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The Outdoor Girls at Rainbow Lake
by Laura Lee Hope
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The Outdoor Girls At Rainbow Lake

or

The Stirring Cruise of the Motor Boat Gem

by Laura Lee Hope, 1913

CHAPTER I

A GRAND SURPRISE

"Girls, I've got the grandest surprise for you!"

Betty Nelson crossed the velvety green lawn, and crowded into the hammock, slung between two apple trees, which were laden with green fruit. First she had motioned for Grace Ford to make room for her, and then sank beside her chum with a sigh of relief.

"Oh, it was so warm walking over!" she breathed. "And I did come too fast, I guess." She fanned herself with a filmy handkerchief.

"But the surprise?" Mollie Billette reminded Betty.

"I'm coming to it, my dear, but just let me get my breath. I didn't know I hurried so. Swing, Grace."

With a daintily shod foot— a foot slender and in keeping with her figure— Grace gave rather a languid push, and set the hammock to swaying in wider arcs.

Amy Stonington, who had not joined in the talk since the somewhat hurried arrival of Betty, strolled over to the hammock and began peering about in it— that is, in as much of it as the fluffy skirts of the two occupants would allow to be seen.

"I don't see it," she said in gentle tones— everything Amy did was gentle, and her disposition was always spoken of as "sweet" by her chums, though why such an inapt word is generally selected to describe what might better be designated as "natural" is beyond comprehension. "I don't see it," murmured Amy.

"What?" asked Grace, quickly.

"I guess she means that box of chocolates," murmured Mollie. "It's no use, Amy, for Grace finished the last of them long before Betty blew in on us— or should I say drifted? Really, it's too warm to do more than drift to-day."

"You finished the last of the candy yourself!" exclaimed Grace, with spirit. If Grace had one failing, or a weakness, it was for chocolates.

"I did not!" snapped Mollie. Her own failing was an occasional burst of temper. She had French blood in her veins— and not of French lilac shade, either, as Betty used to say. It was of no uncertain color— was Mollie's temper— at times.

"Yes, you did!" insisted Grace. "Don't you remember? It was one with a cherry inside, and we both wanted it, and—— "

"You got it!" declared Mollie. "If you say I took it—— "

"That's right, Grace, you did have it," said gentle Amy. "Don't you recall, you held it in one hand behind your back and told Billy to choose?" Billy was Mollie's "chummy" name.

"That's so," admitted Grace. "And Mollie didn't guess right. I beg your pardon, Mollie. It's so warm, and the prickly heat bothers me so that I can hardly think of anything but that I'm going in and get some talcum powder. I've got some of the loveliest scent— the Yamma-yamma flower from Japan."

"It sounds nice," murmured Betty. "But, girls—— "

"Excuse me," murmured Grace, making a struggle to arise from the hammock— never a graceful feat for girl or woman.

"Don't! You'll spill me!" screamed Betty, clutching at the yielding sides of the net. "Grace! There!"

There would have been a "spill" except that Amy caught the swaying hammock and held it until Grace managed, more or less "gracelessly," to get out.

"There's the empty box," she remarked, as it was disclosed where it had lain hidden between herself and Betty. "Not a crumb left, Amy, my dear. But I fancy I have a fresh box in the house, if Will hasn't found them. He's always— snooping, if you'll pardon my slang."

"I wasn't looking for candy," replied Amy. "It's my handkerchief— that new lace one; I fancied I left it in the hammock."

"Wait, I'll get up," said Betty. "Don't you dare let go, Amy. I don't see why I'm so foolish as to wear this tight skirt. We didn't bother with such style when we were off on our walking tour."

"Oh, blessed tour!" sighed Mollie. "I wish we could go on another one— to the North Pole," and she vigorously fanned herself with a magazine cover.

Betty rose, and Amy found what she was looking for. Grace walked slowly over the shaded lawn toward her house, at which the three chums had gathered this beautiful— if too warm— July day. Betty, Amy, and Mollie made a simultaneous dive for the hammock, and managed, all three, to squeeze into it, with Betty in the middle.

"Oh, dear!" she cried. "This is too much! Let me out, and you girls can have it to yourselves. Besides, I want to talk, and I can't do it sitting down very well."

"You used to," observed Amy, smoothing out her rather crumpled dress, and making dabs at her warm face with the newly discovered handkerchief.

"The kind of talking I'm going to do now calls for action— 'business,' as the stage people call it," explained Betty. "I want to walk around and swing my arms. Besides, I can't properly do justice to the subject sitting down. Oh, girls, I've got the grandest surprise for you!" Her eyes sparkled and her cheeks glowed; she seemed electrified with some piece of news.

"That's what you said when you first came," spoke Mollie, "but we seemed to get off the track. Start over, Betty, that's a dear, and tell us all about it. Take that willow chair," and Billy pointed to an artistic green one that harmonized delightfully with the grass, and the gray bark of an apple tree against which it was drawn.

"No, I'm going to stand up," went on Betty. "Anyhow, I don't want to start until Grace comes back. I detest telling a thing over twice."

"If Grace can't find that box of chocolates she'll most likely run down to the store for another," said Amy.

"And that means we won't hear the surprise for ever so long," said Mollie. "Go on, Bet, tell us, and we'll retell it to Grace when she comes. That will get rid of your objection," and Mollie tucked back several locks of her pretty hair that had strayed loose when the vigorous hammock-action took place.

"No, I'd rather tell it to you all together," insisted Betty, with a shake of her head. "It wouldn't be fair to Grace to tell it to you two first. We'll wait."

"I'll go in and ask her to hurry," ventured Amy. She was always willing to do what she could to promote peace, harmony, and general good feeling. If ever anyone wanted anything done, Amy was generally the first to volunteer.

"There's no great hurry," said Betty, "though from the way I rushed over here you might think so. But really, it is the grandest thing! Oh, girls, such a time as may be ahead of us this summer!" and she pretended to hug herself in delight.

"Betty Nelson, you've just got to tell us!" insisted Mollie. "Look out, Amy, I'm going to get up."

Getting up from a hammock— or doing anything vigorous, for that matter— was always a serious business with quick Mollie. She generally warned her friends not to "stand too close."

"Never mind, here comes Grace," interrupted Amy. "Do sit still, Mollie; it's too warm to juggle— or is it jiggle?— around so."

"Make it wiggle," suggested Betty.

"Do hurry, Grace," called Mollie "We can't hear about the grand surprise until you get here, and we're both just dying to know what it is."

"I couldn't find my chocolates," said Grace, as she strolled gracefully up, making the most of her slender figure. "I just know Will took them. Isn't he horrid!"

"Never mind, did you bring the talcum?" asked Amy. "We can sprinkle it on green apples and pretend it's fruit juice."

"Don't you dare suggest such a thing when my little twins come along, as they're sure to do, sooner or later," spoke Mollie, referring to her brother and sister— Paul and Dora— or more often "Dodo," aged four.

They were "regular tykes," whatever that is. Mollie said so, and she ought to know. "If you gave them that idea," she went on, "we'd have them both in the hospital. However, they're not likely to come to-day."

"Why not?" asked Betty, for the twins had a habit of appearing most unexpectedly, and in the most out-of-the-way places.

"They're over at Aunt Kittie's for the day, and I told mamma I shouldn't mind if she kept them a week."

"Oh, the dears!" murmured Amy.

"You wouldn't say so if you saw how they upset my room yesterday. I like a little peace and quietness," exclaimed Mollie. "I love Paul and Dodo, but— and she shrugged her shoulders effectively, as only the French can.

"Here's the talcum," spoke Grace. "I'm sorry about the chocolates. Wait until I see Will," and she shook an imaginary brother.

"Never mind, dear, it's too hot for candies, anyhow," consoled Betty. "Pass the talcum," and she reached for the box that Mollie was then using. "It has the most delightful odor, Grace. Where did you get it?"

"It's a new sample lot Harrison's pharmacy got in. Mr. Harrison gave me a box to try, and said—— "

"He wanted you to recommend it to your friends, I've no doubt," remarked Mollie.

"He didn't say so, but I haven't any hesitation in doing so. I just love it."

"It is nice," said Amy. "I'm going to get some the next time I go down-town."

The spicy scent of the perfumed talcum powder mingled with the odor of the grass, the trees, and the flowers, over which the bees were humming.

"Come, come, Betty!" exclaimed Mollie, vigorously, when shining noses had been rendered immune from the effects of the sun, "when do we hear that wonderful secret of yours?"

"Right away! Make yourselves comfortable. I'm going to walk about, and get the proper action to go with the words. Now, what did I do with that letter?" and she looked in her belt, up her sleeve, and in the folds of her waist.

"Gracious, I hope I haven't lost it!" she exclaimed, glancing about, anxiously.

"Was it only a letter?" asked Mollie, something of disappointment manifesting itself in her tones.

"Only a letter!" repeated Betty, with proper emphasis. "Well, I like the way you say that! It isn't a common letter, by any means."

"Is it from that queer Mr. Blackford, whose five hundred dollar bill we found when we were on our walking trip?" asked Amy, with strange recollections of that queer occurrence.

"No, it was from my uncle, Amos Marlin, a former sea captain," was the answer "A most quaint and delightful character, as you'll all say when you meet him."

"Then we are going to meet him?" interjected Grace, questioningly.

"Yes, he's coming to pay me a visit."

"Was that the grand surprise?" Amy wanted to know.

"Indeed not. Oh, there's the letter," and Betty caught up a piece of paper from underneath the hammock. "I'll read it to you. It's quite funny, and in it he says he's going to give me the grandest surprise that ever a girl had. It—— "

"But what is the surprise itself?" inquired Mollie.

"Oh, he didn't say exactly," spoke Betty, smoothing out the letter. "But I know, from the way he writes, that it will be quite wonderful. Everything Uncle Amos does is wonderful. He's quite rich, and—— "

"Hark!" exclaimed Amy.

A voice was calling:

"Miss Ford! Miss Ford!"

"Yes, Nellie, what is it?" asked Grace, as she saw a maid coming towards her, beckoning.

"Your brother wants you on the telephone, Miss Ford," answered the maid, "he says it's quite important, and he wants you to please hurry."

"Excuse me," flung back Grace, as she hurried off. "I'll be back in a minute. I hope he's going to confess where he put those chocolates."

CHAPTER II

AFTER THE PAPERS

"Hello, is this you, Will?"

"Yes, this is Grace. What did you do with my chocolates? The girls are here, and— Never mind about the chocolates? The idea! I like—— . What's that? You want to go to the ball game? Will I do your errand for you? Yes, I'm listening. Go on!"

"It's this way, Sis," explained Will over the wire from a down-town drug store. "This morning dad told me to go over to grandmother's and get those papers. You know; the ones in that big property deal which has been hanging fire so long. Grandmother has the papers in her safe. The deal is to be closed to-day. I promised dad I'd go, but I forgot all about it, and now the fellows want me to go to the ball game with them.

"If you'll go over to grandmother's and get the papers I'll buy you a two-pound box of the best chocolates— honest, I will. And you can get the papers as well as I can. Grandmother expects one of the family over after them to-day, and she has them all ready.

"You can go just as well as I can— better, in fact, and dad won't care as long as he gets the papers. You're to take them to his office. Will you do it for me, Sis? Come on, now, be a sport, and say yes."

"But it's so hot, and Betty, Amy, and Mollie are here with me. I don't want to go all the way over to grandmother's after some tiresome old papers. Besides, it was your errand, anyhow."

"I know it, Sis, but I don't want to miss that game. It's going to be a dandy! Come on, go for me, that's a good fellow. I'll make it three pounds."

"No, I'm not going. Besides, it looks like a thunder storm."

"Say, Sis, will you go if I let you ride Prince?"

"Your new horse?" asked Grace, eagerly.

"Yes, you may ride Prince," came over the wire. Will was a good horseman, but for some time had to be content with rather an ordinary steed. Lately he had prevailed on his father to get him a new one, and Prince, a pure white animal, of great beauty, had been secured. It was gentle, but spirited, and had great speed. Grace rode well, but her mount did not suit her, and Mr. Ford did not want to get another just then. Will never allowed his sister to more than try Prince around the yard, but she was eager to go for a long canter with the noble animal. Now was the chance she had waited for so long.

"You must want to see that ball game awfully bad, to lend me Prince," said Grace.

"I do," answered Will. "But be careful of him. Don't let him have his head too much or he'll bolt. But there's not a mean streak in him."

"Oh, I know that— I can manage."

"Then you'll get those papers from grandmother for me, and take them to dad?"

"Yes, I guess so, though I don't like leaving the girls."

"Oh, you can explain it to them. And you can 'phone down for the chocolates and have them sent up. Charge them to me. The girls can chew on them until you come back. It won't take you long on Prince. And say, listen, Sis!"

"Yes, go on."

"Those papers are pretty valuable, dad said. There are other parties interested in this deal, and if they got hold of the documents it might make a lot of trouble."

"Trouble?"

"Yes. But there's not much chance of that. They don't even know where the papers are."

"All right, I'll get them. Have a good time at the game, Billy boy."

"I will, and look out for Prince. So long!" and Will hung up the receiver, while Grace over the private wire, telephoned to the groom to saddle Prince. Then she went out to tell her friends of her little trip.

And while she is doing this, I will interject a few words of explanation so that those who did not read the first volume of this series may have a better understanding of the characters and location of this story.

The first book was called "The Outdoor Girls of Deepdale; Or, Camping and Tramping for Fun and Health." In that is given an account of how the four chums set off to walk about two hundred miles in two weeks, stopping nights at the homes of various friends and relatives on the route. At the very outset they stumbled on the mystery of a five hundred dollar bill, and it was not until the end that the strange affair was cleared up most unexpectedly.

The four girls were Betty Nelson, a born leader, bright, vigorous and with more than her share of common sense. She was the daughter of Charles Nelson, a wealthy carpet manufacturer. Grace Ford, tall, willowly, and exceedingly pretty, was blessed with well-to-do parents. Mr. Ford being a lawyer of note, who handled many big cases. Mollie Billette, was just the opposite type from Grace. Mollie was almost always in action, Grace in repose. Mollie was dark, Grace fair. Mollie was quick-tempered— Grace very slow to arouse. Perhaps it was the French blood in Mollie— blood that showed even more plainly in her mother, a wealthy widow— that accounted for this. Or perhaps it was the mischievous twins— Dodo and Paul— whose antics so often annoyed their older sister, that caused Mollie to "flare up" at times.

Amy Stonington was concerned in a mystery that she hoped would some day be unraveled. For years she had believed that John and Sarah Stonington were her father and mother, but in the first book I related how she was given to understand differently.

It appears that, when she was a baby, Amy lived in a Western city. There came a flood, and she was picked up on some wreckage. There was a note pinned to her baby dress— or, rather an envelope that had contained a note, and this was addressed to Mrs. Stonington. Amy's mother was Mrs. Stonington's aunt, though the two had not seen each other in many years.

Whether Amy's parents perished in the flood, as seemed likely, or what became of them, was never known, nor was it known whether there were any other children. But Mr. Stonington, after the flood, was telegraphed for, and came to get Amy. He and his wife had kept her ever since, and shortly before this story opens they had told her of the mystery surrounding her. Of course it was a great shock to poor Amy, but she bore it bravely. She called Mr. and Mrs. Stonington "uncle" and "aunt" after that.

I described Deepdale and its surroundings in the previous book, so I will make no more than a passing reference to it here. Sufficient to say that the town nestled in a bend of the Argono River, a few miles above where that stream widened out into beautiful and picturesque Rainbow Lake. Then the river continued on its way again, increasing into quite a large body of water. On the river and lake plied many pleasure craft, and some built for trade, in which they competed with a railroad that connected with the main line to New York. In Rainbow Lake were a number of islands, the largest— Triangle— obviously so called, being quite a summer resort.

Our four girls lived near each other in fine residences, that of Mollie's mother being on the bank of the river. Deepdale was a thriving community, in the midst of a fertile farming section.

The summer sun glinted in alternate shadows and brilliant patches on Grace Ford as she hurried out to her friends on the lawn, after receiving the message from her brother Will.

"What happened?" asked Mollie, for it was evident from the expression on the face of the approaching girl that something out of the ordinary had been the import of the message.

"Oh, it was Will. He—— "

"Did he 'fess up' about the chocolates?" inquired Mollie.

"No, but he's going to treat us to a three-pound box. I 'phoned down for them. They'll be here soon, and you girls can enjoy them while I'm gone."

"Gone!" echoed Betty, blankly. "Where are you going, pray tell?"

"Oh, Will forgot to do something father told him to, and he wants me to do it for him. Get some rather important papers from Grandmother Ford. I'm going to ride Prince. I wish you all could come. Will you be angry if I run away for a little while? I shan't be more than an hour."

"Angry? Of course not," said Amy, gently. "Besides, it's important; isn't it?"

"I imagine so, from what Will said. But he has the baseball fever, and there's no cure for it. So if you don't mind I'll just slip into my habit, and canter over. Oh, I just love Prince! He's the finest horse!"

"I'm afraid of horses," confessed Amy.

"I'm not!" declared Betty, who was fond of all sports, and who had fully earned her title of "Little Captain," which she was often called. "Some day I'm going to prevail on daddy to get me one."

"I should think you'd rather have an auto," spoke Mollie.

"I may, some day," murmured Betty. "But hurry along, Grace. It looks as though it might storm. We'll save some of the candy for you."

"You'd better!"

The chocolates came before Grace was ready to start after the papers, for she discovered a rent in her skirt and it had to be mended. Then, too, Prince proved a little more restive than had been anticipated, from not having been out in two days, and the groom suggested that he take the animal up and down the road on a sharp gallop to give the excess spirit a chance to be worked off. So Grace saw to it that she had at least part of her share of chocolates before she left.

"And I have just time to hear the rest about the grand surprise," she said to Betty, who had been turning and creasing in her hand the letter her uncle had written.

"I'm afraid I can't go as much into detail as I thought I could," confessed Betty. "But I'll read you the letter my old sea-captain uncle sent me. It begins: 'In port; longitude whatever you like, and latitude an ice cream soda.' Then he goes on:

"'Dear messmate. Years ago, when you first signed papers to voyage through life, when you weren't rated as an A. B., you used to have me spill sea-yarns for you. And you always said you were going to be a sailor, shiver my timbers, or something like that,— real sailor-like, so it sounded.

"'I never forgot this, and I always counted on taking you on a voyage with me. But your captain— that is to say your father— never would let me, and often the barometer went away down between him and me.

"'Howsomever, I haven't forgotten how you liked the water, nor how much you wanted a big ship of your own. You used to make me promise that if ever I could tow the Flying Dutchman into port that you could have it for a toy. And I promised.

"'Well, now I have the chance to get the Flying Dutchman for you, and I'm bringing it home, with sails furled so it won't get away. I'm going to give you a grand surprise soon, and you can pass it on to your friends. So if you let me luff along for a few more cable lengths I think I'll make port soon, and then we'll see what sort of a sailor you'll make. You may expect the surprise shortly.'

"That's all there is to it," concluded Betty, "and I've been puzzling my brains as to just what the surprise may be."

"He's going to take you on a voyage," said Amy.

"He's bought you some toy ship," was the opinion of Mollie.

"Oh, if he'd only bring a real boat that we could make real a trip in!" sighed Grace. "That would be— lovely!"

"Betty Nelson! Write to your uncle right away!" commanded Mollie, "and find out exactly what he means."

"I can't," sighed Betty. "He's traveling, and one never knows where he is. We'll just have to wait. Besides, he is so peculiar that he'd just as likely as not only puzzle me the more. We'll just have to wait; that's all."

"Well, if it should be some sort of a boat, even a big rowboat, we could have some fun," asserted Grace.

"Yes, for mine isn't much account," remarked Mollie, who owned a small skiff on the river.

"I was so excited and amused when I got uncle's letter," said Betty, "that I didn't know what to do. Mamma puzzled over it, but she couldn't make any more out of it than I could. So I decided to come over here."

"I'm glad you did," spoke Grace, holding up her long habit in one hand and delicately eating a chocolate from the other "There comes James with Prince. Oh, he's run him too hard!" she exclaimed as she noted the hard-breathing animal.

"Oh, no, Miss," said the groom, who heard her. "That was only a romp for him. He'll be much easier to handle now."

He gave Grace a hand to help her mount to the saddle, and adjusted the stirrups for her.

"Good-bye!" she called, as she cantered off. "Save some of the chocolates for me," and the others laughingly promised, as they went back to the shade, to rest in the hammock or lawn chairs.

CHAPTER III

THE RUNAWAY

Grace cantered along the pleasant country road on the back of Prince. The noble animal had lost some of his fiery eagerness to cover the whole earth in one jump, and now was mindful of snaffle and curb, the latter of which Grace always applied with gentle hand. Prince seemed to know this, for he behaved in such style as not to need the cruel gripping, which so many horsemen— and horsewomen too, for that matter, needlessly inflict.

"Oh, but it is glorious to ride!" exclaimed the girl, as she urged the animal into a gallop on a soft stretch of road beneath wonderful trees that interlaced their branches overhead. "Glorious— glorious!"

"I hope those papers are not so valuable that it would be an object for— for some one to try to take them away from me," she mused. Instinctively she glanced behind her, but the peaceful road was deserted save for the sunshine and shadows playing tag in the dust. Then Grace looked above. The sky was of rather a somber tint, that seemed to suggest a storm to come, and there was a sultriness and a silence, with so little wind that it might indicate a coming disturbance of the elements to restore the balance that now seemed so much on one side.

"But if any one tries to get them away from us, we— we'll just— run away; won't we, Prince?" and she patted the neck of the horse. Prince whinnied acquiescence.

"Grandmother will be surprised to see me," thought Grace, as she rode on. "But I'm glad I can do as well as Will in business matters. I hope papa won't be too severe with Will for not attending to this himself."

She passed a drinking trough— a great log hollowed out, into which poured a stream of limpid water coming from a distant hill through a rude wooden pipe. It dripped over the mossy green sides of the trough, and Prince stretched his muzzle eagerly toward it.

"Of course you shall have a drink!" exclaimed Grace, as she let him have his head. Then she felt thirsty herself, and looked about for something that would serve as a mounting block, in case she got down. She saw nothing near; but a ragged, barefooted, freckled-faced and snub-nosed urchin, coming along just then, divined her desire.

"Want a drink, lady?" he asked, smiling.

"Yes," answered Grace, "but I have no cup."

"I kin make ye one."

Straightway he fashioned a natural flagon from a leaf of the wild grape vine that grew nearby, piercing the leaf with its own stem so that it formed a cup out of which a Druid might have quaffed ambrosia.

"There's a cup," he said. "I allers makes 'em that way when I wants a drink." He filled it from the running water and held it up. Grace drank thirstily, and asked for more.

"And here is something for you," she said with a smile, as she passed down some chocolates she had slipped into a small pocket of her riding habit.

"Say, is it Christmas, or Fourth of July?" gasped the urchin as he accepted them. "Thanks, lady."

Grace again smiled down at him, and Prince, having dipped his muzzle into the cool water again, for very pleasure in having all he wanted, swung about and trotted on.

The distance was not long now, and Grace, noting the gathering clouds, was glad of it.

"I'm sure I don't want to be caught in a storm," she said. "This stuff shrinks so," and she glanced down at her velvet skirt. "I wouldn't have it made up again. I hope the storm doesn't spoil Will's ball game,"

She urged Prince to a faster pace, and, cantering along a quiet stretch of road, was soon at the house of Mr. Ford's mother.

"Why Grace!" exclaimed the elderly lady, "I expected Will to come over. Your father said—— "

"I know, grandma, but Will— well, he is wild about baseball, and I said I'd come for him."

"That was good of you."

"Oh, no it wasn't. I don't deserve any praise. Chocolates and Prince— a big bribe, grandma."

"Oh, you young folks! Well, come in. Thomas will see to Prince."

"I can't stay long."

"No, I suppose not. Your father wanted these papers in a hurry. He would have come himself, but he had some matters to attend to. And, its being rather a family affair, he did not want to send one of his law clerks. Those young men tattle so."

"I wonder if they are any worse than girls, grandma?"

"Oh, much— much! But come in, and I will have Ellen make you a cup of tea. It is refreshing on a hot day. Then I will get you the papers. It is very warm."

"Yes, I think we will have a shower."

"Then I must not keep you. Is everyone well?"

"Yes. How have you been?"

"Oh, well enough for an old lady."

"Old, grandma? I only hope I look as nice as you when I get—— "

"Now, my dear, no flattery. I had my share of that when I was younger, though I must say your grandfather knew how to turn a compliment to perfection. Ah, my dear, there are not many like him now-a-days. Not many!" and she sighed.

Tea was served in the quaint old dining room, for Mrs. Ford, though keeping up many old customs, had adopted some modern ones, and her house was perfection itself.

"I suppose your brother told you these papers were rather valuable; did he not?" asked Mrs. Ford a little later, as she brought Grace a rather bulky package.

"Yes, grandma."

"And if they should happen to fall into other hands it might make trouble— at least for a time."

"Yes. I will take good care of them."

"How can you carry them?"

"In the saddle. Will had pockets, made especially for his needs. They will fit nicety. I looked before starting out."

"Very good. Then I won't keep you. Trot along. It does look as though we would have a storm. I hope you get back before it breaks. I would ask you to stay, but I know your father is waiting for those papers."

"Yes, Will said he wanted them quickly. Oh, well, I think I can out-race the storm," and Grace laughed.

She found that she really would have to race when, a little later, out on the main road, the distant rumble of thunder was heard.

"Come, Prince!" she called. "We must see what we can do. Your best foot foremost, old fellow!" The horse whinnied in answer, and swung into an easy gallop that covered the ground well.

The clouds gathered thicker and faster. Now and then their black masses would be split by jagged flashes of lightning, that presaged the rumbling report of heaven's artillery which seemed drawing nearer to engage in the battle of the sky.

"Prince, we are going to get wet, I'm very much afraid," Grace exclaimed. "And yet— well, we'll try a little faster pace!"

She touched the animal lightly with the crop, and he fairly leaped into greater speed. But it was only too evident that they could not escape the storm. The clouds were more lowering now, and the bursts of thunder followed more quickly on the heels of the lightning flashes. Then came a few angry dashes of rain, as though to give sample of what was to follow.

"Come, Prince!" cried Grace.

Suddenly from behind there came another sound. It was the deep staccato of the exhaust of an automobile, with opened muffler. It was tearing along the road.

Grace glanced back and saw a low, dust-covered racing car, rakish and low-hung, swinging along. It was evident that the occupants— two young men— were putting on speed to get to some shelter before the storm broke in all its fury.

Prince jumped nervously and shied to one side at the sound of the on-coming car.

"Quiet, old fellow," said Grace, soothingly.

The car shot past her, and at the same moment Prince waltzed to one side, or else the car swerved, so that only by the narrowest margin was a terrible accident averted. Grace heard the men shout, and there was a wilder burst of the opened muffler. Then she felt a shock, and she knew that the machine had struck and grazed Prince.

She glanced down and saw a red streak on his off fore shoulder. He had been cut by some part of the car.

The next moment, as the racing auto swung out of sight around a bend in the road, Prince took the bit in his teeth and bolted. With all her strength Grace reined him in, but he was wildly frightened. She felt herself slipping from the saddle.

"Prince! Prince!" she cried, bracing herself in the stirrups, and gripping the reins with all her might. "Prince! Quiet, old fellow!"

But Prince was now beyond the reasoning power of any human voice. The thunder rumbled and crashed overhead. Grace, above it, could hear the whining decrease of the exhaust of the big car that had caused her steed to run away.

"Prince! Prince!" she pleaded.

He did not heed. Farther and farther she slipped from the saddle as his wild plunges threw her out of it. Then there came a crash that seemed to mark the height of the storm. A great light shone in front of Grace. Myriads of stars danced before her eyes.

She flashed towards a house. From it ran two little tots, and, even in that terror she recognized them as Dodo and Paul, the two Billette twins. They were visiting a relative who lived on this road, she dimly recalled hearing Mollie say. Evidently the children had run out in the storm. A nursemaid caught Paul, but Dodo eluded the girl, and ran straight for the road along which Grace was plunging.

"Go back! Go back!" screamed Grace. "Go back, Dodo!"

But Dodo came on. The next moment the child seemed to be beneath the feet of the maddened horse, which, a second later, slipped and fell, throwing Grace heavily. Her senses left her. All was black, and the rain pelted down while the lightning flashed and the thunder rumbled and roared.

CHAPTER IV

THE MISSING DOCUMENTS

"How do you feel now? Do you think you can drink a little of this?"

Faintly Grace heard these words, as though some one, miles away, was repeating them through a heavy fog. Myriads of bells seemed ringing in her ears, and her whole body felt as though made of lead. Then she became conscious of shooting pains. Her head ached, there was a roaring in it. This was followed by a delicious drowsiness.

"Try and take a little of this. The doctor does not think you are badly hurt. Fortunately the horse did not fall on you."

Again it seemed as though the voice came from the distant clouds.

Grace tried to think— to reason out where she was, and discover what had happened; but when she did, that same ringing of bells sounded in her ears, her head ached and she felt she was losing that much-to-be desired drowsiness.

"Try and take it."

She felt some one raise her head, supporting her shoulders. She struggled with herself, resolving not to give way to that lethargy. She opened her eyes with an effort, and looked about her in wonder. She was in a strange room, and a strange woman was bending over her, holding a glass of some pleasant-scented liquid.

"There, you have roused up, my dear, try to take this," said the woman, with a smile. "The doctor will be back to see you in a little while."

"The doctor," stammered Grace. "Am I hurt? What happened? Oh, I remember, Prince was frightened by the auto, and ran away. Where is he?" she asked in sudden terror, as a thought came to her.

"He got up and ran off after he fell with you," said the woman, as she held the glass for Grace to drink. "We had no time to try and catch him, for there were others to attend to."

"Oh, but Prince must be caught!" cried Grace, trying to rise from the couch on which she was lying, but finding it too much of an effort.

"He will be, my dear," said the woman. "Don't fret about the horse. He did not seem to be hurt."

Oh, it isn't so much Prince himself, though Will would feel very badly if anything happened to him. It is—— "

Then Grace recalled that to mention the papers in the saddle bag might not be wise, so she stopped.

"There now, don't worry, my dear," spoke the woman, soothingly. "Some one will catch the horse,"

"Oh, he must be caught!" cried Grace. "You say the doctor was here to see me?"

"Yes, we sent for one soon after a passing farmer carried you in here when you fell and fainted. You were lying out in the rain— insensible. We managed to get off your wet dress, and I just slipped this dressing gown of mine on you."

"You were very kind. I can't seem to think very clearly," and poor Grace put her hand to her head.

"Then don't try, my dear: You'll be all right in a little while. Just rest. I'll see if the doctor can come to you now."

"Why is he here— in the house— is some one else ill?" asked Grace, quickly.

"Yes, my dear. Poor little Dodo was knocked down by the horse, and we fear is badly hurt."

"Dodo?" and the voice of Grace fairly rang at the name.

"Yes, little Dora Billette. This is her aunt's house. She and her brother Paul are visiting here."

"Yes, yes! I know. They live near me in Deepdale. Their sister Mollie is one of my best friends. I am Grace Ford."

"Oh yes, I know you now. I thought I recognized your face. I have seen you at Mollie's house. I am a distant relative. But rest yourself now, and the doctor will come to you as soon as he can. He has to attend to Dodo first, the little dear!"

"Oh! Dodo, Dodo!" cried Grace, much affected. "You poor little darling, and to think that it was my fault! I must go to her. Mollie will never forgive me!"

She tried to rise.

"Lie still," commanded the woman, but gently. "It was not your fault. I saw it all. The twins persisted in running out in the storm. The girl could not stop them. Dodo got away and ran directly for the horse."

"Yes, I saw that. I thought she would be terribly hurt. Oh, to think it had to be I and Prince who did it!"

"It was not at all your fault. If anyone is to blame it is those autoists for going so fast, and passing you so closely. There was no excuse for that. The road was plenty wide enough and they scarcely stopped a moment after you went down, but hurried right on. They should be arrested!"

"Oh, but poor Dodo! poor Dodo!" murmured Grace. "Is she much hurt?"

"The doctor is not sure. He is afraid of internal injuries, and there seems to be something the matter with one of her legs. But we are hoping for the best. Here, take some more of this; the doctor left it for you."

Grace was feeling easier now. Gradually it all came back to her; how she had raced to get home before the storm broke— the pursuing auto, the injured horse and then the heavy fall. She had no recollection of the passing farmer carrying her into the house.

The doctor came into the room.

"Well, how are we coming on?" he asked, cheerfully. "Ah, we have roused up I see," he went on, as he noted Grace sitting up. "I guess it is nothing serious after all. Just a bump on the head; eh?" and he smiled genially, as he took her hand.

"Yes, I feel pretty well, except that my head aches," said Grace, rather wanly.

"I don't blame it. With that fall they say you got it is a wonder you have any head left," and he put out his hand to feel her pulse, nodding in a satisfied sort of way.

"How— how is little Dodo?" faltered Grace.

Dr. Morrison did not answer at once. He seemed to be studying Grace.

"How is she— much hurt?" Grace asked again.

"Well, we will hope for the best," he answered as cheerfully as he could. "I can't say for sure, but her left leg isn't in the shape I'd like to see it. I am afraid the horse stepped on it. But there, don't worry. We will hope for the best."

"Little Dodo's sister is my best chum," explained Grace, the tears coming into her eyes. "Oh, when I saw her running toward Prince I thought I would faint! Poor little dear! I called to her, but she would not mind."

"That was the trouble," explained Mrs. Watson, who had been ministering to Grace, "she seemed just wild to get out in the rain."

"Well, it may yet come out all right," said Dr. Morrison, "but it is not going to be easy. I don't believe you need me any more— er—— "

He paused suggestively.

"Miss Ford is my name," Grace supplied.

"Ah, yes, I am glad to know you. Now I must go back to the little one."

"Could I see her?" asked Grace, impulsively.

"I had rather not— now."

Grace caught her breath convulsively. It was worse than she had feared— not to even see Dodo!

"But you can talk to Paul," went on the physician. "Probably it will do him good to meet a friend. He is rather upset. His aunt, Mrs. Carr, with whom the children were staying for a few days, has telephoned to Mrs. Billette about the accident. Word came back that Nellie— is that the name— the larger sister—— "

"Mollie," said Grace.

"Well, then, Mollie is to come to take Paul home. We cannot move Dodo yet."

"Oh, is Mollie coming here?"

"Yes. You can arrange to go home with her if you like. I believe Mrs. Carr asked for a closed carriage."

"Then, I will go home with Mollie and Paul. Oh, will they ever forgive me?"

"It was not your fault at all!" insisted Mrs. Watson." I saw the whole thing. Please don't worry."

"No, you must not," said the physician. "Well, I will go back to my little patient," and he sighed, for even he was affected by Dodo's suffering.

Grace sought out Paul, who was with his aunt, whom Grace knew slightly. Mrs. Carr greeted her warmly, and put her arms about her in sympathy. Paul looked up at the familiar face and asked:

"Oo dot any tandy?"

"No, dear," said Grace, gently, "but I'll get you some soon. Mollie will bring some, perhaps."

With this promise Paul was content, and Mrs. Carr left him with Grace.

Poor Grace! With all the whirl that her head was in, feeling as wretched as she did, one thought was uppermost in her mind— the papers in the saddlebag. So much might happen to the valuable documents that were needed now— this very instant, perhaps— by her father. She almost wanted to go out in the storm and search for Prince.

"But perhaps he ran straight home to the stable," she reasoned. "In that case it will be all right, if only they think to go out and get them from the saddle, and take them to papa. Oh, if only Will were home from that ball game. What can I do? The telephone! They will be worried when they see Prince come home, cut, and will think I am badly hurt. I must let them know at once."

Mrs. Carr took her unexpected guest to the telephone, and Grace was soon talking to her mother.

"Don't worry, Momsey," she said. "Prince ran away with me— an auto hit him— now don't faint, I am all right. I'm at Mollie's Aunt Kittie's. Poor Dodo is hurt, I'll tell you about that later. But, listen. Go out to the stable— I suppose Prince ran there: Get those papers from the saddle, and send them to papa at once. Grandma's papers. They are very important. What? Prince has not come home? Oh, what can have become of him? Those missing papers! Oh, telephone to papa at once! He must do something," and Grace let the receiver fall from her nerveless hand as she looked out into the storm. The rain, after a long dry spell, was coming down furiously.

CHAPTER V

THE GEM

Grace and Mollie were riding home in the carriage that had been sent to bring Mrs. Billette to the home of her relative, for the anxious mother, on hearing that Dodo could not be moved, had come to look after the injured child. Paul went home with his sister. He was munching contentedly on some candy, and all thought of the recent accident and scare had vanished in the present small and sweet happiness.

"Oh, it must have been perfectly dreadful, Grace," said Mollie, sympathetically. "Perfectly terrible!"

"It was! And are you sure you don't feel resentful toward me?"

"The idea! Certainly not. It was poor Dodo's fault, in a way; but I blame those motorists more than anyone else. They should be found."

"They certainly made a lot of trouble," admitted Grace. "But I would rather find Prince than them. I wonder where he could have run to?"

"Oh, probably not far, after he got over being frightened. Doubtless you'll hear of his being found, and then you can send for him, and recover the papers."

"If only the saddle doesn't come off, and get lost," said Grace. "That would be dreadful, for there would be no telling where to look for it."

"Most likely it would be along some road. Prince would probably keep to the highways, and if the girth should break and the saddle come off it would be seen. Then, by the papers in the pockets, persons could tell to whom it belonged."

"That is just it. Papa doesn't want anyone to see those papers. Some of them have to be kept secret. Oh, I know he will feel dreadful about the loss, and so will Grandma! It was partly her property that was involved in the transaction."

"But they can't blame you."

"I hope not. I'll never be forgiven by Will for letting Prince throw me and run away, though. He'll never let me take him again."

"It was partly Will's fault for not doing the errand himself," declared Mollie, with energy. "Then this might not have happened. Of course I don't mean," she added hastily, "that I blame him in the least for what happened to Dodo. But I mean the papers might not have been lost, for he would likely have carried them in his coat pocket, and not in the saddle."

"That is what I should have done, I suppose," spoke Grace with a sigh. "But my riding habit had no pocket large enough. Oh, dear! I'm afraid it will be spoiled by the mud and rain," for she had left it at Mrs. Carr's and had borrowed a dress to wear home in the carriage, a dress that was rather incongruous in conjunction with her riding boots and derby hat.

"It can be cleaned," consoled Mollie. "No, Paul, not another bit of candy. Don't give him any, Grace. He'll be ill, and as I'll have to look after him when mamma is away I don't want to have it any harder than necessary."

"Me ikes tandy," remarked Paul. "Dodo ikes tandy too. Why not Dodo come wif us?" His big eyes looked appealing at his sister, and her own filled with tears, while those of Grace were not dry.

"Poor little Dodo," said Mollie. Then with a smile, and brushing away her tears, she spoke more brightly, "but we must not be gloomy. I just know she will be all right."

"I shall never cease praying that she will," spoke Grace, softly.

They were splashing home through the mud. The rain was still coming down, but not so hard. The long, dry spell had broken, and it seemed that a continued wet one had set in.

Grace was left at her house, where she found Amy and Betty ready to sympathize with her. Her father was there also, and Will. Both looked grave.

Seeing that family matters awaited discussion, Amy and Betty soon took their leave, after being assured that Grace was all right, except for a stiffness and a few cuts caused by the fall. A carriage took the two girls to their homes. Mollie had gone on with Paul.

"What will happen if we can't find the papers?" asked Grace of her father, when she had explained everything.

"Well, there will be a lot of trouble," he said, "and of course the whole matter will have to be held up. In the meanwhile, even if the other interests do not get the documents, they may make it unpleasant for us. I wish, Will, that you had done this errand yourself— not that I blame you Grace," he said quickly, "but Will knew how very important it was."

"I'm very sorry, Dad. I'll never cut business for a ball game again, and I'll do all I can to help out. I'm sure Prince will soon come home, though, and it will be all right. I'll go out to the stable now, and if he isn't there I'll saddle Toto and go hunting. I'll start from where the accident happened, and trace Prince. Lucky he's pure white, he'll show up well, even in the dark."

"No, I don't want you to do that," objected Mr. Ford. "You may go to the stable, if you like, but don't start any search until morning. In the meanwhile we may hear something, or he may come back. It's too bad a night to go out. But let this be a lesson to you, Will."

"I will; yes, sir. Poor little Sis, I can't tell you how sorry I am. Are you much hurt?" and Will laid his hand tenderly on her head. She winced, for he had touched a bruised place.

"Don't worry," she said, as brightly as she could. "I am all right, and the papers may be found. It is poor little Dodo I feel so badly about. She— she may be a cripple, the doctor says."

"No!" exclaimed Will, aghast.

"It seems terrible, but that is his opinion."

"Oh, they can do such wonderful things in surgery now a-days," said Mrs. Ford, "that I'm sure, in such a young child, there are many chances in her favor. Don't worry, daughter dear. Now you must go to bed, or you will be ill over this. Those motorists ought to be punished, if any one is."

"Yes," agreed Mr. Ford. "Now I must see what I can do to offset this loss. You don't suppose, do you Grace, that those men could have had any object in getting those papers away from you?"

"What do you mean?" asked Grace, in wonderment.

"I mean, did they seem to follow you— as if they had knowledge that the papers would be transferred to-day, and were determined to get them?"

"I don't think so, Daddy. I'm sure they didn't follow me. They just seemed to come out of the storm— trying to get away from it— as I was doing. I'm sure it was all an accident— just carelessness.

"Very likely. I was foolish to suggest it, but so much depends on those papers that I don't know just what to think. But there, Grace," as he kissed her, "you must rest yourself. I will think of a way out, I'm sure. Will, come with me. I may need you to make some memoranda while I telephone," and he and his son went to the library.

Morning did not see Prince in the stable, and all that day Will searched without result. Many had seen the white horse flying wildly past, but that was all. Some said the saddle was still on, others that it had come off. Mr. Ford was much exercised over the loss of the papers.

He did what he could to hold back the business, but there was a prospect of loss and considerable trouble if the documents were not eventually found. The opposing interests learned of the halt, and tried to take advantage of it. They were, however, only partly successful.

In the meanwhile, after several days had passed, Dodo grew well enough to be brought home. The chief injury was to her leg, and there was grave danger of it being permanently lame. As soon as she was in better condition it was decided to have a noted specialist treat her.

Prince remained missing, nor was there any report of the saddle being located, though Mr. Ford offered a liberal reward for that, or the return of the horse.

Betty had telephoned for her three friends. Her voice held in it the hint of pleasure and mystery both, but to all inquiries of what was wanted she returned only the answer:

"Come and see. I want you to meet some one."

It was two weeks after the accident, and, in a great measure, the bitter memories of it had passed. Dodo was doing as well as could be expected, and, save for a slight limp, Grace had fully recovered.

The three chums— "graces" Will called them— arrived at Betty's house at the same time. With sparkling eyes she led them into the parlor.

"But what is it?" whispered Amy.

"If it's a strange young man, I'm not going to go and meet him," said Mollie, with quick decision.

"It's a man, but not young, and I think you'll be glad to meet him," answered Betty.

Grace instinctively looked at her dress.

"Oh, you're all right!" cried Betty. Then she threw open the parlor door. "Here they are, Uncle Amos!" she cried, gaily, and the girls beheld a rather grizzled, elderly man, with tanned face and hands, and wrinkled cheeks, like an apple that has kept all winter, with the merriest blue eyes imaginable, and when he spoke there sounded the heartiest voice that could well fit into the rather small parlor.

"Avast there!" he cried, as he saw the girls. "So these are your consorts; eh, Bet? They do you proud! May I be keel-hauled if I've seen a prettier set of sails on a craft in a long while. It's good rigging— good rigging," and he glanced particularly at the dresses.

Betty presented her friends in turn, and Mr. Martin had something odd to say to each as he shook hands heartily.

"Uncle Amos has brought the— surprise," said Betty. "But even yet he won't tell me what it is."

"If I did it wouldn't be a surprise!" he protested. "But I'm all prepared to pilot you down to where she is. She's in the offing, all fitted for a cruise. All she needs is a captain and crew, and I think Bet here will be the one, and you girls the other. I may ship as cook or cabin boy, if you'll have me, but that is as may be. Now, if you're ready we'll go down to the dock and see how the tide is."

"But we have no tide here, Uncle Amos," spoke Betty.

"What! No tide! What sort of a place is it without a tide? I'm disappointed, lass, disappointed!"

"We'll try and have one made for you," said Mollie, with a laugh.

"That's it! That's the way to talk. Salt water and a tide would make any place, even a desert— er— er— what is it I want to say, Bet?"

"I don't know, Uncle, unless that it would make the desert blossom like the rose."

"That's it— a rose. You luffed just at the right time. Well, ladies, all hands have been piped to quarters, so we'll start. It's nearly four bells, and I told the mate I'd be there by then. Let's start."

And start they did. On the way toward the river, whither Mr. Marlin insisted on leading the girls, Betty explained how her uncle had arrived unexpectedly that day, and had talked mysteriously about the surprise.

"It's a boat— I'm sure it is," said Mollie.

"Oh, he'd talk that same way about an automobile or an airship," said Betty. "He calls everything, 'she,' and if it was an auto he'd 'anchor' it near the river just to be close to the water he loves so much."

"What if it's an airship?" asked Amy.

"I shall— learn to run it!" declared Betty.

"Never!"

"Yes I shall."

"Let us hope it is but a rowboat then," sighed Amy.

They went out on the public dock in the Argono River. At the string piece was tied what the girls saw was one of the neatest motor boats that, as Will said afterward, "ever ate a gasoline sandwich."

There was a trunk cabin, an ample cockpit at the stern, a little cooking galley, a powerful motor, complete fittings and everything that the most exacting motor boat enthusiast could desire.

"There she is!" cried Mr. Marlin. "There's the surprise, Bet. I got her for you! I named her the Gem— for she is a gem. Aside from an ocean steamer there's no better boat built. I saw to it myself. I've been planning that for you for years. And there you are. The Gem is yours. I want you girls to take a cruise in her, and if you don't have a good time it will be your own fault. There's the Gem for you, Betty. Let's go aboard and see if that rascally mate has grub ready. There's the Gem!" and he led the way toward the beautiful boat. The girls simply gasped with delight, and Betty turned pale— at least Grace said so.

CHAPTER VI

READY FOR A CRUISE

"What a pretty cabin!" cried Mollie.

"And see the places to put things!" exclaimed Betty.

"Places to put things!" fairly snorted Mr. Marlin, or to give him his proper title, Captain Marlin. "Places! Huh! Lockers, young ladies! Lockers! That's where you put things. The aft starboard locker, the for'd port locker. You must learn sea lingo if you're to cruise in the Gem."

The girls were still aboard the new motor boat. They could not seem to leave it since Betty had been told that it was a gift from her uncle. They inspected every part, turned the wheel, daintily touched the shining motor, and even tried the bunks.

"There is room for five in the cabin," said Betty, looking about. "If we wanted to take another girl with us we could, when we go cruising."

"Or a chaperone," added Grace. "We may have to do that, you know."

"Well, we can," admitted Betty. "The question is, shall we go on a cruise?"

"Ask us!" exclaimed Mollie with a laugh. "Just ask us!"

"I do ask you," retorted the little captain of the Gem. "Girls, you are hereby invited to accompany me on a cruise to go— Oh, where can we go?"

"To Rainbow Lake, of course," said Grace, promptly. "We can go down the river into the lake, motor about it, go out into the lower river if we want to, camp on an island or two, if we like, and have a general good time."

"That's the way to talk!" cried Captain Marlin. "And I'll come with you part of the time. There's some extra bunks back here maybe you didn't see," and he showed them three folding ones in the cockpit back of the trunk cabin, where awnings could be stretched in stormy weather, enclosing that part of the craft.

"But what makes the boat go?" asked gentle Amy.

"The motor makes it 'mote,'" spoke Betty. "It's up in front; isn't it, Uncle Amos?"

"Up in front! There you go again, Bet. Up in front! You mean for'ard; up for'ard!"

"That's right, Uncle, I forgot. Come, we'll show these girls where the motor is," and she led the way to where the machinery was enclosed in a large compartment in the bow, close by hinged wing-covers.

The motor, one of three cylinders, was a self-starter, but by means of a crank and chain could be started from the steering platform, just aft of the trunk cabin, in case of emergency. There was a clutch, so that the motor could be set in motion without starting the boat, until the clutch, set for forward or reverse motion, had been adjusted, just as the motor of an automobile can be allowed to run without the car itself moving.

"And what a dear little stove in the kitchen!" exclaimed Betty, as the girls looked in the cooking compartment— it was not much more than a compartment.

"Kitchen!" cried Captain Marlin. "That isn't a kitchen!"

"What is it?" Amy wanted to know.

"The galley, lass, the galley. That's where we cook aboard a ship, in the galley. There's an alcohol and oil stove combined. You can have chafing dish parties— is that what you call them? and he laughed.

"That's right, Uncle," cried Betty. "And see the— what are we supposed to call these?" and she pointed to pots, pans, dishes and other utensils that hung around the galley.

"Oh, call 'em galley truck, that's as good a name as any," said the old captain. "Do you like this, Bet?"

"Like it, Uncle Amos! It's the dearest little boat in the world. I don't deserve it. You are so good to get it for me, and it was such a surprise."

"Yes, I calculated it would be a surprise, all right. But I didn't forget that you always wanted to be a sailor, and so when I got the chance, I made up my mind I'd get you something worth while before I got sent to Davy Jones' locker."

"Where is that?" asked Amy, innocently.

"Oh, he means before he got drowned, or something like that," explained Betty. "Oh, Uncle Amos, you're a dear!" and she kissed him, somewhat to his confusion.

"So I got a man to build this boat to suit my ideas," went on the old seaman. "It's equipped for salt water, if so be you should ever want to take a trip to sea."

"Never!" cried Mollie.

"Well, you never can tell," he said sagely. "After she was finished I had him ship her here, and then I got her into the water. I will say, that, for her size, she is a sweet little craft. And I hope you'll like her, Bet."

"Like her! Who could help it? Uncle you're a—— "

"No more kissing, Bet. I'm too old for that."

"The idea! Oh, girls, aren't the bunks too cute for anything!" and Betty sat down on one.

"And the dining room— may I call it that?" Grace timidly asked of the captain.

"Well, saloon is a better word, but let it go," he murmured. "Now, what do you say to a little run down the river? It will give you an idea of how to handle her."

"Oh, how lovely!" cried Betty. "Let's go, girls."

"That man is from the firm that built the craft," went on the former sailor. "He'll show you all the wrinkles," and he motioned to a man standing near.

Lines were cast off, the motor started, the clutch thrown in and then, with Captain Betty at the wheel, her uncle standing near to instruct her, the Gem started down the stream, attracting not a little attention.

"This is a sea wheel," explained the captain. "That is, you turn it the opposite way to what you want the boat to go. I wouldn't have a land-lubber's wheel on any boat I built. So don't forget, Bet, your boat shifts opposite to the way you turn the wheel."

"I'll remember, Uncle."

With dancing eyes and flushed faces, the girls sat in the cockpit back, or "aft," of the trunk cabin, and watched Betty steer. She did very well, for she had had some practice in a small motor boat the girls occasionally hired.

"Oh, I couldn't have had anything in the world I wanted more than this!" she cried to her uncle. "It is just great!"

"And you think you girls will go for a cruise?"

"I am sure we will, and as soon as we can. It will be the very thing for the hot summer."

"Wouldn't Will just love this?" sighed Grace.

"Perhaps Betty will invite him and Allen Washburn and Percy Falconer to come along on a trip or two," said Mollie, with a wink at her chums as she mentioned Percy's name. The latter was a foppish young man about town, who tried to be friendly with Betty; but she would have none of him.

"Never Percy!" she declared. "I'll ask Will, of course, and Frank Haley, but—— "

"Not Allen?" inquired Amy, mischievously, for it was no great secret that Betty really liked Allen, a young law student, and that he was rather attentive to her.

"Which way shall I steer to pass that boat, Uncle?" asked Betty, to change a subject that was getting too personal.

"Port," he answered briefly.

"And that is——" she hesitated.

"The left," he answered quickly. "It's easy if you think that the letter L comes before the letter P and that L is the beginning of left. Port means left, always."

"I'm sure it's easy to say left and right," commented Grace, who was eating a chocolate.

"Hum!" exclaimed the old captain, disapprovingly.

The Gem proved worthy of her name. The girls made a little trip about the river, and then Captain Marlin, on learning that there was a boat house and dock on the property of Mollie's mother, steered the craft there, where it would be tied up until the girls started on their cruise.

And that they would cruise was fully decided on in the next few days. Now that the great surprise was known, plans were made to spend some time on the lake and river in the new craft.

The wonder and delight of it grew. Each day the girls discovered something different about Betty's boat. It was most complete, and practical. The boys were in transports over it, and when Will and his chum Frank Haley were allowed to steer they could not talk enough about it.

Preparations for the cruise went on apace. Captain Marlin oversaw them at odd times, for he was in business, and made trips between New York and Deepdale.

In the meanwhile Grace fully recovered from the runaway accident. Not so poor Dodo, however, and it was feared that the little girl would have to be operated on.

"When?" asked Betty, thinking that this would spoil Mollie's trip.

"Oh, not for some time," was the answer. "They are going to try everything else first."

Some of the mothers arranged to go along on part of the cruises, and other married ladies volunteered for the remaining days, so the girls would be properly chaperoned. Then began the final preparations.

"And if you see anything of Prince on your wanderings, don't fail to catch him," begged Will, a few nights before the day set for the start.

"We will," promised Grace.

The telephone rang— they were all at Grace's house. She answered.

"Yes, yes. This is Mr. Ford's residence. What's that— you have a stray white horse? Oh, Will, maybe it's Prince!" and she turned eagerly to her brother. "A man from Randall's livery stable is on the wire. He says they have a white horse that was just brought in. A farmer says he found him wandering about the country. Hurry down there!"

CHAPTER VII

STOWAWAYS

"Then he isn't your horse, Will?" It was Mr. Randall, the livery stable keeper who asked this question as Grace's brother critically inspected an animal that was led out for view in the stable.

"No, that isn't Prince," was the answer. "He looks enough like him, though, to be his brother. I'm much obliged for calling me up."

Will had hastened down after the receipt of the message Grace had taken over the telephone, for Randall's, as had all livery stables in the vicinity, had been notified to be on the lookout for the strangely missing animal, who might be wandering about the country carrying valuable documents in the saddle pocket.

"Two young fellows drove in here with this horse, and asked if they could put him up for a while," went on the livery man. "I didn't like the way they acted, but I didn't see how they could do me any harm, so I said they could. Then I got to thinking about your horse, and I called up. I'm sorry to disappoint you."

"I'm sorry myself, Mr. Randall. I can't imagine where Prince can be."

"Oh, some one has him, you may be sure of that. A valuable horse like that wouldn't go long without an owner. Maybe some one has changed his color— dyed him, you know. That has been done. Of course the dye doesn't last forever, but in this case it might hold long enough for the excitement to subside."

"Well, if they'll send back the papers, they can keep the horse, as much as I like Prince," Spoke Will, as he started home to tell his sister and the girls the details of the unsuccessful trip. He had already briefly telephoned to them of his disappointment.

"Oh, isn't it too bad!" cried Horace, as Will came back. "Do you really think, Will, that some one has Prince and the papers?"

"It looks so, Sis. Has dad said anything lately?"

"No, I believe the other side hasn't done anything, either, which might go to show that they haven't the papers. But it's all so uncertain. Well, girls," and she turned to her guests, "I guess we can finish talking about what we will wear."

"Which, means that I must become like a tree in Spring," sighed Will.

"How is that?" asked Amy. "Is it a riddle?"

"He means he must leave— that's an old one," mocked Mollie. "Any candy left, Grace?" and Mollie, who had been artistically posing on a divan, crossed the room to where Grace sat near a table strewn with books and papers, a box of chocolates occupying the place of honor.

"Of course there are some left," answered Grace.

"Which is a wonder!" exclaimed Will, as he hurried out of the room before his sister could properly punish him.

"Will we wear our sailor costumes all the while?" asked Betty, for the girls, as soon as the cruise in the Gem had been decided on, had had suits made on the sailor pattern, with some distinctive changes according to their own ideas. Betty had been informally named "Captain," a title with which she was already more or less familiar.

"Well, of course we'll wear our sailors— middy blouses and all— while we're aboard— ahem!" exclaimed Betty, with exaggerated emphasis. "Notice my sea terms," she directed.

"Oh, you are getting to be a regular sailor," said Mollie. "I've got a book home with a lot of sea words in. I'm going to learn them, and also how to tie sailor knots."

"Then maybe your shoe laces won't come undone so easily," challenged Grace, and she thrust out her own dainty shoe, and tapped the patent leather tip of Mollie's tie.

"It is not!" came indignantly from Billy.

"It is loose, and it may trip you," advised Amy, and Mollie, relinquishing a candy she had selected with care, bent over. The moment she did so Grace appropriated the Sweetmeat.

"As I said," went on Betty, "we can wear our sailor suits when aboard. When we go ashore we can wear our other dresses."

"I'm not going to take a lot of clothes," declared Grace, getting ready to defend herself against Mollie when the latter should have discovered the loss of the tidbit. "One reason we had such a good time on our 'hike,' was that we didn't have to bother with a lot of clothes. We shall enjoy ourselves much more, I think."

"And I agree with you, my dear," said Betty. "Besides, we haven't room for many things on the Gem. Not that I want to deprive you of anything," she added, quickly, for she realized her position as hostess. "But really, to be comfortable, we don't want to be crowded, and if we each take our smallest steamer trunk I think that will hold everything, and then we'll have so much more room. The trunks will go under the bunks very nicely."

"Then we'll agree to that," said Mollie. "Two sailor suits, so we can change; one nice shore dress, if we are asked anywhere, and one rough-and-ready suit for work— or play."

"Good!" cried Amy. "As for shoes—— "

"Who took my candy?" cried Mollie, discovering the loss of the one she had put down to tie her lace. "It was the only one in the box and—— "

Grace laughed, and thus acknowledged her guilt.

"I've got another box up stairs," she said. "I'll get it," which she proceeded to do.

"Grace, you'll ruin your digestion with so much sweet stuff," declared Betty, seriously. "Really you will."

"I suppose so, my dear; but really I can't seem to help it."

"As captain of the Gem I'm going to put you on short rations, as soon as our cruise begins," said Betty. "It will do you good."

"Perhaps it will," Grace admitted, with a sigh. "I'll be glad to have you do it. Now, is everything arranged for?"

"Well," answered Betty, "This is how it stands: We are to start on Tuesday, and motor down the river, taking our time. Aunt Kate will go with us for the first few days, and, as you know, we have arranged for other chaperones on the rest of the cruise. We will eat aboard, when we wish to, or go ashore for meals if it's more convenient. Of course we will sleep aboard, tying up wherever we can find the best place.

"I plan to get to Rainbow Lake about the second day, and we will spend a week or so on that, visiting the different points of interest— I'm talking like a guide book, I'm afraid," she apologized with a smile.

"That's all right— go on, Little Captain," said Amy.

"Well, then, I thought we might do a little camping on Triangle, or one of the other islands, say, for three or four days."

"Don't camp on Triangle," suggested Grace. "There are too many people there, and we can't be free. There'd always be a lot of curious ones about, looking at our boat, and our things, and all that."

"Very well, we can pick out some other island," agreed Betty. "You know there is to be a regatta, and water sports, on Rainbow Lake just about the time we get there, and we can take part, if we like."

"Do! And if we can get in a race we will!" cried Mollie, with sparkling eyes.

"Uncle Amos has promised to be with us some of the time," went on Betty. "And I suppose we will have to invite the boys occasionally, just for the day, you know."

"Oh, don't make too much of an effort," exclaimed Mollie. "Allen Washburn said he might be going abroad this summer, anyhow."

"Who said anything about him?" demanded Betty, with a blush.

"No one; but I can read— thoughts!" answered Mollie, helping herself to another candy.

"I meant Will and Frank," went on Betty. "They would like to come."

"I'm sure of it," murmured Grace— literally murmured— for she had a marshmallow chocolate between her white teeth.

"How about Percy Falconer?" asked Amy, mischievously. "I am sure he would wear a perfectly stunning— to use his own word— sailor suit."

"Don't you dare mention his name!" cried Betty. "I detest him."

"Let us have peace!" quoted Mollie. "Then it's all settled— we'll cruise and camp and—— "

"Cruise again," finished Betty. "For we have two months, nearly, ahead of us; and we won't want to camp more than a week, perhaps. We can go into the lower river, below Rainbow Lake, too, I think. It is sometimes rough there, but the Gem is built for rough weather, Uncle Amos says."

The girls discussed further the coming trip and then, as each one had considerable to do still to get ready, they went gaily to their several homes.

Will came in later, looked moodily into an empty candy box, and exclaimed:

"You might have left a few, Sis."

"What! With four girls? Will, you expect too much."

"I wonder if I'll be disappointed in expecting a ride in Betty's boat?"

"No, we are going to be very kind and forgiving, and ask you and Frank. I believe Betty is planning it."

"Good for her. She's a brick! I wish, though, that we could clear up this business about the papers."

"So do I. Wasn't it unfortunate?"

"Yes. How is little Dodo coming on?"

"Not very well, I'm afraid," and Grace sighed. The injury to the child hung like a black shadow, over her. "The specialist is going to see her soon again. He has some hopes."

"That's good; cheer up, Sis! Come on down town and I'll blow you to a soda."

"'Blow'— such slang!"

"It's no worse than 'hike.'"

"I suppose not. Wait until I fix my hair."

"Good night!" gasped Will. "I don't want to wait an hour. I'm thirsty!"

"I won't be a minute."

"That's what they all say." But Grace was really not very long.

In answer to a telephone message next day the three chums assembled at Betty's house.

"I think we will go for a little trip all by ourselves on the river this afternoon," she said. "Every time so far Uncle Amos, or one of the boys, has been with us. We must learn to depend on ourselves."

"That is so," agreed Mollie. "It will be lovely, it is such a nice day."

"Just a little trip," went on Betty, "to see if we have forgotten anything of our instructions."

Just then a clock chimed out eight strokes, in four sections of two strokes each.

"Eight o'clock!" exclaimed Amy. "Your timepiece must be wrong, Betty. It's nearer noon than eight."

"That's eight bells— twelve o'clock," said the pretty hostess, with a laugh. "That's a new marine clock Uncle Amos gave me for the Gem. It keeps time just as it is done on shipboard."

"And when it's eight o'clock it's twelve," murmured Grace. "Do you have to do subtraction and addition every time the clock strikes?"

"No, you see, eight bells is the highest number. It is eight bells at eight o'clock, at four o'clock and at twelve— either at night, or in the daytime."

"Oh, I'm sure I'll never learn that," sighed Amy.

"It is very simple," explained Betty, "Now it is eight bells— twelve o'clock noon. At half-past twelve it will be one bell. Then half an hour later, it will be two bells— one o'clock. You see, every half hour is rung."

"Worse and worse!" protested Mollie. "What time is it at two o'clock?"

"Four bells," answered Betty, promptly. "Why, I thought four bells was four o'clock," spoke Grace.

"No, eight bells is four o'clock in the after-noon, and also four o'clock in the morning. Then it starts over again with one bell, which would be half-past four; two bells, five; three hells, half-past five, and—— "

"Oh, stop! stop! you make my head ache!" cried Grace, "Has anyone a chocolate cream?"

They all laughed.

"You'll soon understand it," said Betty.

"It's worse than remembering to turn the steering wheel the opposite way you want to go," objected Mollie. "But we are young— we may learn in time."

The Gem was all ready to start, and the girls, reaching Mollie's house, in the rear of which, at a river dock, the boat was tied, went aboard.

"Have you enough gasoline?" asked Amy, as she helped Betty loosen the mooring ropes.

"Yes, I telephoned for the man to fill the tank this morning. Look at the automatic gauge and see if it isn't registered," for there was a device on the boat that did away with the necessity of taking the top off the tank and putting a dry stick down, to ascertain how much of the fluid was on hand.

"Yes, it's full," replied Amy.

"Then here we go!" cried Betty, as the other girls shoved off from the dock, and the Little Captain pushed the automatic starter. With a throb and a roar the motor took up its staccato song of progress. When sufficiently away from the dock Betty let in the clutch, and the craft shot swiftly down the stream.

"Oh, this is glorious!" cried Mollie, as she stood beside Betty, the wind fanning her cheeks and blowing her hair in a halo about her face.

"Perfect!" echoed Amy. "And even Grace has forgotten to eat a chocolate for ten minutes."

"Oh, let me alone— I just want to enjoy this!" exclaimed the candy-loving maiden. They had been going along for some time, taking turns steering, saluting other craft by their whistle, and being saluted in turn.

"Let's go sit down on the stern lockers," proposed Grace after a while, the lockers being convertible into bunks on occasion. As the girls went aft, there came from the forward cabin a series of groans.

"What's that?" cried Mollie.

"Some one is in there!" added Grace, clinging to Amy.

Again a groan, and some suppressed laughter.

"There are stowaways aboard!" cried Betty. "Girls, we must put ashore at once and get an officer!" and she shifted the wheel.

CHAPTER VIII

A HINT OF GHOSTS

"Who can they be?"

"It sounds like more than one!"

"Anyhow, they can't get out!" It was Betty who said this last, Grace and Mollie having made the foregoing remarks. And Betty had no sooner detected the presence on the Gem of stowaways than she had pulled shut the sliding door leading into the trunk cabin, and had slid the hatch cover forward, fastening both with the hasps.

"They'll stay there until we get an officer," she explained. "Probably they are tramps!"

"Oh, Betty!" It was a startled trio who cried thus.

"Well, maybe only boys," admitted the Little Captain, as a concession. "They may have come aboard, intending to go off for a ride in my boat, and we came just in time. They hid themselves in there. That's what I think about it."

"And you are exactly right, Betty!" unexpectedly exclaimed a voice from behind the closed door. "That's exactly how it happened. We're sorry— we'll be good!"

"Dot any tandy?" came in childish accents from another of the stowaways.

The girls looked at one another in surprise. Then a light dawned on them.

"Don't have us arrested!" pleaded another voice, with laughter in it.

"That's Will!" cried Grace.

"And Frank Haley!" added Amy.

"And Paul!" spoke Mollie. "Little brother, are you in there?"

They listened for the answer.

"Ess, I'se here. Oo dot any tandy?"

"The boys put him up to that," whispered Grace.

Betty slid open the door, and there stood Will and Frank, with Paul between them. The boys looked sheepish— the child expectant.

"I ought to put you two in irons," spoke Betty, but with a smile. "I believe that is what is done with stowaways."

"Couldn't you ship us before the mast?" asked Will, with a chuckle. "That is the very latest manner of dealing with gentlemen who are unexpectedly carried off on a cruise."

"Unexpectedly?" asked Grace, with meaning.

"Certainly," went on her brother. "We just happened to come aboard to look over the boat, Frank and I. Then Paul wandered down here, and before we knew it we heard you coming. For a joke we hid under the bunks, and thought to give you a little scare. We didn't think you were going for a spin, but when you started we just made up our minds to remain hidden until you got far enough out so you wouldn't want to turn back. That's what stowaways always do," he concluded.

"I'm glad you do things as they ought to be done," remarked Betty, swinging the wheel over. She had changed her mind about going ashore after an officer.

"Dot any tandy?" asked Paul again.

"Do give him some, if you have any," begged Will. "We bribed him with the promise of some to keep quiet. Surely he has earned it."

"Here," said Grace, impulsively, as she extended some to the tot, who at once proceeded to get as much outside his face as into his mouth. Then she added rather sternly: "I don't think this was very nice of you, Will. Betty didn't invite you aboard."

"Oh, that's all right!" said Betty, good-naturedly. "I'm glad they're here now— let them stay. I'm so relieved to find they aren't horrid tramps. Besides, the motor may not— mote— and we'd need help— We will make them work their passage."

"Aye, aye, sir!" exclaimed Frank, pulling his front hair, sailor-fashion. "Shall we holystone the decks, or scrub the lee scuppers? You have but to command us!" and he bowed exaggeratedly.

"You may steer if you like," said Betty, graciously, and Frank and Will were both so eager for the coveted privilege that they had to draw lots to settle who should stand the first "trick."

For Betty's boat was a beauty, and the envy not only of Will and Frank, but of every other boy in Deepdale. So it is no wonder these two stowed themselves away for the chance of getting a ride in the fine craft.

"Let's go down as far as one of the lake islands," suggested Will, who was now at the wheel, his turn having come.

"Can we get back in time?" asked Betty. "The river is high now, after the rains, and there's quite a current."

"Oh, the Gem has speed and power enough to do it in style," declared Frank. "We'll guarantee to get you back in time for supper."

"All right," agreed the captain, who had gone into the cabin with the other girls.

"And perhaps we can pick out a good place to go camping," added Grace.

The boys directed the course of the boat, while the girls looked after Paul.

"We must stop at some place where there is a telephone," said Mollie, "and I'll send word to mamma that Paul is with me. She may be worried."

"Yes, do," suggested Betty. A little later the girls saw that the boys were approaching a dock, the main one of a small town just below Deepdale.

"Where are you going?" asked Grace of her brother.

"Going to tie up for a minute. Frank and I want to make amends for sneaking aboard, so we thought you'd like some soda. There's a grocery store here that keeps pretty good stuff."

"Oh, yes, I know Mr. Lagg!" exclaimed Mollie. "Barry Lagg is his name. He's real quaint and jolly."

"Then let's go ashore for the soda ourselves, and meet him," suggested Grace. "I am very thirsty. What is Mr. Lagg's special line of jollity?" she asked Mollie.

"Oh, he makes up little verses as he waits on you. You'll see," was Mollie's answer. I often stop in for a little something to eat when I am out rowing. He is a nice old gentleman, very polite, and he has lots of queer stories to tell."

"Has he dot any tandy?" inquired Paul, eagerly.

"Oh, you dear, of course he has!" cried his sister. "You are getting as bad as Grace," and she looked at her chum meaningly.

Will skillfully laid the Gem alongside the dock and soon the little party of young people were trooping up to the store, which was near the river front.

"Ah, good day to you all— good day, ladies and gentlemen, every one, and the little shaver too!" cried Mr. Lagg, with a bow as they entered his shop.

"What will you please to buy to-day? If it's coffee or tea, just walk this way,"

And, with this charming couplet Mr. Lagg started toward the rear of his store, where the aromatic odor of ground coffee indicated that he had spoken truly.

"We'd like some of your good soda," spoke Will.

"Ha, soda. I don't know that I have anything in the line of soda."

"No soda?" exclaimed Frank.

"I mean I haven't made up any poetry about that. I have about almost everything else in my store. Let me see— soda— soda—— "

He seemed searching for a rhyme.

"Pagoda! Pagoda!" laughed Betty.

"That is it!" exclaimed Mr Lagg. "Thank you for the suggestion. Let me see, now. How would this do?

"If you wish to drink of Lagg's fine soda, Just take your seat in a Chinese pagoda!"

"Very good," complimented Will. "We'll dispense with the pagoda if you will dispense the soda."

"Ha! Good again! You are a punster, I see!"

Mr. Lagg laughed genially, and soon provided the party with bottles of deliciously cool soda, and straws through which to partake of it, glasses being voted too prosaic.

There came a protest from Paul, who was sharing the treat.

"I tan't dit no sody!" he cried. "It all bubbles up!"

"No wonder! You are blowing down your straw. Pull up on it, just as if you were whistling backwards," said Mollie.

"Whistling backwards is a distinctly new way of expressing it," commented Frank.

"I dot it!" cried the tot, as the level of his glass began to fall under his efforts— successful this time.

Then, having finished that, he fixed his big eyes on Mr. Lagg, and demanded:

"Oo dot any tandy?"

"Candy!" cried the eccentric store keeper. "Ha, I have a couplet about that.

"If you would feel both fine and dandy, Just buy a pound of Lagg's best candy!"

"That is irresistible!" exclaimed Will. "Trot out a pound of the most select."

"With pleasure," said Mr. Lagg.

Merrily the young people wandered about the store, the girls buying some notions and trinkets they thought they would need on the trip, for Mr. Lagg did a general business.

"What are all you folks doing around here?" asked the storekeeper, when he had waited on some other customers.

"Getting in practice for a cruise," answered Mollie. "Betty, here, is the proud possessor of a lovely motor boat, and we are going to Rainbow Lake soon."

"And camp on an island, too," added Amy. "I know I shall love that."

"Any particular island?" asked Mr. Lagg.

"Elm is a nice one," remarked Will "Why don't you girls try that? It isn't as far as Triangle, and it's nearly as large. It's wilder and prettier, too."

"Know anything about Elm Island, Mr. Lagg?" asked Frank, as he inspected some fishing tackle.

"Well, yes, I might say I do," and Mr. Lagg pursed up his lips.

"Is it a good place?"

"Oh, it's good all right, but——" and he hesitated.

"What is the matter?" demanded Betty quickly. She thought she detected something strange in Mr. Lagg's manner.

"Why, the only thing about it is that it's haunted— there's a ghost there," and as he spoke the storekeeper slipped a generous slice of cheese on a cracker and munched it.

CHAPTER IX

OFF ON THE TRIP

The girls stared blankly at one another. The boys frankly winked at each other, clearly unbelieving.

"Haunted?" Betty finally gasped.

"A ghost?" echoed Amy, falteringly.

"What— what kind?" Grace stammered.

"Why, the usual kind, of course," declared Will. "A ghosty ghost, to be sure. White, with long waving arms, and clanking chains, and all the accessories."

"Stop it!" commanded his sister. "You'll scare Paul," for the child was looking at Will strangely.

"Oh, it's white all right," put in Mr. Lagg, "and some of the fishermen around here did say they heard clanking chains, but I don't take much stock in them. Tell me," he demanded, helping himself to another slice of cheese, "tell me why would anything as light as a ghost— for they're always supposed to float like an airship, you know— tell me why should they want to burden themselves with a lot of clanking chains— especially when a ghost is so thin that the chains would fall right through 'em, anyhow. I don't take no stock in that!"

"But what is this story?" asked Betty. "If we are thinking of camping on Elm Island, we do not want to be annoyed by some one playing pranks; do we, girls?"

"I should say not!" chorused the three.

"Well, of course I didn't see it myself," spoke Mr. Lagg, "but Hi Sneddecker, who stopped there to eat his supper one night when he went out to set his eel pots— Hi told me he seen something tall and white rushing around, and making a terrible noise in the bushes."

"I thought ghosts never made a noise," remarked Grace, languidly. She was beginning to believe now that it was only a poor attempt at a joke.

"Hi said this one did," went on Mr. Lagg, being too interested to quote verses now. "It was him as told me about the clanking chains," he went on, "but, as I said, I don't take no stock in that part."

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