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Billie Bradley and Her Inheritance by Janet D. Wheeler

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window. "Are you ready, girls?"

The answer was a concerted rush for the stairs and in another minute the
girls were out in the bright sunlight, running to meet the stage.

The driver, who had been nodding in his seat, looked up as if surprised
at so much energy so early in the morning.

"Oh, please hurry," cried Billie, exasperated at the stupid look on the
boy's face. "Don't you know that we're late already?"

"No'm, you're not late," he assured her in a voice that matched his
manner. "The ten-thirty train's always 'bout half an hour late, anyways."

"Well, that's just the reason it will probably be on time this morning,"
remarked Billie, scrambling in after the girls. "When I'm late the trains
are always early. Please hurry," she added, and the driver clucked
half-heartedly to his team.

All the way down they worried for fear they would be late, but when they
reached Roland at last they found that their rural driver knew the habits
of trains in that part of the country better than they did, for they had
a full thirty-five minutes to wait.

However, they roused from their despondent attitudes when they heard a
familiar whistle in the distance, and began automatically to straighten
their hats.

"Suppose they made up their minds not to come on this train?" Violet
suggested, but Laura cut in hastily.

"If you're going to start worrying all over again about something
different," she said, "I'll put you on the track and let the train run
over you."

At this dire threat Violet stopped worrying, vocally at least, and they
stood first on one foot, then on the other, eagerly watching the train as
it rounded a curve and came pounding down toward them.

It had hardly drawn up to the station with a screeching of brakes and
come to a standstill before a cyclonic trio of boys leaped from one of
the rear cars and came dashing toward the girls, waving hats and bags and
various other personal articles high in the air as they came.

"I say, but it was bully of you girls to come to meet us!" shouted Ferd
Stowing, as they came within hailing distance. "It was more than we
expected, eh, fellows?"

"Sure! Didn't think you'd be up yet," answered Teddy, looking exceedingly
handsome--at least to Billie.

"Up yet!" cried Billie, trying to look angry, which she could not do
because she was altogether too happy and excited. "I don't know where you
boys get your ideas, anyway."

"Out of our brilliant craniums," said Ferd modestly. "I say, girls, where
do we go from here?"

"There's an old carriage that looks as if it were on its last legs,"
laughed Violet, leading the way back to where the antiquated vehicle and
its sleepy driver awaited them. "We came up in it, but I don't know how
we're all going to squeeze into it going back."

"Say, fellows, we forgot to get our trunks," said Chet, interrupting
himself in the midst of an earnest conversation with his sister. "Give me
your checks and I'll go back and see about them."

"But if there isn't room for us, how are we ever going to get our baggage
to the house?" Teddy asked.

"We'll get the wagon that took ours up," Laura answered. "We've got to
get some provisions, anyway."

So with a great deal of fun and laughter they looked up the ancient wagon
and went to the general store to get a formidable supply of provisions.

"Looks as if you were buying the store out," Teddy remarked, as Billie
pulled out a long list of items. "What's the big idea?"

"You boys," said Billie, dimpling at him. "We knew what kind of appetites
you would bring along with you, so we decided on safety first"

"Now we know you girls are bright," said Ferd admiringly, and Billie made
a face at him.

The ride to the house was one big lark. The boys sat on the trunks among
the provisions, and the girls went off into gales of merriment at their
comical efforts not to step on the eggs or fall among the fruit. They
were having such an awfully good time that even the solemn old driver had
to join in the fun.

At last they reached Billie's house, and with much ceremony the boys
jumped down from the wagon and ran to the carriage to help the girls out.
And all they got for their pains was scorn and derision on the part of
the girls.

"Get out of the way before I step on you, little speck of dust," Laura
cried haughtily to Ferd, who turned up his collar and slunk along toward
the house as though his humiliation were more than he could bear, amid
shouts of laughter from the merry crowd that followed him.

"That's the way to treat 'em, Laura," Chet cried, but at that Ferd
turned upon him.

"Say, you'd better look out," he said belligerently. "I can't hit a

"A which?" murmured Billie, with a wicked glance in Laura's direction.

"For calling me names," continued Ferd, glaring at Chet, who began to
tremble in mock fright; "but there's nothing to keep me from wiping the
ground up--"

"Yes there is! It's my ground, and I won't have it wiped up," said Billie
decidedly, at which Ferd had to laugh and the mock war came to a close.

"Say, this is some classy place, what?" said Chet, stopping in front of
the rambling old house and regarding it admiringly. "Have you met with
any ghosts yet, girls?"

"Oh, half a dozen," said Laura indifferently, and he was just about to
ask some more questions when Mrs. Gilligan met them at the door and began
giving instructions.

After that there was nothing to do but obey, and the boys and girls did
not meet again until lunch time. Then they regarded each other across the
table joyfully.

"I say, let's go for a tramp in the woods this afternoon," Ferd
suggested, after he and the other lads had taken a look around the house.
"This is the prettiest, wildest country I've ever seen, and I'd like to
nose about a little."

"But we thought you'd like to see what the attic and cellar look like,"
said Billie. "We had the afternoon all planned."

"Let's do that to-morrow," Ferd begged boyishly. "This is too nice a day
to spend indoors."

So it was decided to go outside and as soon as the dinner dishes were
cleared away--at which the boys assisted without so much as a
grumble--the young folks started out on their tour of discovery.

The girls had spent much of their time in the old house since their
arrival, for they had found an almost inexhaustible supply of strange
corners and unexpected rooms and peculiar ornaments that had
fascinated them.

But to-day, as they felt the warm sunshine on their heads, as the wind
caressed their faces and the scents of the woodland bathed them in
perfume, they were glad they had let the boys have their way and had
decided to spend the glorious afternoon in the open.

"Did you win the tennis singles?" Billie asked of Teddy, as she stopped
to smell a bunch of strange flowers. "I was rooting for you."

"Were you?" asked Teddy eagerly.

"For you--and Chet," she added demurely, and laughed to see his
face fall.

"But did you?" she asked.


"Win the tennis singles, silly? Can't you remember a thing two seconds?"

"Why, yes, we did," he answered absently, his gray eyes on
Billie's lovely mischievous face. "In fact, we just ran rings
around them. I guess--"

He stopped short as they came upon the other young people. A couple of
bearded men had come out of the woods and confronted the crowd. Each man
carried a heavy club. They were the fellows who had once passed the girls
without speaking.

"You can't go any further this way," one of them said in a rather gruff
tone. "We're growing a new variety of corn and want to keep the seed to

"What's that?" demanded Chet in astonishment

"You heard what I said. You can't stay here, and you can't go that way."

"You want to get out of here," growled the second man. "Come, move on."

"You can't steal any of our corn-growing secrets. Move on," and the first
man shook his club suggestively.

The strange men looked ugly, and the boys and girls, after a pause,
turned off in another direction.

"Humph!" grunted Ted, with a curious glance at the place where the men
had been. "They made a mistake. That wasn't a corn story. It was a
fish story!"

"Maybe," returned Billie. "But what does it mean?"



There was so much of interest about the house, and outside of it, that a
week passed almost before the young folks knew it.

The boys were for exploring the cellar, and did so one fine day, taking
the girls along.

They had a flashlight, a lantern, and some candles, and all these
combined gave them quite an illumination. But the girls kept close to the
boys, for the cellar was certainly a creepy place, with its many nooks
and corners and dark closets.

They managed to find two tunnels, one about fifty feet long and the other
close to a hundred.

"Caved in!" cried Chet in disgust.

He was right; dirt and rocks filled the openings, both of which were
quite wet.

"I'll bet they led to the brook," remarked Teddy. "When the Indians made
a raid the settlers could crawl through one tunnel or the other and so
hide in the brook."

"I think Ted must be right," said Ferd.

There was but little of value in the cellar. Old tools, rusted with age,
and some empty bottles and jugs, and that was about all.

"It's awfully musty," said Billie presently. "I'm going upstairs and out
into the sunshine." And she went, and the others soon followed.

Billie had received the address of Miss Beggs, the school-teacher. It had
been sent to her address at home and forwarded by Mrs. Bradley.

"Now, I guess I'll have to write that letter to the teacher and explain
all about the broken statue," said Billie dismally. "Oh, dear, I wish I
didn't have to do it."

"It's too bad we haven't the money to pay for the old thing," came from
Chet. "Can't we sell some of this stuff? It must be worth something."

"But who will buy it?"

"I don't know."

There was a long consultation among the girls, and at last Billie managed
to write the letter.

"There," she said, when she had given it to the store boy to post, "now I
feel better. The confession part of it is off my mind, anyway. If I can
only pay for the old statue--or buy another one like it--I'll be
happy--or nearly happy."

She added the "nearly happy" as the thought came to her that even with
the broken statue paid for and off her mind she had still another ordeal
before her. In a couple of weeks their vacation would be up at Cherry
Corners, and soon after that she would have to see Violet and Laura and
the boys, except poor Chet, go off to boarding school, while she and her
brother would be left behind.

Oh, well, she would not think of that just yet. They could at least enjoy
the time they were to spend at Cherry Corners.

And they did enjoy it! There was never a minute of the day for which
something interesting was not planned.

Then one night, when they had almost forgotten that the house was
supposed to be haunted, they had an experience that brought back all
their old fears of the place--"and then some," as Teddy said.

Billie sat up in bed suddenly with the familiar chilly feeling up and
down her spine and her hair showing a tendency to pull away from her
prickly scalp.

The piano was sounding--all the way from treble to bass! And it was the
middle of the night with everybody in bed!

She put out a hand and shook Laura and Violet to consciousness.

"Oh, girls, it _is_ the ghost this time!" she said in a scared whisper
that made them wide awake in an instant. "It--it's playing the piano!"

"A--a musical ghost?" giggled Laura hysterically, but Billie pinched her
into silence.

"Keep still," she cried. "There it is again!"

The girls listened to the eeriest, weirdest music they had ever
heard, and Violet slipped shivering under the covers and hid her face
with the sheet.

"C-come out of that," cried Billie, pulling at the sheet. "What g-good do
you suppose it's going to do to put the sheet over your head? Come on,
I'm going to investigate."

With sudden determination she slipped out of bed and stood up.

"Billie," gasped Laura, "you're never going to go down there?"

"I'm going to call the boys," said Billie, who, despite all her
determination, could hardly stand up her knees trembled so. "We'll all go
and rout that old ghost. He's got to," she added with a hysterical giggle
that matched Laura's, "get off my piano!"

Fearfully the girls watched her start into Mrs. Gilligan's room. Then
Laura pushed down the covers and got to her feet.

"If Billie isn't afraid," she said stoutly, "I don't see why I should be.
Are you coming, Vi?"

"I s-suppose so," said poor Violet, more afraid of being left alone than
of facing the ghost in company with the others. "If you're going
I--I've got to."

So it was that Mrs. Gilligan was startled to find three ghostly, scared
figures standing by her bed calling nervously to her to "please wake up."

"For goodness' sake, what's the matter?" she said, rubbing her eyes and
staring at them sleepily. "Have you heard your ghostly motor again?"

"Oh, much worse!" cried Violet.

"We heard a ghost playing a piano!" said Laura.

"Listen," commanded Billie. "There it goes again. Oh, Mrs. Gilligan, I'm

Mrs. Gilligan listened, and even she, matter-of-fact, humorous Irishwoman
that she was, felt that same strange tendency on the part of her hair to
stand up straight in the air.

"Well, here's the time for my rolling pin," she said, jumping out of bed
and wrapping a kimono hastily about her. "We'll call the boys and see
what that piano thinks it's doing anyway."

So they called the boys. The three lads were on tiptoe with excitement at
the thought of an actual encounter with a ghost.

"And a musical ghost, at that," crowed Ferd, as they started down the
stairs with the girls following cautiously and holding their candles over
their heads.

"Say, don't make so much noise," cried Chet in a stage whisper. "You'll
frighten his ghostship away. I wouldn't miss seeing a real ghost for
anything you could offer me."

"In here, fellows, here's the piano," Ferd directed, and, their hearts in
their mouths, the girls watched them go into the dark room.

"Ouch! hang that chair," they heard Ferd cry out. "Come on with those
lights, girls. I'm ruining all the furniture."

Nervously the girls followed them in, throwing the light of the candles
on the old piano, but, as far as they could see, nothing had been

The ancient instrument stood as dignified and aloof as ever, and in the
whole room not a chair was out of place.

"Nothing here," said Chet, looking disappointed. "Say, the girls promised
us a regular show, fellows, and they haven't come across."

"What shall we do to 'em?" asked Teddy, looking almost equally

"But we heard it," said Billie, shivering with excitement.

"It was just as if somebody had taken the back of his finger," Laura
added, "and run it all the way down the keyboard from the top note of the
treble to the last note of the bass."

"Oh, you must have been dreaming," said Ferd, opening the piano to
examine it inside.

"No, they weren't dreaming," said Mrs. Gilligan seriously. "Because I was
very much awake when I heard it."

"You heard it, too?" asked Chet, beginning to be interested again.

"I certainly did," said Mrs. Gilligan, with a grimness that left no room
for doubt. "And I'm not given to imagining things, either."

"Well, I move we look around a bit," suggested Ferd, who was always
eager for action. "The ghost may have retreated to the dining-room or

"No, siree!" said Violet decidedly. "If the rest of you want to go
roaming all over this gloomy old place at night you can do it, but you'll
have to leave me out."

"Vi's right," said Mrs. Gilligan, just as the boys were about to
protest. "There isn't any use going into this thing any further to-night
and getting the girls all upset. I'll stay down here awhile and see what
I can see."

"Let me stay with you," asked Chet eagerly.

"And me."

"And me."

Ferd and Teddy spoke almost in the same breath.

"No, I want you all to go up and get into bed," said Mrs. Gilligan
decidedly. "If I see anything," she added, with a grim smile, "anything
that looks like a ghost that is, I'll call you."

"That's a promise," said Chet, looking back over his shoulder as he
reluctantly followed the others upstairs. "Because if I should miss
getting a look at that ghost, I'd be disappointed for life."

"Well, I've had enough of spooks to last _me_ forever," said Laura, with
a shivery glance over her shoulder as the boys left the girls at their
door and started off down the hall. "If that piano begins to play itself
again to-night, I'll just die, that's all there is to it."

The girls crept into bed, careful to leave their candles burning.

"You know, Billie," said Violet in an awed little voice, "this thing is
really getting serious."

"I should say so," agreed Laura, drawing the bed clothes a little tighter
about her.

"Well, it isn't my fault, is it?" asked Billie. "I didn't ask Aunt
Beatrice to leave me a haunted house. And, anyway," she added very
truthfully, "it was you, Laura, who first suggested coming here."

"Yes," went on Violet accusingly, "and it was you who said you'd be
disappointed if you didn't see a ghost or two."

Laura groaned.

"What's the use of holding things up against me that I said when I was
young and foolish?" she asked. "Anyway, I didn't think we would really
see anything."

"Well, we haven't," said Billie. "All we've done is to hear things--"

"But we've heard plenty," sighed Violet. "There! What's that?"

The girls listened, feeling almost ready to scream, but could hear
nothing but the sighing of the wind in the tree tops.

"Only the wind, silly," said Laura, then added with an almost
comfortable feeling at the thought: "Mrs. Gilligan's on guard anyway."

"Yes," said Violet, adding with a sigh that seemed to come from her very
toes: "I only hope the piano doesn't swallow her up before morning. I've
come to expect almost anything!"



The piano did not swallow Mrs. Gilligan up, and, as a matter of fact, the
good woman did not stand guard until morning. Half an hour of sitting
alone in that gloomy room watching a piano that had played itself was
enough to ruin even her seasoned nerves.

Once back in her room she scolded herself for being such an idiot,
laughed at her fears, and, being a normal, healthy woman, fell almost
instantly to sleep.

In the morning the girls themselves felt somewhat inclined to laugh at
the fright they had had, and yet they knew that what had happened had
been no figment of their imaginations. The sound, though weird and eerie,
had been real--even Mrs. Gilligan would testify to that.

"Well, I tell you what we ought to do," said Ferd, as he sat down to a
huge plateful of breakfast. "We fellows ought to take turn and turn about
keeping watch. There must be some reason for the noise the girls heard,
and I won't be happy until we find out what it was."

"I think you have the right idea," replied Chet, decidedly. "The only
condition I make is that I be allowed to stand the first watch."

"You'll do nothing of the kind, any of you," broke in Mrs. Gilligan, with
that slight tightening of her upper lip that the girls and boys had come
to know--and respect. "That's a fine way to see all sorts of things that
ain't and hear all sorts of things that never happened. Sit up in the
dark, waiting for something to happen! I guess not!"

"But we can't just sit back and let the piano perform like that every
night, can we?" asked Ferd, in an argumentative tone. "I'd rather stay
awake part of the night than all of it."

"Don't you even want to solve the mystery?" asked Chet, in an
aggrieved voice.

"Mystery--humph," grunted Mrs. Gilligan, feeling very brave and
disdainful in the bright sunshine. "I don't believe there's a bit of
mystery in the whole thing."

"Then what made the piano play?" Teddy insisted. "You said yourself that
you heard it."

"Oh, I heard it all right," said Mrs. Gilligan, helping herself to more
jam. "There isn't any doubt about that. But I have an idea what caused
it, all right."

"Oh, tell us," they cried eagerly.

But their chaperone shook her head determinedly while her lip became
still tighter.

"No, indeed I won't tell you," she said, adding with a little chuckle: "I
want to try it out myself first. For I know that if I told you young ones
about it you'd only laugh. And I don't like being laughed at."

"But we wouldn't laugh," Billie assured her earnestly. "Really,
Mrs. Gilligan, we'll promise on our word of honor not to so much as
even smile."

"Get out with your promises," said Mrs. Gilligan, relapsing into her
brogue. "I do be knowing you better. I'll try it to-night," she
added graciously, "and if it doesn't work I'll tell you about it in
the morning."

"I suppose here's where I spend another sleepless night," said Violet
dolefully, helping herself to more biscuits. "Oh, well, I'm getting so I
can do without sleep now."

"Well, you don't look as if you'd ever lost a wink in your life," said
Chet, glancing at her admiringly, for it was an open secret with the
boys and girls of North Bend that Chet rather especially liked tall,
dark, peace-loving Violet Farrington--perhaps because she was so much
like himself.

Violet blushed prettily at this complimentary remark, and the girls
looked at her teasingly.

"Who was it that said something or other was blind?" asked Laura
wickedly, and Violet kicked her under the table.

"Peace, my children," said Billie. "We're having enough trouble with
ghosts and things without starting a war among ourselves. Who'll have
some more jelly?"

There was a simultaneous shout of approval, and the jelly dish began its
fourth round of the table.

However, they did at last get through eating and wandered out on the
front porch, where Mrs. Gilligan could not scoff at their ideas, to
discuss the doings of the night before.

But it was only a little while later that Mrs. Gilligan put another
damper on their fun by announcing that some one would have to go to town
for more provisions. The boy had failed to come that morning, and their
supply of canned goods was running dangerously low.

"Let's all go," Chet suggested. "We could walk down and ride back."

"But, oh, Chet, it's so frightfully hot," Billie objected. "I'm sure we'd
get sunstroke or something."

"Yes, it's a terribly long walk," added Violet.

"Well, we could wait till toward evening," said Ferd. "It wouldn't be so
scorching then. I admit," he added, taking a slanting squint at the sun,
"that even I am not eager to take a long hike just now."

"But toward evening we'll be preparing supper," objected Laura, and the
boys threw up their hands in despair.

"Well, then we'll just have to go without you," said Teddy. "But it would
be lots more fun if you'd come." This last was said to Billie and for her
ear alone.

That afternoon the girls watched the boys down the road till they
were out of sight, then turned back to the house with a strangely
lonesome feeling.

"You know," said Violet, pausing on the doorstep and looking back at the
girls with a rather sober face, "I have a sort of feeling that
something's going to happen."

"Well, you'd better get rid of it right away," retorted Laura. "We don't
want anything more to happen--especially when the boys are away."

This time Violet proved to be right. Something did happen. It was after
dark, the boys had not yet got back from the village, and the girls were
setting the table in the kitchen--they had never found the courage to eat
in the gloomy dining-room--when Violet set a dish down on the table with
a bang that made the girls start and look at her in surprise.

As for Violet, she was too scared to speak for a moment. Then she
stammered out:

"The strange motor car!" she said, while Billie and Laura stared at her.
"I thought I heard it before--"

"Sh-h," cried Billie, and they listened, hardly daring to breathe.

There was the same strange humming sound that had so startled them on
their first night in the house, only this time, instead of coming from a
distance and passing by, the noise seemed to get louder, then softer,
louder and softer, as if whatever it was were approaching and retreating
at regular intervals.

At that moment Mrs. Gilligan came into the room, and the girls called to
her to listen also.

"That?" she asked, with a little laugh. "Why that's an automobile of
course," and started for the front door. "Only I must say it's behaving
mighty queer."

But when they opened the door and looked out into the rocky road there
was no sign of an automobile, and yet the humming sound still kept on.

As they listened, wide-eyed, the noise grew softer and softer and
gradually died away in the distance.

The girls looked at each other wonderingly. Then it was Billie who
offered a solution.

"Mightn't it be an aeroplane?"

"An aeroplane in this part of the country?" Laura was inclined to scoff
at the idea, but Mrs. Gilligan and Violet both stood up for Billie.

They were about to enter into a heated argument when they saw the wagon
that had by this time become familiar to them coming down the road with
the boys seated in it or hanging to it in characteristic attitudes.

The girls ran out to them and deluged the lads with questions before they
had time to learn what it was all about.

"A motor car?" asked Chet. "No, we didn't pass a soul on the way up

When the girls had poured into their interested ears the story of the
queer humming sound that had just repeated itself, they agreed to one man
to Billie's suggestion that it was very probably an aeroplane.

"I'll tell you what we'll do next time we hear it," said Teddy as the
boys picked up the provisions they had brought and started toward the
house. "We'll go up on the roof. Then we'll pretty soon see whether it's
a ghost or the real thing."

"And in the meantime," suggested Chet, sniffing the air hungrily, "how
about some supper?"



It was not long before there came a recurrence of the strange humming
noise which had so disturbed the girls. It was only a few nights later
that Chet sat up in bed with the joyful feeling that here at last was a
chance to investigate at least one of the ghosts that haunted the
homestead at Cherry Corners.

"Ferd! Teddy! Wake up! What's the matter? Are you dead?" he called
to the boys.

The latter reluctantly opened their eyes and looked at him reproachfully.

"Can't you let a fellow sleep?" Teddy asked. But Chet, with no ceremony
whatever, hauled him bodily out of bed and set him on his feet.

"Don't talk," he ordered. "Run as fast as you can to the roof before
we miss it."

"What are you raving about?" asked Ferd, although both he and Teddy
started obediently toward the attic stairs.

"If you wouldn't talk so much, you could hear it," Chet answered, pushing
up a trap door that led to a small square platform on the roof. "It's
the motor sound the girls heard and that scared them so."

"It is, for a fact!" cried Teddy in a joyful whisper. "And it's coming
right near, fellows, too."

"It's an aeroplane all right," said Ferd, with conviction. "Nothing else
ever made a noise like that."

"Say, what are you doing up there?" a girl's voice hailed them from the
bottom of the steps, and Chet thought he recognized it as Billie's. "Are
you walking in your sleep or have you gone crazy? Come down here quick,
we need you."

"Keep still," Chet yelled back. "We're looking for your aeroplane ghost.
Can't you hear it?"

"Yes. But, oh, Chet," Billie's voice was tremulous, "the piano is playing
itself again. Won't you come down? We're afraid to stay here all alone."

"Great Scott! all the spirits are roaming at once," cried Teddy,
straining his eyes to see through the darkness as the humming of the
motor came nearer.

"There, isn't that it?" cried Ferd, pointing eagerly through the trees
toward a little patch of sky, palely illumined with stars.

"I think I saw it," said Chet, rubbing his eyes impatiently. "It's so
confoundedly dark--"

"Oh, won't you please come down?" wailed Billie's voice from the
spooky depths of the attic. "I'll die of fright if I have to stay here
another minute."

This appeal moved the boys, and they began reluctantly to descend the
ladder, keeping their eyes all the time on the pale patch of sky.

"Where are the others?" asked Teddy, as he reached Billie's side.

"They're down looking for the ghost," answered Billie, as she ran down
the stairs in front of them. "They sent me to get you boys, and I found
you gone. Mrs. Gilligan," she added, with a hysterical giggle, "has the
broom and Laura has the poker."

"Maybe we'd better stop on the way and gather up a few bedposts,"
suggested Ferd, as they took the last flight of stairs on a run and
landed in the lower hall.

"Hello, did you find anything?" sang out Chet, as the girls, looking
scared but valiant, came out to meet them. "Where's Mrs. Gilligan?"

"Inside," said Violet "There isn't a thing to be seen any more than
there was the other night. I'm absolutely positive now that it must
be a ghost."

"Well, if it is, he's got a sense of humor," said Mrs. Gilligan, rising
from her knees where she had been peering into the corner behind the
piano. "I've heard of all sorts of spirits, but I never heard of one who
insisted upon playing the piano in the dead of night."

"He must have been a musician in his life time," suggested Chet. "That's
the reason he comes and haunts the piano."

"Well, I don't see why he doesn't choose a regular piano to haunt,"
said Billie, feeling irritable because she was very sleepy and had been
very much frightened. "It's bad enough for a live person to play, let
alone a ghost."

"And where could it have gone?" wondered Laura, her eyes big and dark
with excitement. "The minute we heard the noise--I guess we're sort of
listening for it even in our sleep--we jumped up and came down here while
Billie went to call you boys. It was playing almost up to the minute we
came into the room."

"And maybe we weren't afraid to go in!" said Violet, with a shudder. "I
don't know how we ever got the courage."

"Well, you only came because Mrs. Gilligan and I went ahead with the
broom and the poker," sniffed Laura.

"Was it playing when you came down the stairs?" asked Chet, interested.
"And did it stop as soon as you entered the room?"

"Yes," it was Mrs. Gilligan who answered this time. "And it was good for
him he did. I've lost enough sleep through the miserable rascal and I was
just ripe for a tussle."

"I don't blame him for running," said Teddy, with a chuckle.

"But where did he go?" asked Laura again. "We were sure that we'd see
something--goodness knows what--when we turned the corner of the room."

"And all we saw was a--a large amount of nothing at all," added Violet,

"Perhaps," suggested Ferd, with a chuckle, "the aeroplane we heard
belonged to him--"

"A ghost's aeroplane," murmured Billie, smothering another
hysterical chuckle.

"And when you girls came in he just soared skyward and went off in it."

"It's funny we never thought of that," said Teddy scornfully.

"Well, I wish we could find out what it is," sighed Billie, as they
started upstairs again. "This staying awake all night isn't very
much fun."

"But isn't it strange," asked Laura, stopping on the landing and looking
back at them, "that both the piano and the motor should start again on
the same night?"

"Yes, it is, rather," said Chet, adding seriously: "I wonder if there
could really be any connection between the two."

"There's no use wondering, that I can see," said Mrs. Gilligan, preparing
to send them off to their respective bedrooms. "I think the best thing we
can do is not to notice them any more. Perhaps the ghosts will get tired,
if they find they don't worry us," this last with a chuckle.

"Well, but they do worry us," said Violet plaintively. "Every time I hear
that piano, I just about die of fright."

"Listen," commanded Billie, and as they listened they heard it
again! The ghost, or whatever it was, was surely making a joke of
them that night!

As soon as the boys could recover from their surprise they tumbled down
the stairs, tripping over each other in their hurry, while the girls
followed more slowly.

But again the noise stopped abruptly, and when they entered the room
there was nothing to be seen or heard.

"Say, this thing is making me mad!" cried Ferd, glaring at the old piano
as though it were the offender. "I don't mind meeting an
honest-to-goodness ghost, but I'll be hanged if I'll let him laugh at

"I don't see how you're going to help it," said Teddy. "Come on, fellows,
it's pretty nearly morning, and we can decide then what we'll do to catch
Mr. Ghost. I'm so sleepy I'm apt to fall asleep on my feet."

So they went upstairs again, feeling rather miserable and dragged out
with excitement, and crawled into bed.

"If this thing keeps up much longer, I'll just be a wreck, that's all,"
groaned Laura, and almost immediately she fell asleep.

After a little while of staring into the dark, Billie and Violet followed
her example, and once more there was quiet in the old house.

Nothing more disturbed them, but they woke the next morning, tired and
cross and with a decidedly "morning after" feeling.

"I don't want to get up," complained Violet, turning restlessly in bed
and punching her pillow. "I can't get more than one eye open."

"Shall we send for the doctor?" asked Billie, regarding her sleepily.
"That sounds like a serious complaint."

"Humph, I don't need a doctor," grumbled Violet. "I can prescribe for my
case better than he could. What I need is a rest cure."

"So say we all of us," echoed Laura sleepily. "I'm going to take
another nap, girls, and if anybody dares to wake me up, I'll throw my
hair brush at them."

"I'm going to get up," decided Billie. "I'll only get a headache
lying here."

"Well, I hope you enjoy yourself," said Laura, and settled herself in a
still more comfortable position.

While Billie was dressing the two girls fell asleep again, and as
she turned to look at them she almost wished that she had followed
their example.

"But I knew I couldn't sleep," she said, turning away, "and, besides, I'm
getting very hungry."

But when she started down the broad staircase she found that she was the
only one stirring in the house, and a strange, lonesome feeling took
possession of her.

"Ugh," she cried, glancing about her distastefully, "it's the gloomiest
place I ever did see. I'll be glad when we leave it. That is, I would
be," she added wistfully, "if only Chet and I were going with the others
to boarding school."

She wandered into the room where the old piano stood and looked at it
musingly for a few minutes. Then suddenly a thought struck her, and she
clapped her hands gleefully.

"I wonder--" she said, then, remembering an old rat trap that she had
come across several days ago, ran into the pantry to get it. She baited
it with a fresh piece of cheese and set it carefully on the piano.

"Now," she said, standing back and regarding her work with satisfaction,
"we shall see what we shall see!"



It was ten o'clock before the girls finally came down, and it was still
later before the boys appeared. Mrs. Gilligan and Billie had had
breakfast together, and Billie had confided to the older woman her
suspicions in regard to the ghostly player of the old piano.

"But we won't tell the boys and girls," Billie had said, with a
delightful sense of conspiracy. "We'll wait and see if it works."

As the young people came in, looking famished, Mrs. Gilligan rose and put
some cold muffins in the oven to heat.

"You won't get very much to eat," she warned them. "Billie and I had our
breakfast at a respectable hour, and now you've got to take what's left."

"I don't care what you give us, as long as it's food," said Ferd, looking
about him anxiously. "I'm just about starved to death."

"It seems to me I've heard that remark somewhere before," said Billie,
laughing at him. "Hurry up and eat, you folks," she added, as she set a
dish of fried hominy before them. "We girls haven't really made a
thorough examination of the attic yet, and I'm just dying to poke into
all the corners."

"Yes, I always did like attics," said Laura, adding, as she swallowed a
delicious morsel: "But, I like fried hominy more!"

"Won't you come too?" Violet asked the boys, as, their breakfast over,
the girls started up to the attic. "We'd love to have you and you might
find it interesting."

"No, thanks," said Teddy decidedly. "I can think of lots better things
to do than go roaming about a hot old attic when the thermometer is
ninety-six in the shade. I'm going for a walk in the woods. How about
it, fellows?"

"Yes, and see if we can come across those old fellows with the beards
that told us the corn-fish story," chuckled Chet "You know," he added, "I
have wondered several times since then what the old fellows were up to.
Somehow, I'm mighty sure they didn't tell the truth."

"I tell you what!" cried Ferd eagerly. "Let's push on in the direction we
were going the other day and see what's being pulled off in there."

"Yes, and get shot most likely," sniffed Laura. "I don't think much of
that idea."

"Well, we didn't ask you to come, did we?" Ferd asked.

"No, and I don't think it was very nice of you, after we invited you to
our party," Violet put in, trying to look aggrieved.

"Oh, please won't you come with us?" asked Ferd, bowing elaborately
before her.

Laura gave him a little push which precipitated him in a rather abrupt
manner into a chair and completely spoiled his gallantry.

"I'll get even with you," he threatened good-naturedly, during the laugh
that followed at his expense. "But say, fellows, you haven't answered my
question. Are you game?"

"Sure we're game," they answered, and Chet added, as he picked up a stick
he had found in the woods several days before and had modeled into an
excellent club: "If they start any funny business they'll find me ready
for them."

"Oh, boys, do be careful!" Billie begged, really afraid that their love
of adventure would get them into trouble. "I didn't like the looks of
those men. And they had clubs."

"Maybe--" said Violet in an awed voice. "Maybe they're--what do you call
them--the fellows that make whiskey--"

"Moonshiners?" Teddy helped her out, and the boys shouted with laughter.

"All the more reason why we should find them out," said Ferd, as they
started from the room. "It's our duty," he turned in the doorway to make
them a bow, "to turn them over to justice."

"It must be a disease," laughed Billie, as the girls ascended the old
staircase together.

"Well, I hope they live through it," added Laura, with a chuckle.

"I found a funny old closet yesterday," said Billie, as they came out
into the musty attic. "I was just going to open it and see what was
inside when you girls called me for something. Here it is," indicating a
small door, the top of which was only on a level with their shoulders.

"I never saw so many queer things in one place in my life," said
Laura, peering down as Billie opened the door. "I didn't know they
grew that way."

"We'll have to stoop down to get in here," said Billie, poking her head
into the stuffy dark hole disclosed. "And look, girls!" she exclaimed
excitedly, as her eyes became accustomed to the gloom. "The closet runs
away back an awfully long way, and there seems to be something bulky at
the other end of it."

"Well, let's go in," said Laura, giving Billie an impatient little push.
"We can't find anything by standing here. Billie, what's the matter?" for
Billie had started back so suddenly that she had almost thrown Laura off
her balance.

"It's another of those horrid old bats," she gasped, bending down as an
indistinct little shape fluttered past her. "I shouldn't think they could
live in the closet without air or anything to eat."

"It probably flew in when you opened the door the other day," Violet

Once more Billie bent down and felt her way into the narrow closet.

"Don't try to stand up, girls," she cautioned. "You're apt to get an
awful bump on the head."

"I've already had one," said Violet, rubbing the bumped spot tenderly.
"Goodness, it smells musty in here."

"Girls, it's a trunk!" cried Billie, leaning down to examine the bulky
object she had seen at the other end. "A pretty big one, too, and oh," as
she attempted to lift one end, "awfully heavy."

"A trunk," Laura repeated excitedly. "That sounds interesting. Can't you
pull it out, Billie?"

"I'll try," replied Billie, adding with a chuckle: "But I
shouldn't wonder if you girls would have to help by pulling me.
My, but it's heavy!"

However, after much hauling and pulling, Billie finally succeeded in
backing out of the closet, pulling the trunk after her. Then standing up
and brushing the hair out of her eyes, she regarded it gleefully.

"Everything in the house is mine," she reminded them, as she stooped down
again to examine the lock, "so I have a perfect right to look in
anything I find."

"Well, nobody's arguing about that," said Laura, sitting down on the
floor, regardless of a fine coating of dust, and helping Billie in her

"Hasn't it any key?" asked Violet eagerly.

"Of course not, silly," Laura answered. "What would be the use of a
locked trunk if you kept the key around where everybody could see it?"

"Well, I didn't even know it was locked," Violet said, rather
heatedly for her.

Billie jumped to her feet and gave the trunk a sudden jerk.

"Girls!" she cried, "did you hear that?"

"Hear what?" they chorused eagerly.

"But, didn't you hear it rattle when we pulled it out of the closet? I
thought so then. Now I'm sure. Oh, girls!"

"What is the matter, Billie?"

"I jerked the trunk," explained Billie, while the color tinged her face,
"and it jingled! Yes it did, it actually jingled!"

"Billie!" cried Laura looking wide-eyed and awed, "do you mean it sounded
like _money_?"

For answer Billie reached down and gave the trunk another jerk. Sure
enough, there was the unmistakable jingle of metal against metal as
though the trunk were filled with coins.

Their hearts beating fast, hardly able to speak with excitement, the
girls stood and stared down at this new discovery.

"I--I feel like Captain Kid!" gasped Billie, her cheeks crimson now.
"Like Captain Kidd when he found the treasure. Girls, do you really think
it _is_ money?"

"It certainly sounds like it," said Violet in a voice tremulous with
excitement, as she reached down and gave the trunk another jerk just for
the fun of hearing its contents jingle.

"Well, let's get it downstairs," suggested Laura, wildly impatient to see
the treasure, if treasure it were. "We certainly can't open it ourselves
without a key. Oh, if the boys were only at home!" she added with an
impatient little stamp of her foot "It seems to me they're never around
when you want them."

"Maybe we can call them back. They haven't had time to go far," said
Billie, stirred to instant action by the thought. "Come on Laura, you
take one end, Vi can steady it at the side, and we'll at least get the
trunk downstairs. That's the way! Now then!"

After a good deal of pushing and lugging, and a spasm of fright when the
trunk almost fell on Laura, they finally succeeded in getting their
burden down to the second floor.

There the girls left it and started hastily down the stairs in pursuit of
the boys. They had gone only half the way, however, when they were
startled by a tremendous crash and explosion outside and stood still,
their hearts in their mouths.

"Oh, now what has happened?" cried Violet as they rushed down the rest of
the steps and started for the front door.

Half way to the door Mrs. Gilligan met them, holding a rat trap in her
hand from which hung, suspended, a dead rat.

"Where did you get that?" the girls cried in chorus.

"It's Mr. Rat, the piano player," said Mrs. Gilligan, adding as she
pushed past them and ran to the door: "Did you hear that awful noise
outside, girls?"

"Did we hear it?" they cried, following her.

"Oh, Mrs. Gilligan, what do you suppose it was?" asked Violet, pressing
close to her.

"Somebody is probably hurt," answered the woman, adding as though to
herself: "Terribly hurt! Hope it ain't the boys!"



The girls never remembered very clearly what happened after that. They
had a vague and confused recollection of seeing the boys gathered around
something in the bushes at the brook that groaned a little and made queer
sputtering noises.

Then the boys bent down and began extricating the groaning thing from the
wreck of something.

"Chet, what is it?" cried Billie, with an impression that she was living
a dream. She tried to push past him, but her brother stopped her.

"Stay away, Sis," he ordered. "The poor fellow's hurt--we don't know how
badly--and I'd rather you would go back to the house."

"But if he's hurt, there's all the more need for us," insisted Billie,
sudden decision in her voice. "We know first aid. Let us past, boys."

Not exactly knowing why they obeyed her, the boys drew aside and she ran
to the side of the prostrate figure on the ground, the other girls
following half reluctantly.

The boys had succeeded in removing the man from the wreckage--one
glance about them told the girls that the wreck had once been an
aeroplane--and the man, who was elderly, lay quite still, looking up at
them with sick eyes.

"Oh, can't we get him up to the house?" cried Billie, clasping her hands
in pity and looking appealingly at Mrs. Gilligan. "Then we can send for
a doctor--"

But it was the hurt man himself who interrupted.

"I--I'm all in," he said, speaking with great effort. "It won't do any
good to move me--"

"But it might," cried Violet, coming down and leaning compassionately
over him while her eyes filled with tears. "Do you think--it would
hurt--too much--"

"Come on. Let's try it, fellows," said Teddy, speaking with sudden
decision. "We can't leave him here to die, perhaps," he added softly. "We
can at least make an attempt to save his life."

He bent down, and, putting a hand under each of the man's arms, lifted
him slightly, eliciting a moan of pain.

"You take his feet, Chet, and, Ferd, you support his back," he directed.
"Now then--"

The boys started to obey, but at the first touch the man cried out in
such pain that they were forced to put him down again.

"It's something in here," said the old fellow, while the girls and boys
stood looking helplessly at him, not knowing what to do. He put a hand
over his left side. "Something's broken. I--I was trying to--invent a new
kind of aeroplane," he went on jerkily, and in spite of the tragic
circumstances the young folks felt a thrill of excitement as they
realized that here perhaps was the secret of that strange humming noise
that had so badly frightened and bewildered them.

"The second ghost," murmured Teddy softly, as though to himself, but
Billie, standing close beside him, heard.

"A new kind of aeroplane," Chet prompted, gently but with an unusual
light in his eye.

"Yes. And this was its--trial flight," the old man said with a world of
bitterness in his voice. "The engine exploded. I guess it shows that I'm
pretty much of a failure--in every way."

"I don't see why," cried Billie, her warm heart eager to give him
comfort. "There may have been just some little thing the matter that
you--What's that?"

"That" was the sound of running feet and a crackling of bushes, and the
next minute two men burst out into the clearing. They were red of face
and breathless, and when they saw the old man and the wrecked machine
they stood stock still and stared in consternation.

With a start the girls and boys recognized the men as those whom they
had met in the woods that other day not so long ago--the men who had so
curtly ordered them to "go the other way."

So the corn story was a fish story after all, and the old inventor's
vain attempt to make a new kind of flying machine was the key to all
the mystery!

"Are you very much hurt, Dad?" cried the younger of the two men, leaning
anxiously over the old man. Again the young folks were startled. So one
of the bearded men was the old man's son!

"All in, Son, I guess," answered the old man. With a sigh he laid his
hand over his left side and whispered: "I'm all smashed to pieces. The
engine exploded."

"Well, let's see about that," said the second of the two men, pushing the
younger aside and beginning to rip open the old man's shirt.

Up to that time neither of the men had thrown a glance in the direction
of the wondering boys and girls--in fact they gave every impression of
not having seen them at all.

The older of the two men was working feverishly--he seemed to be a
doctor, judging from the skill with which he tapped here and pressed
there, evidently trying to find out what bones were broken, if any.

And all the time the old inventor kept up a feeble moaning.

"He must be very much hurt indeed, or very, very old," thought Billie
as, with one hand clasped tightly in Laura's and the other gripping
Violet's arm, she watched intently.

"Why, this isn't so bad after all," announced the man at last, looking up
from his patient with a light in his eyes that made him look very boyish
in spite of the beard on his face. "Your father's terribly bruised and
battered up, Stanton," he said, addressing the old man's son, who had
been looking on with strained attention, "but as far as I can see the
only bones broken are a rib or two. We'll soon fix you up as good as
new," he went on, turning again to the old man.

The latter looked surprised and left off moaning.

"You mean I'm going to live?" he asked incredulously, adding with a faint
little attempt at a smile: "Why--why, I was sure I was--done for!"

"No indeed," said the "doctor-person"--as Billie had already dubbed him,
rising briskly to his feet. "You'll live to fly many another aeroplane,
Mr. Parsons. Now will you let your son and me take you home?"

Such is the power of mind over matter, the inventor hardly made any
outcry at all when his son and the "doctor-person" lifted him between
them and started off through the woods.

As he turned about, the doctor's eyes rested on the boys and girls and he
stopped short, apparently really seeing them for the first time.

"Hello," he said. "I beg your pardon, but I scarcely noticed you,"
adding, more by way of explanation than excuse: "You see I was very much

"Oh, we don't mind," said Billie truthfully, adding as the doctor turned
toward her: "Is there anything we can do to help the--the inventor?"

"Oh, so he told you then," said the doctor, with a vexed frown. "No,
thanks, there's nothing you can do. We'll be back for the pieces of the
aeroplane later."

And without another glance the strange trio disappeared into the woods.

For a long minute the boys and girls stood staring after the strange men
dazedly, then they turned to each other with a sigh.

"Well!" said Laura explosively, "if everything isn't happening to us at
once, then my name isn't Laura Jordon. To think that our ghost turned out
to be an inventor after all!"

"You look as if you were disappointed," gibed Ferd, beginning to recover
from his bewilderment. "We'll manufacture a brand new ghost if you say
so, but it may take time--"

"Goodness, you needn't bother," said Violet, going over to the wrecked
machine and regarding it wonderingly. "We've had enough of ghosts to last
us a lifetime. My, that poor old inventor must have had a terrible fall."

"It's a miracle," said Teddy, who had joined her and was looking down at
the wreck soberly, "that he ever came out alive. I agreed with him at
first, that he was all in."

"Well, let it be a lesson to you," said Chet with mock gravity, "never to
let your ambitions soar to aeroplane inventing."

"If that's meant to be a joke," said Laura bitingly, "I must say it's as
much of a failure as our old inventor himself. Well, girls," she added,
turning back to them, "I don't suppose there's any use staying around
here any longer. Let's go back to the house."

It was not till they were entering the grim old door of the grim old
house that they thought again of Billie's new discovery--the trunk
that jingled.

"Goodness! how could we ever have forgotten it?" cried Billie as she,
with Violet and Laura, fairly flew up the stairs, leaving the bewildered
boys to follow them.

"Now what's up?" asked Teddy, as he came into the room where the girls
had left their treasure. "So many things are happening all at once that
it's enough to make a fellow's brain reel."

"It all depends on the brain," said Billie, looking up at him with a
twinkle in her eye. And all Teddy did was to look sad and reproachful.

"Say, what shall I be doin' with this?" asked Mrs. Gilligan, and they
turned to see her great bulk looming in the doorway. In her hand she
held the rat trap with the dangling rat.

"Gee, where did you get it?" cried Chet, jumping to his feet from where
he had been kneeling with Billie, examining the shabby trunk.

Mrs. Gilligan paused a moment and a gleam of humor shot into her eyes.

"You've been askin' to see ghosts, Mr. Chet," she said, with a chuckle,
"and you sure have got your wish this day. That airman was the first.
Here is the second one!"



Chet looked bewildered for a minute--then disgusted, an expression that
was faithfully reflected on the faces of the other boys.

"A ghost! That?" he said, pointing scornfully at the dead rat. "What do
you mean?"

"Oh, Chet!" cried Billie, springing to her feet in her turn. "That's
another thing we forgot. This is Mr. Rat, the piano player."

"Have you all gone crazy, or have I?" cried poor Chet, looking still more
bewildered. But suddenly Teddy saw light.

"You mean the musical ghost," he cried, laughter in his voice. "The one
that has had us chasing down flights of stairs on dark nights?"

"With the chills running up and down our spines and our hair standing on
end?" added Ferd, following his lead.

"The very same," responded Mrs. Gilligan, the gleam deepening in her

"But how did you catch it?" asked Violet, for the girls, all
except Billie, who had originated the idea, were as much in the
dark as the boys.

"With a trap," said Billie, her own eyes beginning to sparkle.

"But who thought of it?" Violet insisted, ignoring the sarcasm.

"You see before you the girl who invented it," said Billie with a

"Great pumpkins, another inventor!" groaned Ferd, and sent them off into
a spasm of laughter.

"Oh, tell us about it, Billie," Laura entreated. "You can be the most
aggravating thing!"

"Stop calling me names or I'll never tell you," threatened Billie, at
which Laura looked as meek as Laura could ever look.

Thereupon Billie recounted to an interested audience the events that had
led to her idea that it might be a rat that was making a joke of them all
and how she had decided to put her idea to the test.

"Say, think of getting excited about a mouse!" cried Ferd incredulously,
when she had finished.

"It wasn't a mouse--it was a rat," corrected Billie.

"But it might have been a mouse," Ferd protested, but Billie broke in

"No it mightn't," she said decidedly. "A mouse could never have made
noise enough for us to hear when we were upstairs in bed."

"Right you are," said Ferd, taking off an imaginary cap to Billie. "I
have to hand it to you, Billie--you're right there."

"You said it that time, old man," murmured Teddy very softly, but Billie
heard him and looked up at him with laughing eyes.

"Come help us open our trunk," she said, turning away suddenly.

"Whose trunk is it?"

"Where did you get it?"

"Looks as if it had come out of Noah's ark."

These and many more comments piled one on top of the other as the boys
looked at the old trunk, which did indeed appear old enough to have
satisfied the most ardent collector of antiques.

"Why, it's my trunk," said Billie, when she could make herself heard
above the babble. "We found it in the attic. But I don't see what
difference it makes where we got it," she added impatiently, getting down
on her knees once more and shaking the trunk as if it were to blame.
"Won't you please get busy and open it, boys? Aren't you a bit curious to
see what's inside?"

"Is there a key?" asked Ferd, and Billie looked up at him in despair.

"Of course not, silly," she said. "Don't you suppose we'd have had it
open ages ago if there had been a key? You'll have to break it open, or
pick the lock, or something."

"Say, she's insulting us! Thinks we're thugs," murmured Ferd, as he,
with the other boys, got down on the floor and began to examine the
trunk eagerly.

"Yes, where do you suppose we got our experience in picking locks?" added
Chet, looking aggrieved.

"Goodness, I don't care whether you pick the lock or what you do as long
as you get it open," cried Billie, half wild with impatience now that the
fateful moment had arrived. "You can use dynamite for all I care."

"Maybe that's what's in it," suggested Teddy, and the girls screamed.

"Teddy! Of all the wet blankets!"

"Well, you never can tell," said Teddy, adding wickedly, as Ferd started
to set the trunk on end: "Be careful there, Ferd; she may explode, as the
aeroplane did."

"Somebody give me something to throw at him," cried Laura indignantly.
"Anyway," she added triumphantly, "we know there isn't dynamite in it or
we'd have been blown to bits long ago. We dragged it down stairs."

"Yes, and we didn't do it very gently either," added Violet.

"It has a pretty strong lock," said Chet, getting to his feet and
rumpling up his hair thoughtfully. "I'll have to get a hammer and a wedge
of some sort."

"Oh, there are all sorts of tools down in the tool-house," Billie cried
eagerly, and Chet looked at her as though she had said she had discovered
a gold mine in the back yard.

"Tools!" he repeated, his eyes shining. "Are they good ones?"

"I don't know anything about tools," said Billie. "But it looked as if
there were hundreds of them--"

Chet waited to hear no more. Like a streak of lightning he was out of the
room and racing down the stairs.

"Tools!" he was saying gloatingly to himself, "hundreds of them!"

Upstairs Billie turned and looked at Teddy in dismay.

"Now what have I done?" she cried. "If he once gets among those tools we
won't see him for hours. Teddy," and she looked appealing enough even to
melt Teddy's hard heart, "won't you go after him? You will have to just
tear him away--"

However, the two boys were back sooner than the girls expected, for they
were very curious about the contents of the small shabby trunk, which had
so evidently been hidden away in the darkest corner of a dark closet in
the attic.

"Say, those are some tools, Billie," said Chet jubilantly, as he pried
away at the lock. "You could do just about anything with them--anything
from making a house, to breaking into one. I say," he added, stopping
work to look at her entreatingly, "don't you remember mother saying that
Aunt Beatrice left you the house and me--the tools?"

The girls and boys laughed, and Billie patted his shoulder fondly.

"No, I don't remember anything of the sort," she said, imitating his tone
to perfection. "But if you're a good boy and open the trunk in a hurry,
I'll deed them to you, Chet--every last tool in the tool-house."

"Honest to goodness?" cried Chet, his eyes beaming.

"Honest to goodness, brother mine."

Then Chet fell to work with fresh enthusiasm on the lock.

It was a stubborn old lock, and required a good deal of patience--which
the girls had not--and tinkering to make it give way.

But it gave at last, and girls and boys leaned forward with sighs of pure

"Open it," cried Laura impatiently, but Billie put her hand on the lid
and faced them with shining eyes.

"We'll each have just one guess," she said, "and see who comes nearest to
guessing right."

"I bet it's money," cried Chet.

"That isn't fair, I was going to bet that too."

"So was I--"

"And I--"

Billie threw up her hands in despair.

"Of course, if you're all going to guess the same thing it's all ruined,"
she said, then added, as she bent forward and started to lift the cover:
"I don't know that I blame you, though, for I was going to guess the very
same thing!"

"Oh, Billie, hurry! You're so slow!" cried Laura, jumping up and down
with excitement. "Do get at it!"

"Shall I do it?" asked Violet, feeling an almost irresistible desire to
push Billie away and fling back the lid. Why was she so slow?

"One--two--three!" cried Billie, and then the lid was off and they were
staring down into the contents of the trunk.

For a minute they stood motionless. Then, as though moved by one impulse,
they dropped to their knees and buried their hands in something that
jingled at their touch!

The trunk was full to the brim with old coins, many quite rare, while
scattered here and there were postage stamps on sheets and loose,
queer, foreign looking things that made Billie's eyes glisten as she
looked at them.

"It must have all belonged to Uncle Henry," she said, in an awed voice.
"Aunt Beatrice once said he had a hobby for collecting postage stamps and
old coins--"

"But it _is_ money," cried Laura, finding her voice at last, her blue
eyes dark with excitement. "Why, Billie, these old coins must be worth a
big lot of money!"

"You bet! It's a treasure," said Teddy soberly. Then with a little smile
he turned to Billie--Billie who was vivid and breathless with the great
discovery. "Allow me to present to you, ladies and gentlemen, our old
friend, Captain Kidd!"



"Billie, it's worth a small fortune!"

'I'll bet the stuff is worth several thousand dollars."

"Yes, every bit of it."

"Oh, boys, as much as that?" questioned Billie, half hysterically.

"Of course," came from Teddy. He was on his knees in front of the
treasure box. "See these coins? Gold, every one of 'em--and as big as ten
dollar pieces, too."

"Count 'em," cried Chet.

Then began a hasty move on the part of both girls and boys to count the
gold and silver. Poor Billie's hands trembled so she could scarcely help.

"I make it the gold and silver alone are worth at least three thousand
dollars," declared Teddy.

"And don't forget the copper coins," added Ferd.

"And remember too they are old coins and worth something extra from a
collector's point of view," said Chet.

From the coins the young folks turned to the postage stamps. Chet and
Teddy had done a little stamp collecting once and knew that some of the
stamps were rare.

"I think they are worth at least fifteen hundred dollars more," said
Teddy, "and maybe they are worth twice that. Some stamps are worth a
hundred dollars apiece."

It was not until they were called below by Mrs. Gilligan that they gave
up speculating about the value of the trunk. The boys went off, leaving
the girls to themselves.

"It's too good to be true," murmured Billie, over and over again.

Both of the other girls put their arms about her.

"You deserve it," said Laura.

"I'm awfully glad, Billie, really I am," beamed Violet.

"Why, I'll be able to go to Three Towers Hall!" cried Billie, a little
later, when thinking it all over. "And I can send Chet to Boxton Military
Academy. Won't that be fine?"

"And you can have enough left to pay for that old statue," added Laura,
with a smile. "I knew something good would come out of this queer old
house at Cherry Corners."

"Well, you needn't take all the credit to yourself," said Billie, the
lilt of happiness and excitement in her voice. "Just remember, young
lady, that it was little Billie Bradley who discovered the trunk."

"You stuck up thing," cried Violet, putting a fond arm again about her.
"Billie, dear," she went on in the serious voice that was Violet's very
own, "I'm just exactly as glad for myself that you found the money as I
am for you. Because if Laura and I had had to go to Three Towers without
you we wouldn't have enjoyed a single thing."

"Yes, we've been worrying terribly about that," sighed Laura, and
affectionately Billie patted a hand of each.

"There never was a girl had such wonderful friends," she said, and
something in her throat tightened a little. "And it makes the trunk three
times as valuable," she added, in a lighter tone, "because it makes three
people happy instead of one. Which reminds me--" she stopped short and
put her hand over her mouth in consternation.

"Now what's the matter?" Violet surveyed her anxiously. "Is there a pin
sticking you, or something?"

"Of course not," denied Billie absently, adding as she rose hastily to
her feet: "It just struck me that I've known this wonderful thing for
hours and I haven't written home about it yet."

"Well, you'd better read these first," sang out a cheery voice from the
door, and they turned to find Teddy coming toward them with some letters
in his hand.

"Letters!" was the joyful cry. "Give them to us, Teddy, before we take
them from you."

"Oh, do you really think you could?" he asked, holding them behind his
back by way of challenge. "Just come on and try. I'll guarantee to hold
off the three of you with one hand."

But it was Billie's pleading face that made him change his mind.

"Please, Teddy," she begged, "I've just been dying for some letters from
home. Don't keep me waiting."

"All right, your word is law," said Teddy gallantly, remembering that he
had read the phrase somewhere and it had sounded very good. "Here you
are, and here's one for Vi and two for Laura."

"Goodness, what have I done to get only one?" cried Violet, feeling very
much abused.

"Well, your one looks fat enough to make up for our two," Billie assured
her diplomatically, then settled back to enjoy her own letters, while
Teddy ran out to join the boys downstairs.

One of her letters was from her mother, and with a loving smile she laid
it aside to be read last--she always saved the best till the last. The
writing on the other envelope puzzled her.

"Now, who is writing to me from Mayport, Long Island?" she demanded, and
the girls looked up inquiringly from their letters.

"Another mystery?" asked Laura, for there were not enough mysteries in
the world to satisfy Laura.

"It doesn't look very mysterious," answered Billie, turning the envelope
around and around in her hand and finally holding it up to the light to
see if she could get any clew to its contents that way. "But I surely
never did see that handwriting before. I wonder--"

"Well, why don't you open it?" Violet inquired impatiently. "It seems to
me that's the best way to find out."

"Isn't she the bright child?" sniffed Laura, as Billie tore open the
envelope and pulled out the letter inside. Hastily she looked for the
signature at the end, then gave a little excited exclamation.

"Girls," she said, "it's from Miss Beggs!" And she looked at them with
wide eyes, forgetting for the moment that she had no more reason to fear
a letter from the teacher. Then she remembered, and a joyful smile dawned
on her face.

"Girls, I've been sort of dreading this letter all summer," she said,
her eyes sparkling, "and now when it's come I don't mind a bit. Isn't it
just wonderful? I have money enough of my own to replace that horrid
'Girl Reading a Book' and two or three more like it. Now," she said,
settling down with a satisfied little sigh, "if you'll allow me, I'll
read my letter."

The girls watched her as she read and were amazed to see her expression
change from satisfaction to surprise and from surprise to something
like chagrin.

"Well, if that isn't the limit!" she cried, laying down the letter and
regarding the girls disgustedly. "Here I've been worrying myself--and
Chet--sick all summer about that horrid old statue and now when I've got
the money to pay for it, I find out that I probably wouldn't have had to
replace the old thing anyway."

"What do you mean?" the others asked, more puzzled than ever by this
flow of words.

"Why," Billie went on to explain, glancing at the letter again, "Miss
Beggs says that the statue had been broken before and she had attempted
to mend it. She says that I'm not to worry over it, for it would have
been only a matter of time before it had fallen to pieces itself anyway.
Now what do you think of that?"

"I think," said Violet, with a sigh, "that we have wasted a good deal of
time and worry over nothing at all."

"Well, I don't see any use of looking doleful about it," said Laura
briskly. "I should think you'd be glad, Billie, that you won't have to
buy a statue. It will give you that much more money to have for

"Oh, but I'll buy a little statue, anyway," said Billie decidedly. "It's
awfully nice of Miss Beggs to tell me not to bother about it, but the
fact is that I _re_broke the statue, whether it was broken before or
not. And, anyway, I'll be glad to do it now," she added, with a little
gleam in her eye, "just to show Amanda Peabody that I can!"

"I say, up there, aren't you ever coming down?" called Chet's voice from
the bottom of the stairs, and Laura went out into the hall to see what
he wanted.

"We're making plans for the fall," Chet added, and in his voice was a
little joyous thrill that made Billie's heart sing. Dear old Chet--if
ever a boy deserved to get what he wanted, he did. "And if you don't come
down and help us, we're going to leave you out," he added challengingly.

"Better come up here," suggested Laura, adding decidedly. "We can't come
down, you know."

"I'd like to know why not!"

"We can't leave the trunk," Laura explained patiently, as if she were
addressing a particularly stupid child. "It's too precious."

So in the end the girls had their way, and the boys joined them in the
upstairs room which came the nearest to being cheerful of any room in the
house, except the kitchen.

At first the boys talked and the girls listened. But gradually the bits
of fancy work were laid aside, the girls joined in the conversation,
while eyes shone bright and faces glowed with anticipation of what the
autumn held in store for them.

And while Laura and Violet and the two boys were talking happily and all
at once, Teddy took the opportunity to whisper in Billie's ear:

"I suppose, being a young lady with a large fortune," he said teasingly,
delighting in the color that rose to her face, "you won't find time to
recognize your old friends any more."

And with a dimpling smile and mischief in her eyes Billie answered him.

"Of course not," she said, adding a trifle more seriously: "Except only
the friends who stood by me so loyally and offered to help when I had no
'large fortune,'"

"And are you going to tell me," asked Teddy eagerly, "the names of
those favored friends? I know I didn't do anything, Billie, but am I
one of them?"

"Your name," said Billie, half laughing and half serious, "is at the very
head of the list."

"Do you really mean--" Teddy was beginning eagerly, when Laura called to
them laughingly.

"Whispering in corners not allowed," she cried. "Come over here and help
us decide what we'll eat for our first midnight feast at Three Towers
Hall. We must have midnight feasts, you know."

"Of course we must," cried Billie joyfully. "Doesn't it sound delicious?
Oh, we're going to have a wonderful time!"

And just how wonderful a time they had and just how merry and fun-loving
they found the girls at the boarding school will be told in the next
volume of the series entitled, "Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall; or,
Leading a Needed Rebellion." In that volume may be met the girls and the
boys again in adventures as queer and exciting as those already

"Well, Billie, you can't complain of your inheritance after all," said
Chet some time later.

"Indeed not!" she answered. "Wasn't it the best ever?"


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