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The Girls of Central High in Camp - The Old Professor's Secret
by Gertrude W. Morrison
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THE GIRLS OF CENTRAL HIGH IN CAMP

or

THE OLD PROFESSOR'S SECRET

by

GERTRUDE W. MORRISON

Author of The Girls of Central High, The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna, Etc.

ILLUSTRATED

THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING CO.

AKRON, OHIO NEW YORK

MADE IN U. S. A.



Copyright, 1915, by

GROSSET & DUNLAP



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE I. Where, Oh, Where? 1 II. Plans for the Summer 12 III. Visitors' Day 20 IV. "Lonesome Liz" 29 V. The Start 39 VI. Prettyman Sweet Makes a Friend 50 VII. The Barnacle 61 VIII. Up Rocky River 72 IX. The Camp on Acorn Island 80 X. Getting Used to It 92 XI. Liz Sees a "Ha'nt" 102 XII. The "Kleptomaniantic" Ghost 114 XIII. The Search of the Island 121 XIV. "More Fun Than a Little" 128 XV. The Barnacle Has a Nose 137 XVI. Where the Barnacle's Nose Led Him 144 XVII. A Perfectly Unsatisfactory Interview 152 XVIII. An Eventful Fishing Trip 159 XIX. The Young Man With the Gun 170 XX. Laura Keeps Her Secret 175 XXI. The Sheriff With His Dogs 182 XXII. Where Professor Dimp Comes in Big 189 XXIII. Liz on the Defensive 196 XXIV. The Barnacle Trees Something at Last 201 XXV. "Quite All Right" 207



THE GIRLS OF CENTRAL HIGH IN CAMP

CHAPTER I

WHERE, OH, WHERE?

Field day was past and gone and the senior class of Central High, Centerport's largest and most popular school, was thinking of little but white dresses, bouquets, and blue-ribboned diplomas.

The group of juniors, however, who had made the school's athletic record for the year in the Girls' Branch Athletic League, had other matters to discuss—and in their opinion they were matters of much greater moment.

"Boiled down," stated Bobby Hargrew, "to its last common divisor, it is 'Where, oh, where shall we spend our vacation?'"

They had decided some weeks before—Bobby herself, Laura Belding, Jess Morse, the Lockwood twins and Dr. Agnew's daughter, Nellie—that a portion at least of the long summer vacation should be spent in camp. The mooted question was, where?

"No seashore resort," Nellie said, with more decision than she usually displayed, for Nellie was of a timid and peaceful disposition.

"No," agreed Laura Belding. "We'll eschew the three S's—'sun, sand, and 'skeeter-bites.' That is the slogan of the seashore resort. Besides, it costs too much to get there."

"That's an important item to take into consideration, girls, if I'm to go," said Jess Morse.

"I thought you were a millionairess?" laughed Bobby. "Where are the royalties from your play?"

"Those won't begin till the producer puts the play on next season," returned Jess, who had been fortunate in writing a play for amateur production good enough to interest a professional theatrical manager.

"Well, we've got to have you, Jess," said Bobby (otherwise Clara) Hargrew. "For we're depending upon your mother to play chaperon for the crowd, wherever we go."

"Let's find a quiet spot, then," said Jess, eagerly. "Mother wants to write a book this summer and she says she would love to be somewhere where she doesn't need to play the society game, or dress——"

"Back to the Garden of Eden for hers!" chuckled Bobby. "Eve didn't have to dress—that is, not before Fall."

"Aren't you awful, Bobby?" cried one of the Lockwood twins—but which one it was who spoke could not have been sworn to by their most familiar friend. Dora and Dorothy looked just alike, dressed just alike, their voices were alike, and they usually acted in perfect harmony, too!

"Well," pursued Laura Belding, "if we are going to spend the first weeks of the summer vacation in camp, we must decide upon the spot at once. Are we all agreed that we shall not go to the salt water?"

"Oh, yes!" cried her particular chum, Jess, or Josephine, Morse.

"None of the troubles of the seaside boarder for ours," Bobby announced, hurriedly groping amid the rubbish in her skirt pocket and bringing forth a crumpled newspaper clipping. Bobby insisted upon having a pocket in almost every garment she wore (it was whispered that she wore pajamas at night for that reason) and no boy ever carried a more heterogeneous collection in his pockets than she did.

"See here! here's one seaside visitor's complaint," and she intoned in a singsong voice the following doggerel:

"'Why don't red-headed girls get tanned? Why does a collar wilt? Why is the sea so near the land? Why were the billows built? Why is the "crawl-stroke" hard to learn? Why is the sea bass shy? Why is the nose the first to burn? Why is the stinging fly?

"'Why do mosquito nettings leak? Why do all fishers lie? Why does the grunter-fish always squeak? Why do they feed us on clam-pie? Why does the boardwalk hurt the feet? Why is the seaweed green? Why can't a bathing suit look neat? Why won't straw hats stay clean?

"'Why——'"

"Stop it!" shrieked Jess, covering her ears. "How dare you read such preposterous stuff?"

"'Whys to the wise,' you know," giggled Bobby.

"I vote we refuse to allow Bobby to go camping with the crowd unless she positively refrains from quoting verse on any and every occasion," drawled Nellie.

"Hardhearted creature!" cried Dora Lockwood. "Poor Bobs couldn't live without that 'scape-gap."

"By the way, girls," Laura Belding asked, briskly, "are we going to let any other girls join this camping party—or is it to be just us six?"

"Who else wants to go?" demanded Bobby, quickly.

"Lil Pendleton——"

"Always that!" ejaculated Bobby, in disgust.

"Why, Bobby!" cried Dorothy. "I thought you and Lilly kissed and made up?"

"Oh, yes—we did," grunted the smaller girl. "That is, we kissed. Lil was already made up."

"Now, Bobby!" admonished Laura.

"That's horrid of you, Bobby," Nellie declared. "You are incorrigible."

Yet they all had to laugh. Bobby Hargrew was just a cut-up!

"I'm worse than the long word you called me, Nell," said little Miss Hargrew. "But we're not going to have any such spoil-sport as Lil Pendleton along."

"But Chet and Lance say that Prettyman Sweet has begged so hard to go camping with them, that they're going to take him—just for the fun they will have at his expense, I s'pose," said Laura.

"That's why Lil wants to go camping," Dora said. "She's got such an awful crush on Pretty Sweet that she wants to do everything he does."

"That dude!" scoffed Bobby.

"He and Lil make a good pair," said Jess.

"Wait a minute!" cried Dorothy Lockwood. "Where are the boys going to camp this year, Laura?"

"On the shore of Lake Dunkirk, somewhere."

"Say, Mother Wit," cried Bobby, addressing by her universal nickname the leader of the crowd of Central High girls. "Wouldn't it be fun to camp near—That is, providing the boys are all nice."

"Well, beside Chet and Lance and Pretty Sweet, there'll be Short and Long, Reddy Butts and Arthur Hobbs, anyway. I don't know how many more," Laura said. "But you know that Chet and Lance wouldn't have any but nice fellows in their crowd."

"Barring Pretty," said Bobby, "they are all good chaps—so far. We wouldn't mind having them for neighbors.

"And why can't we?" she added, suddenly. "Why, girls! Father Tom has recently bought into the Rocky River Lumber Company and that company owns Acorn Island."

"Acorn Island? Great!" declared Jess.

"That's the big island in Lake Dunkirk, you know," explained Laura to the Lockwood twins, who looked puzzled.

"Acorn Island is just the finest kind of a place for a camp," said the enthusiastic Jess. "It's just like a wilderness."

"Right! The company isn't going to cut the timber on the island till next winter. Father Tom says so."

"I've been to picnics on Acorn Island," said Nellie Agnew. "It is a beautiful spot."

"Acorn Island it is, then," cried Bobby. "Hurrah! We'll spend our vacation there!"

She almost shouted this declaration. The girls had been lingering to talk in the high school yard and were now at the gate. Nellie suddenly tugged at Laura's sleeve and whispered:

"Look there! what do you suppose is the matter with Professor Dimp?"

Bobby spun around at the word, having heard the sibilant whisper. She likewise stared at the rusty-coated gentleman who had just passed the gate, having come from the main entrance of the Central High building.

"Gee!" exclaimed the slangy Bobby. "What's got Old Dimple now? What have I ever done to him—except massacre the Latin language?—and that's a 'dead one,' anyway!"

The Latin teacher—the bane of all careless and ill-prepared boys and girls of the Latin class—was a slightly built, stoop-shouldered man who never seemed to own a new coat, and was as forgetful as a person really could be, and be allowed to go about without a keeper.

He often passed the members of his class on the street without knowing them at all; the boys said you might as well bow to a post as to Old Dimple!

But here he had taken particular notice of Bobby Hargrew; indeed, he stopped to turn around and glare right at her—just as though she had said something particularly offensive to him as he passed the group.

"Goodness!" murmured Jess. "If you're not in trouble with Gee Gee, Bobs, you manage to get one of the other instructors down on you. What have you done to the professor?"

"Nothing, I declare!" said Bobby, plaintively.

"If you'd murdered his grandmother he couldn't look any harder at you," chuckled Dora Lockwood.

The professor suddenly saw that he had disturbed the party of schoolgirls. He actually flushed, and turned hurriedly to move away.

As he did so he pulled a big, blue-bordered handkerchief from the tail pocket of his frock-coat. That pocket was notably a "catch-all" for anything the poor, absent-minded professor wished to save, or to which he took a fancy. Once Short and Long (otherwise a very short boy named Long) dropped a kitten into the professor's tail pocket and the gentleman did not discover it until he reached for his bandana to wipe his moist brow when he stood up to lecture his Latin class.

However, it was nothing like a kitten that followed the blue-bordered handkerchief out of the voluminous skirt-pocket. A crumpled clipping from a newspaper fell to the walk as Professor Dimp strode away.

Bobby Hargrew's quick eye noted the clipping first, and she darted to retrieve it. She came back more slowly, reading the printed slip.

"What is it, Bob?" asked Jess, idly.

"Why, Clara!" exclaimed Laura Belding, "aren't you going to give it back to him?"

"Look here, girls!" ejaculated the excited and thoughtless Bobby, looking up from the newspaper clipping. "What do you think of this? Old Dimple must be secretly interested in modern crime as well as in the murdered ancient languages. This is all about those forgeries in the Merchants and Miners Bank, of Albany. You know, they say a young fellow—almost a boy—did them; and he can't be found and they don't know what he did with the money obtained by the circulating of the false paper."

"My! Our Aunt Dora lost some securities. She just wrote us about it," Dorothy Lockwood said, eagerly.

"And he wasn't much but a boy!" murmured Nellie. But Laura said, sharply: "Bobby! that's not nice. Run after Professor Dimp and give the clipping to him."

"Gee! you're so awfully particular," grumbled the harum-scarum. But she started after the shabby figure of the Latin teacher and caught up with him before Professor Dimp had reached the end of the next block—for Bobby Hargrew had taken the palm in the quarter mile dash at the Girls' Branch League Field Day and there were few girls at Central High who could compete with her as a sprinter.

When she returned to the group of her friends, still eagerly discussing the plane for their camping trip, her footsteps lagged. Laura noticed the curious expression on the smaller girl's face.

"What has happened you, Bobby?" she demanded.

"Why! I'm so surprised," gasped Bobby. "I must have done something awful to Old Dimple. When he saw what it was I handed him, he grabbed it and just snarled at me:

"'Where did you get that, Miss Hargrew?'

"And when I told him, he looked as though he didn't believe me and had to search his pocket to make sure he had dropped it. And he looked at me so fiercely and suspiciously. Goodness! I don't know what I've done to him."

"He's odd, you know," suggested Mother Wit.

"That's all right," said Bobby, somewhat tartly; "but what the mischief he wants to bother himself about where we go camping——"

"What do you mean, Bobs?" demanded Jess, while the other girls all looked amazed.

"Why he said to me just now," answered the disturbed girl, "'you girls better keep away from Acorn Island. That's no place for you to go camping.' And then walked right off with his old clipping, and without giving me a chance to ask him what he meant," concluded Bobby Hargrew.



CHAPTER II

PLANS FOR THE SUMMER

Bobby Hargrew came to school the next morning with rather a sour face for her. "What's the matter, dear?" asked Nell Agnew, sympathetically.

"I wish I were a bird," grumbled Bobby.

"So you could soar into the circumambient ether and leave all mundane things below?" queried Jess Morse, with a chuckle.

"No," said Bobby, in disgust. "So I wouldn't have a toothache. I was up with one of my old grinders half the night."

"Have it pulled," suggested Laura.

"Say!" cried Bobby. "That's the easiest thing in the world to say and the hardest to do. And you know it, Mother Wit! You can have an old toothache that will make you feel like committing suicide; and when you get to the dentist shop you wish you had committed suicide before you got there," and jolly little Bobby began to grin again.

"Suicide is a serious matter," said Nellie, gravely.

"Surely, surely," the cut-up replied, dropping her voice to a gruesome pitch. "Listen!

"'Beside a sewer a man lay dead, A dagger in his side; The coroner's decision read: "He died of suicide."

'Now if this man at home in bed, Had in this manner died, Then could the coroner have said: "He died of homicide"?'

"Never joke about serious things, Nell."

"Hush, Bobby!" commanded Laura Belding. "Tell us, do, if your father has agreed to let us go camping on Acorn Island?"

"Of course," replied the younger girl. "And he says there is a cabin there that can be made tight for ten dollars. It's all right to camp under canvas; but if a big storm should come up he says we'd be glad of that cabin."

"Great!" announced Jess Morse.

"The cabin shall be your mother's particular shelter," said Laura. "Eh, girls?"

"If she is kind enough to go with us," said Nellie, "she should have the very best of everything."

"She can have my share of the wood ants and red spiders," chuckled Bobby. "But it's all right, girls. Father Tom says we can have the island to ourselves. And believe me: this bunch of girls of Central High will sure have a good time!"

Which was a prophecy likely to be fulfilled, if the past adventures of these same girls were any criterion of the future.

For more than a year now the girls of Central High, together with those of the other two high schools of Centerport and the high schools of Lumberport and Keyport—all five—had been deeply interested in the Girls' Branch League athletics. In following the various games and exercises approved by their instructor, Mrs. Case these six girls introduced above, had engaged in many and varied enterprises and adventures.

In "The Girls of Central High; Or, Rivals for All Honors," the first volume of this series, Laura Belding ("Mother Wit") was enabled to interest one of the wealthiest men of Centerport in girls' athletics so that he gave a large sum toward the preparation of a handsome athletic field and gymnasium for Central High.

The second volume is entitled: "The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna," and the third is "The Girls of Central High at Basket Ball"—the titles of which tell their own story.

"The Girls of Central High on the Stage," the fourth volume, tells of the writing and first production by her mates of Jess Morse's successful play, while the fifth of the series is entitled: "The Girls of Central High on Track and Field; Or, Champions of the School League."

Laura, Jess, Nellie, the Lockwood Twins and Bobby were girls of dissimilar characters (that is, if we count Dora and Dorothy as "one and indivisible" like the Union of the States). Laura's brother Chetwood, his chum, Lance Darby, Billy Long, and some of the other Central High boys were usually entangled in the girls' adventures—sufficiently to give spice to the incidents.

So, all considered, it was only reasonable that the girls should have eagerly agreed upon the site of their summer camp—Acorn Island. They knew that the boys would probably have their own camp on one shore or the other of the lake, and within sight of the island.

Chet, who seldom failed to walk home with Jess and carry her books—unless the gymnasium called the girls after the school session—and Lance, who filled like office of faithful squire to Laura, joined the girl chums on this afternoon.

"Got it all planned, have you?" Chet said. "I hear Acorn Island is going to be overrun with a gang of female Indians right after graduation."

"We have got to go up there to keep watch of you boys," laughed his sister. "But it's nice of Bobby's father to let us camp there."

"Pull—sheer pull," grumbled Lance. "We fellows tried our best to get permission to camp on the Island."

"Well," said Jess, demurely. "You can come to the island visiting. It will be perfectly proper. My mother says she will go to chaperon us, now that she knows there is a cabin there."

"And Bobby's father is going to send a couple of men up from Lumberport to make the cabin tight and fix things up a little for us. We'll pitch our tents on the knoll right by the cabin," Laura said, eagerly.

"Pretty spot," agreed Chet. "We'll probably have our camp in sight of it and the lake between the south shore and the island is only about two miles broad."

"Oh! we'll have a bully time," his chum agreed.

"Say!" Chet said, suddenly, addressing Lance Darby. "What was professor Dimp saying to you about camping? I heard a word or two. Something about going to the island?"

"Why! I forgot to tell you about that," returned Lance, quickly, while the two girls cast enquiring glances at each other. "Old Dimple is certainly an odd stick."

"As odd as Dick's hat-band," agreed Chet.

"And no-end forgetful. He's been worse than ever lately. There certainly is something worrying him."

"You boys," laughed Jess.

"Something worse than boys," Lance returned. "It's a shame how forgetful he is. Say! did you hear what he did at Mr. Sharp's the other night?"

"No," said the others, in chorus.

Lance began to chuckle. Mr. Franklin Sharp was the principal of Central High, and was very much admired by all the pupils; while Professor Dimp, because of his harshness and his queer ways, was the butt of more than a few jokes.

"It was night before last when it rained so hard," resumed Lance. "He was there going over Latin exercises or something, with the Doctor. Mrs. Sharp asked him to stay all night, when it came on so hard to rain, and the old Prof thanked her and said he would.

"Mr. Sharp went into his office to do something or other and left Old Dimple in the library for a while. The family lost track of him then. Right in the middle of the hardest downpour, about eleven o'clock, the front door bell rang, and Mr. Sharp went to the door.

"There was Old Dimple, under a dripping umbrella, his pants wet to the knees, and his pajamas and toothbrush under his arm——"

"Oh, Lance!" ejaculated Laura. "That is too much to believe."

"Fact. He'd gone home for his nightclothes. I got it from our hired girl and she got it from Mrs. Sharp's maid. So, there you have it!"

"But you didn't tell us what the old Prof was saying to you about camping," reminded Chet, when the general laugh was over.

"Why! that's so. And it was odd, too, that he should take any interest in what we fellows were going to do this summer."

"What about it?" Jess asked.

"He wanted to know if we were going to pitch our camp, too, on Acorn Island? He seemed to know you girls were going there."

"How odd!" murmured Laura and Jess, together. And the latter added: "Bobby said he seemed mad when he found out we were going to Acorn Island."

"Well," drawled Lance, "he seemed sort of relieved when I told him we fellows were going to camp on the mainland."

"Funny he should trouble his head about us out of school hours at all," Chet said again.

His sister made no further comment upon the professor's queer actions. Nevertheless her curiosity was aroused regarding the old instructor's sudden interest in anything beside Latin exercises and Greek roots.



CHAPTER III

VISITORS' DAY

The afternoon preceding the closing exercises of Central High was Visitors' Day at the girls' gymnasium. This was an entirely different affair from the recent Field Day when Laura Belding and her particular friends had so well distinguished themselves.

On that occasion the general public had been invited. Visitors' Day might better have been called "Mothers' Day." Mrs. Case personally invited all those mothers who had shown little interest, or positive objection, to their daughters' athletic activities.

For to the Centerport ladies the fact that their daughters were being trained "like prize-ring fighters," as one good but misled mother had said in a letter to the newspaper, was not only a novel course but was considered of doubtful value.

"And you must come, Mother," begged Laura, when Mrs. Belding seemed inclined to make excuses. Mrs. Belding was one of the mothers who could not approve of her daughter's interest in athletics.

"Really, Laura, I am not sure that I should enjoy myself seeing you crawl about those ladders like a spider—or climbing ropes like a sailor—or turning on a trapeze like a monkey—or otherwise making yourself ridiculous."

"Oh, Mother!" half-laughed Laura. Yet she was a little hurt, too.

"Aw, Mother, don't sidestep your plain duty," said Chet, his eyes twinkling.

"Chetwood! You know very well that I do not approve of many of these modern dances. I certainly do not 'sidestep'"——

"That isn't a dance, Mother," giggled Laura.

Her husband chuckled at the other end of the table. "My dear," he said, suavely, "you should keep up with the times——"

"No, thank you. I have no desire to. Keeping up with the times, as you call it, has made my son speak a language entirely unintelligible to my ear, and has made my daughter an exponent of muscular exercises of which I cannot approve."

"Pshaw!" said her husband, easily. "Basketball, and running, and rowing, and the exercise she gets at that gymnasium, aren't going to hurt Mother Wit."

"There you go!" exclaimed his wife. "You have begun to apply to Laura an appellation which she has gained since all this disturbance over athletics among the girls, has arisen.

"I can no more than expect," went on Mrs. Belding, seriously, "that, dissatisfied with basketball and the like, the girls will become baseball and football—what do you call them, Chetwood? Fans?"

"Quite right, mother," Laura hastened to answer instead of her brother. "And all we girls of Central High are fans already when it comes to baseball and football. I'd like to belong to a baseball team, myself, for one——"

"Laura!" gasped her mother, while her father and Chet burst out laughing.

"It's the finest game in the world," declared Laura, stoutly.

"Hear! hear!" from Chet.

"I've been to see the games a lot with father Saturday afternoons," began Laura, when her mother interposed:

"Indeed? That is why you are so eager always to spend your forenoons with your father on Saturday?"

"Oh, Mother! I really do help father in the jewelry-store—don't I, Dad?"

"Couldn't get along without you, daughter," said Mr. Belding, stoutly.

"And he always takes me for a nice bite in a restaurant," pursued the girl, "and then if there's a game, we go to see it."

"Runaways!" said Mrs. Belding, shaking an admonishing finger at them. "So you encourage her in these escapades, do you, Mr. Belding?"

"Quite so, Mother," he returned. "You're behind the times. Girls are different nowadays—in open practise, at least—from what they were in our day. Of course, I remember when I first saw you——"

"That will do!" exclaimed Mrs. Belding, flushing very prettily, while the children laughed. "We will not rake up old stories, if you please."

Any reference to the occasion at which her husband hinted, usually brought his wife "to time," as Chet slangily expressed it. She agreed to be present at the girls' gymnasium on that last day when the girls used the paraphernalia as they pleased, with Mrs. Case standing by to direct, or admonish, or advise.

Mrs. Belding found in the gallery overlooking the big gymnasium floor many of her neighbors, church friends, or fellow club-members.

"I've been trying to get here for months," one stout lady confided to the Market Street jeweler's wife; "but it does seem to me I never have a minute to spare. But Lluella says that I must come now, for the term is ending. That's Lluella over yonder jumping on that mat. Isn't she quick on her feet?"

"Grace is such a reckless child," complained the lady on Mrs. Belding's other side. "She's her father all over again—and he's got the quickest temper of any man I ever saw. Gets over it right away, you know; but it's a trial to have a man get mad because the coffee's muddy of a morning."

"Oh, I know all about that," sighed the fleshy lady, windily.

"I don't suppose there's really any danger of the children getting hurt here, Mrs. Belding?" proceeded the thin mother.

"I believe not. Laura says there is no danger——"

"Oh, your Laura is a regular athlete!" interrupted the fat woman. "My Lluella says she is just wonderful."

"So does my Grace," declared the thin lady on the other side. "She says there's nobody like 'Mother Wit,' as she calls Laura."

"I think there is no danger," murmured Mrs. Belding, not sure whether she was glad or sorry that her daughter was so popular.

"Oh, Mrs. Belding! are you here?" broke in rather a shrill voice from the rear. "I told Lily I would come to-day; but really, I hardly knew whether it was the thing to approve of this gymnasium business——"

Mrs. Pendleton's voice trailed off as it usually did before she completed a sentence. She was a small, extremely vivacious, black-eyed woman, much overdressed, and carrying a lorgnette with which she eyed the crowd of girlish figures on the floor below.

"Of course," she murmured to Mrs. Belding, "if you approve——"

"Where is Grace now?" cried the thin lady, suddenly. "Mercy! See where she has climbed to. Do you suppose they can get her without a ladder?"

Grace, a thin, wiry child of the wriggling type, had successfully clambered up the rope almost to the beam overhead and was now surveying the gallery with lofty compassion, which included a lively appreciation of her mother's uneasiness.

"Oh, Grace!" shrilled the thin woman. "Get down this instant! Or do you want me to bring you a ladder?"

An appreciative giggle arose from some of the girls below. Grace turned rather red around her ears, and began to descend. It was one thing to make her mother marvel; she did not want her "act" to be turned to ridicule.

"They look real pretty—now don't they?" admitted Mrs. Pendleton, loftily, after surveying the gymnasium for some time through her lorgnette. "Lily's dress cost us a deal of trouble. But she looks well in it. She's well developed for her age and—thank goodness!—she has a chic way with her.

"I thought we never would get the suit to fit her. And she changed her shoes three times," added the society matron. "Finally I told her if she was going to have nervous prostration getting ready to take physical culture, she'd better wait and take it when she was convalescent."

"I hope Lluella will be careful of her hands," said the fleshy lady on Mrs. Belding's right. "She's always bruising or cutting her fingers. Just like her aunt. Her aunt always had to wear gloves doing her housework."

"There! they are going to march," cried the thin lady, as Mrs. Case blew her whistle and the girl on the rope slid the last few feet to the floor. "Grace is down, thank goodness!"

"Her music teacher says Grace's ear is a regular gift—she keeps such good time."

"I'm sure no sensible parent would ever have bought those ears," whispered Mrs. Pendleton to Mrs. Belding. "They must have been a gift," for those organs on the agile Grace were painfully prominent.

"But she had such a pretty smile when she looked up at her mother just now," whispered the kind-hearted Mrs. Belding.

"That reminds me," said the society matron—though why it should have reminded her nobody knows! "That reminds me, my Lily is crazy to go camping—positively crazy!"

"I know," sighed Mrs. Belding. "Laura is determined, too. And her father approves and has overruled all my objections."

"Oh, it's not that with me at all," said Mrs. Pendleton, briskly. "I'm glad enough to have the child go. She's too much advanced for her age, anyway. If she spends this summer at Newport, and Bar Harbor, and one or two other places where I positively must appear, I'll never be able to get her back into school this fall.

"It ages a mother so to have a growing daughter—and one that is so forward as Lily," said this selfish lady, fretfully. "Lily thinks she is grown up now. No. I approve of her going with a lot of little girls into camp. And she wants to go with your Laura's crowd, Mrs. Belding."

"I'm sure—Laura would be pleased," said Mrs Belding, sweetly, without an idea that she was laying up trouble in store for Mother Wit.

"Oh, then, I can leave it with you, dear Mrs. Belding?" cried Mrs. Pendleton, with uncanny eagerness. "You will arrange it?"

"Why—er—I presume Laura and her friends would have no objection to another of their schoolmates joining them. I understand Mrs. Morse will chaperon them——"

"And quite a proper person for that office, too," agreed Mrs. Pendleton. "I presume they will take along a maid."

"Oh! I do not know," said Mrs. Belding, beginning to feel somewhat worried now. "I imagine the girls expect to do for themselves——"

"Oh! I will send a maid with Lily. At least, I will pay the wages of one who will do for all the girls—in a way."

She bustled away to find Lily after the march. Mrs. Belding waited for her daughter in more or less trepidation. It had suddenly crossed her mind that Lily Pendleton was seldom at her house with the friends that Mother Wit gathered about her.



CHAPTER IV

"LONESOME LIZ"

"Oh, galloping grasshoppers!" gasped Bobby Hargrew, clinging tight to Laura and Nellie Agnew in the dressing-room. "Do you hear what she says?"

"What language, Bob!" said Nellie, in horror. "How can you?"

"Of whom are you speaking?" asked Laura, with an admonishing look.

"That Lil Pendleton. The gall of her!"

"Stop, Bob!" commanded Laura. "You talk like a street urchin."

"I don't care if I talk like a sea urchin," complained the smaller girl. "She says she's going with us."

"Where?" asked Nell.

"Camping."

"Who?" exclaimed Laura, promptly.

"That Pendleton girl. Says her mother just told her. Your mother said so, Laura Belding. So there!"

"Why—why——"

"I don't want to complain of your mother, Laura," said the grocer's daughter, "but it seems too bad we can't pick and choose whom we'll have go camping in our crowd."

"Mother doesn't understand! I am sure she never meant to make us take Lil if we didn't want her."

"And surely we don't," declared the doctor's daughter, with more emphasis than she usually used in commenting upon any subject.

"Let's put the rollers under her and let her zip," exclaimed the slangy Bobby.

"If Gee Gee should hear you," laughed Laura, referring to one of the very strict lady teachers of Central High, Miss Grace Gee Carrington.

"She's too busy with Margit Salgo—Beg pardon!" exclaimed Bobby. "Margaret Carrington, as she will in future be known. Gee Gee has scarcely called me down this week."

"Now, if it was Margit who wanted to go," sighed Nell Agnew, speaking of the half-Gypsy girl who had just come under the care of Miss Carrington.

"Or Eve Sitz," added Bobby. "But Eve says she gets out-of-door work enough on the farm in the summer. Camping out is no fun for her."

"I don't know what to say about Lily," began Laura. "I cannot understand mother promising such a thing. If anybody should decide, it should be Jess' mother. She is going with us."

"Oh! there's another thing," interrupted the fly-away Bobby. "If Lil goes, she's going to take along a lady's maid."

"What?" gasped the other girls.

"Mrs. Pendleton is going to pay the wages of a girl to go with us and do the camp work," announced Bobby, and now she spoke with some enthusiasm.

"Goodness!" exclaimed Laura.

"Not so bad," sighed Nellie, who really did not like hard work and had dreaded that division of labor which she knew must fall to her if they went camping without "help."

"Having a girl along to cook and do up the beds and wash dishes and the like wouldn't be so bad," announced Bobby, growing braver as Nell seemed to encourage the idea.

"Well! Miss Hargrew!" accused Laura. "I believe you have gone over to the enemy. You really want Lil to go with us to Acorn Island."

"No. But I'd be glad to have her mother pay the wages of somebody to do most of the hard work," grinned Bobby.

There was a regular "buzz society," as Bobby called it, after the girls were dressed. The original six who had planned to go camping on Acorn Island did hum like a colony of bees when they all learned that Lily Pendleton was likely to be foisted upon them.

"It's a shame!" exclaimed Jess, angrily. "She knows well enough we don't want her."

"Well," murmured one of the Lockwood twins. "She asked us and we said the invitation would have to come through Laura."

"Cowards!" exclaimed Mother Wit, dramatically. "That's why she got her mother to go to mine. And I am real angry with mother——"

"Oh, Laura! we wouldn't offend your mother for anything," said Nell, hastily.

"Or put her in an uncomfortable position," Bobby added. "She's been too nice to us all."

"And, of course, we have to stand Lil in the school and gymnasium. She won't kill us; she's only silly," went on Nell.

"I believe you're all more or less willing to have Lil go," declared Laura, in wonder.

"We-ell," drawled Bobby. "There's the chance of having somebody to do the camp work for us——"

"Not Lil!" shrieked Jess. "She never lifts her hand at home."

"No," said Nell. "But Mrs. Pendleton will pay a maid's wages."

"Ah—ha!" ejaculated Jess Morse. "I smell a mice, as the Dutchman says. We are to be bribed."

And bribed they were. At least, none of them wished to put Laura's mother to any trouble. So they agreed to let Lily Pendleton go camping with them. Mrs. Pendleton left it to the girls to find anyone they wanted to help about the camp, and promised to pay good wages.

"I know just whom we can get," Bobby said, eagerly, that evening when the girls—and some of the boys—were assembled as usual on the Belding front porch.

"Who's that?"

"That Bean girl," said the groceryman's daughter.

"Who's she? Miss Boston Bean?" chuckled Chet.

"Lizzie Bean! I know who she is," exclaimed Laura.

"She's the girl who's been helping the Longs since Alice came back to school. Now Alice will keep house for her father and the other children again, and Lizzie will be out of a job," explained Bobby.

"Whew! 'Lonesome Liz?'" ejaculated Lance Darby. "Short and Long calls her that. Says she's about half cracked——"

"I guess she isn't cracked enough to hurt," said Dora Lockwood, quickly. "Is she, Dorothy?"

"Of course not," agreed her twin. "And she keeps the house beautifully clean, and looks after Tommy fine."

"Let me tell you Master Tommy Long is some kid to look after," chuckled Chet.

"And that's no dream," agreed his chum, Lance.

Bobby began to laugh, too. "Did you hear his latest?" she demanded of the crowd.

"Who's latest," asked Jess.

"Tommy Long—the infant terrible?"

"Let's hear it, Bobs," said Jess. "If he can say anything worse than you can——"

"But this break on Master Tommy's part was entirely unintentional. Alice was telling me about it. She sends him to Sunday School and he has to memorize the Golden Text and repeat it to her when he comes home.

"The other Sunday he had been skylarking in Sunday School, it was evident, for when she asked him to tell her the text, he shot this one at her: 'Don't worry. You'll get the blanket.'"

"What?" gasped Laura.

"That's a teaser," said Lance. "What did the kid mean?"

"That's what troubled Alice," chuckled Bobby. "She couldn't get it at all; but Tommy stuck to it that he had given her the text straight. So she looked it up herself and what do you suppose Tommy had twisted into 'Don't worry. You'll get the blanket?'"

"Give it up," said Jess. "Let's have it."

"Why, the text was," said Bobby, more seriously, "'Fear not; the Comforter shall come unto you.'"

"That kid is a terror," said Chet, when the laugh had subsided. "And so's Short and Long. I believe he agreed to let Pretty Sweet go along with us to Lake Dunkirk just because he likes to play jokes on Purt."

"Dear me!" sighed Bobby, with unction. "With Pretty in your camp and Lil in ours, the sun of no day should go down upon us without, seeing some fun."

"And if you have 'Lonesome Liz' along," chuckled Lance, "you girls certainly won't forget how to laugh."

It was agreed that Laura and Jess should see Lizzie Bean the next morning and engage her for the position—if she would accept. They started early, for although they were only juniors and would have another year to attend Central High before graduation, this last day of school would be a busy one for them as well as for the graduating class.

Billy and Alice Long, who were their schoolmates, lived in a much poorer quarter of the town; it was down toward the wharves, and not far from the Central High's boathouses.

The street was a typical water-side street, with small, gaily painted cottages, or cottages without any paint at all save that put on lavishly by the ancient decorating firm of Wind & Weather. Each dwelling had its own tiny fenced yard, with a garden behind. The Longs' was neatly kept both front and rear, and the house itself showed no neglect by the tenants.

Mr. Long was a hard working man, and although the children were motherless, Alice, the oldest, kept the home neat and cheerful for her brothers and sisters. All the children were old enough to go to school save Tommy; and he had been to kindergarten occasionally this last term and would go to school regularly in the fall.

Laura and Jess, hurrying on their errand, came in sight of the Long cottage abruptly, and of a wobegone little figure on the front step.

"Why, it's Tommy!" exclaimed Laura Belding. "Whatever is the the matter, Tommy?" for the little fellow was crying softly.

He was a most cherubic looking child, with a pink and white face, yellow curls that swept the clean collar of his shirt-waist, and a plump, "hug-able" little body.

"Yes, what is the matter, dear?" begged Jess Morse.

"H-he's gone an' cut off th-the tails of the pu-puppies," sobbed Master Tommy, his breast heaving.

"Who has?" demanded Laura.

"He. That man what co-comed here," choked the little fellow.

"What a pity! I'm awfully sorry," Laura pursued, soothingly. "The poor little puppies."

"Ye-yes. Pa s-said I should chop 'em off myself!" concluded Master Tommy in a burst of anger.

"My goodness me!" gasped Jess, horror-stricken. "Will you hear that boy talk? He's a perfect little savage."

"No, he isn't," said Mother Wit, shaking her head. "He's only a boy—that's all. You never had a brother, Jess."

"I know well enough Chet was never like that," declared Josephine, confidently.

They went in by the front gate and walked around the house, leaving the disappointed youngster wiping his eyes. They expected to find Lizzie Bean at the back.

In that they were not mistaken. At the well-curb was a lank, bony girl, who might have been Laura's age, or perhaps a couple of years older. She was dreadfully thin. As she hauled on the chain which brought the brimming bucket to the top of the well, she betrayed more red elbow and more white stockinged ankle-bone than any one person should display.

"My goodness, she's thin!" whispered Jess.

"We are not looking for a Hebe to help us at the camp," Laura returned in the same low tone.

Lizzie Bean turned to see who was approaching. Her face was as thin as the rest of her figure. Prominent cheek bones, a sharp, long nose, and a pointed chin do not make a beautiful countenance, to say the least.

Besides, the expression of her face was lachrymose in the extreme. It did seem, as Jess afterward said, that Lizzie must have lost all her relatives and friends very recently, and was mourning for them all!

"Goodness me!" she whispered to Laura. "No wonder they call her 'Lonesome Liz.' She's so sad looking she's positively funny."



CHAPTER V

THE START

"What do you girls want?" drawled the lean girl, resting her red elbows on the well-shelf and looking down at Laura and Jess Morse.

She did not speak unpleasantly; but she was very abrupt. Laura saw that Lizzie Bean's flat, shallow appearing eyes were of a greenish gray color—eyes in which a twinkle could not possibly lurk.

"We understand that you are not going to help Alice much longer," Laura said, pleasantly. "So we have come to see if you would like another position for a few weeks?"

"What d'ye mean—a job?" proposed Liz-Bean, bluntly.

"Ye-yes," said Laura, rather taken aback.

"What doin'?"

"Why, we girls are going camping. There are seven of us—and Mrs. Morse. Mrs. Morse is the mother of my friend, here, Josephine Morse——"

"Please ter meet yer," interposed Liz, bobbing a little courtesy at the much amused Jess.

Laura went on steadily, and without smiling too broadly at Liz:

"There are seven of us girls and Mrs. Morse. We shall live very simply—in tents and in a cabin, on Acorn Island."

"Eight in fam'bly, eh?" put in the thin girl. "Eight is a bigger contract than I got here."

"Oh! in camping out we don't expect anything fancy," Laura hastened to say. "We want somebody to make beds, and wash dishes, and clean up generally. Of course, the cooking will not all fall on your shoulders——"

"I sh'd hope not," said Liz, briskly. "Not if it was as solid as some folkses' biscuits. One woman I worked for once made her soda-riz biscuits so solid that if a panful had fell on yer shoulders 'twould ha' broke yer back."

Jess had to explode at that, but the odd girl did not even smile. She only stared at the giggling Jess and asked:

"Ain't ye well?"

"Oh, yes!" gasped Jess.

"Well, I didn't know," drawled Liz. "My a'nt what brought me up useter keep a bottle of giggle medicine for us gals. An' it was nasty tastin' stuff, too. She made us take a gre't spoonful if we laffed at table, or after we gotter bed nights. There was jala inter it, I b'lieve. I guess I could make ye some."

Jess stopped laughing in a hurry. Laura tried to ignore her chum's indignant look; but it was quite plain that Lizzie Bean "had all her wits about her," as the saying is.

"Then you can cook?" Laura observed.

"Well, I can boil water without burnin' it," declared the odd girl. "But I ain't no Woodruff-Wisteria chef." Afterward the chums figured it out that Liz meant "Waldorf-Astoria."

"Do you think you would like to go with us?" Laura asked.

"I dunno yet. Where is it?"

Laura explained more fully about the camping site, how they were to get there, and other particulars of the project.

"It listens good," Liz said, reflectively. "Though I ain't never cooked nothin' but soft-soap over a campfire."

"Oh! there will be a portable stove," Laura said.

"When ye goin'?" asked the girl.

"Day after to-morrow."

"What'll ye pay?" was the next bluntly put question.

Laura told her the weekly wage Mrs. Pendleton had guaranteed. Although Lizzie Bean's face was well nigh expressionless at all times, the girls saw at once that something was wrong.

"I dunno," said Liz, slowly. "I have worked mighty cheap in my life—and I ain't got no job when I leave here—an' I gotter eat. But that does seem a naw-ful little wages."

"Why! I think that is real liberal," declared Jess, with some warmth.

Liz eyed her again coldly. "You must ha' worked awful cheap in your life," she said.

"I know," Laura explained, quietly, laying an admonitory hand upon her chum's arm, "You know, that is what you will receive each week."

"What's that?" demanded Liz, with a jump, "Say that again, will ye?"

"We will pay you that sum weekly," repeated Laura.

"Say—say it by the month!" gasped the lean girl, her eyes showing more surprise than Laura had thought them capable of betraying.

Laura did as she was requested. A slow, faint grin dawned on Liz Bean's narrow countenance.

"I been useter gittin' paid by the month—and sometimes not then. Some ladies has paid me so little for helpin' them that I wisht they'd paid me only every three months, so's 'twould sound bigger!

"I gotter take ye up before somebody pinches me."

"Pinches you? What do you mean?" asked Jess, doubtfully.

"I don't want to wake up," declared Liz. "I never got so much money since I was turned adrift when my a'nt died. Don't you wake up, neither, and forgit to pay me!"

"I promise not to do that," laughed Laura. "Then you'll come with us?"

"If I don't break an arm," declared Lizzie Bean, with emphasis.

They told her how to meet them at the dock, and the hour they expected to start. "And bring your oldest clothes," warned Jess.

"What's that?" demanded Liz.

"We just about live in old clothes—or in a bathing suit—in camp," explained Laura.

"Bless your heart!" exclaimed Liz. "I ain't never had nothin' but old clo'es. Been wearin' hand-me-downs ever since I can remember."

"My goodness gracious!" said Jess, and she and Laura hurried off for school. "Did you ever see such an uncouth creature? I don't wonder Billy Long says she's cracked."

"I don't know about her being cracked, as you call it," laughed Laura. "Just because she's queer is no proof that she is an imbecile. You know the old parody on 'Lives of Great Men All Remind Us,' don't you?" and she went on to quote:

"'Lives of imbeciles remind us It may some day come to pass, We shall see one staring at us From our trusty looking-glass!'"

"Shucks!" responded Jess. "You'll get to be as bad as Bobby Hargrew with those old wheezes. But, did you ever see such a girl before?"

"No," admitted Laura. "I honestly never did. But I am quite sure she is in the possession of all her senses——"

"She may be; but I bet her senses are not like other folks'," chuckled Jess.

"She surely won't bite, Jess," responded Laura, smiling.

"Hope not! 'Boil water without burning it!' What do you know about that?"

"I think it's funny," said Laura.

"Well! I only hope we get something to eat in camp," murmured Jess.

"We can't expect her to do all the cooking," Laura said. "And I shall tell the girls so."

"Goodness! I don't know whether I want to go camping with this bunch, after all," said Jess. "What some of them will do to the victuals they have to cook will be a shame!"

However, the prospect of indifferent cookery made none of the girls of Central High less enthusiastic in the matter of the preparations for camping out on Acorn Island, in the middle of Lake Dunkirk.

They were all as busy as bees the next day, packing their bags and flying about from house to house, asking each other: "What you going to take?"

"Goodness me!" cried Laura, at last; "it isn't what do we want, but how little can we get along with! Discard everything possible, girls—do!"

Bobby Hargrew declared Lil Pendleton had started to pack a Saratoga trunk, and that she had been obliged to point out to Lil that neither of the motorboats was large enough to ship such a piece of baggage.

Their gymnasium suits would be just the thing in camp. And of course they all had bathing suits. Otherwise most of the girls got their apparel down to what Jess Morse called "an insignificant minority."

"If the King of India, or the Duke and Duchess of Doosenberry, comes calling at our camp, we shall have to put up a scarlet fever sign and all go to bed," said Bobby. "We'll have nothing to receive them in."

"But not Purt Sweet," chuckled Billy Long. "Purt's packed a dinner jacket and a pair of spats. How much other fancy raiment he proposes to spring on us the deponent knoweth not. He'll be just a scream in the woods."

"He asked me if there were many dangerous characters lurking in the woods around Lake Dunkirk," chuckled Lance. "Somebody has been stringing him about outlaws."

"Short and Long looks guilty," said Chet, suspiciously. "What you been stuffin' Purt with, Billy?"

Billy Long, who straddled the piazza rail, swinging his feet, showed his teeth in a broad smile. "You read about that Halliday fellow, didn't you?" he asked.

"Oh! the chap they say stole the money from that Albany bank?" responded Lance.

"It was securities he stole—and forged people's names to them so as to get money," said Laura. "The Lockwood girls' Aunt Dora lost some money by him."

"That is—if he did it," said Chet, doubtfully.

"Well, the newspapers say so," Jess observed.

"What if they do?" demanded Billy, belligerently. "They all said I helped burglarize that department store last summer—didn't they? And I never did it at all."

"No. It was another monkey," chuckled Lance.

The others laughed, for Billy Long had gotten them into serious trouble on the occasion mentioned, and it was long enough in the past now to seem amusing. But Chet added:

"It's a wonder to me that Norman Halliday had a chance to get hold of all those securities and forge people's names to them. And he knew just which papers to take. Looks fishy."

"Well, he ran away, anyhow," Lance said.

"So did Billy," Bobby said. "And for the same reason, perhaps. He was scared."

"My father says," Chet pursued, "he has his doubts about Halliday's guilt. He believes he is a catspaw for somebody else."

"Anyhow," said Billy, "the papers say he's gone into the Big Woods south of Lake Dunkirk. And Purt wants to carry a gun to defend himself from outlaws."

"If he does," Chet said, seriously, "I'll see that there are no cartridges in the gun. Huh! I wouldn't trust Purt Sweet with a pop-gun."

Bobby, meanwhile, was saying to Laura: "I wonder why Old Dimple was interested enough in that Albany bank robbery to carry around that clipping out of the paper?"

"Maybe he lost money, too," Laura suggested.

"What's that about the old Prof?" put in Chet. "Do you know he's gone out of town already?"

"No!" was the chorus in reply.

"Fact. I saw him with his suitcase this forenoon. He took the boat to Lumberport."

"Well, as we shall all start in that same direction to-morrow morning, bright and early——"

"Not all of us bright, but presumably early," put in Bobby, sotto voce.

"Anyway, it's time we were in bed," finished Mother Wit. "Off with you all!"

Whether Laura's advice had a good effect, or not, nobody was really late at the rendezvous the next morning. Prettyman Sweet's motorboat Duchess, a very nice craft, and the larger powerboat belonging to Chet Belding and Lance Darby, named Bonnie Lass, were manned by the boys before the girls appeared.

These two boats were large enough to transport both parties of campers, and would likewise tow the flotilla of canoes. The Duchess tailed behind it three double canoes belonging to the girls and the Bonnie Lass towed five belonging to their boy friends.

It was a fine day and the lake was as blue as the sky—and almost as smooth to look upon. A party of parents and friends came to see the campers start. The girls and Mrs. Morse went aboard the Bonnie Lass. Lizzie Bean, with a bulging old-fashioned carpet-bag, appeared in season and joined the girls.

In the bustle of departure not many noticed the odd looking maid. The girls and boys were too busy shouting goodbyes to those ashore, and the crowd ashore was too busy shouting good wishes, or last instructions, to the campers.

Mrs. Pendleton had been driven down to the wharf, early as the hour was, to see her daughter off.

"And be sure to wear your rubbers if it rains, Lily!" the lady shrieked after the departing Bonnie Lass.

"Gee!" whispered Bobby, to Jess. "I s'pose somebody'll have to hold an umbrella over her, too, if it starts to shower."



CHAPTER VI

PRETTYMAN SWEET MAKES A FRIEND

Lake Luna was a beautiful body of water, all of twenty miles long and half as broad, with Centerport on its southern shore and Lumberport and Keyport situated at either end.

The first named stood at the mouth of Rocky River which fed the great lake, while Keyport was at the head of Rolling River through which Lake Luna discharged its waters.

Centerport was a thriving and rich city of some 150,000 inhabitants, while the other two towns—although much smaller—were likewise thriving business communities. There was considerable traffic on Lake Luna, between the cities named, and up and down the rivers.

Cavern Island was a beautiful resort in the middle of Lake Luna; but man's hand was shown in its landscape gardening and in the pretty buildings and the park at one end.

Acorn Island, in Lake Dunkirk (thirty miles above Lumberport, and connected with Lake Luna by Rocky River) was a very different place. It was heavily timbered and had been held by a private estate for years. Therefore the trees and rubbish had been allowed to grow, and one end of the island, as the girls of Central High knew, was almost a jungle.

But at the eastern end—that nearest the head of Rocky River—was a pleasant grove on a high knoll, where the old cabin stood. There they proposed to camp.

Indeed, Mr. Tom Hargrew, Bobby's father, had been kind enough to send the girls' tents up to the island with the men he had directed to repair the cabin, and the party expected to find the camp pitched, and everything ready for them when they arrived at Acorn Island.

This would scarcely be before dark, for there was some current to Rocky River, although its channel was deep and there were no bridges or other barriers which the powerboats and their tows could not easily pass.

The boys expected to have to rough it at the site of their camp for the first night, and they had come prepared for all emergencies of wind and weather.

All, did we say? All but one!

In the confusion of getting under way the details of Prettyman Sweet's outing suit, and his general get-up for camping in the wilds, was scarcely noticed. Once the boats were steering up the lake toward Lumberport, a sudden shriek from Billy Long drew the attention of the girls and Mrs. Morse to the object to which he pointed.

"It's not! it's not! my eyes deceive me!" panted Short and Long, who was the third member of the crew of boys aboard the Bonnie Lass, Chet and Lance being the other two.

Short and Long was pointing to the other powerboat that was drawing in beside the Bonnie Lass, Pretty himself was at the wheel of the Duchess for he had learned to manage her.

"What is the matter with you, Billy?" Chet demanded.

"What is it I see?" begged the younger boy, wringing his hands and glaring across the short strip of water between the powerboats. "I know there ain't no sech animile, as the farmer said when he first saw the giraffe at the circus."

"What's eating you, Billy?" asked Lance, who was giving his attention to the steering of the Bonnie Lass. "Don't frighten the girls and Mrs. Morse to death."

"It's just some joke of Billy's," began Jess, when the very short boy broke in with:

"If that's a joke, may I never see another! It is a phantom! It's a nightmare! It's something that comes to you in a bad dream."

"What?" demanded Chet, suddenly shaking Short and Long by the collar.

"Don't, Chetwood," begged Billy. "I'm not strong. I'm sea-sick. That thing yonder has queered me——"

"What thing?" asked Laura. "We don't see the joke, Billy."

"There you go again—calling a serious thing like that a joke," cried the small boy. "Look at it—at the wheel of the Duchess! How ever did it crawl aboard? I bet a cent it's been living in the bottom of the lake for years and years, and has come up to the light of day for the first time now."

"You ridiculous thing!" snapped Lily Pendleton. "Do you mean Prettyman Sweet?"

"My goodness gracious Agnes!" gasped Billy. "That's never Purt Sweet? Don't tell me he's disguised himself for a nigger minstrel show in that fashion?"

They were all laughing at the unconscious Purt by now—all save Lily; and Chet said, gravely:

"There is something the matter with your eyesight, Short and Long. That's Purt in a brand new outing suit."

"He didn't dress like that to go camping?" murmured Billy. "Say not so! Somebody dared him to do it!"

It was a fact that the exquisite of Central High had decked himself out in most astonishing array—considering that he was expected to "rough it" in the woods instead of appear at a lawn party on the "Hill."

"His tailor put him up to that suit," chuckled Lance. "He told me so. As he expects to live in the sylvan forest, as did the 'merrie, merrie men' of Robin Hood, Purt is dolled up accordingly."

"Gee!" breathed Bobby. "Do you suppose Robin Hood ever looked like that?"

"That's Lincoln green," announced Lance, trying to keep his face straight. "You notice that the pants are short—knickerbockers, in fact. They are tied just below the knee with 'ribbands' in approved outlaw style."

"Oh, my!" giggled Dora Lockwood. "Do you suppose they hurt him?"

"What hurts him most is the leather belt at which is slung a long-bladed hunting knife so dull that it wouldn't cut cheese! But the knife handle gets in his way every time he stoops."

"Oh! he's so funny!" gasped Dorothy Lockwood. "You boys are certainly going to have a great time with Pretty Sweet on this trip."

"I don't think it is funny at all," muttered Lily Pendleton. "That rude little thing, Billy Long, tries to be too smart."

"But look at the cap!" gasped Laura, who was herself too much amused to ignore the queer get-up of their classmate. "Where did he get the idea of that?"

"It's a tam-o'-shanter," said Lance. "Another idea of the tailor's. That tailor, I think, tries things out on Pretty. If Pretty doesn't get shot wearing them, then he puts similar garments on his dummies and risks them outside his shop door."

"But what has he got stuck into the cap?" pursued Laura.

"A feather. Rather, the remains of one," chuckled Lance. "It was quite a long one when he started for the dock this morning; but he crossed the street right under the noses of Si Cumming's team of mules that draws the ice-wagon, and that off mule grabbed the best part of the feather. You know, that mule will eat anything."

"Well, one thing is sure," drawled Bobby. "If Purt is supposed to represent a Sherwood Forest outlaw, and he ever meets one of the outlaws of the Big Woods that he's been worried about, the latter 'squashbuckler' will be scared to death."

"'Squashbuckler' is good!" chuckled Jess. "Some of those old villains I expect were squashes."

"My dear!" ejaculated her mother. "I fear the language you young folk use does not speak well for your instructors of Central High."

"I guess we do not cast much glory upon our teachers, Mrs. Morse," rejoined Laura, laughing.

"It's only Short and Long, here, who 'does the teachers proud,'" said her brother, with a grin. "Hear about what he got off in Ancient History class the other day? Professor Dimp pretty nearly set him back for that."

"Aw—now," growled Billy. "He asked for a date, didn't he?"

"What's the burn?" demanded Bobby, briskly.

"Why, Old Dimple asked Billy to mention a memorable date in Roman history, and Billy says: 'Antony's with Cleopatra.'"

"Oh, oh, oh!" gasped Jess. "That's the worst kind of slang."

Mrs. Morse paid the young folk very little attention. She had withdrawn from the group and was busy with pencil and notebook.

"When mother gets to work that way, she heeds neither time, place, nor any passing event," laughed Jess. "She expects to sketch out her whole book while she is at camp with us."

"She's going to be a dandy chaperone," declared Chet. "Suppose we'd had Miss Carrington along?"

"Goodness!" groaned Bobby. "Don't let's mention that lady again this summer."

"And we can cut out Old Dimple, too," grumbled Billy Long.

"He's off somewhere on a trip, so we won't have to bother about him," said Chet, with confidence.

The girls had begun to compare notes regarding what they had packed in their suitcases, long before the boats reached Lumberport; and some of them discovered that they had neglected to bring some very essential things.

"You'll just have to tie up beyond the Main Street bridge, and give us a chance to shop, Chet," announced Laura. "We're making good time as it is."

"Isn't that just like a parcel of girls?" grumbled Billy. "Now, we fellows didn't forget a thing—you bet!"

"Wait till we unpack at camp," chuckled Chet. "We'll see about that, then."

He and Lance agreed to make the halt as the girls requested; and they shouted to the crowd on the smaller boat to do the same. As Lily Pendleton was one of the girls who must shop in Lumberton, Purt Sweet was most willing to tarry and accompany the girls ashore.

He was, in fact, the only escort the girls had when they went up into the town in search of the several articles they needed. The dude was evidently proud of his outing suit and, as Billy suggested, "wanted to give the people of Lumberport a treat."

So he swaggered along up Main Street with the girls. Not a block from the wharf at which the boats were tied he met with an adventure.

"Whatever impression Purt is making on the good people of this town," whispered Nellie Agnew to Laura, "he has certainly smitten a four-footed inhabitant with a deep, deep interest."

"What's that?" asked Laura, turning swiftly to see. Bobby Hargrew looked, likewise. Purt and Lily were behind, and Bobby immediately shouted:

"Say, Purt who's your friend?"

"What's that, Miss Hargrew?" asked Purt staring. "I weally don't get you—don't you know?"

"But he'll get you in a minute," chuckled Bobby.

"Don't pay any attention to her, Mr. Sweet," said Lily. "She's a vulgar little thing."

But just then Purt felt something at his heels and turned swiftly. One of the homeliest mongrel curs ever seen was sniffing at Purt's green stockings.

"Get out, you brute!" gasped the dude, rather frightened.

But the dog didn't seem to have any designs upon Purt's thin shanks. Instead, he jumped about, foolishly stiff-legged as a dog will when he thinks he has found a friend, and barked.

"Gee! he's glad to see you," said Bobby. "Where'd you find him, Purt?"

"Weally!" declared the dude, trying to shoo the dog off. "I—I never did see the horrid brute before—I never did."

"Don't call him names. You'll hurt his feelings," suggested one of the Lockwood twins, while Laura said, seriously: "That dog certainly does know you, Mr. Sweet."

"I declare, I never saw him before," said Purt, making frantic efforts to frighten the dog away.

He was a snarly haired dog, with one ear cocked up and the other half chewed off, his coat muddied, only half a tail, which he wiggled ecstatically, and the most foolish looking face that was ever given to a dog.

"Did you ever see such a looking thing?" gasped Bobby, half choked with laughter.

"And how well he matches Purt's suit," said Nellie, demurely.

"I'm not going to walk with you if you don't get rid of that dog!" declared Lily, seeing that many bystanders were laughing at the boy and the mongrel.

She went ahead with the other girls while poor Purt remained in the rear, trying his best to chase away the friendly animal. But the more Purt shooed him, or attempted to hit him, or strove otherwise to send the brute about his business, the more the latter considered that the boy was playing with him, and he welcomed the game with loud and cheerful barks.

Soon a small crowd was collected, watching the performance with broad grins. The girls, giggling, but rather worried by the attention that was being attracted to their escort, darted into a store and left Purt to settle the matter by himself.



CHAPTER VII

THE BARNACLE

The crowd was laughing loudly and Purt Sweet (although he was frequently the source of mirth for his companions) did not enjoy it. He began to hate that mongrel cur with an intense hatred.

"Get away from me, you brute!" he exclaimed, trying to kick the dog.

"Look out there, son," drawled one on-looker. "If you abuse your dog the S. P. C. A. will do something to you that you won't like."

"It isn't my dog! I weally never saw it before," gasped the dude, growing very warm and red as the dog leaped about him in delight.

"You'll have to tell that to the judge," the man assured him.

This really scared Purt. He did not want to be arrested for abusing the strange dog. But he could not allow it to follow him, that was sure. The girls were already disgusted with him for having attracted the brute.

"And I never meant to!" thought the boy, in despair. "Oh! if I only had him out in the woods, and had a good rock!"

But he dared not pelt the mongrel after what the bystander had said. The crowd became so numerous that a policeman came strolling that way. He saw Purt with the dog dancing about him.

"Here! this is no place for a circus. You and your dog get out!" commanded the officer of the law. "Move on!"

He flourished his baton; the horrified Purt made off around the nearest corner; the dog stuck like a porous plaster.

"If I only had a club!" groaned Purt.

He escaped the crowd and sat down upon a dwelling house stoop. At once that imbecile dog rushed upon him, leaped into his lap, and lapped Purt's face!

"Get out! You nawsty, nawsty brute you!" wailed the dude, beating the dog off weakly.

The latter considered it all in the game. He had taken a decided liking to the boy from Central High, and nothing would drive him away.

Purt had never really cared for dogs. Most boys are tickled enough to get a dog—even a mongrel like this one. But the dude found himself with a possession for which he had never longed.

The dog lay down on the walk in front of him, his tongue hanging on his breast like an inflammatory necktie, and laughing as broadly as a dog could laugh. He evidently admired Purt greatly. Whether it was the Lincoln green suit, or the tam-o'-shanter cap, or the dude's personal pulchritude, which most attracted his doggish soul, it was hard to say.

Suddenly a window went up behind Purt and a lady put out her head.

"Little boy! Little boy!" she called, shrilly. "I wish you'd take your dog away from here. I want to let my cat out, and dogs make her so nervous."

"It isn't my dog—weally it isn't!" exclaimed Purt, jumping up. Immediately the dog leaped about, barking fit to split his throat.

"You naughty boy!" gasped the lady in the window. "I have seen you with that dog go past here hundreds of times!" and she immediately slammed down the sash before Purt could further defend himself.

However the lady could have made the mistake of thinking she had seen Purt before, is not easily explained. Perhaps she was very near sighted.

The Central High dude "moved on," with the mongrel frisking about him. Purt heartily wished the animal would have a sunstroke (for it was high noon now, and very warm) or would be taken with an apoplectic stroke, or some other sudden complaint!

Purt wanted to get back to Main Street and rejoin the girls; but he knew it would be no use in trying that unless he could "shake" the dog. The girls (especially Lily Pendleton, whom he so much admired) would not stand for that mongrel brute following in their train.

So, finding that the dog was fastened to him like a new Old Man of the Sea, Prettyman Sweet decided to sneak back to the dock, by the way of back streets, and escape the beast by going aboard the Duchess.

He set off, therefore, through several byways, coming out at last on a water-front street of more prominence. Here were stores and tenements. The gutters were crowded with noisy children, and the street with traffic.

A fat butcher stood before his shop, with his thumbs in the string of his apron. When he spied Purt and his close companion, he gave vent to an exclamation of satisfaction and reached for the Central High boy with a mighty hand.

"Here!" he said, hoarsely, his fat face growing scarlet on the instant. "I been waiting for you."

"Waiting for me, Mister?" gasped Purt. "Weally—that cawn't be, doncher know! I never came this way before."

"No, ye smart Ike! But yer dog has," growled the man, giving Prettyman a shake that seemed to start every tooth in his head.

"Oh, dear me!" cried Purt. "I never saw you before, sir."

"But I've seen yer dog—drat the beast! And if I could ketch him I'd chop him up into sassingers—that's what I'd do to him."

"He—he's not my dog," murmured Purt, faintly.

Fido had scurried across the street when he spied the butcher; but he waited there, mouth agape, stump of tail wagging, and a knowing cock to his good ear, to see how his adopted master was coming out with his sworn enemy, the butcher.

"I tell yer what," hoarsely said the butcher, still gripping Purt's shoulder, "a boy can deny his own father, but 'e can't deny his dawg—no, sir! That there brute knows ye, bub. Only yisterday he grabbed several links of frankfurter sassingers off'n this hook right overhead 'ere.

"I ain't goin' to have no dumbed dawg like him come an' grab my sassingers an' make off with 'em, free gratis for nothin'."

A little crowd—little, but deeply interested—had gathered again. Had Purt been seeking notoriety in Lumberport, he was getting it without doubt!

The grocer next door, with a great guffaw of laughter, cried:

"Hey, Bill! don't blame the dawg. He smelled some o' his relatives, it's likely, in the frankfurters, an' set out to rescue 'em!"

"I do-ent care," breathed the fat butcher, growing more and more excited. "No man's dawg ain't goin' ter do what he done ter me an' git away with it. This boy has got ter pay for what the dawg stole."

Purt did not like to let go of money—among his school chums he was considered a notorious "tight-wad"—but he was willing to do almost anything to get away from the greasy-handed butcher.

"What—what did the dog take? How much were the frankfurters worth?" he stammered. "The dog isn't mine—weally!—but I'll pay——"

"A dollar, then. And I'll lose by it, too," said the butcher, but with an avaricious sparkle in his eye.

"A dollar's worth of frankfurters!" gasped Purt.

"Yes. An' I wish they'd ha' chocked the brute," complained the butcher.

"I wish they had—before he ever saw me," murmured Purt.

He paid over the money and hurried away from the laughing crowd. And there, within a block, the dog was right at his heels again—rather slinkingly, but with the joy of companionship in his eye.

Now Purt was nearing the dock above the Main Street bridge where the motorboats were tied up. Whether the girls had returned or no, he hated to face the other fellows with this mongrel trailing at his heels.

The situation sharpened Purt's wits. Here was a store where was sold rope and other ship-chandlery. He marched in and bought a fathom of strong manilla line, called the foolish dog to him, found that he wore a nondescript collar, and hastily fastened the line to the aforesaid collar.

It was in the boy's mind to tie the dog somewhere and leave it behind. If he had dared, he would have tied a weight to the other end of the rope and dropped both weight and dog overboard.

Just then, however, he met a group of ragged, barefooted urchins—evidently denizens of the water-front. They hailed the gaily dressed Purt and the ragged mongrel, with delight.

"What yer doin' wid the dawg?" inquired one.

"Takin' him to the bench-show, Clarence? He'll win a blue ribbon, he will."

"Naw," said another youthful humorist. "They don't let Clarence out without the dawg. That's to keep Clarence from gettin' kidnapped. Nobody would wanter kidnap him if they had ter take that mutt along, too."

Purt was too anxious to be offended by these remarks. He walked directly up to the leader of the gang.

"Say!" he exclaimed, breathlessly. "Do you want a dog?"

"Not if that's what yer call a dawg, Mister," said the other boy. "I'd be ashamed to call on me tony friends wit' that mutt. What I needs is a coach-dawg to run under the hind axle of me landau."

"Say!" breathed Purt, heavily, and paying no attention to the gibes. "You take this dog and keep it—or tie it up somewhere so he can't follow me—and I'll give you a quarter."

"When do I git the quarter?" demanded the boy.

"Right now," declared Purt reaching into his pocket with his free hand.

"Hand it over," said the other, snatching away the rope.

The dude sighed to think how this strange and unknown cur had already cost him a dollar and a quarter. A dollar and a quarter would have been far too much to pay for a dozen similar mongrels, and well Purt knew it.

But the instant the quarter was transferred to the other boy, the Central High exquisite traveled away from there just as fast as he could walk.

At once a mournful and heart-rending howl broke out. He looked back once; the dog was leaping at the length of his rope, nearly capsizing the holder of the same with every jump, and wailing hungrily for his fast disappearing friend.

Purt set off on a run. He did not know how soon that rope might break!

He reached the dock just after the girls, who had arrived breathless with laughter, and full of the tale of Purt Sweet's new friend.

"Where is he?" was the chorus that welcomed Purt.

"I—I got rid of him," panted Purt.

"Sure?" laughed Chet, as they began to cast off.

"I—I hope so," returned the worried Purt. "I never did see such a cweature—weally."

"He must have been an old friend of yours, Purt," said Reddy Butts. "Dogs don't follow folks for nothing."

"But weally, I never saw him before," Purt tried to explain.

"Aw, that's all very well," Billy Long sang out. "But it's plain enough why he followed you."

"Why?" asked Reddy, willing to help the joke along.

"It was Purt's shanks in those green socks that attracted the dog. I suppose the poor dog was hungry, and a hungry dog will go far for a bone, you know."

Purt was hurrying to get his Duchess under way, and he was so glad of getting rid of the dog that he did not mind the boys' chaffing. Suddenly a wild yell arose from some of the boys on the dock.

"What's this? See who's come!" yelled Billy Long.

"The Barnacle!" quoth Chet, bursting into a roar of laughter.

Even Lily Pendleton could not forbear giving vent to her amusement, and she laughed with the others. Down the dock tore the ragged coated dog, with a fathom of rope tied to his collar.

He leaped aboard the Bonnie Lass and then, with a glad yelp, sprang to the decked-over part of the Duchess.

Purt Sweet looked up with a cry of amazement and received the delighted dog full in his chest. They rolled together in the cockpit of the boat, the dog eagerly lapping Purt's face, while the boy tried to beat him off with his fists.

"The Barnacle!" yelled Chet again, and that name stuck.

So did the dog. He refused to leave. The party left Lumberton with the foolish beast sitting up in the prow of the Duchess, wagging his ridiculous tail and barking a last farewell to the amused spectators gathered along the edge of the dock.



CHAPTER VIII

UP ROCKY RIVER

The second start of the flotilla—that from Lumberton—was a hilarious start indeed. Poor Prettyman Sweet was the butt of everybody's laughter. The glare of rage he threw now and then at the ridiculous dog in the bow of the Duchess sent the boys into spasms of laughter.

The girls in the other motorboat—even Bobby—seeing that their laughter quite offended Lily Pendleton, began talking about something else and ignored the Barnacle, as the dog had been so aptly named.

Reddy Butts and Art Hobbs, however, loved to annoy the Central High dude. They told Purt that the Barnacle possessed a family resemblance to the Sweets that could not be denied.

"He smiles just like you do, Pretty," said Arthur. "I declare I wouldn't deny the relationship."

"You fellows think you are funny," snarled the dude, losing his temper at last. "I'll fix that beast!"

"How you going to do it?" demanded Reddy, grinning.

"You come here and take the wheel," commanded the dude. "See that you steer right and keep in the channel, right behind Chet's boat and his tow."

"All right," said Butts, and took the spokes in hand.

Purt, shooting an inquiring glance forward to see if the girls were watching, began to creep up on the dog. The beast was looking over the bow, his tongue hanging out, and evidently enjoying the rapid sail up Rocky River.

Somebody had removed the rope from his collar since he had come aboard the Duchess. There was nothing for Purt to grab had the dog observed his approach and sought to get away.

However, the dog remained unconscious of the attempt on his peace of mind. Purt crept nearer and nearer, while the giggling boys in the cockpit watched him narrowly.

Reddy looked knowingly at Arthur, and the latter pulled off his jacket and kicked off his sneakers. The water was warm and Arthur was a good swimmer.

The dude, earnestly striving to move softly, got within hand's reach of the dog. Suddenly he threw himself forward. At the same moment Reddy twisted the wheel ever so little to starboard.

The Duchess was traveling at a good clip. The wave at her nose was foam-streaked and spreading broadly. The water in her wake boiled.

The sudden thrust Purt gave the dog cast the surprised brute overboard; with a yelp of amazement he sank beneath the foam-streaked surface as the motorboat rushed on.

But another yelp echoed the dog's; when Reddy Butts swerved the boat's nose, the move was quite unexpected by Purt.

He dove forward, yelled loudly, and was cast over the edge of the deck just as sprawlingly as the Barnacle himself!

"Man overboard!" yelled Reddy, scarcely able to say it for laughter.

The crowd on the other powerboat heard the shout, if they had not all seen Purt's exhibition of diving. The dude went under just as deep as the dog, and did not come to the surface anywhere near as quickly.

The Barnacle, whether he was a water-dog, or not, was a good swimmer. When his head shot above the stream he yelped, started to paddle after the Duchess and her tow, saw that that was useless, and turned toward the southerly bank of the stream.

The river was half a mile wide at this place, and the Barnacle left a wake like a motorboat behind him. He was going to reach the shore all right.

How about the master he had adopted? Purt came to the surface more slowly, but when he got there he emitted a shriek like a steam whistle.

The Duchess had gone ahead of him. Arthur Hobbs was poised to leap overboard; but there swept close to the dude one of the trailing canoes, and just by raising an arm Purt reached it.

He clung to the gunwale and was dragged on behind the Duchess. At first the canoe tipped and threatened to turn over; Purt slipped along to the stern, and there got a grip on both sides, and so trailed on behind, getting his breath.

"He's all right," said Reddy, chuckling. "Let him cool off a little, Art."

The girls aboard the Bonnie Lass were somewhat worried over Purt Sweet's predicament. "He'll be drowned!" Lily Pendeton declared, first of all.

"I'm not afraid of that," Bobby said. "But if that suit of his shrinks, what a sight he'll be!"

"This is no time for light talk," declared Jess Morse. "Purt isn't a very good swimmer."

"Well!" exclaimed Nellie, rather tartly for her, "how did he know whether that poor dog could swim, or not?"

"Looks as though he had finally gotten rid of the Barnacle, just the same," laughed Laura.

"We'll see about that," responded her brother, darkly. "That dog has the stick-to-it-iveness of fish-glue. Wait and see."

Meanwhile Arthur Hobbs drew in the canoe Purt was clinging to, and soon helped the gasping dude into the large boat.

"Oh! oh!" cried Purt. "I might have known that horrid dog was bad luck."

Having seen the exquisite dragged aboard the Duchess, most of the girls on the other powerboat gave their attention to the dog. Indeed, his fate all the time had attracted more attention from Lizzie Bean, than had the trouble Purt Sweet was in.

"Why! he might have been drowned!" Lily exclaimed in answer to something Bobby said.

"That's right. And it would be too mean," spoke up Lonesome Liz, as Billy Long secretly called the sad-faced girl. "He's a smart dog."

"Mercy! who cares about that horrid dog?" snapped Lily.

"I do, for one," said Nellie Agnew.

"Me, too. He was pushed overboard by Purt, and it just served Purt right that he went into the water," Bobby declared.

The mongrel cur had swum nobly for the shore. Before Purt was dragged aboard by Art the dog was nearing his goal.

They were well above the town of Lumberport now, and the shore along here was a shelving beach. After fighting the current the dog would have been unable to drag himself out had the bank been steep.

"He's done it!" exclaimed Liz, eagerly. "Well! I declare I'm glad."

"Gladder than you were over Purt?" chuckled Bobby.

"Well, if you ask me," drawled the maid-of-all-work, "I think the dog's wuth a whole lot more than that silly feller in the green pants."

"How horrid!" ejaculated Lily.

"Gee!" said Bobby. "Don't you know, Lizzie, that there is only one Pretty Sweet? I don't suppose you could find another fellow like him if you combed the zones of both hemispheres."

"Hear! hear!" drawled Jess. "How many zones do you suppose there are, Bobs?"

"Oh, a whole bunch of them," declared the reckless Bobby. "There's one torrid, two temperate, two frigid, and a lot of postal zones."

"How smart!" sneered Lily, in no very good temper.

Meanwhile the dog had crawled out of the water. They saw him shake himself and then sink upon the shore, evidently exhausted.

"Well," said Laura, "I guess Purt has finally gotten rid of the poor creature. But it was too funny for anything."

The shores of Rocky River, as they advanced, were very pretty indeed. There were several suburban villages near Lumberport; but the farther they sailed up the stream the less inhabited the shores were and the wilder the scenery became.

"My!" ejaculated Dorothy. "I had no idea this country was really so woodsy."

"You know there is scarcely anything but forest south of us, until you reach the B. & P. W. Railroad."

"Maybe there are bad people up in these woods, after all," suggested the timid Nell.

"Never you mind. Purt's got his revolver," chuckled Jess. "Lance says that it is one that hasn't been fired for twenty years and belonged to Purt's father."

"Goodness!" exclaimed Laura. "I shall be afraid of that. It's those old guns that nobody supposes are loaded, that are always going off and killing the innocent bystander. You ought to confiscate that gun, Chet."

"Don't worry," returned her brother, laughing. "I've taken the trigger screw out of Purt's gun and he couldn't shoot it if he had forty cartridges in it. But I haven't told Purt, for the dear boy seems to place implicit confidence in the old gat as a defense against anything on two or four legs in the Big Woods."



CHAPTER IX

THE CAMP ON ACORN ISLAND

Although it was high noon when they were at Lumberport the Girls of Central High and their boy friends had not lunched there. Indeed, they waited to reach a certain pleasant grove which some of them knew about, on the south shore of the river, and several miles above the spot where Purt Sweet had taken his involuntary ducking.

As the motorboats put ashore and the boys tied them to stubs in the high bank, they all began joking Purt about his plunge into the river. The dude had been obliged to exchange his natty outing suit of Lincoln green for a suit of oil-stained overalls that he found in the cabin of the Duchess. He could not find his own baggage, as the boys with him had hidden it.

As for the tam-o'-shanter, it had fallen off and floated down the stream. Purt would never see that remarkable headgear again.

"But that isn't what the boy is worrying about," chuckled Lancelot Darby, as the party came ashore with the luncheon hampers. "It's the fate of the Barnacle that is corroding Purt's sensitive soul!"

"How do you make that out?" demanded Reddy Butts, broadly grinning.

"Why, isn't it a fact that he went in after the dog? I saw him dive right after the poor thing when it fell overboard. It was a mighty brave attempt at rescue, I should say—especially when we all know that Purt swims about as good as a stone fence."

"Some hero, Purt is," agreed Billy Long, chuckling.

"And didn't he make that dive gracefully?" demanded Reddy, bursting with laughter to think how he had shot the dude overboard by a sly twist of the wheel on the Duchess.

Purt was really ashamed of his present appearance. He felt it necessary to excuse it to the girls.

"Weally," he said, when he came ashore, "I am not pwesentible; but I hope you ladies understand that it was an unavoidable accident."

"I don't know about that," said Laura, gravely.

"Oh! I assure you, Miss Belding," Purt hastened to say, "I had no intention of going overboard—weally!"

"So you were not actually trying to rescue the dog?" demanded Jess.

"That howwible cweature!" gasped Purt, in disgust. "I would fling him from the tallest cliff there is—could I safely do so."

"And not try to dive after him—eh?" chuckled Bobby.

"You are cruelty incarnate!" exclaimed Jess, gravely. "I am horrified to find that we have a boy at Central High who would willingly destroy such a beautiful—Oh! oh!" shrieked Jess, who had been facing a thick path of woods below this open camping place. "What is that? It's a bear!" she concluded, asking and answering the question herself.

She started in a very lively fashion for the boats. Some of the other girls were quite as agile. Like the word "mouse" in domestic scenes, the cry of "Bear!" in ruder surroundings "always gets a rise out of the girls," as Chet Belding slangily expressed it.

But it was not a bear. Purt Sweet was stooping to aid in blowing up the flame of the campfire over which they proposed making Mrs. Morse a cup of tea. He did not see the "bear" coming.

But the other boys recognized the object that had so frightened Jess, and they burst into a roar of laughter. Out of the bushes and across the opening in the wood came a half wet, bedraggled dog, which, with a joyful whine, leaped upon the individual who had so fatally attracted his doggish love and loyalty!

"The Barnacle!" yelled Chet. "What did I tell you? Talk about 'the cat coming back?' Crickey! the cat wasn't in it with this mongrel of Purt's."

In the exuberance of his joy Barnacle fairly pitched Purt across the fire, and tipped over the pail of water that had been hung over it to boil. The dude seemed fated to fall into trouble on this first day of the outing.

But now Purt was mad! He scrambled up, found a club, and chased the barking Barnacle all about the camp. The dog would not be chased away. Perhaps he had observed Lizzie opening the lunch baskets. Besides, he seemed to take everything Purt tried to do to him as a game of play.

"Do leave the dog alone, Purt!" exclaimed Lil, at last. "You're making yourself perfectly ridiculous."

Lily Pendleton's opinion had weight with Pretty Sweet. He sat down, gloomy and breathless, and tried to ignore the Barnacle.

The latter sat on his tail all through the alfresco meal, directly behind Purt. The dude gave him no attention; but the other boys threw pieces of meat and sweet crackers into the air for the Barnacle to catch.

Could he catch them? Why! it seemed as though the dog must have been trained for just that trick. He never missed a bite!

When his appetite was satisfied the mongrel began to try to attract Purt's attention. Every time Purt reached for anything, the Barnacle's cold, wet nose was right there! It was a plain case of "love at first sight," as Bobby remarked. Nothing could convince that dog that Purt was not his loving friend.

But finally the dude's serious air and his efforts to reach the dog with a particularly well-shod foot, made an impression on the Barnacle. He squatted down before Purt and lifting up his head, uttered a howl that would have brought tears to the eyes of a graven image.

"You'll break the poor dog's heart, Purt," said Jess, gravely. "Give him a kind word."

"He has the most sorrowful face on him of any dog I ever saw," declared Dora Lockwood. "Look at him kindly, even if you can't speak."

"Yes," whispered Dorothy, her twin. "He has almost as sorrowful a face as Lizzie's."

"Gee! there's a pair of them," sighed Bobby, ecstatically. "Let's take the dog with us to be a comrade for Liz."

Indeed, Lizzie Bean petted the mongrel, which hung around the camp until the picnickers started up the river again.

There was another disturbance when Purt tried to slip aboard the Duchess without the dog. The Barnacle whined, and howled, and jumped aboard, and was finally driven ashore with an oar.

The motorboats and their tows got off into the stream. There sat the deserted dog on his tail, howling most dismally as the boats drew up stream and left him behind.

Laura called to Purt in the other boat: "Never mind, Mr. Sweet, I don't think you'll be troubled with that dog any more. It's twenty miles to Lake Dunkirk. He will never follow you that far."

"I bet the Barnacle haunts Purt in his dreams," exclaimed Bobby.

"Oh! say not so!" begged Billy Long. "If Purt has the nightmare and draws that 'family friend,' the faithful revolver, on the ghost of the dog—Good-night! Like enough he'll blow us all out of the tent."

"I bet that Barnacle dogs his 'feetsteps' for the rest of Purt's mortal existence," declared Chet, prophetically.

"One thing," said Lil Pendleton, "the nasty beast can't follow us to Acorn Island."

"And we won't get there ourselves to-day, if we don't hurry," Chet said. "Come on, Pretty! let's see what your little Duchess can do," and he speeded up the engine of the Bonnie Lass.

"We have some distance to go, that's a fact," said Nellie. "The island is two miles beyond the end of Rocky River."

The bigger powerboat pulled away from the Duchess and the two parties ceased shouting back and forth. Mrs. Morse was trying to get a nap, so the girls did not sing. But they told jokes and stories, and of course Bobby gave one of her jingles:

"'There was an old man of Nantasket Who went to sea in a basket: When up came a shark, Swallowed him and his bark—— Now, wasn't that a fine funeral casket?'"

"Oh! I can beat that one," cried Jess.

"Let's hear you," responded the black-eyed miss.

"Listen, then," returned her schoolmate:

"'A canny young canner of Cannee, One morning observed to his Granny, "A canner can can A lot of things, Gran, But a canner can't can a can, can 'e?"'"

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