Part 2 out of 3
"We--we never may see them again," faltered Amy, whose recent rather
tragic experience; had gotten on her nerves.
"Stop that!" commanded Betty, a bit sharply.
"Oh, how fast the water is coming in!" moaned Grace. "I'm going to
faint--I know I'm going to faint!"
"Don't you dare!" cried Mollie, quickly. "If you do I'll never speak to
you again! There! Take that!" She reached over on the seat beside Grace,
caught up a chocolate from a bag and thrust the confection into the tall
girl's mouth. "That will keep you from saying such silly things, and also
from fainting," remarked Mollie, practically. "Now, girls, since we can't
find that plug, we've got to do the next best thing."
"If we could only whittle one!" said Betty.
"If we had a knife we might cut a piece off one of the oars, or the side
of the boat," went on Mollie, "but as we haven't--we can't. We must
arrange to take knives with us on our tour, though!"
"It's no time to talk about tours now!" moaned Amy. "We--we'll never
"Nonsense!" cried Betty. "We've got to. If we can't find a plug, or make
one, we'll have to stuff something in the hole. Girls, your
handkerchiefs!" She seemed to have a sudden inspiration.
She began rolling hers into a sort of cylindrical shape as she spoke. The
other girls saw her idea, and passed over their tiny squares of linen,
which Betty rolled with her own.
"That's one of my best ones," sighed Grace, as she parted with hers. "I
got it on my birthday."
"It's in a good cause--never mind," remarked Betty, firmly. "And you'll
get it back, you know--when we get ashore."
"If we ever get ashore, you mean," spoke Amy.
"Stop it!" commanded the Little Captain, sharply. "Of course we'll get
ashore. Now, Billy, where is that hole?"
"Wherever the water seems to be coming in fastest," replied the owner of
the boat. "Oh, be quick, Betty. We can't float much longer!"
"Well, we can swim," coolly replied Betty, as she began feeling about for
the hole in the bottom of the boat. Meanwhile she looked closely at the
surface of the water in the craft, which had now risen until it was close
to the under side of the seats. The girls were quite wet. The boat was
harder than ever to row.
"That plug ought to be floating somewhere hereabouts," she murmured.
"It's probably caught in a crack, or under one of the seats," said
Mollie. "Hurry up, Betty. The hole is right near where you were feeling
"Yes, you can see the water bubbling up," added Amy. "Oh, do hurry, or
"Well, then we can swim," said Betty, coolly. "It's a good thing we all
"But--in our clothes!" protested Amy.
"Oh, I guess we can do it if we try," went on Betty. "There, I have the
handkerchiefs in the hole!" she exclaimed, as she forced the wadded-up
linens into the aperture. "Now let's row harder!"
"Oh, but I'm soaked!" sighed Grace. Indeed, they were all in no very
They succeeded in heading the boat for shore, but they had only rowed a
short distance when Grace cried:
"The water is still coming in!"
There was no doubt about it. They all stared at the place where, under
water, Betty had thrust in the handkerchiefs. There was a string of
small bubbles, showing that the river water was still finding its way
into the boat.
"Help! Help! Help!" suddenly called Amy.
"Why--what's the matter?" demanded Betty, in alarm.
"Oh, there's someone on shore, near a boat! It's a man--or a boy! He
must come out and rescue us!" said Amy, and there was a trace of tears
in her voice.
"What's--the--matter?" came the hail from the one on shore.
"We're--sinking!" called Betty, making a megaphone of her hands. "Come
out and save us!"
"All right!" and then the following words were lost as the wind carried
them aside. The youth on shore--the girls could now see that he was a
youth--began shoving out a boat. He did not seem very adept in the
knowledge of rowing, and took quite a little time to get under way.
"Oh, it's that Percy Falconer!" cried Betty. "He'll never get to us!
Girls, I guess we'll have to swim for it, after all!"
"Look--there comes someone else!" suddenly cried Amy. "Oh, Grace, it's
your brother Will!"
"Thank goodness for that," murmured Betty. "Now we have some chance. If
he can only make Percy listen to reason, and put back for him."
"They seem to be having some argument," said Grace. "Oh, if that Percy
She did not finish, for they were all vitally interested in what was
taking place on shore. Will and Percy seemed to be having a difference
of opinion, and it appeared that Percy wanted to shine as a lone hero
in the rescue that must be performed quickly now, if it was to be
performed at all.
"Come back with that boat!" Will could be heard to cry. "You don't know
how to row!"
"I do so!" retorted Percy, the wind now carrying the words to the girls.
"Come back here!" insisted Will, firmly, "or I'll--"
"We'll be too late!" almost whined Percy. "They said they were sinking!"
"Come back here!" fairly shouted Will. "I can row twice as fast as you,
and we'll make better time even if you do put back. Come on, or I'll jump
in and swim out to you, and chuck you overboard! Come back!"
This argument proved effective. Possibly Percy was thinking what would
happen to his clothes if Will put his threat into execution. At any rate,
he swung the big boat around and a few moments later Will and he, the
former pulling vigorously on the oars, were on their way to rescue the
now thoroughly frightened girls.
"Oh, Will, do hurry! My dress will be ruined!"
Thus called Grace, as she frantically waved to her brother to hasten
"Huh!" he panted. "Dress! A nice time to think--of dresses--when
"Are they--do you think they'll sink--and be drowned?" faltered Percy.
"They may sink--they're not very likely to be drowned, though," grunted
Will, as he glanced over his shoulder to get his course straight. "They
can all swim. Pull on your left more. We'll pass 'em if you don't!"
"Sink! I can't--I can't swim. Oh, dear!" cried Percy.
"I know it. That's why I wanted you to come back and get me. You'd look
nice rescuing four girls all alone," said Will. "And you not able to swim
"I could do it," protested Percy, in self-defense.
"Maybe," agreed Will. "Anyhow, it's lucky I happened to come along."
"And it's a good thing I heard them hollering, and got the boat ready,"
said the well-dressed lad, whose attire was now rather disheveled from
the haste of rowing.
"That's right, Percy. I'll give you credit for that."
"Oh, do hurry, boys!" cried Mollie. "We'll be under in another minute."
"Coming!" cried Will. "Pull harder, Percy!"
"You've got to!" That seemed to be all there was to it. Percy
Only just in time did Will and his companion reach the boat that was on
the verge of sinking. And only the skill and good sense of the girls, and
the knowledge that they could swim if they happened to fall into the
water, enabled the rescue to be made. For it was no easy task to
disembark from one craft to the other, especially with one nearly
submerged. But, while Will and Percy held the gunwale of their boat close
to that of the half-sunken one, the girls carefully crawled out and soon,
rather wet, considerably dismayed, but, withal, calmer than might have
been expected, the quartette was safe in the larger craft.
"Oh, what a relief!" exclaimed Mollie, wringing some water from the
bottom of her skirt.
"But look at my dress--and this is only the second time I've worn it!"
cried Grace, in distress. "It will be ruined."
"All it needs is pressing," said Will, disdainfully.
"What do you think this is--a pair of your trousers?" demanded his
sister, indignantly. "Pressing! It is ruined!"
"We're all drenched," spoke Amy. "But it doesn't matter as long as
"That's the way to look at it!" exclaimed Will. "How did it happen,
"Plug out of the bottom," explained Mollie, sententiously. "The twins!"
"I see! Say, she's going down all right!" This Will remarked as the boat
from which the girls had climbed settled lower and lower in the water.
"Oh, can't we save it?" cried Mollie. "My poor boat!"
"I'll use one of the oars as a buoy," said Will. "I'll fasten it to the
painter. It will probably drift, but it will run into the eddy at the
Point, and we can get it to-morrow."
Quickly he knotted the end of the painter about one of the oars. Then
taking the others into the craft that Percy had commandeered for the
occasion, the two boys rowed the girls back to the dock at the foot of
the slope that led to Mollie's house.
"Come in, girls," she invited. "We can get dry, and Will can go for some
decent things for you three."
"I'll go, too!" exclaimed Percy, eagerly. And for once the girls were
glad of his services.
Up the walk went the four bedraggled ones. The twins saw them coming,
and, grave-eyed and solemn, came down to meet them.
"Oo's wet," remarked Dodo.
"Drefful wet," echoed Paul.
"Yes, you naughty children!" scolded Mollie. "Why did you take the
plug--the wooden peg--out of sister's boat? Why did you do it?"
"Dodo do it," remarked Paul, with the ancient privilege of the accusing
man. "Dodo want to make a doll."
"Oo helped me," came from the little girl. "Oo helped!"
"But us put it back," asserted Paul.
"Yes, but it came out, and sister and her friends were nearly drowned.
You were naughty children--very naughty!"
"Oo dot any tandy?" demanded Dodo, fixing her big eyes on Grace.
"Candy! Good land sakes, no! Candy? The idea!"
"We 'ikes tandy," added Paul.
Then out came Mrs. Billette, startled at the sight of the dripping
"Oh, did you fall in?" she asked, with a tragic gesture.
"No, we fell out," said her daughter, laughing. "It's all right, momsey,
but we must get dry. Girls, give Will and Percy your orders."
"Perhaps we had better telephone," suggested Betty.
"Oh, yes!" chorused the others.
Soon the desired garments had been specified, and the boys promised to
bring them in suitcases as soon as might be. Then the drenched ones made
themselves comfortable in Mollie's home, and, while waiting, talked over
That it had not resulted more seriously was due to a combination of
"For once Percy was really useful," commented Amy, kindly.
"Yes, but we'll never hear the last of it," declared Grace. "He'll
think we are his eternal debtors from now on. Oh, here comes Will!
I'm so glad."
Soon clothed, and if not exactly in their right minds, at least on the
verge of getting there, the four came out to thank the boys, and there
was more talk of the occurrence.
"I hope nothing like this happens when we set off on our tour," said Amy.
"It won't be so comfortable then to be drenched."
"Don't speak of it, my dear," begged Betty. The little happening--not so
little, either, when one considers the possibility--had one good effect.
It had raised Amy out of the slough of despond into which she had
unwittingly strayed, or been thrust.
I shall pass rapidly over the next few days, for nothing of moment
happened. I say nothing of moment, and yet there was, for the story of
the mystery concerning Amy's parentage became generally known, as might
have been expected.
There were curious glances cast at Amy, and more than one indiscreet girl
tried to draw her out about the matter. This made it hard for Amy, and
she was so upset about it that Mrs. Stonington kept her home from school
for two days.
Then, chiefly by reason of the sensible attitude of Betty, Grace and
Mollie, there came a more rational feeling, and it was agreed that the
affair was not so uncommon after all.
The chums of Amy said nothing about the letter Alice had written. That
she had was very evident from her actions, for she was at first defiant,
and then contrite, and several times it was seen that she had been
crying. But she said nothing, perhaps being too proud to admit her fault.
"We'll just treat her as if nothing had happened," said Betty, and this
advice was followed. Alice was not generally liked, but the three chums
were so pleasant to her, in contrast with the conduct of the other girls,
that it must have been as coals of fire on her head.
Mollie's boat was easily recovered, and the handkerchiefs that had been
stuffed in the hole were of some service afterward, though rather stained
by river water. The missing plug was found fast under a seat brace, which
accounted for it not floating.
As for the five-hundred-dollar bill, nothing was heard of the owner, and
it, with the attached paper, remained in Mr. Nelson's safe. The
advertisement about it was published again, and though there were several
inquiries from persons who had lost money, they could lay no claim to
this particular bankbill.
"We'll just have to wait to solve that mystery," said Grace. "Maybe until
after we come back from our tour."
Arrangements to start on the journey had rapidly been completed. Betty
had made out the schedule.
"We'll leave Deepdale early in the morning," she said, "and go on to
Rockford. There we're due to stop with my aunt. We can take lunch
wherever we find it most convenient, but we'll make Rockford at
dusk, I hope."
"I certainly trust so," said Mollie. "A night on a country
road--never, my dear!"
"The next night we'll stop in Middleville," went on Betty, "at Amy's
cousin's house. From there to Broxton, where Grace's married sister
will put us up, and then, in turn to Simpson's Corners--that's my
uncle, you know--to Flatbush, where Grace's mother's niece has kindly
consented to receive us; on to Hightown, that's Mollie's aunt's place;
to Cameron--that's where we'll go to the camp that Mr. Ford's
She paused to make a note and to glance over the schedule to make sure of
"Then we'll go to Judgville, where my cousin lives, and that will be our
last stopping place. Then for home," she finished.
"It sounds good," said Mollie.
"It will be lovely," declared Betty. "Are you sure your--your aunt and
uncle won't have any further objections to you going, Amy?"
"Oh, sure! It was only because they thought that I might be upset on
hearing of the mystery that they didn't want me to go. But I'm over
"Bravely over it," murmured Betty, as she put her arms about her chum's
The examinations were on, and boys and girls were working hard, for,
because of the need of some repairs to the school, it had been decided to
cut the summer term short.
Then came the closing days, with the flowers, the simple exercises,
and the farewell to the graduating class, of which our girls were
"Two days more and we'll be off on our wonderful tour!" exclaimed Mollie,
as she and the others came out of school on the final day. "Oh, I can
OFF ON THE TOUR
"How do we look?"
"Don't you think these skirts are too short?"
"Isn't it fine to have--pockets?"
"Oh, Grace Ford! You'll never be able to walk in those shoes! Girls, just
look at those French heels!" It was Amy who spoke.
"They're not French!" declared Grace, driven to self-defense. "They're a
"Not enough modification, then; that's what I say!" exclaimed Mollie, the
three expressions which opened this chapter having come from Betty, Grace
and Amy, respectively. "They're of the French--Frenchy, Grace, my dear!"
"I don't care! I tried to get fitted in the kind of shoes you girls
have," and Grace looked at the stout and substantial walking boots of her
companions, "but they didn't have my size. The man is going to send for
them, and he said he'd forward them to Middleville. They'll be there when
"All right, as long as you're going to get them," spoke Betty.
"You never could belong to our Camping and Tramping Club in those
"Well, they're the largest I have, and I don't think the heels are so
very high; do you?" and she appealed to the others.
"Here are Will and Frank," spoke Amy. "We'll let them decide."
"Oh, Will is sure to say something mean," declared his sister. "Don't you
dare mention heels to him!"
"Ready for the hike?" demanded Will, as he came up with his chum.
"We start in half an hour," replied Betty, in the front yard of whose
house the others were gathered. "Gracious, I know I haven't half the
things I need. What did I do with that alcohol stove?"
"I saw you put it in the case," said Amy.
"Oh, yes, so I did. I declare I don't know what I'm doing! Now, girls, is
there anything else to be thought of?"
"If there is, I'm not capable of it," declared Mollie. "I am a wreck,"
and she leaned against patient Amy for support.
"We'll go part way with you," offered Will.
"You shall not!" exclaimed his sister. "You'll make all manner of fun of
"No, we won't--I promise!" exclaimed Frank, earnestly.
"Oh, let them come," pleaded Betty.
"Then go get Percy," urged Grace.
"Don't you dare!" cried Betty.
"Well, here comes Allen Washburn, anyhow," went on the tall girl. "At
least we'll have enough escorts." Betty blushed and hurried into the
house on some pretense or other.
The girls were to travel "light," taking with them only a few articles of
clothing. Their suitcases they had arranged to send on ahead, so that
they would be at each stopping place in the evening when the little party
arrived. Then on leaving in the morning the satchels would again be
dispatched in advance. Near the end of the route trunks would await them.
The girls expected to get their dinners wherever it was most convenient,
and Betty had drawn up a sort of schedule that, should they be able to
keep up to it, would mean comfort at noon. As I have explained, the
breakfasts and suppers would be eaten at the homes of friends or
The girls had a little alcohol stove, a teapot and saucepan, and they
expected, under favorable circumstances, to stop by the roadside and
brew a cup of tea, each girl carrying an aluminum cup and saucer.
Evaporated cream and sugar, to be replenished from time to time, formed
part of their stores. Sandwiches, to be procured as needed, would form a
The day was a "perfect" one for June. Clad in their new suits of olive
drab, purposely designed for walking, with sensible blouses, containing
pockets, with skirts sufficiently short, stout boots and natty little
caps, the outdoor girls looked their name. Already there was the hint of
tan on their faces, for they had been much in the open of late.
They had assembled at Betty's house for the start, and were about ready
to leave, though there seemed to be much confusion at the last minute.
Their first stopping place, at least for the night, would be the town of
Rockford, about sixteen miles away, where Betty's aunt lived. They
expected to remain two nights there, using the second day to walk to a
certain old historic mill that was said to be worthy of a visit.
The good-byes were said, over and over again, it seemed, and a number of
friends called to wish the girls good luck. Betty, who had been voted
into the place of leader, looked over her small command. What it lacked
in numbers it made up in attractiveness, for certainly no prettier
picture could have been viewed than the one the girls presented that
June morning, beneath the trees in the big yard.
"Well, are we ready?" finally asked Betty.
"As ready as we ever shall be," replied Grace.
"Then--what shall I say--forward--march?"
"Just say--hike!" cried the irrepressible Will.
"Don't mind him!" cautioned his sister. "Oh, I've left my handkerchief in
your house, Betty!" and she hastened to secure it.
But, finally, after a few more forgotten articles had been collected, the
girls were ready to start. Mr. Nelson came out to wave a farewell, and
his wife appeared, to add more to her already numerous cautions.
"What shall I do with that five hundred dollar bill?" asked Betty's
father. "If the owner comes, shall I give it up?"
"Don't you dare!" she cried. "At least, not until we girls have a chance
to see him. We want to find out about the romance back of it. Write to us
if it's claimed."
"All right--I will," he said, with a laugh.
"But it doesn't seem as though, after this lapse of time, that it would
be called for. Good-bye!"
This was echoed and re-echoed. Then the four members of the Camping and
Tramping Club started down the pleasant country road, whereon the June
sun shone in golden patches through the leafy branches of the trees.
"A good omen," breathed Amy, who walked beside Betty.
Will, Frank and Allen brought up the rear, carrying the small valises or
suitcases the girls had packed. The little cavalcade passed Mollie's
house, Mrs. Billette appearing at the window to wave another farewell.
The twins were not in sight.
"For which I am thankful--they'd cry to come," said their sister, "and
they are dreadful teases."
As the girls and their escorts swung around a turn in the highway a
little later, about a mile from Mollie's house, Grace looked back to cry
out in almost tragic accents:
"Look! The twins! They're following us," and the others turned around
to see Dodo and Paul, hand in hand, trudging bravely and determinedly
ON THE WRONG ROAD
Molly, for a moment, looked as if she wanted to cry from sheer vexation,
for the getting ready to start had been trying on all of them. Then the
humor of the situation appealed to her, and she exclaimed, as the
solemn-eyed twins drew: nearer:
"Dodo--Paul--what does this mean? Go back home at once! Mamma will be
dreadfully worried about you. Go back."
"We tum too," lisped Dodo.
"We go for walk wit oo, Mollie," Paul added.
"The little dears!" murmured Amy.
"You wouldn't say so if you had to go all the way back with them,"
exclaimed the sister. "Dodo--Paul, you must go home at once."
"Dot any tandy?" asked Dodo, seeing, doubtless, a chance to make capital
out of the escapade.
"Candy! The idea!"
"We go back if oo dot tandy," spoke Paul, cunningly, seeing the drift of
his small sister's scheme. "We 'ikes tandy."
"I'll give them some if they promise to go back," spoke Grace, making a
motion toward her little case that Frank carried.
"No, they must not be bribed," said Mollie, firmly. "I shall insist on
their going back. And oh! what faces they have! They must have been
eating candy already this morning."
"Our tandy all gone," spoke Dodo. "Oo dive us tandy we go back; won't us,
Paul?" and confidingly she looked up into her brother's face.
"We go for tandy," he affirmed, and there was an air of determination
about him that boded no good for the girls.
"You must go back!" declared Mollie.
"We go for walk," said Dodo. "Tum on, Paul. We dot fings to eat same
as dem," and proudly she displayed a very dirty bag, the opening of
which disclosed a rather jumbled collection of bread and butter, and
"An' I dot a gun to shoot bad bears," went on Paul, shouldering a wooden
article, that, by a wide stretch of the imagination could be seen to
somewhat resemble a musket. "Gun go bang-bang!" explained the little
chap, "bad bears run 'way off. Turn on, Dodo, we go wif 'em," and he
nodded at the "hikers," as Will unfeelingly characterized his sister and
"Go back! Go back!" cried Mollie, now again on the verge of tears. "Oh,
you bad children! What shall I do? Mamma will be dreadfully worried, and
if we take them back we'll lose a lot of time. What shall we do, girls?"
"We go back for tandy--lots of tandy," spoke the inexorable Dodo. "We
'ikes tandy; don't us, Paul?"
"Yes," said Paul, simply.
"The easiest way out of it is to give them some candy," said Grace, in a
low voice, but, low as it was, the twins heard. Their eyes brightened at
once, and they came eagerly forward.
"Oh, dear, I suppose it is the only thing to do," affirmed Mollie. "Will
you go straight back if you get some candy?" she asked. "Straight home
"Ess--we bofe go," promised Dodo, who usually led her small brother. "We
'ikes tandy," she reiterated.
"Me tan shoot bears to-morrow," said Paul, philosophically. "Where is
tandy?" With him evidently the prospect of present enjoyment was
preferable to the future possibility of becoming a great hunter.
"Here you are!" cried Grace, as she took out some chocolates. "Now be
good children. Do you think it safe for them to go back alone, Mollie?"
"That's so, I never considered that. I wonder if we'll have to go with
them? Oh, isn't this annoying, and we're behind time now! We'll never get
to Rockford to-night. What shall I do?"
"We take 'em back if oo dive us some tandy!" mocked Will, who, with his
chums, had been an interested observer of the little scene.
"Smarty!" exclaimed his sister. "But I'll take you at your word just the
same. Here, Frank--Allen--you see that he performs his part of the
contract," and she held the candy box out to the other two, who
laughingly accepted the bribe.
Then with the hands of the trusting, and now contented, twins in theirs,
Will and Frank bade the girls good-speed and led away the two small ones
on their homeward way, Allen following them after a farewell to Betty.
"At last we are off!" murmured Mollie. "I'm so sorry it happened, girls!"
"Why, the idea!" cried Betty. "It was just a little pleasant episode, and
we'll remember it all day, and laugh."
"But it may make us late," suggested Mollie, anxiously.
"Not much," went on the Little Captain. "It wasn't your fault, anyhow. We
can just walk a little faster to make up for it--that is, if, Grace
thinks she can stand it."
"Oh, you won't find me complaining," declared the girl whose footwear had
been the subject of comment. "I'm not as comfortable as you, perhaps,"
she admitted, "but I will be when I get my other shoes. And now, let's
give ourselves up to the enjoyments of the way--and day. Oh, isn't it
Indeed, a more auspicious start--barring the little delay caused by the
twins--could not have been provided. The day was one of those balmy ones
in June, when it is neither too hot nor too blowy, when the breeze seems
fairly laden with the sweet scent of flowers, and the lazy hum of bees
mingles with the call of birds.
The way led out along a pleasant country road, which, for some distance,
wound in and out among great maples that formed a leafy shade which might
be most acceptable later in the day, since there was the promise of
considerable heat at noon.
As yet it was early, a prompt enough start having been made to allow of
an easy pace along the road.
"For," Betty had said in reviewing the procedure to be followed, "we
don't want to tire ourselves out on the first stage of our trip. We
ought to begin gradually. That is the way all athletes train."
"Oh, then we are going to be athletes?" asked Amy.
"Walking athletes, at least," responded the leader. "Now, girls, if any
of you feel like resting at any time, don't hesitate to say so. We want
this to be an enjoyment, not a task, even if we are a regular club."
So perfect was the day, and in such good spirits were the girls, that
even the simplest sights and happenings along the highway brought forth
pleased comments. The sight of a cow placidly chewing her cud in a
meadow, the patient creature standing knee-deep amid the buttercups, was
a picture they all admired, Mollie carried a little camera, and insisted
on snapping the bovine, though the other girls urged her to save some
films with which to take their own pictures.
"But that cow will make such a lovely enlargement," said Mollie. "It's
like an artist's painting."
Bravely they marched along, with a confident swing and firm tread--at
least, all but Grace trod firmly, and she rather favored herself on
account of her high heels. But her chums were good enough not to laugh.
They passed farm houses, in the kitchen doors of which appeared the
women and girls of the household, standing with rolled-up sleeves, arms
akimbo, looking with no small wonder at the four travelers.
There were comments, too, not always inaudible.
"I wonder what they're selling?" one woman asked her daughter, as
they paused in their work of washing a seemingly innumerable number
of milk pans.
"They take us for peddlers," said Amy.
A little later a small boy, who had been playing horse in front of his
house, scuttled back toward the kitchen, crying out:
"Ma--ma! Come an' see the suffragists!"
"Oh, mercy!" exclaimed Betty. "What will we be taken for next?"
But it was fun, with all that, and such a novelty to the girls that they
wondered why they had not before thought of this means of spending part
of their vacation.
The sun crept higher in the sky, and the warmth of the golden beams
increased. The girls were thankful, now, for any shade they might
encounter, and they were fortunate in that their way still lay in
pleasant places. They came to a little brook that ran under the road, and
not far from it a roadside spring bubbled up. Their collapsible drinking
cups came in useful, and they remained for a little while in the shade
near the cool spot.
"Where shall we eat our lunch?" asked Grace, as the ever-mounting sun
approached the zenith.
"Are you hungry already?" asked Amy.
"I am beginning to feel the pangs," admitted the tall, graceful girl.
"Then you can't have eaten much candy," commented Mollie.
"Only three pieces."
"Hurrah! Grace is reforming!" cheered Betty. "That's fine!"
"I don't see why you're always making fun of me," Grace said, as she
pouted. "I'm sure you are all just as fond of chocolate as I am."
"Never mind," consoled Mollie. "We will eat soon, for I confess to having
an appetite on my own account."
Deciding to eat, at least on this first day of the tramp, a lunch of
their own providing, rather than go to some restaurant, country hotel, or
stop at a chance farm house, the girls had brought with them packages of
food, and the alcohol stove for a cup of tea, or some chocolate.
"This looks to be a perfect place for our picnic," said Betty, as, on
passing a farm, they saw the plow-horses unhitched and led under a tree
to partake of their hay and oats. "It must be noon by that sign," went
on the Little Captain, confirming her guess by a glance at her watch. "It
is," she said. "So we'll eat here," and she indicated a little grassy
knoll under a great oak tree at the side of the road.
"There's the most beautiful spring of water here, too," went on Grace.
"Shall we make tea?"
"Do!" exclaimed Mollie. "I'm just dying for a good hot cup. But not
Soon they had merrily gathered about the greensward table, on which paper
napkins formed the cloth. The sandwiches were set out, with a bottle of
olives to add to the attractiveness, and then the little kettle was put
on the alcohol stove, which had been set up in the shelter of the great
oak's massive trunk.
"It's boiling!" finally announced Betty. "Hand me the tea ball,
Amy, my dear."
Pouring the steaming water over the silver tea ball, Betty circulated it
around in the cup, until one fragrant brew was made. She passed this over
to Mollie, and proceeded to make another.
"It's delicious!" cried the French girl, as she tasted it, cream and
sugar having been added. "Oh, isn't this just lovely!"
"Perfect," murmured Grace. "I wouldn't have missed this for anything!"
In pure enjoyment they reclined on the grass after the meal, and then, as
Betty, after a look at her watch, warned them that the better half of
their journey still lay before them, they started off again.
They had proceeded a mile or so, and the way was not so pleasant now, for
the road was sandy, when they came to a fork of the highway. A time-worn
sign-post bore letters that could scarcely be made out, and, though they
had a road map, the girls were not quite sure which way to take to get to
Rockford. They were debating the matter, alternately consulting the map
and the sign-post, when a farmer drove past.
"Which road to Rockford, please?" hailed Betty.
"Th' left!" he exclaimed, sententiously. "G'lang there!" This last to the
horses, not to the girls.
"The road map seems to say the road to the right," murmured Betty, as the
farmer drove that way himself.
"Well, he ought to know," insisted Grace. "We'll take the left,"
and they did.
If they had hoped to have all go smoothly on this, their first day of
tramping, the girls were destined to disappointment. In blissful
ignorance they trudged on, talking so interestedly that they never
thought to glance at the sign-boards, of which they passed several.
It was Amy who discovered the error they had made--or rather, the error
the farmer had caused them to make. Again coming to a dividing of the
ways, they saw a new sign-board, put up by a local automobile
"Eight miles to Hamptown, and ten to Denby," read Amy. "Girls, where is
Anxiously they stared at the sign.
"It doesn't seem to say anything about Rockford," murmured Grace.
"Maybe someone has moved our town," suggested Mollie, humorously.
Betty looked puzzled, annoyed and a little anxious. A snub-nosed,
freckle-faced boy came along whistling, and beating the dust of the road
with a long switch.
"Which is the road to Rockford, little boy?" asked Betty.
"I say, which is the road to Rockford?"
"Give him a candy if you have any left, Grace," suggested Mollie, in
a low tone.
"Are you folks peddlin' candy?" asked the boy, and his eyes shone.
"No, but we have some," answered Betty. "We want to get to Rockford."
"You're five miles off the road," exclaimed the boy, with a grin, as
though he took personal delight in their dilemma. "You come the wrong
"Oh, dear!" murmured Mollie. "Don't you give him any candy, Grace."
"It isn't his fault that we went wrong," spoke Betty.
THE BARKING DOG
Disappointment, and not a little worriment, held the four girls silent
for a moment. Then Betty, feeling that it was her place to assume the
"Are you sure, little boy? A man told us, at the last dividing of the
roads, to take the left, as that led to Rockford."
"Well, he didn't know what he was talking about," asserted the little
chap, with the supreme confidence of youth. "To get to Rockford you've
got to go back."
"All that distance?" cried Grace. "We'll never make it in time."
"Isn't there a shorter way--some cross-road we can take?" inquired Betty.
"Who's got the candy?" inquired the little chap, evidently thinking that
he had already earned some reward.
"Here!" said Grace, hopelessly, holding out an almost emptied box. "But
please--_please_ don't tell us we're lost."
"Oh, you ain't exactly lost!" exclaimed the urchin, with a grin. "I live
just down the road a piece, and it's only a mile to Bakersville. That's a
good town. They got a movin' picture show there. I went onct!"
"Did you indeed?" said Betty. "But we can't go there. Isn't there some
way of getting to Rockford without going all the way back to the fork?
Why, it's miles and miles!"
"I wish I had that man here who directed us wrongly!" exclaimed Mollie,
with a flash of her dark eyes. "I--I'd make him get a carriage and drive
us to your aunt's house, Betty."
"That would not be revenge enough," declared Grace. "He ought to be made
to buy us each a box of the best chocolates."
"Nothing like making the punishment fit the crime," murmured Betty.
"Say, are you play-actors?" demanded the boy, who had stood in
opened-mouth wonder during this dialogue. The girls broke into peals of
merry laughter that, in a measure, served to relieve the tension on
"Now do please tell us how to get to Rockford?" begged Mollie when they
had quieted down. "We must be there to-night."
"Well, you kin git there by goin' on a mile further and taking the
main road that goes through Sayreville," said the boy, his mouth
full of candy.
"Would that be nearer than going back to where we made the mistake?"
"Yep, a lot nearer. Come on; I'll show you as far as I'm goin'," and the
boy started off as though the task--or shall I say, pleasure?--of leading
four pretty girls was an every-day occurrence.
"We never can get there before dark," declared Mollie.
"Oh, yes, we will," said Betty, hopefully. "We can walk faster
"If you do I'll simply give up," wailed Grace. "These shoes!" and she
leaned against a tree.
And to the eternal credit of the other girls be it said that they did not
remark: "I told you so!"
Silently and unconcernedly, the snub-nosed boy led them on. Finally
he came to his own home, and rather ungallantly, did not offer to
"You jest keep on for about half a mile," he said, "an' you'll come to a
"I hope it isn't too cross," murmured Grace, with a grave face.
The boy looked at her wonderingly.
"I mean not cross enough to bite," she went on.
"You turn to the left," the boy continued, "and keep straight on till you
get to Watson's Corners. Then you turn to the right, keep on past an old
stone church, turn to the right and that's a straight road to Rockford."
He looked curiously at Grace, as though in doubt as to her sanity. "A
cross road!" he murmured.
"Gracious, we'll never remember all that!" exclaimed Amy.
"I have it down!" said practical Betty, as she wrote rapidly in her note
book. "I'm sure we can find it. Come on, girls!"
"Have another candy," invited Grace, hospitably extending the now nearly
"Sure--thanks!" exclaimed the boy, but he backed quickly away from her.
Her joke had fallen on a suspicious mind, evidently.
The girls trudged on, rather silent now, for somehow the edge of their
enjoyment seemed to have been taken off. But still they were not
discouraged. They were true outdoor girls, and they knew, even if worse
came to worst, and darkness found them far from their destination, and
Betty's aunt's house, that no real harm could come to them.
Successfully they found the various points of identification mentioned
by the freckled boy, and at last they located a sign-post that read:
FIVE MILES TO ROCKFORD
"Five miles!" exclaimed Grace, with a tragic air. "We can never do it!"
"We must!" declared Betty, firmly. "Of course we can do it. Why, even
with going out of our way as we did, we won't have covered more than
eighteen miles to-day. And we set twenty as an average."
"But this is the first day," said Mollie.
"We can--we _must_ get to Rockford to-night," insisted Betty.
Rather hopelessly they tramped on. The sun seemed to sink with surprising
rapidity after getting to a certain point in the western sky.
"It's dropping faster and faster all the while!" cried Amy, as they
watched it from a crest of the road.
"Never mind--June evenings are the longest of the year," consoled Betty.
They hurried on. The sun sank to its nightly rest amid a bed of golden,
green, purple, pink and olive clouds, and there followed a glorious maze
of colors that reached high up toward zenith.
"Girls, we simply must stop and admire this--if it's only for a
minute!" exclaimed Grace. "Isn't that wonderful!" and she pointed a
slender hand, beautified by exquisitely kept nails, toward the gorgeous
"Every minute counts!" remarked practical Betty. Yet she knew better than
to worry her friends.
The glow faded, and again the girls advanced. From the fields came the
lowing of the cows, as they waited impatiently for the bars of the
pastures to be let down. A herd of sheep was driven along the road,
raising a cloud of dust. From farm houses came the barking of dogs and
the not unmusical notes of conch or tin horns, summoning the "men folks"
to the evening meal.
"Girls, we're never going to make it in time!" exclaimed Grace as the sky
darkened. "We must see if we can't stop at one of these houses over
night," and she pointed to a little hamlet they were approaching.
"Grace!" exclaimed Betty. "Aunt Sallie would be worried to death if we
didn't come, after she expected us."
"Then we must send her word. I can't go another step."
They all paused irresolutely. They were in front of a big white house--a
typical country home. Betty glanced toward it.
"It's too bad," she said. "I know just how you feel, and yet can we go up
to one of these places, perfect strangers, and ask them to keep us over
night? It doesn't seem reasonable."
"Anything is reasonable when you have to," declared Mollie. "I'll ask,"
she volunteered, starting toward the house. "The worst they can say is
'no,' and maybe we can hire a team to drive to Rockford, if they can't
keep us. I can drive!"
"Well, we'll ask, anyhow," agreed Betty, rather hopelessly. She hardly
knew what to do next.
As they advanced toward the House the savage barking of a dog was heard,
and as they reached the front gate the beast came rushing down the walk,
while behind him lumbered a farmer, shouting:
"Here! Come back! Down, Nero! Don't mind him, ladies!" he added. "He
won't hurt you!"
But the aspect, and the savage growls and barks, of the creature seemed
to indicate differently, and the girls shrank back. Betty, reaching in
her bag, drew out the nearly emptied olive bottle for a weapon.
"Don't hit him! Don't hit him!" cried the farmer. "That will only make
him worse! Come back here, Nero!"
"Run, girls! Run!" begged Amy. "He'll tear us to pieces!" and she
turned and fled.
AT AUNT SALLIE'S
Probably that was the most unwise course poor Amy could have taken. Dogs,
even the most savage, seldom come to a direct attack unless their
prospective victim shows fear. Then, like a horse that takes advantage of
a timid driver, the creature advances boldly to the attack.
It was so in this case. The other girls, not heeding Amy's frantic
appeal, stood still, but she ran back toward the road, her short skirt
giving her a chance to exercise her speed. The dog saw, and singling out
her as the most favorable for his purposes, he leaped the fence in a
great bound and rushed after the startled girl.
"Stop him! Stop him!"
"If she falls!"
"I know I'm going to faint!"
"Don't you dare do it, Grace Ford!"
"Why doesn't that man keep his dog chained?"
These were only a few of the expressions that came from the lips of the
girls as, horror-stricken, they watched the dog rush after poor Amy.
Never had she run so fast--not even during one of the basket ball
games in which she had played, nor when they had races at the Sunday
And, had it not been for a certain hired man, who, taking in the
situation as he came on the run from the barn, acted promptly, Amy might
have been severely injured. As it was the farmer's man, crossing the yard
diagonally, was able to intercept the dog.
"Run to the left, Miss! Run to the left!" he cried. Then, leaping the low
fence at a bound, he threw the pitchfork he carried at the dog with such
skill that the handle crossed between the brute's legs and tripped it.
Turning over and over in a series of somersaults, the dog's progress was
sufficiently halted to enable the hired man to get to it. He took a firm
grip in the collar of the dog and held on. Poor Amy stumbled a few steps
farther and then Betty, recovering her scattered wits, cried out:
"All right, Amy! All right! You're in no danger!"
And Amy sank to the ground while her chums rushed toward her.
"Hold him, Zeke! Hold him!" cried the farmer, as he came lumbering up.
"Hold on to him!"
"That's what I'm doin'!" responded the hired man.
"Is th' gal hurted? Land sakes, I never knew Nero to act so!" went on the
farmer apologetically. "He must have been teased by some of th' boys. Be
you hurted, Miss?"
Pale and trembling, Amy arose. But it was very evident that she had
suffered no serious harm, for the dog had not reached her, and she had
simply collapsed on the grass, rather than fallen.
The dog, choking and growling, was firmly held by the hired man, who
seemed to have no fear of him.
"I'm awfully sorry," said the farmer, contritely. "I never knew him to
act like that."
"Some one has tied a lot of burrs on his tail," called out the hired man.
"That's what set him off."
"I thought so. Well, clean 'em off, and he'll behave. Poor old Nero!"
Even now the dog was quieting down, and as the hired man removed the
irritating cause of the beast's anger it became even gentle, whining as
though to offer excuses.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am," went on the farmer. "You're strangers
around here, I take it."
"Yes," said Betty, "and we lost our way. We're going to Rockford. We must
be there to-night."
"Yes, my aunt lives there."
"And who might your aunt be?"
"Bill Palmer's wife?"
"Yes, that's Uncle Will I guess," and Betty laughed.
"Pshaw now! You don't say so! Why, I know Bill well."
The farmer's wife came bustling out.
"Is the young lady hurt, Jason? What got into Nero, anyhow? I never see
him behave so!"
"Oh, it was them pesky boys! No, she's not hurt."
Amy was surrounded by her chums. She was pale, and still trembling, but
was fast recovering her composure.
"Won't you come in the house," invited the woman. "We're jest goin' t'
set down t' supper, and I'm sure you'd like a cup of tea."
"I should love it!" murmured Grace.
"What be you--suffragists?" went on the woman, with a smile.
"That's the second time we've been taken for them to-day," murmured
Betty, "Do we look so militant?"
"You look right peart!" complimented the woman. "Do come in?"
Betty, with her eyes, questioned her chums. They nodded an assent.
Really they were entitled to something it seemed after the unwarranted
attack of the dog.
"We ought to be going on to Rockford," said Betty, as they
strolled toward the pleasant farm house. "I don't see how we can
get there now--"
"You leave that to me!" said the farmer, quickly. "I owe you
something on account of the way Nero behaved. Ain't you ashamed of
yourself?" he charged.
The dog crouched, whined and thumped the earth with a contrite tail. He
did not need the restraining hand of the hired man now.
"Make friends," ordered the farmer. The dog approached the girls.
"Oh--don't!" begged Amy.
"He wouldn't hurt a fly," bragged the farmer. "I can't account for his
"It was them burrs," affirmed the hired man.
"Mebby so. Wa'al, young ladies, come in and make yourselves t' hum!
Behave, Nero!" for now the dog was getting too friendly, leaping up and
trying to solicit caresses from the girls. "That's th' way with him, one
minute he's up to some mischief, an' th' next he's beggin' your, pardon.
I hope you're not hurt, miss," and he looked anxiously at Amy.
"No, not at all," she assured him, with a smile that was brave and
winning. "I was only frightened, that's all."
"I'm glad of that. I'll have t' tie that dog up, I guess," and he
threw a little clod of earth at the now cringing animal, not hitting
"Oh, don't hurt him," pleaded Betty.
"Hurt him! He wouldn't do that, miss!" exclaimed the hired man, who now
had to defend himself from the over-zealous affections of the dog. "He's
too fond of him. Nero isn't a bad sort generally, only some of the boys
The girls, with the farmer and his man in the lead, walked toward the
house, the woman hurrying on ahead to set more places at the table.
"I'm afraid we're troubling you too much," protested Betty.
"Oh, it's no trouble at all," the farmer assured her. "And I owe you
something on account of my dog's actions."
"But really, ought we to stay?" asked Grace. "It's getting dark, Betty,
and your aunt--"
"Say, young ladies!" exclaimed the farmer, "I'll fix that all right. As
soon as you have a bite to eat I'll hitch up and drive you over to
Rockford, to Bill Palmer's."
"Oh!" began Betty, "we couldn't think--"
She stopped, for she did not know what to say. Truly, it was quite a
dilemma in which they found themselves, and they must stay somewhere that
night. To remain at a strange farm house was out of the question. Perhaps
this was the simplest way after all.
"It won't be any trouble at all," the farmer assured her. "I've got
a fast team and a three-seated carriage. I'll have you over there
in no time."
"Then perhaps we'd better not stop for supper," said Mollie. "Your aunt
might be worrying, Betty, and--"
"We'll telephone her!" exclaimed the farmer. "I've got a 'phone--lots of
us have around here--and I can let her know all about it. Or you can talk
to her yourself," he added.
So it was arranged; and soon Betty was talking to her anxious relative
over the wire. Then, after a bountiful supper, which the girls very much
enjoyed, the farmer hitched up his fine team, and soon they were on
their way to Mrs. Palmer's. The drive was not a long one.
"My!" exclaimed Mollie, as they bowled along over the smooth road, under
a young moon that silvered the earth, "this is better than walking!"
"I should say so," agreed Grace, whose shoes hurt her more than she
cared to admit.
"You are both traitors to the Club!" exclaimed Betty. "The idea of
preferring riding to walking!"
"Oh, it's only once in a while," added Mollie. "Really, pet, we've had a
perfectly grand time."
"Even with the dog," added Amy, who was now herself again. "I was
silly to run."
"I don't blame you," said the farmer, "and yet if you hadn't, maybe Nero
wouldn't have chased you. It's a good thing not to run from a dog. If you
stand, it let's him see you're not afraid."
"Put that down in your books, girls," directed Betty. "Never run from a
dog. That advice may come in useful on our trip."
Half an hour later they were at Mrs. Palmer's house, and received a
hearty welcome, the telephone message having done much to relieve the
THE MISSING LUNCH
"Oh, but these shoes are so comfortable!"
"I'm glad of that, Grace."
"Though I didn't really delay you much; did I?"
"No, I wasn't complaining," and Betty put a caressing hand on the arm of
"We'll be able to make up for lost time now," said Mollie, as she shifted
her little valise from one hand to the other. "Your aunt was certainly
generous in the matter of lunch, Betty," she went on.
"Yes, she said this country air would give us good appetites."
"I'm sure I don't need any," spoke Amy. "I've been hungry ever since
The four girls were again on the broad highway that was splashed and
spotted with the streaks of the early sun as it slanted through the elms
and maples along the road. They had spent two nights at the home of
Betty's aunt, that lady having insisted on a little longer visit than was
at first planned. She made the girls royally welcome, as did her
husband. Grace's shoes had been sent to her at Rockford, having been
"But if we stay another day and night here," said Betty, "not that we're
not glad to, Aunt Sallie--why we can't keep up to our schedule in
walking, and we must cover so many miles each day."
"You see it's in the constitution of our club," added Grace. "We can't
"Oh, come now!" insisted Mr. Palmer. "You can stay longer just as well as
not. As for walking, why we've got some of the finest walks going, right
around Rockford here. You'd better stay. We don't very often see you,
Betty, and your aunt isn't half talked out yet," and he solemnly winked
over the head of his wife.
"The idea!" she exclaimed. "As if I'd talked half as much as you had."
And so the girls had remained. They had greatly enjoyed the visit. In
anticipation of their coming Mrs. Palmer had prepared "enough for a
regiment of hungry boys," to quote her husband, and had invited a number
of the neighboring young people to meet the members of the Camping and
The dainty rooms of the country house, with their quaint, old-fashioned,
striped wall paper, the big four-poster beds, a relic of a by-gone
generation, the mahogany dressers with their shining mirrors, and the
delightful home-like atmosphere--all had combined to make the stay of the
girls most pleasant.
The day after their arrival by carriage they had gone on a long walk,
visiting a picturesque little glen not far from the village, being
accompanied by a number of girls whose acquaintance Betty and her chums
had made. Some of them Betty had met before.
The idea of a walking club was enthusiastically received by the country
girls, and they at once resolved to form one like the organization
started by Betty Nelson. In fact they named it after her, in spite of
In the afternoon the girls went for a drive in Mr. Palmer's big
carriage, visiting places of local interest. And in the evening there
was an old-fashioned "surprise party"--a real surprise too, by the way,
for Betty and her chums had never dreamed of it. It was a most
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer had tried to persuade their niece and her chums to
stay still longer, but they were firm in their determination to cover the
two hundred miles--more or less--in the specified time.
So they had started off, and the snatches of conversation with which I
begun this chapter might have been heard as the four walked along the
pleasant country road.
"We've had very good luck so far," said Mollie, as she skipped a few
steps in advance on the greensward. "Not a bit of rain."
"Don't boast!" cautioned Betty. "It will be perfectly terrible if it
rains. We simply can't walk if it does."
"I don't see why not," spoke Mollie, trying to catch Amy in a waltz hug
and whirl her about.
"My, isn't she getting giddy!" mocked Grace.
"I feel so good!" cried Mollie, whose volatile nature seemed fairly
bubbling over on this beautiful day. And indeed it was a day to call
forth all the latent energies of the most phlegmatic person. The very air
tingled with life that the sunshine coaxed into being, and the gentle
wind further fanned it to rapidity of action. "Oh, I do feel so happy!"
"I guess we all do," spoke Grace, but even as she said this she could not
refrain from covertly glancing at Amy, over whose face there seemed a
shade of--well, just what it was Grace could not decide. It might have
been disappointment, or perhaps an unsatisfied longing. Clearly the
mystery over her past had made an impression on the character of this
sweet, quiet girl. But for all that she did not inflict her mood on her
chums. She must have become conscious of Grace's quick scrutiny, for with
a laugh she ran to her, and soon the two were bobbing about on the uneven
turf in what they were pleased to term a "dance."
"Your aunt was certainly good to us," murmured Mollie, a little later.
"I'm just dying to see what she has put up for our lunch." For Mrs.
Palmer had insisted, as has been said, on packing one of the little
valises the girls carried with a noon-day meal to be eaten on the road.
Mollie was entrusted with this, her belongings having been divided among
"Oh," suddenly cried Grace, a moment later, "I forgot something!"
"You mean you left it at my aunt's house?" asked Betty, coming to a stop
in the road.
"No, I forgot to get some of those lovely chocolates that new drug store
sells. They were delicious. For a country town I never ate better."
"Grace, you are hopeless!" sighed Betty. "Come along, girls, do, or
she'll insist on going back for them. And we must get to Middleville on
time. It won't do to fall back in our schedule any more."
"I sent a postal to my cousin from your aunt's house," said Amy, at
whose relatives the girls were to spend the night. "I told her we surely
would be there."
"And so we will," said Betty. "Gracious, I forgot to mail this card to
Nettie French," and she produced a souvenir card from her pocket.
"Never mind, you can put it in the next post-office we come to,"
suggested Grace. "Oh, dear! I'm so provoked about those chocolates. I'm
positively famished, and I don't suppose it is anywhere near lunch time?"
and she looked at her watch. "No, only ten o'clock," and she sighed.
Laughing at her, the girls stepped on. For a time the road ran
along a pleasant little river, on which a number of canoes and
boats could be seen.
"Oh, for a good row!" exclaimed Mollie.
"We'll have plenty of chances this summer," said Betty. "It has
"I wonder where we will spend our vacation?" spoke Mollie.
"We'll talk about that later," said Betty. "I hope we can be together,
and somewhere near the water."
"If we only could get a motor boat!" sighed Grace. "Oh, Bet, if no one
claims that five hundred dollars maybe we can get a little launch with
it, and camp at Rainbow Lake."
"I'm only afraid some one will claim it," spoke Betty. "I dropped papa a
card, telling him to send me a line in case a claimant did appear."
"Oh, let's sit down and rest," proposed Mollie, a little later. "There's
a perfect dream of a view from here and it's so cool and shady."
The others were agreeable, so they stopped beneath some big trees in a
grassy spot near the bank of the little stream. Grace took advantage of
the stop to mend a pair of stockings she was carrying with her. It was so
comfortable that they remained nearly an hour and would have stayed
longer only the Little Captain, with a look at her watch, decided that
they must get under way again.
"Now it's noon!" exclaimed Grace, when they had covered two miles after
their rest. "Mollie, open the lunch and let's see what it contains."
There was a startled cry from Mollie. A clasping of her hands, a raising
of her almost tragic eyes, and she exclaimed:
"Oh, girls, forgive me! I forgot the lunch! I left it back there where we
rested in the shade!"
THE BROKEN RAIL
Dumb amazement held the girls in suspense for a moment. Then came a
chorus of cries.
"Mollie, you never did that!"
"Forgot our lunch!"
"And we're so hungry!"
"Oh, Mollie, how could you?"
"You don't suppose I did it on purpose; do you?" flashed back the guilty
one, as she looked at the three pairs of tragic, half-indignant and
hopeless eyes fastened on her.
"Of course you didn't," returned Betty. "But, oh, Mollie, is it really
gone? Did you leave it there?"
"Well, I haven't it with me, none of you have, and I don't remember
picking it up after we slumped down there in the shade. Consequently I
must have left it there. There's no other solution. It's like one of
those queer problems in geometry, or is it algebra, where things that are
equal to the same thing are equal to each other," and she laughed with
just the hint of hysteria.
"But what are we to do?" demanded Grace. "I am so hungry, and I know
there were chicken sandwiches, and olives, in that lunch. Oh, Mollie!"
"Oh, Mollie!" mocked the negligent one. "If you say that
Her temper was rising but, by an effort, she conquered it and smiled.
"I am truly sorry," she said. "Girls, I'll do anything to make up for it.
I'll run back and get the lunch--that is, if it is there yet."
"Don't you dare say it isn't!" cried Betty.
"Why can't we all go back?" suggested Amy. "Really it won't delay us so
much--if we walk fast. And that was a nice place to eat. There was a
lovely spring just across the road. I noticed it. We could make tea--"
"Little comforter!" whispered Betty, putting her arms around the other.
"We will all go back. The day is so perfect that there's sure to be a
lovely moon, and we can stop somewhere and telephone to your cousin if we
find we are going to be delayed. She has an auto, I believe you said, and
she might come and get us."
"Stop!" commanded Mollie. "We are a walking club, not a carriage or auto
club. We'll walk."
"Then let's put our principles into practice and start now," proposed
Grace. "We'll have a good incentive in the lunch at the end of this
tramp. Come on!"
There was nothing to do but retrace their steps. True, they might have
stopped at some wayside restaurant, but such places were not frequent,
and such as there were did not seem very inviting. And Aunt Sallie had
certainly put up a most delectable lunch.
The girls reached the spot where they had stopped for a rest, much sooner
than they had deemed it possible. Perhaps they walked faster than usual.
And, as they came in sight of the quiet little grassy spot, Mollie
"Oh, girls, I see it. Just where I so stupidly left it; near that big
rock. Hurry before someone gets there ahead of us!"
They broke into a run, but a moment later Grace cried:
"Too late! That tramp has it!"
The girls stopped in dismay, as they saw a rather raggedly-dressed man
slink out from the shadow of a tree and pick up the lunch valise. He
stood regarding it curiously.
"Oh, dear!" cried Grace. "And I was so hungry!"
Betty strode forward. There was a look of determination on her face.
"Girls, I'm not going to let that tramp take our lovely lunch. Come on,
and I'll make him give it back!"
"Betty!" cried Amy. "You'd never dare!"
"I wouldn't? Watch me!"
The man was still standing there, looking at the valise as if in doubt
whether or not to open it. Betty with a glance at her chums walked on.
"That--that's ours, if you please," said Betty. Her voice was weaker than
she had thought it would be, and quite wobbly, too. Her knees, she
confessed later, were in the same state. But she presented a brave front.
"That--that's our lunch," she added, swallowing a lump in her throat.
The man--he certainly looked like a tramp, as far as his clothes were
concerned, but his face was clean--turned toward the girls with a smile.
"Your lunch!" he exclaimed, and his voice was not unmusical, "how
He did not say whether it was fortunate for them--or himself.
"We--we forgot it. We left it here," explained Mollie. "That is, I
left it here."
"That is--unfortunate," said the man. "It seems--it seems to be a fairly
substantial lunch," and he moved the bag up and down.
"It ought to be--for four of us," breathed Amy.
"Allow me," spoke the man, and with a bow he handed the missing lunch to
Betty. The girls said afterward that her hand did not tremble a bit as
she accepted it. And then the Little Captain did something most
"Perhaps you are hungry, too," she said, with one of her winning smiles,
a smile that seemed to set her face in a glow of friendliness. "We are
on a tramping tour--I mean a walking tour," she hastily corrected
herself, feeling that perhaps the man would object to the word "tramp."
She went on:
"We are on a walking tour, visiting friends and relatives. We generally
take a lunch at noon."
"Yes, that seems to be the universal custom," agreed the man. "That is,
for some persons," and he smiled, showing his white teeth.
"Are you--are you hungry?" asked Betty, bluntly.
"I am!" He spoke decidedly.
"Then perhaps--I'm sure we have more here than we can eat--and we'll
soon--I mean comparatively soon--be at a friend's house--perhaps--"
"I would be very glad," and again the man bowed.
Betty opened the little satchel--it was a miniature suitcase--and a
veritable wealth of lunch was disclosed. There were sandwiches without
number, pickles, olives, chunks of cake, creamy cheese--
"Are you sure you can spare it?" asked the man. "I'm sure I don't
"Of course we can spare it," put in Mollie, quickly.
"Well then I will admit that I am hungry," spoke the unknown. "I am not
exactly what I seem," he added.
Betty glanced curiously at him.
"Don't be alarmed," he went on quickly. "I am not exactly sailing under
false colors except in a minor way. Now, for instance, you took me for a
tramp; did you not?" He paused and smiled.
"I--I think we did," faltered Mollie.
"And I don't blame you. I have, for the time being, assumed the
habiliments of a knight of the road, for certain purposes of my own. I
am--well, to be frank, I am trying to find something. In order to carry
out my plans I have even begged my way, and, not always successfully.
"You are hungry!" exclaimed Grace, and her chums said she made a move as
though to bring out some chocolates. Grace, later, denied this.
"I am hungry," confessed the tramp--as he evidently preferred to appear.
Betty took out a generous portion of food.
"It is too much," the wayfarer protested.
"Not at all," Betty insisted. "We have a double reason for giving it to
you. First, you are hungry. Second, please accept it as a reward for--"
"For not eating all of your lunch after I found it, I suppose you were
going to say," put in the man, with a smile. "Very well, then I'll
accept," and he bowed, not ungracefully.
He had the good taste--or was it bashfulness--to go over to a little
grove of trees to eat his portion. Grace wanted to take him a cup of
chocolate--which they made instead of tea--but Betty persuaded her not
to. The girls ate their lunch, to be interrupted in the midst of it by
the man who called a good-bye to them as he moved off down the road.
"He's going," remarked Amy. "I wonder if he had enough?"
"I think so," replied Betty. "Now, girls, we must hurry. We have been
"I'm so sorry," put in Mollie. "It was my fault, and--"
"Don't think of it, my dear!" begged Grace. "Any of us might have
forgotten the lunch, just as you did."
As they walked past the place which the tramp had selected for his dining
room, Betty saw some papers on the ground. They appeared to be letters,
and, rather idly, she picked them up. She looked into one or two of the
"I wouldn't do that," said Grace. "Maybe those are private letters. He
must have forgotten them. I wonder where he has gone? Perhaps we can
catch him--he might need these papers. But I wouldn't read them, Betty."
"They're nothing but advertising circulars," retorted the Little Captain.
"Nothing very private about them. I guess he threw them all away."
She was about to let them fall from her hand, when a bit of paper
fluttered from one envelope. Picking it up Betty was astonished to read
on the torn portion the words:
"_I cannot carry out that deal I arranged with you, because I have had
the misfortune to lose five hundred dollars and I shall have to_--"
There the paper, evidently part of a letter to someone, was torn off.
There were no other words.
"Girls!" cried Betty, "look--see! This letter! That man may be the one
whose money we found! He has written about it--as nearly as I can recall,
the writing is like that in the note pinned to the five hundred dollars.
Oh, we must find that tramp!"
"He wasn't a tramp!" exclaimed Grace.
"No, I don't believe he was, either," admitted Betty. "That's what he
meant when he spoke of his disguise, and looking for something. He's
hunting for his five hundred dollars. Oh, dear! which way did he go?"
"Toward Middleville," returned Amy.
"Then we must hurry up and catch him. We can explain that we have
"But are you sure it is his?" asked Mollie.
"This looks like it," said Betty, holding out the torn letter.
"But some one else might have lost five hundred dollars,"
"Come on, we'll find him, and ask him about it, anyhow," suggested
Betty. "Middleville is on our way. Oh, to think how things may turn out!
They hastily gathered up their belongings and walked on, talking of their
"He was real nice looking," said Mollie.
"And quite polite," added Amy.
"And do you think he may be traveling around like a tramp, searching for
that bill?" asked Grace.
"It's possible," declared Betty: "Perhaps he couldn't help looking like a
tramp, because if he has lost all his money he can't afford any other
clothes. Oh, I do hope we find him!"
But it was a vain hope. They did not see the man along the road, and
inquiries of several persons they met gave no trace. Nor had he
reached Middleville, as far as could be learned. If he had, no one had
"Oh, dear!" sighed Betty, when they had exhausted all possibilities, "I
did hope that money mystery was going to be solved. Now it's as far off
as ever. But I'll keep this torn piece of letter for evidence. Poor
fellow! He may have built great hopes on that five hundred dollar
bill--then to lose it!"
They went to the house of Amy's cousin in Middleville. There they spent
an enjoyable evening, meeting some friends who had been invited in. Amy
said nothing about the disclosure to her of the strange incident in her
life. Probably, she reflected, her relative already knew it.
Morning saw them on the move again, with Broxton, where a married sister
of Grace lived, as their objective point. The day was cloudy, but it did
not seem that it would rain, at least before night.
And even the frown of the weather did not detract from the happiness
of the chums. They laughed and talked as they walked on, making merry
by the way.
Stopping in a country store to make sure of their route they were
informed that by taking to the railroad track for a short distance they
could save considerable time.
"Then we ought to do it," decided Betty, "for we don't want to get caught
in the rain," and she glanced up at the clouds that were now more
They reached the railroad track a short distance out of the little
village, and proceeded down the stretch of rails.
"There's a train in half an hour," a man informed them, "but you'll be
off long before then."
"I hope so," murmured Amy.
They had nearly reached the end of the ballasted way, when Betty, who was
in the lead, came to a sudden halt.
"What is it," asked Mollie, "a snake? Oh, girls!"
"No, not a snake," was the quick answer. "But look! This rail is broken!
It must have cracked when the last train passed. And another one--an
express--is due soon! If it runs over that broken rail it may be wrecked!
Girls, we've got to stop that train!" and she faced her chums resolutely.
"IT'S A BEAR!"
"What can we do?" It was Grace who asked the question. It was Betty, the
Little Captain, who answered it.
"We must stop the train," she said. "We must wave something red at it.
Red always means danger."
"Mollie's tie," exclaimed Amy. Mollie was wearing a bright vermilion
scarf knotted about the collar of her blouse.
"It isn't big enough," decided Betty. "But we must do something. That man
said the train would come along soon. It's an express. A slow train might
not go off the track, as the break is only a small one. But the
She paused suggestively--apprehensively.
"There's a man!" cried Grace.
"A track-walker!" cried Betty. "Oh, he'll know what to do," and she
darted toward a man just appearing around the curve--a man with a sledge,
and long-handled wrench over his shoulder.
"Hey! Hey!" Betty called. "Come here. There's a broken rail!"
The man broke into a run.
"What's that?" he called. "Got your foot caught in a rail? It's a frog--a
switch that you mean. Take off your shoe!"
"No, we're not caught!" cried Betty, in shrill accent. "The rail
The track-walker was near enough now to hear her correctly. And,
fortunately, he understood, which might have been expected of him,
considering his line of work.
"It's a bad break," he affirmed, as he looked at it, "Sometimes the heat
of the sun will warp a rail, and pull out the very spikes by the roots,
ladies. That's what happened here. Then a train--'twas the local from
Dunkirk--came along and split the rail. 'Tis a wonder Jimmie Flannigan
didn't see it. This is his bit of track, but his wife is sick and I said
I'd come down to meet him with a bite to eat, seein' as how she can't put
up his dinner. 'Tis lucky you saw it in time, ladies."
"But what about the train?" asked Betty.
"Oh, I'll stop that all right. I'll flag it, and Jimmie and me'll put in
a new rail. You'll be noticin' that we have 'em here and there along the
line," and he showed them where, a little distance down the track, there
were a number placed in racks made of posts, so that they might not rust.
From his pocket the track-walker pulled a red flag. It seemed that he
carried it there for just such emergencies. He tied it to his pick
handle, and stuck the latter in the track some distance away from the
"The engineer'll see that," he said, "and stop. Now I'll go get Jimmie
and we'll put in a new rail. You young ladies--why, th' railroad
company'll be very thankful to you. If you was to stop here now, and the
passengers of the train were told of what you found--why, they might even
make up a purse for you. They did that to Mike Malone once, when he
flagged the Century Flier when it was goin' to slip over a broken bridge.
I'll tell 'em how it was, and how you--"
"No--no--we can't stay!" exclaimed Betty. "If you will look after the
broken rail we'll go on. We must get to Broxton."
"Oh, sure, it'll not take the likes of you long to be doin' that,"
complimented the man, with a trace of brogue in his voice. "You look
equal to doin' twice as much."
"Well, we don't want to be caught in the rain," spoke Mollie.
"Ah, 'twill be nothin' more than a sun shower, it will make your
complexions better--not that you need it though," he hastened to add.
"Good luck to you, and many thanks for tellin' me about this broken rail.
'Tis poor Jimmie who'd be blamed for not seein' it, and him with a sick
wife. Good-bye to you!"
The girls, satisfied that the train would be flagged in time, soon left
the track, the last glimpse they had of the workman being as he hurried
off to summon his partner to replace the broken rail.
That he did so was proved a little later, for when the girls were walking
along the road that ran parallel to the railroad line some distance
farther on, the express dashed by at a speed which seemed to indicate
that the engineer was making up for lost time.
Several days later the girls read in a local paper of how the train had
been stopped while two track-walkers fitted a perfect rail in place of
the broken one. And something of themselves was told. For the
track-walker they had met had talked of the young ladies he had met, and
there was much printed speculation about them.
"I'm glad we didn't give our names," said Grace. "Our folks might have
worried if they had read of it."
"But we might have gotten a reward," said Mollie.
"Never mind--we have the five hundred dollars," exclaimed Grace.
"It may already be claimed," spoke Betty.
When they had seen the express go safely by, thankful that they had had a
small share in preventing a possible loss of life, the girls continued on
their way. They stopped for lunch in a little grove of trees, brewing
tea, and partaking of the cake, bread and meat Amy's cousin had provided.
Amy had torn her skirt on a barbed wire fence and the rent was sewed up
beside the road.
The clouds seemed to be gathering more thickly, and with rather
anxious looks at the sky the members of the Camping and Tramping Club
"Girls, we're going to get wet!" exclaimed Mollie, as they passed a
cross-road, pausing to look at the sign-board.
"And it's five miles farther on to Broxton!" said Amy. "Can we
ever make it?"
"I think so--if we hurry," said Betty. "A little rain won't hurt us.
These suits are made to stand a drenching."
"Then let's walk fast," proposed Grace.
"She wouldn't have said that with those other shoes," remarked
"Got any candy?" demanded Mollie. "I'm hungry!"
Without a word Grace produced a bag of chocolates. It was surprising how
she seemed to keep supplied with them.
The girls were hurrying along, now and then looking apprehensively at the
fast-gathering and black clouds, when, as they turned a bend in the road,
Amy, who was walking beside Grace, cried out:
"Oh, it's a bear! It's a bear!"
"What's that--a new song?" demanded Mollie, laughing.
"No--look! look!" screamed Amy, and she pointed to a huge, hairy creature
lumbering down the middle of the highway.
THE DESERTED HOUSE
The girls screamed in concert, and whose voice was the loudest was a
matter that was in doubt. Not that the Little Captain and her chums
lingered long to determine. The bear stopped short in the middle of the
road, standing on its hind legs, waving its huge forepaws, and lolling
its head from side to side in a sort of Comical amazement.
"Run! Run!" screamed Betty. "To the woods!"
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" That seemed the extent of Mollie's vocabulary just then.
"Climb a tree," was the advice of Grace.
"Is he coming? Is it coming after us?" Amy wanted to know.
She glanced over her shoulder as she put the question, and there
nearly followed an accident, for Amy was running, and the look back
caused her to stumble. Betty, who was racing beside her, just managed
to save her chum from a bad fall. All the girls were running--running
as though their lives depended on their speed. Luckily they wore
short, walking skirts, which did not hinder free movement, and they
really made good speed.
[Illustration: THE BEAR STOPPED SHORT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.]
They crossed the road and plunged into the underbrush, crashing through
it in very terror. They clung to their small suitcases instinctively.
Then suddenly, as they ran on, there came the clear notes of a bugle in
an army call. Betty recalled something.
"Stop, girls!" she cried.
"What, with that bear after us?" wailed Grace. "Never!"
"It's all right--I tell you it's all right!" went on Betty.
"Oh, she's lost her mind! She's so frightened she doesn't know what she
is saying!" exclaimed Mollie. "Oh, poor Betty!"
"Silly! Stop, I tell you. That bear--"
Again came the notes of the bugle, and then the girls, looking through
the fringe of trees at the road, saw a man with a red jacket, and wearing
a hat in which was a long feather, come along, and grasp a chain that
dangled from the leather muzzle which they had failed to notice on the