The Meadow-Brook Girls by the Sea
The Loss of The Lonesome Bar
Author of the Meadow-Brook Girls Under Canvas, The Meadow-Brook Girls Across Country, The Meadow-Brook Girls Afloat, The Meadow-Brook Girls in The Hills, The Meadow-Brook Girls on The Tennis Courts
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
Akron, Ohio New York
Made in U.S.A.
By THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
I. A DELIGHTFUL MYSTERY
II. WHAT CAME OF A COLD PLUNGE
III. HARRIET HAS A NARROW ESCAPE
IV. A QUESTION OF POLITICS
V. THE ROCKY ROAD TO WAU-WAU
VI. AT HOME BY THE SEA
VII. A SUDDEN STORM
VIII. A NEVER-TO-BE-FORGOTTEN NIGHT
IX. A SURPRISE THAT PROVED A SHOCK
X. SUMMONED TO THE COUNCIL
XI. A REWARD WELL EARNED
XII. MYSTERY ON A SAND BAR
XIII. A STRANGE PROCEEDING
XIV. A VISITOR WHO WAS WELCOME
XV. TOMMY MAKES A DISCOVERY
XVI. TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
XVII. WHEN THEIR SHIP CAME IN
XVIII. FIREWORKS FROM THE MASTHEAD
XIX. SAILING THE BLUE WATER
XX. OUT OF SIGHT OF LAND
XXI. AN ANXIOUS OUTLOOK
XXII. IN THE GRIP OF MIGHTY SEAS
XXIII. WAGING A DESPERATE BATTLE
A DELIGHTFUL MYSTERY
"I think we are ready to start, girls." Miss Elting folded the road map that she had been studying and placed it in a pocket of her long dust coat. There was a half-smile on her face, a merry twinkle in her eyes.
"Which way do I drive?" questioned Jane McCarthy.
"Straight ahead out of the village," answered Miss Elting, the guardian of the party of young girls who were embarking on their summer's vacation under somewhat unusual circumstances.
"It's the first time I ever started for a place without knowing what the place was, or where I was going," declared Jane McCarthy, otherwise known as "Crazy Jane."
"Won't you pleathe tell uth where we are going?" lisped Grace Thompson.
Miss Elting shook her head, with decision.
"Do my father and mother know where we are going?" persisted Grace.
"Of course they know, Tommy. The parents of each of you know, and I know, and so shall you after you reach your destination. Have you everything in the car, Jane?"
"Everything but myself," nodded Jane. The latter's automobile, well loaded with camping equipment, stood awaiting its passengers. The latter were Miss Elting, Jane McCarthy, Harriet Burrell, Grace Thompson, Hazel Holland and Margery Brown, the party being otherwise known as "The Meadow-Brook Girls." "Get in, girls. We'll shake the dust of Meadow-Brook from our tires before you can count twenty," continued Jane. "If Crazy Jane were to drive through the town slowly folks surely would think something startling had happened to her. Is there anything you wish to do before we leave, Miss Elting?"
"Not that I think of at the moment, Jane."
"Oh, let's say good-bye to our folks," suggested Margery Brown.
"I have thaid good-bye," answered Grace with finality.
"We'll give them a farewell blast," chuckled Jane. With that she climbed into the car, and, with a honk of the horn, drove down that street and into the next, keeping the horn going almost continually. As they passed the home of each girl the young women gave the yell of the Meadow-Brook Girls:
"Rah, rah, rah, Rah, rah, rah! Meadow-Brook, Meadow-Brook, Sis, boom, ah!"
It was shouted in chorus at their homes, and as the car passed the homes of their friends as well. Hands were waved from windows, hats were swung in the air by boy friends, while the older people smiled indulgently and nodded to them as the rapidly moving motor car passed through the village.
"I think the town knows all about it now. Suppose we make a start?" suggested Miss Elting.
"We haven't therenaded the pothtmathter yet," Tommy reminded her.
"Nor the butcher, the baker and the candle-stick maker," answered Harriet Burrell laughingly. "How long a drive have we, Miss Elting?"
"Four or five hours, ordinarily. Jane undoubtedly will make it in much less time, if she drives at her usual rate of speed. Straight south, Jane. I will tell you when to change."
The faces of the girls wore a puzzled expression. They could not imagine where they were going. Miss Elting had made a mystery of this summer vacation, and not a word had the girls been able to obtain from her as to where they were to go: whether to tour the country in Crazy Jane's automobile, or to go into camp. Tommy declared that it was a perfectly delightful mythtery, and that she didn't care where they were going, while Margery on the contrary, grumbled incessantly.
The start had been made late in the afternoon. The day had been cloudy. There were even indications of rain, but the girls did not care. They were too well inured to the weather to be disturbed by lowering skies and threatening clouds. In the meantime Jane McCarthy was bowling along to the southward, throwing up a cloud of dust, having many narrow escapes from collisions with farmers' wagons and wandering stock. They had been traveling about two hours when the guardian directed their daring driver to turn to the left. The latter did so, thus heading the car to the eastward.
"I think I begin to understand," thought Harriet Burrell aloud.
"What ith it that you underthtand?" demanded Tommy, pricking up her ears. "You know where we are going, don't you?"
"I can make a close guess," replied Harriet, nodding brightly.
"Oh, tell uth, tell uth," begged Tommy.
Harriet shook her head.
"I couldn't think of it. Miss Elting wishes it to be a surprise to you."
"Well, won't it be jutht ath much of a thurprithe now ath it will be thome other time?" argued Grace Thompson.
"Perhaps Harriet just imagines she knows. I do not believe she knows any more about our destination than do the rest of our party," said the guardian. "But why worry about it? You will know when you get there."
Jane stopped the car, and, getting out, proceeded to put the curtains up on one side, Harriet and Hazel doing the same on the opposite side. The storm curtain, with its square of transparent isinglass, was next set in place to protect the driver from the front, the wind shield first having been turned down out of the way.
"Now let the rain come," chuckled Jane, after having taken a quick survey of their work.
"Yes; it is nice and cosy in here," answered Miss Elting. "I almost believe I should like to sleep in here during a rainstorm."
"Excuthe me," objected Tommy. "I'd be thure to get crampth in my neck."
"She would that," answered Jane laughingly, starting the car and a moment later throwing in the high-speed clutch.
The party was not more than fairly started on the way again when the raindrops began pattering on the leather top of the car.
"There it comes," cried Jane McCarthy. "Sounds like rain on a tin roof, doesn't it?"
The downpour rapidly grew heavier, accompanied by lightning and thunder. The flashes were blinding, dazzling Jane's eyes so that she had difficulty in keeping her car in the road. It was now nearly evening, and an early darkness had already settled over the landscape. There was little hope of more light, for night would be upon them by the time the storm had passed. True, there would be a moon behind the clouds, but the latter bade fair to be wholly obscured during the evening.
Despite the blinding storm that masked the road, and the sharp flashes of lightning that dazzled the eyes of the driver, Crazy Jane McCarthy went on driving ahead at the same rate of speed until Miss Elting begged her to go more slowly. Jane reduced the speed of the car, though so slightly as to be scarcely noticeable.
The guardian smiled but made no further comment. Being shut in as they were, they would have difficulty in getting out were an accident to befall them. All at once, however, Jane slowed down with a jolt. She then sent the car cautiously ahead, this time driving out on a level grass plot at the side of the road. There she shut down, turned off the power, and, leaning back, yawned audibly.
"Whoa!" she said wearily.
"Why, Jane, what is the matter?" cried Miss Elting.
"Like a sailboat, we can't make much headway without wind. As it happens, we have no wind on the quarter, as the sailors would say."
"I don't understand."
"She means the tires are down," explained Harriet Burrell.
"Yes. I told Dad those rear tires were leaking, but he declared they were good for five hundred miles yet."
"Can't we patch them?" queried Harriet.
"We can," replied Jane, "but we aren't going to until this rain lets up a little. Please don't ask me to get out and paddle about in the wet, for I'm not going to do anything of the sort." Jane began to hum a tune. Her companions settled back comfortably. It was dry and cosy in the car and the travellers felt drowsy. Jane was the only really wide-awake one. Margery finally uttered a single, loud snore that awakened the others. The girls uttered a shout and began shaking Margery, who pulled herself sharply together, protesting that she hadn't been asleep for even one little minute.
"That ith the way thhe alwayth doeth," observed Tommy. "Then thhe denieth it. I'm glad I don't thnore. Ithn't it awful to thnore, Mith Elting?"
"Having too much to say is worse," answered Jane pointedly. "The storm has passed. Let's get out and fix things up. Harriet, will you help me? Miss Elting, if you will be good enough to engineer the taking-down of the side curtains and the lowering of the top I shall be obliged. We shan't need the top. We aren't going to have any more rain to-night, and I want all the light I can get, especially as we are going over strange roads. Have you been this way before?"
"No, Jane, but I have the road map."
"Road map!" scoffed the Irish girl. "I followed one once and landed in a ditch!"
"That ith nothing for Crathy Jane to do," lisped Grace.
"Right you are, Tommy," answered Jane with a hearty laugh. "Just as I thought, the tires, the inner tubes, are leaking around the valves. We shan't be able to do much with them, but I think we can make them hold until we get in. I'll have some new inner tubes sent out to us. By the way, are we going to be where we can send for supplies and have them delivered?" questioned Jane shrewdly.
"Oh, I think so," was Miss Elting's evasive answer.
"Aren't you glad you found out?" chuckled Harriet.
Jane grinned, but said nothing. The work of patching the two inner tubes occupied nearly an hour before the tires were back in place and the car ready to start. Harriet, in the meantime, had lighted the big headlights and the rear light.
"All aboard for Nowhere!" shouted Jane. The girls again took their places in the car, which started with a jolt. "Is it straight ahead, Miss Elting?"
"I hope you know where you're going. I'm sure I don't," remarked Jane under her breath.
They had gone but a short distance before the driver discovered that which displeased her very much. The lights on the front of the car were growing dim. Her companions noticed this at about the same time.
"The gas is giving out," exclaimed Jane. "Isn't that provoking? With us it is one continuous round of surprises."
"What are we going to do?" questioned Margery apprehensively.
"Just the same as before: keep on going," replied the Irish girl. "I've driven without lights before this. I guess I can do it again. I can see the road and so can you."
"Please reduce your speed a little," urged Miss Elting. The driver did so, for Jane was not quite so confident of her ability to keep to the road as she would have had them believe. "There comes some one. Please stop; I want to ask him a question."
A farmer on a horse had ridden out to one side of the road, where he was holding his mount, the horse being afraid of the car. Miss Elting asked him how they might reach the Lonesome Cove. The girls were very deeply interested in this question as well as in the answer to it. They had never heard of Lonesome Cove. So that was to be their destination? They nudged each other knowingly. The farmer informed Miss Elting that the Cove was about eight miles farther on.
"Take your third right hand turn and it'll lead you right down into the Cove," he said. "It's a pretty lonesome place now," he added.
"Yes, I understand," replied the guardian hurriedly, "but we know all about that. Thank you very much. You may drive ahead now, Jane." Jane smiled and started on. "I keep watch of the turns of the road. You pay attention to your driving exclusively," added Miss Elting. "And, girls, you keep a sharp lookout, too."
"Where ith thith Lonethome Cove?" questioned Tommy. "I don't like the thound of the name."
"You will like it when you get there," answered the guardian. "But I said I would not tell you anything about it. Time enough when we reach there. You shall then see for yourselves. You are going too fast, Jane."
"I'd like to reach there some time before morning. The road is clear and level. I'm going only twenty miles an hour, as it is. That's just a creeping pace, you know," reassured Jane.
"Yes, I know," answered the guardian, with a shake of her head. They continued on, but without much conversation, for Jane was busy watching the road, her companions keeping a sharp lookout for the turns. They had already passed two roads that led off to the right. The next, according to their informant, would be the one for them to take to reach the Lonesome Cove.
"Here is the third turn," announced Jane finally, bringing her car to a stop. The highway on which they had been riding was shaded with second-growth trees, as was the intersecting road. The latter was narrow; but, from Jane's investigations, she having stepped down to examine it, it was hard though not well-traveled. "Have you been here before, Miss Elting?"
"No, Jane; I have not. Go ahead and drive carefully, for I hardly think it a main road."
"It's a good one, whether it is a main road or not."
They moved on down the side road, and, gaining confidence as they progressed, Jane McCarthy let out a notch at a time until she was traveling at a fairly high rate of speed. Their way wound in and out among the small trees and bushes that bordered the road, the latter narrowing little by little until there was barely room for turning out in case they were to meet another vehicle. However, there seemed little chance of that. The motor car appeared to be the only vehicle abroad that night.
The road now was so dark that it was only by glancing up at the tops of the bordering trees, outlined against the sky, that the driver of the car was able to keep well in the middle of it. She was straining her eyes, peering into the darkness ahead.
"How far?" demanded Jane shortly, never removing her gaze from the trees and the roadway.
"We must be near the place. Surely it cannot be far now," answered the guardian. "I thought we should have seen a light before this."
"We're coming into the open," broke in Jane. "I'm glad of that. Now we needn't be afraid of running into the trees or the fences, if there are any along the track. I can't make out the sides of the road at all. I—"
A sudden and new sound cut short her words. The girls, realizing that something unusual was occurring, fell suddenly silent. The roadway beneath them gave off a hollow sound, as if they were going over a bridge. The fringe of trees had fallen away, while all about them was what appeared to be a darkened plain or field. Yet strain their eyes as they would, the travelers were unable to distinguish the character of their surroundings, though Harriet Burrell, with chin elevated, had been sniffing the air suspiciously.
"I smell water," she cried.
"Tho do I," lisped Tommy. "But I don't want a drink."
Jane began to slow down as soon as the new sound had been heard. The car was rolling along slowly. For some unaccountable reason the driver put on a little more speed. Then came Jane McCarthy's voice, in a quick, warning shout:
"Here's trouble. Jump, girls! Jump! We're going in!"
They did not know what it was that they were going into, but not a girl of them obeyed Jane's command. Margery half-arose from the seat. Hazel pulled her back.
"Sit still, girls!" commanded Miss Elting. "Stop the car, Jane!"
The driver shut off and applied the brake. But she was too late. The automobile kept on going. The roadway underneath it seemed to be dropping away from them; for a few seconds they experienced the sensation of riding on thin air; then the car lurched heavily forward, and, with a mighty splash, plunged into water. A great sheet of solid water leaped up and enveloped them.
"Everyone for herself!" cried Harriet Burrell. "Jump, girls!"
This time they did essay to jump. Before they could do so, however, they were struggling to free themselves from the sinking car, the water already over their heads.
WHAT CAME OF A COLD PLUNGE
Five girls and their guardian struggled free from the sinking motor car and began paddling for the surface. All knowing how to swim, they instinctively held their breath when they felt the water closing over them. Fortunately for the Meadow-Brook Girls, the top had been removed from the car, else all would have been drowned before they could have extricated themselves. Jane had the most difficulty in getting out. She was held to her seat by the steering wheel for a few seconds, but not so much as a thought of fear entered her mind. Crazy Jane went to work methodically to free herself, which she succeeded in doing a few seconds after her companions had reached the surface.
"Thave me, oh, thave me!" wailed Tommy Thompson chokingly.
There followed a great splashing, accompanied by shouts and choking coughs. About this time Jane McCarthy's head appeared above the water. She took a long, gasping breath, then called out:
"Here we are, darlin's! Is anybody wet?"
"Girls, are you all here?" cried Miss Elting anxiously. "Call your names."
They did so, and there was relief in every heart when it was found that not a girl was missing. But they had yet to learn how they happened to be in the water. The latter was cold as ice, it seemed to them, and their desire now was to get to shore as quickly as possible. Which way the shore lay they did not know, but from the looks of the sky-line it was apparent that they would not be obliged to go far in either direction to find a landing place.
"Follow me, girls," directed the guardian. "We will get out of here and talk about our disaster afterward. Harriet, please bring up the rear. Be sure that no one is left behind."
The splashing ceased, each girl starting forward with her own particular stroke: Tommy swimming frog-fashion, Margery blowing, puffing, and groaning, paddling like a four-footed animal.
"Oh, help!" she moaned.
"I'm glad I'm not tho fat ath you are," observed Tommy to the puffing Margery.
"That will do, Tommy! Buster is quite as well able to take care of herself as are you. I've touched bottom! Here we are, girls. Oh, I am so glad!"
"Where ith it? I can't thee the bottom."
"Stop swimming, and you'll feel it," suggested Jane, who, having reached the shore, waded out of the water and ran, laughing, up the bank. "My stars, what a mess!"
One by one the others emerged from the cold water and stood shivering on the beach.
"Wring out your clothes," directed Miss Elting. This, some of them were already doing. Margery sat down helplessly. Harriet assisted her to her feet.
"You mustn't do that. You surely will catch cold. Keep moving, dear," ordered Harriet.
"I can't. My clothes weigh a ton," protested Margery.
"Buthter thinkth it ith her clotheth that are heavy," jeered Tommy. "It ithn't your clotheth, Buthter; it'th you."
"Make her stop, Miss Elting. Don't you think I am suffering enough, without Tommy making me feel any worse?"
"Yes, I do. Tommy, will you please stop annoying Margery?"
"Yeth, Mith Elting, I'll thtop until Buthter getth dry again. But I'm jutht ath wet at thhe ith, and I'm not croth."
"Girls, we have had a very narrow escape. I dread to think what would have happened had that automobile top been up. We should give thanks for our deliverance. But I don't understand how we came to get in there, or what it is that we did get into," said the guardian.
"I know. It wath water," Tommy informed her. "It wath wet water, too, and cold water, and—"
A shivering chorus of laughs greeted her words. Some of the girls began whipping their arms and jumping up and down, for all were very cold.
"Can't we run?" asked Harriet.
"Yes, if we can decide where the water is, and where it isn't," replied Miss Elting. "Suppose we find the road? We can run up and down that without danger of falling in."
"It is just to the left of us; I can see the opening between the trees," answered Harriet. She moved in the direction she had indicated, "Here it is. Come on, girls."
The others picked their way cautiously to her. Harriet started up the road at a run, followed by the others and accompanied by the "plush, plush, plush!" of shoes nearly full of water. Tommy sat down.
"What are you doing on the ground?" shrieked Margery, as she stumbled and fell over her little companion. "Why don't you tell me when you are going to sit down, so that I won't fall over you?"
"You wouldn't, if you weren't tho fat."
"Tommy!" broke in Miss Elting. The whole party had come to a halt, following Margery's mishap.
"I beg your pardon, Mith Elting. I forgot. Buthter ithn't dry yet. What am I doing? Yeth, I'm bailing out my thhoeth. Ugh! How they do thtick to my feet. Oh, I can't get them on again!" wailed Tommy.
"What a helpless creature you are," answered Harriet laughingly. "Here, let me help you. There. You see how easy it is when once you make up your mind that you really can."
"No, I don't thee. It ith too dark. Help me up!"
"Take hold of my hand. Here, Margery, you get on the other side. We three will run together. Everyone else keep out of our way."
"Yeth, becauthe Buthter ith—" Tommy, remembering her promise, checked herself. The three started up the road at a brisk trot. Reaching the main road, Harriet led them about, then began running back toward the water.
"Look out for the water," warned Jane shrilly, after they had been going for a few minutes. But her warning came too late. Harriet, Tommy and Margery had turned to the right after reaching the open. The three fell in with a splash and a chorus of screams. The water was shallow and there was no difficulty in getting out, but the girls now were as wet as before, and shivering more than ever. At this juncture the guardian took a hand. She directed them to walk up and down the road in orderly fashion, which they did, shivering, their teeth chattering and the water dripping from their clothing. Reaching the main highway the guardian turned out on this, walking her charges a full mile in the direction they had been following before turning off into the byway.
"This part of the country appears to be deserted," she said. "I think we had better return. In the morning we will try to find some one."
"Thave me!" moaned Tommy. "Mutht we thtay here in our wet clotheth all night?"
"I fear so. What else is there for us to do?"
"But let uth get our dry clotheth and put them on," urged Tommy. The girls laughed at her.
"Our clothes are down under the water in the car, darlin'," Jane informed her.
"Of course, they are soaked," reflected Miss Elting.
"I do not think so. The chest on the back of the car is water-proof as well as dust-proof," said Jane. "If it weren't water-proof the things in it would get soaked every time there was a driving rainstorm. No; our other clothing is as dry as toast. You'll see that it is when we get it."
"Yes, when we do," groaned Margery—"when we do!"
"It might as well be wet," observed the guardian. "We shan't be able to get it out. Do you think the car is ruined, Jane?"
"It's wet, like ourselves, Miss Elting. I reckon it will take a whole summer to dry it out thoroughly. I've got to get word to Dad to come after it."
"What will he say when he learns of the accident, Jane?" questioned Harriet.
"Say? He will say it served the old car right for being such a fool. My dad has common sense. He will have another car up here for us just as soon as he can get one here. By the way, Miss Elting, how much farther do we have to go?"
"I don't know, Jane. I hope it isn't much farther. How far do you think we traveled after meeting the man?"
"Five miles, I should say."
"And he told us that the third turn-off would lead us to Lonesome Cove, did he not?"
"He did, but he made a mistake. This is Wet Cove."
"And a lonesome one, too, even if it isn't the Lonesome one," chuckled Harriet.
"Then we cannot be so very far from our destination. I am sure this isn't the place. We haven't come far enough. Why didn't we think of that before we turned into this road?"
"If I knew where you wanted to go, I might be better able to answer that question," reminded Jane. But the guardian was not to be caught in Crazy Jane's trap, though it was too dark to reveal the quizzical smile that wrinkled Miss Elting's face.
"I am not sure that I know myself, Jane," was her reply.
"You fully expected to find some one here, did you not?" teased Harriet. "I might say that you looked to find a number of persons here?"
"We won't discuss that now. Do you wish to spoil the little surprise that I have been planning for you?"
"If this is your surprise, I don't think much of it," declared Jane bluntly.
"Nor can I blame you," agreed Miss Elting. "But this is not the surprise."
"Maybe if we wait we will fall into thome more pondth," suggested Grace. "Ith your thurprithe ath wet at thith one wath?"
"I admit your right to tease me, Tommy," laughed the guardian.
"Come on, everybody!" urged Harriet. "We must walk briskly and keep it up. That will be the only way to keep us from catching cold as a result of our wetting." Having paused for a moment to discuss their situation the girls began tramping once more. As the hours dragged along all became weary and drowsy. Their joints were growing stiff, too, which condition was not improved by the chill of the night air. Most active of all the party was little Tommy Thompson, who skipped along, talking incessantly. Margery was scarcely able to keep up with the party. Twice she leaned against a tree, closing her eyes, only to fall to the ground in a heap. Harriet, though nearly as tired and footsore as her companions, summoned all her will power and trudged bravely along.
Had the Meadow-Brook Girls not been so well seasoned to hardship, serious results might have followed their unexpected bath in the chill waters, followed by their exposure to the searching night wind. But they were healthy, outdoor girls, as all our readers know. The first volume of this series, "THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS UNDER CANVAS," told the story of their first vacation spent in the open, when, as members of Camp Wau-Wau in the Pocono Woods, they served their novitiate as Camp Girls, winning many honors and becoming firmly wedded to life in the woods.
When that camping period came to an end Harriet and her companions, as related in "THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ACROSS COUNTRY," set out on the long walk home, meeting with plenty of adventures and many laughable happenings. It was during this hike that they became acquainted with the Tramp Club Boys and entered into a walking contest against them, which the Meadow-Brook Girls won.
Our readers next met the girls in "THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS AFLOAT," a volume which contained the account of their houseboat life on Lake Winnepesaukee. It was there that they again outwitted the Tramp Club, who took their defeat good-naturedly and by way of retaliation aided the girls in running down a mysterious enemy whose malicious mischief had caused them repeated annoyance.
Then, as their summer was not yet ended, the Meadow-Brook Girls accepted an invitation from Jane McCarthy to accompany her on a trip through the White Mountains, all of which is fully set forth in "THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS IN THE HILLS."
It was there that they met with a series of mishaps which they laid at the door of an ill-favored man who had vainly tried to become their guide. The disappearance of Janus Grubb, the guide who had been engaged by Miss Elting during their mountain hike, and the surprising events that followed made the story of their mountain trip well worth reading.
And now, once more, we find the Meadow-Brook Girls ready to take the trail again wherever that trail might lead. At the present moment, however, it did not look as though Harriet Burrell and her friends would reach their destination in the immediate future unless it were nearer at hand than they thought.
Not once during the night did the moon show her face, though about two o'clock in the morning the clouds thinned, the landscape showing with more distinctness. The girls, when they walked down to the shore, saw a sheet of water covering several acres. Leading down to the water was a pier that extended far out into the little lake or pond, whatever it might be. Harriet, Jane and Miss Elting walked out to the far end of the pier.
Harriet pointed to the end of the pier as she stood above it. "It has broken down," she said.
"No; I think not," answered the guardian. "I think, too, that I understand what this is. It is an ice pier. Ice is harvested from this pond and carried up over that sloping platform and so on to the shore or to conveyances waiting here. But how narrow it is. How ever did you manage to keep on the pier until you reached the end, Jane, dear?"
"I really don't know, Miss Elting," replied Jane, evidently impressed with the feat she had accomplished. She leaned over and peered into the water to see if she could find her car. It was not to be seen. Dark objects, floating here and there about the surface, showed the girls where part of their equipment had gone. Harriet was regarding the dark objects with inquiring eyes.
"I wish we had a boat," said Miss Elting. "We could gather up our stuff. We can't afford to lose it."
"We don't need a boat. Jane and I will get it out. What do you say, Jane?" answered Harriet.
"I don't know what you have in mind, darlin', but I'm with you, whatever it is."
"You and I will go in after the things."
"You don't mean it!" exclaimed Jane. "And in this cold water. Br-rr-r!"
"No; you must not do that," objected the guardian. "At least not now."
"What is it you folks are planning?" questioned Hazel, who, with Tommy and Buster, had joined the party at the end of the pier. Jane explained what Harriet had proposed. Margery's teeth began to chatter again.
"My—my weak heart won't stand any more," she groaned. "Don't ask me to go into that horrid, cold water again. Please don't!"
"You won't feel the cold once you are in," urged Harriet.
"No. I didn't feel it the other time, did I?"
"What? Go in thwimming," demanded Tommy. "I wouldn't go in that water again for a dollar and fifty thentth; no, not for a dollar and theventy-five thentth." Tommy began backing away, as though fearing the others might insist and assist her in. Suddenly she uttered a scream.
"Thave me!" yelled Tommy.
They saw her lurch backward; her feet left the pier; then came a splash. Tommy Thompson had gone over backward and taken to the water head first.
HARRIET HAS A NARROW ESCAPE
"Thave me! Oh, thave me!"
Tommy had turned over and righted herself before rising to the surface. When she did appear she was within a foot or so of the pier. Her little blonde head popped up from under the water all of a sudden, and in that instant she opened her mouth in a wail for help. Tommy's companions were fairly hysterical with merriment. Tommy yelled again, begging them to "thave" her.
"I'll save ye, darlin'," cried Jane, throwing herself down and fastening a hand lightly in Tommy's hair, whereat the little girl screamed more lustily than before. "Lend a hand here, my hearties. The darlin' wants to be saved. We'll save her, won't we?" Jane shouted in great glee.
"Of course we will," answered Harriet. She leaned over the edge of the pier, Jane raising the little girl until the latter's shoulders were above water; Harriet got hold of her dress and worked her hand along until she had grasped Tommy by the ankles.
"Let go!" yelled Tommy.
She meant for Harriet to release her feet, but instead Jane McCarthy released her hold on Tommy's shoulders. The next second Tommy Thompson was standing on her head in the pond with Harriet Burrell jouncing her up and down, trying to get her out of the water, but taking more time about it, so it seemed, than was really necessary. Every time Tommy's head was drawn free of the water she uttered a choking yell. There was no telling how long the nonsense might have continued, had not Miss Elting thrust Harriet aside, resulting in Tommy's falling into the water and having to be rescued again. Tommy was weeping when finally they dragged her to the pier and wrung the water out of her clothing.
"Now, don't you wish you were fat?" jeered Margery. "If you had been, they couldn't have lifted you and you wouldn't have fallen in again."
"Fat like you? Never! I'd die firtht," replied Tommy. "But I may ath it ith. I'm freething, Mith Elting."
"Get up and go ashore. Hazel, will you please see that Grace doesn't sit down on the cold ground?"
Hazel Holland led the protesting Tommy along the pier to the shore, where she walked the little girl up and down as fast as she could be induced to move, which, after all, was not much faster than an ordinarily slow walk. The others of the party remained out at the end, walking back and forth and waiting until the coming of the dawn, so that they might see to that for which they had planned by daylight.
At the first suggestion of dawn, Harriet plunged into the pond without a word of warning to her companions and began gathering up and pushing bundles of equipment toward the shore. Jane and Hazel were not far behind her. Then Miss Elting, not to be outdone by her charges, plunged in after them. Margery, shivering, turned her back on them and walked shoreward.
"'Fraid cat! 'fraid cat!" taunted Tommy, when she saw Margery coming.
"I'm no more afraid than you are. You're afraid to go into the water. The only way you can go in is to fall in or be pushed!"
"Am I? Ith that tho? Well, I'll thhow you whether I am afraid of the water. I dare you to follow me." Tommy fairly flew down the pier; then, leaping up into the air, jumped far out, taking a clean feet-first dive into the pond, uttering a shrill little yell just before disappearing under the surface. But all at once she stood up, and, by raising her chin a little, was able to keep her head above water.
"Hello there, Tommy, what are you standing on?" called Harriet, puffing and blowing as she pushed a canvas-bound pack along ahead of her.
"I don't know. I gueth it mutht be the automobile top. It ith nithe and thpringy."
"Please stay there until I get back. I wish to look it over. If you can, I wish you would find the rear end of the car, so I may locate it exactly."
"What have you in mind, darlin'?" asked Jane, with a quick glance at Harriet.
"I'm going to try to get our clothes. The trunk is strapped and buckled to the rear end, is it not?"
"Tell me just how those buckles are placed; whether there is also a loop through which the strap has been run, and all about it."
"How should I know?"
"You put the trunk on, didn't you?"
"Surely, but I can't remember all those things, even if I ever knew them."
"Jane, you should learn to observe more closely. Most persons are careless about that." Harriet began swimming toward the shore with Jane.
"Thay! How long mutht I thtand here in the wet up to my prethiouth neck?" demanded Grace Thompson. Her feet seemed to be very light. They persisted in either rising or drifting away from the submerged automobile top. Tommy kept her hands moving slowly to assist in maintaining her equilibrium.
"Wait until I return, if you will, please," answered Harriet.
"Thave me! I can't wait. Here I go now!" She slipped off and went under, but came up sputtering and protesting. Instead of remaining to mark the sunken car, Tommy swam rapidly to shore. She found Harriet, Hazel and Jane sitting with feet hanging over the pier talking to Miss Elting. The four were dripping, but none of them seemed to mind this. The sun soon would be up, and its rays would dry their clothing and bring them warmth for the first time since their disaster of the night before.
"Do be careful," Miss Elting was saying when Tommy swam up, and, clinging to the pier with one hand, floated listlessly while listening to what was being said.
"What's the matter, Tommy? Couldn't you stand it any longer?" asked Harriet.
"My feet got tho light that I couldn't hang on."
"She means her head instead of her feet," corrected Margery.
"I think I had better go after the trunk now," decided Harriet.
"I wish you would let me go with you," urged Jane.
"No; two of us would be in each other's way. You folks had better stay here and wait. There will be plenty to do after I get the trunk ashore, provided I do. We must have all our outfit together by sunrise, for we have a day's work ahead of us. Want to get up, Tommy?"
Harriet reached down and assisted Grace, dripping, to the pier. Then she slipped in and swam in a leisurely way to the sunken automobile, which she located after swimming about for a few moments. The next thing to do was to find the rear end of the car. This was quickly accomplished. Harriet took a long breath, then dived swiftly. It seemed to her companions that she had been gone a long time, when, finally, the girl's dark head rose dripping from the pond. She shook her head, took several long breaths, then dived again.
Three times Harriet Burrell repeated this. At last, after a brief dive, they saw the black trunk leap free to the surface of the pond. The Meadow-Brook Girls uttered a yell. Harriet had accomplished a task that would have proved to be too much for the average man. Down there, underneath the water, crouching under the backward tilting automobile on the bottom of the pond, she had unbuckled three stubborn straps, rising to the surface after unbuckling each strap, taking in a new supply of delicious fresh air, then returning to her task.
Before the Meadow-Brook Girls had finished with their shouting, cheering and gleeful dancing, the black luggage had drifted some distance from the spot where it had first appeared. So delighted were they with the result of Harriet Burrell's efforts that, for the moment, the others entirely forgot the girl herself. But all at once Miss Elting came to a realization of the truth. Something was wrong.
"Harriet!" she cried excitedly. It was unusual for the guardian to show alarm, even though she might feel it. "Where is Harriet?"
The shouting and the cheering ceased instantly.
"Oh, she's just playing a trick on us," scoffed Margery Brown.
Suddenly the keen eyes of Jane McCarthy caught sight of something that sent her heart leaping. That something was a series of bubbles that rose to the surface. Jane gazed wide-eyed, neither moving nor speaking, then suddenly hurled herself into the pond. Two loud splashes followed her own dive into the water. Tommy and Miss Elting were plunging ahead with all speed. Jane was the first to reach the scene. She dived, came up empty-handed, then dived again. Tommy essayed to make a dive, but did not get in deep enough to fully cover her back. Miss Elting made an error in her calculations, as Jane had done on the first dive, missing the sunken automobile by several feet.
Now Hazel sprang into the water and swam to them as fast as she knew how to propel herself. Jane shot out of the water and waved both arms frantically above her head.
"Spread out!" she cried in a strained, frightened voice.
"Did—didn't you find her?" gasped Miss Elting.
Jane was gone again, leaving a wake that reached all the way to the beach, so violent had been her floundering dive.
Tommy, who had raised her head from the water a short distance from where the guardian was paddling, uttered a scream.
"There thhe ith!" she cried; "there she ith! Right down there. Come in a hurry. She ith under the car. I could thee her plainly. Oh, I'm tho thcared!" Tommy began paddling for the shore with all speed.
Miss Elting did not answer. Instead, she took a long dive. About this time Jane came up. Hazel, who was making for the spot where the guardian had disappeared, pointed to it. Jane understood. It took her but a few seconds to reach the center of the rippling circle left by the guardian; then Crazy Jane's feet kicked the air a couple of times. She had taken an almost perpendicular dive. But it seemed that she had not been under water more than a second or two when she lunged to the surface. A few feet from her Miss Elting appeared, threw herself over on her back and lay gasping for breath.
"She'th got her!" screamed Tommy. "Harriet ith dead!"
Gazing out over the pond she saw Jane swimming swiftly toward shore, dragging the apparently lifeless body of Harriet Burrell. Miss Elting and Hazel were closing up on Jane rapidly. Reaching her side a moment later, the guardian took one of Harriet's arms and assisted in towing her in.
Tommy remembered afterward having been fascinated by the expressions in their faces. She stared and stared. The faces of the two women were white and haggard. Still farther back she saw only Hazel's eyes. They were so large that Tommy was scarcely able to credit their belonging to Hazel. Had Tommy known it, her own face was more pale and haggard at that moment than those of her companions.
Jane dragged Harriet ashore; then Miss Elting grasped the unconscious girl almost roughly, flung her over on her stomach and began applying "first aid to the drowned."
"Ith—ith she dead?" gasped Tommy.
"She's drowned, darlin'," answered Crazy Jane McCarthy abruptly.
A QUESTION OF POLITICS
"Lay her over on her back!"
Jane obeyed Miss Elting's command promptly. The guardian, using her wet handkerchief, cleared Harriet's mouth by keeping the tongue down to admit the air.
"Work her arms back and forth. We must set up artificial respiration," she directed.
Jane, without any apparent excitement, began a steady movement of the patient's arms, bringing them together above the head, then down to the sides. She continued this as steadily as if she were not face to face with a great tragedy. She did not yet know whether or not it were a tragedy; but, if appearances went for anything, it was. In the meantime the guardian had glanced over her shoulder at the pond. She saw the trunk slowly drifting in.
"Get it and open it, Hazel," she commanded.
"I haven't a key."
"Break it open with a stone. Never mind a key."
Hazel ran out into the water until she was up to her neck, then she swam out. Reaching the floating trunk, she got behind it and began pushing it shoreward. Margery and Tommy stood watching the proceedings in speechless horror. Hazel got the trunk ashore, when, following the guardian's directions, she broke the lock open with a stone.
"It's open," she cried.
"Are the things inside very wet?"
"No; they are just as dry as they can be."
"Good. Are Harriet's clothes there?"
"I think so. Shall I take them out?"
"Not just yet. I will tell you if they are needed."
Hazel understood what was in the mind of the guardian. Were Harriet Burrell not to recover, the dry clothing would not be needed. Nevertheless, Hazel piled the contents of the trunk on the ground, then replaced it, leaving Harriet's belongings at the top of the pile, so that they would be ready at hand in case of need. In the meantime Crazy Jane and Miss Elting persisted in their efforts to resuscitate the unconscious girl. Though no sign of returning life rewarded their labor, they continued without a second's halting. Half an hour had passed. That was lengthened to an hour, then suddenly Jane stopped, leaned over and peered into the pale face of Harriet.
"I see a little color returning!" she cried in a shrill voice. "Hurrah! Harriet's alive!"
"You don't thay?" exclaimed Tommy.
"Keep her arms going! Don't stop for a single second," commanded Miss Elting. "Hazel, take off Harriet's shoes. Beat the bottoms of her feet. Oh, if we had something warm to put her in. Margery, you get out Harriet's clothing from the trunk."
"I—I can't," answered Buster in a weak voice.
"Buthter ith too nervouth. I'll get them," offered Tommy. She did, too. Now that she had something to do, she went about it as calmly as though she had had no previous fear. "Are thethe what you want, Mith Elting?" she asked.
"Yes; bring them here. She is breathing. Faster, Jane, faster!"
"Don't pull her armth out by the roootth," warned Tommy. The guardian made no reply. It was a critical moment and Harriet Burrell's life hung on a very slender thread. Return to consciousness was so slow as to seem like no recovery at all. The spot of red that had appeared in either cheek faded and disappeared. Miss Elting's heart sank when she noted the change in the face of the unconscious girl. Jane saw it, too, but made no comment.
Tommy, having taken the clothes from the trunk, now very methodically piled them up near at hand, so that the guardian might reach them without shifting her position materially. Then the little girl stood with hands clasped before her, her eyes squinting, her face twisted into what Jane afterward said was a really hard knot.
Two tiny spots of red once more appeared in each cheek of Harriet's white face.
"Shall I move her arms faster?" asked Jane.
Miss Elting shook her head. "Keep on as you are. I don't quite understand, but she is alive. Of that I am positive."
For fully fifteen minutes after that the two young women worked in silence. They noted joyfully that the tiny spots of color in Harriet's cheeks were growing. The spots were now as large as a twenty-five-cent piece. Miss Elting motioned for Jane to cease the arm movements, then she laid an ear over Harriet's heart.
"Keep it up," she cried, straightening suddenly. "We are going to save her." Margery, who had drawn slowly near, turned abruptly, walked away and sat down heavily. Jane's under lip trembled ever so little, but she showed no other sign of emotion, and methodically continued at her work.
"Now, as soon as we can get the breath of life into her body, we must strip off those wet clothes and bundle her into something dry. We shall be taking a great chance in undressing her in the open air, but the fact that Harriet is in such splendid condition should go a long way toward pulling her through. I wish we had a blanket to wrap her in. However, we shall have to do with what we have."
Jane kept steadily at her work, her eyes fixed on the face of the patient. She made no reply to Miss Elting's words. Tommy, however, tilted her head to one side reflectively. Then she turned it ever so little, regarding the broken trunk as if trying to make up her mind whether or not she should hold it responsible for the disaster. After a few moments of staring at the trunk she sidled over to it, and, stooping down, began rummaging through its contents. From the trunk she finally drew forth a long flannel nightgown. This she carried over and gravely spread out on the pile of clothing that she had previously placed near Miss Elting. The guardian's eyes lighted appreciatively.
"Thank you, dear. That is splendid," she said, flashing a smile at Tommy. "You are very resourceful. I am proud of you."
"You're welcome," answered Grace with a grimace. "Ith there anything elthe that I can do?"
Miss Elting shook her head. The smile had left her face; all her faculties were again centered on the work in hand. Shortly after that the two workers were gratified to note a quiver of the eyelids of the patient. This was followed by a slight rising and falling of the chest, and a few moments later Harriet Burrell opened her eyes, closed them wearily and turned over on her face. Crazy Jane promptly turned her on her back, and none too gently at that.
"Plea—se let me alone. I'm all right," murmured Harriet.
"Help me carry her out yonder under the trees," ordered the guardian. "There will be less breeze there."
"I'll carry her, Miss Elting." Jane picked Harriet up, and, throwing the girl over her shoulder, staggered off into the bushes with her burden. Harriet was heavy, but Jane McCarthy's fine strength was equal to her task. Miss Elting had gathered up the clothing and followed. Tommy started to accompany her, but the guardian motioned her back.
"Jane and I will attend to her," she said. Tommy pouted and strolled over to Margery.
"Is—is Harriet going to die?" wailed Margery.
"No, Buthter, she ithn't."
Margery turned anxiously away. By the time the guardian reached the spot where Jane had put Harriet down, the latter had fully recovered consciousness; but she was shivering, her lips were blue and her face gray and haggard except for the two faint spots of color that had first indicated her return to consciousness.
"Hold her up while I strip off her waist," commanded Miss Elting. Harriet protested that she was able to stand alone, but just the same Jane supported her. It was the work of but a few moments to strip off the cold, wet garments and put on dry ones, including the flannel nightgown.
"Let me lie down a little while," begged Harriet weakly.
"No; you must walk. Jane, will you keep her going?"
"That I will. Come to me, darlin'."
Harriet got to her feet with the assistance of her companion. Jane then began walking her slowly about. The color gradually returned to the face of the Meadow-Brook Girl, the gray pallor giving place to a more healthy glow. She wanted to talk, but Miss Elting said she was not to do so for the present. Now, Tommy and Margery followed her about, though without speaking. This walking was continued for the better part of an hour. In the meantime Miss Elting was considering what might best be done. She decided to go in search of some one who would take them to their destination. After a talk with Harriet, and leaving directions as to what was to be done during her absence, the guardian set out, walking fast. She realized the necessity of warm drinks and something to assist in stirring Harriet's circulation. The Meadow-Brook Girl's escape from drowning had been a narrow one, but no one realized the necessity for further treatment more than Miss Elting did.
After a time Harriet insisted on walking without the support of Jane's arm, but it was a difficult undertaking. Harriet had to bring all the resolution she possessed to the task of supporting her weakened limbs; but she managed it, with now and then a rest, leaning against a tree or a rock. Tommy had found her tongue again, to keep up a running fire of inconsequential chatter that served its purpose well, assisting Harriet in keeping her mind from her own troubles.
The guardian returned, after having been absent half an hour. She came running down the byway, shouting before she appeared in sight of the party to know if all were well.
"Oh, Harriet, I'm so glad to see you looking better! I have a boy and a democrat wagon to take us to the real cove. This isn't the place at all. Lonesome Cove is nearly five miles from here. But look! I've something that will please you!" exclaimed the guardian.
"What ith it?" demanded Tommy, edging near.
"Coffee!" exclaimed Miss Elting triumphantly.
"But how are we going to cook it?" cried Jane.
"Get the coffee pot. It is in one of the packs that we saved. We have neither milk nor sugar, but we shan't care about that. I met a boy, as I have told you. He had been to mill with a grist, and was also taking some groceries home with him. I secured the coffee by paying double price for it, but consider it cheap at that. Hazel, you and Margery will gather some dry wood and make a fire." Jane already had gone to look for the coffee pot. She found it, after opening one of the wet packs.
"The fire is laid," announced Hazel, "but we haven't any matches. What shall we do?"
"Mith Elting hath thome matcheth," answered Tommy.
"How do you know, my dear?" The guardian laughed merrily.
"I thee a box in your pocket."
"You see too much," declared Margery.
"Yes, I bought matches, too." Miss Elting herself applied a match to the sticks that had been laid for the cook fire. "Harriet, come right here by the fire and warm yourself."
"Where is the boy?" asked Harriet.
"He will be along in a few minutes. I ran all the way back. He will drive in and wait until we are ready. I promised him two dollars if he would take us to our destination."
"Does he know where it is?" questioned Jane.
"He says he does, but—" The guardian flushed and checked herself abruptly. "I nearly gave my surprise away."
Jane had the water boiling in a few minutes, then quickly made the coffee. A cup was handed to Harriet. She drank it steaming hot.
"Oh, that tastes good!" she breathed.
"You can feel it all the way down, can't you?" questioned Tommy solemnly.
"Yes, I can."
"Drink another one, dear," urged the guardian; "it won't keep you awake. Perhaps, now that you feel better, you will tell us how you came so near drowning?"
"I did nearly drown, didn't I?"
"You did, as thoroughly as one could and yet live to tell of it," replied Miss Elting, her voice husky.
"I had unfastened all the straps save the third one," began Harriet. "By that time the trunk was standing on end. It was very buoyant. The idea never occurred to me that there was any danger from the trunk. I was too much concerned wondering if I shouldn't have to open my mouth, for my lungs were nearly bursting. Well, I gave the last strap a jerk and I think the buckle must have pulled off, for the end of the trunk flew up and hit me on the head."
"But how did you get wedged under the car springs?" interrupted the guardian. "I found you there."
"I don't know. I don't remember anything that occurred after I was hit by the trunk until I began to realize that some one was working over me, and that I wished to be let alone. I was so comfortable that I did not wish to be disturbed."
"Thave me!" exclaimed Tommy.
"How long did you work over me?"
"More than an hour," replied Miss Elting.
"Then I really was just about drowned, was I not?" questioned Harriet, her eyes growing large.
Harriet Burrell pondered a moment, then lifted a pair of serious brown eyes to her companions.
"I am glad I had the experience," she said, "but I am sorry I made so much trouble. I feel all right now, and strong enough for almost anything. When do we start for the Cove?"
"At once. I hear the boy coming. Do you think you are really ready?"
"I know I am. But I believe I will have another cup of coffee before we start. Did we rescue all of our equipment?"
"Some of it has been lost, but that doesn't matter so long as we have you safe and sound, yes, there is the boy. Hoo-e-e-e!" called the guardian.
"Ye-o-o-w!" answered the boy promptly. They saw him turn into the byway. The horse he was driving was so thin that every rib stood out plainly. The democrat wagon was all squeaks and groans, its wheels being so crooked that the girls thought they were going to come off.
"You must help us to get our things aboard," said Miss Elting. "Will your wagon hold them all?"
"If it doesn't break down," was the reply.
"Well, some of us can walk."
The boy backed his rickety wagon down near where the belongings of the Meadow-Brook Girls lay in a tumbled heap. Jane assisted him in loading the equipment, amazing the country boy by her strength and quickness.
"You going to camp, eh?" he questioned.
"We don't know what we are going to do," replied Jane. "We're likely to do almost anything that happens to enter our minds as well as some things that don't enter our minds. Stow that package under the seat forward; yes, that way. There. Do you think of anything else, Miss Elting!"
"Nothing except the automobile. I hardly think we shall be able to take that with us."
"Indeed, no," answered Jane with a broad grin. "We'll let Dad do that. Who is going to ride?"
"Let's see. Harriet, of course—"
"I can walk," protested Harriet.
"No; you will ride. Margery and Tommy also may ride. Hazel, Jane and I will walk. It will do us good, for we need exercise this morning, though I must say that a little breakfast would not come amiss."
"You thay that ith a Democrat wagon?" questioned Tommy.
"Yes, dear. Why do you ask?" answered Miss Elting smilingly.
"I jutht wanted to know. I'll walk, thank you, Mith Elting. You thay it ith a Democrat wagon?"
"Yes, yes. What of it?"
"I wouldn't ride in a Democrat wagon. My father would dithown me if I did! If it wath a Republican wagon, now, it would be all right—but a Democrat wagon—thave me!"
THE ROCKY ROAD TO WAU-WAU
"You surely are a loyal little Republican, Tommy. Whether we agree with you in politics or not, we must respect your loyalty. However, I think you had better get up and ride," urged Miss Elting.
Tommy shook her head, regarding the democrat wagon with a disapproving squint. Jane assisted Harriet up over the front wheel, Margery climbed in on the other side, the boy "pushed on the reins," and the procession moved slowly toward the main road, with Miss Elting, Jane, Hazel and Tommy trudging on ahead. Harriet rode only a short distance before she grew weary of it, and, dropping to the ground, ran on and joined her companions.
"I shall have nervous prostration if I ride in that wagon," she said. "Every minute expecting it to collapse isn't any too good for one who has just been drowned, and whose nerves are on edge."
"Promise me that you will not overtax your strength; that if you feel yourself getting weary you will get in and ride," answered the guardian, looking anxiously at Harriet.
"I promise," was Harriet's laughing rejoinder.
The sun by this time was high in the heavens and was blazing down on them hotly. The warmth felt good, especially to those who still wore the clothes in which they had spent so much time in the cold water of the pond. To Harriet it was a grateful relief from the chill that had followed her accident. Tommy permitted herself to lag behind, and the moment she was out of ear-shot of her companions she began to quiz the country boy to learn where he was taking them.
"Lonesome Cove," he replied.
"Where ith that?"
"On the shore."
"On what thhore?"
"The sea shore."
"Oh! Tho we are going to the thea thhore? I thee," reflected Tommy wisely. "Are there lotth of people there?"
"Isn't nobody there. It's just sea shore, that's all."
Tommy chuckled and nodded to herself as she increased her pace and joined her party.
"When we get to camp I'm going to take a bath in the thea," she announced carelessly. Miss Elting regarded her sharply.
"Camp? Sea?" questioned the guardian.
"Yeth. I thaid 'camp' and 'thea.'"
"Where do you think you are going, Grace?"
"Why, to the thea thhore of courthe. But there ithn't anybody there."
"Tommy, you've been spying. I am amazed at you."
"No, I haven't been doing anything of the thort. It ith true, ithn't it?"
"I shall not tell you a single thing. You are trying to quiz me. That isn't fair, my dear."
Tommy chuckled and joined Harriet, linking an arm with her and starting a lively conversation. Harriet, instead of growing weary, appeared to be getting stronger with the moments. Her step was more and more springy, and her face had resumed its usual healthy color, but this was the longest five miles she remembered to have traveled. The others felt much the same. It must be remembered that they had had neither supper nor breakfast, except for the cup of coffee that they had taken before starting out on their tramp. The guardian had hoped to reach her destination in time for luncheon, when she knew the girls would have a satisfying meal. However, the hour was near to one o'clock when finally the boy shouted to them.
They halted and waited for him.
"Lonesome Cove down there, 'bout a quarter of a mile," he informed them, jerking the butt of his whip in the direction of a thin forest of spindling pines to the right of the highway. "Ocean right over there."
"I hear it," cried Harriet. "Doesn't it sound glorious?"
"We thank you. You may unload our equipment and pile it by the side of the road. We will carry it down to the beach, and again I thank you very much."
Jane and Hazel assisted in the unloading. They would permit neither Harriet nor Miss Elting to help. The boy was paid and drove away whistling. He had made a good deal, and knew very well that the folks at home would find no fault over his delay when they learned that he had earned two dollars.
"Now, girls, do you know where you are?" asked the guardian, turning to her charges.
"Lost in the wilds of New Hampshire," answered Jane dramatically.
"No, not lost. We shall soon be among friends. I promise you a great surprise when we get down so near the sea that you hear the pounding of the breakers on the beach."
"I gueth you will be thurprithed, too," ventured Tommy.
"What do you mean, Grace?" demanded Miss Elting.
"I would suggest that we get started," urged Harriet. "I'm hungry. I want my supper, breakfast and luncheon all in one. You forget that I am a drowned person."
"We are not likely to forget it," answered the guardian, smiling faintly. "Yes, we will carry our equipment in. Jane, suppose we break it into smaller packs, so it can be the more easily carried. I think we are all ready for a good meal, and that is what we are going to have very shortly now. You know you always get good meals at Wau-Wau."
"Wau-Wau!" exclaimed the Meadow-Brook Girls in chorus.
"Why, Wau-Wau is in the Pocono Woods," said Harriet. "We are a long way from there, aren't we?"
"Oh, yes, yes!" The guardian flushed guiltily. "I spoke without thinking."
No one except Harriet and Tommy gave any special heed to the final words of the guardian. The others were busy getting ready to move. They were in something of a hurry for their luncheon. Packs were divided up among them. Harriet insisted upon carrying one end of the trunk with Jane, in addition to the pack she had slung over her shoulder. They finally started down a narrow path that led on down to the shore, leaving some of their equipment behind to be brought later on in the afternoon. As they neared the shore the boom of the surf grew louder and louder.
The girls uttered shouts of delight when finally they staggered out into the open with their burdens, on a high bluff overlooking the sea. The sea lay sparkling in the sunlight, while almost at their feet great white-crested combers were rolling in and breaking against the sandy bluff. The salt spray dashed up into their faces and the odor of the salt sea was strong in their nostrils.
"Isn't this glorious?" cried Harriet, with enthusiasm.
"I shouldn't think you'd ever want to see water again after what occurred this morning," replied Margery Brown.
"Oh, that! I had forgotten all about it. This is different, Buster. This is the real sea, and it's perfectly wonderful. Isn't it, Miss Elting?"
The guardian, thus far, had not spoken a word. There was a look of puzzled surprise on her face.
"What is it, Miss Elting?" questioned Harriet, instantly discovering that something was wrong.
"I—I thought we should find some others here," replied the guardian hesitatingly.
"I told you there wath no one here," answered Tommy.
"Whom did you hope to find?" asked Harriet Burrell.
"Some friends of mine. It has been a rocky road to Wau-Wau, and we haven't reached it yet," muttered the guardian under her breath.
"I don't understand this, girls," she continued. "I fear we have made a mistake. This isn't the place I thought we were seeking. I must confess that I am lost. But the real place can not be far away. We shall have to walk from this on. Are you equal to it?"
"Not till I get thome food," answered Tommy with emphasis. "I'm famithhed. I want thomething to eat."
"So do I, darlin'," added Crazy Jane. "But I don't see anything hereabout that looks like food. Do you?"
Margery sat down helplessly. Harriet was smiling. She understood something of the plans of the guardian now; yet, like her companions, she was disappointed that the promised meal was not at hand. Miss Elting recovered her composure quickly.
"We shall have to cook our own dinner, dears," she said. "Harriet, you sit down in the sun and rest; we will take care of the meal-getting."
"You treat me as though I were an invalid. I am able to do my share of the work, and to eat my share of the food, as you will see when we get something cooked."
Jane already had run back toward the road to bring some dry sticks that she had discovered when coming in. Miss Elting began opening the packs.
"Oh, this is too bad!" she cried. "We must have left that coffee pot with the other things out by the road."
"I'll get it." Tommy bounded away. Hazel assisted the guardian in getting the cooking utensils ready, Margery walked about, getting in the way, but not accomplishing much of anything else. There were cold roast beef, butter and plenty of canned goods. The bread that they had brought with them had been dissolved in the water of the ice pond, as had the sugar and considerable other food stuff.
Jane came in with an armful of wood and quickly started a fire. Tommy arrived some moments later with the coffee pot and other utensils. While all this was going on Harriet was spreading out their belongings so these might dry out in the sunlight. But the water for the coffee, secured some distance back, was brackish and poor. They made it do, however, and as quickly as possible had boiled their coffee and warmed over the beef and canned beans as well. As for drinking water, there was none at hand fit for this purpose. Dishes were somewhat limited, many of theirs having been lost when the automobile went into the pond. But they were glad enough to do with what they had, and when Jane sounded the meal call, "Come and get it!" there was not an instant's hesitation on the part of any member of that little party of adventurous spirits.
"Now take your time, girls," warned Miss Elting. "We will not gulp our food down, even if we have a walk before us this afternoon. And we may have to sleep out-of-doors, but it will not have been the first time for the Meadow-Brook Girls."
"Ith thith the thurprithe that you were going to give us?" asked Tommy innocently.
"It is a surprise to me, dear. This isn't the place I thought it was at all. The joke is that I don't know where the right place is."
"Perhaps, if you would tell us where you wish to go, we might be of some assistance to you," suggested Jane McCarthy.
"You can't get the secret from me, Jane," answered the guardian smilingly. "I am going to keep that little secret to myself at all costs. Don't tease me, for I shall not tell you."
"It hath cotht a good deal already," piped Tommy. "Let me thee. It hath cotht one automobile, theveral thkirtth, and a girl drowned. Thome cotht that, eh? Pleathe path the beanth."
"Tommy has a keen appetite for beans this afternoon. Will you please open another can, Jane?" asked the guardian.
"Certainly. Will you have them cold this time, Tommy?"
"I will not, thank you. My father thayth there ith more real nourithhment in beanth than there ith in beeftheak. I gueth he knowth. He wath brought up on a bean farm."
"Then I'll take the beefsteak and never mind the nourishment," declared Jane, who was not particularly fond of beans.
"I'd rather have both," said Margery hungrily.
"Of courth you would," teased Tommy. "That ith why you—"
"Oh, say something new," groaned Buster.
Miss Elting permitted them to jest to their hearts' content. The more they talked the better was she pleased, because it kept them from eating too rapidly. Their meal finished and the dishes cleaned in salt water and sand, the guardian gave thought to their next move. But she was in no haste. The girls were allowed plenty of time to rest and digest their hearty meal, which they did by sitting in the sand with the sun beating down on them. After the lapse of an hour she told the girls to get ready.
"I will say to you frankly that I do not know where I am, though I am positive we are on the right road. Our destination can not be so very far from here, and I believe we have ample time to reach it before dark. However, each of you will put a can of beans in her pocket. We will take the coffee, our cups and the coffee pot. Thus equipped, we shall not go hungry in case we are caught out over night. Then, again, there must be houses somewhere along this road. The first one we see I shall stop and make inquiries."
"What shall we do with the rest of our things?" questioned Hazel.
"Make them into packages and hide the lot. You might blaze a tree near the road, in case we forget. All parts of the road hereabouts look very much alike to me. There is a good place for a cache about half way between here and the highway. I should go in a few rods, but any food that is not in cans we had better throw away."
"I don't thee why we can't camp right here," said Grace.
"This is not the place to which we are going," Harriet informed her. "I don't know where it is, but, sooner or later, we'll arrive there."
"If we are lucky," added Tommy under her breath.
Jane had already started for the road. She was called back by Harriet to take hold of one end of the trunk. Together the two girls lugged this to the place on the path that had been indicated by Miss Elting. By going straight in among the trees a short distance they found rocks, under one of which was a hole hollowed out in former times by water, and which made an excellent place in which to stow their equipment until such time as they might be able to return for it.
Hazel, Margery and Tommy brought the rest of their belongings from the highway, Miss Elting and Hazel what had been left at their camping place, all being neatly packed away in the hollow in the rock. This done, and a mound of small stones built over it, the girls were ready to proceed on their journey.
The afternoon was now well along, so they started off at a brisk pace, led by the guardian. Harriet appeared to have fully recovered from her accident. About an hour later they came in sight of a farmhouse. The guardian directed the girls to sit down and rest while she went up to the house to make some inquiries. When she returned her face was all smiles.
"I know where I am now," she called.
"How far have we to go?" asked Harriet.
"About five miles, they say, but one has to make allowances for distances in the country. It is difficult to find two persons who will agree on the distance to any certain point."
"Five mileth, did you say?" questioned Tommy.
"We shall easily make it in two hours. I don't think we can go astray. So long as we keep within sound of the sea we shall be right. If you are ready, we will move on."
Once more they set out. They had gone on less than an hour when Margery began to cry. Tommy regarded her with disapproving eyes. Margery declared that she couldn't walk another step. Inquiry by Miss Elting developed the fact that Buster had a blister on her right foot. This meant another delay. Miss Elting removed the girl's shoe from that foot and treated the blister. Half an hour was lost by this delay, but no one except Tommy Thompson complained. Tommy complained for the sake of saying something. She teased Margery so unmercifully that Miss Elting was obliged to rebuke her, after which Tommy went off by herself and sat pensively down by the roadside until the order to march was given.
The afternoon was waning when once more they came in sight of the sea. The setting sun had turned the expanse of ocean into a vast plain of shimmering, quivering gold. The Meadow-Brook Girls uttered exclamations of delight when they set eyes on the scene. For a few moments they stood still, gazing and gazing as if it were not possible to get enough of the, to most of them, unusual spectacle.
A full quarter of a mile ahead they observed that the shores a little back were quite heavily wooded, though the trees were small and slender. This particular spot seemed to have attracted Miss Elting's attention to the exclusion of all else. As she looked, a smile overspread her countenance. The girls did not observe it.
"We are nearly there," she called.
"Near the camp?" asked Tommy.
"Yes, the camp, you little tantalizer," chuckled the guardian. "But you will not know what camp until you reach it."
"Oh, yeth I thall. It ith our camp, the Meadow-Brook camp."
"I hear shouts. I do believe they are girls'," cried Crazy Jane. She glanced inquiringly at Miss Elting, but the latter's face now gave no hint as to what was in her mind. "Come on; let's run, girls."
With one accord they started forward at a brisk trot. This brought a wail from the limping Margery.
"Wait for me," she cried. "I—I can't run."
To their surprise Tommy halted, waited for Buster, then, linking an arm within hers, assisted Margery to trot along and keep up with her companions. Miss Elting gave Grace an appreciative nod and smile, which amply repaid the little girl for her kindly act. They covered the distance to the miniature forest in quick time, impelled by their curiosity, now realizing that they were to meet with the surprise that their guardian had prepared for them. Harriet had a fairly well defined idea as to what was awaiting them, but even she was to be happily surprised.
They reached a point opposite the little forest, when, as they looked toward the sea, visible in spots between the trees, they discovered a row of tents, and in the center of an open space a flag fluttering from a sapling from which the limbs and foliage had been trimmed.
"It's Camp Wau-Wau!" shouted Crazy Jane. "Come along, darlin's. Let's see what else there is to surprise us."
The girls rushed in among the trees, shouting and laughing. They brought up in the middle of the encampment and halted. A middle-aged, pleasant-faced woman stepped from a tent, gazed at them a moment, then opened her arms, into which the Meadow-Brook Girls rushed, fairly smothering the woman with their affectionate embraces.
AT HOME BY THE SEA
"Oh, my dear Meadow-Brook Girls!" cried the woman. "And I did not know you were coming. Why did you not let me know?" Mrs. Livingston, the Chief Guardian of the Camp Girls, held her young friends off the better to look at them.
"We did," replied Miss Elting. "When you wrote that you would be glad to have us join the camp, I made the arrangements and wrote you that we would be here yesterday."
"I never received the letter."
"But why do you call thith plathe Camp Wau-Wau?" demanded Grace. "Camp Wau-Wau ith in the Pocono Woodth, Mrs. Livingthton."
"Yes, my dear; but a camp may move, may it not? This is the same old Camp Wau-Wau, but in a different location. This year we concluded to make our camp by the sea shore, and chose Lonesome Bar for our camping place."
"Lonesome Bar!" exclaimed Miss Elting.
"That explains it. We Were looking for Lonesome Cove."
"Which we found," chuckled Harriet.
"We've had the most awful time, and Harriet got drowned," put in Margery Brown.
"Yeth, thhe did," nodded Tommy eagerly. "And we had thuch a time undrowning her! Thhe thwallowed a whole ithe pond of water."
Miss Elting here explained to the Chief Guardian what had happened. Mrs. Livingston was amazed. She gazed curiously at the smiling Harriet.
"I suppose I should not be surprised at anything Harriet does, but that you all should have fallen into a pond with your car is incredible. What became of the car?"
"It's there!" chuckled Jane. "They'll be cutting it out in sections when they take ice from the pond next winter, I reckon. Where can I send a letter? I must have another car, and that quickly! It's something like hard labor to get in and out of this place! But let's be introduced to these nice girls that I see in camp here."
"You are the same old Jane, aren't you?" answered the Chief Guardian, with an indulgent smile. "I trust your father is well?"
"He is, thank you, but he'll be wanting to have nervous prostration when he hears about my driving into an old pond. Hello, little girl! Have I seen you before!" questioned Crazy Jane, catching a little golden-haired girl by the arm and gazing down into the latter's blue eyes.
"This is Miss Skinner, from Concord, young ladies," introduced Mrs. Livingston.
"How do you do, Mith Thkinner," greeted Tommy. "Like mythelf, you aren't fat, are you?"
"I am not," replied Miss Skinner.
"Where do we stow our belongings?" asked Miss Elting.
Mrs. Livingston looked puzzled.
"Every tent in the camp is full," she replied. "Really, I do not know what I am going to do with you, girls."
"That is easily answered. We will sleep out-of-doors," proposed Jane. "We were out all last night, and in our wet clothing at that."
"How soon will you have vacancies?" asked Miss Elting.
"Four girls will be leaving the last of next week, Miss Elting. Others, I don't recall how many, are to go about the middle of the week following. Until then I fear you will have to shift for yourselves."
"We can have something to eat, can't we?" interjected Margery, in a hopeful tone.
"Yeth, Buthter mutht have thomething to eat all the time," averred Tommy.
"There is plenty for all. Now, come and meet our girls. We have a very fine lot of young women at Camp Wau-Wau this summer, and we think we have an ideal camp, too. I am so sorry that I did not know you were coming. I might make room for two of you on the floor in my tent. There isn't a bit of floor space left in any of the other tents."
"I think we all should prefer sleeping out-of-doors, so long as the weather remains fine," answered Miss Elting.
"That is just the point. What will you do when it rains?" smiled Mrs. Livingston.
"I know," spoke up Tommy. "I'll jutht run and jump into the othean and get wet all over, all at onthe; then I won't mind it at all. Do you thee?"
"I do," replied the Chief Guardian gravely.
Mrs. Livingston already had begun introducing the Meadow-Brook Girls to the Camp Girls, most of whom had not been in Camp Wau-Wau when the Meadow-Brook Girls had visited it in the Pocono Woods two seasons before. By the time the introductions had been finished and the camp inspected, supper time had arrived. The girls sat down at long tables in brightly lighted tents and enjoyed a delicious supper. It was the first real meal the newcomers had enjoyed in more than a day, and they did full justice to this one, especially did Margery, though openly teased by Tommy because of her appetite.
Mrs. Livingston had been kept thoroughly informed of the progress of the Meadow-Brook Girls through her correspondence with Miss Elting, so that she was fully prepared to bestow the rewards that the girls had earned. A council fire was called for that evening, at which the achievements of Harriet Burrell and her companions were related to the camp, and the beads that each, of the five girls had earned were bestowed. Harriet now had quite a string of colored beads, the envy of every Camp Girl. Each of the other girls of the Meadow-Brook party had performed either heroic or meritorious acts, for which they were rewarded by the gift of beads according to the regulations of the order. Unfortunately, the now badly damaged trunk that had been carried at the rear of Jane McCarthy's car contained their ceremonial dresses, so that the Meadow-Brook Girls were unable to appear in the regulation costume; and they also lacked other important equipment, namely, blankets in which to wrap themselves for outdoor sleeping.
"There is not an extra blanket in camp," said Mrs. Livingston, when the situation was explained to the Chief Guardian. "I don't know what we shall do. I fear you girls will have to go into town and stay at a hotel."
"Oh, no. We have slept out-of-doors under worse conditions," declared Harriet. "Please do not concern yourself over us. We shall get along very nicely. Do you happen to have an extra piece of canvas in camp?"
"There is a side wall that we use for covering our vegetables, such as potatoes. You may use that if you wish, but I warn you it is not very clean."
"We will give it a good dusting. It will answer very nicely to lie on and we'll sleep close together to keep warm. I am not sure but I should prefer sleeping out in that way. The Indians many times slept in the open without covering. I don't see why we shouldn't do the same."
"Are there any thnaketh here?" inquired Tommy anxiously.
"Oh, no," the Chief Guardian replied smilingly.
"Naturally, there are some insects; fleas, perhaps, but you don't mind those."
"No. My father thayth I hop around like a thand flea at a clam bake mythelf, but if I wath fat I couldn't do that, could I?" asked Tommy with a sidelong glance at Buster.
Margery, who had been an interested listener to the conversation, now turned her back, elevating her nose disdainfully. She made no reply to Tommy's fling at her. Harriet already had gone to bring the canvas, which was to be their bed for the night. She determined on the morrow to make bough beds for herself and companions, provided any suitable boughs were to be had. The canvas was dragged to a level spot. Jane and Hazel scraped the ground clean and smooth while Harriet was beating the canvas to get the dust out of it. This done, the canvas was spread out on the ground and folded over twice, leaving sufficient of it to cover them after they had taken their positions for the night.
Tommy regarded the preparations with mild interest.
"Who ith going to thleep next to the wall?" she asked.
"We thought we should place you next to the fold," replied Miss Elting. "You can't kick the cover off there."
"And where ith Buthter going to thleep?"
"In the middle."
"That ith all right. I don't withh to be too clothe to her. We might thquabble all night."
"Now, Tommy, you first," nodded Harriet.
Tommy took her place on the canvas with great care, gathering her skirts about her, turning around and around as if in search of the softest possible place on which to lie.
"You are thure Buthter ithn't going to thleep near me?" persisted Miss Tommy.
"Yes, yes. Please get in," urged Miss Elting.
"I jutht wanted to know, that ith all." She lay down, then one by one her companions took their places on the canvas. Harriet was the last to turn in. Before doing so she drew the unoccupied half of the canvas over the girls, leaving Tommy at the fold, as had been promised. There were no pillows. It was a case of lying stretched out flat or using one's arm for a pillow. The latter plan was adopted by most of the girls, though Harriet lay flat on her back after tucking herself in, gazing up at the stars and listening to the surf beating on the shore as the tide came rolling in. Now and then a roller showed a white ridge at its top, the white plainly visible even in the darkness, for the moon had not yet risen.
The campfire burned low, the camp itself being as silent as if deserted. Now and then twitterings in the tree tops might have been heard; were heard, in fact, by Harriet Burrell, but not heeded, for her gaze was fixed, as it had been for some moments, on two tiny specks of light far out on the dark sea. One of the specks was green, the other red. They rose and fell in unison, now and then disappearing for a few seconds, then rising, high in the air, as it appeared. The two lights were the side lights of a boat, red on the port and green on the starboard, and above them was a single white light at the masthead.
"According to those lights the boat is heading directly toward the beach," mused Harriet reflectively. "I wonder if I ought to show a light? No. They know where they are going. Besides, they can see the light of the campfire. The wind is increasing, too."
Harriet dozed. She awakened half an hour later and gazed sleepily out to sea. The same lights were there, though they now appeared to be much nearer. All of a sudden they blinked out and were seen no more.
The girl sat up, rubbing her eyes wonderingly.
"Could they have sunk? No, of course not. How silly of me! The boat has turned about, and the lights are not visible from behind." But she did not lie down at once. Instead, she rested her chin in the palms of her hands and gazed dreamily out over the water. A fresh, salty breeze was now blowing in. She could hear the flap, flap of the canvas of the tents off in the camp, a thin veil of mist was obscuring the stars, the pound of the surf was growing louder and the swish of the water on the beach more surly.
All at once what looked to her to be a huge cloud suddenly loomed close at hand, then began moving along the beach.
"Mercy! what is it?" exclaimed the girl under her breath. She crept from beneath the canvas and ran down to the beach. "It's a ship! How close to the shore they are running, and they have no lights out."
Harriet watched the vessel for some moments. She saw it swing around a long, narrow point of land a short distance to the south of the camp and boldly enter a bay. She was unable to make out with any distinctness what was being done there, but she heard the creak of the boom as it swung over and the rattle of the tackle as the sails came down, though unable to interpret these sounds. Soon there came a sharp whistle from human lips, answered by a similar whistle from the shore, then all was quiet.
Harriet Burrell crept back under the canvas, wondering vaguely what could be the meaning of this. She was too sleepy to think much about it and soon dropped into a sound sleep, from which she was destined to be rudely awakened.
A SUDDEN STORM
The canvas that covered the sleeping Meadow-Brook Girls was suddenly lifted from them, then whipped back with a force that nearly knocked the breath out of some of them.
A chorus of yells greeted the giant slap of the canvas, and a bevy of girls rolled and scrambled out of the way.
"Hold it down, or we shall lose it," cried Harriet, her voice barely heard in the roar of the wind. But no one of the party seemed inclined to act as an anchor for the canvas, which was rolled, then whisked out of sight.
"There, now you have done it!" shouted Crazy Jane McCarthy. "We sleep on the ground for the rest of the night!" A gust of wind had thrown Jane off her balance and knocked her down.
"Take hold of a tree," advised Harriet.
"I can't get to one," wailed Margery. "I can't walk."
"Creep," suggested Tommy shrilly.
"Yes, we must seek cover. I fear there will be rain soon," added Miss Elting. "This is an awful blow. I can feel the spray from the ocean."