improved and Amy only too glad to get out into the glorious sunshine of the summer morning.

As the three chums, clad daintily in white, with a background of velvety green lawn to set them off, approached the Fords' beautiful home, they were surprised beyond measure to see Grace swinging leisurely back and forth in the big hammock under the trees. They stopped short and gazed upon this spectacle.

"And she's not eating chocolates either," remarked Amy in an awe-struck voice. "What can have happened?"

"I wish you would stop gazing at me like that," said Grace, raising her head and looking at the three girls who were still regarding her fixedly. "Is it my hair, or is my nose red, or is it my skirt that's too tight? Please tell me and get it over with. I can stand anything but this suspense."

"A miracle has taken place—the impossible has happened!" cried Betty, striking a theatrical pose. "Never again will I doubt the wisdom of those so learned——"

"What is she raving about, girls, do you know?" asked Grace plaintively. "She never used to be like this."

"It's the shock, that's all," interpreted Mollie. "Never mind, Betty," she added soothingly. "You will get used to it in time."

"Amy, you're the only sane one in that crowd," cried Grace in desperation. "Will you kindly explain what those two lunatics are talking about—if they know themselves!" This last was uttered so vindictively that the girls came down from rhetorical heights with a bounce.

"Oh," laughed Betty, running up to Grace and giving her a hug. "You must really forgive us, Grace dear, we just couldn't help it—you reformed so suddenly, you know."

"Reformed?" said Grace, still mystified, while she made room for the other girls in the hammock. "What do you mean—'reformed'? I didn't know I needed to."

"Listen to the child," mocked Mollie. "Why, don't you know, Grace, that there isn't one of us that doesn't need a lot of reforming?"

"Speak for yourself, Mollie Billette," remarked Grace, a trifle shortly, for her natural good temper was becoming ruffled under the continued teasing.

"Now, please, girls," said Betty, fearing a storm, "don't let's quarrel, whatever we do. We were only surprised to see you up so early, Grace, that's all. But now I'm mighty glad you are, because we'll have a chance for a nice long talk. What time do you suppose it is now?"

"It was nearly ten when I came out of the house," Grace replied, placated by the Little Captain's tactful changing of the subject. "Can't you all stay to lunch? Then we can make a good long day of it."

The girls took a walk about town before lunch, just to "be sure of an appetite," as Amy said. During the tramp they met Roy Anderson, an old boy friend.

"Are you doing anything particular this afternoon?" he wanted to know, and upon the girls replying in the negative, asked if he might bring some of the other boys around. "We have made a discovery!" he shouted after them. "We'll tell you about it when we see you."

And so, the noon meal over, the girls strolled out on the lawn again and waited eagerly for what the boys might have to tell them.

They had not long to wait—in fact they had barely had time to settle themselves in the comfortable chairs, when along the road came—not the boys, but a ragged, bent, old woman, leaning heavily on a twisted stick for support. Instead of going straight on, as the girls had expected she would do, the old woman turned in at the drive and made straight for them.

"What shall we do? Shall we go in the house?" whispered Grace to Betty. "I don't like her looks very much, do you?"

"She isn't particularly beautiful," Betty telegraphed back. "But she can't possibly do us any harm. Let's wait and see what she has to say."

As the old hag drew nearer, the girls instinctively shrank back in their chairs. And, indeed, she was not a prepossessing figure. Her head was bound about with an old red handkerchief, tied under the wrinkled chin and framing a face seamed and crisscrossed with a million wrinkles. An old, tattered shawl covered her bent shoulders, and the hand that grasped the knotted stick was claw-like and emaciated. Her eyes were the only part of her that seemed to retain some semblance of youth. They were little and beady and exceedingly keen, so that when she raised them to Betty's young face, that staunch little captain felt that she would almost rather be anywhere else than there beneath the trees with the searching eyes of the old crone fixed upon her.

"What do you want?" Betty gasped, trying to make her voice calm and steady, but with little success.

"I won't hurt you, pretty ladies," said the old woman, divining their repugnance and half-fear and desiring to placate them. "Won't you have your fortunes told? Only twenty-five cents, and I can tell you of your past and as much as you will of your future. Only a quarter, pretty ladies."

Betty glanced inquiringly at the other girls, but they shook their heads decidedly—the mumbling old crone was getting on their nerves.

"Not to-day," said Betty, as kindly as she could. "We are expecting company and we haven't time. Some other time perhaps."

"Some other day may be too late," said the old crone, leeringly. "Oh, yes, you will have all the time there is to be miserable in. And you will be! You will be! The curse be on you for refusing an old woman like me the price of her bread!" and she hobbled down the long drive muttering to herself and stopping once to shake her fist at the startled girls.

"Oh, did you ever!" Mollie exclaimed. Just then there was a sound of jolly, masculine laughter and around a corner of the house came the boys.

"Oh, I've never been so glad to see anybody in all my life!" said Grace with a little shiver, as the boys paused to gaze after the retreating form of the old hag. "It is such a relief to have some boys around!"

"I say! who's your venerable friend, Grace?" Roy inquired as he and his friends joined the girls.

"Yes, what did you do to her, Betty?" It was Allen Washburn who asked the question. He was a young lawyer, liked and admired by every one in Deepdale, and let it be said here that Betty was no exception to the general rule. And as for young Allen Washburn himself, he never sought to conceal his genuine admiration for the Little Captain. "The last I saw of her, she was shaking her fist at the house. She didn't seem to be in any too sweet a temper, either."

"It was just because we wouldn't let her read our fortunes," Betty explained. "Oh, I wouldn't let that old thing touch me!"

"I could tell your fortune for you, if you'd only let me," whispered Allen, so softly that only Betty heard. But that was as it should be, since it was intended for her ear alone.

"She looked just like a—oh, what do you call them?—the people that wander around all the time and never have any homes—oh, I know, gypsies," said Amy eagerly. "Wasn't she a gypsy, Will?"

"Oh, now she's gone and spilled the beans!" said Frank, so ruefully that they all laughed. "Here we come, all primed to give you a surprise, and we find you prepared beforehand."

"But what surprise?" asked Mollie. "She didn't tell us anything—we wouldn't let her."

"Yes, she did. She told you everything, only you don't know it," was Will's enigmatic comment. "You see," he went on, "there's a gypsy encampment near by and we thought you girls might like to visit it. The caravans they use and the strange costumes are all mighty interesting."

"Oh, won't that be fine!" said Grace eagerly. "I've always wanted to see one of those things near by. When can we go?"

"I thought you didn't like gypsies, Grace," Betty broke in.

"Well, I wouldn't if they were all like this," answered Grace. "But they're not, are they, Roy? There are lots and lots of really romantic-looking ones if all the books I've read know anything about it."

"Of course there are. You don't suppose we'd take you to see a lot of old crones like this peppery woman, do you?" Roy answered. "Why, I've heard there are some mighty good-looking girls in this crowd."

"Now I see why they're so anxious to go," laughed Betty. "I don't think we'd better chance it, girls. They might become so charmed with the fair gypsy maids that they'd forget our existence."

"I don't think you need worry too much about that," said Allen, answering the challenge in Betty's eyes. "The only question is whether we will have eyes to see the charms of the gypsy maids."

"Here! here!" shouted Will. "You're coming on, Allen, you're coming on. I wish I could reel them off like that. Well, ladies, what day shall we set for the adventure?"

"To-night," said Betty promptly.

"Good," Frank responded. "Betty has the right idea, all right. To-night it is!"

So it was settled, and when they parted eyes were bright with the excitement of the coming adventure.



Betty was ready before any one arrived that night. The boys and girls were to meet at her house and from there go on to the gypsy encampment.

She sat on the porch with a light wrap thrown over one arm and waited impatiently.

"Oh, why don't they come?" she thought. "The girls said they would be early, and the boys are always away ahead of time. Oh, here come Grace and Will, now if the others will only hurry."

"Hello, Betty! Been waiting long?" It was Will's cheery greeting.

"Oh, for hours and hours," said the Little Captain with a sigh. "I'd begun to think everybody had forgotten all about it. I'm so glad you're here. You can keep me company anyway."

"Oh, are we the first?" Grace was surprised. "I hurried Will till he nearly had a fit. Said we would be ahead of everybody else, but I didn't believe him."

"Some day," said Will in a prophetic voice, "some day, young lady, you will learn that I do know something."

"Oh, do you really think so?" said Grace, hopefully. "If that day ever comes, Will, dear, I will be the very first to congratulate you."

"Here come some of the others," Betty cried out. "I can't quite make them out, but it looks like Roy and Amy and—yes—there's Allen, too. But who is the other girl? It certainly isn't Mollie. I know her walk too well."

"No, it isn't Mollie," said Grace, slowly. "Do you know whom it looks like, Betty?"

"No," said that young person, straining her eyes in the direction of the newcomers. "Who is it?"

"I'm not sure but it looks like——" Grace paused a moment, then said with conviction, "I'm right! It's Alice Jallow, and I don't like her very much. What is she doing in our crowd anyway?"

"That's what I would like to know," growled Will. "We had just enough before. I don't know who's going to take care of her."

"Will, don't be ungallant," warned his sister. "Play the game. Probably there's some explanation, anyway."

But to the Little Captain, as she watched the quartette approaching, there seemed no plausible explanation. Why should Allen be paired off with "this Jallow girl"? Betty knew very little of the latter except that she was always trying to get in where she was not wanted. Well, she certainly was not wanted now. Oh, why did Allen look so happy? If "this Jallow girl" had her, Betty's, escort, where did she come in? Hot tears of anger and mortification rose to her eyes, but she drove them back mercilessly and her greeting to the newcomers was as merry as ever.

"Hello, everybody!" she called. "You surely took long enough to get here."

"Hello, Betty! This is——" Amy paused, then went on rather awkwardly. "You see, Alice happened to be at the house when the boys came and—well—we brought her along," she finished, lamely.

"And here I am," said Alice effusively. "I do hope I'm not putting any one out. The idea of visiting the gypsy camp was so fascinating that I simply couldn't resist the temptation. I think you might have let me in on it in the first place," and she looked reproachfully at Allen.

That young gentleman had been sending imploring looks in Betty's direction over Alice Jallow's head, which the former had chosen absolutely to ignore. Now, being thus appealed to, he smiled down at Alice.

"It certainly was a grave oversight on our part," he said.

Betty felt as if her little world had been turned upside down and she wanted to shake somebody—it didn't much matter who it was—but shake somebody she must, good and hard!

Just at this critical moment up came the two missing ones, Mollie and Frank—and a third.

"Now, who is that?" thought the poor Little Captain in despair. "If this keeps on, we shall have the whole town assembled pretty soon. Oh, dear!"

"Betty, this is a friend of mine, Jack Sanford," Frank introduced him in his own pleasant way. "He's not such a bad chap when you get to know him well," he added, while his friend thanked him, ironically.

Betty acknowledged the introduction gaily. If Allen liked "this Jallow girl," why, he could, that was all! and she was not going to let them spoil the evening for her. Besides, here was one providentially sent, or so it seemed to her. And he was nice, too, very nice! He seemed to be hail-fellow-well-met with the boys. And the girls—well, one could see that they liked him from the start. But if only Allen would not look so happy!

"Suppose we start, now we're all here," suggested Roy. "The sooner we get there the more time we'll have."

"Bright boy," commented Allen. "How did you ever find that out?" Then, under cover of the laughter and the darkness, he found Betty's hand and held it for a moment. "Betty," he pleaded, "I——"

"May I, Miss Nelson?" It was Jack Sanford, bowing low before her.

"Sounds like a dance," laughed Betty, and added: "Indeed you may. Oh, isn't it a wonderful night?"

Allen ground his teeth and once more submitted to the effusive attentions of Alice Jallow. If Betty could have seen him then she would have been moved to pity.

"Is it very far to the camp?" Mollie asked, after they had been walking some time. "I'm anxious to get there."

"Not very far, now," Roy assured her. "It's just on the outskirts of the town. Just wait till you get there. When you see how interesting it is you won't mind the walk."

"I guess you don't know whom you are talking to," called Betty, just behind them. "You forget that walking is our middle name."

"Pardon, fair damsel," said Roy in mock humility. "I must confess I had forgotten for the moment that——"

"Oh, look! look! All the bonfires and things and people sitting around them!" Mollie interrupted. "That must be the camp, isn't it, Roy?"

It really was the camp. The young people drew closer together as they neared it, fascinated, yet half afraid. There were huge bulky objects in the background beyond the illuminated circle of firelight.

"Those are the caravan wagons, aren't they?" demanded the Little Captain in hushed tones. "Oh, I wish I could see inside one of them."

"Yes, they are the Pullman cars of the gypsies," laughed Jack. "Perhaps you wouldn't like them so much inside if you did see them," he added.

"Oh, let's go on," urged Grace at Betty's elbow. "I'm dying to see more of them, even if I am horribly afraid. Just look at all the tents they have put up. They must expect to stay a long time."

The girls' eyes grew wider and wider as they advanced toward the circle of flickering firelight. It seemed they were not the gypsies' only visitors, for there were many residents of Deepdale, some of whom the girls recognized.

The roving folk had set forth their wares upon rudely constructed tables, ready for the first purchaser. Some of the things were truly beautiful—pieces of rare old lace, chains and chains of many-colored beads, silver that was polished till it reflected dazzlingly the dancing firelight. There were rude tents set aside for the telling of fortunes, and somewhere further back in the camp the wild, sweet strains of a violin mingled with a man's sweet tenor voice.

"Some of those fellows surely can sing," Frank remarked. "I'd give a good hundred dollars this minute if I had his voice."

"I wish I could find one for you, Frank," said Grace. "I need the hundred badly."

The young people spent over an hour wandering about the place, enjoying to the full the novelty and the romance of it all.

Just as they had about made up their minds that it was time to go home, Betty, who had exclaimed more than once over the beauty of some of the young gypsy girls, their beauty being emphasized by the picturesque clothes they wore, stepped back to look into a tent they had passed a moment before.

Allen saw his opportunity and was quick to improve it.

"You must be careful how you trot about alone here, Betty. You know——" he began, when she interrupted him.

"Oh, it is!" she said. "It is!"

"What?" asked Allen, mystified.

She drew him back into the shadows before she answered. "I wasn't sure, but now I know," she said. "That's the very old woman who wanted to tell our fortunes at Grace's this afternoon."

"Well, what of it?" he inquired, with an attempt to be reassuring. "She won't hurt you—not while I'm around."

"Oh, but I don't like her looks," and the girl shivered slightly.

"You need your coat, Betty," said Allen. "Where is it?"

"Jack—Mr. Sanford has it. I'll get it."

She started forward, but he laid a restraining hand on her arm. "Betty, Betty," he whispered. "You're not going to keep this up, are you?"

"What do you mean?" she questioned, with an attempt at dignity that was not a very great success.

"You know as well as I do," he answered. "It wasn't my fault. Amy introduced her and I—well, I had to be decent. Betty, don't you know me well enough——"

"Where have you people been anyway?" It was Amy's voice. "We've been looking all over for you."

"Right here, every minute," said Allen cheerily, and the little party started on again. Not, however, before Mollie and Grace had exchanged very significant glances.

The young people turned for a last look at the gypsy rendezvous before a bend in the road shut it from view.

"I've had an awfully good time," said Grace, then added, irrelevantly: "I only hope those gypsies don't steal anything."

"That's a good hope," whispered Allen in Betty's ear. "They are dabsters when it comes to getting away with other people's property."



The door bell rang out its noisy summons.

Betty forestalled the maid on her way to the portal with a merry: "I'll go, Mary. It's probably one of the girls."

It was not one of the girls only, but all three of them, and seemingly in the wildest excitement.

"Oh, Betty, Betty!" Mollie cried, not even stopping to say "hello." "Have you heard the news—have you?"

"No, it's so early——" began Betty, but Grace interrupted her.

"But it isn't half as bad as what happened to us," she said, sinking into a porch chair and fanning herself violently, being overcome either by the heat or her emotions—possibly both. "Why! dad's running around the house like a mad man this morning, swearing all sorts of vengeance on the thief, whoever he or she is—I suppose it must be a he, though, because women don't steal——"

"Hold on, hold on a minute," commanded Betty, her hands over her ears. "How do you expect me to find out what has happened if you won't come to the point?"

"Well, I was going to tell you if you'd only have a little patience," Grace continued, in an injured voice. Here she paused to put into her mouth a chocolate cream, which she had taken from a little box she had brought with her. Then, seeing Amy about to speak, she went on hastily, holding the box out mutely toward her friends, who all shook their heads. "Here I rush all the way over and get all heated up and everything——"

"Oh, for goodness' sake, Grace!" Mollie broke in, having come to the end of her patience. "If you don't tell the story I will. You have been half an hour already getting nowhere."

At this dire threat Grace continued quickly. "Oh, well," she capitulated, "since you are in such a hurry—well, the fact is, Betty, Beauty's been stolen," and she delivered the terrible news in a hushed voice.

"Oh!" said Betty, horrified. "And your father valued him above all the rest. Are you sure he was stolen, Grace?"

"Well, I don't see what else could have happened to him." Now that she had delivered her news, Grace was once more as calm and composed as ever. "The horse couldn't very well file the padlock from the outside or climb out the window, and the groom wouldn't be very likely to take him for a gentle stroll in the middle of the night. And unless one of those things has happened, Beauty has been stolen. Anyway, he's gone, there's no doubt of that."

"That's pretty bad—I can imagine just how your father feels, Grace," Betty's voice was grave. "I do hope they will be able to trace him. Does your father suspect the gypsies?"

"Yes, ever since the store was robbed the other night, dad has been suspicious of them," Grace answered. "He has tried to watch his horses with especial care, too. That's one thing that makes him so tearing mad to-day. Oh, you should have heard him!" and Grace sighed at the memory.

"I remember," said Betty thoughtfully, "that Allen said something the other night when we went to visit their camp about the gypsies being expert thieves. From the way things have turned out I guess he knew what he was talking about."

"And they looked so nice and romantic, too," said Amy, and drew a sigh at the irony of fate.

This conversation took place between the girls on a certain morning several days after their memorable visit to the gypsy camp. A day or so before one of the large stores of the town had been looted and practically cleaned out. For two days Deepdale had been in a furore of excitement and indignation, for in the memory of most of the inhabitants no such crime had ever been perpetrated. There had been small robberies, of course, but that Hendall's, traditionally the oldest store in Deepdale, should have been treated to such insult, and by a band of roving gypsies, too—for every one suspected them from the first—why, it was unheard of! incredible!

Detectives and sheriff had searched the town from end to end but had found no sign of the missing goods. They had visited the gypsy camp, too, submitting it to a strict investigation, but with no result. The countryside had been scoured for miles around, but no trace had as yet been found of the missing criminals nor of their loot. Indeed, the thieves had covered their tracks well, and the inhabitants of Deepdale were beginning to lose hope of immediate reparation.

Such was the chaotic state of affairs on this beautiful summer morning when Mr. Ford had awakened to find his splendid horse, Beauty, the ornament of his stables and the pride of his heart, strangely and inexplicably missing.

For an hour or so the girls pondered on these two mysterious robberies and found themselves not one whit nearer the solution. It was Mollie who finally suggested that they go to her house and look at a couple of new dresses she had bought recently. "It will help get our minds off the robbery," she said.

The girls agreed readily, for they were always anxious to see Mollie's things. "They are always so novel," Grace had once said, and Mollie had been uncertain whether to ticket it a compliment or otherwise.

"Really, my head aches trying to figure things out," Amy complained, as they neared the Billette home.

"Well, it seems to me it is just about time some of those detectives found things out for us," Mollie rejoined. "Will ought to be able to help, Grace," she added, "since he is in the secret service."

"You may be sure he is doing his best," Grace retorted with spirit. "Those gypsies make thieving their profession and it isn't always as easy to track them as it seems. If you don't believe me, just try it yourself."

"I didn't say anything about not believing you," Mollie rejoined, icily. "And there's no reason why you have to go up in the air about nothing. I was simply suggesting, that's all."

"Girls, some day, I am just going to get terribly angry about something and then let fly," Betty broke in. "I'd just like to know what would happen and where we would end up if you didn't have me to act as peacemaker."

"Probably in the county jail for disturbing the peace," said Grace ruefully, and Mollie laughed, thereby restoring harmony, for the time being at least.

"Oh, hurry, please do hurry, Mollie!" A small cyclone precipitated itself out of the house and into Mollie's arms. "Muvver's cwyin' tuwible and she's telephonin' to evwybody to make you come home quick. Oh—oh——" This was the beginning of a muffled wail—silenced by Mollie's hand over the small one's mouth.

"Dodo, don't cry," Mollie implored. "What is the matter with mother? Is she sick? Oh, don't bother to tell me—I'll see for myself. Come on, girls."

"Had we better?" asked Betty, with instinctive delicacy. "It may be something she won't want us to know."

"Oh, don't be silly," cried Mollie, impatiently, shoving the three girls before her through the doorway. "You know as well as I do that we haven't any secrets from you. Oh, what can be the matter?"

They found Mrs. Billette in the library where her small daughter, Dora—nicknamed Dodo, and one of a pair of exceedingly mischievous twins—ran to tell her of Mollie's timely arrival.

The girls followed hesitatingly, as Mollie rushed forward and threw her arms about her mother's neck, crying: "Mother, dear, what is it? Dora says you have been crying and that you have been telephoning for me all over. Oh, I wish I had known! We would have run all the way."

"Oh, I suppose a few moments more or less would make no difference. It wouldn't bring back the silver," said Mrs. Billette, quietly. Hysterics had given place to a sort of despairing resignation. "Only, at first, I felt as if I must talk to some one about it. The twins didn't understand, of course, and I couldn't very well talk to Jane."

"But, Mother, what is it?" Mollie demanded again. "Has Aunt Elvira died or has Paul caught the mumps, or——"

"Of course not, Mollie! How silly of you," her mother broke in, impatiently. "Aunt Elvira will probably live another twenty years. And as for Paul's having the mumps——"

"Then what is it? Have we been robbed?" Mollie's little foot tapped a sharp tattoo on the floor.

"That is just what has happened to us," said Mrs. Billette, as the girls stared incredulously. "We've been robbed of some things that money never can replace. Oh-oh-oh, if I had only put it in a safer place! How could I have been such a fool! Oh! oh!" and Mrs. Billette, poor woman, was fast verging on another attack of hysteria.

Mollie put her arms about her mother soothingly. "There, there, Mother," she crooned. "It may turn out all right after all. But, remember, you haven't told us what is lost yet," she suggested, with a gentleness very unlike her former impatience. "I think it would make you feel much better to talk about it. Did you say it was the silver that had been stolen?"

"Yes, the silver tea service that has been in the family for over a hundred and twenty years." Mrs. Billette's French origin gleamed in her dark eyes as she added: "Oh, if we could only catch them! I'd like to make them suffer for this!"

From Mrs. Billette's rather disjointed story the girls gathered that not only the valuable tea service was missing, but also a number of smaller articles, such as knives and forks. Then there was a valuable jet necklace which Mrs. Billette had locked up with the silver for safe keeping.

The girls were stunned by this last calamity. They could think of one solution and one only, and that was—the gypsies.

As Betty took leave of the girls at her own door that noon, after vainly urging them to stay to lunch—they were too impatient to get home and spread the news to stop for anything, even lunch at Betty's—she heard the jangle of the telephone.

"Sorry you won't come in," she called. "I'll see you later, anyway!" and she flew upstairs to answer the insistent summons.

"Hello! . . . Oh, that you, Allen? . . . Yes, I've just come home from Mrs. Billette's. . . . She has lost a silver tea service and some other things. . . . What's that? . . . Yes, stolen. . . . Gone! . . . Are you sure? . . . Oh, now they will never get their things! . . . Yes, come over to-morrow and we can talk things over. . . . Don't be silly! . . . Yes, come early. . . . Good-bye."

As she hung up the receiver mechanically, Betty's gaze traveled out of the window and over the smooth, green lawn to the far-distant horizon.

"Gone!" she murmured. "The gypsies are gone! Oh, I wonder where they went to?"



"Hello, Betty, that you? Yes, this is Mollie, of course. It seems to me that I'm always at the 'phone these days. But, oh, Betty, I just simply couldn't wait a minute to tell you! . . . Yes, I've just received a letter. . . . What's that? . . . No, mother hasn't been able to trace her silver at all yet. Isn't it terrible? . . . Oh, well, she is becoming resigned to the worst. . . . But, Betty, aren't you a bit interested? . . . Yes, I know you are, dear, and it's very sweet of you. . . . Well, it's from Aunt Elvira. Remember I told you the other day that she intended to go to Europe? Well, it's about that. . . . Yes, there has been so much excitement about these old gypsies that I had almost forgotten I had such an aunt. . . . No, I won't tell you one thing more about it, except that everything is O. K. Will you come over to-night? . . . What's that—you can't? Oh, Betty, you just have to. Oh, well, if that's all why don't you bring him along? . . . Yes, all the boys are coming anyway. Will says he has something to talk over with us. . . . Then I may count on you, to-night, honey? . . . All right—good-bye till then."

This conversation took place in the morning. Promptly at eight that evening the door bell rang and Betty, after a last peep in the mirror and a finishing pat to her dress, flew down to answer the summons.

"Right on the dot, Allen," she laughed, flinging the door wide open. "The clock is just striking the hour—listen," and obediently he listened, his eyes on Betty's face, while the sweet chimes filled the hall with melody.

"No wonder I am on the minute," he said, smiling whimsically. "I have been wandering around for the past half hour trying to kill time. You see I didn't quite dare to come at half-past seven."

She laughed gaily. "You would have had to spend your time in the library if you had come early," she said. "Because I have been ready for only half a minute. Here's your hat, Allen," she added, taking it down from the peg where he had just deposited it for the evening. Her manner was grave but mischief sparkled in her eyes.

"What's the big idea?" he inquired, regarding the hat held out to him with a puzzled expression. "I am very well acquainted with the article in your hand. Too well acquainted, in fact, for this is the second season we have been chums; and I see prospect of a third, if the law business doesn't pick up. But, seriously, what is the idea, Betty? Do you want me to go home and spend a dismal evening all by myself—is that it?"

"Far from it, Allen. Oh, please don't look so glum," she added, and the mischief bubbled over from her eyes and she laughed happily.

Opening Allen's hand, she placed the unwelcome hat therein and closed his fingers over it. "The explanation for all this," she went on, making him a curtsy, "is very simple. We have been invited to spend the evening at Mollie's."

"Oh, bother M——" he began, then added, decidedly: "I came to see you to-night and I am not going to the Billettes' or anywhere else! Here, hat, get back where you belong," and he flung the offending article back on the hook with an air of finality that matched his words.

"Please don't be an old bear," coaxed Betty, and Betty knew how to coax to perfection. "Mollie has some perfectly wonderful news to tell us and all our girls and boys are going to be there to hear it. You wouldn't want me to be terribly disappointed—now you know you wouldn't," and she looked at him appealingly.

Mollie opened the door to them herself, radiantly eager to tell her news.

"Oh, hurry, you two!" she cried. "I thought you would never get here. We have been waiting for—oh, ever so long."

"Well, if we are the last, everybody must have turned over a new leaf just for to-night," remarked Betty, as she started for the library from which came a confused murmur of many voices, speaking all at once, with now and then a burst of merry laughter.

"Leave your hat here, Allen," said Mollie, and Betty threw him a merry glance over her shoulder.

"Hello, everybody," she called a moment later, as she flung aside the portieres and stood framed in the doorway. "Mollie tells us we are the last and——"

"Well, so you are. We thought you and Allen had mistaken the date," said Frank. "Accidentally on purpose," he added slyly.

"Not a chance in the world, Frank," said Allen, who had come into the room in time to hear the last remark. "I might be afflicted with loss of memory; but, Betty—never!" They all laughed with enjoyment—all but Betty who threw him a reproachful glance which he refused to catch.

"Well, now we are here, let's have the news," said Roy, who was always impatient to get to the heart of things. "Come on, Mollie—out with it."

Nothing loath, Mollie settled herself with an important air and began her tale.

"Well, you see——" she began, when Will interrupted.

"No, we don't. What?" he asked innocently.

"Now I won't try to tell it at all if you are going to begin that," said Mollie with asperity. And Grace added:

"Do let Mollie tell it her own way, Will, and if you interrupt again, we will get the boys to throw you out. You will do it, won't you, boys?"

"Sure!" they shouted with one accord, and Will retired meekly into a corner.

"I'll begin all over again," said Mollie. "You all know, with the exception of Amy and Allen, and they soon will, that I have been expecting to hear from my aunt and uncle every day. They took rather a long time to make up their minds, but now everything is settled. They are really going to Europe, and we girls are going to have the use of their bungalow, 'The Shadows,' for the summer. Or at least for the month and a half that is left."

"Splendid, Mollie! Where is the bungalow?" inquired Betty, leaning forward eagerly. "We ought to have a wonderful time."

"Well, I hope we shall," Mollie continued. "The bungalow is on an island called Pine Island in Lake Tarracusio. They say it is a beautiful place, and it is only about a day's journey in an auto. We could make it easily."

"All this is very fine, but where do we come in?" Allen inquired. "There isn't room in this wonderful bungalow for us, is there?"

"Of course not!" said Mollie scornfully. "And if there were, do you think we would have you boys fussing around?"

"Well, I was just in search of information," Allen answered defensively. "And all I get is scorn and ridicule."

"Hard luck, old man," said Will, feelingly. "I am in the same boat. But you girls had better look out," he added threateningly. "Don't forget that I had something to suggest to-night and if you don't treat me better, I'll——"

"Will this do," interrupted Mollie, and, with hands clasped in prayerful attitude, she besought Will, with tears in her voice, to have pity. "Oh, kind and noble sir," she said, "be kind—be gracious to us, your humble slaves, and deign to honor——"

"Now that's something like," broke in Will, beaming around on the assembled company. "If you had done that from the first, Mollie——"

"Oh, Will, please hurry," Betty urged impatiently. "I know you have something good to tell us, and I wish you wouldn't keep us in such terrible suspense."

"Well, since you appreciate how great is the——"

"Yes, yes, go on," Grace interrupted.

"News I am about to impart," he continued without a glance in her direction.

"You will impart it," Allen finished for him.

"Thank you," said Will, bowing gravely in Allen's direction. "As our friend says, I will proceed. Well, to come down to brass tacks," he continued, dropping the air of dignity, which, considering his youthful appearance, was always very comical, "I thought maybe you fellows would like to put up a tent on the same island and camp there near the girls for the rest of the summer. We could have no end of fun."

There was a yell of joy from the boys, and the excited exclamations, questions and answers that followed showed that they agreed heartily with Will in his last prophecy that "they would have no end of fun."

"Oh, won't it be great!" cried Betty, her cheeks flushed with excitement. "I do believe this is the very best of all," then her face clouded as she turned to Allen, who had not been taking a very active part in the conversation.

"Do you think you can make it, Allen?" she asked, trying to keep the eagerness out of her voice. "You said something about a change in the management of the firm——" her voice was questioning.

"Why, I was just wondering if I couldn't fix things up some way," he answered seriously. "It looks as if some of our work might have to lay over for a time anyway, and if it does——"

"Of course you will have to manage it somehow, Allen," Frank broke in. "Why, having you there would be half the fun!"

"Oh, I guess I can," Allen began uncertainly. Then he continued: "But you can just better believe if there is a chance in the world, I'll be there."

"That's the way to talk," cried Mollie. "Now there is just one important thing we haven't decided yet, girls, and that is, whom are we going to have for a chaperon."

"I have been thinking of that, and I am sure I know just the one," said Amy quietly; and they turned to her in amazement. Amy was like that, she didn't talk much, but when she did, what she said was usually to the point. "You all know young Mrs. Irving whose husband travels?"

"And she seems sort of lonely sometimes," Grace added, taking a chocolate nut from a dish of candy that Mollie had placed, for Grace's special delectation, on the table.

"Amy, you are a wonder," said Mollie, regarding her chum with awe. "I would never have thought of her in a thousand years, and of course she's just the one."

"Well, now that the all-important question of chaperon is happily settled," said Roy, veering back to the point like a compass, "suppose we decide when to start."

After much discussion it was finally decided they were to start a week from that day, which was Tuesday.

It was late when Mollie's guests started for home, and even then they were all reluctant to go. As Allen stood on the porch of the Nelson home a few minutes later, Betty turned to him impulsively.

"Oh, I do hope you will be able to go, Allen," she said.

"Would you be sorry if I didn't?" he asked her, eagerly.

"Why, of course."

"Then, I'll be there," he said, with a smile.



"Grace, Grace, do wake up!" Betty looked at her sleeping chum in absolute amazement. How could anybody sleep so soundly on this, the day of days, when one should have been awake at six o'clock thinking over the delights in store!

Grace had come over the night before to talk over some minor details of the outing, bringing with her a new and, she declared, a specially delicious brand of chocolates. It had been so late when she had started to leave that she had been prevailed upon to spend the night with Betty. And so it was that on that eventful morning she lay slumbering peacefully in the Little Captain's bed, defying all that impatient young person's efforts to rouse her.

"Grace! Grace!" Betty cried again. "Won't you please wake up? Why, it's seven o'clock this minute! We have to be out of the house in an hour."

Grace groaned dismally. "Oh, Betty, I will have to have some more sleep," she wailed, pitifully. "If I don't I won't be fit for a thing the rest of the day. Don't you suppose we could make it if we started by nine?" she added hopefully.

Betty paused in the act of putting on a shoe and held it poised in the air while she gazed at her friend incredulously.

"Grace Ford, of all the——" she almost stuttered. Then, as a thought flashed before her mind she laughed delightedly. "Can't you see them, Grace," she chuckled, putting on one shoe and picking up the other. "Can't you see the boys when I tell them they will have to walk around the block while Grace gets her beauty sleep. Oh! oh!" and even Grace had to laugh at the picture.

"They probably wouldn't wait anyway," Betty continued, with the tact of a diplomat. "They would go on to The Shadows and let you follow later at your leisure. It will be a nice, dusty, hot ride in the train, too," she added, examining the lace on her handkerchief with the air of a connoisseur.

Grace sat up on the edge of the bed and regarded her chum reproachfully. "Nobody has any heart at all, and you least of all, Betty Nelson," she complained. "Oh, where did I put my slippers? I was so excited last night I don't remember what I did with them," and she began a listless search under the bed.

"They are over by that chair," said Betty patiently. Then went on: "Oh, Grace, dear, please wake up. You will give me the blues if you don't shake off that dead and alive air. Imagine Betty Nelson with the blues to-day."

"It is rather impossible," remarked Grace, regarding Betty's flushed cheeks and dancing eyes with admiration. "I wish I didn't need any more sleep than you, Betty. Oh, well, the worst part of getting up is over now and I'll feel fine when I get some breakfast. You just watch me."

"That's something like," Betty said approvingly. "Oh, Grace, we are going to have one of the most glorious times we ever had in our lives to-day."

"Shouldn't wonder," Grace agreed. "What does that clock say, half-past seven? Oh, Betty, now I will have to hurry!"

"If you glare at the clock like that it is apt to develop palpitation of the heart and stop altogether," laughed Betty. "It can't help the time, you know."

"Well, that is the very first time I have ever been accused of stopping a clock," said Grace with dignity. Then added plaintively: "And by my best friend, too! Oh, well, I suppose you can get used to anything if you try hard enough."

"Oh, Grace, you're a dear when you look resigned like that," said Betty, dancing over to her friend and hugging her ecstatically. "If you weren't so pretty, I wouldn't dare talk about stopping clocks," she added, and peace was restored, and soon both hurried down to breakfast.

"Oh, there they are now," cried Betty, hastily swallowing the last of her cocoa. "I knew they would be here before we were half ready. Oh, Gracy, dear, hurry, will you!"

"I am all ready," Grace answered. "Suppose you go out and speak to them while I get the luggage. I'll bring down your hat and coat, too, if you want me to."

"You are a dear," said Betty, for the second time this morning. "Goodness, they are making enough noise with their old horns. Anybody would think there were ten automobiles instead of two," and while she ran out to greet the newcomers, Grace hurried—yes, actually hurried—up the stairs to get the small bags they were to take with them for immediate use, in case the trunks, which had been sent on before, did not arrive in time.

Betty found the others all radiant. Roy was at the wheel in Mollie's car—she had invited him to act as chauffeur and he had gleefully accepted—with Mollie herself beside him and Will and Amy in the tonneau.

The others—Mrs. Irving, their young and jolly chaperon, and the four girls and boys—were to make the journey in Frank's big car, with Frank, of course, at the wheel.

"Hello, Betty!" Will shouted. "You are looking as sweet and fresh as a daisy! Jump in! Where's that runaway sister of mine? I hope you succeeded in getting her up in time."

"I did—after considerable persuasion," laughed Betty. "I came out to tell you we just have to get our outside things on and we shall be ready. I can see Grace beckoning now—just a minute," and she ran toward the house.

"Can't we carry the luggage—and the chocolates?" said Frank and Allen together.

"If you insist," Betty flung the answer over her shoulder as she joined Grace.

The boys had tumbled out of the automobile and were racing up the drive as if their lives depended on their reaching the porch at the same second. The girls adjusted their pretty panamas before the wide mirror while the boys picked up the bags and waited.

"Is my hat on right, Allen, or should it be tilted a little more over the left eye?" mimicked Frank, as they watched the girls. "Or, perhaps it should be made to cover my face entirely?"

"I think the latter—with places for the eyes and nose," said Allen in the same tone of voice.

"Anybody who invented such a hat would be a benefactor to the world at large, Frank," said Betty, as she swept past him—her nose in the air.

"Oof! That was an awful one," returned Frank, while Grace chuckled at his discomfiture. "A few more of those, Betty, and I am afraid I shall have to stay at home!"

"That sounds just like Percy," Betty remarked, as the boys deposited the luggage in the car and opened the door for the girls. "For goodness' sake, don't take him for a model, Frank."

"I wonder where the dear old chappie is, anyway," remarked Allen as he took his seat between Betty and Mrs. Irving in the tonneau. Grace was to sit with Frank. "I haven't seen him about town lately. I wonder if mother has taken her darling boy to the seashore," he added, as the car moved off.

"I hope so. If she would only take him to Kalamazoo it would suit me better," said Betty. "It's a wonder he didn't invite himself to come along."

"Nothing doing!" laughed Frank. "I can just imagine darling Percy sleeping in a tent and cooking his own meals. Can't you, Allen? Oh, what a circus!"

"It is rather hard to imagine the immaculate Percy in those surroundings," drawled Grace. "He would be running down to the river to wash his hands every two minutes. How do we get over to the island from the mainland, Betty, do you remember?" she added. "I know Mollie said something about a steamer, but I didn't get a very good idea of it."

"Oh, we will have lots of fun on it," Betty answered, enjoying the prospect immensely. "Mollie says it is an old, rickety thing that looks as if it were going to pieces any minute. She thinks it must be at least two hundred years old, if what her aunt says is true. It will be awfully interesting."

"Yes, especially if it fulfills its promise and goes to pieces in the middle of the lake," Grace remarked dryly. "I wouldn't mind the dip in weather like this, but I would rather choose the time and place."

"Well, perhaps it would be better if we put on our bathing suits first," Betty admitted. "Then we would at least be prepared for the worst."

"I wouldn't call that the worst thing that could happen to us," said Allen; and when the girls looked to him for an explanation he added: "It would be no end of fun to be dumped in the river with a boatful of pretty girls. Think of the good time we could have rescuing you."

"Well, maybe you call that fun, but I should say it was pretty hard work," said Frank, ungallantly. "Especially if the girls should lose their heads and begin to choke you. All hail, for Davy Jones' locker!"

"You needn't worry," said Betty, with dignity. "In the first place we wouldn't have to be rescued. We can swim just as well as you boys can——"

"Now, now, Betty," Frank protested laughingly, "don't exaggerate."

"I'm not," she denied indignantly. "We haven't lived in the outdoors for nothing, you know."

"Well, we shall have a chance to settle all disputes when we get to Pine Island," said Allen. "To change the subject—has anybody noticed that the sun has gone under a cloud and that there is a stiff little breeze coming up? I shouldn't wonder if we were in for a storm."

"Yes, we may need our bathing suits even before we get to the island," said Betty, ruefully. "I hope you didn't forget to bring your suit, Mrs. Irving," she added, turning to the chaperon, who had been singularly silent during the ride. Perhaps she was realizing for the first time the great responsibility she had taken upon herself. However, she spoke now, accompanying her words with a bright smile.

"Indeed I did," she said. "There is nothing I enjoy quite so much as a good swim. From what you girls say of the island we ought to have as many as we want."

"I am very much afraid we won't leave to wait till we get there," said Frank, regarding the sky anxiously. "Unless I am a pretty poor prophet we are in for a considerable spell of bad weather. What do you say, Allen?"

"I say you are right and then some," Allen answered emphatically. "I think it would be a pretty good stunt to get the top up, Frank, before the girls are deluged."

Accordingly Frank slowed down and waited for Mollie's trim little machine to catch up with them.

"What do you make of the weather?" asked Will, as they came up alongside. "Looks pretty threatening, don't you think?"

"If you don't want to get wet, you had better do what we are going to," Frank advised them. "Put your top up."

"Oh, hurry, Frank, I felt a drop then!" exclaimed Grace. "And there's another! Oh, do hurry!"

The boys worked quickly and in a few moments had raised the tops and were ready to let down the waterproof sides that would make them comfortable in almost any weather.

"We are going to speed up some," Frank shouted to those in the other car. "When the roads get muddy it's going to be pretty hard going, so we want to make good time now."

"Aye, aye, Captain!" Roy answered. "Lead, and we follow."

For a short distance all went well. In fact, the girls rather liked riding in the rain. Then suddenly, without any warning, Frank stopped the car.

"What is it, Frank?" cried Grace in alarm. "Did you run over somebody?"

"No, it's worse than that," he answered gloomily. "Look, the road's closed for repairs!"



The girls and boys stared at each other, dismay written on their faces. The road closed and the rain pouring down in torrents—a nice predicament! It was Mrs. Irving's calm voice which first broke the silence.

"There must be some way around," she said. "It will take us a little longer, that's all."

"Oh, of course we shall be able to strike the main part of the road again if we go a couple of miles out of our way," Frank agreed, a worried frown on his forehead. "The only question is, how are we going to find our way? I didn't bring a chart with me—worse luck."

"Perhaps Roy has one," Betty suggested. "He usually carries a lot of junk like that around with him."

"Well, if he has this particular species of junk it will come in mighty handy just now," said Frank, hopefully. "I'll stick my head out and yell at him. Gee, it sure is raining some!" and he craned his neck toward the other car, squinting his eyes to keep out the stinging drops. "Hey, Roy!" he shouted. "Do you happen to have anything like a map of the surrounding country in your inside vest pocket? If you have, throw it over. We are stuck good and plenty."

"I don't get you, old man," Roy shouted back. "Say the first part of that speech over again, will you?"

Frank drew in his head and mopped his face and hair with a huge silk handkerchief. "Two minutes before the next plunge," he announced to the amused occupants of his car. "Allen, if he doesn't get me this time you will have to change places with me. I'll be almost drowned," then he thrust his head out once more and shouted in the direction of Mollie's car.

"I said, have you a map of this here countryside?" he repeated. "Betty says you usually carry such things with you."

"Sorry I can't oblige," came his disappointing answer. "I left that home in my old coat this morning."

"Of course, just when you knew we would probably need it!" Frank retorted scathingly. "Now we'll have to hike along and trust to luck. Nobody knows where we will end up."

"Well, you needn't blame it on me," Roy shouted wrathfully. "I couldn't be expected to see twenty miles down the road from Deepdale."

"Nobody accused you of it," Frank answered, in the same belligerent voice. "But as long as you had the chart you might have thought far enough——"

Grace seized Frank's arm and pulled him back into the machine. "For goodness' sake, what is the use of making such a fuss about that old map?" she said. "And in the rain, too!"

"Yes, if that were you and I, Grace," said Betty, "the boys would say something about 'isn't that just like a woman,' or, 'aren't girls the limit—always arguing about nothing?'"

"Votes for women!" Allen shouted. "Since when have you taken to stump oratory, Betty?"

"Oh, she is just naturally eloquent," said Grace languidly and they all laughed, even Frank—although his brow clouded anxiously a minute later.

"However, all this isn't getting us anywhere," he said. "We can't stay out here in the rain all night, you know."

"I don't believe any of us expect to," said Allen, dryly. "What do you say we take that side road we passed a little way back, Frank? We can at least see where it leads and we can inquire our way as we go along."

"I don't know whom we shall find to inquire of," said Frank, who, contrary to his usual custom, persisted in looking at the gloomy side of everything. "We didn't pass a soul on the way down."

"Please cheer up, Frank," laughed Betty. "You ask us to make a suggestion and then when we do you scout it. Suppose you tell us what you would like to do."

"I know what I should like to do," he added, readily. "I should like to break down that board that is in our way and go ahead whether they like it or not. Nothing would give me greater pleasure."

"However?" suggested Allen.

"However, I know we'd get pinched—pardon, ladies—I mean, pulled in. That doesn't sound just right, either, does it?" and he regarded them with laughing eyes.

"I imagine 'arrested' is the word you want," said Betty, demurely.

"That's it, thank you," he said, all irritability gone as suddenly as it had come. "So, as long as that is understood, perhaps we might do worse than follow Allen's suggestion, after all."

"Genius always triumphs in the end," said Allen, with a gravity that set them laughing.

"Perhaps it would be better if we hurried a little," Mrs. Irving suggested, when they had had their laugh out. "With no delay it would take us almost till sundown to reach The Shadows and I don't want to be too late."

"All right, here goes to try to back the old bus out of this mud-hole and turn her around," Frank agreed. "I don't know how long it will take us, though."

"You had better tell Roy what you are going to do," Grace suggested. "We don't want any collisions."

Frank obediently thrust out his head, only to jerk it back quickly the next instant with a startled exclamation. "They are gone!" he said.

"Gone!" the others cried together.

"But they couldn't have gone far," Mrs. Irving added.

"Probably they have motored back to the crossroads to wait for us," Allen suggested. "When they saw the blockade they knew there was just one thing to do and they did it."

"Well, they might at least have told us where they were going," Frank grumbled. "They should have known Mrs. Irving would be worried."

"They probably thought they'd decamp before the mud got so bad," said Betty. "Just the same, they should have told us."

"You are right," Mrs. Irving agreed. "However, the only thing to do now is to follow them as quickly as possible."

For answer, Frank threw in the clutch, and the big machine very slowly and painfully plowed its way through the clinging mud of the road and turned its face toward the crossroads and, in all probability, Mollie's runaway car.

"No wonder they want to repair the road," said Frank when they were well under way. "If the rest of it is any worse than this I should think they would need a new one."

"There's Mollie's car, straight ahead," said Grace a moment later. "I wager they are just sitting there as large as life, laughing at us."

"Let them laugh," said Frank savagely. "It's good to see somebody happy."

"Well, if that's all you want," sang Betty, cheerily, "just look at Grace and Mrs. Irving and Allen and me. I, for my part, am having the time of my life. And look, everybody," she added, "it isn't raining nearly so hard as it was. We will be seeing the sun next!"

"There is just one thing that is better to have along than the sun," said Allen, softly. Mrs. Irving, hearing, smiled knowingly to herself.

When they overtook the car ahead, Roy explained that they had gotten out of the way to make room for Frank's big car to turn around.

"You surely gave us plenty of it," Frank remarked dryly, upon hearing the explanation. "But we will have to hurry now if we expect to get anywhere before dark."

As they all heartily agreed to this, especially Mrs. Irving, there was no further discussion and the cars swung down the narrow side road at a very good pace—good, that is, considering the going.

They had been riding for half an hour when suddenly Betty's prediction came true. The rain stopped entirely and the sun peeped out from behind the clouds, touching the leaden sky with gold.

"I knew it, I knew it!" cried Betty in delight. "Now we can take down the top, can't we, Frank? Oh, let's do it!"

"Mighty good suggestion, Betty," Frank agreed, bringing the car to a stop once more. "The good old sun sure does change everything, doesn't it?"

Five minutes later the cars started on again, with the breeze fanning the faces of the occupants and the sun pouring down goldenly upon them. As Frank had said, "The world was a different place to live in."

A moment later those in Frank's car were surprised to see Roy stop his automobile and signal them to draw up alongside.

"Did you see that gypsy girl who just passed in front of us?" Mollie whispered when they had done as they were desired. Then, as the girls nodded assent, she continued excitedly: "Well, I am almost sure she had on that jet necklace that disappeared with mother's silver! Oh, if we could only follow the girl we might find that too! Oh, can't we—can't we?" she added, fairly dancing with excitement.

"Sure, come ahead, fellows!" cried Allen, who was always ready for adventure. "Did you see which way she went, Roy?"

"Over this way, I think," Roy answered. "We may be able to trace her to the gypsy camp. There must be one near here, and it is probably the same."

"We'll be back in a minute," called Will, and then the boys disappeared in the underbrush.

"Oh, I'm afraid to have them go," whispered Betty fearfully. "Suppose one of those murderous-looking gypsies should stab them in the back!"

"One gypsy couldn't do it all," said Grace with a little nervous laugh. "I guess they can take care of themselves, Betty. We needn't worry."

"What do you think, Mrs. Irving?" Amy asked quietly. "The boys went off in such a hurry they didn't give you a chance to say anything if you had wanted to."

"I imagine talking wouldn't have done much good anyway," answered Mrs. Irving with a smile. "Besides, there should not be any danger if they only keep their wits about them."

"Oh, mother will be the happiest woman in the world if they can only find her silver for her." Mollie was so agitated she was actually trembling. "Girls, do you think they will?"

"There, there, don't get so excited about it, Mollie, dear," cautioned the Little Captain. "You may be sure the boys will do the very best they can."

At the end of the hardest hour they had ever spent, for inaction was not easy for Outdoor Girls, they heard the welcome sound of masculine voices and the regular tramp-tramp of the boys' feet.

"Oh, oh," they cried together in whole-souled relief, while Mollie added eagerly: "Did you get it—did you?"

Allen, who was in the lead, shook his head regretfully. "We couldn't find a sign of anything," he said. "Not even the camp."

"But if you didn't find anything, what ever in the world kept you so long?" Betty demanded. "We imagined all sorts of horrible things happening to you."

"Oh, you couldn't get rid of us," said Will, cheerily. "We hated to come back empty handed—that's all."

"Well, we are mighty glad to get you back," said Mollie, who, after the first disappointment, had become resigned to the inevitable.

"That's the way to make them appreciate us; eh, fellows?" said Frank, as he flung himself into the car. "They don't realize how good we really are till they think we are gone."

"Right you are, Frank," said Roy. "What do you say to full speed ahead?"

"Full speed ahead it is," Frank agreed, and they were off like a shot down the road.



The Outdoor Girls and their boy friends made good time for the rest of the journey and it was not quite sundown when they came in sight of the beautiful shores of Lake Tarracusio.

"We will have to leave the automobiles somewhere in town, won't we?" asked Amy, as the two machines drew up side by side for a final consultation.

"Of course," said Grace. "According to Mollie's description of the rickety old steamer I should think it would have all it could do to carry us—let alone the machines."

"There ought to be at least one big garage in town, Frank," Betty suggested. "Let's move along the main street until we find it."

"Nobody asks me for my advice," complained Mollie, in an injured tone. "And I am the most likely one to know about it."

Mollie gave the directions for finding the garage which her aunt had written. A minute later they drew up before the place and tumbled out, bag and baggage, in obedience to Frank's instructions.

While the boys were in the garage talking to the proprietor, the girls had a chance to look about them.

"Isn't it lovely?" cried Mollie delightedly. "It looks just like the little colored pictures of towns they have in the magazines sometimes. The same quaint little frame houses with green shutters and well-kept lawns in front——"

"And flower beds with borders of white shells," Amy finished for her. "I know just what you mean, Mollie; I've seen them myself."

"Girls," said Betty, jumping up from the overturned suitcase she was using for a seat, and speaking impressively, "I have a feeling——" here she paused for effect. "I have a feeling," she continued, "that we are going to have a good time."

"Humph," snorted Mollie. "Why don't you tell us something we don't know?"

"Get off the luggage, you girls!" Will commanded, good-naturedly. "The man in there says we have just exactly five minutes to catch that joke steamer for the island, and if he is right, we've got to hustle. Sling over that bag, Sis, will you?"

"With the greatest of pleasure," said Grace. "But will somebody kindly tell me how we are going to make that boat in five minutes?"

"By running like the very wind," Frank declared, and, picking up two suitcases in one hand, he propelled Grace down the street with the other. "Please hurry," he urged. "Never mind about your hats, girls. It will soon be so dark nobody will be able to see them."

"Shall we give them a race?" asked Allen of Betty, as they prepared to follow Roy, who had taken both Mollie and their gay little chaperon in tow.

"Let's," said Betty with dancing eyes. "Nobody knows us here and I wouldn't care if they did—better people than you and I have run for boats before, Allen."

"Oh, I don't know," he said, argumentatively. "Just as good, possibly, but never better."

"All right, have it your own way," she laughed. "Now do we begin? One—two—three—come on. We'll beat them even with the head start."

Off they raced, light and graceful and buoyantly alive. It was no task at all to overtake Roy, who was hampered by gasping little Mrs. Irving—who, although young, was not—so young. Next came Amy and Will, running easily, but Allen and Betty passed them as if they had been standing still.

"Oh, you will, will you?" Will shouted as they went by. "We'll see about that. What do you say, Amy, more speed?"

"Sure," said game little Amy. "I can go lots faster than this." So the two quickened their pace, but Betty and Allen were on wings, and, try as they might, they could not lessen the space between.

"Oh, well, we don't want to beat them anyway, do we?" said Will, when they had to give up.

"No, we wouldn't think of taking the fun from them," she panted, and they both laughed merrily.

Meanwhile the two champion runners had overtaken Grace and Frank and had started on the last lap to the wharf.

"There's the little steamer now, Allen!" gasped Betty. "Oh, do you think it will go without us?" As if for answer the whistle on the curious old ferry shrieked a warning to all would-be voyagers to Pine Island.

Allen's hand tightened its grasp of Betty's arm. "Are you game for one last spurt?" he asked her. "We may be able to make it."

Betty nodded her head, for just then breath was precious and not to be wasted in idle words. Silently, the two called on their splendid reserve strength, while arm in arm they sped along the shore to the dock. They reached it just in the nick of time.

"Hold on there, will you?" shouted Allen, with what he had left of his breath. "The rest of the party will be up in a minute."

True to his prophecy, in a moment's time the entire company was assembled on the ancient dock, tired and out of breath, but happy to be there nevertheless.

"You two are some classy little speed merchants," remarked Frank, slangily, while he regarded the pair thus designated with profound admiration. "I never knew two people could run so fast before."

"So this is the steamer!" said Grace, as soon as she could find breath enough to speak at all. "It does justify your aunt's description, Mollie, although it doesn't look quite so rickety as I expected."

"Probably she will look lots worse in the daylight," Will prophesied cheerfully. "Say, folks, what do you say to our making ourselves comfortable? We have quite some ride before us; eh, Mollie?"

"About half an hour's sail," corrected Mollie. "You ride in an automobile, but you sail in a boat."

"I don't see why ride isn't just as appropriate as sail in this case," said Will, sitting on a suitcase beside Amy, with his back against the rail, prepared to argue the point. "Especially since this old tub has never known a sail."

"Betty," Frank said, turning to that young person who was gazing dreamily out over the water, "what did they put in that basket when we stopped at the hotel this afternoon?"

"What?" she said, bringing her mind down to every-day things with an effort. "Oh, the basket! I wouldn't dare tell you that," she added, with sudden animation. "Boys, boys, if you could only see inside—if you only could—oh, how your mouths would water!"

"Just think," said Grace, tragically. "Here we have everything that goes to make up a romantic sail——"

"What, for instance?" Roy demanded. "If you call a leaky old ferryboat with the weather so damp that you can't touch the rail without feeling as if you have had a dip in the briny—if that's what you call romantic, then give me a good open fire and plenty of chicken bones to gnaw."

"Oh," said Betty in sorrow, shaking her head at the depths to which the boys had fallen. "Frank, I would never have thought it of you. Just the same," she added, in a stage whisper, "I wouldn't mind having a couple of them myself."

"Betty, Betty," Allen reproved her. "I thought——"

"Oh, Mollie, look there," cried Betty, pulling her friend towards her and indicating an indistinct shadowy bulk looming eerily before them. "Mollie, dear, that's the island, isn't it? I can't wait until I put my two feet on it."

"Oh, I wish we could see an inch before our noses!" said Grace impatiently. "I can't make out a single blessed thing."

"Probably going to rain some more," said Frank consolingly. "Never mind, Grace, whenever your heart begins to fail you, just think of—what, fellows?"

"Chicken!" they shouted, with one voice.

"You don't know you are going to get any, yet," Betty declared. "If I remember rightly, Frank is the only one who said anything about it, and he doesn't know what he is talking about."

"Betty, don't be heartless," Allen implored. "Is there or is there not a fowl in that basket?"

"There is!" she answered in solemn tones.

"Hoorah!" shouted Will. "Three cheers for the good old bird!"

As he spoke the little steamer scraped against the dock that was almost invisible to those on deck, then came to a full stop. The shrill whistle which Roy contemptuously characterized as a joke, broke the misty stillness with a shriek, that echoed and re-echoed, thrown back upon itself by some distant cave or hillside on the island.

"Goodness! I wouldn't mind a nice fire myself," said Mollie, shivering with something a little more than cold. There was something mysterious about this island, shrouded as it was in the clinging mist—something that made the girls draw close together for companionship. "I hope it will be more cheerful in the daytime—the island, I mean, not the fire," she added.

"Girls," cried Betty, "this looks like a regular adventure island. Maybe we'll find the gypsies here."

"Oh, don't," shivered Amy. "Don't talk about gypsies—until daylight, at least."

"Here comes the rain!" Roy shouted. "We'll have to hurry some, if we want to beat it to the house. Here, Will, take hold of this bag. Quick, I can't carry more than three at a time."

"Give it to Allen," Will advised, as they tumbled out on the tiny wharf. "I have more than my share already."

"Oh, all right," said Allen, "I'll be the goat. How about it, Betty—shall we give them another race? It looks as if a little speed would come in handy."

"No, let Mollie lead this time. I hope she knows the way."

"Of course I do," said Mollie, coming up behind them. "There isn't any way to find. The house is at the end of the wharf. Follow us and——"

"You'll get something to eat," Roy finished for her. "We have the basket."

"Then you needn't worry about our following you," said Allen. "Only if you don't look out we will get there before you after all. Come on, Betty," and for the second time that day the young folks had a chance to test their skill in running. The main thing was that they got there before the rain.



The morning dawned clear and bright. Mollie woke first in the large, sunshiny room which the girls had chosen to occupy together during their stay on Pine Island.

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