Part 1 out of 4
THE MOTOR GIRLS SERIES
by MARGARET PENROSE
Author of the highly successful "Dorothy Dale Series"
12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 75 cents, postpaid.
Since the enormous success or our "Motor Boys Series," by Clarence
Young, we have been asked to get out a similar series for girls.
No one is better equipped to furnish these tales than Mrs.
Penrose, who, besides being an able writer, is an expert
THE MOTOR GIRLS ON A TOUR
I A SPOILED DINNER.
II THE WOODLAND CONFERENCE.
III "NO BOYS!"
IV THE STRANGE PROMISE.
V A LITTLE BROWN WREN
VI THE HOLD-UP
VII A CHANCE MEETING.
VIII JACK AND CLIP
IX THE MYSTERIOUS RIDE.
X "THEY'RE OFF!"
XI THOSE DREADFUL BOYS.
XII THE GIRL IN THE DITCH
XIII AT THE GROTTO
XIV THE PROMISE BOOK LOST
XV ROB ROLAND
XVI A STRANGE MESSAGE
XVII THE ROAD TO BREAKWATER
XVIII THE CLUE.
XIX PAUL AND HAZEL
XX AT THE MAHOGANY SHOP
XXII THE CHILDREN'S COURT
XXIII THE MOTOR GIRLS ON THE WATCH.
XXIV CORA'S RESOLVE.
XXV A WILD RUN
XXVI LEGAL STRATEGY
XXVII AGAINST THE LAW
XXIX MERRY MOTOR MAIDS
XXX THE PROMISE KEPT
THE MOTOR GIRLS ON A TOUR
A SPOILED DINNER
The big maroon car glided along in such perfect rhythm that Cora
Kimball, the fair driver of the Whirlwind, heard scarcely a sound
of its mechanical workings. To her the car went noiselessly - the
perfection of its motion was akin to the very music of silence.
Hazel Hastings was simply sumptuous in the tonneau - she had
spread every available frill and flounce, but there was still
plenty of unoccupied space on the luxuriously cushioned "throne."
It seemed a pity to passers-by that two girls should ride alone on
that splendid morning in the handsome machine - so many of those
afoot would have been glad of a chance to occupy the empty seats.
Directly following the Whirlwind came another car - the little
silver Flyaway. In this also were two girls, the Robinson twins,
Elizabeth and Isabel, otherwise Belle and Bess. Chelton folks
were becoming accustomed to the sight of these girls in their
cars, and a run of the motor girls was now looked upon as a daily
occurrence. Bess Robinson guided her car with unmistakable skill
- Cora Kimball was considered an expert driver.
Sputtering and chugging close to the Flyaway came a second
runabout. In this were a girl and a boy, or, more properly
speaking, a young lady and a young gentleman. As they neared the
motor girls Bess called back to Belle:
"There come Sid and Ida. I thought they were not on speaking
"They were not, but they are now," answered Belle with a light
laugh. "Why should a girl turn her back on a young man with a
brand new machine?"
"It runs like a locomotive," murmured Bess, as, at that moment,
the other car shot by, the occupants bowing indifferently to the
Robinson girls as the machines came abreast.
Cora turned and shook her head significantly when the third car
had forged ahead. She, too, seemed surprised that Ida Giles
should be riding with Sid Wilcox. Then Bess rolled up alongside
"My, but they are going!" she called to Cora. "I thought Ida said
she would never ride with Sid again."
"Why not?" flashed Cora merrily. "Isn't Sid's car new and -
"Like a dandelion," put in Belle, who was noted for her aesthetic
tendencies. "And, precisely like a dandelion, I fancy that
machine would collapse without rhyme or reason. Did you every try
a bunch of dandelions on the table?"
The girls all laughed. No one but Belle Robinson would ever try
such an experiment. Everybody knew the ingratitude of the yellow
"I can never bear anything of that color since my valentine
luncheon," declared Belle bravely. "That's why I predict disaster
for Sid's new car."
"They have dropped something!" exclaimed Hazel as she peered ahead
at the disappearing runabout.
Bess had taken the lead.
"Let's put on speed," she suggested, and, pulling the lever, her
car shot ahead, and was soon within close range of the yellow
"Be careful!" called her sister. "You will run over - "
It was too late. At that moment the Flyaway dashed over something
- the pieces flew in all directions.
"Their lunch-hamper!" exclaimed Belle.
The runabout had turned to one side, and then stopped. Bess
jammed on the brakes and also came to a standstill.
"Well!" growled Sid Wilcox, approaching the wreck in the road.
"I - couldn't stop," faltered Bess remorsefully.
"I guess you didn't try," snapped Ida Giles, her cheeks aflame
almost to the tint of her fiery tresses.
"I really did," declared Bess. "I would not have spoiled your
hamper for anything."
"And your lunch was in it?" gasped Belle. "We're awfully sorry!"
Bent and crippled enameled dishes from the lately fine and
completely equipped auto-hamper were scattered about in all
directions. Here and there a piece of pie could be identified,
while the chicken sandwiches were mostly recognizable by the fact
that a newly arrived yellow dog persistently gnawed at one or two
particular mud spots.
"Oh, we can go to a hotel for dinner," announced the young man,
getting back into his car.
"But they ought to pay for the hamper," grumbled Ida, loud enough
for the Robinson girls to make sure of her remark.
"We will, of course," called Bess, just as Cora and Hazel came up,
and then the Wilcox runabout darted off again.
"Table d'hote?" called Cora, laughing.
"No, a la carte," replied Bess, picking up a piece of damaged
celery, putting it on a slice of uninjured bread and proffering it
"What a shame!" sighed Hazel. "Their picnic will be spoiled."
"But look at the picnic we've had," put in Belle. "You should
have seen Ida's face. A veritable fireless cooker."
"And Sid - he supplied the salt hay," declared Bess. "I felt as
if I were smothered in a ton of it."
"And that was the peace-offering hamper," declared Cora, alighting
from her car and closely viewing the wreck. "Jack told me that
Ida gave Sid a handsome hamper for the new car."
"I told you that the yellow machine would turn - "
"Dandelion," Hazel interrupted Belle. "Well, I agree with you
that was an ungrateful trick. To demolish the lunch, of all other
available things to do, on a day like this!"
"Souvenirs?" suggested Cora, removing her glove to dig out of the
mud a knife, and then a fork.
"Oh, forget it!" exclaimed Bess. "I am sure I want to. Let's get
going again, if we are to make the Woodbine Way in time to plan
the tour. I'm just crazy about the trip," and the enthusiastic
girl expended some of her pent-up energies on the crank at the
front of the Flyaway.
Cora was also cranking up. "Yes," she said, "we had best be on
the road again. We are due at the park at twelve. I expect Maud
will have the family tree along and urge us to stop overnight at
every gnarl on the `trunk.'"
"We might have asked Ida and Sid," reflected Belle aloud,
"Yes," Bess almost shouted, "and have them veto every single plan.
Besides, there are to be no boys on this trip; Lady Isabel please
"As if I wanted boys!" sneered her sister.
"As if you could have them if you did!" fired back Bess in that
tantalizing way that only sisters understand, only sisters enjoy,
and only sisters know how to operate successfully.
"Peace! peace!" called Cora. "If Belle wants boys she may have
them. I am chairman of the acting committee, and if boys do not
act I would like to know exactly what they do."
"No boys!" faltered Hazel, who, not owning a machine, had not as
yet heard all the details of the proposed three-days' tour of the
"Nary a one!" returned Bess, now about to start.
"If we had boys along," explained Cora, "they would claim the
glory of every spill, every skid, every upset and every `busted
tire.' We want some little glory ourselves," and at this she
threw in the clutch, and, with a gentle effort, the Whirlwind
rolled off, followed closely by the Flyaway.
"I suppose Sid and Ida are licking their fingers just about now,"
remarked the good-natured Bess.
"Very likely," rejoined her sister, "for I fancv their meal was
made up of buckwheat cakes and molasses, as Sid had to pay for
"Oh, I meant sheer deliciousness," corrected her sister. "I
'fawncy'" - and she imitated the dainty tones used by Belle -
"they have had - "
"Backbiting and detraction," called Cora, who had been close
enough to hear the sisters' remarks. "I would not have been in
your place at that table, Bess, for a great deal."
Bess tossed her head about indifferently. She evidently knew what
to expect from Ida and Sid.
"Now for a straight run!" announced Cora, throwing in third speed.
"We must make the bridge by the quarter whistle or the Maud Morris
family tree may have been consumed for luncheon. I particularly
want a peg at that tree."
"We're off!" called Bess, following with additional speed.
Then the Whirlwind and the Flyaway dashed off, over the country
roads, past scurrying chicks and barking dogs, past old farmers
who turned in to give "them blamed things" plenty of room, out
along Woodbine to the pretty little park where the plans for the
first official run of the motor girls were soon to be perfected.
THE WOODLAND CONFERENCE
In the first volume of this series, entitled "The Motor Girls; Or,
A Mystery of the Road," we became acquainted with these vivacious
young ladies. Cora Kimball, the first to own her own motor-car,
the Whirlwind, was the only daughter of Mrs. Grace Kimball, a
wealthy widow of the little town of Chelton. Jack Kimball, Cora's
brother, a typical college boy, had plenty to do in unraveling the
mystery of the road, while his chums, Walter Pennington and Edward
Foster, were each such attractive young men that even to the end
it was difficult to guess which one would carry off the highest
honors socially - with Cora as judge, of course.
It was Ed Foster who lost the money, a small fortune, and it was
the rather unpleasant Sid Wilcox, and perhaps unfortunate Ida
Giles, who finally cleared up the mystery, happily enough, all
things considered, although in spite of the other girls' opportune
intention it was not possible to reflect any degree of credit upon
those responsible for the troubles and trials which that mystery
Speaking of the young men, Paul Hastings, a young chauffeur,
should not be overlooked. Paul was a very agreeable youth indeed,
and his sister, Hazel, a most interesting young lady, with very
special qualities of talent and learning.
"Among those present" in the first volume were the attractive
Robinson twins, Bess inclined to rather more weight than height,
and Belle, the tall, graceful creature, who delighted in the
aesthetic and reveled in "nerves."
Mr. Perry Robinson, the girls' father, was a wealthy railroad
magnate, devoted to carriage rides, and not caring for motors, but
not too "set" to allow his daughters the entire ownership of the
pretty new runabout - the Flyaway.
Cora, Hazel, Bess and Belle were flying over the country roads in
their cars, making for Woodbine Park, where they were to hold a
preliminary meet to arrange for a tour on the road.
Past the bridge at the appointed time, they reached the wooded
park exactly at twelve - the hour set for the rest and luncheon,
to be followed by the "business meeting."
"There come Daisy and Maud," called Cora, as along the winding
road she discerned another car approaching.
"And there are Clip and Ray," added Belle, shutting off the
gasoline and preparing to bring her machine to a standstill.
"I think it a shame to call Cecilia Thayer Clip," objected Belle.
"She is no more of a romp than - "
"Any boy," interrupted Bess. "Well, the boys call her Clip, and
By this time the new car was up in line with the others.
"'Lo, there!" called Cecilia, jerking her machine to a stop in the
manner deplored by skilled mechanicians.
"Look out!" cautioned Cora. "You'll `bust' something."
Cecilia had bounded out on the road.
"Stiff as a stick!" she exclaimed with a rather becoming twist of
her agile form. "I never make that road without absorbing every
bump on the thoroughfare."
Cecilia was not altogether pretty, for she had the "accent on her
nose," as Cora put it, but she was dashing, and, at a glance, one
might easily guess why she had been called Clip.
Rachel Stuart was a striking blonde, tall to a fault, pink and
white to bisqueness and, withal, evidently conscious of her
charms. Even while motoring she affected the pastel tints, and
this morning looked radiant in her immense blue scarf and her
well-matched blue linen coat.
"You look," said Cora to Cecilia, as the latter continued to shake
herself out of the absorbed bumps, "like nothing so much as like a
`strained' nurse - Jack's variety."
"Exactly that!" admitted Cecilia. "I have been searching high and
low for a cheap and economical rig to drive in, and I have just
hit upon this." She pirouetted wonderfully. "All ready made -
the `strained' nurse variety, sure enough. How do you like it?"
"Very becoming," decided Bess.
"And very practical," announced Belle.
"Sweet," declared Cora.
"When you say a good thing, stop," ordered Cecilia, just as Ray
was about to give her verdict.
"And now to the woods," suggested Cora. "We may as well put our
machines up in the open near the grove. We can see them there,
and make sure that no one is tempted to investigate them."
It was a level stretch over the field to the grove. Cora led the
way and the others followed. Lunch baskets and boxes were quickly
gathered up from the machines, and, with the keenness of appetite
common to young and healthy, and "painful" to our fair motorists
(for Cecilia declared her appetite "hurt"), the party scampered
off to an appropriate spot where the lunch might be enjoyed.
"And there are to be no boys?" asked Maud Morris, she with the
"imploring look," as Cecilia put it, although Maud was familiarly
known as a very sweet girl.
"No boys!" echoed Bess, between uncertain mouthfuls.
Daisy Bennet turned her head away in evident disapproval.
"No boys," she repeated faintly. Daisy did everything faintly.
She was a perfectly healthy young girl, but a little affected
otherwise - too fond of paper-covered books, and perhaps too fond
of other sorts of romance. But we must not condemn Daisy - her
mother had the health-traveling habit, and what was Daisy to do
Cora handed around some lettuce sandwiches.
"I am just as keen on boys as any of you," she admitted, "but for
a real motor girl tour it is apparent that boys will have to be
Bess grunted, Belle sighed, Cecilia bit her tongue, Ray raised her
eyebrows, Hazel made a "minute" of the report.
"And silence ensued," commented Cecilia, reaching back of Maud and
securing a dainty morsel from the lunch-box of the latter.
"Water?" called Bess.
"Yes," chimed in Cecilia, "go and fetch some."
"The spring is away down the other side of the hill," objected
"You need the exercise," declared Cecilia.
"Clip, you go fetch some," suggested Cora, "and I'll give you half
Without another word Clip was on her feet, had upset Daisy's
improvised table of sticks and paper napkins in her haste to
secure the water bottle, and was now running over the hill toward
Presently she stopped as if listening to something. Then she
turned and hurried back to the party on the grass. Her face was
white with alarm.
"Oh!" she gasped. "I heard the awfullest groans! Some one must
be either dying for a drink, or dying from a drink. The groans
Cora jumped up, as did some of the others.
"Come on," said Cora. "I'm not afraid. Some one may need help."
"Oh, they do - I am sure," panted Cecilia. "All kinds of help, I
should say. The moans were chromatic."
"Listen!" commanded Cora, as the sounds came over the hill. Low,
then fierce growls and groans, tapering down to grunts and
exclamation marks sounded through the grove.
"Oh!" screamed Belle.
"What can it be?" exclaimed Daisy.
"Almost anything," suggested Cora. "But we had best be specific,"
and she started in the direction of the mysterious sounds.
Cecilia followed, as did Bess, while the others held off in
Although it was high noon, in the grove the heavy spruce and cedar
trees darkened the place, and the farther the girls penetrated
into the depths of the wood, the deeper did the shadows close in
around them. Cora picked up a stout stick as she advanced.
"Get me one," begged Cecilia. "We may encounter a bear."
"Human?" asked Cora with a laugh.
"Preferably," answered Cecilia, keeping very close to Cora.
The noises had ceased. The girls halted, waiting for a sound to
give them the clue of direction.
"He's dead!" gasped Cecilia. "It was the drink - he got the
drink, and then died!"
"As long as he got it," whispered Cora. She was anxious to catch
"There!" exclaimed Bess, as a sound, faint but decisive, was heard
from a hollow ahead.
"Where?" asked Cora, purposely misunderstanding Bess.
"Here!" called Cecilia, who, with sudden resolve, had snatched the
stick from Cora's hand, and now darted forward.
She went straight for the spring.
Such shouting and such laughing!
There, hidden in the thicket near the spring, were discovered Jack
Kimball and Walter Pennington, while the chuckles and other noises
emerging from mysterious parts of the wood indicated the presence
of human beings, although the sounds had a queer similarity to
that made by furry beasts.
"Oh, Clip! Spare me!" called Jack, as Cecilia actually undertook
to punish physically the offending young man. "I really did not
think you would be scared - in fact, I had an idea you were scare-
"I am," declared the girl; "but the idea of me wasting sympathy!
I might have discovered the dead man of all my life-long dreams -
had to appear in court, and all the other delightful consequences
of finding a man under suspicious circumstances; and there you are
not even sick. Jack Kimball, how could you? You might at least
have had the politeness to be deadly ill."
Walter crawled out from the thicket.
"I thought I smelled eating," he remarked, "and I suggested that
we postpone the wild and woolly until we had investigated."
"Oh, come on," called Cora. "We may as well allow you to move on.
- You have actually interrupted the plans for our first official
"Good!" exclaimed Ed Foster, who, with some other young chaps, had
collected themselves from the various haunts. "Any boys?"
"Boys!" echoed Cora.
"B-o-y-s!" drawled Maud, "chucking the imploring look," as Cecilia
whispered to Cora.
"We have been discussing the question," declared Bess, as they all
started toward the lunch spread on the grass, "and we have now
fully decided. The answer is: No boys!"
This verdict brought forth the expected chorus of groans from the
"Indeed, you may be glad to get a fellow when you find yourselves
in a good and proper smashup," declared Jack, "and I predict a
smash-up about every other mile."
The sight of the tempting lunch and that of the other young ladies
who had not undertaken the march to the spring, was the signal for
a "grand rush" - and that was about all.
When the boys extricated themselves from the "rush" there was not
a crumb visible.
"We had all we wished," faltered the circumspect Ray Stuart. "You
were entirely welcome - might have saved, at least, the dishes."
"Oh," breathed Ed, "it is so much pleasanter to poach - don't
Ed cast a most appreciative glance at Ray. She expected it, of
course, and accepted it with a smile.
Clip was talking earnestly to Jack, Cora was being entertained by
Walter, who, at the same time, managed to keep up a running
conversation with the group of girls now busy putting away the
"We had a dreadful accident coming out," said Belle. "Bess ran
over - "
"A square meal in a square basket," interrupted Bess. "I
demolished the hamper that Ida Giles had bestowed on Sidney
Wilcox. It was a peace offering, I believe."
"And you should have seen the kind of `pieces' Bess made of it,"
commented Hazel with a merry laugh.
"Hush!" hissed Ed with his finger to his lips.
"Something tells me that the demolished hamper forbodes evil. You
will regret the day, Miss Elizabeth, that you spilled Sid
"Pumpkin pie," finished Cora. "I never saw such pumpkiny pumpkin
pie in my life. I can smell it yet!"
"Mrs. Giles' famous home-made," quoted Walter. "Well, it might
have been worse - they might have eaten that pie."
"Say, fellows," said Jack suddenly, "this is all very pretty - the
girls, I mean, of course - but does it smite any one of you young
rustics that we have an engagement - ahem! At three-thirty,
"Precisely," declared Ed. "So much obliged for the feed; and do
we make a party call?"
"Of course," answered the pretty Ray, attempting to tie her huge
scarf, without having any idea of doing so. "We shall expect - "
"The bunch?" interrupted Jack, knowing Ray's preference for the
"How - "
"Naughty," simpered Cecilia. "Jack, how can you use slang in the
presence of ladies?" and she assumed the characteristic "tough"
walk, which had always been one of Clip's most laughable capers.
"Loidies!" echoed Jack, tilting his cap and striking an attitude
appropriate to that assumed by Cecilia. He slipped his arm within
hers, and the pair "strutted off," in the fashion identified with
the burlesque stage.
"Here! here!" called more than one young lady. "Come back here,
Clip! There are to be no boys!"
"This isn't a boy," called back Cecilia, keeping up the
performance. "He's only a - "
"Don't you dare!" threatened Jack.
The girls began to gather the things up from the grass.
"Now don't hurry," remarked Ed coolly. "The fact is, we are not
going your way."
"Don't want us!" almost gasped Ray.
"Shook!" groaned Bess.
"Not at all," Walter hurried to add, "but the real truth is -
well, let me see. What's the real truth?"
Jack was fetching Cecilia back. At some secret sign the young men
actually took to their heels, and ran away before the girls
realized what was happening. But from a distance they waved a
"What do you think of that!" exclaimed Hazel.
"Oh, they are just up to some frolic, and could not take us in,"
said Cora. "If we were not so busy with our plans we might follow
them. But I propose continuing the business meeting."
With some reluctance, for the time had been greatly enlivened by
the appearance of the young men on the scene, the girls once more
got to discussing the details of their proposed three days' tour.
As Cora had predicted, Maud wanted the stops along the way made at
the homes of her various and varied relatives. Daisy feared her
mother would insist upon a chaperone, and this almost absorbed
Daisy's chance of being eligible. Ray thought the motors should
flaunt flags - pretty light blue affairs - but Bess declared it
would be infinitely more important to carry plenty of gasoline.
So the girls planned and plotted, until, in the northwest, a great
black cloud came stealing over the silent blue, gathering fury as
it came, and coming very quickly at that.
"A storm!" shouted Belle. "Oh, I do hope it won't be the
There was a swirl of the leaves around them, and the wind gave a
warning howl. All ran for the cars.
"A tornado, likely," said Hazel. "And, oh, dear! this is just
about the time that Paul will be bringing the mail over. I am so
nervous since his firm undertook the mail route between New City
and Cartown. This is such a lonely road for an auto in a storm -
especially when every one knows Paul carries the mail."
Hazel was greatly agitated, but the other girls endeavored to
"Why, Paul will be all right," declared Cora, surprised at Hazel's
alarm. "What could happen to him? Why is a storm in the
afternoon of such consequence?"
"Oh, I don't know," sighed Hazel; "but having to manage a car, and
be personally responsible for the big mailbag - there is so much
important mail between Cartown and New City - I have been nervous
about it ever since Paul began carrying it."
"But it makes him all the more important to his firm," said Cora
convincingly, "and I am sure he will be all right."
"You read too many wild-west stories," commented Bess, who was
still alongside the Whirlwind with her Flyaway. "There are no
stagecoach hold-ups these days."
"I hope not," returned Hazel with a forced laugh.
Quickly the storm was gathering. With some apprehension Cora
directed the line of cars.
"You lead, Daisy," she said, "as your clothes are most
"Indeed," shouted Cecilia, "my `strained' nurse suit will have to
go to the laundry if it gets wet, and that adds to the price -
reduces my bargain."
"Well, hurry, at any rate," commanded Cora. "I know of a barn we
may be able to make."
"We ought to meet Paul at the bridge," remarked Hazel, evidently
unable to dismiss her concern for her brother.
"Now, Hazel," exclaimed Cora, her voice carrying something of
vexation, "one would think you suspected - "
"You don't really think those boys would play a trick on him?"
interrupted Hazel. "Somehow I didn't like the way they looked -
as if they were plotting something."
Cora laughed heartily. "Why, you precious baby!" she managed to
say; "do you think boys of their caliber would tamper with the
mail? To say nothing of putting so nice a boy as Paul to
"Oh, of course; forgive me, Cora. I should not have asked that.
But you know what Paul and I are to each other!"
"Yes, I know," said Cora with marked emphasis. "You are each the
other's little brother and sister. But it's nice, Hazel, very
nice, and I forgive you the fling at Jack."
"And Ed?" asked Hazel mischievously.
"And Walter," added Cora, ignoring the personal.
"Oh, mercy!" yelled Belle. "We're going to have another fire and
brimstone thunderstorm! Cora, make for that farmhouse!"
"Yes," called Cora, "I guess it will be all wind, and it won't
hurt the machines. Turn for the cottage, girls!"
Blinding and brutal, the wind and sand attacked the eyes and ears
of the motor girls, in spite of all the hoods and goggles. It was
one of those tearing windstorms, that often come in summer,
seemingly bent on raising everything on earth heavenward except
the sand - that always sought refuge under eyelids - the average
grain of sand would rather get in a girl's eye than help to make
up a reputable mountain.
The line of cars made straight for the little farmhouse. It was
sheltered in a clump of pines quite near the roadside.
Bess drew up first. Belle was out, and upon the steps of the
porch. She had even struck the brass knocker before the others
could bring their machines to a stop.
"Belle is frightened," said Ray, taking her time to leave
"Well, we had a great storm one day - and Belle has the reflex
action," explained Cora, referring to an exciting incident told of
in the first book of this series.
The door of the cottage opened.
"Come on, girls!" called Belle. "We may come in - the lady says."
"Now - now for an adventure!" whispered Cecilia. "I can see it
through the closed blinds! I see it under the knocker. I feel it
in my gloves! Yes, young ladies, there is going to be something
doing inside that cottage!"
THE STRANGE PROMISE
When the eight young ladies marched into the little cottage it
must be admitted that each had her misgivings. What would any one
think of such a procession?
But Belle, whether from actual fright of the storm, or from some
intuitive knowledge of the circumstances, seemed to be assured
that they were all welcome.
A dark-eyed woman greeted them.
"Why, come right in," she insisted. "We haven't much room, but we
are all glad to see you."
"Careful," whispered the mischievous Clip to Cora. "There's a
trap door some place, I'll bet."
"Hush!" commanded Cora under her breath. "You will be suspected
if not overheard."
The woman gathered up some sewing from an old-fashioned sofa.
Cora saw instantly that the piece of furniture was of the most
desirable pattern and quality, an antique mahogany gem of the
"There will be room for most of us on your beautiful couch," said
Cora, taking her place, and indicating that the others might
follow. "What a handsome piece of furniture!"
"Yes," replied the woman with a sigh, "that is one of my family
heirlooms. We are very fond of old furniture."
"Look out!" whispered the irrepressible Clip. "Perhaps the trap
is in the sofa!"
Bess giggled helplessly.
Belle, with her self-confidence, peculiar to this particular
occasion, took her place over by the window in a huge,
straight-back chair - the kind built with "storm doors at the
The sad-eyed woman smiled with her lips, but her eyes "remained at
half mast," as Clip put it.
"It is so delightful to meet a lot of healthy young ladies," began
the woman, betraying a certain culture and unmistakable education.
"I have a little daughter, who is not healthy of body, but her
mind is the joy of our lives in this isolated place. She will ask
to see you directly, and that is why I tell you of her infirmity.
We never speak of it to her - she almost thinks herself in health.
I am glad you came - for her sake."
Without waiting for a reply the woman opened a small door and
"Now!" gasped Clip. "Now be prepared! We will be fed piece by
piece, one by one, to the yellow dwarf - "
"Will you hush!" insisted Belle. "I am sure you ought to
"Oh, I do, Belle, dear! I respect your pretty self, and shall
hate terribly to see you torn limb from - "
The opening of the door cut short Clip's nonsense.
The woman wheeled a child's invalid chair into the room. Sitting
in this chair the girls beheld a child - that sort of child which
heaven in making a cripple of seems to hold some special claim on.
The lines of some amateur poet flashed across the mind of Cora:
"Does heaven in sending such as these,
From Nature hold a claim?
To keep them nearer to The Gates,
To call them in again?"
These lines had always appealed to Cora in spite of their faulty
rhyme, and, in glancing at the little girl in the chair, she
"This is my daughter Wren," said the woman, "and I should have
introduced myself. I am Mrs. Salvey Mrs. Ruth Salvey."
The girls gracefully acknowledged the introductions. Clip had
surrendered - she was "all eyes on the little girl"; too absorbed
to speak. She had left her place on the sofa, and now stood
beside the invalid's chair.
"How do you do, Wren?" she managed to say finally, taking the
small, white, slim hand within her own. "Aren't you frightened of
- this invasion?"
"Oh, no, indeed," said the child sweetly. "I am perfectly
delighted. Mother has been telling me all day we would have some
pleasant surprise before night. I thought when I saw the storm
coming that that was the surprise - I love storms, grandfather's
kind - but now I know it is this."
Every girl in the room instantly felt the charm of this child.
She was almost bewitching.
Her eyes had the same "unfathomable depths" that marked those of
Mrs. Salvey, but the child did not otherwise resemble her mother.
It was evident that the name Wren fitted her well - so small, so
sweet, so timid, and with such a whispering voice!
Then, her eyes were brown, her hair was brown and, in spite of
ill-health, there was a gleam of color in her delicate cheeks.
"What's this?" asked Cora, stepping over to the child and touching
a book in her lap.
"Oh, that - that is my story," replied Wren. "I want to tell you
all about it. Will you have time to wait?" and she looked toward
the window, through which could be seen the silent automobiles.
"Indeed, we will," replied Cora. "I am so anxious to hear all
about it, and I am sure the others are. Do tell us, Wren," and
Cora found a chair quite close to the one on wheels.
Cecilia was fairly "devouring the child." The others were plainly
much interested. Belle, who evidently regarded the affair as her
own particular "find," retained the slim hand of the invalid in
that of her own healthy palm. Mrs. Salvey was smiling now - even
the great sad eyes were throwing out a light, although the light
did come from dark and uncertain depths.
Wren opened her book.
"This is my promise book," she began. "I have to tell you a long
story about it. Then I will ask each of you to make me a promise
- it is a very strange promise," she intoned most seriously. "But
I know some day it will be kept. Some day all these promises will
unite in one grand, great demand. Then Fate will have to answer."
A LITTLE BROWN WREN
The girls were awestricken.
Daisy, Maud, Hazel and Ray seemed to shrink closer together on the
old mahogany sofa. Cora and the Robinson girls with Cecilia were
grouped closely about the sick child.
"It's all about grandfather," she began. "I had the dearest,
darlingest grandfather, and since he went away I am so lonely.
Only for mother," she added, with something like an apology. "Of
course, I am never really lonely with mother."
Mrs. Salvey shook her head. Then she picked up the discarded
"You see," went on Wren, "we used to live with grandfather in a
beautiful cottage right near the river. He was a sea captain, and
couldn't live away from the waves. Then I was strong enough to
play on the sands."
Wren stopped. At the mention of her infirmity a cloud covered her
young face. Presently she brightened up and resumed:
"But I am going to be strong again. When I find - "
She tossed her head back and seemed to see something beyond. For
a moment no one spoke. The silence was, akin to reverence.
"Then," sighed the child, "when we lived by the ocean grandfather
went out in a terrible storm - he said he had to go. And he never
"Oh!" gasped Cora involuntarily.
Cecilia bent so close to Wren that her breath stirred the brown
ringlets over the child's ears.
"But, of course," declared the child vehemently, "he will come
back. If not here - in some other world."
"Dear," said Mrs. Salvey, "you had better make your story a little
short. I am sure the young ladies will want to get over the roads
"Oh, it is quite early yet," declared Cecilia falsely, for the
mantel clock pointed to six.
"I'll hurry," promised Wren. "You see, this is the important part
of it all. When we lived with grandpa he made a beautiful table -
I even helped him to make it. There were tiny pieces of wood all
inlaid with anchors, oars and sea emblems. I used to dip them in
the hot glue for grandpa. Well, there were some secret drawers in
that table, and grandpa told me that if anything should happen to
him we must explore the table. Well, we went away - it was the
time of my own father's death - and when we came back the table
"Who took it?" demanded Cecilia sharply.
"Everything was sold - at auction - and no one could tell us
anything about the table."
"You see," said Mrs. Salvey, "Wren thinks if we can find that
table we will come into our own. Father was very fond of
daughter, and the other relatives were so numerous that when the
estate was equally divided it left very little for us. We thought
the table might contain a will - "
"I know it did," declared Wren. "Didn't grandpa show it to me
once? And now I want you each to sign the promise in my book. I
shall read it over for you."
The child drew herself up straight, and held the book high between
her hands. Then she read
"`I, the undersigned, promise most sacredly to do all in my power
to help discover the whereabouts of an antique inlaid table that
has on either side carved a large anchor, and which has the
initials cut on each end, W. S. and R. S.'
These were mine and grandpa's initials," she explained. "I was
called Wren because his name was Renton." She resumed reading the
"`If ever I do discover this table I also promise to notify Wren
Salvey immediately.' Then you sign," she said. "There are pen
and ink. Mother always keeps them in the sitting-room for me."
Belle took the book. Pages were already filled with signatures.
"You must have a great many callers," she remarked, taking up the
pen to sign.
"Oh, I take my book with me every time I go out," said Wren.
"Sometimes mother takes me where there are a lot of people. I
love to talk to folks."
"Of course you do," said Cora, filled with admiration for the
mother who so humored the sick child. "And with all those
promises, as you say, they must some day become a great, grand
call, and so be answered."
"I hope you will hear the voice," said Wren fervently, and the day
came when Cora remembered the child's prayer.
The girls added their names to the long list. Wren required that
they repeat the promise individually, and, indeed, it became a
most solemn proceeding.
The storm had entirely subsided. It was time to be on the road
again, and Cora stood up first to take her leave.
"We really must go," she said. "We have had a most delightful
hour. We shall never forget Wren, and, perhaps, some day we may
return to fulfil our promise."
"I really feel that you will," declared the child. "I have never
before met such - nice young ladies," and she blushed consciously.
"I shall repeat your names many times - so that they will echo
when I sleep."
Cecilia put her lips to the child's forehead. She did not dare
trust herself to speak.
"I am sure you will dream about us - we are such an army," said
Daisy with a laugh. "Try to forget that we are just girls - "
"She's an angel," interrupted Cecilia. "Don't get her mixed up
with mere girls."
Wren laughed - such a dainty little laugh. She looked at Daisy.
"You are all - lovely," she declared, "and I always like blue
Mrs. Salvey added her felicitations to those of her little
daughter. "This has indeed been a most enjoyable visit," she
said, "and I hope you will all try to keep your strange promise.
I believe where one is so serious as is Wren something good is
sure to result. If we could find that table - "
"Perhaps you will," said Cora pleasantly. "We are about to start
on a long trip. We will make numbers of stops, and I assure you
we will never forget to look for the table. I am sure it will
give us a very pleasant duty to keep our eyes open."
"Indeed, it will," declared Cecilia warmly. "I only hope I shall
be the lucky one - for I feel a sort of premonition that some one
in this party really will be the means of bringing little Wren the
good news. I have a mental picture of the table. I shall know it
"It would be very easy to recognize it," said Mrs. Salvey, opening
the door as her visitors filed out. "The inlaid anchors are most
conspicuous on the leaves."
Outside Cecilia renewed her antics. "Stick a hatpin in me -
somebody do!" she exclaimed. "But not yours, Ray. I never could
stand for that college, even in a stick."
Ray smiled and hurried into her car. The fair chauffeurs cranked
up quickly, for it was almost dusk, and there was considerable
road to cover between the place and Chelton.
"We must make speed now," called Bess. "I have a dinner date, be
"I'm in a hurry, too," shouted Maud. "I have an engagement to be
tried on - my new auto cloak. I have to have that on time."
The machines were speeding along merrily. It was pleasant after
the rain, and the twilight lent enchantment to the delights of
"Why do you suppose Hazel was so anxious about Paul?" Bess asked
Belle. "She could talk of nothing else, even when we were at the
"Well," replied the prudent Belle, "Hazel knows. There must be
some danger or she would not talk of it. Perhaps Paul has had
Dashing over the country roads, the motor girls sent their
machines ahead at fast speed, unwilling to stop to light up, and
anxious to make the town before the twilight faded into nightfall.
Suddenly Cora, who was in the lead, grabbed the emergency brake
and quickly shut off the power.
"What's that?" she asked. "Something straight ahead. Don't you
see it, Hazel?"
Hazel stood up and peered into the gathering darkness.
"Yes; it looks like an auto. Perhaps some one got disabled, and
had to leave the machine," she replied.
"Perhaps," returned Cora, going along carefully.
"It is an auto," declared Hazel presently, as they were almost
upon the object in the roadway.
"The auto stage!" exclaimed Cora. "Don't be frightened, Hazel,"
she hurried to say. "Paul is not in it. He must have gone on
with the mail."
Hazel sank down in the cushions and covered her eyes. Somehow she
could not bear to look at the deserted auto stage.
The other girls were coming along cautiously - they saw that
something was the matter.
The standing machine was directly in the road; it instantly struck
Cora that this was strange. Who could have been so careless as to
leave an unlighted auto in the roadway, and night coming on?
She turned her wheel to guide the Whirlwind to one side, and then
stopped. Bess was next, and she shut off the power from the
"What is it?" asked Bess anxiously. Belle did not venture to
leave the machine, but Hazel had bounded out of the Whirlwind
almost before Cora had time to stop it.
"Oh," exclaimed Hazel, "there are Paul's gloves. Where can he
"Perhaps playing a trick on us," suggested Cora, although she had
little faith in the possibility. "I am sure he would not go far
off and leave this expensive machine here."
By this time all the other girls had reached the spot, and were
now deliberating upon the abandoned auto. Suddenly a call -
shrill and distinct - startled them.
"That's Paul!" shrieked Hazel, turning instantly and dashing off
in the direction from which the voice had come. Cora, Bess, Maud
and Cecilia followed her. Over the wet fields, through briars and
underbrush the girls ran, while the call was repeated; this time
there being no possibility of mistake - it was Paul shouting.
Breathless, the girls hurried on. With a sister's instinct Hazel
never stumbled, but seemed to get over every obstacle like some
wood sprite called to duty.
"Oh, I'm all right, girls! Take your time!" came the voice in the
"All right!" repeated Hazel in uncertain tones.
"Oh, look!" shrieked Cecilia. "Didn't I tell you it was a joke?
What a sight! There, sitting on something like a stool, with a
big cotton umbrella opened over his head, his eyes blinded with
something dark, and his hands and feet made secure, was Paul
Hastings, the chauffeur of the auto stage.
"Whatever does this means?" asked Cora, hurrying to Hazel, who was
now madly snatching the black silk handkerchief from her brother's
"A prisoner of war," replied Paul rather unsteadily. "Glad you
came, girls - there, sis, in my back pocket, you will find a
knife. Just cut those carpet rags off my feet and hands."
Cecilia found the pocket knife, and, more quickly than any boy
might have done it, she severed the bonds, and Paul stretched out
"Well," he exclaimed, "this is about the limit!"
"Did the boys do it?" asked Cora.
"Boys! Not a bit of it," replied Paul. "It was a regular
hold-up. And the mail! I must get that, if they have left it on
the road. Did you see the car? Is it all right?"
"It appeared to be," said Cora. "It was the car that brought us
to a standstill. It's in the middle of the road."
Paul shook himself as if expecting to find some damage to limb or
muscle. Then he turned toward the open path.
"Tell us about it," demanded Cecilia. "Wasn't it a joke?"
"Joke!" he reiterated. "Well, I should say not! Would you call
it a joke to have two masked men jump in front of a running car,
and flash something shiny? Then to have them climb in, cover my
eyes and tell me I would be all right, and not to worry!"
"Oh," sighed Hazel, "I felt something would happen to you, Paul,
dear. You must give up this position."
"Well, we will see about that," he replied. "Perhaps I won't have
anything to say about it - if the mailpouch is gone."
"Then they brought you out here?" asked Cecilia, determined to
hear all the story.
"Carried me like a baby," replied Paul, "and in sheer humane
consideration they put me near the road, so that my call might be
"And the umbrella?" asked Cora.
"Oh, they went to a barn for that. It was raining, and my polite
friends did not want me to take cold."
His tone was bitterly cutting; taking cold would evidently have
been of small account to him.
"And they sat you upon that log?" put in Maud.
"Like any ordinary bump," he rejoined. "I never knew the misery
of a bump on a log before."
"And, you are not hurt?" Hazel pressed close to his side and
looked up lovingly at the tall boy.
"Not in the least - that is, physically. But I am seriously hurt
Cora could not but recognize how handsome Paul was. The
excitement seemed to fire his whole being, and throw some subtle
human phosphorus - a light from his burning brain certainly
brightened in his eyes and even in his cheeks.
"Come along, girls," he said hurriedly. "Never mind the
paraphernalia. Some lonely goat might like the rags. Let's get
out on the road."
His anxiety was of course for the mail. That leather bag meant
more to him than the mere transference of Uncle Sam's freight - it
meant his honor - his position.
Over the rough fields the girls followed him. Hazel clung to his
hand like a little sister indeed, while the others were content to
keep as close as the uncertain footing would allow.
Presently they reached the road, then the stage coach. The other
girls, who had not run to Paul's rescue, were standing around
Paul jumped into the car - thrust his hand into the box under the
floor, where he always put the government pouch.
He brought up the mailbag.
A CHANCE MEETING
Paul lost no time in reaching Cartown with the belated mail, and
so was obliged to leave the girls an the road with scant ceremony,
hardly pausing to discuss why he had been bound when no apparent
robbery had been perpetrated.
Hazel appeared so agitated that Cora insisted upon her returning
to the Kimball home to dinner, and also had succeeded in getting a
promise from Paul that he would come there as early in the evening
as it would be possible for him to do so.
Then, when the mail car was lost sight of, and the motor girls
started again on their homeward way, Clip insisted upon leading.
"I know the variety of bandit," she declared, "and I want to meet
him personally. He is sure to fall dead in love with me on the
spot. And, oh, girls! Think of it! Me and the bandit!"
Even Hazel laughed. The suggestion called up a picture of the
disgraceful Clip in robber uniform, with the proverbial red
handkerchief on her head, and all the rest of the disreputable
accessories. Clip would "look the part."
But the Thayer machine was not noted for its beauty or service -
it had the reputation of bolting always at the "psychological
moment," and when Clip dashed forward to meet her fate, the fate
of the Turtle (as her car was called) intercepted her.
With a jerk the Turtle tossed up its head, bounced Clip off her
seat, and then stopped.
"Oh!" exclaimed the girl. "Isn't this the utmost! And I about to
meet my bandit! Now I suppose I will have to leave Turtle here to
afford the foe a means of escape. I say, girls, isn't that the
She jumped out of the car and, with a superficial glance at the
fractious machine, waited for Cora's car.
"Come on, Ray," she said to her companion. "No use sitting there.
That car will never, move unless it is dragged. I know her. No
use monkeying with tools. When she stops, she stops, and we may
as well make up our minds to it."
"But," argued Ray, "you have not even attempted to find out what
is the matter. Perhaps we could fix it up - "
"No use attempting. I would find the whole thing the matter.
Just feel," she suggested, putting her ungloved hand on the
radiator. "You could make beef stew on any of her lids. Oh, I
know this kind of hot box! I've boiled the water, and the
cylinders are stuck."
By this time the other girls had come along. Cora insisted upon
looking over the disabled machine, and, while she did so, Clip
deliberately made herself comfortable in the Whirlwind.
"Get in with Daisy," she called to Ray. "This will do me."
"Can't we tow it?" asked Cora. "Why should you leave your machine
out here? And it is almost dark!"
"That's the reason," replied Clip. "It is almost dark, and I
prefer to leave the machine here as a little token of my love to
the bandit. Suppose I want to be `run in' for traveling without a
Cora saw that argument was useless. Reluctantly she turned from
the Turtle. Ray climbed in with Daisy and Maud. Bess and Belle
were ready to start "from the seat," without cranking up. Cora
gave the Whirlwind a few turns.
"I hope we get home without any further trouble," came from the
folds of Ray's blue veil. "I think we have had enough for one
"Enough!" echoed Clip. "Why, I could stand ten times that much!
I love trouble - in the abstract."
"Suppose you call this the abstract," almost sneered Daisy, who
evidently did not relish being crowded.
"Certainly I do," declared Clip. "Just gaze on the abstracted
"Who's that?" whispered Hazel nervously. A step could be heard in
"My bandit!" breathed Clip. "Oh, my darling, desperate bandit!"
"Hush!" cautioned Cora, for she felt the possibility of Paul's
captors being about still. Then two figures appeared from the
sharp turn in the road. Cora wanted to start, but hesitated. The
figures came closer. They were those of two well-dressed men;
that was easily discernable.
Clip put her hand over her heart.
"Oh-h=h!" she groaned audibly. "Isn't he handsome!"
Hazel clutched at her sleeve. "Do stop!" she begged. "They may
be - "
"They are!" answered Clip, and, as the, men halted beside the
Turtle, she deliberately jumped out and approached them.
The other girls were spellbound. Cora, too, left her place - she
knew Cecilia's recklessness and felt it her duty to stand by her.
The two strange men looked first at the girls and then at the car.
"Had an accident?" asked the taller of the two politely.
"Oh, no, it's chronic," answered Clip flippantly, much to Cora's
The men were evidently gentlemen. They were well dressed, and had
the mannerisms of culture.
"Perhaps I can help you," suggested one, taking from his pocket a
wrench. "I always carry tools - meet so many `chronics,' " and he
"Come on," called Hazel from the Whirlwind. "You know, Paul will
be waiting, Cora."
At this the men both started. He with the wrench ceased his
attempt to open the motor hood. The other looked toward Hazel.
"Oh, I see," he said with affected ease. "Your friend promised to
meet you, and you are late."
"My brother," said Hazel curtly.
"Paul Hastings," said Cora quickly, before she knew why.
"Oh!" almost whistled the taller man. "I see; of the Whitehall
"Do you know him?" demanded Cora rather sharply.
"Slight-ly," drawled the stout man, he with the wrench.
"Well, we had best not detain you, young ladies," said the other,
"as you have so important an engagement," and with that they both
"What do you think of that?" exclaimed Cora.
"The utmost!" replied Clip, in her favorite way of expressing "the
"They knew Paul!" gasped Hazel.
"Seemed to," answered Cora evasively. She had her opinions and
doubts as to who these gentlemen might be.
"Just my luck," murmured Clip. "I rather liked the tall fellow,
but I noticed that the other carried a gold filigree fountain pen,
had a perfectly dear watch charm, and he talked like a lawyer."
"Oh, my!" exclaimed Cora. "You did size him up. I only noticed
that he was a joint short on his right-hand thumb."
"That, my dear, is termed a professional thumb-mark. We will know
him if we meet him in the dark," said Clip.
Cora laughed. She felt, however, more serious than she cared to
have the others know. "Well, let's be off this time," she said.
"We will hardly make town before dark now."
JACK AND CLIP
"A deliberate trick of Cecilia's," murmured Daisy.
"She pretends to be so off-hand," answered Maud. "I have always
noticed that that sort of girl is the greatest schemer."
"To leave her car out on the road, and then boldly ask Jack
Kimball to go with her to fetch it. Who ever heard of such a
thing? I wonder Cora tolerates her."
"Cora is what some people call `easy,' " said Daisy with uncertain
meaning. "She takes her chances in choosing friends."
"Did they fetch the car back?"
"I saw it at the garage this morning. I do hope it cannot be
fixed. I mean," Maud hurried to say, "I hope she will not hamper
us with it on our tour. It is only fit for the junkman."
Daisy and Maud were walking toward the post office. It was the
morning after the adventure on the road, and the two girls had
heard from Ray Stuart something of the news they were now
discussing. The hold-up of Paul Hastings was to them not so
important as the fact that Cecilia Thayer had gone over to
Kimball's and actually asked Jack Kimball to take her out Woodbine
way to tow home the balky Turtle.
But, precisely as her friend had said, Clip was a schemer. In the
first place, she had no idea of detaining her companions on the
lonely road to "monkey with the machine," so soon after Paul's
hold-up. Next, she had no idea of leaving the car there at the
mercy of fate. Instead, she deliberately went over to Kimball's
after dinner, asked Jack to take her out Woodbine way, and
incidentally suggested that he take along a gun. Jack had two
good friends, each opposite the other in type. Bess Robinson was
very much admired by him; and Cecilia Thayer, she who always
played the tomboy to the extent of affording a good time for
others when she could actually disguise a serious reason in the
joke, she who affected the "strained" nurse costume for fun, when
it was a real necessity - Jack Kimball liked Cecilia Thayer. Her
rather limited means often forced her to make sport of
circumstances, but, in every case, Cecilia "won out." She was,
the boys said, "no knocker."
So it happened as Daisy related. Clip did ask Jack to go with her
to fetch home the car. It also happened that they encountered Sid
Wilcox on the way. He seemed to be returning alone in his auto
from Cartown. Sid told Ida, Ida told Ray, Ray told Daisy and
Daisy told Maud.
Daisy and Maud were inseparable chums. They agreed on everything
- from admiration for Jack Kimball and Walter Pennington, to
dislike for Cecilia Thayer, and something akin to jealousy for the
Robinson girls. Cora was beyond criticism - they simply "regarded
"And," spoke Daisy, as they turned into the green, "I do believe
that the boys played that trick on Paul. I thought when they
hurried so to get away that they were up to something."
"Queer joke," commented Maud.
"Didn't you think those strange men acted suspiciously?" asked
"How could they do otherwise when Cecilia acted as she did? I
never saw a girl so forward."
"I suppose she will have some boys tagging after us on our tour,
if her car is fixable," went on Daisy in sarcastic tones. "Likely
she will find some excuse for stopping at hotels, and such places.
Mother insisted I should not go to any public eating place unless
we have some older person along. But Cecilia - she is old or
young, just as it suits her."
"There's Bess and Belle!" exclaimed Maud, as the Robinson twins'
runabout swerved into the avenue.
"And there are Jack - and Cecilia!" Daisy fairly gasped the words.
At that instant the two last named persons, in Jack's little car,
came up to the turn. Cecilia looked almost pretty - even her
critics admitted that, secretly. Of course, Jack was always
"I wonder how Bess feels," remarked Daisy with scornfully curled
"She thinks a lot of Jack," replied Maud, as both bowed to the
occupants of the runabout.
"Where do you suppose they are going?" went on Daisy.
"Oh, probably to see about having the old car fixed up. Of
course, when she got Jack to fetch it she will manage to have him
attend to the rest."
Bess and Belle were now abreast of the girls on the sidewalk. The
twins bowed pleasantly, while the others nodded in return.
"I wish mother had not gone to town this morning," said Daisy. "I
would just like to see where they are all going."
"Your mother took the car?"
"Yes; and she won't be home until evening. Well, I declare if
there isn't Cora and - "
"Walter Pennington," finished Maud. "She is almost as changeable
as her brother."
"Isn't it too mean that we have to walk," complained Daisy. "I
have a mind to go over to the garage and ask for a car. Father
often gets one."
"Oh, yes. Doctors are always having breakdowns. Do you suppose
you could get one?"
"Well, I am going to try, at any rate," and Daisy Bennet quickened
her pace, while Maud Morris hurried along with her companion. It
was but a few minutes' walk to the garage, and when the girls
reached the entrance they were surprised to find the three
automobiles, Jack's, Cora's and the twins' pulled up outside.
"Oh, I can't go in now," demurred Daisy. "We will have to wait
until they go. Funny they should be taking a morning run, without
asking us along."
Paul Hastings was talking to the Robinson girls. It was evident
that he was much excited. Cora was on the sidewalk, and Cecilia
was beside her. Jack stood off to one side with Walter.
"Some important consultation," whispered Daisy. "I'll wager it's
about the hold-up."
"Of course, father knows you had nothing to do with it," Bess was
saying to Paul, "but he is positive the papers were in that mail.
Corn, thought it best we should let you know right away."
"Forewarned is forearmed," said Paul. Then Daisy and Maud came up
to the group.
"My!" exclaimed Daisy. "Quite a gathering."
"Yes," answered Clip. "We are glad you came. Now our meeting is
complete. We want evidence. Tell us all you know about the
strange men. You had a good chance to observe. You were not in
the little quadrille on the road."
"Why," stammered Daisy, "I thought them very nice-looking men.
They were well dressed, and - "
"That's it," interrupted Jack. "They were nice men, well dressed.
What else do you expect young ladies to observe? Clip, your
suspicions are not borne out by facts. Not a girl in the party
but yourself saw - what was it? The corner of the missing blue
envelope in the upper right-hand pocket - "
"Jack Kimball! You know perfectly well I never said such a thing.
I did see something blue, but it might have been - "
"A captured shadow from Daisy's eyes," said Walter dryly.
"What happened?" breathed Maud. Then Walter realized what a
girl's eyes may do in the matter of "imploring." He deliberately
stepped over to Maud's side.
"Oh, some valuable papers were taken from the mailbag,"
volunteered Clip. "And we thought the strange men might have
"You cheerful fibber," whispered Jack. "Come on, if you expect to
get to Cartown to-day."
"How can we, now?" asked Clip in an undertone.
"Just jump in and go," replied Jack. "Why should we explain?"
Jack cranked up his car, and in her usual deliberate way, Cecilia
Thayer stepped into the runabout, pulled on her gloves, smoothed
out the robe, and then said: "Good morning!"
Jack and Clip left the others standing in surprise and, perhaps,
disappointment. Only Cora guessed where they were actually going.
THE MYSTERIOUS RIDE
The fact that Cecilia Thayer could be old or young, as had been
remarked by one of her companions, was not a mere saying. The
Thayers were strangers in Chelton, and Cecilia was now only home
from school on a vacation. It was generally understood that the
girl was not exactly a daughter of the small household, but
perhaps a niece, or some relative, who made her home with the
people. She never invited her friends to her home, but this was
not considered strange, as her means plainly were not equal to the
circumstances of those with whom she associated.
Not that Cecilia sought this class, because she was constantly
sought by them - she was a brilliant, happy young girl, and, as
such, was a most desirable adjunct to the Chelton younger set.
It was, of course, Cora Kimball who "took her up," and that fact
was sufficient to vouch for all
The girl and Jack were well on the road to Woodbine the morning of
the little meeting by the garage, when, with a very different
expression of countenance to that shown to the party by the
roadside, Cecilia grasped at the arm of the young man beside her.
"It's awfully good of you, Jack," she said, "and I suppose I am
taking desperate chances."
"Good! The idea! It's a privilege," he answered warmly.
"You suspect, of course."
"I have suspected," he said with a light laugh.
"And if the girls find out?"
"What of it? Is it a disgrace to - "
"Hush! I haven't qualified yet, and when I do I'm going to spring
it on them." She tossed her head back defiantly. "Won't some of
Jack laughed outright. "You're a brick, Clip," he exclaimed.
"You can count on Cora, too. Does she know?"
"I haven't told her, but I imagine she has guessed. You are a
great family at guessing."
"Which way?" he inquired, nodding toward a fork in the road.
"To the left. Isn't it too mean that our old lumber wagon gave
way? I never had more need of it. It's just splendid of you to
help me out this way."
"And good of you to let me," he replied with a keen glance at the
girl's bright face.
"Of course I had no idea of going on the girls' trip. I only went
in for the arrangements for the fun of the thing. I seem to need
an awful lot of fun," she finished with a sigh that ended like a
"Oh, we all do, more or less," spoke Jack. "Only some of us are
more upright than others in the way we acknowledge it."
They were turning up to the Salvey cottage. Cecilia pointed it
"You must expect to sign the promise book," she said. "That is a
condition of admittance."
"So Cora told me. Well, I'll sign. Can't tell which name may win
"Of course I'll see Wren first. But before we go she will insist
upon seeing you. And - don't mind her extravagances about me.
You know, she sees so few people that she thinks I am just
"I agree with her. But you can count upon my discretion, if that
is what you want, Clip."
"You're `immense,' Jack!" exclaimed the girl, her smile
apologizing for the vulgarity of the expression. "If I had a
brother like you - "
"Hush! Your brother! Why, Clip "
"Here we are," she interrupted; and she prepared to get out as
Jack stopped the car. "Suppose you stay outside until I call
"Oh, if I must. But be sure to call. I've had Cora play that
trick, and forget the cue."
"Oh, she'll have to see you," and with that Cecilia jumped out of
the car, and presently touched the brass knocker of the little
Jack was left to his own thoughts. Wasn't she a girl, though? So
like Cora in her impulses. Well, a girl has to be impulsive to
get ahead - she is so ridiculously hampered by conventionalities.
It seemed a long time before Clip reappeared at the door, and
beckoned him to come in. Then the room he entered smelled
strongly of antiseptics, and the crippled child sat in a chair
made sweet and fresh with snowy pillows. Wren had her promise
book in her hands. Briefly Cecilia introduced Jack, while the
child eyed him keenly, as do those deprived of the usual means of
making sure of their friends.
"You know about my promise," she said shyly. "Grandpa's will is
lost in an old table, and will you promise to help find it?"
"Indeed I will," said Jack warmly, taking the pen offered. "I
have a weakness for hunting old furniture, and I hope it will be
my good fortune to find the table."
"How much you are like your sister," said Wren, referring to Cora,
"but not a bit like your cousin."
This caused both Jack and Cecilia to laugh - she Jack's cousin!
Mrs. Salvey patted the child's head. "She is so much better
lately," she said, "since she has been friends with Miss Thayer."
"Her friendship is wonderful," said Jack, handing back the book.
"It does me all sorts of good."
Cecilia was pulling on her gloves. She picked up the small black
satchel (her hand bag, she called it), and started for the door.
"That hand bag smells like - "
"Fresh eggs," she interrupted Jack. "Understand, young man, I had
to come out here to get one dozen of strictly fresh eggs."
For a moment she looked intently at Jack, as if determined to put
him on his honor without further explanation. He took her hand
and assisted her into the car. As he did so she felt the
assurance that Jack Kimball was her friend.
Then they started back to Chelton.
"Isn't it too mean? I never thought that Cecilia would act so. I
think Jack knows why."
Bess Robinson was talking to Cora. Her voice betrayed something
other than disappointment. Bess now called Cecilia by her full
name - the affectionate "Clip" had been laid aside. Besides this
she hesitated when Jack's name was needed in her conversation.
The fact was perfectly evident. Jack's attention to Cecilia,
their runaway ride, and the consequent talk, had rather hurt Bess.
Jack had always been a very good friend to her.
"But Clip simply can't come," said Cora. "Her machine is out of
order, and, besides this, she is called away to look after some
"Cora Kimball!" exclaimed Bess. "You're a perfect baby. Sick
relative! Why, every one sickens a relative when they want to go
away in a hurry. It might be interesting to know who else has a
made-up sick relative who demands, say, Jack's immediate
"Why, Bess! I'm surprised that you should speak so bitterly. You
know perfectly well that Jack's going to the races. You heard
them make all the arrangements - Jack, Ed and Walter. Besides - "
Cora stopped. She tossed back her pretty head as if too disgusted
to speak. She was packing the last of her touring things into the
hampers of the Whirlwind. She would have everything ready for the
early start next morning. Bess Robinson had run over for final
instructions, when Cora announced that Cecilia Thayer could not go
with them on the motor girls' tour. This information drove all
other details from the mind of Bess. And now Cora was locking her
"Oh, I suppose we will get along very well without her," said Bess
finally. "In fact, it may be better that she does not come, for
she is bound to be doing things that are risky."
"Well, we will miss her, I'm sure," said Cora, "for she is such
good company. But we will have to manage."
"Has Belle all your tools packed? Don't forget candles; they are
so handy when anything happens after dark. I always fetch them.
They poke under little places so nicely."
"Oh, I fancy Belle has managed to take along the candelabra. At
least, I think I can count on the glass candlesticks. Poor Belle!
I wonder will she ever leave off that sort of thing. She cares
more or an `effect' than for a good square meal," answered Bess.
"Alt kinds make a world," replied Cora. "Suppose she were as
sensible as you or I? Why, as well take away the flowers, and
plant kindling wood.
Bess laughed. Cora turned up the path with her. "I met Ray,"
said Bess, "buying a new veil, of course. I would hate to be as
pretty as Ray, and have so much trouble to keep up the reputation.
That's the worst of pretty girls. They really have to keep
"And Daisy? Was she buying a new novel to read en route? They
might both do better to `chip in' and buy a new kit of tools,"
At precisely eight forty-five o'clock the next morning the
Whirlwind drew up in front of the post-office. The start was to
be made from that point, and Cora was first to arrive. With her
were Hazel Hastings, and Gertrude Adams, a school friend of
Two minutes later the Flyaway puffed into sight with the Robinson
twins smiling serenely from her two-part seat.
Scarcely had the occupants of the two car exchanged greetings than
Daisy Bennet and Maud Morris drove up in the Bennet runabout,
called the Breeze. On account of the change of plan, Ray Stuart
was to ride with Cora, instead of with Clip, as was at first
proposed. Ray met the girls at the post-office. As predicted,
she did look like a brand new bisque statue. She wore a soft silk
coat, of light green pongee, the same shade hood, over which
"rested," one might say, a long white chiffon veil. It reposed on
the hood, where two secret pins held it, but otherwise the veil
was mingled with Ray's expression and the surrounding atmosphere.
The girls sighed as they beheld her. She had been waiting for
some minutes in the post-office, and needless to say there were
others waiting, too - not altogether engrossed in reading the
Cora stepped out of the Whirlwind and opened the tonneau door for
Ray. Hazel and she were to ride within the car, while Gertrude
shared the seat with Cora. Cora wore her regular motor togs. The
close-fitting pongee coat showed off well her perfect figure, and
with the French bonnet, that nestled so snugly to her black
tresses there was no semblance to the flaring, loose effect so
common to motorists. She looked more like a Paris model than a
girl equipped for a tour. But Cora had that way - she was always
"classy," as the boys expressed it, or in perfect style, as the
girls would admit.
Hazel usually affected strong shades - she was dark and could wear
reds and browns to good advantage. It so happened that the motor
girls afforded a peculiar variety, no two wearing similar outfits.
Timid little Maud Morris was in white, and Daisy was in linen.
The Robinson girls wore their regular uniform - Bess in
Havana-brown and Belle in true-blue. So it will be seen that such
an array of beauty and clothes could not help but attract
attention, to say nothing of the several automobiles that made up
the procession in front of the post-office.
At the last moment Belle had to run into a store to make some
trifling purchases, while Daisy sent two extra postcards, and Ray
needed something from the drug store.
Finally all was ready. It was just nine o'clock.
"Ready!" called Cora.
A blast on a bugle startled them. Then -
What was it?
It looked like a hay wagon, but it came along at the speed of a
"The boys!" called the girls in one breath.
Sure enough, there were Jack, Walter, Ed and some others of their
chums, piled up on a veritable hay rack, and they wore all sorts
of farmer clothes. The hay rack evidently set upon the body of
And Jack on the "monkey seat," blowing that bugle!
"Start!" called Cora.
"They're off!" shouted the chorus from the hay wagon, and then
Chelton folks were treated to a sight the like of which they had
never before witnessed.
It was the first official tour of the original motor girls.
THOSE DREADFUL BOYS
"No BOYS, eh?" shouted Ed from his "perch" in the hay.
"Aren't they dreadful?" exclaimed Daisy with doubtful sincerity.
"Hope mother doesn't hear of it," replied Maud. "She would be
sure to worry."
Cora laughed, and Bess fairly panted. Belle tossed something into
the hay wagon as it passed - it made a practice of passing each
machine in turn, and then doing it all over again.
Every one in Chelton and the near-by places rushed out as the
procession went along. It was like a circus - many folks really
did believe that a "railroad show" had come to town unannounced.
The girls had planned to have dinner at a pretty little tea-house
on the outskirts of Hollyville. But the boys had no intention of