Part 2 out of 4
turning back, it seemed, and imagine those boys in the tea-house,
kept by a couple of enterprising college girls!
"Hey there!" called Jack. "When do we eat? There's the noon
"Yon don't eat," replied Cora.
"Don't, eh? Well, look out for your commissary department,"
answered Jack. "We came prepared to fight."
"Oh," sighed Daisy, "do you suppose they will spoil all our
"I'm sure I don't know," replied the noncommital Maud.
But Hazel said: "What do you suppose they are up to?"
"Trust them for fun," answered Cora. "I will simply trounce Jack
if he attempts to overhaul our stores."
Hazel laughed merrily. "If only Paul were along," she ventured.
"And, Cora, do you know that mailbag business is not by any means
settled?" she asked.
"I know that, girlie," said Cora with polite seriousness, "but all
troubles are tabooed on this ride, you know. Gertrude," to the
girl who had been looking and listening, "I appoint you monitor of
this car. The first girl to bring in troubles is to be fined."
"Very well," replied Gertrude, "I shall be glad to have something
to do. I feel like a stranger with those boys."
"That's because you do not know them," ventured Ray. "They are
perfectly splendid boys."
"Make a note of that," called Cora. "Gertrude, that is one mark
in favor of Ray."
The procession was winding along a pretty country road. Trees
closed in from side to side, and deep gutters outlined the
driveway from the footpath.
The boys had actually ceased their antics for the time, and it
occurred to more than one girl that this respite might have been
more advantageous if it had been put into operation in the city
streets - the decorum was wasted in the woods. But boys have a
queer reasoning code - where girls are concerned.
"Don't you suppose they will turn back before we reach the Glen?"
called Bess to Cora. Their machines were running quite close
"If they don't leave us we will drive past the teahouse, and come
back later," said Cora.
"But what will the college girls think? They will be sure to have
a nice lunch ready."
"When Tillie sees Ed Foster she will cease to think. She knows
Ed," and Cora laughed significantly.
"Oh, look!" shouted Hazel. "A flock of sheep. And directly in
the track. The boys - "
At that moment every one saw the sheep. The hay wagon made a
spurt and dashed straight through the frightened herd, scattering
them right and left, like feathers blown by the wind.
Daisy and Maud came next. They had time to jam down the brakes,
but it would have been wiser to have dashed through the flock
without loss of time, for an angry ram turned as the car slacked
speed, and when Daisy and Maud saw him jump toward them, they also
jumped out into the gutter, deserting their car.
A big, woolly ram leaped up from the midst of the flock, and
actually landed in the runaway automobile. The improvised hay
wagon was quickly steered to one side, just as Daisy's car, with
the horned beast at the wheel, plunged past.
The machine, in charge of the queer mechanician, plunged straight
ahead, and after a moment's hesitation on the part of their
drivers, the other cars were quickly sent after it.
The boys shouted lustily. As if the frightened and angry ram
cared for the harmony of a college quartet. Wasn't it ridiculous
to see the ram positively driving the car?
By some strange instinct the animal had raised its fore legs to
the rim of the steering wheel, standing upright on his hind ones,
which were jamming the brake and clutch pedals.
"Oh l" screamed the girls in a chorus. "There comes a runabout!
He'll collide with it!"
A runabout, coming in the opposite direction, and headed straight
for the ram, could be seen down the road. The driver was a girl,
that was evident, but she was so muffled in hood, veil and cloak
that her features were not discernible.
"Stop it!" screamed Gertrude. "She'll be killed."
The ram evidently saw the other car coming, and tried to leap out,
but its fore feet had gone through the spaces between the spokes
of the steering wheel. The girl in the runabout was sending her
car from side to side, in a frantic endeavor to avoid a collision.
It seemed to be a choice with her, whether she should smash into
the ram's car, or tilt into the roadside ditch.
Suddenly the girl stood up. The eyes of the motor girls and their
boy companions were on her. She gave a scream, and then -
something happened. From the rear cars came a scream. Then - the
Breeze was stopped - the ram was gone, and the runabout was
Where and who was the unfortunate driver?
THE GIRL IN THE DITCH
When all the machines had been stopped there was a wild rush to
the rescue - Bess and Belle with Gertrude hurrying back to where
Daisy and Maud had been left, while Cora, Ray and Hazel ran
forward to the side of the strange runabout. The boys divided
themselves - some going in each direction.
Presently Cora shouted
"Jack! Jack! Hurry! It's Clip! And she is unconscious!"
Jack was not far away, and at his sister's call he hurried to her.
Ray had taken Cecilia's head in her lap, while Cora was trying to
lift the unconscious girl from her bent-up posture in the narrow,
roadside, grass-grown ditch.
"Oh, the poor dear!" sighed Cora. "To think that our sport should
have - "
Cecilia was opening her eyes.
"Clip! Clip, dear!" whispered Cora. "Try to - wake up!"
Cecilia did try - she put her hand to her dazed eyes.
"Here! Let me lift her," commanded Jack, slipping down on the
other side into the deep grass and without any apparent effort
lifting Cecilia up. With one long step he reached the road. Then
for a moment he seemed uncertain - should he lay the girl down, or
carry her to a machine?
"Oh, I can stand," she said faintly. "I am much better now. What
"You happened," answered Jack, so dismissing the question. "Just
keep still, and we will have you around directly. This is where
you beat the motor girls." He was now helping her to her feet.
"You may ride back with the motor boys."
"Are you better?" asked Ray anxiously, stroking Cecilia's white
hand, which had been divested of its glove. "Wasn't it dreadful?"
"Very," sighed Cecilia. "And my poor little machine! Jack, how
can I ever - "
"You can never," he insisted with a wink. "I never saw such a
rambunctious ram. Didn't he ramify, though?"
"What in the world was it?" asked Cecilia. She was sitting on the
grass and seemed almost prepared to laugh. "I thought I must be
seeing things. Then I - "
"Felt things," said Jack. "That's the regular course of the
disease. Here come the others. Hello, Daisy has the veil tied
up, and Maud is limping."
"What happened to them?" asked Cecilia.
"Same thing that happened to you," replied Jack. "The ram. That
was the most happening thing I have seen in some time."
Maud was limping, and had Ed's arm. Daisy kept her hand to her
face, and she clung to Walter. Hazel flashed a meaning look to
Cora. The girls might not be very badly injured, but they needed
help - that sort of help.
"Well!" exclaimed Cora. "You look as if something did happen."
"Oh, I'm all scratched," fluttered Daisy. "That is, my face feels
like a grater." She took her handkerchief from the abused face.
A few harmless scratches were discernible.
"Not so bad," said Jack. "Just the correct lines, I believe, for
- let me see - intellectuality."
"Oh, you needn't joke," snapped Daisy. "I suppose Cecelia - is -
She said this with the evident intention of drawing attention to
Jack's attitude toward Cecilia.
"Now, Daisy," said Jack good-naturedly, "if you want to dump in
the ditch again, and will only give me the chance, I will be
perfectly delighted to fish you out: I fancy I would get you first
"Oh, you need not bother," interrupted Walter. "I can take care
of Miss Bennet."
At this he spread his handkerchief most carefully on the grass,
and, with mock concern, assisted Daisy to the low seat.
Ed followed suit, adding to the handkerchief cushion his cap - to
make the grass softer for Maud.
"But however did you happen along, Cecilia?" asked Belle, who now
added her dainty self to the line of girls on the roadside.
"Now, here!" called Jack. "No more happenings! I beg your
pardon, Belle, but we have had such a surfeit of this happening
business that we intend, in the language of the poets, to cut it
Cecilia gave Jack a grateful glance. Cora broke in promptly with
a new thought - to divert attention.
"And you are the girls who wanted `No Boys!'" exclaimed Walter.
"I should just like to know what you would have done without us?"
"There! Didn't I tell you?" said Cora. "They are actually
claiming the glory of the whole thing. I suppose, Walter, you
hired the ram to do the proper thing in initiating the motor girls
in the art of touring?"
"Wouldn't he make a hit, though, at some of our college affairs!"
exclaimed Ed. "I wonder if we could buy the beast? Here comes
the owner now."
The girls looked alarmed. Suppose the farmer should blame them
for the disappearance of the ram!
"I'll do the talking," suggested Walter. "If you say anything,
Jack, there might be a row."
"Humph!" said Jack. "I suppose you know just how to deal with ram
The farmer was quite up to them now. He was not an
ill-natured-looking man, and as he approached he touched his big
"No one hurt?" he asked, much to the girls' relief.
"Oh, no, thank you," said Cora, before Walter could open his
mouth. "I hope you have not lost the sheep."
"Lose him! Couldn't do that if you chucked him in the mill-pond
and let the dam loose on him. Only yesterday the plagued thing
went for my wife. Yes, sir, and he 'most knocked her down. When
I seed your steam wagons comin' along I knowed there would be
trouble. He's that pesky!"
The man looked at the disabled machine.
"Busted?" he asked.
"Some," replied Walter. "But I guess we can manage. Would you
like to sell that ram?"
"Sell him? What for? To kill folks as try to feed him? I bought
him from a fellow who always wore an overcoat, and, bless me, that
ram got so used to it if I haven't had to put my ulster on the
hottest days this summer to do down to the pasture where he was
The boys laughed heartily at this. Walter seemed keener than ever
now on making a bargain.
"Well, you see," he said, "we might use the fellow for stunts -
tricks. I think we might train him - "
A scream from Belle startled them.
"Oh!" she yelled. "There he comes! What shall we do?"
Without waiting for instructions, however, Belle, with the other
girls, jumped up and started for a little cottage not far from the
roadside. The ram was coming over the fields straight for the
"Now wait," cautioned the farmer, as the boys made ready to
confront the animal. "Just keep back until he gets near that
machine. Then maybe we can git him."
"He's game sport, all right," said Walter. "He evidently hasn't
The brush and low trees along the road made it possible for the
young men to hide, while the excited animal dashed through the
tall grass out into the road.
He went straight for the hay wagon. With a bound he was in the
decorated auto, like a beast in a cage, with the rack and hay
trimmings surrounding him.
"Now we've got him," said the farmer; "that is, if we're careful."
"How?" whispered Ed.
"Someone must lasso him. "The farmer held out the rope in his
hand, making a loop ready to throw over the ram's head.
The girls had reached the cottage, but were calling to the boys
all sorts of warning and cautions.
"When he gets at the hay," said the farmer, "I guess he'll eat.
That run likely whet up his appetite."
"More fun than a deer hunt," said Jack, laughing. "I wonder what
will turn up next on this motor girls' tour."
"Get busy," said Ed, creeping toward the hay wagon. "Now, Walter
- Oh, Glory be! If he isn't at my four-dollar gloves!"
Quick, like the well=trained athlete that he was, Ed grabbed the
rope from the farmer, sprang to the hay rack and made a cast.
It landed true on the animal's horns.
"I've got him!" exclaimed the boy. "Now, fellows, quick! Make
his legs fast."
No need to say "quick," for the boys were up and busy making fast
the beast before the surprised farmer had a chance to exclaim.
"So you like the real thing in gloves?" asked Ed while pulling at
the rope. "Well, I fancy you will make something real - perhaps a
robe - for the best record of this trip. Oh, I say, fellows,
let's buy the brute, have him done up properly, and offer his coat
to the girl who comes home with a record."
Shouts of glee followed this suggestion, and the girls, seeing
that the animal was made safe, were now running back from the
cottage to add their voices to the excitement.
Clip insisted upon helping to tie the ram - she declared he had
done his share toward making it uncomfortable for her - while
Daisy, in her timid way, wanted to do something to the "saucy
thing" for upsetting her, and Jack suggested that she "box his
Cora glanced at her watch.
"If it's all the same to the gentlemen," she said, "we will
continue on our way. We have lost a full hour already."
"Lost!" repeated Walter meaningly.
"She said `lost,'" faltered Ed with similar intent.
"Not actually lost," corrected Cora, "but at least dropped out of
"We were due ten miles ahead now," sighed Maud in her wistful way.
"Too bad, too bad," whimpered Jack, who was still pulling at the
ram's rope. "But it was not our fault, girls. Now, Daisy, do you
think you can run your machine without taking in any more
circuses? We have examined your car, and it is intact - not so
much as a footprint did the naughty beast leave."
Clip was looking over her runabout. It was not damaged, it
seemed, and for this she was most grateful. Clip was not out for
pleasure - you have guessed that - and it would have been highly
inconvenient for that young lady to go back to town in the hay.
Jack left off at the ram's horn, and came to crank up for her.
"All right, Clip?" he asked with evident concern. "I don't want
you to go over that lonely road if you do not feel just like it.
I can go with you."
"You!" she exclaimed. "Why, Jack Kimball, what are you thinking
about?" and she laughed airily. "If you want to finish the
impression we started the other day, just take another ride with
me. No, Jack, my dear boy, I am very much all right, and very
much obliged. But I must hurry off. Whatever will my little
brown Wren think of me?" She stepped into the car. "Good-by,
girls," she called. "I am so sorry I delayed you, but so glad we
met. Take care of the ram, boys, and am I eligible for the
trophy? I am a motor girl, you know."
"Of course you are," said Jack, before the others could speak.
"All motor girls are eligible."
"Ida Giles, too?" asked Bess. The moment she had spoken she could
have bitten her tongue. Why could she never hide her feelings
about Jack and Clip?
"And, girls," called Cecilia, who was starting now, "don't forget
about your promise. Wren is counting on results."
"What promise?" asked Ed.
"Oh, don't you know?" replied Cora. "Well, I am afraid Jack will
have to tell you. We really have not another moment. Are you
"Why, our strange promise," put in Maud, who was glad to have a
"real remark" to make to Ed. "We promised a little girl we would
find an old table for her and we have just ransacked the farmer's
house, hoping to find it.
Cora burst out laughing. Such an explanation!
"Why, I'll promise a `little girl' that," said Ed, taking up
Cora's laugh. "Any qualifications? Might it be a time-table?"
Maud pouted. She stepped into Cora's car, evidently disgusted
with boys in general.
Gertrude had something to say to Walter, and was obliged to stand
up on the hay rack to do so, as the young man would not let go the
rope that held the ram.
There was a sudden hum of an auto, and Clip was gone.
"Thought she had a sick relative," murmured Bess.
"So she has," said Jack, who overheard the remark. "But she came
near neglecting her this morning. That was a close call."
"Oh, yes," said Bess with a curled lip. "It seems to me
everything Cecilia does is close."
"Bess Robinson!" exclaimed Jack. "Do you want me to hug you? You
have been treating me shamefully for weeks past. Now, own up.
What have I done?"
Jack knew how to restore Bess to good humor, and his success this
time was marked.
"You ridiculous boy!" exclaimed Bess. "You know perfectly well
what I mean."
And Jack did.
AT THE GROTTO
We have dropped something," said Cora as the party started off
"Yes," replied Gertrude, "I agree with Ray that the boys are
jolly. We miss them already."
"Hush!" cautioned Cora. "We are to have nothing to do with boys
on this trip."
She laughed at her own assertion.
"Nothing more to do with them?" asked Belle. Bess kept her
machine within talking distance.
"Till the next time," replied Cora, throwing in the second speed
gear. "But we will certainly have to hurry now. What on earth do
you suppose Walter will do with that ram?"
"What on earth do you think the ram will do with Walter?" replied
"He paid the farmer three dollars for him, and the man declared he
could have him for nothing," said Belle. "Now, that three dollars
"Would have bought orchids," interrupted Cora, teasing Belle for
"Cora," spoke Hazel suddenly, "did you hear what Ed said to Jack
about Paul's hold-up?"
"The forbidden topic," interrupted Gertrude. "Hazel, you don't
want to lose the sheepskin for insubordination, do you?"
"But, Gertrude, please," begged Hazel quite seriously, "I really
must speak to Cora. I will promise not to be blue, but you know I
am very anxious about Paul."
"Then speak on, very briefly," replied Gertrude. "I will allow
you exactly five minutes."
"Thanks," said Hazel. "Cora," she began again, "Ed told Jack that
the papers lost from the mail belonged to Mr. Robinson, and have
to do with a very valuable patent. Do you suppose the post-office
will do anything to Paul?"
"Oh, you precious baby!" exclaimed Cora. "Don't you know that
Paul has been entirely cleared? The mystery is simply who took
the papers and otherwise left the mailbag intact?"
"Poor Paul!" sighed the sister.
"Poor Hazel!" added Cora. "A sister who is always worrying about
a handsome brother is bound to lose him, eh, Gertrude?"
Gertrude blushed. She had only met Paul once, and at that time
her remark was so positive that Cora had seized the opportunity of
teasing the girl. That she never noticed boys was Gertrude's
claim at college, and now Cora was delighted to have a chance of
reversing the claim.
Daisy and Maud, who had been at some distance from the Whirlwind,
now cut past Bess and Belle, making their way to the side of the
big maroon car.
"Cora," called Daisy, "I forgot to tell you. I found this little
satchel by the road where we stopped."
Cora gazed at the black bag that Daisy held up for her inspection.
"Why," faltered Cora, "that must belong to Clip. Why didn't you
ask to whom it did belong?"
"I really never thought a word about it until Maud said just now
it must be Clip's."
"But why did you pick it up without asking?" insisted Cora, her
voice somewhat indignant.
"It was dropped on the road. I thought of course it belonged to
some of the girls, and just threw it in my car in a hurry when you
called to us to hasten along," said Daisy, her voice sharp and
"I am sure it must belong to Clip," said Cora, calming down. "I
hope it will not inconvenience her."
"I wish you would take the smelly thing," shouted Daisy. "It
smells like papa's office, and I hate drugs."
"Clip was going to see some sick relative," went on Cora, "and of
course the satchel - "
"Must be filled with the sickness," and Daisy laughed
sarcastically. "Well, papa's bag smells that way, but he has more
than one `sick relative.' "
Cora frowned. Gertrude looked surprised. Hazel shook her head at
"Toss it here," called Cora. "I just love disinfectants."
Daisy threw the bag into the Whirlwind. Then she put on speed and
passed the big car.
For a few miles the girls seemed very quiet, scarcely any
conversation being held.
It was but a short run to the Grotto, the little wayside
tea-house. The party was a full hour late, but Cora knew she
could depend upon generous excuses for the motor girls.
So many things might happen by the way, and so many things did
"I suppose," murmured Ray, "the biscuit will be stony. I do love
"Don't worry. Tillie will keep things hot, if she possibly can do
so. But I hear they have had some very busy days at the Grotto.
I hope we have not hit upon the very busiest. Gertrude, have I
told you about the Grotto? Did you know that Mathilde Herold and
Adele Genung are keeping a tea-house this summer, to earn enough
money for their senior year? And they have done surprisingly
well. Yes, their folks have a summer place near the tea-house, so
the girls go home nights, and of course the place must be very
pretty - Tillie is an artist in decorating."
"Splendid!" exclaimed Gertrude. "Of course I know Tillie. What
girl at Springsley doesn't know her? She has been decorating for
every affair at the gym. And she always helped with chapel. Oh,
yes, indeed, Cora, I agree with you, Tillie Herold is an artist."
"Well, let us hope her talent is not confined to mere walls," said
Ray. "Hot biscuit requires a different stroke, I believe."
"In accepting us for to-day," said Cora. "Tillie stipulated that
we should dine table d'hote and no questions asked. I hope, Ray,
you will not be disappointed."
"Oh, there they are!" exclaimed Hazel. "I see some one waving her
"That's Adele," replied Cora. "She knows how to wave aprons.
Don't you remember, Gertrude, the night she served the Welsh
rarebit, when she made an apron of our best table-piece with a
string through the middle?"
Cora turned her auto to the roadside. Then she called to the cars
"Here we are, girls. Get your machines well in from the road."
"Oh, what a charming place!" exclaimed Belle, who was not slow to
observe the attractions of the little Grotto. It seemed all porch
and vines, one of those picture places, ample for an eating house,
but unsuited for anything else.
"There!" gasped Daisy; "that's the sort of house to live in!"
"To live out of, you mean," put in Maud. "I can't see how one
could live `in' there."
The cars were all motionless now. Cora and Gertrude had already
"escaped" from the college hug of Adele and Tillie. When the
Chelton girls had been introduced, the vine-covered porch was
actually filled with the members of the motor party.
"How splendid!" exclaimed Tillie, with that delightful German
accent that defies letters and requires a pretty mouth to
"Darling!" went on Adele, with all the extravagance of schoolgirl
"You leave us no adjectives," remarked Cora. "I never saw
anything so sweet. How ever did you get those vines to grow so
"Wild cucumber," said Adele with a laugh, "Why, you know, dear,
wild cucumber can no more help growing than you can. Isn't she
tall, Tillie? I do believe you have grown inches since school,
"Yes, mother bemoans it. My duds are all getting away from me."
"And we have been waiting lunch for you ladies. I did hope we
would not have a single visitor to-day, so that we might entertain
you properly," went on Adele, "but two horrid men called. Wanted
'tea'; but indeed I know what they wanted - just a quiet place to
talk about their old patent papers."
"Yes, and one broke a beautiful china cup," said Tillie.
"But he had his thumb gone," Adele hurried to say. "I saw him
directly I went to pick up the pieces. So I suppose we could not
exactly blame the man for dropping Tillie's real German cup."
"His thumb gone!" repeated Cora absently.
"Oh!" exclaimed Hazel. "The man we met after Paul's hold-up had
lost a joint of his thumb."
"And papa said the papers stolen were patent papers!" exclaimed
Bess, all excitement.
"Hush!" whispered Belle. "Bess, you know father particularly said
we were not to speak of that."
If, as is claimed, the mature woman has the wonderful advantage of
an instinct almost divine, then the growing girl has, undoubtedly,
the advantage of intuitive shocks - flashes of wireless insight
into threatening surroundings.
Such a flash was distinctly felt now through the Grotto - even the
two young proprietors, who were not supposed to be really
concerned, felt distinctly that "something was doing somewhere."
Cora sank down into a low wicker chair. Bess and Belle managed to
both get upon a very small divan, while Daisy, Maud and Ray, the
"three graces," stood over in the corner, where an open window let
in just enough honeysuckle to sift the very sofest possible
sunshine about the group.
But Hazel lingered near the telephone. She had confided to Cora
that Paul was not at all well when he left home in the morning,
and just now she was wondering if it would seem silly for her to
call up the Whitehall Company and ask to speak with her brother.
At that instant the telephone bell rang.
It sent the expected shock through the little assemblage, and Cora
jumped up as if she anticipated a message.
Tillie took down the receiver.
Presently she was saying "no" and "yes," and then she repeated
She handed the receiver to Cora with a whispered word.
Hazel's face went very white.
"You little goose!" exclaimed Bess, who instantly noticed the
change. "Is there no one here worth a telephone message but Hazel
"Yes, Ed - Ed Foster," they heard Cora say. Then she listened a
long time. Her face did not betray pleasure, and her words were
"All right, Ed," she said finally. "I will attend to it at once.
Oh, yes, a perfectly lovely time. Thank you - we are just about
to dine. Good-by."
Cora was slow to hang up the receiver. And when she turned around
Hazel Hastings confronted her.
"Oh, is it Paul?" asked Hazel. "Tell me quickly. What has
happened to Paul?"
"Hazel," said Cora, "you must have your lunch. You are dreadfully
But it was Cora Kimball who was distracted, who played with her
lunch without apparent appetite, and it was she who could take but
one cup of tea in the fascinating little tea-house, the college
THE PROMISE BOOK LOST
Now, Cora, dear," began Gertrude, in her quiet, yet convincing
way, "you may just as well tell us what you are waiting for. We
are guessing all sorts of things, and the truth cannot possibly be
They were sitting on the porch of the Grotto, and although they
were away behind scheduled time at that point, Cora insisted she
wanted to rest a bit, and seemed loath to move.
Cora Kimball tired after twenty-five miles! As well accuse the
Whirlwind of drinking its own gasoline.
Hazel was almost feverish. Cora had not divulged the purport of
the telephone message, beyond admitting it was from Ed, which gave
Ray the chance for her little joke on the combination of names -
Cora and Ed, the "Co-Eds."
"When the Co-Eds conspire," lisped Ray, "we may as well wait
patiently. We will have to wait their pleasure, of course."
Cora did not mind the sarcasm. She was certainly not like
herself. Bess and Belle were even anxious about her, and offered
all sorts of remedies, from bicarbonate of soda to dry tea.
"Now," said Cora finally, "it is two o'clock. Do you really think
we ought to make Breakwater tonight?"
"Why not?" gasped Daisy. "Won't Aunt May be waiting for us? And
it is only thirty miles."
"Yes, but," faltered Cora, "suppose you should have a breakdown on
that lonely road? There is neither station nor house from here to
"What should break down?" asked Daisy. "This is papa's best
machine, if you mean it is not trustworthy."
"Oh, Daisy, dear, I had no idea of insinuating such a thing. Your
machine, of course, is just as trustworthy as any of the others.
But I was thinking how delightful it would be to spend the night
here. I really must confess to being broken up by that ram
accident," and Cora shivered slightly.
The girls looked at her in astonishment. Her words did not ring
true; Cora Kimball was a poor actress.
"If Cora wants to stay," said Tillie, "I should think you would
all agree. Cora is captain, is she not?"
"But our trip will be spoiled," wailed Maud. "I do wish I had
"Oh, if there is going to be real distress about it," said Cora,
evidently trying hard to pull herself together, "I suppose we had
best start. But remember, I have warned you. I have a
premonition that we will `run up against' something before night."
"Then I am not going," declared Hazel. "I won't stir one step.
Cora, let the others go; you can overtake them with your fast car,
and we will meet them in the morning."
This brought on a veritable storm of protest and dissatisfaction.
Cora left the girls on the porch, and went outside with Tillie.
"Could you hear anything those men were saying?" she asked the
pretty little German. "Were they discussing a patent, do you
"Oh, no; it was not like that," replied Tillie. "It was about -
let me see. Some Haster, no, like a name - like your friend's
name, Hazel Hastings. That was it, Hastings."
"Did they say Hazel?" pressed Cora.
"No, not that, of course," and Tillie laughed.
"How should they know Hazel? It was a similar name - just
"And they unfolded blueprints? Like our campus maps, you know?"
"Yes, they had blue maps; I saw them when I picked up my shattered
cup. - It is all very well for Adele to blame his thumb; I blame
him - he is too fat, and thinks himself very smart."
Tillie pouted. Evidently her caller had not been too polite,
perhaps he had mistaken her for an ordinary waitress.
A distant "honk-honk" startled the girls. Cora rushed out to the
road, and before the others knew what she was about she was in
conversation with Ed Foster. So quickly did he run up to the
Grotto in Jack's car that no one but Cora realized who he was
until the machine was stopped and he was out beside her. There
was a stranger with him -a business-like looking man. He did not
leave the car.
"There!" exclaimed Ray. "Didn't I tell you? It was this Co-Ed
business that kept her. Cora can't fool me."
"Hazel," said Cora, stepping up to the porch, "Ed thinks you had
best not go on with us. Paul is not well - he is not very sick,
though - "
Hazel turned white, and Cora put her arm around her. "Now you
must not be frightened. It is nothing serious, and I will go back
with you," she said.
"Indeed you shall not!" exclaimed Hazel, now calling up all her
courage, and proving herself to be the girl she really could be in
an emergency. "I shall go back with Ed, if I may."
The girls glanced from one to the other. They understood this was
an emergency, that Hazel had been called back to her sick brother,
yet with girlish curiosity some of them, at least, showed surprise
that Hazel should offer to ride back with Ed Foster.
"But I am not going back," said Ed; "at least not until we - this
gentleman and I - have followed the trail a little farther. You
see, girls, we are out on a `bear hunt.'"
But the girls did not see - only Cora looked as if she understood.
She said to Hazel:
"There is no hurry, dear. You can go with them when they come
back. They have to pass this way, don't you, Ed?"
"Would you mind, Cora," said Ed suddenly, "if the gentleman
outside asked you a few private questions?"
"A reporter!" exclaimed Ray, all excitement.
"Dear me! I do hope he won't ask for our pictures. Mother would
never permit it."
Ed smiled broadly. He looked a sort of assent, but did not
otherwise express it.
Cora stepped up to the auto, whereat the man left his place, and,
under pretext of walking along idly, and perhaps thus gaining
Cora's "private ear," he was soon out of reach of those on the
"It is like a double robbery," he said after exchanging some
preliminary remarks, "and the child is disconsolate. Her mother
is sure it was not stolen, but lost, while we feel otherwise. It
seems there is a handsome young man, a cousin of the child's,
interested. His father is a lawyer - the lawyer who has the case
against Mr. Robinson. Now this book - the promise book -
contained the names of those who visited the cottage on the day
that the papers were taken out of the mailbag. It is
comparatively easy to guess the sequence."
"You mean they might call on those whose names appear in the
book?" asked Cora, beginning to see something of the complex
"Yes, and more than that. They would obtain valuable information
from that little book - a clear description of the missing table.
If they can find it they will be able to keep the property where
it is now - in the possession of Rob Roland, Wren Salvey's rival
"Rob Roland!" exclaimed Cora. "Why, he was in the party at
Robinson's the other evening. He was even attentive to a friend
"To whom, may I ask?" inquired the detective politely.
"A Miss Thayer, a young student," she replied.
"Miss Thayer! I heard her name mentioned in court this morning.
Is she a friend of yours?"
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Cora, now alarmed. "What could be said
of Cecilia Thayer?"
"Why, she has been on very intimate terms with the Salvey child,
and lawyers devise all sorts of schemes, you know, to meet their
own ends. It was hinted that Miss Thayer might know where the
missing promise book was."
"Clip take that from Wren! Impossible!" cried Cora. "Oh, this is
all a mistake! I must go back. I cannot go on and let Clip be
blamed for stealing the promise book."
Ed Foster stood up every inch of his height. He was always tall,
but now, facing the girl whose name he had so vehemently spoken,
he seemed a veritable giant. Cora wanted to be firm; she meant
exactly what she said when she declared she would abandon the tour
of the motor girls, and go back to Chelton to help Cecilia Thayer
out of her difficulty.
But, after all, Cora was only a girl, and Ed was a great, strong
man - he ought to know.
"If you cannot trust me, Cora, and allow me to help Clip, I really
think you are not doing justice to Jack's friend."
Cora laughed a little. Ed put things so nicely. He never
presumed upon her own intimacy - it was always just "Jack's
"Besides," he pressed, seeing, in, Cora's eyes, his advantage, "I
feel I can do more alone. I have got to take Hazel back to her
brother, then I promise you I shall not rest until I have found
Clip, and made sure of her exact situation."
"Oh, I know, Ed, you will do everything possible. But it seems
like treason for me to go on a pleasure trip and leave two very
dear friends in such trouble. Even Jack may be implicated."
Ed turned away to hide his own tell-tale face. He knew perfectly
well that Jack was implicated, knew that Rob Roland had
deliberately accused him of taking Cecilia Thayer out to the
Salvey cottage for the purpose of gaining possession of the
promise book. For this very reason Ed wanted Cora to go on - to
escape, if possible, the anxiety she must experience if she should
have to know the real story.
"Well," sighed Cora, "it is getting late. I suppose it will be
best, Ed, as you say. Take Hazel back, and find Clip. Have her
'phone me at Breakwater, tomorrow."
"That's the girl!" exclaimed Ed, taking both her hands in his own
strong clasp. "See, the girls are looking at us. They think you
have accepted me."
"I have," she answered, "accepted you, and your terms. Good luck,
Ed. It is so nice for Jack to have such a good friend."
Hazel was soon tucked in the little runabout, the detective going
on in another car that was sent out to him in answer to his call
over the telephone.
"Is your premonition all fulfilled, Cora?" asked Daisy, her voice
far from merry. "I suppose you were 'premonited' that Hazel
should go off like that."
"If we keep on losing," said Gertrude, "we will soon all fit in
Cora stood gazing after the runabout - Jack's car. Hazel's eyes
had burned their look upon Cora's face - those deep, violet eyes
always seem like live volcanoes, thought Cora.
And Ed - his eyes had been searching, his look - well, it was
convincing, that is all Cora would admit even to her own heart.
She turned finally to those on the porch.
"Well," exclaimed Belle, the sentimental one, "who is star-gazing,
now? Cora, what did you forget in that runaway car?"
Cora smiled. She had been remiss, and she owed it to the girls to
see that their trip was a success. She would atone now.
"Tillie," she said suddenly, "couldn't you and Adele shut up shop
for a week and come with us? You have been working hard all
summer, and you have made up the required pennies. Now, don't you
think it would be perfectly splendid to take the run with us?"
Every one instantly agreed that this would be the very thing, and
in spite of the hesitation of Adele and Tillie, who argued that it
might not be agreeable to bring strangers into the homes where
others had been expected, it was finally settled that the party
should wait until the next morning, when the tea-house girls would
be ready to start off with them.
Nor were the arrangements without a certain happy possibility -
there were two other girls waiting to take up that same little
Grotto - to earn college money, as had Tillie and Adele.
"Rena and Margaret will be here first thing in the morning,"
announced Adele, after her telephone talk with Rena, "and they are
perfectly delighted. Oh, isn't it just splendid!"
Then Cora had messages to send. She called up Jack, but only got
the maid in answer. She called up Walter, and he also was out.
Finally she called up Ed. She waited until she felt he would be
at his dinner quarters, and she was not disappointed in getting
his own voice in reply.
He told her that everything was all right - that Clip was with
little Wren, who had been very ill since the loss of her book, and
that Paul Hastings was no worse. This last Cora considered
evasive, but had to be content, for Ed would give no more definite
Such demands as were made upon that little tea-house telephone
that evening! Every one of the girls called up her own home,
besides calling up many relatives at the other end of the line,
those with whom the tourists expected to visit during the trip.
The Grotto was well situated for business, being about half way
between two country seats, and the same distance between two large
"We will close exactly at sundown to-night," said Adele, when a
lady from Bentley, who stopped every evening for a cup of tea on
her way from the village, had been served.
"Do let me keep shop for a while," begged Cora. "I would just
love to be in real business. Mother declares I have a bent for
trade. Let me try, Tillie, while you and Adele go over to the
cottage and get your things together."
Thus it was that one hour later Cora Kimball was left the sole
possessor of the Grotto; every other motor girl managed to either
go for a walk, or go with some one who wanted to take a walk, but
Cora was glad - she felt the need of rest which only solitude can
She sat on the porch; the gentle evening breeze made incense
through the honeysuckle. It was delightfully resting; she could
hear the voices of the girls in the meadow, after cowslips,
buttercups, daisies and clover. They would fetch back a huge
bunch, Cora knew, and they would discard them at the steps of the
Grotto, as most girls do - run wild for wild flowers, then toss
them away when the run is over.
"I hardly think I shall have any business," thought Cora,
"although I would just love to wait on somebody."
The rumble of an approaching automobile caught her ear.
"There!" she thought; "the driver of that car may want a sip of
Russian tea - I am glad it is not Turkish - that the girls serve
The car was almost up to the sycamore tree, just at the side of
Yes, the driver was stopping.
Cora rocked nervously in the wicker chair.
Who would it be? The girls should not have gone so far away -
A young man alighted from the runabout. He stepped briskly up to
It was Rob Roland.
"Well!" he exclaimed, plainly as surprised to see Cora as she was
to see him. "If this isn't luck! Miss Kimball!"
Quick and keen as was his glance, making sure that Cora was alone,
her own sharp wits were able to follow his.
"Yes," she replied indifferently, "the girls have closed up the
tea-room, and are just out in the meadow. I felt more like
He drew up a chair and sat down uninvited. Cora never did like
Rob Roland, now she disliked him.
"You are the very person I am most anxious to talk to," he began,
"and this is an excellent opportunity."
"About what, pray?" asked Cora. "I must go with the girls very
"Oh, no, you must not," he replied, and, handsome though he was,
there was that in his manner that deepened the very lines nature
had done her best with, and his eyes were merely smoldering
Cora felt she should not betray the least nervousness, for, though
Rob Roland was known to be a gentleman, he might take advantage of
her helplessness to gain from her some information. Ed had warned
her to beware of him.
"Of course you know all about Cissy Thayer," he began. Cora
resented his insolence, but dared not show it. "You know how she
has been getting around my little cousin, the cripple."
Cora glared at him. She felt that his cowardly attack was simply
a display of weakness, and she knew a coward is easily overcome.
She deliberately drew her chair closer to him.
"Rob Roland," she said calmly, "my friend, Miss Thayer, is not
only a lady, but she is also a student of human ills. She has
been interested in little Wren that she might be cured. It
appears that some of her relatives consider her incurable."
"Cured!" he sneered. "That misfit made right! Why, she has only
a few months to live. Your friend is very foolish. She should
put her energy on something worth while. And she should be
careful how she handles their property. That scrapbook, for
"How dare you, Rob Roland!" exclaimed Cora. "Miss Thayer says the
child has been ill-treated through alleged treatment, and it
appears the man who has been treating her was paid by your
"Oh, my!" The fellow sank deeper into his linen coat. "I had no
idea of your dramatic powers, Miss Kimball. I beg a thousand
pardons. I never dreamed that the Thayer girl was so close to
you. In fact, I rather thought you merely took her up out of
charity. Every one in Chelton knows that the Thayers are just
That was too much for Cora. She stepped to the door of the
tea-room with dismissal in her manner. He knew she intended him
to leave at once.
"But what I want to know," he said, deliberately following her,
"is just who this Thayer girl is. It is important that we should
know, to go on with the - "
"We!" interrupted Cora. "Pray, who are `we'?"
"Why, my father's firm, the lawyers, you know," he stammered.
"Some day, Miss Kimball, I expect to represent the firm of Roland,
Reed & Company."
Cora turned and looked at him. It was on that very spot that she
had turned to Ed - Ed was so like this young man, the same dark,
handsome youth, and just about his age.
But Ed was, after all, so different - so very different.
Cora was gaining time as she strove to hold him by her magnetic
glance. Any youth would accept it; he did not despise it.
"Mr. Roland," she said, in her own inimitable velvet tones, "you
are making a very great mistake. If you really believe that
Cecilia Thayer had anything to do with the loss of that child's
book, you are wrong; if you think she had any other than humane
motives in visiting the child, you are wrong again. Cecilia
Thayer - "
"Oh, now come, Cora," he interrupted. "You don't mind me calling
you Cora? I know the whole scheme. Your brother Jack is - well,
he is quite clever, but not clever enough to cover up his tracks."
He grasped Cora's arm and actually dragged her to him. "Don't you
know that Cissy Thayer and Jack Kimball are suspected of
abduction? That Wren Salvey has been stolen-stolen, do you hear?"
A STRANGE MESSAGE
Uproarious laughter from the girls with the wild flowers aroused
Cora. Rob Roland was gone.
Had she fainted? Was that roaring in her ears just awakened
"Cora! Oh, Cora! We had the most darling time," Bess was
bubbling. "You should have been along. Such a dear old farmer.
He showed us the queerest tables. And he had the nicest son.
Cora - What is the matter?"
"Oh," lisped Ray, "another Co-Ed message over the telephone."
"Cora, dear," exclaimed Gertrude, "we should not have left you all
alone. Are you ill?"
"Cora! Cora!" gasped Adele.
"Cora, dear!" sighed Tillie.
"Oh, Cora!" moaned Belle. "What has happened?"
"Cora, darling," cried Maud, "who has frightened you?"
"Cora Kimball," called Daisy, "have you been drinking too much
"Too little," murmured Cora. "Will some of you girls leave off
biting the air, and make a good cup of tea?"
There was a wild rush for the alcohol lamp; every one wanted to
make the good cup of tea.
"I saw a runabout moving away as we came up," said Ray. "I hope,
Cora, your caller was not obnoxious."
"Oh, just an autoist," replied Cora indifferently. "I did not
take the trouble to brew tea for one solitary man." The color was
coming back into her cheeks now, and with the return of animation
her scattered senses attempted to seize upon the strange
Jack and Clip to be arrested for abduction!
Could that fellow have known what he was saying?
If only Jack would call her up on the telephone. She had left
word for him to do so, no matter how late the hour might be when
he should return home.
"Now drink every sip of this," commanded Adele, as she turned on
the lights and fetched Cora a steaming cup of the very best Grotto
Hyson. "There is nothing for shaken nerves better than perfectly
fresh tea, and, you see, we make it without soaking the leaves."
"It is delightful," said Cora, sipping the savory draught. "I
must learn how to make tea this way - it is so different from the
Gertrude sat close to the reclining girl. "Is there nothing I can
do, Cora?" she asked. "No message I can send?"
"Yes," whispered Cora; "you can manage to get the girls out of
here before you and I leave for the night. I want to use the
Gertrude understood. She had not been a roommate with Cora
Kimball for two years without knowing something of her
temperament. She pressed her friend's hand gently, then said loud
enough for the others to hear:
"We will soon have to get our machines under cover. Tillie says
her grandfather has all sorts of sheds over around his country
place. In fact, he has a regular shed-farm. Cora, I am just
dying to try running a motor. Would you trust me to get the
Whirlwind in the shed safely?"
"Of course I would, Gertrude," and Cora jumped up from the wicker
divan. "I would suggest that some one go along, though - perhaps
Ray. She has had some experience, and you know the Whirlwind"
"Is not a prize-package machine," interrupted Gertrude. "All
right, Cora. I will humbly take instructions. Come along, girls.
It will be dark directly, and then we might have to waste time
lighting the lamps."
"And grandfather's man has offered to look over every machine
early in the morning," said Tillie. "He is quite expert; we will
be sure that every nut and bolt is in perfect order."
This was good news to the motor girls, especially to Daisy, who
had her own secret doubts about her father's best car - she was
accustomed to running the substitute.
Presently all except Cora and Adele were attending to the cars.
Cora was just about to call up her own house when the tinkle of
the telephone bell startled her. She picked up the receiver and
was not surprised to find the party inquired for was herself.
"This is Jack," came the welcome voice. "Is that you, sis?"
"Oh, yes, Jack, dear!" she replied. Adele had gone out to fetch
the chairs in from the porch. "I have been almost frantic. Where
are you? Where is Clip? Where is Wren?"
"Oh, easy there, now, sis," and Cora thought she had never before
appreciated the value of a real brother. "I can't answer
everything at once, although I can come pretty near it. First, I
am here - at home. Next, Clip is here - at our home, and third,
the other party - I won't mention names - is here also."
"All at our house?" exclaimed Cora.
And the answer came: "Exactly that. But you mustn't say a word to
any one. You know, there has been a sort of rumpus. Do you want
to speak with C.? She is here."
"Hello, Cora," came Cecilia's voice. "How are you? Not getting
on with your trip very fast, I guess."
"Oh, Clip!" said Cora. "I cannot understand it - "
"You are not supposed to," replied the other. "We are all right,
you are all right, and what more do you ask?"
"How is Paul?"
"Well, he did have quite a time, but is improving. Say, Cora,"
and the voice was subdued, "don't call us up until you hear from
me. I can't explain now. But where shall I write - say in two
"Two days!" repeated Cora. "Do you expect me to exist that long
and not know - "
"I am afraid you will have to. We are being watched" - this was
barely breathed - "and a break would spoil it all. Surely you can
The girls were coming back-were actually on the porch. Cora was
obliged to say a few disconnected words, and then she hung up the
THE ROAD TO BREAKWATER
"What a delightful morning!" exclaimed Maud. "The wait was
certainly worth while. I do believe there is something inspiring
about the morning air."
"Yes," rejoined Daisy, throwing in the second speed, "it always
makes me feel like a human rain-barrel. I want to go out in a
great, big field, and sit down in a lump. Then I want to throw
back my head and open my mouth very wide. That is my idea of
drinking in the fresh morning air."
"Well, never mind the dewy morning business," called Cora. "Just
get your machines well under way. You know, we must make
twenty-five miles by noon."
Cora was, as usual, in the lead. Daisy and Maud came next, then
Bess and Belle lined up the rear, as Cora thought it best that the
two big machines should lead and trail.
Cora tried her best to be cheerful. She had definite ideas about
a friend's duty to a friend, and no one could say she failed in
that duty. Why should she think of Jack and Clip and Wren when
she was captain of the Motor Girls' Club, and they expected a good
time on their initial run?
"Oh, I am so glad everything happened!" exclaimed Tillie, who was
in the Whirlwind; "for if everything did not happen we never could
have come along."
"And we never could have had all our camping things," put in
Gertrude. "I am just dying to get out on the grass and light up
under the kettles. That was a very bright idea of Adele's to
fetch along part of the tea-house outfit."
"Won't it be jolly to build miniature caves to keep the wind from
the lamp?" suggested Cora. "I tell you, after all, the motor
girls were poor housekeepers - we had to take lessons from our
This pleased Tillie immensely. She was the sort of girl who is
glad to prove a theory, and in keeping the tea-house she had
proven that girls - mere girls - are not always sawdust dolls.
Daisy was speeding up her machine to speak with Cora.
"There's Cedar Grove over there!" she shouted; "and Aunt May's is
only four miles from the turn in the road."
"But we are going to lunch on the road," replied Cora. "The girls
are bent on camping out."
A cloud fell over Daisy's sensitive face. "I must telephone to
papa that I am all right," she remarked. "Aunt May expected us
last night, and if you girls do not want to come, Maud and I will
go. We can meet you farther on."
"Oh, of course," Cora hurried to say, "we must go on, since we are
expected. We can have the camping out to-morrow. I had actually
lost track of our plans in the mix-up."
"Isn't it too bad that Hazel had to turn back?" said Ray. "I do
hope her brother is not seriously ill."
"I heard last night that he was very much better," replied Cora.
"It seems that robbery unnerved him. Ridiculous as the situation
appeared, it was no fun to Paul. I don't wonder he broke down."
Bess, Belle and Adele were in the Flyaway, and they, like the
others, seemed to take new pleasure in flying over the roads since
they had realized what it meant to have to stand still.
Adele was all enthusiasm. She had not often been privileged to
enjoy automobile sport, and the prospect of the trip seemed like
an unopened wonder book to her - every mile revealed new delights.
Along the shady byways, through the Numberland Hills, past the
famous springs, where everybody stopped to drink and make a wish,
the motor girls took their way.
"Let me lead now, Cora?" asked Daisy. "I am just dying for Aunt
May to see us come up. And say, girls, I've got the dearest,
darlingest cousin - a young doctor!"
A scream went up from every throat. Daisy had not told of her
attractive cousin until the party were within very sight of him.
"Me first!" shouted Belle. "I have been a perfect angel ever
since we left Chelton; didn't even speak to the nice man with the
short thumb - Clip's friend."
At that moment an auto dashed by. Tillie seized Cora's arm.
"That's the man who talked about Hastings!" she exclaimed. "The
man who took tea in our house yesterday."
"And that's the very man we met on the road the day Paul was help
up," Cora declared. "Oh, now I see the coincidence. Of course
they heard of the hold-up, they being on the road about the time
it happened, and when they were at your house they might have been
discussing the latest account of the affair - there was something
in the daily paper about it, you know."
Cora was not sure she believed herself, but at the moment she
decided it would be best for the happiness of the party to think
lightly of the meeting with the strange men. Rob Roland's voice
still rang in her ears like a threat, and while she was no coward
neither did she invite trouble.
There seemed now to be clearly some connection between the missing
papers from the mailbag and the missing promise book, but of the
two Cora's girlish heart considered the loss of the book the more
"Did you ever see such old-fashioned houses in all your born
days?" asked Bess. "Look at that one over there. If our table is
not in that house, then we had better abandon the antique and look
in some new, first-class hotel."
"That house over there is my aunt's!" shouted Daisy, laughing at
Bess for making the blunder, "and I am going to tell Duncan
exactly what you have said about it."
Bess begged off, and made all sorts of apologies, but Daisy
insisted that her cousin, the doctor, should hear what Bess
thought of one of the finest old mansions in Breakwater.
"Here we are!" called Daisy, pulling up on the gravel drive. "And
there are Duncan and Aunt May."
Out on the broad veranda stood a young man - plainly a
professional, for while at a glance a girl might decide that
Duncan Bennet was "up to date," still there was about him that
disregard for conventionality that betokens high thinking, with no
room for the consideration of trifling details of every-day life.
Cora instantly said: "There! He's fine!"
Ray was thinking: "How unpolished!"
Bess whispered to Belle: "I see trouble ahead. Gertrude will want
to take him along."
Maud was "adjusting her eyes." She could not forget her famous
But Duncan Bennet, with one bound, left the veranda, clearing the
steps without touching them, and he was in front of Daisy's car
"Look out, Duncan!" called Daisy. "Do you want to spatter
yourself all over my nice clean machine?"
"Not exactly," he replied, "but I felt I should do something
definite to welcome you. I suppose I may extend the kiss of
"Oh!" gasped Maud. "Will he really kiss us?"
"Without a doubt," replied his cousin, laughing. "Duncan Bennet
is famous for his hospitality, and quite demonstrative. Don't
worry, dear. He is an awfully nice fellow."
Jack Kimball sat in his study, with his hands laced in his thick,
dark hair. He was thinking - Jack claimed the happy faculty of
being able to think of one thing at a time, and to do that
Suddenly he jumped up, and, whistling a tune that only a happy
youth knows how to originate, he dashed up the polished stairs,
three steps at a time, and finally reached the third floor of his
He was met in the hall by a matronly woman with a tray in her
hands, and at his approach she stepped back to allow him to enter
a room, the door of which was swung open.
"Morning, Miss Brown," he said. "How's the baby?"
"Doing splendidly, thank you," replied the woman, "and she is very
anxious to see you. Won't you step in?"
"Sure thing," answered Jack. "That's just what I came up for. I
want to chat with her myself."
He stepped lightly into the apartment. It was plainly furnished,
with a keen appreciation of what was needed in a sick room, and
what should be left out of it. Jack sank into a steamer chair
beside the white bed.
"How are things, Wren?" he asked, stroking the delicate hand that
was put out to greet him. "Are you almost strong enough to - play
The child smiled, and turned her head away. She had never known
any one in all her life like Jack Kimball, so big and strong, and
yet so kind. He almost made her feel timid and shy.
"I'm better every minute," she managed to say. "But, of course, I
ought to be."
She glanced at her nurse, Miss Brown, who was bringing the
morning's beef tea.
"She is really doing splendidly," put in the nurse. "But she is a
model patient - never wants what is not good for her."
"Is Clip coming to-day?" asked Wren, hesitating as she said
"I hope so," replied Jack, "but you know she is very busy, and may
not get here. But if she does not" - noting the child's
disappointment - "she will surely come to-morrow. She telephoned
so last night."
"Did she say anything about the book?" queried the little one.
"That's exactly what I want to talk about," he replied with nice
evasion. "I wonder are you well enough to try to remember about
that book. Where did you last have it?"
"Out in my chair, with mother. I asked a little boy along the
road to hand me some flowers, the book slipped back of me, and, as
mother wheeled me along, I could feel that it was all right. When
we got home it was gone."
"And you didn't speak with any other persons than this boy?" Jack
"Oh, there were a lot of people out to see the firemen's parade,
and lots of them spoke to me."
"But did any one walk along with you to talk with you?"
"Yes," she said with hesitation, trying to recall that day's
momentous happenings; "there were two people. They were
strangers. I think they had been in an automobile, for the girl
was dressed like a motor girl, and the young man wore a long
Jack stopped and made a mental note of this remark. He had
evidently expected this intelligence.
"What did they look like - I mean personally?"
"The girl had red hair - I particularly noticed that," replied the
child; "but I have no idea what the man looked like, for he walked
back of my chair."
"I'm not tiring her, am I, Miss Brown?" asked Jack, turning to the
nurse. "I can wait for the other details."
"Go right on," assented the woman, who was dressed in the garb of
a nurse. "I think the talk will do her good; she has been so
anxious about it all."
"And these two people talked with you?" pursued Jack.
"Why, yes. The girl sat down on the roadside, and mother stopped
my chair. Let me see; I think mother went into the little candy
shop and left them with me. They were very pleasant. I am sure
they would never touch my book."
"Did you tell them what it was?"
"I did, of course. I always told everybody what my precious book
was. I asked them to sign my promise, and they both did so."
"Oh!" exclaimed Jack, whistling his punctuation. "They did sign,
"Why, I thought you knew that," replied Wren. "But I did not see
the book after they signed, so I do not know their names. You
see, mother was in a hurry, and they just gave me the book and -
Oh, what could have become of my precious book!" she broke off,
her voice like a cry from her very heart.
"Well, now there!" soothed Jack. "I knew I should not have
distressed you about it. But, you see, I had to know, else I
could not find it. Now I feel I shall have it back to you in jig
time. Brace up, little girl"; and he tried to impart both courage
and hope by his manner. "Don't you know you are sure to get some
wonderful blessing for having to stand this loss? That's Cora's
pet theory. She almost drives a fellow after trouble declaring he
will find joy at his heels."
Wren was sighing. Her book had been to her so much. More,
perhaps, than some animal pet is to the average cripple, both
companion and distraction.
Miss Brown brought the bottle of alcohol, and bathed the child's
"Do you know, Mr. Kimball," she said, "we have a secret for you.
Wren stood up yesterday!"
"Bully for the legs!" cried Jack, with an absolute disregard of
the way he was expressing his joy. The remark brought the color
bark to Wren's cheeks.
"Yes," breathed Wren; "but they - my feet - are awfully full of
pins and needles."
"Save them, save them," went on Jack. "I can never find a pin in
this house. Cora fainted one day, and the doctor said it was
pins. He had to take out twenty pins to give her back her
"I wish your sister were home," said Wren, looking wistfully out
of the low window beside the bed. "She is so like Clip - and Clip
can't be here."
"She'll be home soon, all right," replied Jack, who was now
standing at the door, "and when she does come we will all know it.
Cora Kimball is a brass and a lawn mower, rolled into one piece.
You should be glad she is away," he finished, his words actually
accusing himself of falsehood.
"Fetch her, and let me see," spoke Wren, trying to appear as
cheerful as she, had been when her visitor entered her room.
"Well, I'll fetch something next time," he replied. "If I can't
get Cora or Clip I'll get - ice cream."
PAUL AND HAZEL
Meanwhile, at another bed of sickness sat a girl pale and wan from
nights and days of anxiety. Hazel Hastings had left the motor
girls' tour and hurried to her sick brother with more apprehension
stirring her heart than the report of his actual condition
warranted. Paul had always been subject to peculiar spells -
shocks they were termed - but Hazel knew what collapse meant, or
what it might mean, unless -
Brother and sister were to each other what the whole world might
be to others. Paul had kept up well under the strain of the
hold-up, but when suspicion was pointed at him he collapsed.
Who could be at the back of the defaming scheme to spread the
report? Who could have dared to say that he was in league with
whoever took those papers from the mailbag?
"Are you better, Paul?" murmured the girl. "You had a lovely
"Oh, yes," he sighed. "I feel almost good. If only my head would
stop throbbing. What time is it?"
"Almost noon, dear, and Clip will soon be here."
"Will she fetch the morning papers? I must see how the thing is
going on. They were to go to court this morning."
"Now you must not think of that, you know, Paul," commanded the
girl gently. "If you are to grow strong enough to go and take
your own part you will have to leave the others alone. There is
nothing new, or I should have told you."
"But Mr. Robinson called - I heard you talking to him last night."
"Yes, you did, dear. But he came to inquire for you. He is very
anxious about you."
Hazel Hastings went to the dresser and slipped under the cover a
piece of yellow paper. Paul was getting better, and he should not
see Mr. Robinson's check for money, which that gentleman had
insisted upon leaving for the sick boy's expenses. They were not
poor, neither were they rich, but Paul Hastings should not want
for anything through his sister's pride.
"He was so glad to hear you were improving," she went on, "and
particularly said you were not to worry about the papers. It
seems they have some important clue, and feel positive of
"If they only could," sighed Paul. "To think that I should have
lost them! And they meant a small fortune to the Robinsons. What
if they should become poor, and through me!"
"Oh, you silly boy! Stop that nonsense this moment. There! I
heard Clip coming. I am glad, for she knows better than I how to
It was Clip who entered the room, but what with her buoyant, happy
way, and the great bunch of flowers she carried, one could hardly
be certain it was only a girl - it might have been some fairy of
"Well!" she exclaimed, glancing from Paul to Hazel. "You are
better, Paul. Has Hazel been treating you again with some of her
magic suggestion business? At any rate, I cannot deny its power."
She flittered over to the bed and playfully buried Paul's face in
the bouquet. "There! Aren't they splendid? And you would never
guess who sent them. Guess, Hazel."
"Ed," hazarded the girl.
"No, indeed. You try, Paul."
"Walter Pennington," replied Paul, smiling.
"Indeed, Walter probably has forgotten my very existence."
"Then it was - "
"Oh, you would never guess. It - was - Rob Roland!"
A dark look stole over the face of the young man on the bed. "I
don't like him, Clip," he said.
"Neither do I," she replied promptly. "That is precisely why I am
so nice to him. I have to keep friends with him just now. And I
have not the slightest doubt his motive is identical with my own."
She paused to laugh indifferently, then she tossed aside her dust
coat and stood revealed in spotless white linen. "How do you like
me?" she asked, straightened up to her short height. "Am I not a
full-fledged `strained' nurse, now? You know I am summoned to
court this afternoon, and all the papers will describe me."
Her brightness seemed infectious. Paul leaned upon his elbow, and
Hazel was actually interested in Clip's new costume.
"Yes," she went on. "You see, Mrs. Salvey has been called to
account for Wren - did you ever hear of anything so ridiculous?
Those lawyer relatives of hers pretend to believe that Wren is
being neglected because we have taken her away from the supposed
care of that absurd doctor. Well, I just told Mrs. Salvey to
answer the summons and go to court. It will be the best thing
that ever happened to have her get her real story before the
"But what about yourself ?" asked Hazel. "They will ask you how
old you are, and what is your occupation "
"And my friends will all fall dead." Cecilia did not appear
worried at the prospect. "Well, I shall say I am not as old as
some girls, and that I am engaged in being a member of the Motor
"That is precisely where your trouble will begin," said Paul.
"The motor girls will never stand for a 'strained' - "
"Indeed, I am not the least bit afraid that I shall lose the
friendship of Cora and her brother. Even Walter and Ed will think
it jolly to have kept up the joke. Of course" - and she hesitated
- "some of the others - "
"Well, you can count on us," declared Paul warmly. "And if ever I
get out of this trouble, and am well again, I am going to take
Hazel for a long tour. You might - "
"Oh, you silly! I might go along? Where on earth would I get
seventy-five cents to go to Europe with?"
She placed the bouquet on the small table near the window.
"There; I guess the flowers will not contaminate us. But when he
gave them to me - or, rather, sent them, there was a note in the
box," she added.
Both Hazel and Paul looked their question.
"Yes," replied Clip. "Would you like to hear the note?" She took
from her pocket a slip of paper. "It always strikes me as odd
that people who try hardest to do one thing, and mean another,
fail utterly to hide the intention. Now this gentleman, who
writes with such solicitation about Wren, says he really misses
seeing her, declares frankly that Jack Kimball and I were seen to
smuggle her off in Jack's auto, and then - But let me read the
finish. I am spoiling the effect:
"`Of course you have the child safe,'" she read, "`and no one
questions your ability to care for her. All the little
clandestine trips which you and your friend made to the Salvey
cottage happened to have been observed.' Just hear the boy!
Happened to have been observed, when I knew he was watching - saw
him on more than one occasion." She turned over the page of
business letter paper, and continued:
"`But the fact that I, her own cousin, am denied the privilege of
seeing her makes the thing look odd.'
"Now do you see what that means?" asked the girl. "He is trying
to make me feel that it would be better to produce Wren than to
keep her away from the lawyers, because it looks `odd.' Well,
I'll take my chances on the odds," she said with a laugh; "and
Wren Salvey will be `produced' when I am sure that the motor
girls' strange promise will be kept. We have those smart men just
where we want them now, and if they want Wren they must give us
"You think they know where the table is?" asked Hazel.
"I am not so sure of that," responded Clip, putting away the paper
and preparing to place upon the center table some of the contents
of her satchel. "But I do know that this man, Reed, is Mrs.
Salvey's second cousin. She told me he was always interfering
between Wren and the popular grandfather. Now, if the table
contained the will, as Wren declares, and if that same table was
sold at auction, by this man, Reed, or through his management, it
seems more than likely that he could trace it."
"But if he could find it, why would he not do so, and destroy the
document?" asked Paul.
"Bright boy!" declared the girl. "That only goes to show, Hazel,
that when a girl gets a thought she stops. When a boy gets one he
looks for another. I think now that perhaps the old table is safe
in some unthought-of place, and that perhaps - "
"That is why they wanted to get the promise book, to find if any
clue to its whereabouts might be within its pages," put in Hazel.
"Well, I know that Cora Kimball will find that table if it is in
any house around here. She vowed when she started out she would
either bring back the table or acknowledge herself beaten. The
latter possibility is actually beyond serious attention "
"Whew!" Paul almost whistled. "But our little sister is
progressing. Talk about professions, Clip. I rather fancy there
will be more than one to report at the final meeting of the Motor
AT THE MAHOGANY SHOP
It was Duncan Bennet who suggested the auto meet. The town of
Breakwater had never gone beyond the annual dog show, and this
progressive young man confided to his cousin Daisy that on a
certain day next week he expected several of his friends from out
of town, who were sure to come in autos, and:
"Why not tell them to `slick up' their machines, and you girls
could do the same? Then, oh, then!" he exclaimed, "we could run a
real up-to-date auto meet. I can round up fifteen machines at
least. And the girls! Why, the fame of the motor girls will then
be assured. You will actually have to appoint a press agent."
The cousins were strolling through the splendid gardens of Bennet
Blade, as Duncan called the long, narrow strip of family property
that, for years, had been famous for its splendid gardens, not
flower beds, but patches of things to eat.
"I think it would be perfectly splendid," declared Daisy, her eyes
full of admiration for her good-looking cousin. "And I know the
girls will like it.
That settled it. Duncan Bennet went straight to his room,
scribbled off a number of notes, threw himself astride his horse
Mercury (called Ivy for short), and was on his way to the
post-office before Daisy had time to stop the exclamation gaps in
the girls' faces with the correct answers to their varied
Some days lay between the proposition and the fete, and this time
was to be spent on the road, as the girls had yet some miles to
cover before they would turn back toward Chelton.
There was a visit to be made at a ruins in Clayton; this was an
underlined note of Ray's on the itinerary. Then Maud wanted so
much to see a real watering place in full swing. This was put
down as Ebbinflow, and would take up at least an entire afternoon.
Tillie had a craze for antiques, and there was a noted shop only
twenty miles from Breakwater. So when Cora facetiously suggested
that the party start out from a given point, go their separate
ways and get back to Chelton for the auto meet, the girls realized
that they would have to "boil down their plans" to fit the time
allotted for the tour.
The trip to the Clayton ruins occupied a whole day. The girls
started early and took their lunch, which Bess said would be eaten
in a crumbling, moss-covered and ivy-entwined tower. The ruins
fully came up to expectations, and the girls, leaving their
machines at the roadside, began their explorations.
"Isn't it just perfect!" exclaimed Ray. "I wish I had my sketch
"She wants to outdo Washington Irving," called Cora, poising on a
"Look out!" suddenly called Bess. "That stone, Cora - "
A scream from Cora interrupted her, for the stone began to roll
over, and Cora only saved herself by a little jump, while the
piece of masonry toppled down upon a pile of bricks and mortar.
"My! That was a narrow escape!" gasped Maud. "You might have
sprained your ankle."
"Which would have been all the more romantic," added Cora, smiling
faintly. "It would have been material for Ray's sketchbook."
"Never, Cora!" cried Ray. "But come on. Let's go to some less
dangerous part of this ruin. You know they say this was once a
church, but was made into a sort of castle by an eccentric
individual - "
"Who did dark and bloody deeds and whose spirit now haunts the
place," interrupted Maud.
"Oh, don't!" begged Ray. "It's not quite as bad as that, but I
heard some one say that on certain dark nights that - "
"Stop it!" commanded Cora. "My nerves are all right, but I'm
still shaky from that stone. Let's see if - "
"Oh!" cried Bess suddenly. "There's something there, girls," and,
with dramatic gesture, she pointed to a pile of leaves in one
corner. "Something moved there, I'm sure of it!"
They looked, and all started as the leaves actually did move.
"Come on!" cried Ray. They gathered up their skirts and were
hurrying from the old room into which they had penetrated when the
leaves rustled still more, and from them came a tiny snake. There
was a chorus of screams and Cora found herself alone in the ruined
chamber. She was pale but resolute as she followed her companions
"Weren't you awfully frightened?" asked Ray as Cora joined them.
"No indeed," she answered. "I prefer a live and seeable snake to
some haunting, unseeable rumor that only appears on dark nights.
But let's get out into the sunlight and admire the ruins from a
better perspective. Besides it's getting near lunch time."
It was more reassuring out of doors, they all admitted, and after
admiring the picturesque remains of what might have been either a
church or fort as far as appearances now went, they got the
hampers from the cars and feasted. Then, sitting in the shade,
they discussed many things until lengthening shadows warned them
that it was time to go.
"Now for a jolly day to-morrow," remarked Maud as they neared
their stopping place that night. "If only we have good weather."