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Title: Betty Gordon at Boarding School - The Treasure of Indian Chasm
Author: Emerson, Alice B., pseud.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Betty Gordon at Boarding School - The Treasure of Indian Chasm" ***

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                    Betty Gordon at Boarding School


                     The Treasure of Indian Chasm

                          BY ALICE B. EMERSON

                                 1921



CONTENTS

     I NEW PLANS

    II NORMA'S LETTER

   III SURPRISING BOB

    IV MORE GOOD-BYES

     V A REGULAR CROSS-PATCH

    VI FINE FEATHERS

   VII FUN AT FAIRFIELDS

  VIII TOO MUCH PARTY

    IX ADJUSTER TOMMY

     X SHADYSIDE SCHOOL

    XI FIRST IMPRESSIONS

   XII THE LOST TREASURE

  XIII THE MYSTERIOUS FOUR

   XIV A SATURDAY RACE

    XV NORMA MAKES REPAIRS

   XVI THE NUTTING PARTY

  XVII CAUGHT IN THE STORM

 XVIII LIBBIE'S SECRET

   XIX BOB'S SOLUTION

    XX THE SECOND DEGREE

   XXI DRAMATICS

  XXII ANOTHER MYSTERY

 XXIII JUST DESERTS

  XXIV BETTY GOES COASTING

   XXV THE TREASURE



BETTY GORDON AT BOARDING SCHOOL



CHAPTER I

NEW PLANS


"Me make you velly nice apple tart. Miss Betty." The Chinese cook
flourished his rolling pin with one hand and swung his apron viciously
with the other as he held open the screen door and swept out some
imaginary flies.

Lee Chang, cook for the bunk house in the oil fields, could do several
things at one time, as he had frequently proved.

The girl, who was watching a wiry little bay horse contentedly crop grass
that grew in straggling whisps about the fence posts, looked up and
showed an even row of white teeth as she smiled.

"I don't think we're going to stay for dinner to-day," she said half
regretfully. "I know your apple tarts, Lee Chang--they are delicious."

The fat Chinaman closed the screen door and went on with his pastry
making. From time to time, as he passed from the table to the oven, he
glanced out. Betty Gordon still stood watching the horse.

"That Bob no come?" inquired Lee Chang, poking his head out of the door
again. Fast developing into a good American, his natural trait of
curiosity gave him the advantage of acquiring information blandly and
with ease.

Betty shaded her eyes with her hand. The Oklahoma sun was pitiless. Far
up the road that ran straight away from the bunk house a faint cloud of
dust was rising.

"He's coming now," said the girl confidently.

Lee Chang grunted and returned to his work, satisfied that whatever Betty
was waiting for would soon be at hand.

"Bake tart 'fore that boy goes away," the Chinaman muttered to himself,
waddling hastily to the oven, opening it, and closing the door again with
a satisfied sniff.

The cloud of dust whirled more madly, rose higher. Out from the center of
it finally emerged a raw-boned white horse that galloped with amazing
awkwardness and incredible speed. Astride him sat a slim, tanned youth
with eyes as blue as Betty Gordon's were dark.

"Got something for you!" he called, waving his arm in the motion of
lasso-throwing. "Catch if you can!"

"Oh, don't!" cried Betty eagerly. "What is it, Bob? Be careful or you'll
break it."

Bob Henderson reined in his mount and slipped to the ground. The white
horse contentedly went to munching dry blades of dusty grass.

"Bob, I do believe you've been silly," said Betty, trying to speak
severely and failing completely because her dimple would deepen
distractingly. "You know I told you not to do it."

"How do you know what I've done?" demanded Bob, placing a square
package in the girl's hands. "Don't scold till you know what you're
scolding about."

Betty, busy with the cord and paper, paused.

"Oh, Bob!" she beamed, her vivid face glowing with a new thought.
"What do you think? I had a letter yesterday from Bobby Littell, and
she's going to boarding school. And, Bob, so am I! Uncle Dick says so.
And, Bob--"

"Yes?" smiled Bob, thinking how the girl's face changed as she talked.
"Go on, Betty."

"Well, Louise is going, too, and they think Libbie will come down
from Vermont. Dear old Libbie--I wonder if she is as incurably
romantic as ever!"

Betty's fingers had worked mechanically while she spoke, and now she had
her parcel undone.

"Why, Bob Henderson!" she gasped, as she drew out a handsome white box
tied with pale blue ribbons and encased in waxed paper.

"I hope they're not stale," said Bob diffidently.

Betty slit the waxed paper and took off the box lid, revealing a
perfectly packed box of expensive chocolates.

"They're beautiful," she declared. "But I never dreamed you would send
East for 'em simply because I happened to say I was hungry for good
candy. Um--um--taste one quick, Bob."

Bob took a caramel and pronounced it not "half bad."

"Uncle Dick's gone somewhere with Dave Thorne," announced Betty, biting
into another candy. "He didn't know when he would get back, and I'm
supposed to ride to the Watterby farm for lunch. It must be after
eleven now."

"Miss Betty!" Lee Chang's voice was persuasive. "Miss Betty, that apple
tart he all baked done now."

"Apple tart?" shouted Bob. "Show me, Lee Chang! I'd rather have a corner
of your pie than all the candy in New York."

"Him for Miss Betty," said the Chinaman gravely.

"But you don't care if I give Bob some, do you?" returned Betty
coaxingly. "See, Lee Chang, Bob gave me these. You take some, and we'll
eat the tart on our way home."

Lee Chang's wish was fulfilled when he placed the flaky tart in
Betty's hands, and he took a candy or two (which he privately
considered rather poor stuff) and watched the girl no longer. From now
on till dinner time Lee Chang's whole attention would be concentrated
on the preparation of an excellent dinner for the men who worked that
section of the oil fields.

"I don't believe I can ride and eat this, after all," decided Betty.
"Let's sit down on the grass and finish it; Clover hasn't finished her
lunch, either."

The little bay horse and the tall, shambling white were amiably straying
up and down the narrow borders of the road, never getting very far away.

"You haven't said a single word about my going to boarding school, Bob,"
Betty said, dropping down comfortably on the dusty grass and breaking the
tart across into two nearly even pieces. "There--take your pie. Don't you
think I'll have fun with the Littell girls?"

"You'll have a lark, but I'm not so sure about the teachers," declared
Bob enthusiastically, an odd little smile quivering on his lips. "With
you and Bobby Littell about, I doubt if the school knows a dull moment."

"Bobby is so funny," dimpled Betty. "She writes that if Libbie comes, her
aunt expects Bobby to look after her. Wait a minute and I'll read you
that part--" Betty took a letter from the pocket of her blouse.
"Listen--

"Aunt Elizabeth has written mother that she hopes I will keep an eye on
Libbie. Now Betty, can you honestly see me trailing around after that
girl who sees a romance in every bush and book and who cries when any one
plays violin music? I'll look after her all right--she'll have to study
French instead of poetry if I'm to be her friend and guide."

       *       *       *       *       *

"But, of course, Bobby does really love Libbie very dearly," said Betty,
folding up the letter and returning it to her pocket. "She wouldn't hurt
her for worlds."

"You'll be a much better guardian for Libbie, if she needs one,"
pronounced Bob, with unexpected shrewdness. "Bobby hasn't much tact,
and she makes Libbie mad. You could probably control her better with
less words."

"Well, I never!" gasped Betty, gazing at Bob with new respect. "I never
knew you thought anything about it."

"Didn't until just now," responded Bob cheerfully. "So Uncle Dick is
willing to let you go, is he? When do you start?"

"You don't mind, do you, Bob?" countered Betty, puzzled. "You sound so
kind of--of funny."

"Don't mean to," said Bob laconically.

Having finished his tart, he lay back and rested his head in his hands in
true masculine contentment.

"I like that blue thing you've got on," he commented lazily. "Did I ever
see it before?"

"Certainly not," Betty informed him. "I've been waiting for you to notice
it. It's wash silk, Bob, and your Aunt Faith said I could have it if I
could do anything with it. She's had it in a trunk for years and years."

"I don't see how you and Aunt Faith could wear the same clothes, she's so
much taller than you are," said Bob, obviously trying to put two and two
together in his mind. "But it looks fine on you, Betty."

Betty smiled at him compassionately.

"Oh, Bob, you're so funny!" she sighed. "I made this blouse all
myself--that is," she corrected, "Mrs. Watterby helped me cut it out and
she sewed the sleeves in after I had basted them in wrong twice, but I
did everything else. There wasn't a scrap of goods left over, either. I
put it on to-day because I wanted you to see me in it."

She was worth seeing, Bob acknowledged to himself. The over-blouse of
blue and white checked silk, slashed at the throat for the crisp black
tie, and the gray corduroy riding skirt and smart tan shoes were at once
suitable and becoming.

"I'll have to have some new clothes for school," declared Betty, who had
a healthy interest in this topic. "We can't wear very fussy things,
though--Bobby sent me the catalogue. Sailor suits for every day, and a
cloth frock for best. And not more than one party dress."

"I asked her when she started," Bob confided to the blank eye of the
white horse now turned dully toward him. "But if she answered me, I
didn't hear."

"I'm going a week from this Friday," announced Betty hastily. "That will
give me a week in Washington, and Mrs. Littell has asked me to stay with
them. I must write to Mrs. Bender to-night and tell her the news; she has
been so anxious for me to go to school again."

"Oh, gee, Betty, that reminds me--" Bob sat up with a jerk and began a
hasty search of his pockets. "When you spoke of Mrs. Bender that reminded
me of Laurel Grove, and Laurel Grove reminded me of Glenside, and that,
of course, made me think of the Guerins--Here 'tis!" and the boy
triumphantly fished out a small letter from an inside pocket of his coat
and tossed it into Betty's lap.

"It's from Norma Guerin!" Betty's expressive voice betrayed her
delight "Why, I haven't heard from her in perfect ages. I wonder what
she has to say."

"Open it and see," advised the practical Bob. "I meant to give you the
letter right away, and first the tart and then the blouse thing-a-bub
drove it out of my mind. I'll lead the horses and you can read as we
walk. Want me to take the plate back to Lee Chang?"

He dashed back to the bunk house, returned the tin, and rejoined Betty,
who was slowly slitting the envelope of her letter with a hairpin. She
had tucked her candy box under her arm, and Bob took the bridles of the
two horses.

"Mercy, what was that?" Betty glanced up startled, as a wild yell sounded
over on their right.

There was a chorus of shouts, the same wild yell repeated, and then,
sudden and without warning, came a dense and heavy rain of blackest oil.

"Oh, Bob, Bob!" There was genuine anguish in Betty's wail of appeal. "My
new blouse--look at it!"

But Bob had no time to look at anything. Action was to be his course.

"It's a premature blast!" he shouted. "Come on, we've got to get out!"



CHAPTER II

NORMA'S LETTER


This was not Betty Gordon's first experience with an oil well set
off prematurely, and while she was naturally excited, she was not at
all afraid.

"Get on Clover!" shouted Bob. "I do wish you'd ever wear a hat--"

Betty laughed a little as she scrambled into her saddle. Bob, mounting
his own horse, wore no hat, but it was a pet grievance of his that Betty
persistently scorned headgear whether riding or walking.

"Gallop!" cried Bob. "Shut your eyes if you want to--Clover will
follow Reuben."

The white horse set off, his awkward lunge carrying him over the ground
swiftly, and the little bay Clover cantered obediently after him. Oil
continued to rain down as they headed toward the north.

Betty closed her eyes, clutching her letter and candy box tightly in both
hands and letting the reins lie idle on her horse's neck. Clover,
galloping now, could be trusted to follow the leading horse.

"Getting better now!" Bob shouted back, turning in his saddle to see that
Betty was safe.

Betty's dark eyes opened and she shook back her hair, making a little
face at the taste of oil in her mouth. She slipped Norma Guerin's letter
into her pocket, glancing down at her blouse as she did so.

"I'm a perfect sight!" she called to Bob dolorously. "I don't believe I
can ever get the oil spots out of this silk."

"Sue the company!" Bob cried, with a grin. "Don't let Clover go to sleep
till we're nearer home, Betty."

The girl urged the little bay forward with a whispered word of
encouragement, and gradually, very gradually, they began to draw out of
the rain of oil.

Betty Gordon was not an Oklahoma girl, though she rode with the
effortless ease of a Westerner. She was an orphan, of New England stock,
and had come from the East to the oil fields to join her one living
relative, a beloved uncle whose interest in oil holdings made an
incessant traveler of him.

This Richard Gordon, "Uncle Dick" to Bob Henderson as well as to Betty,
had found himself unexpectedly made guardian of his little niece at a
time when it was impassible for him to establish a home for her. His time
and skill pledged to the oil company he represented, Mr. Gordon had
solved the problem of what to do with Betty by sending her to spend the
summer with an old childhood friend of his, a Mrs. Peabody who had
married a farmer, reputed well-to-do. Betty's experiences, pleasant and
otherwise, as a member of the Peabody household, have been told in the
first book of this series entitled "Betty Gordon at Bramble Farm; or The
Mystery of a Nobody."

She made some true friends during the months she spent with the Peabodys,
and perhaps the closest, and certainly the most loyal, was Bob Henderson.
A year older than Betty, the fourteen year old Bob, whose life at Bramble
Farm had been harsh and unlovely and preceded by nothing brighter than a
drab existence at the county poor farm, became the champion of the
dark-eyed girl who had smiled at him and suggested that because they were
both orphans they had a common bond of friendship.

How Bob Henderson got track of his mother's people and what steps were
necessary before he could discover a definite clue, have been related in
the second volume of the series, entitled, "Betty Gordon in Washington;
or Strange Adventures in a Great City."

In this book Bob and Betty came together again in the Capitol City, and
Betty acquired a second "Uncle Dick" in the person of Richard Littell,
the father of three lively daughters who innocently kidnapped Betty, only
to have the entire family become her firm friends. While in Washington
Bob and Betty each received good news that sent them trustfully to
Oklahoma, there to meet Uncle Dick Gordon, and later, Bob's own aunts.

The story of the "Saunders' place" and of the unscrupulous sharpers who
tried to cheat the old ladies who were the sisters of Bob's dead mother,
has been told in the third book about Betty Gordon. This book, "Betty
Gordon in the Land of Oil; or The Farm that Was Worth a Fortune," relates
the varied experiences of Bob and Betty in the oil section of Oklahoma
and the long train of events that culminated in the sale of the Saunders
farm for ninety thousand dollars. Uncle Dick had been made guardian of
Bob, at his own and the aunts' request, so Bob was now a ward with Betty.

The possession of money, though it meant the difference between
poverty and debt and great comfort, had, to date, made very little
change in the mode of living of Miss Faith and Miss Charity Saunders,
or of their nephew.

This morning he had been delayed by some extra work on the farm, for the
oil company did not take possession till the first of the month, now a
week away, and Betty had ridden to the oil fields ahead of him. She
divided her time between the Saunders' place and the Watterby farm, where
she and Bob had stayed when they first came to Flame City.

"Whew!" gasped Bob as they finally emerged from the black curtain of oil.
"Of all the messy stuff! Betty, you look as though an oil lamp had
exploded in your face."

"Now I'll have to wash my hair again," mourned Betty. "You'd better come
to Grandma Watterby's and get tidied up, Bob. It's nearer than your
aunts', taking this road; and they always have the stove tank full of
hot water."

Bob took this advice, and the sympathetic Watterby family came to the
oil-spotted pair's assistance with copious supplies of hot water, soap
and towels and liberal handfuls of borax, for the water was very hard.
Fortunately, Betty had a clean blouse and skirt at hand (most of her
wardrobe was in the guest room at the Saunders farm), and Bob borrowed a
clean shirt from Will Watterby, in which the boy, being much smaller than
the man, looked a little absurd.

"I'm clean, anyway, and that makes me feel good, so why should I care how
I look?" was Bob's defense when his appearance was commented on.

"I'm so hungry," announced Betty, coming out of her room, once more trim
and neat, and sniffing the delicious odor of hot waffles. "I wonder if I
could pin my hair up in a towel and dry it after lunch?"

"Of course you may," said Mrs. Will Watterby warmly. "Did you fix a place
for Betty, Grandma?"

"What a silly question, Emma," reproved old Grandma Watterby
severely. "Here, Betty, you sit next to me, and Bob can have Will's
place. He's gone over to Flame City with a bolt he wants the
blacksmith to tinker up."

Ki, the Indian who helped with the farm work, smiled at Betty but said
nothing more than the single "Howdy," which was his stock form of
salutation. Mrs. Watterby's waffles were quite as good as they smelled,
and she apparently had mixed an inexhaustible quantity of batter. Every
one ate rapidly and in comparative silence, a habit to which Bob and
Betty were by now quite accustomed. When Mr. Gordon was present he
insisted on a little conversation, but his presence was lacking to-day.

"You go right out in the sun and dry your hair, Betty," said Mrs.
Watterby, when the meal was over. "No, I don't need any help with
the dishes. Grandma and me, we're going over to town in the car
this afternoon and I don't care whether I do the dishes till I come
back or not."

This, for Mrs. Watterby, was a great step forward. Before the purchase of
the automobile, bought with a legacy inherited by Grandma Watterby,
dishes and housework had been the sum total of Mrs. Will Watterby's
existence. Now that she could drive the car and get away from her kitchen
sink at will, she seemed another woman.

Betty voiced something of this to Bob as she unfastened the towel and let
her heavy dark hair fall over her shoulders. She was sitting on the back
porch where the afternoon sun shone unobstructed.

"Yes, I guess automobiles are a good thing," admitted Bob absently. "I
want Aunt Faith to get one. A runabout would be handy for them--one like
Doctor Guerin's. Remember, Betty?"

"My goodness, I haven't read Norma's letter!" said Betty hastily. "I left
it in my other blouse. Wait a minute, and I'll get it."

She dashed into the house and was back again in a moment, the letter Bob
had handed her just before the shower of oil, in her hand.

Bob, in his favorite attitude of lying on his back and staring at the
sky, was startled by an exclamation before Betty had finished the first
page of the closely written missive.

"What's the matter?" he demanded, sitting up. "Anybody sick?"

"Oh, Bob, such fun!" Betty's eyes danced with pleasure. "What do you
think! Norma and Alice Guerin are going to Shadyside!"

"Well, I'm willing to jump with joy, but could you tell me what
Shadyside is, and where?" said Bob humbly. "Why do the Guerin girls want
to go there?"

"I forgot you didn't know," apologized Betty. "Shadyside is the boarding
school, Bob. That's the name of the station, too. It's five hours' ride
from Washington. Let's see, there's Bobby and Louise Littell and Libbie,
and now Norma and Alice--five girls I know already! I guess I won't be
homesick or lonely."

But as she said it she glanced uncertainly at Bob.

That young man snickered, turned it into a cough, and that failing,
essayed to whistle.

"Bob, you act too funny for anything!" This time Betty's glance was not
one of approval. "What does ail you?"

"Nothing, nothing at all, Betsey," Bob assured her. "I'm my usual
charming self. Are Norma and Alice going to Washington first?"

"No. I wish they were," answered Betty, taking up the letter again.
"Bob, I'm afraid they're having a hard time with money matters. You know
Dr. Guerin is so easy-going he never collects one-third of the bills he
sends out, and any one can get his services free if they tell him a hard
luck story. Norma writes that she and Alice have always wanted to go to
Shadyside because their mother graduated from there when it was only a
day school. Mrs. Guerin's people lived around there somewhere. And last
year, you know, Norma went to an awfully ordinary school--good enough, I
suppose, but not very thorough. She couldn't prepare for college there."

"Well, couldn't we fix it some way for them?" asked Bob interestedly.
"I'd do anything in the world for Doctor Guerin. Didn't he row me that
time he found us out in the fields at two o'clock in the morning? You
think up some way to make him accept some money, Betty."

Doctor Hal Guerin and his wife and daughters had been good friends to Bob
and Betty in the Bramble Farm days. The doctor, with a large country
practice that brought him more affection and esteem than ready cash, had
managed to look after the boy and girl more or less effectively, and
Norma, his daughter, had supplied Bob with orders from her school friends
for little carved pendants that he made with no better tools than an old
knife. This money had been the first Bob had ever earned and had given
him his first taste of independence.

"I don't think you could make Doctor Guerin take money, even as a
loan," said Betty slowly, in answer to Bob's proposal. "Norma wouldn't
like it if she thought her letter had suggested such a thing. What
makes it hard for them, I think, is that Mrs. Guerin expected to have
quite a fortune some day. Her mother was really wealthy, and she was an
only child. I don't know where the money went, but I do know the
Guerins never had any of it."

Bob jumped to his feet as she finished the sentence.

"Here's Uncle Dick!" he cried. "Did you see the new well come in, sir?"



CHAPTER III

SURPRISING BOB


Betty shook back her hair and rose to kiss the gray-haired gentleman who
put an arm affectionately about her.

"I heard about that blast," he said, and smiled good-humoredly. "Lee
Chang was much worried when I went in to dinner. His one consolation was
that you had eaten the tart before the oil began to fall."

"We were all right, only of course it rather daubed us up," said Bob.
"Betty had to wash her hair."

"My hair's nothing," declared Betty scornfully. "But my brand-new blouse
that I worked on for two days--you ought to see it, Uncle Dick! Grandma
Watterby thinks maybe she can get the oil out, but she says the color may
come out, too."

Mr. Gordon sat down on the step and took off his hat.

"You've a clear claim for damages, Betty," he assured his niece gravely.
"To save time, I'm willing to make good; what does a new blouse cost?"

"This wasn't exactly new," explained Betty fairly. "Aunt Faith had the
material in her trunk for years. But it was the first thing I ever made,
and I was so proud of it."

"Well, we'll see that you have something to take its place," promised her
uncle, drawing her down beside him. "I have some news for you, Betsey.
When you go East next week, I'm going, too. That is, as far as Chicago.
From there I take a little run up into Canada."

"But you said you'd spend Christmas with us!" argued Betty.

"Oh, Christmas is months off," returned Mr. Gordon comfortably. "I expect
to be back in the States long before the holidays. And Bob's aunts have
finally made up their minds where they want to spend the winter. Aunt
Faith has commissioned me to buy two tickets for southern California."

"But there's Bob!" Betty gazed anxiously at her uncle. "What's Bob going
to do without any one at all, Uncle Dick?"

Mr. Gordon looked at Bob, and an unwilling grin turned the corners of the
boy's mouth.

"That's the way he's been acting all day," scolded Betty. "What ails
him? I think it's silly to sit there and smile when there's nothing to
smile about."

"I suspect Bob doesn't take kindly to secrets," returned her uncle.
"Suppose you 'fess up, Bob, and when the atmosphere is clear we can have
a little talk."

"All right," said Bob, with manifest relief. "I kept quiet only because I
wanted to be sure I was going, sir. Betty, Mr. Littell wrote me about a
military academy in the East and put me in, touch with several boys who
attend it. Uncle Dick thinks it is just the school for me, and I'm going.
Timothy Derby is one of the boys. He's a son of the man I worked for in
Washington."

"How splendid!" With characteristic enthusiasm Betty forgot her momentary
displeasure at Bob's method of keeping a secret. "When are you going,
Bob? Where is the school?"

"That's the best part," said Bob boyishly. "It's the Salsette Military
Academy, Betty, and it's right across the lake from the Shadyside school.
All five of the boys Mr. Littell told me of are friends of the Littell
girls, so you see it is going to be great fun all around."

"I never knew of anything so nice!" declared Betty. "Never! So you knew
when I told you about Shadyside that you were going to be so near!"

Bob nodded.

"Have to keep an eye on you," he said with mock seriousness, at which
Betty made a little face.

"You haven't much time to get ready," Mr. Gordon warned them. "The aunts
will leave Wednesday and our train pulls out at ten twenty-six on Friday
morning. Of course you will do your shopping in Washington and be guided
by the advice of Mr. and Mrs. Littell. I wish I could go to Washington
with you, but that is impossible now. You must write me faithfully, both
of you, though I suppose we'll have to expect the same delay between
letters that we've experienced before. Most of my time will be spent on a
farm thirty miles from a railroad. If you get into any difficulties, go
to the Littells, and for little troubles, help each other."

Mr. Gordon went on to say that while Bob and Betty were independent to a
greater degree than most boys and girls of their age, the same force of
circumstances that made this possible also gave them a heavier
responsibility. He explained that each was to have an allowance and asked
that each keep a cash account to be submitted to him on his return from
Canada, not, he said, to serve as a check upon extravagant or foolish
expenditures, but that he might be better able to advise them and to
point out avoidable mistakes.

After supper that night he drew the boy aside for further discussion.

"I'm really leaving Betty in your charge," he said, and Bob stood fully
two inches taller. "Not that I think she will get into any serious
trouble, but there's no telling what a bevy of high-spirited girls will
think up. And you know what Betty is when once started, she can not be
stopped. I rely on you to keep her confidence and hold her back if she
seems inclined to act rashly. The Littells are splendid people, but they
will be five hours' distance away, while you will be across the lake. I
put my trust in you, Bob."

Bob silently resolved to be worthy. Betty had been his first friend, and
to her he gave all the pent-up loyalty and starved affection of a lonely
boy nature. When Mr. Gordon came into his life, and especially when he
was made his legal guardian, Bob experienced the novel sensation of
having some one interested in his future. Though the various older men
he had met were more than willing to help him, Mr. Gordon was the only
one to succeed in winning over Bob's almost fanatical pride and the lad
who admired, respected, and loved him, would have done anything in the
world for him.

The next few days were extremely busy ones for Bob, the aunts, and Betty.
Miss Hope and Miss Charity were so excited at the prospect of a journey
that they completely lost their faculty for planning, and most of the
work fell on Bob and Betty. Luckily there was little packing to be done,
for the few bits of old furniture were to be sold for what they would
bring, and the keepsakes that neither Miss Hope nor her sister could
bring themselves to part with were stored in several old trunks to be
housed in the Watterby attic.

"Betty, child," her uncle's voice broke in upon Betty's orderly packing
one afternoon, "I know you're going to be disappointed, but we mustn't
cry over what can't be helped. I've had a wire and must leave for
Chicago Wednesday morning. You and Bob will have to make the Washington
trip alone."

"I knew it was too good to be true," mourned Betty, a tear dropping on
the yellowed silk shawl she was neatly folding. "Oh, dear, Uncle Dick, I
did want you to go with us part of the way!"

"Better luck next time," replied Mr. Gordon. "There's no use grumbling
over what you can't change."

This was his philosophy, and he followed it consistently. Bob and Betty,
though keenly disappointed they were not to have his companionship, tried
to accept the situation as cheerfully as he did.

The packing was hastened, and soon the old farmhouse was stripped and
dismantled, the trunks stored in the Watterby attic, the furniture
carried off to the homes of those who bought it, and the key delivered
to Dave Thorne, the section foreman, who would deliver it to the
superintendent.

The hospitable Watterbys had insisted that the travelers should all stay
with them until the time for their several departures, and Bob and Betty
had a last glorious ride on Clover and the ungainly white horse while
the aunts rested and put the final touches to their preparations for
their journey.

The next morning all was bustle and hurry, for the aunts were to start on
their trip and Mr. Gordon must be off to Chicago. Miss Hope insisted on
being taken to the station an hour before their train was due, and when a
puff of steam up the track announced the actual approach of the train the
two old ladies trembled with nervousness and excitement. Mr. Gordon
guided them up the steps of the car, after a tearful farewell to Bob and
Betty, and saw that they were settled in the right sections. He spoke to
the conductor on the way out, and tipped the porter and maid liberally to
look after the travelers' comfort.



CHAPTER IV

MORE GOOD-BYES


"They'll feel better presently," he remarked, rejoining Bob and Betty on
the platform. "I know the boarding house they've chosen is fine in every
way and they're going to have a delightful winter."

The train started slowly, and the black silk gloves of the aunts waved
dolorously from the window. They were embarked on their adventure.

"Don't look so solemn, Betty," teased her uncle. "If I'm not mistaken
that's the smoke from my train. I don't want any one to weep over my
departure."

"I could, but I won't," Betty assured him bravely. "You won't get sick or
anything, will you, Uncle Dick? And you'll write to me every week?"

"Like a clock," he promised her. "There goes the agent with my bags--this
is the local, all right. Good-bye, Bob. Remember what I've asked of you."

Mr. Gordon wrung Bob's hand and smiled down into the blue eyes lifted so
fervently to his.

"You're my boy, too," he said clearly. "Don't forget, lad, if you need
me."

Then he swept Betty into his arms.

"Be a good girl, Sweetheart," he murmured, kissing her.

They watched him climb up the steps of the snorting, smoky local, saw his
bags tossed into the baggage car, and then, with a shrill grinding of
wheels, the training resumed its way. As long as they could see, the tall
figure in the gray suit stood on the platform and waved a white
handkerchief to them.

"Oh, Bob, don't let me cry," begged Betty, in a sudden panic.
"Everybody's watching us. Let's go somewhere, quick."

"All right, we will," promised Bob. "We'll take the car to Doctor
Morrison. Hop in, Betsey, and dry your eyes. You're going traveling
yourself day after to-morrow."

"I wasn't really crying," explained Betty as she settled herself in the
shabby car that had belonged to her uncle; he had sold it to the town
physician. "But doesn't it give you a lonesome feeling to be the one
that's left? I hate to say good-bye, anyway."

Bob's experience with motors was rather limited, and what slight
knowledge he possessed had been gained in a few lessons taken while
riding with Mr. Gordon. However, the boy was sure that he could drive the
car the brief distance to the doctor's house, and Betty shared his
confidence. From the Morrison house it was only a short walk to the
Watterby farm, where they were to stay until they left for the East.

Betty forgot to cry as Bob started the car so suddenly that it shot
forward like a live thing. He jammed on the brake and brought it to a
standstill so abruptly that Betty came very near to pitching through the
windshield.

"Couldn't you do it--er--more gently?" she hinted delicately.

"Hold fast and I'll try," grinned Bob. "As a chauffeur I'd be a
good iceman."

The second time he managed better, and the battered little car moved off
with less disturbing results.

In a very few minutes they had reached Doctor Morrison's garage.

The doctor urged Bob and Betty strongly to stay to supper with him and
promised beaten biscuit and honey, but although they knew the skill of
his old Southern cook very well, they had promised Grandma Watterby to be
there for supper and such a promise could not be disregarded.

"Well, anyway," said Betty soothingly, as they walked on toward the
Watterby farm, "when we ride Clover and Reuben up to the fields we won't
have to worry about how to make them go."

"No, that's so," agreed Bob. "But, Betty, I hate to think of giving up
Reuben. He isn't much to look at, but he has been a mighty good horse."

"I'd feel worse," declared Betty, "if we had to sell them to strangers.
We wouldn't know how they would be treated then. Now we are sure they
will be cared for and petted and they won't miss us."

Reuben and Clover, Mr. Gordon had said, were to be disposed of as Betty
and Bob chose. The horses were theirs to give away or sell as they
preferred. Bob had instantly decided to give his mount to Dave Thorne,
the section foreman, who had shown him many kindnesses and who was
delighted to get a trained saddle horse. Horses were very scarce in that
section of the country, and Mr. Gordon had gone to considerable trouble
to get these.

Betty had elected to give Clover to the new superintendent's daughter,
the girl who was to move with her parents into the old Saunders
farmhouse. Betty had never seen her, but knew she was about fourteen or
fifteen and eager to learn to ride.

The day before they were to start for Washington, Bob and Betty rode the
horses up to the oil fields and gave them into the charge of Dave
Thorne. The superintendent was already on the ground but his family and
furniture were not due for a week.

Clover and Reuben bore the parting better than their young mistress and
master, and Betty was glad when all the good-byes had been said and they
stepped into the Watterby car which Mrs. Watterby had driven up for them.
The fields were about eight miles from her house.

"You'll be happier when once you're on the train, Betty," said good Mrs.
Watterby, glancing swiftly at Betty's clouded face, "This going around
saying good-bye to people and things is enough to break anybody up. Now
to-morrow me and mother won't weep a tear over you--you'll see. We're
glad you're going to school to have a good time with all those young
folks. Now what's that Chinaman want?"

Lee Chang came running from the bunk house, waving something tied in
white paper.

"Apple tart, Miss Betty!" he called imploringly. "Velly nice apple
tart--maybe the cook at that school no make good tarts."

Betty took the package and thanked him warmly and they drove on.

"People are so good to me," choked the girl. "I never knew I had so
many friends."

"Well, that's nothing to cry over," advised Bob philosophically. "You
ought to be glad. Do I get a crumb of the tart, Betsey?"

He spoke with a purpose and was rewarded by seeing Betty's own sunny
smile come out.

"You always do," she told him. "But wait till we get home. I want Ki to
have a piece, too."

Ki, it developed, when they reached the Watterby farm, had been busy with
farewell plans of his own.

"For you," he announced gravely to Bob, handing him an immense hunting
knife as he stepped out of the car.

"For you," he informed Betty with equal gravity, presenting her a little
silver nugget.

They both thanked him repeatedly, and he stalked off, carrying his piece
of the apple tart and apparently assured of their sincerity.

"Though what he expects me to do with a hunting knife is more than I can
guess," laughed Bob.



CHAPTER V

A REGULAR CROSS-PATCH


"Be sure you send me a postal from Washington. I never knew anybody from
there before," said Grandma Watterby earnestly.

"And don't get off the train unless you know how long it's going to
stop," advised Will Watterby.

"Do you think you ate enough breakfast?" his wife asked anxiously.

Bob and Betty were waiting for the Eastern Limited, and the Watterby
family, who had brought them to the station, were waiting, too. The
Limited stopped only on signal, and this was no every day occurrence.

"We'll be all right," said Bob earnestly. "You can look for a postal from
Chicago first, Grandma."

Then came the usual hurried good-byes, the kisses and handshakes and the
repeated promises to "write soon." Then Bob and Betty found themselves in
the sleeper, waving frantically to the little group on the platform as
the Limited slowly got under way.

"And that's the last of Flame City--for some time at least,"
observed Bob.

Betty, who had made excellent use of lessons learned in her few previous
long journeys, took off her hat and gloves and placed them in a paper bag
which Bob put in the rack for her.

"I did want a new hat so much," she sighed, looking rather
enviously at the woman across the aisle who wore a smart Fall hat
that was unmistakably new. "But Flame City depends on mail order
hats and I thought it safer to wait till I could see what people
are really wearing."

"You look all right," said Bob loyally. "What's that around that woman's
neck--fur? Why I'm so hot I can hardly breathe."

"It's mink," Betty informed him with superiority. "Isn't it beautiful? I
wanted a set, but Uncle Dick said mink was too old for me. He did say,
though, that I can have a neckpiece made from that fox skin Ki gave me."

"Don't see why you want to tie yourself up like an Eskimo," grumbled
Bob. "Well, we seem to be headed toward the door marked 'Education,'
don't we, Betsey?"

They exchanged a smile of understanding.

Bob was passionately eager for what he called "regular schooling," that
is the steady discipline of fixed lessons, the companionship of boys of
his own age, and the give and take of the average large, busy school.
Normal life of any kind was out of the question in the poorhouse where he
had spent the first ten years of his life, and after that he had not seen
the inside of a schoolroom. He had read whatever books he could pick up
while at Bramble Farm, and in the knowledge of current events was
remarkably well-posted, thanks to his steady assimilation of newspapers
and magazines since leaving the Peabody roof. But he feared, and with
some foundation, that he might be found deplorably lacking in the most
rudimentary branches.

Betty, of course, had gone to school regularly until her mother's
death. In the year that had elapsed she had thought little of
lessons, and though she did not realize it, she had lost to a great
extent the power of application. Systematic study of any kind might
easily prove a hardship for the active Betty. Still she was eager to
study again, perhaps prepare for college. More than anything else she
craved girl friends.

"Let's go in for lunch at the first call," suggested Betty presently. "I
didn't eat much breakfast, and I don't believe you did either."

"I swallowed a cup of boiling coffee," admitted Bob, "but that's all I
remember. So I'm ready when you are."

Seated at a table well toward the center of the car, Betty's attention
was attracted to a girl who sat facing her. She was not a pretty girl.
She looked discontented and peevish, and the manner in which she
addressed the waiter indicated that she felt under no obligation to
disguise her feelings.

"Take that back," she ordered, pointing a beautifully manicured hand at
a dish just placed before her. "If you can't bring me a poached egg
that isn't raw, don't bother at all. And I hope you don't intend to
call this cream?"

Bob glanced swiftly over at the table. The girl consciously tucked back a
lock of stringy hair, displaying the flash of several diamonds.

"Sweet disposition, hasn't she?" muttered Bob under his breath. "I'd like
to see her board just one week with Mr. Peabody."

"Don't--she'll hear you," protested Betty. "I wonder if she is all alone?
What lovely clothes she has! And did you see her rings?"

"Well, she'll need 'em, if she's going to snap at everybody," said Bob
severely. "Diamonds help out a cross tongue when a poor waiter is
thinking of his tip."

The girl was still finding fault with her food when Betty and Bob rose to
leave the car, and when they passed her table she stared at them with
languid insolence, half closing her narrow hazel eyes.

"Wow, she's bored completely," snickered Bob, when they were out of
earshot. "I don't believe she's a day older than you are, Betty, and she
is dressed up like a little Christmas tree."

"I think her clothes are wonderful," said Betty. "I wish I had a lace
vestee and some long white gloves. Don't you think they're pretty, Bob?"

"No, I think they're silly," retorted Bob. "You wouldn't catch Bobby
Littell going traveling in a party dress and wearing all the family
jewels. Huh, here comes the conductor--wonder what he wants."

The conductor, it developed, was shifting passengers from the car behind
the one in which Bob and Betty had seats. It was to be dropped at the
next junction and the few passengers remaining were to be accommodated in
this coach.

"You're all right, don't have to make any change," said the official
kindly, after examining their tickets. "I'll tell the porter you go
through to Chicago."

The car had been fairly well crowded before, and the extra influx taxed
every available seat. Betty took out her crocheting and Bob decided that
he would go in search of a shoe-shine.

"I'll come back and get you and we'll go out on the observation
platform," he said contentedly.

"Chain six, double crochet--into the ring--" Betty murmured her
directions half aloud.

"Right here, Ma'am?" The porter's voice aroused her.

There in the aisle stood the girl she had noticed in the diner, and with
her was a harassed looking porter carrying three heavy bags.

"Perhaps you would just as lief take the aisle seat?" said the girl,
surveying Betty as a princess might gaze upon an annoying little page. "I
travel better when I can have plenty of fresh air."

"You might have thought I was a bug," Betty confided later to Bob.

The diamonds flashed as the girl loosened the fur collar at her throat.

"Please move over," she commanded calmly.

Betty was bewildered, but her innate courtesy died hard.

"You--you've made a mistake," she faltered. "This seat is taken."

"The conductor said to take any vacant seat," said the newcomer. "You
can't hold seats in a public conveyance--my father says so. Put the bags
in here, porter. Be careful of that enamel leather."

To Betty's dismay, she settled herself, flounces and furs and bags, in
the narrow space that belonged to Bob, and by an adroit pressure of her
elbow made it impossible for Betty to resume her crocheting.

"I think you done made a mistake, lady," ventured the porter. "This seat
belongs to a young man what has a ticket to Chicago."

"Well, I'm going to Chicago," answered the girl composedly. "Do you
expect me to stand up the rest of the way? The agent had no business to
sell me a reservation in a car that only went as far as the Junction."

The porter withdrew, shaking his head, and in a few minutes Bob came back
to his seat. Betty, watching the girl, saw her glance sidewise at him
from her narrow eyes, though she pretended to be absorbed in a magazine.

"I beg your pardon," said Bob politely.

There was no response.

"Pardon me, but you've made a mistake," began Bob again. "You are in the
wrong seat."

The magazine came down with a crash and the girl's face, distorted with
rage, appeared in its place.

"Well, if I am, what are you going to do about it?" she shrilled rudely.



CHAPTER VI

FINE FEATHERS


Betty Gordon had always, foolishly perhaps, associated courtesy and
good-breeding with beautiful clothes. This strange girl, who could speak
so on such slight provocation (none at all, to be exact) wore a handsome
suit, and if her jewelry was too conspicuous it had the merit of being
genuine. Betty herself had a lively temper, but she was altogether free
from snappishness and when she "blew up" the cause was sure to be
unmistakable and significant.

Bob jumped when the girl fired her question at him. There had been
nothing in his limited experience with girls to prepare him for such an
outburst. Betty half expected him to acquiesce and leave the stranger in
possession of his seat, but to her surprise he simply turned on his heel
and walked away. Not, however, before Betty had seen something bordering
on contempt in his eyes.

"I'd hate to have Bob look at me like that," she thought. "It wasn't as
if he didn't like her, or was mad at her--what is it I am trying to
say? Bob looked as if--as if--Oh, bother, I know what I mean, but I
can't say it."

The little spitfire in the seat beside her wriggled uneasily as if she,
too, were not as comfortable as she would pretend. Bob's silent reception
of her discourtesy had infuriated her, and she knew better than Betty
where she stood in the boy's estimation. She had instantly forfeited his
respect and probably his admiration forever.

In a few minutes Bob was back, and with him the conductor.

"Young lady, you're in the wrong seat," that official announced in a tone
that admitted of no trifling. "You were in eighteen in the other car and
I had to move you to twenty-three in here. Just follow me, please."

He reached in and took one of the suitcases, and Bob matter-of-factly
took the other two. The girl opened her mouth, glanced at the conductor,
and thought better of whatever she was going to say. Meekly she followed
him to another section on the other side of the car and found herself
compelled to share a seat with a severe-looking gray-haired woman,
evidently a sufferer from hay fever, as she sneezed incessantly.

Bob dropped down in his old place and shot a quizzical look at Betty.

"Flame City may be tough," he observed, "and I'd be the last one to claim
that it possessed one grain of culture; but at that, I can't remember
having a pitched battle with a girl during my care-free existence there."

"She's used to having her own way," said Betty, with a laudable ambition
to be charitable, an intention which she inadvertently destroyed by
adding vigorously: "She'd get that knocked out of her if she lived West a
little while."

"Guess the East can be trusted to smooth her down," commented Bob grimly.
"Unless she's planning to live in seclusion, she won't get far in peace
or happiness unless she behaves a bit more like a human being."

The girl was more or less in evidence during the rest of the trip and
incurred the cordial enmity of every woman in the car by the coolness
with which she appropriated the dressing room in the morning and curled
her hair and made an elaborate toilet in perfect indifference to the
other feminine travelers who were shut out till she had the last hairpin
adjusted to her satisfaction.

She was met at the Chicago terminal by a party of gay friends who whisked
her off in a palatial car, and Bob and Betty who, acting on Mr. Gordon's
advice, spent their two-hour wait between trains driving along the Lake
Shore Drive, forgot her completely.

But first Betty fell victim to the charms of a hat displayed in a smart
little millinery shop, and had an argument with Bob in which she came
off victor.

"Oh, Bob, what a darling hat!" she had exclaimed, drawing him over to the
window as they turned down the first street from the station. "I must
have it; I want to look nice when I meet the girls in Washington."

"You look nice now," declared Bob sturdily. "But if you want to buy it,
go ahead," he encouraged her. "Ask 'em how much it is, though," he added,
with a sudden recollection of the fabulous prices said to be charged for
a yard of ribbon and a bit of lace.

The hat in question was a soft brown beaver that rolled slightly away
from the face and boasted as trimming a single scarlet quill. It was
undeniably becoming, and Bob gave it his unqualified approval.

"And you will want a veil?" insinuated the clever young French
saleswoman. "See--it is charming!"

She threw over the hat a cobwebby pattern of brown silk net embroidered
heavily with chenille dots and deftly draped it back from Betty's
glowing face.

"You don't want a veil!" said Bob bluntly.

Now the mirror told Betty that the veil looked very well indeed, and made
her, she was sure of it, prettier. Betty was a good traveler and the
journey had not tired her. The excitement and pleasure of choosing a new
hat had brought a flush to her cheeks, and the shining brown eyes that
gazed back at her from the glass assured her that a veil was something
greatly to be desired.

"You don't want it," repeated Bob. "You're only thirteen and you'll look
silly. Do you want to dress like that girl on the train?"

If Bob had stopped to think he would have realized that his remarks were
not exactly tactful. Especially the reference to Betty's age, just when
she fancied that she looked very grown up indeed. She was fond of
braiding her heavy thick hair and wrapping it around her head so that
there were no hair-ribbons to betray her. In Betty's experience the
border line between a young lady and a little girl was determined by the
absence or presence of hair-ribbons.

"How much is it?" she asked the saleswoman.

"Oh, but six dollars," answered that young person with a wave of one
jeweled hand as though six dollars were a mere nothing.

"I'll take it," said Betty decisively. "And I'll wear it and the hat,
too, please; you can wrap up my old one."

Bob was silent until the transaction had been completed and they were out
of the shop.

"You wait here and I'll see about getting a car to take us along the
Drive," he said then.

"You're--you're not mad at me, are you Bob?" faltered Betty, putting an
appealing hand on his arm. "I haven't had any fun with clothes all
summer long."

"No, I'm not mad. But I think you're an awful chump," replied Bob with
his characteristic frankness.

Before the drive was over, Betty was inclined to agree with him.

The car was an open one, and while the day was warm and sunny, there was
a lively breeze blowing straight off the lake. The veil persisted in
blowing first into Betty's eyes, then into Bob's, and interfered to an
amazing degree with their enjoyment of the scenery. Finally, as they
rounded a curve and caught the full breath of the breeze, the veil blew
away entirely.

"Let it go," said Betty resignedly. "It's cost me six dollars to learn I
don't want to wear a veil."

Bob privately decided he liked her much better without the flimsy net
affair, but he wisely determined not to air his opinion. There was no
use, he told himself, in "rubbing it in."

They had lunch in a cozy little tea-room and went back to the train like
seasoned travelers. Bob was an ideal companion for such journeys, for he
never lost his head and never missed connections, while nervous haste was
unknown to him.

"Won't I be glad to see the Littells!" exclaimed Betty, watching the
porter make up their berths.

"So shall I," agreed Bob. "Did you ever know such hospitable people,
asking a whole raft of us to spend the week at Fairfields? How many did
Bobby write would be there?"

"Let's see," said Betty, checking off on her fingers. "There'll be Bobby
and Louise, of course; and Esther who is too young to go away to school,
but who will want to do everything we do; Libbie Littell and another
Vermont girl we don't know--Frances Martin; you and I; and the five boys
Mr. Littell wrote you about--the Tucker twins, Timothy Derby, Sydney
Cooke and Winifred Marion Brown. Twelve of us! Won't it be fun! I do wish
the Guerin girls could be there, but we'll see them at the school."

"I'd like to see that Winifred Marion chap," declared Bob. "A boy with a
girl's name has his troubles cut out for him, I should say."

"Lots of 'em have girls' names--in history," contributed Betty absently.
"What time do we get into Washington, Bob?"

"Around five, probably six p.m., for we're likely to be a bit late,"
replied Bob. "Let's go to bed now, Betty, and get an early start in
the morning."

The day spent on the train was uneventful, and, contrary to Bob's
expectations, they were on time at every station. Betty's heart beat
faster as the hands of her little wrist watch pointed to 5:45 and the
passengers began to gather up their wraps. The porter came through and
brushed them thoroughly and Betty adjusted her new hat carefully.

The long train slid into the Union Station. With what different
emotions both Bob and Betty had seen the beautiful, brilliantly lighted
building on the occasion of their first trip to Washington! Then each
had been without a friend in the great city, and now they were to be
welcomed by a host.

Betty's cheeks flushed rose-red, but her lovely eyes filled with a sudden
rush of tears.

"I'm so happy!" she whispered to the bewildered Bob.

"Want my handkerchief?" he asked anxiously, at which Betty tried
not to laugh.



CHAPTER VII

FUN AT FAIRFIELDS


The long platform was crowded. Betty followed Bob, who carried their
bags. She tried to peer ahead, but the moving forms blocked her view.
Just after they passed through the gate, some one caught her.

"Betty, you lamb! I never was so glad to see any one in my life!"
cried a gay voice, and Bobby Littell hugged her close in one of her
rare caresses.

Bob Henderson held out his hand as soon as Bobby released Betty. He liked
this straightforward, brusque girl who so evidently adored Betty.

"Why, Bob, you've grown a foot!" was Bobby Littell's greeting to him.

Bob modestly disclaimed any such record, and then Louise and Esther, who
had swooped upon Betty, turned to shake hands with him.

"The rest of the crowd is out in the car," said Bobby carelessly.

Outside the station, in the open plaza, a handsome closed car awaited
them. The gray-haired chauffeur, cap in hand, stood back as a procession
of boys and girls advanced upon Bob and Betty and their escort.

"Oh, Betty, dear!" Short, plump Libbie Littell, who had relinquished
her claim to the name of "Betty" in Betty Gordon's favor some time
ago, hurled herself upon her friend. "To think we're going to the
same school!"

"Well, Frances is going, too," said Bobby practically. "She might like to
be introduced, you know. Betty, this is Frances Martin, a Vermont girl
who is out after all the Latin prizes."

Frances smiled a slow, sweet smile, and, behind thick glasses, her dark
near-sighted eyes said that she was very glad to know Betty Gordon.

"Now the boys!" announced the irrepressible Bobby, apparently taking
Bob's introduction to Frances for granted. "The boys will please line up
and I'll indicate them."

The five lads obediently came forward and ranged themselves in a row.

"From left to right," chanted Bobby, "we have the Tucker twins, Tommy and
Teddy, W. M. Brown, who asks his friends to use his initials and punches
those who refuse, Timothy Derby who reads poetry and Sydney Cooke who
ought to--" and Bobby completed her speech with a wicked grin, for she
had managed to hit several weaknesses.

"As an introducer," she announced calmly to Carter, the personification
of propriety's horror, "I think I do rather well."

They stowed themselves into the limousine somehow, the girls settled more
or less comfortably on the seats, the boys squeezed in between, hanging
on the running board, and spilling over into Carter's domain.

Bob liked the five boys at once, and they seemed to accept him as one of
them. If he had had a little fear that he would feel diffident and
unboyish among lads of his own age, it vanished at the first contact.

"Betty, you sweet child, how we have missed you!" cried Mrs. Littell,
standing on the lowest step under the porte-cochère as the car swept up
the drive of Fairfields, as the Littell's home was called.

Behind her waited Mr. Littell, fully recovered from the injury to his
foot which had made him an invalid during Betty's previous visit.

From Carter, who had beamingly greeted her at the station, to the pretty
parlor maid who smiled as Betty entered her room to find her turning down
the bed covers, there was not a servant who did not remember Betty and
seem glad to see her.

"It is so good to have you two here again," Mr. Littell had said.

"I never knew such people," Betty repeated to herself twenty times that
evening. "How lovely they are to Bob and me!"

Mrs. Littell, who was happiest when entertaining young people, had put
the six boys on the third floor in three connecting rooms. The girls were
on the second floor, and Esther, the youngest, who had strenuously fought
to be allowed to go to Shadyside with her two sisters, was almost beside
herself with the effort to be in all the rooms at once and hear what
every one was saying.

"I'm so glad your uncle let you come," said Bobby, as they waited for
Betty to change into a light house frock for dinner. "I don't know much
about this school, except that mother went to school with the principal."

That was a characteristic Bobby Littell remark, and the other
girls laughed.

"I had a letter from a girl who lives in Glenside," confided Betty,
re-braiding her hair. "She and her sister are going--Norma and Alice
Guerin. I know you'll like them. Norma wrote her mother went to Shadyside
when it was a day school."

"Yes, I believe it was, years and years ago," returned Louise Littell.
"The aristocratic families who lived on large estates used to send
their daughters to Mrs. Warde. Her daughter, Mrs. Eustice, is the
principal now."

Betty wondered if Norma Guerin's mother had belonged to one of the
families who owned large estates, but they went down to dinner presently
and she forgot the Guerins for the time being.

That was a busy week for the school boys and girls.

The beautiful house and grounds of Fairfields were at their disposal, and
the gallant host and gentle hostess gave themselves up to the whims and
wishes of the houseful of young people.

"Racket while you may, for school-room discipline is coming," laughed Mr.
Littell, when he went upstairs unexpectedly early one night and caught
the abashed Tucker twins sliding down the banisters.

Both Bob and Betty had wired Mr. Gordon of their safe arrival in
Washington, and Bob had also telegraphed his aunts. While they were at
Fairfields a letter reached them from Miss Hope and Miss Charity,
describing in glowing terms the boarding house in which they were
living and the California climate which, the writers declared, made
them feel "twenty years younger." So Bob was assured that the elderly
ladies were neither homesick nor unhappy and that added appreciably to
his peace of mind.

He and Betty found time, too, to slip away from their gay companions and
go to the old second-hand bookshop where Lockwood Hale browsed among his
dusty volumes. He had set Bob upon the trail that led him West and
brought him finally to his surviving kin, and the boy felt warm gratitude
to the absent-minded old man.

Mr. and Mrs. Littell rigidly insisted that the last night before the
young folks started for Shadyside must be reserved for final packing and
early retirement so that the gay band might begin their journey
auspiciously. The Tuesday evening before the Thursday they were to leave
for school, the host and hostess gave a dance for their young people.

"I'm glad to have at least one chance to wear this dress," observed
Bobby, smoothing down the folds of her rose-colored frock with
satisfaction. "The only thing I don't like about Shadyside, so far, is
that restriction about party clothes."

"I imagine it is a wise rule in many ways," said Betty sagely, thinking
particularly of the Guerin girls, who would probably be hard-pressed to
get even the one evening frock allowed. "You know how some girls are,
Bobby; they'd come with a dozen crêpe de chine and georgette dresses and
about three clean blouses for school-room wear."

"Like Ruth Gladys Royal," giggled Bobby. "I remember her at Miss
Graham's last year. Goodness, the clothes that girl would wear! The rest
of us didn't even try to compete. And, by the way, girls, Ruth Gladys is
going to Shadyside. Her aunt telephoned mother last night while we were
at the movies."

"That's the girl we went to call on that day we saw Mr. Peabody tackle
Bob in the hotel," Louise explained in an aside to Betty. "I wonder why
every one seems bent and determined to go to Shadyside this year."

"Because it is a fine school with a half-century reputation," Bobby, who
had studied the catalogue, informed her sister primly.

"I'm not going," objected Esther. "I think it's mean."

"Mother and dad need one girl at home, dearest," her mother reminded her,
as she came in looking very handsome and kindly in a black spangled net
gown. "All ready, girls? Then suppose we go down."

It was a simple and informal dance, as befitted the ages of the guests,
but Mr. and Mrs. Littell knew to perfection the secret of making each one
enjoy himself. There were a handful of outside friends invited, and
Betty, to whom a party was a never-failing source of delight, felt, as
she confided to Bob, as though she were "walking on air."

"You look awfully nice in that white stuff," he said frankly, and Betty
liked the comment on her pretty ruffled white frock which she had
dubiously decided a moment before was too plain.

Betty was what country folk call a "natural-born dancer," and she
quickly learned the new steps she had had no opportunity to practice
since going West. All the girls and most of the boys were excellent
dancers, too, and Bob was not allowed to beg off. Frances Martin, the
last girl one would have named, had taught a dancing class in her home
town with great success and she volunteered to lead Bob. To his surprise,
the boy found he liked the music and movement and before the evening was
over he was in a fair way to become a good dancer.

The party broke up promptly at eleven o'clock, and a few minutes later
the whir of the last motor bearing home the departing guests died away.
There was a natural lingering to "talk things over," but by twelve the
house was silent and dark.

Betty had just fairly dozed off when some one woke her by shaking
her gently.

"Betty! Betty, please wake up!" whispered a frightened little voice.



CHAPTER VIII

TOO MUCH PARTY


Betty shared a room with Bobby. The single beds were separated by a
table on which an electric drop light and the water pitcher and glasses
were placed.

Betty's first impulse was to snap on the light, but as she put out her
hand, Esther grasped her wrist.

"It's only me," she whispered, her teeth chattering with fright. "Don't
wake Bobby up."

"Are you cold?" asked Betty, sitting up anxiously. "Perhaps you were too
warm dancing. Do you want to get into bed with me?"

It was a warm night for October, and Betty was at a loss to understand
Esther's shivering.

"I can't find Libbie!" Esther cried. "Oh, Betty, I never thought she
would do it, never."

Betty reached for her dressing gown and slippers.

"Don't cry, or you'll wake up Bobby," she advised the sobbing Esther.
"Come on, I'll go back with you. Don't make a noise."

The girls occupied three connecting rooms, and Esther and Libbie had
slept in the end of the suite. To reach it now, the two girls had to go
through the room where Louise and Frances lay slumbering peacefully.
Betty breathed a sigh of relief when they gained Esther's room and she
closed the door carefully and turned on the light.

Esther's bed, madly tumbled, and Libbie's, evidently occupied that night,
but now empty, were revealed.

Esther dropped down on the floor, wrapping her kimono about her, and
regarded Betty trustfully. She was sure her friend would straighten
things out.

"Where is Libbie?" demanded Betty. "What is she doing?"

"I don't know," admitted Esther unhappily. "But I tell you what I
think--I think she's eloped!"

Esther was only eleven, and as she sat on the floor and stared at Betty
from great wet blue eyes, she seemed very young indeed.

"Eloped!" gasped Betty. "Why, I never heard of such a thing!"

"She's always talking about it," the younger girl wailed, beginning to
cry again. "She says it's the most romantic way to be married, and she
means to throw her hope chest out of the window first and slide down a
rope made of bedsheets."

"Well, I think it's very silly to talk like that," scolded Betty. "And,
what's more, Esther, however much Libbie may talk of eloping, she hasn't
done it this time. All her clothes are here, and her shoes and her hat.
Here's her purse on the dresser, too."

"I never thought of looking to see if her clothes were here," confessed
Esther. "But then, where is she, Betty?"

"That's what I mean to find out," announced Betty, with more confidence
than she felt. "Come on, Esther. And don't trip on your kimono or walk
into anything."

They tiptoed out into the wide hall and had reached the head of the
beautiful carved staircase when they saw a dim form coming toward them.

Esther nearly shrieked aloud, but Betty put a hand over her mouth in
time.

"Who--who, who-o-o are you?" stammered Betty, her heart beating so fast
it was painful.

"Betty!" Bob stifled a gasp. "For the love of Mike! what are you doing at
this time of night?"

"Esther's here--we're hunting for Libbie," whispered Betty. "She isn't in
her room."

"So that's it!" For some reason unknown to the girls Bob seemed to be
vastly relieved. "I was just going after Mr. Littell," he added.

"But Libbie is lost! Maybe she is sick," urged Betty.

"She's all right," declared Bob confidently. "You see, I couldn't go to
sleep, and after I'd been in bed about an hour I got up and sat by the
window. I was staring down into the garden, and all of a sudden I saw
something white begin to move and creep about. I watched it a few moments
and I got the idea it was a burglar or a sneak thief, it kept so close to
the house. I came down to call Mr. Littell and bumped into you."

"Do you suppose it is Libbie?" chattered Esther. "Why would she go into
the garden in the middle of the night?"

"Walking in her sleep," explained Bob. "I've heard it is dangerous to
waken a sleep-walker suddenly. Perhaps you'd better call Mrs. Littell,
Betty, and I'll sit here on the window seat and see that she doesn't walk
out into the road."

The two girls hurried off and tapped lightly on Mrs. Littell's door. That
lady hurriedly admitted them, her motherly mind instantly picturing
something wrong.

"It's Libbie," said Betty softly. "Bob saw her from his window in the
garden and he thinks she's walking in her sleep. We don't want to
frighten her. What can we do?"

"I'll be right out," said Mrs. Littell reassuringly. "Libbie's mother
used to walk in her sleep, too. I think I can get the child into bed
without waking her at all."

In a few moments she came out, a heavy corduroy robe and slippers
protecting her against the night air.

"Esther, lamb, you stay here in the hall with Bob," she directed her
youngest daughter. "You won't be afraid with Bob, will you, dear? I don't
want too many to go down or we may startle Libbie."

Betty crept downstairs after Mrs. Littell, the soft, thick rugs making
their progress absolutely noiseless. Not a step in the well-built
staircase creaked.

They found the chain and bolt drawn from the heavy front door. Libbie had
evidently let herself out with no difficulty. From the wide hall window
Bob and Esther watched breathlessly.

"Just go up to her quietly and take one of her hands," Mrs. Littell
whispered to Betty. "I'll take the other, and, if I'm not mistaken, we
can lead her into the house."

Libbie stood motionless beside a rosebush as they approached her. Her
eyes were wide open, and her dark hair floated over her shoulders. In her
white nightdress, the moonlight full upon her, she looked very pretty and
yet so weird that Betty could not repress a shiver.

Mrs. Littell did not speak, but took one of the limp hands in hers, and
Betty took the other. Libbie made no resistance, and allowed them to
draw her toward the house. They crossed the threshold, led her upstairs,
past the quivering Esther and Bob huddled on the windowseat, and into the
bedroom she had so unceremoniously left.

Then Mrs. Littell lifted her in strong arms, put her gently down on the
bed, and Libbie rolled up like a little kitten, tucked one hand under her
cheek and continued to sleep.

"Now go to bed, children, do," commanded Mrs. Littell. "Bob, I'm so
thankful you saw that child--she might have wandered off or caught a
severe cold. As it is, I don't believe she has been out very long. What's
the matter, Esther?"

"Can I come and sleep with you?" pleaded Esther. "I'm afraid to sleep
with Libbie. She might do it again."

"I don't think so--not to-night," said her mother, smiling. "However,
chicken, come and sleep with me if you'll rest better."

Betty awoke and went in later that night to see if Libbie had vanished
again, but found her sleeping normally. In the morning the girl was much
surprised to find she had been wandering in the garden and betrayed
considerable interest in the details. Betty decided that it would be
better to omit Esther's belief that she had eloped, and Libbie was
allowed to remain in blissful ignorance of the action her youthful cousin
attributed to her.

The last day sped by all too soon, and what the Tucker twins persisted
in pessimistically designating the "fateful Thursday" was upon them.

"I don't know why you sigh so frequently," dimpled Betty, who sat next to
Tommy Tucker at the breakfast table. "I'm very anxious to go to school.
Don't you really like to go back?"

"It's like this," said Tommy, the "dark Tucker twin," solemnly. "From
four to ten p.m. (except on drill nights) I like it well enough, and from
ten, lights out, till six, reveille, I'm fairly contented. But from nine
to four, when we're cooped up in classrooms, I simply detest school!"

Teddy, the "light Tucker twin," nodded in confirmation.

"I suppose we have to be educated," he admitted, with the air of one
making a generous concession to public opinion, "but I don't see why they
find it necessary to prolong the agony. Any one who can read and write
can make a living."

"Perhaps your father hopes you'll do a bit more than that," suggested Mr.
Littell slyly.

This effectually silenced the twins, for their wealthy father was a
splendid scientist who had made several explorations that had contributed
materially to the knowledge of the scientific world, and he had lost the
sight of one eye in a laboratory experiment undertaken to advance the
cause for which he labored.

The Littell car carried the twelve to the station soon after
breakfast, and though Shadyside and Salsette, unlike many of the large
northern schools, ran no "special," the few passengers who were not
school bound found themselves decidedly in the minority on the "9:36
local" that morning.

"Remember, Betty, you and Bob are to spend the holidays with us," said
Mrs. Littell, as she kissed her good-bye. "If your uncle comes down from
Canada, he must come, too."

"All aboard!" shouted the conductor, who foresaw a lively trip. "No'm,
you can't go through the gate--nobody can."

The crowd of fathers and mothers and younger brothers and sisters
pressed close to the iron grating as the train got under way. On the
back platform the Tucker twins raised their voices in a school yell that
would have horrified the dignified heads of the Academy had they been
there to hear it.



CHAPTER IX

ADJUSTER TOMMY


"I'm Salsette born!" trilled Tommy Tucker soulfully.

"And Salsette bred!" chimed in his brother

"And when I die--" caroled Tommy.

"I'll be Salsette dead!" they finished together.

Then, highly satisfied with this intelligible ditty, they burst into the
car where the others were waiting for them.

The boys had appropriated the seats at the forward end of the car, and
unfortunately their selection included a seat in which an elderly, or so
she seemed to them, woman sat. She fidgeted incessantly, folding and
unfolding her long traveling coat, opening and closing a fitted lunch
basket, and arranging and re-arranging several small unwieldy parcels and
heavy books that slid persistently to the floor with the jarring of the
train. When the conductor came through for tickets, she discovered that
she had mislaid hers and it was necessary to flutter the pages of every
book before the missing bit of pasteboard finally dropped from between
the leaves of the last one opened.

Bob, with instinctive courtesy, had offered to help her search, but she
had rebuffed him sharply.

"I don't want any boy pawing over my belongings," she informed him
tartly.

Bob flushed a little, it was impossible not to help it, but he said
nothing. Meeting Betty's indignant eyes, he smiled good-humoredly.

"Sweet pickles!" ejaculated Tommy Tucker indignantly. "Here, you Timothy,
hand me that suitcase at your feet--it belongs to the little dark girl."

Libbie, "the little dark girl," smiled dreamily as Timothy passed her
suitcase to Tommy. She and Timothy Derby, ignoring the jeers of their
friends, were deep in two white and gold volumes of poetry. Timothy,
Libbie had discovered, had a leaning toward the romantic in fiction,
though he preferred his served in rhyme.

The wicked Tommy had a motive in asking for Libbie's suitcase. It was
much smaller and lighter than any of the others, and he swung it deftly
into the rack over the vinegary lady's unsuspecting head. With a
deftness, born it must be confessed of previous practice, he balanced
the case on the rim so that the first lurch of the train catapulted the
thing down squarely on the woman's hat, snapping a shiny, hard black
quill in two.

"I must say!" she sputtered, rising angrily. "Who put that up there? If
anything goes in that rack, it will be some of my things. I paid for
this seat."

She set the suitcase out into the aisle with a decided bang, and lifted
up the wicker lunch basket. To the glee of the watching young people, as
she lifted it to the rack, two china cups, several teaspoons and a silver
cream jug sifted down. The cups broke on the floor and the other articles
rolled under the seats.

"Get 'em, quick!" cried the owner. "My two best cups broken, and I
thought I had them packed so well! Pick up those teaspoons, some of
you--they're solid silver!"

"If you don't mind boys pawing them--" began Teddy Tucker, but Betty
intervened.

"Oh, don't!" she protested softly. "Don't be so mean. Pick them up,
please do."

So down on their hands and knees went the six lads, and if, in their
earnestness, they bumped into the elderly woman's hat box, and knocked
down her books, that really should not be held against them.

"Now for mercy's sake, don't let me hear from you again," was her
speech of thanks to them when the teaspoons had been recovered and
restored to her.

She might have been severely left alone after this, if Sydney Cooke had
not discovered a remarkable peculiarity she possessed. Sydney was a great
lover of games, and he had brought his pocket checkerboard and men with
him. He persuaded Winifred Marion Brown to play a game with him, and the
rest of the party crowded around to watch.

"I'll trouble you to let me pass," said the owner of the teaspoons, when
Sydney had just made his first play.

The group parted to let her through, closed in again, and opened again
for her when she came back. No one paid any attention to this until she
had made the request four times.

"What ails that woman?" demanded Sydney irritably.

Each time she had passed him she had brushed his elbow, scattering his
checkers about. Ordinarily sweet-tempered, Sydney was beginning to weary
of this performance.

"What do you think?" snickered Bobby Littell. "She takes a white tablet
every five minutes. Honest! I've been watching her. She sits there with
her watch in her hand, and exactly five minutes apart--I've timed
her--she starts for the water cooler. She puts something on her tongue,
swallows a glass of water, and comes back."

"Well, somebody carry her a gallon jug," muttered Sydney impatiently. "I
can't get anywhere if she is going to parade up and down the aisle
incessantly."

"Don't worry," said Tommy Tucker soothingly. "I'll adjust this little
matter for you."

If Sydney had been less interested in his game, he might have felt
slightly apprehensive. The Tucker twins were famous for their
"adjustments."

Tommy went down the aisle and slipped into the seat directly back of the
woman who did not approve of boys. She turned and regarded him hostilely,
but he gazed out at the flying landscape. The moment she turned around,
he ducked to the floor.

"What do you suppose he is doing?" whispered Bobby to Betty. "Tommy can
think up tricks faster than any boy I ever knew."

Whatever Tommy was doing, he finished in a very few moments and sauntered
back to the checker game, his eyes dancing.

Sydney and Winifred were absorbed in their game, and the others, with the
exception of Bobby and Betty, had not noticed Tommy's brief absence.

"Oh, look!" Betty clutched Bobby's arm excitedly. "What has
happened to her?"

The woman, who had sat with her watch in her hand, snapped it shut,
prepared to make another journey to the water cooler. She half rose, an
alarmed expression flitted over her face, and she sank into her seat
again. Tommy's eyes were studiously on the checkerboard.

With one convulsive effort, the woman struggled to her feet, grasped the
bell-cord and jerked it twice, then dropped into her seat and began to
weep hysterically.

The brakes jarred down, and the train came to a sudden stop that sent
many of the passengers m a mad scramble forward.

In a few moments the conductor flung open the car door angrily. Behind
him two anxious young brakesmen peered curiously.

"Anybody in here jerk that bellcord?" demanded the conductor, scowling.

"Certainly. It was I," said the elderly woman loftily.

"Oh, you did, eh?" he bristled, apparently unworried by her opinion.
"What did you do that for? Here you've stopped a whole train."

"I considered it necessary," was the icy reply. "Perhaps you will be good
enough to call a doctor?"

"Are you ill?" the conductor's voice changed perceptibly. "I doubt if
there is a doctor on the train, but I'll see."

"Tell him to hurry," said the woman commandingly. "I think I'm
paralyzed."

"Paralyzed!" Tommy Tucker gave a loud snort and fell over backward into
the arms of his twin.

The conductor shot a suspicious glance toward him. He had traveled on
school trains before.

"You seem to be all right, Madam," he said to the stricken one
courteously. "There's a doctor at the Junction, I'm sure. What makes you
think you're paralyzed?"

"My good man," said the woman majestically, "when a person in good health
and accustomed to normal activity suddenly loses the power to use
her--er--feet, isn't that an indication of some physical trouble?"

Her unfortunate and un-American phrase, "my good man," had nettled the
conductor, and besides his train was losing time.

"We'll miss connections at the Junction if we fool away much more time,"
he said testily. "I wonder--Why look here! No wonder you can't use
your feet!"

To the elderly woman's horror he had swooped down and laid a not
ungentle hand on her ankle in its neat and smart-looking shoe. Now he
took out his knife, slashed twice, and held up the pieces of a stout
length of twine.

"You were tied to the seat-base by the heels of your shoes," he informed
the patient grimly. "One foot tied to the other, too. Well, Jim, take in
your signals--guess we can mosey along."

"And who would have expected her to wear high-heeled boots!" exclaimed
Bobby, with real amazement showing in voice and look.

The few passengers in the car, aside from the school contingent, were
openly laughing. The victim of this practical joke turned a dull red and
the glare she turned on the back of the luckless Tommy's head was proof
enough that she knew exactly where to lay the blame.

However, she said nothing, nor did she make another trip down the aisle
and as Tommy philosophically whispered, this was worth all he had dared
and suffered. Sydney and Winifred finished their game before the Junction
was reached and that brought a wild charge to get on the train that would
carry them to Shadyside station.

To their relief, there was no sign of the elderly woman in the new car,
and as they were all a bit tired from the journey and excitement the
hour's ride to Shadyside from the Junction was comparatively quiet.

Betty looked eagerly from the window as the brakesman shouted,
"Shadyside! Shadyside!"



CHAPTER X

SHADYSIDE SCHOOL


"Isn't it a pretty station!" said Louise Littell.

Betty agreed with her.

The lawn was still green about the gray stone building and the tiles on
the low-hanging roof were moss green, too. The long platform was roofed
over and seemed swarming with girls and boys. Evidently a train had come
in from the other direction a few minutes before the Junction train, for
bags and suitcases and trunks were heaped up outside the baggage room
door and the busses backed up to the edge of the gravel driveway were
partially filled with passengers.

The blue and silver uniforms of the Salsette cadets were much in
evidence, and Betty's first thought was of how nice Bob Henderson would
look in uniform.

"There's our friend!" whispered Tommy Tucker, directing Betty's
attention to the severe-looking elderly woman whom he had so bothered on
the train. "Gee, do you suppose she goes to Shadyside? I thought it was
a girls' School!"

"Oh, do be quiet!" scolded Bobby Littell "Tommy, you've got us in a peck
of trouble--she's one of the teachers!"

"How do you know?" demanded Tommy. "Who told you?"

"Well, if you'd keep still a minute, you'd hear," said the
exasperated Bobby.

Sure enough, a pleasant, fresh-faced woman, hardly more than a girl, was
escorting the gray-haired woman to a waiting touring car.

"You're the last of the staff to come," she said clearly. Mrs. Eustice
was beginning to worry about you. Will you tell her that I'm coming up in
the bus with the girls?"

"All right, you win," admitted Tommy. "Why couldn't she say she was a
teacher instead of acting so blamed exclusive? Anyway, she probably won't
connect you girls with me--all boys look alike to her."

"She has a wonderful memory--like a camera," surmised Bobby gloomily.
"You wait and see."

"Girls, are all of you for Shadyside?" The young woman had come up to
them and now she smiled at the giggling, chattering group with engaging
friendliness. "I thought you were. We take this auto-stage over here.
Give your baggage checks to this porter. I'm Miss Anderson, the physical
instructor."

"Salsette boys this way!" boomed a stentorian voice.

"Good-bye, Betty. See you soon," whispered Bob, giving Betty's hand a
hurried squeeze. "We're only across the lake, you know."

"You chaps, _move_!" directed the voice snappily.

With one accord the group dissolved, the boys hastening to the stage
marked "Salsette" and the girls following Miss Anderson.

There were two stages for the Academy and two for Shadyside, and a
smaller bus which, they afterward learned, followed the route to the
town, which was not on the railroad.

"Betty, darling!"

A pretty girl tumbled down the stage steps and nearly choked Betty with
the fervency of her embrace.

It was Norma Guerin, and Alice was waiting, smiling. Betty was delighted
to meet these old friends, and she introduced them to the Littell girls
and Libbie and Frances in the happy, tangled fashion that such
introductions usually are performed. Names and faces get straightened out
more gradually.

The stage in which they found themselves, for the seven girls insisted on
sitting near each other, was well-filled. They had started and were
lurching along the rather uneven road when Betty found herself staring at
a girl on the other side of the bus.

"Where have I seen her before?" she puzzled. "I wonder--does she look
like some one I know? Oh, I remember! She's the girl we saw on the
train--the one that took Bob's seat!"

Just then a girl sitting up near the driver's seat leaned forward.

"Ada!" she called. "Ada Nansen! Are you the girl they say brought five
trunks and three hat boxes?"

"Well, they're little ones!" said the girl sitting opposite Betty. "I
wanted to bring three wardrobe trunks, but mother thought Mrs. Eustice
might make a fuss."

So the girl's name was Ada Nansen. Betty was sure she remembered their
encounter on the train, if for no other reason than that Ada studiously
refused to meet her eye. Betty was too inexperienced to know that a
certain type of girl never takes a step toward making a new friend
unless she has the worldly standing of that friend first clearly fixed
in her mind.

"What gorgeous furs she has!" whispered Norma Guerin. "Do you know
her, Betty?"

Betty shook her head. Strictly speaking, she did not know Ada. What she
did know of her was not pleasant, and it was part of Betty's personal
creed never to repeat anything unkind if nothing good was to come of it.

"I can tell Bob, 'cause he knows about her," she said to herself. "Won't
he be surprised! I do hope she hasn't brought a huge wardrobe to school
to make Norma and Alice feel bad."

Though both the Guerin girls wore the neatest blouses and suits, any
girl could immediately have told you that their clothes were not new
that season and that the little bag each carried had been oiled and
polished at home.

That Ada Nansen's trunks were worrying Norma, too, her next remark
showed.

"Alice and I have only one trunk between us," she confided to Betty.
"Mother said Mrs. Eustice never allowed the girls to dress much. I made
Alice's party frock and mine, too. They're plain white."

"So's mine," said Betty quickly. "Mrs. Littell wouldn't let her daughters
have elaborate clothes, and the Littells have oceans of money. I don't
believe Ada can wear her fine feathers now she has 'em."

Twenty minutes' ride brought them in sight of the school, and as the bus
turned down the road that led to the lake, many exclamations of pleasure
were heard.

A double row of weeping willows, now bare, of course, bordered the lake,
and the sloping lawns of the school led down to these. The red brick
buildings of the Salsette Academy could be glimpsed on the other shore.
Shadyside consisted of a large brick and limestone building that the
last term pupils in the busses obligingly explained was the
"administration," where classes were taught. The gymnasium was also in
this building. In addition were three gray stone buildings, connected
with bridges, in which were the dormitories, the teachers' rooms, the
dining room, the infirmary, and the kitchens. The administration building
was also connected with the other buildings by a covered passageway
which, they were to discover, was opened only in bad weather. Mrs.
Eustice, the principal, had a theory that girls did not get out into the
fresh air often enough.

The main building possessed a handsome doorway, and here the busses
stopped and discharged their passengers.

"Ada, my dear love!" cried a girl from the bus behind the one in which
Betty and her friends had ridden.

An over-dressed, stout girl advanced upon Ada Nansen and kissed her
affectionately.

"Look quick! That's Ruth Gladys Royal!" whispered Bobby. "I hope they
room together--they'll be a pair. Ada, my dear love!" she mimicked
wickedly. "Libbie, let that be a warning to you--Ruth Gladys Royal is
terribly romantic, too!"

Miss Anderson, smiling and unhurried, marshaled her charges into the
large foyer and announced that they would be assigned to rooms
before luncheon.

"Mrs. Eustice will speak to you in the assembly hall this afternoon,"
said Miss Anderson. "And you will meet her and the teachers for a little
social hour."

Two busy young clerks were at work in the office adjoining the foyer, and
for those who were already provided with a room-mate the task of securing
a room was a matter of only a few moments.

Our girls, with the exception of Louise, had paired off when they had
registered for the term. Bobby Littell and Betty Gordon were, of course,
inseparable. Libbie and Frances, great friends in their home town,
naturally gravitated together, though Betty would have chosen a less
studious room-mate for the dreamy Libbie--she needed a girl who would
know more accurately what she was doing. Norma and Alice Guerin were to
share a room, and Louise felt forlornly out of things when Miss Anderson
came up to her bringing a red-haired, freckle-faced girl with wide gray
eyes and a boyish grin.

"Louise Littell--you are Louise, aren't you?" asked the teacher. "Well,
here's a girl who's come to us from a Western army post. Her name is
Constance Howard, and she doesn't know a single girl. Don't you think
you two might be happy together?"

Constance smiled again, and Louise warmed perceptibly. Louise was the
least friendly of the three Littell girls.

"I'll let you play my ukulele," offered Constance eagerly.

"Let me. She doesn't know a ukulele from a music box," said Bobby, with
sisterly frankness. "Come on, girls, let's go up and see our rooms."

They tramped up the broad staircase and crossed one of the bridges to
find themselves in a delightful, sunny building with corridors carpeted
in softest green. The rooms apparently were all connecting, and the
teacher who met them said the eight friends might have adjoining rooms as
long as "they gave no trouble."

"I'm your corridor teacher, Miss Lacey," she explained.

"Let's be glad she isn't the one we saw on the train," whispered the
irrepressible Bobby, as they all trooped into the first room.



CHAPTER XI

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


It was soon settled that Betty and Bobby were to have the center room in
a suite of three and Libbie and Frances should be on one side of them,
and Louise and Constance Howard on the other. There was a perfectly
appointed bathroom opening off the center room which the six were to
share. Norma and Alice Guerin were given a room that adjoined that
occupied by Libbie and Frances, but nominally, Miss Lacey explained, they
would be considered as a unit in the next suite of three connecting
rooms. Fortunately two very friendly, quiet girls drew the room
immediately next to the Guerin girls.

"But, Betty, listen," whispered Norma Guerin, drawing Betty aside as a
great bumping and banging announced the arrival of the trunks. "Who do
you suppose has the room next to the Bennett sisters? Ada Nansen and Ruth
Gladys Royal!"

"You are in hard luck!" commented Bobby, who had overheard, as she danced
off to open the door to the grinning expressman.

"All the porters are busy!" the man explained.

"So I just told 'em Tim McCarthy wasn't one to stand by and let work go
undone. Where would ye be wantin' these little bags put now?"

He had a trunk on his back that, as Bobby afterward remarked to Betty,
"would have done for an elephant."

"Girls, whose trunk is this?" demanded Bobby.

"Not mine!" came like a well-drilled chorus.

"'Miss Ada Nansen,'" read Betty, examining the card. "Bobby, that's one
of the five!"

They directed the perspiring expressman to the right door and, it is to
be regretted, shamelessly peeped while he toiled up and down bringing the
five trunks and three hat boxes. Then he began on the baggage consigned
to Ruth Gladys Royal, and the watchers counted three trunks.

Betty looked at the Guerin girls and laughed.

"Eight trunks!" she gasped. "They can't get that number in one room.
Not and have any room for the furniture. Norma, do go and see what
you can see."

Norma sped away, and returned as speedily, her eyes blazing.

"What do you think?" she demanded furiously. "They've had some of 'em put
in our room, three I counted, and two in the Bennett girls' room. They're
as mad as hops!"

"The Bennett girls are my friends," declared Bobby Littell sententiously.
"I only hope they're mad enough to hop right down to the office and
explain the state of things."

But the luncheon gong sounded just then, and a laughing, colorful throng
of femininity swept down the broad stairs to the dining room.

"How lovely!" said Betty involuntarily.

There were no long tables in the large, airy room. Instead, round tables
that seated from six to eight, each daintily set and with a slender vase
of flowers in the center of each. Betty and Bobby had the same thought at
the same moment.

"If we could only sit together, all of us!" their eyes telegraphed.

"They're all taking the tables they want and standing by the chairs,"
whispered Betty. "Let's do that."

A table set for eight was close to the door. Betty, Bobby, Louise,
Frances, Libbie, Constance, Norma and Alice gently surrounded this and
stood quietly behind the chairs.

Some one, somewhere, gave a signal, and the roomful was seated as
if by magic.

"I see--those four tables over by the window are for the teachers,"
whispered Betty. "I see Miss Anderson and Miss Lacey, and that
white-haired woman must be the principal. Yes, and girls, there's that
woman whom the boys tormented so on the train!"

Sure enough, there she was, looking even more severe now that her hat
was removed and her sharp features were unrelieved.

"If this isn't fun! I'm sorry for poor Esther at Miss Graham's,"
said Bobby, looking about her with delight. "Mercy, what do you
suppose this is?"

One of the young clerks from the office approached the table, a large
cardboard sheet in her hand.

"I'm filling in the diagram," she explained. "You mustn't change your
seats without permission. Tell me your names, and I'll put you down in
the right spaces."

Betty looked over her shoulder as she wrote down their names. Like the
diagram of the seating space of a theatre, the tables and chairs were
plainly marked. Betty swiftly calculated that between one hundred and
twenty-five and one hundred and fifty girls must be seated in the room.
Later she learned that the total enrollment was one hundred and sixty.

Just outside the dining room was a large bulletin board, impossible to
ignore or overlook. When they came out from luncheon a notice was posted
that Mrs. Eustice would address the school at two o'clock in the assembly
hall in the main building. It was now one-thirty.

"Let's go look at the gym," suggested Bobby. "We have time. Oh, how do
you do?"--this last was apparently jerked out of her.

"I didn't know you were coming to Shadyside, Bobby," said Ruth Gladys
Royal effusively. "Do you know my chum, Ada Nansen? She's from San
Francisco."

"Constance Howard is from the West, too--the Presidio," said Bobby.

Gracefully she introduced the others to Ada and Ruth who surveyed them
indifferently. The Littell girls they knew were wealthy and had a place
in Washington society, but the rest were not yet classified.

"Haven't I seen you before?" Ada languidly questioned Betty. "You're not
the little waitress--Oh, how stupid of me! I was thinking of a girl who
looked enough like you to be your sister."

Bobby bristled indignantly, but Betty struggled with laughter.

"I remember you," she said clearly. "You had the wrong seat on the train
from Oklahoma."

Ada Nansen glanced at her with positive dislike.

"I don't recall," she said icily. "However, I've traveled so much I
daresay many incidents slip my mind. Well, Gladys, let's go in and get
good seats. I want to hear Mrs. Eustice; they say she is a direct
descendant of Richard Carvel."

"We might as well go in, too," said Bobby disconsolately. "She's used up
so much time we couldn't do the gym justice."

Promptly at two o'clock, white-haired Mrs. Eustice mounted the platform
and tapped a little bell for silence.

The principal was a gracious woman of perhaps fifty. Her snow-white hair
was piled high on her head and her dark eyes were bright and keen.
Wonderful eyes they were, seeming to gaze straight into the youthful eyes
that stared back affectionately or curiously as the case might be. Mrs.
Eustice's gown was of black or very dark blue silk, made simply and
fitting exquisitely. Straight, soft collar and cuffs of dotted net
outlined the neck and wrists, and her single ornament was a tiny watch
worn on a black ribbon.

"I wish Ada Nansen would take a good look at her," muttered Bobby.

"I am so glad to welcome you, my girls," began Mrs. Eustice.

Betty thrilled to the magic of that modulated voice, low and yet clear
enough to be heard in every corner of the large room. Surely this lovely
woman could teach them the secret of cultivated, dignified and happy
young womanhood.

The principal spoke to them briefly of her ideals for them, explained the
few rigid rules of the school, and asked that all exercise tact and
patience for the first week during which the rough edges of new
schedules might reasonably be expected to wear off.

"I want to have a little personal talk with each one of you," she
concluded. "Your corridor teachers will consult with me and will tell you
when you are to come to me. And I hope you are to be very, very happy
here with us at Shadyside."

A soft clapping of hands followed this speech, and Mrs. Eustice stepped
down from the platform to be instantly surrounded by the girls who had
spent other terms at the school.

After the older girls had spoken to the principal, the newcomers began to
move forward. They were presented by their corridor teachers, who seemed
to possess a special faculty to remember names, and here and there Mrs.
Eustice recognized a girl through the association of ideas.

As Miss Lacey swept her girls forward, Ada Nansen and Ruth Gladys Royal
happened to head the ranks. Mrs. Eustice put out her hand to Ada, then
gazed down at her in evident astonishment.



CHAPTER XII

THE LOST TREASURE


"Diamonds," whispered Betty to Norma Guerin, who seemed depressed. "She
wears three diamond rings and one sapphire and a square-cut emerald. And
her wrist-watch is platinum set with diamonds."

Mrs. Eustice gazed at the soft little hand she held for a few moments,
then released it. She said nothing.

"Ah, your mother wrote me of you," was the principal's greeting to the
Littell girls. "You look like her, Louise. And Bobby is much like her
father as I remember him."

"This is Betty Gordon," said the loyal Bobby, indicating her chum.
"Mother wrote about her, too, didn't she?"

"Indeed she did," assented Mrs. Eustice warmly. "I must have a special
talk with Betty soon, for she has an ambitious program before her. And
here are Libbie and Frances from the state I remember so affectionately
from girlhood visits there."

But it was Norma and Alice Guerin, sensitive Norma and shy Alice, who
were welcomed most cordially after all.

"So you are Elsie Guerin's daughters!" said the principal, putting an
arm around Norma and holding her hand out to Alice. "My own dear mother
taught your mother when she was a little girl with braids like yours.
And your dear grandmother used to give the most wonderful parties.
People talk about them to this day. It was at her Rose Ball I first met
my husband. You must go up the north road some day and see the old
Macklin house."

Norma and Alice fairly glowed as they went back to their rooms with the
other girls. Ada Nansen had heard, and she was regarding them with
evident respect.

Norma and Alice might have been uneasy had they heard Ada's comment when
she and Ruth were once more in their own rooms.

"They must have money," argued Ada, "though I never saw such ordinary
clothes. Giving balls and parties in the lavish Southern style costs,
let me tell you. Probably they have some fine family jewels in that
shabby trunk."

"I'll tell you what I think," said Ruth Gladys wisely. "I think the money
is all used up. Probably they're here as charity pupils for old
friendship's sake."

This speculation was duly stored up in Ada Nansen's mind to be brought
out when needed.

After dinner Miss Anderson played for them to dance in the broad hall,
but every one was tired from train journeys, and at nine o'clock they
voluntarily sought their rooms.

"Get into a kimono and brush your hair in here," hospitably suggested
Betty, and Bobby seconded her by flinging the suitcases under the beds.
All of the rooms were fitted with pretty day-beds so that a cover quickly
transformed them into couches and the bedrooms into sitting rooms.

Four gay-colored kimono-wrapped figures came pattering in presently and
curled up comfortably on the beds. Norma and Alice were the last to
arrive, and when they did come they mystified their friends by prancing
in silently and waltzing gaily about the room.

"Oh, girls!" they chortled when they had tired of this performance, "what
do you think?"

"We couldn't help hearing," said Norma deprecatingly.

"Laura Bennett called us in," declared Alice.

"Don't sing a duet," commanded Bobby sternly. "What are you talking
about? One at a time. You tell, Norma."

"Laura Bennett called us into her room," obediently recited Norma. "Miss
Lacey was talking to Ada and Ruth. You could hear every word without
listening--that is without eavesdropping--you know what I mean. Mrs.
Eustice must have spoken to Miss Lacey, because she told the girls they
would have to send all the trunks home except one apiece. Ada must put
all her jewelry in the school safe and at the Christmas holidays she is
to take it home and leave it there. Both of them have to wear their hair
down or in a knot--you know they have it waved now and done up just like
my mother's. And Miss Lacey is to go over their clothes to-morrow and
tell 'em what they can keep!"

"I'm glad some one has some sense!" was Bobby's terse comment.

Something in Norma's face told Betty that she would like to speak to her
alone, so half an hour later when the girls had dispersed for the night,
she made a bent nail file an excuse to go to the Guerins' room.

"I was hoping you'd come, Betty," said Norma gratefully. "We have to put
out the lights at ten, don't we? I'll try to talk fast. You see, Alice
and I want to tell you something."

A fleecy old-fashioned shawl lay across the bed and Norma flung this
about Betty's shoulders.

"Alice's kimono is flannel and so is mine," she explained in answer to
the protest. "You never met Grandma Macklin, did you, Betty?"

"No-o, I'm sure I never did," responded Betty thoughtfully. "Does she
live with you?"

"Yes. But while you were at the Peabodys she was visiting her half-sister
in Georgia," explained Norma. "She is mother's mother, you know."

"What was it Mrs. Eustice said about her?" questioned Betty with
interest. "Did she live near here? Was that when your mother went to
this school?"

"It was a day school then, you know," put in the laconic Alice.

"Yes, and grandma lived in a perfectly wonderful big house," said Norma.
"It must be fully five miles from here. Uncle Goliath, an old colored
man, used to drive her over every day and call for her in the afternoon.
Mother has always been determined Alice and I should graduate from
Shadyside."

"Well then, it's lovely she is to have her wish," commented Betty
brightly.

"Oh, goodness, I don't see that we're ever going to have four years,"
confessed Norma. "If you knew what they've given up at home to send us
for this term! And though we wouldn't say anything, mother and grandma
worked so hard to get us ready, Alice and I are positively ashamed of our
clothes. You see, Betty, I think when you're poor, you ought to go where
you'll meet other poor girls. Alice and I ought to have entered the
Glenside high school, I think. But when I said something like that to dad
he said it would break mother's heart. But if she knew how hard it was to
be poor and to have to rub elbows with girls who have everything--"

"I don't think you ought to feel that way," urged Betty. "You have
something that no amount of money could buy for you, and no lack can take
away--birth and breeding. And the training your mother wants you to have
is worth sacrificing other things for. Ever since I heard Mrs. Eustice
talk I feel that I know what makes her school really successful."

A soft tap fell on the door.

"Lights go off in ten minutes, girls," said Miss Lacey pleasantly.

"Do you know, Betty," confessed Norma hurriedly, "dad has lost quite a
lot of money lately. He's such a dear he never can bear to press
payment of a bill and half the county owes him. And a friend got him to
invest what he did have in some silly stock that never amounted to a
hill of beans, as the farmers say. So it's no wonder the Macklin
fortune worries mother whenever she thinks of it; a family like ours
could use money so easily."

"Most families are like that," said Betty, with a flash of Uncle Dick's
humor. "I didn't like to ask, Norma, but your grandmother must have
been wealthy."

"She was," confirmed Norma. "Not fabulously so, of course. But even in
those days when lavish hospitality was common Grandma Macklin was famous
for the way she ran the estate. She was left a widow when a very young
woman, and mother was her only child. Her husband didn't believe women
knew very much about money, and he left his fortune mostly in bonds and
jewels--the most magnificent diamonds in three counties, grandma says
hers were. And she had a rope of emeralds and two strings of exquisitely
matched pearls. Besides, there were rose topazes and lovely cameos and
oh, goodness, I couldn't repeat the list; Alice and I have been brought
up on the story.

"Well, about the time mother had finished school, Grandma Macklin came to
the end of her bank account. Several mortgages had been paid her in gold,
and she kept this money with the jewelry and a lot of solid silver in a
little safe in her room. Foolish, of course, but she says others did it
in those days, too. She meant to take the gold and some of the diamonds
to her lawyer and get a check which would take her and mother around the
world on a luxurious cruise. And the day before she had the appointment
with Mr. Davies--"

A soft blackness settled down over the girls like a blanket. The
electric lights had gone out!

"Move closer, and I'll finish," whispered Norma.

Betty snuggled up between the two, and shivered a little with excitement.

"The day before she was to drive to Edentown," repeated Norma, "a band of
Indians from the reservation in the next state came through on their
annual tramping trip and walked in on poor little grandma as she sat at
her mahogany secretary turning over her jewels and counting her beautiful
shining gold. Every darkey on the place fled in terror, and those
rascally Indians simply scooped up everything in sight and locked grandma
and mother in the room!"

"Couldn't any one stop them?" demanded Betty eagerly. "Surely a band of
Indians could have been easily traced. Didn't any one try?"

"Oh, they tried," admitted Norma. "That's the maddening part. Suppose I
told you, Betty, that I know where grandma's inheritance is this minute?"



CHAPTER XIII

THE MYSTERIOUS FOUR


"Well, for mercy's sake!" said Betty in exasperation, "if you know
where the property is, why don't you claim it? Why doesn't your mother?
Where is it?"

"At the bottom of Indian Chasm," declared Norma calmly.

"Where's that?"

"I don't know exactly," admitted Norma. "It's around here somewhere. You
see the Indians streaked for the woods, and mother got out by way of a
window and ran to the next estate. The men and boys there armed
themselves and took horses and chased the Redskins, and when they were
almost up with them the robbers tossed everything down this great canyon
in the earth. There was no way to get into it, and though they tried
lowering men with ropes, they couldn't find a solitary gold piece. As far
as any one knows it is all at the bottom of the chasm now."

"And grandma had to mortgage the house and they couldn't pay the interest
and it was sold and all the lovely mahogany furniture," mourned Alice.
"And grandma and mother moved to New York and mother taught school and
met dad, who was a medical student. And they were married when he
graduated, and grandma came to live with 'em."

Betty crept away to her own bed when the story was finished. Bobby was
asleep, for which her chum was thankful. Betty wanted to think. Surely
there must be a way to recover the Macklin fortune, if it was still down
in the big chasm.

"I'll tell Bob and we'll go and find that place. Perhaps he can think of
a plan," was Betty's last thought before she went to sleep.

The next few days were very busy ones for every pupil. Ada and Ruth, in
tears, submitted to having their wardrobes censored, and thereafter
appeared in clothes that were not too striking.

The appointments with Mrs. Eustice materialized, and Betty, after her
interview, was conscious of a sincere affection for the woman who seemed
to understand girls so thoroughly.

Bobby was "crazy," to quote her own expression, about the gymnasium
classes, and Miss Anderson beamed approvingly upon her. Betty, too, was
often to be found in the gymnasium after school hours, but Libbie had to
be driven to regular exercise. She liked to dance, but unless some one
was made responsible for her, she was prone to cut her regular gymnasium
period and devote the time to some thrilling novel. When the other girls
discovered this they good-naturedly made up a schedule for the week,
assigning a different day to every girl whose duty it should be to "seal,
sign and deliver" the reluctant Libbie at the gymnasium door at the
appointed time.

Mrs. Eustice, rather peculiarly some people thought--Ada Nansen's mother
among them--held the theory that school girls should spend a fair
proportion of their time in study. She had small patience with the
faddist type of school that abhorred "night work" and whose students
specialized on "manners" to the neglect of spelling.

"I dislike the term 'finishing school,'" she had once said. "I try
to teach my girls that what they learn in school fits them for
beginning life."

So from seven to half-past eight every night, except Friday, the pupils
at Shadyside were busy with their books. They might study in their rooms,
provided their marks for the preceding week were satisfactory, but those
who fell below a certain percentage were sentenced to prepare their
lessons in the study hall under the eye of a teacher.

The second Friday night of the term the new students were warned by
little pink cocked notes to remain in their rooms after dinner until they
had been inspected by the "Mysterious Four."

"It's a secret society," Bobby announced the moment she had read her
note. "Well, let's go upstairs and prepare to be inspected."

The eight gathered in Betty and Bobby's room, and though they were
expecting it, the knock, when it finally did come, made them all jump.

"Come--come in," stammered Betty and Bobby together.

Four veiled figures entered, each carrying something in her hand. They
spoke in disguised voices, though as they were upper classmen they were
fairly safe from recognition; the new girls were hardly acquainted among
themselves and knew few of the older students by name.

"Freshmen," said the tallest figure, "when we enter, rise."

The eight leaped to their feet at a bound.

"Do you wish to become members of the Mysterious Four?" demanded the
second figure.

"Oh, yes," chorused the willing victims.

"It is well," chanted the third figure.

"It is well," echoed the fourth.

"I don't," said Libbie calmly.

"Don't what?" questioned the tallest figure, evidently appointed chief
spokesman.

"Want to be a member of the Mysterious Four," announced Libbie, who had
an obstinate streak in her make-up.

"Unfortunately," the spokesman informed her, "you haven't any choice in
the matter; you're elected one already."

While Libbie was thinking up an answer, which considering the finality
of that statement, was not an easy matter, the tall draped figure went
on to explain to the interested girls that there were two degrees to
be undergone before one could be a full fledged member of the
Mysterious Four.

"You must take the first degree to-night," they were told. "The second
will be several weeks later."

"Are we allowed to ask a question?" asked Betty respectfully.

"Oh, yes. But we may not answer it," was the cheering response.

"Why is the society called the 'Mysterious Four'?" asked Betty "All the
freshman class received notes, so the membership must be large; where
does the four enter?"

"You'll learn that at the close of your first degree," said the spokesman
with firm kindness. "Now you're to remain here for five minutes, and then
go down to the study hall. Five minutes, remember."

They departed majestically, and the girls were left to spend their five
minutes in discussion of the visit.

"I don't see why I have to belong," grumbled Libbie.

"It will do you good," said Bobby severely. "When I promised Aunt
Elizabeth to look after you, I didn't know that meant I would have to
risk my head by sleeping under 'Lady Gwendolyn' in two volumes--and fat
ones at that"

Libbie had the grace to blush. Bobby, who was fond of books but whose
taste ran to "Rules for Basketball" and "How to Gain Health Through
Exercise," had put up a small shelf directly over her bed to hold her
literary treasures. Libbie, exhausting the space in her tiny corner
bookcase had thoughtlessly placed the two heavy volumes of the story
Bobby mentioned on top of her cousin's books with the awful result that
the shelf broke in the night and spilled the books on the wrathful Bobby.

"Let's go down to the study hall," suggested peace-loving Louise. "The
five minutes are up."

Down they trooped, to find a number of girls already there, for the most
part looking rather frightened.

At five minute intervals other groups entered, until all the freshman
class was assembled.

"I don't care anything about this society," whispered Ada Nansen to
Ruth Royal. "I wouldn't give fifty cents for an organization where no
discrimination is shown in choosing the members. However, this is
Mrs. Eustice's pet scheme, they tell me, and I want to stand well
with her. Next year I'm going to get elected to the White Scroll,
you see if I don't."

The Mysterious Four came in as the last group of girls were seated and
slowly mounted the platform.

"Candidates," announced the leader, "you are summoned here to take your
first degree. It is simple, but no shirking is to be permitted. You are
to do the one thing that you do best. As your names are called, you will
mount the platform and comply. Four minutes is allowed for decision--on
the platform."

There was a gasp from the audience, and one could almost see the mental
cog wheels of sixty girls going furiously to work.

"Betty," whispered the desperate Bobby, "what can you do best?"

"Ride, I guess," said Betty, recollections of Clover coming to mind.

There was a crashing chord from the piano. One of the veiled figures had
seated herself at the instrument and now proceeded to play "appropriate
selections" as the candidates performed their turns.

As the clever leader had foreseen, no one relished spending her allotted
four minutes for reflection on the platform in full view of the audience,
and the majority of the victims made up their minds with a rush.

After they had entered into the spirit of the thing, it was fun, and
their shrieks of laughter aroused sympathetic smiles in other rooms. No
teachers and no member of the other classes were permitted to enter, but
Aunt Nancy, the fat cook, and half a dozen young waitresses peeped in at
the door and enjoyed the spectacle hugely.

Betty Gordon obligingly cantered across the platform on a chair and won
applause by her realistic interpretation of western riding. Bobby
convulsed the room with her imaginary efforts to cut and fit a dress, her
mistakes being glaring ones, for Bobby never touched a needle if she
could help it. Clever Constance Howard had gone for her ukulele and
played it charmingly. Libbie insisted on giving the "balcony scene" from
Romeo and Juliet, in which she was supported by the unwilling Frances,
who was certainly the stiffest Romeo who ever walked the stage.

"Ada Nansen," called the leader, when the eight chums had made their
individual contributions to the program.



CHAPTER XIV

A SATURDAY RACE


Ada had been watching the others with a contempt she made little attempt
to conceal. When her name was called she walked to the platform and faced
the leader defiantly.

"What can you do best, Ada?" came the familiar question.

Ada smiled patronizingly.

"Spend money," she said briefly.

"Do that," said the young leader calmly.

"How can I spend money here?" demanded Ada angrily. "There's nothing to
buy. I call that silly."

"Then you admit you can't spend money?"

"No such thing!" Ada stamped her foot, furious at such stupidity. "I say
I can't spend it here where there is nothing to buy. You let me go to
Edentown, and I'll show you whether I can spend money or not."

"The order of the first degree of the Mysterious Four is that the
candidate must do what she can do best," repeated the veiled figure
insistently. "What can you do best?"

"Sing," said Ada sullenly.

"Then do that."

And now the watching girls had what Bobby later admitted was "the
surprise of their lives."

The girl at the piano fingered a chord tentatively, then struck into a
popular song, an appealing little melody, the words a lyric set to music
by a composer with a spark of genius.

"I picked a rose in my garden fair--" sang Ada.

She sang without affectation. Her voice was a charming contralto,
evidently partially trained, and promising with coming years to be worth
consideration.

"But it withered in a day--" went on the lovely voice.

The girls were absolutely mute. When she had finished the song, and she
gave it all, they burst into a spontaneous storm of applause.

Ada barely acknowledged the hand-clapping. Her face had instantly slipped
back into the old sullen lines.

"When she can sing like that, shouldn't you think she would be perfectly
happy?" sighed Betty. "I'd give anything if I had a voice!"

As a matter of fact Betty had a clear little contralto of her own and she
sang as naturally as a bird. But there was no denying that Ada's voice
was exceptional.

After the last girl had had her turn the veiled leader mounted the
platform and threw back her swathing net.

"She's the president of the senior class, Mabel Waters," whispered a girl
near Betty.

"I have the honor to welcome you all as members in good standing of the
novice class, first-degree, Mysterious For," announced Miss Waters.
"That's all there is to the name, girls--when we decided to form a new
society here in school some one asked 'What's it for?' So our
organization became the Mysterious F-O-R, and you'll find out as time
goes on what the answer is. I might say, though, that happiness and good
fellowship and a little spice of sisterliness are what we try to
incorporate in the unwritten bylaws. And now I think Aunt Nancy has some
cake and ice-cream for us."

Saturday was a busy day for the one hundred and sixty odd girls who were
enrolled at Shadyside. Penance and pleasure had a way of marking off the
hours. Those who were good were allowed to go twice a month to Edentown,
chaperoned by a teacher, for shopping, moving picture treats, and such
other simple pleasures as the small city afforded. There were always a
number of girls sentenced to "within bounds," which were the spacious
school grounds, for minor sins of omission and commission. Bobby Littell
was usually among these. She was impulsive and heedless, and got herself
into hot water with amazing regularity.

"Bobby," announced Betty, one Saturday morning not long after the
initiation into the Mysterious For, "don't you think you could manage to
have a good record this coming week? We want to go nutting a week from
to-day, and if you have to stay in bounds it will spoil all the fun."

"I'll try my best," promised Bobby solemnly. "I never mean to do a
thing, Betty. Trouble is, I think afterward. I did want to go to
Edentown to-day, too, but Libbie and Frances have promised to get the
wool for my sweater. Want to come down to the gym? I'm going to drill my
squad this morning."

In the gymnasium they found Ada Nansen, also in charge of a squad.

"She flunked twice in French and was impudent to Madame," whispered
Bobby, who knew all the school gossip. "Mrs. Eustice canceled her
Edentown permit."

Ada frankly scowled at the newcomers. She had found the Littell girls
slow to overtures of friendship, and they persisted in displaying an
annoying fancy for the society of Betty and the Guerin girls, who, for
all Ada knew, might be what she described to her mother as "perfect
nobodies." So Ada and Ruth Royal gradually formed a circle of their own
to which gravitated the more snobbish girls, those who fought, openly or
covertly, the rule for simple dressing, and those who found in Ada's
characteristics of petty meanness, worship of money, and social
aspirations a response to similar urgings of their own natures.

"Well, Bobby, I'm glad to see you and your 'men,'" said Miss Anderson
briskly. "I was just saying to Ada that to-day is too beautiful to waste
indoors. I want you all to come out on the campus and we'll have a race."

Bobby's squad included Betty--who had refused to leave her chum--the
Guerin girls (who refused to go to Edentown because it was almost
impossible to avoid spending money for little luxuries and for
treats), Constance Howard and Dora Estabrooke, a fat girl who was
good-nature itself.

"We'll have to use elimination," said the teacher when she had her pupils
out on the green level that was back of the gymnasium and walled in by
tall Lombardy poplars planted closely. "Let's see, twelve of you" (for
Ada's squad numbered the same). "I think we'll number off first."

The odd numbers in each squad fell out and were matched, and the even
numbers were paired similarly. Betty's rival was a near-sighted girl who
delayed the next step because Miss Anderson discovered that she was
wearing high-heeled shoes.

"I don't care for those flat things," volunteered Violet Canby, as she
departed lockerward at Miss Anderson's stern insistence. "I have a very
high instep, and they hurt me."

Nevertheless, she had to wear them, and the physical instructor put the
others through a rigid inspection, but bloomers and sneakers were all
properly donned.

"Now," said Miss Anderson when Violet had returned minus her pumps, "try
to remember that it's just like a spelling match, girls; gradually we'll
narrow down to the two best runners."

The trial "heats" resulted in leaving Betty, Bobby and Norma of the one
squad, and Ada, Ruth and a girl named Edith Harrison, of the other.

Norma was paired with Ruth Royal, and at the signal they got away nicely.
Norma was an excellent runner, and she reached the tape fully three yards
ahead of Ruth. Something in her glowing, happy face, prompted Ruth to
resentment.

"Oh, well," she remarked disdainfully, taking care that her words should
carry clearly, "I suppose a farmer's daughter does a good deal of running
after cows--they ought to be in training."

Norma flushed scarlet.

"My father is a doctor," she said hotly. "I'm not a farmer's daughter,
but I know splendid girls who are--girls too well-bred to say a thing
like that."

Ruth walked away--she was out of the finals now--and Norma went back to
the starting place. She had not recovered her poise when the time came
for her to race Bobby, and that young person won easily only to be
outdistanced by Betty.

Rather to the latter's regret, she found herself the opponent of Ada for
the deciding race.

"Go it, Betty--beat her!" whispered Bobby, proud of her chum. "She and
Ruth Royal have dispositions like vinegar barrels!"

Betty had often raced with Bob, and she ran like a boy herself--head
down, elbows held in. She was running that way, against Ada, when
something suddenly shunted her off sideways. She fell, landing in a
little heap. High and sharp rose the shrill whistle of the starter.

"Are you hurt, Betty?" demanded Miss Anderson, running up to the dazed
girl and lifting her to her feet. "Ada Nansen that was absolutely the
most unsportsmanlike trick I ever saw. You've lost the race on a foul.
Betty was clearly winning when you tripped her."

"I didn't," muttered Ada, but she refused to meet her teacher's eyes.

"I don't want a race on a foul," argued Betty pluckily, for her skinned
elbow was smarting madly. "Let's begin over."

She had her way, too, and this time won without interference, though Ada
was so furious that Bobby was seriously concerned.

"She looks mad enough to put something in your soup," she told Betty, as
they went in to dress and have Betty's elbow attended to. "What is it,
Caroline?"

"Two young gentlemen to see you, Miss Bobby and Miss Betty," announced
the maid importantly. "They is waiting in the parlor. Mrs. Eustice says
you all should go right up."

In the parlor the girls found two slim, uniformed young figures who rose
like well-set-up ramrods at their entrance.

"Bob!" ejaculated Betty, her voice betraying her pleasure. "Bob, you look
splendid!"

Tommy Tucker glanced hopefully at Bobby.

"Don't I look splendid, too?" he asked.

"You're overshadowed by Bob," said Bobby mischievously. "However, when
not compared with him, I dare say you look rather well."



CHAPTER XV

NORMA MAKES REPAIRS


This had to content the Tucker twin who took Bobby's chaffing
good-humoredly.

Bob Henderson did indeed look very well. The uniform was most becoming,
and though he was studying hard to make up for lack of preparation, his
clear eyes and skin and firm muscles told of a wise schedule that
included plenty of outdoor exercise.

"We want you girls to come over to a practice game," announced Tommy
Tucker presently. "We've got rather jolly rooms, and we thought if you
brought Miss Thingumbob along we could have you in for tea and show you
the sights. Do you think the powers that be will say yes?"

"Well, I don't know," answered Betty thoughtfully. "I didn't know you
Salsette boys had much to do with girls. Of course the whole school goes
to the big football games, but asking us to see a practice game is
something new. Of course it will be difficult to get an afternoon when
every one is free--"

"Every one!" exploded Bob. "Who said anything about every one? We don't
want the whole school--just you and Bobby and Louise and Frances and
Libbie and the Guerin girls."

"Sure, the same bunch that came up on the train," said Tommy Tucker.
"Lead me to Mrs. Eustice and I'll ask her."

"Mrs. Eustice is not in this afternoon," announced an extremely cold and
disapproving voice. "Have you permission, young ladies, to see these
er--callers?"

It was the elderly teacher whom Tommy had tormented on the train!

For once in his life that young man was thoroughly abashed. He threw
Betty an appealing look that asked her to save him.

"Miss Prettyman, may I present my friends?" said the girl with the
formality that is subtly flattering to an older woman. "This is Bob
Henderson, who came from the West with me and who is really like my
brother, since my uncle is his guardian. And this is Tommy Tucker, who
lives in Washington."

"How do you do, Robert and Thomas?" said Miss Prettyman austerely. "Did
Mrs. Eustice know you had callers?" she persisted, turning to the girls.
"She took the last bus to Edentown."

"Yes, she knew. It is all right. Caroline said so," babbled Betty, in
frantic terror lest the boys make the mistake of telling Miss Prettyman
about the proposed visit.

"What was it you wanted to ask Mrs. Eustice, young man?" the teacher
demanded next. "I am her secretary and try to save her work whenever
possible. Perhaps I can answer your question."

Behind Miss Prettyman's narrow back Betty signaled wildly.

"Don't tell--hush!" she wig-wagged, laying her finger against her lips.

Tommy stared at her idiotically, his mouth gaping.

"Thank you, but only Mrs. Eustice could really give us an answer," said
Bob, coming to the rescue of his stricken chum. "Betty, will you deliver
our message and perhaps you can telephone the answer?"

"No Shadyside girl is allowed to telephone Salsette Academy," announced
Miss Prettyman, with grim satisfaction.

Betty had not known of this rule, but she realized it was undoubtedly in
existence.

"We'll let you know some way," she promised.

Still pursued by Miss Prettyman's icy glare, the wretched boys backed out
of the room and the unfortunate Tommy walked into a handsome china
jardiniere with disastrous results. There was a sickening crash, a
ladylike scream from Miss Prettyman, and Betty heard Bob's voice in a
tone of suppressed fury: "You've done it now, you idiot!"

Bobby giggled, of course, but Miss Prettyman, who had followed the boys
into the hall ("I think she thought we'd steal something on the way out,"
Bob confided later to Betty) maintained her poise.

"I'm--I'm awfully sorry," faltered the culprit. "I hope it wasn't very
expensive. I'll pay Mrs. Eustice, of course, or buy her another one--"

"That jardiniere happened to be imported from Nippon," remarked Miss
Prettyman coldly. "I doubt if it can ever be replaced. It has stood in
that exact spot for seven years. But then, naturally, our callers are
accustomed to leaving a room gracefully. I'm sure I--"

The agonized Tommy tried to get in a word, failed, and took a step toward
the door. His foot caught in the rug, and for one dreadful moment he
thought he was doomed to create another scene. As he recovered his
balance, Ada Nansen came down the stairs.

"What was that noise we heard a few minutes ago?" she asked sweetly,
looking at the boys.

Betty and Bobby, laughing in the doorway of the reception room, the
unyielding Miss Prettyman, and the cool and curious Ada swam before
Tommy's eyes. Bob retained his presence of mind and, opening the door
with one hand and pushing Tommy before him with the other, managed to
effect their exit.

"Gosh, Bob, wasn't that awful!" sighed poor Tommy, when they were finally
clear of the school portal. "Don't I always have bad luck? How could I
know we were going to walk smack into that dame? She remembered us, too."

"She remembered you," said Bob significantly. "And you were within one of
asking her to let the girls come over to the game, too! Didn't you know,
you poor fish, that she would jump for joy if she could have a chance to
turn you down?"

"Well, anyway," replied Tommy more contentedly, "Betty will let us know.
She can find a way."

Betty lost no time in putting the invitation before Mrs. Eunice when she
returned from her town expedition. The principal knew all about Bob
through Mr. Gordon's letters and those from Mrs. Littell, and she knew
most of the parents of the other lads Betty mentioned.

"I see no reason, my dear," she said graciously when she heard of the
morning's visit, "why you should not go. Get the consent of your
chaperone and then settle on the afternoon. How many of you are invited?"

"Seven," answered Betty truthfully. "But I want Constance Howard to go,
Mrs. Eustice. The boys didn't know about her. She is Louise's roommate
you see, and we eight always do everything together."

"All right, Constance may go, too," acquiesced Mrs. Eustice.

Betty thanked her warmly and danced off to find Bobby. Then they flew to
ask Miss Anderson to be their chaperone, a duty that young woman assumed
cordially, and before bedtime Betty had written Bob a note to say that
they would be over Friday afternoon about half-past four.

Watched a little enviously by the others, the eight piled into the school
bus the next Friday afternoon. Miss Anderson tripped down the steps, took
her place among them, and they were off.

"Did you see that lovely blouse Ada had on?" Norma Guerin whispered to
Betty. "I do wish I could have one like that to wear with my suit."

"You look fifty times prettier than she does," flared Betty loyally. "And
you know I've told you to borrow anything of mine whenever you want to."

"I know it," admitted Norma. "But I can't borrow clothes! Silly or not, I
just can't seem to! I don't mean to complain all the time, either, but I
don't believe mother or granny realized how difficult it was going to be.
Alice cried so hard this afternoon when she started to get dressed I
thought she'd never get her eyes right again. They look red yet."

Sure enough, Alice's eyes were suspiciously pink about the corners. Betty
knew that the Guerin girls were unhappy, not alone because they could not
have as many or as pretty frocks as the other girls, but because they
were constantly worried about financial affairs at home. They had both
been made the confidantes of their parents to a greater degree than is
customary in many families, and Betty shrewdly suspected that Norma had
kept her father's books for him.

"I wish I could get hold of that treasure, or a part of it," Betty
thought. "Isn't it maddening to think of a string of pearls at the
bottom of a chasm and the girls to whom it should go struggling along on
next to nothing!"

They were half-way around the lake when the motor slowed down and the
bus stopped.

"What's the matter, George?" Miss Anderson asked.

"Don't know, Ma'am," answered the driver, a rather sleepy-looking
middle-aged man. "Guess I'll have to investigate her."

Scratching his head, he proceeded to "investigate," and at the end of
fifteen minutes hazarded an opinion that they were "out of luck."

"Looks like I'll have to go back to the school garage and get 'em to
send us a tow," he announced pleasantly.

"We want to go to the Academy!" chorused the girls. "We're late now. Oh,
George, can't you fix it?"

"Betty, don't you know anything about cars?" appealed Miss Anderson,
who had discovered that Betty was apt to be invaluable in an emergency
of any kind.

Betty had to confess that her experience had been confined to horses. The
Littell girls had been used to cars all their lives, but like the
majority of such fortunates, knew nothing about them beyond the colors
suitable for upholstery.

"I've helped my dad with his car," ventured Norma diffidently. "This
isn't the same make, but perhaps I can tell what the matter is."

The beautiful, expensive school bus was in fact another type than the
shabby, rattly affair Dr. Guerin made spin over the rough country roads.
However, Betty remembered at least one night, and she knew her experience
had been duplicated by many others, when the noise of the asthmatic
little car had been like sweetest music in her ears.

The doctor's daughter took off her plain jacket, rolled back her white
cuffs, and bent over the engine. George regarded her respectfully, and
Miss Anderson and the girls watched anxiously. If Norma could not send
them on their way it meant the trip must be given up.

Norma put her slim hands down among the oily plugs, selected a tool from
the kit George held out to her, and did something mysterious to the
"innards."

"Start her," she commanded briefly.

Obediently George took the wheel and touched the self-starter. The engine
purred contentedly.

"By gum!" cried George inelegantly, "she's done it!"

He produced a towel from the box for Norma, who managed to rub off most
of the grease from her hands. She put on her jacket and climbed into her
place between Betty and her sister. George proceeded to make up for lost
time at a speed that left them breathless.

"Here's the girl who got us here!" said Betty to Bob, when the group of
cadets met their bus at the athletic field where several cars were drawn
up on the sidelines.

"Then she shall have my fur coat and my best curly chrysanthemum,"
announced Tommy Tucker gallantly, throwing a handsome raccoon fur coat
over Norma's shoulders and presenting her with a magnificent yellow
chrysanthemum.



CHAPTER XVI

THE NUTTING PARTY


To the boy's surprise Bobby, who was usually aloof and liked to tease
him, squeezed his arm surreptitiously.

"You're a dear!" she told him enthusiastically.

"Girls are a queer lot," the dazed youth confided to Bob, as they went
back to their quarters. "Here I handed over my coat to that Norma Guerin
and gave her the flower I'd been saving for Bobby, just to pay Bobby back
for being so snippy to me over at school. And she calls me a dear and is
nicer to me than she's been in months!"

Bob briefly outlined something of the Guerin history, for Betty had told
him of the lost treasure in her hurried note, and hinted his belief that
the girls had very little money in comparison to Shadyside standards.

"Shucks--money isn't anything!" was Tommy's answer to the recital, with
the easy assurance of a person who has never been without a comfortable
competence. "They're nice girls, and we'll pass the word that the boys
are to show them a good time."

As a result, when after the conclusion of the game, the girls and Miss
Anderson were ushered upstairs into the cozy suite of rooms the cadets
occupied, Norma and Alice found themselves plied with attentions. Miss
Anderson poured the hot chocolate and made friends with the shy Sydney
Cooke, who had been dreading this visit all the afternoon. Indeed his
chums had threatened to lock him in the clothes closet in order that they
might be sure of his attendance.

Winifred Marion Brown, in addition to his ability as a checker player,
was a good pianist, and he obligingly played for them to dance. The piano
belonged to the Tucker twins. Norma and Alice were "rushed" with
partners, and they quite forgot their clothes in the enjoyment of dancing
to irresistible music.

Libbie had brought a book of poems for Timothy Derby, who solemnly loaned
her one of his in exchange. This odd pair remained impervious to all
criticisms, and certainly many of those voiced were frank to the point of
painfulness.

"But their natures can not understand the lyric appeal," said Libbie
sadly. Her English teacher moaned over her spelling and rejoiced in
her themes.

Finally Miss Anderson insisted they must go, and the bouquet of flowers
on the tea table was plucked apart to reveal nine little individual
bouquets, one for each guest.

"Good-bye, and thank you for a lovely party," said Miss Anderson gaily.

"Do you know?" blurted Teddy Tucker, "you're my idea of a chaperone! Most
of 'em are such dubs and kill-joys!"

Which tactful speech proved to be the best Teddy could have made.

A week of small pleasures and hard study followed this "glorious Friday
afternoon."

Bobby, for a wonder, remembered her promise of good behavior, and by
herculean effort managed to be on the "starred" list for the Saturday set
aside for the nutting expedition.

"We'll go after lunch," planned Betty. "Miss Anderson says if we strike
off toward the woods at the back of the school we ought to come to a
grove of hickory nut trees."

The eight girls, ready for their tramp, came in to lunch attired in heavy
wool skirts and stout shoes and carried their sweaters. Ada Nansen
glanced complacently at her own suede pumps and silk stockings.

"It's hard to tell which is really the farmer's daughter to-day," she
drawled. "Perhaps we all ought to assume that uniform out of kindness."

Ada sat at the table directly behind Norma, and not a girl at either
table could possibly miss the significance of her remarks. Their import,
it developed, had been plain to Miss Lacey who, on her way to her own
table, had overheard. Miss Lacey was a quiet, rather drab little woman,
misleading in her effacement of self. She knew more about her pupils than
they often suspected.

"Ada," she said quietly, stopping by the girl, "you may leave the table.
If you will persist in acting like a naughty little six year old girl,
you must be treated as one."

Ada flounced out of her chair and from the room. Her departure created a
ripple of curiosity. It was most unusual for a girl to be dismissed from
table, and had Ada only known it, she had drawn the attention of the
whole school to herself.

Miss Lacey went on to her seat, without a glance at the flushed faces of
Norma and Alice.

"Some day," said Bobby furiously, "I'm going to throw a plate at
that girl!"

"No, you're not," contradicted Betty. "Then Mrs. Eustice would rise up
and send you from the room and you'd feel about half the size Ada does
now. For mercy's sake, don't descend to anybody's level--make 'em come up
to fight on yours."

They were all glad to get through the meal and find themselves outdoors.
It was a perfect autumn day, warm and hazy, and the red and gold of the
leaves showed burnished from the hillside. They tramped rather silently
at first, and then, as the tense mood wore off, their tongues were
loosened and they chattered like magpies.

"Here's a tree!" shouted Louise and Frances, who were in the lead.

When they had picked all the nuts on the ground, Bobby essayed to climb
the tree. She made rather sad work of the effort, for a shag-bark
hickory is not the easiest tree in the world to climb, and after she had
torn her skirt in two places and mended it with safety pins, she gave up
the attempt.

"Let's walk further," she suggested. "We'll mark our trail as we go like
the Indians."

This idea caught the fancy of the girls, and they marked an elaborate
trail, building little mounds at every turn and leaving odd arrangements
of stones to mark their passing.

"Come on, I'll race you," shouted Bobby suddenly. "I feel just like
exercising."

Betty wondered what she called the scramble through the woods, but she,
too, was ready for a run. They set off pellmell, laughing and shouting.

"Look out!" shrieked Betty, stopping so suddenly that Libbie and Louise
fell against her. "Look! I almost ran right into it!"

She pointed ahead to where the ground fell away abruptly. A great chasm,
like an angry scar, was cut through the earth, and on the side opposite
to the girls a steep hill came down in an uncompromising slant.

"What a dandy hill for coasting!" ejaculated Bobby. "Let's come up here
this winter. We can steer away from this hole."

"That's no hole," said Norma Guerin, in an odd voice. "That's Indian
Chasm. And it's miles long."

Betty stared at her. She had thought Indian Chasm many miles away.

"I didn't realize we had walked so far," said Norma, apparently reading
her thoughts. "But I know I am right. Here are the woods and the steep
hill, just as grandma has described them a hundred times. This is
Indian Chasm."

The girls looked at her curiously. Betty had not told them the story,
believing that Alice and Norma should have that sole right. Now Norma
rapidly sketched the outlines for them and they listened breathlessly,
for surely this true story was more thrilling than any piece of fiction,
however highly colored.

"I never heard of anything so romantic!" was Libbie's comment.

To which Bobby retorted with cousinly severity:

"Romantic? Where do you see anything romantic in a band of Indians
scalping a peaceful white family?"

"Oh, Bobby!" protested Norma, laughing. "They didn't scalp grandma. They
stole everything she had."

"And is all that stuff down there now?" asked Constance Howard,
round-eyed. "Perhaps if we look we can see something."

There was a concerted rush to the chasm's edge, and the eight girls
plumped down flat on their stomachs, determined to see whatever there was
to be seen.

The sides of the earth fell away sharply, down, down. Betty shouted, and
the empty echo of her voice came back to her.

"The ground's so shaly and crumbly," she said thoughtfully, "that it
would be impossible to let a man down with a rope--the earth would cave
in and bury him."

"I think I see a diamond," reported Libbie. "Don't you see something
glittering down there?"

"Can't even see the bottom," said Bobby curtly. "Much less a diamond. Oh,
girls, to think of those valuables at the bottom of a chasm like this
and none of us able to think up a way to get 'em out."

"Well, lots of people have tried," said Alice reasonably. "If grown-up
men couldn't salvage 'em for grandma, I guess it's nothing to our
discredit that we can't get them."

"We might push Libbie in," suggested Bobby wickedly. "Then she could tell
us how deep it is."

This had the effect of sending Libbie scurrying away from the
dangerous place, and the others followed her more slowly to resume the
search for nuts.

"I wish we could think of a way, Norma, dear," said Betty.

"Oh, I don't care--not so very much," answered Norma bravely. But then
she sighed deeply.



CHAPTER XVII

CAUGHT IN THE STORM


The Shadyside gymnasium was equipped with a fine pool, and it was the
school's boast that every girl learned to swim during her first term.
Perhaps the proximity of the lake and the lure of the small fleet of
canoes and rowboats tied up at the wharf had something to do with the
success of the swimming classes. No girl who could not swim was permitted
on the lake, alone or with a companion.

Betty and her chums awaited their final tests eagerly--so excited the
last day or two they could scarcely keep their minds on their books or
sit in patience through a recitation--and passed them with flying colors.
Constance Howard was an excellent swimmer, and it was the sight of her
paddling gracefully about the lake on sunny Saturday afternoons that
spurred the seven who could not swim on to greater effort.

"Come on," cried Betty gaily, taking the gymnasium steps two at a time.
"Come, girls--this afternoon we go rowing. I've my 'stiffcut,' as Mr.
Peabody used to call it, and we've all passed. Oh, it's cloudy!"

She looked at the sky disappointedly. When they had gone into the pool an
hour before the sun had been shining brightly, but now the gray clouds
were thick overhead and the air was chilly.

"Who cares for the weather?" said Bobby scornfully. "Guess it will take
more than a little rain to stop me! I've been crazy to take a row-boat
out for three weeks."

"Perhaps it will clear," contributed the optimistic Louise.

But after lunch the sky was still overcast.

"Don't be silly--it won't rain," urged Bobby, as her chums demurred.
"Next Saturday it may be too cold. Oh, come on, girls."

Thus incited, they went down to the wharf and made their choice of boats.
Norma and Alice wanted to take out a canoe, and they offered to paddle
for Libbie, who seemed disinclined to exercise. Betty had wondered once
or twice if the girl were ill, for she seemed very nervous, jumped if a
door slammed or some one spoke to her suddenly, and in the morning looked
as if she had not slept well.

Betty and Bobby selected a flat-bottomed row-boat and for passenger they
took Frances, who offered to help row if they became tired.

Louise and Constance chose another canoe.

They headed north, and once out in the center of the lake, paddled
and rowed steadily. Betty's rowing experience was limited, but Bobby
was proud of her "stroke," and soon taught her chum the secret of
handling the oars.

"Ship ahoy!" shouted Bobby presently.

Libbie jumped and looked ahead anxiously.

"It's only the boys," she said dully.

An eight-oared rowing shell shot down to them, and the freckled-faced
coxswain, Gilbert Lane, one of the boys the girls had met at Bob and
Tommy's "party," grinned cheerfully.

"Where you going?" he asked, resting a friendly hand on the
rowboat's rim.

Bobby described an arc with her oar that incidentally showered the
questioner with shining water drops.

"We're out for adventure," she answered airily.

"Just got our swimming certificates to-day," volunteered Betty.

Bob flashed her a congratulatory smile.

"Race you to the end of the lake?" suggested Tommy Tucker.

Bobby regarded him with magnificent scorn.

"As if eight of you couldn't beat two!" she said significantly. "I never
heard such talk! Why you'd have a walk!" she added.

The boys shouted with laughter.

"You're a poet, Bobby," declared Tommy. "Tennyson had nothing on
you--had he, Libbie?"

Libbie turned her dark eyes on him and frowned a little.

"I wasn't listening," she said indifferently.

"Well, anyway, row up to the end of the lake, will you?" suggested
Gilbert. "With drill night ahead of us, we want a little brightness to
remember the day by."

Canoes, rowboat and shell swept on up the lake, and when the scrubby
pines that bordered the narrow peak of the north shore were in sight,
Bobby glanced back over her shoulder at Betty.

"You're spattering me," she complained.

"I thinks it's beginning to rain," said Betty mildly, and even as she
spoke, Louise called to them:

"Girls, it's beginning to pour!"

A sudden blast of wind struck them, blowing the rain against their backs.

"Keep on rowing!" shouted Bob's voice. "We'll have to land and walk back.
You girls can never beat back against this storm. We're almost to the
shore now."

A few minutes more and the boats touched shore. The boys were out in an
instant and helped the girls to land.

"We'll carry up the boats--don't you think that is best, Tommy?" shouted
Bob. "If we carry them up high enough and leave them, they will be
perfectly safe."

The wind and the rain made shouting necessary if one's voice were to
carry above the storm. The boys lifted the light boats and carried them
into the woods, turning them over so that the keels were up.

"Now the question is," said Bob, who seemed by common consent to have
been elected leader, "shall we walk along the shore and get drenched, or
take a chance of finding our way through the woods?"

To their astonishment, Libbie burst into a fit of hysterical weeping.

"Don't go through the woods," she begged, her teeth chattering. "We'll
fall into that awful Indian Chasm."

Bobby's heart reproached her for her thoughtless joke and she put an arm
around her cousin.

"Libbie, you never thought I was serious about pushing you into the
chasm, did you?" she asked anxiously. "Is that what has been making you
act so queerly ever since? I was only fooling."

So, thought Betty, Bobby, too, had noticed Libbie's unnatural behavior.

"Oh, it isn't that," sobbed Libbie. "I can't explain--but if we go
through the woods, I'm sure I shall go crazy."

"Well, then, that settles it," said Bob comfortably. "Better to be
drowned than to go crazy. Can you turn up your sweater collars, girls? I
wish we'd brought some raincoats along."

Splashing and stumbling, they followed Bob down to the shore and began
the weary walk that would lead them back to the school. After fifteen
minutes' steady walking they came to a dense undergrowth that was
impossible to penetrate.

"No use, we'll have to make a cut through the woods," announced Bob. "Up
this way and over, ought to bring us out right."

He was so cheerful and patient that the tired, rain-soaked girls could
not do otherwise than follow his example. Libbie was crying silently, but
the others tramped along cheerfully, singing, at Betty's suggestion, old
college and school songs.

"Look here, Bob," said Tommy Tucker in an undertone, "I don't think we're
going in the right direction. Don't you say it would be better to take
the girls to that deserted cabin we found the other day and leave them
there while we explore a bit? They're getting soaked through, and Libbie
Littell is fixing to have hysterics. Leave a couple of the boys with 'em,
so they won't be afraid, and then we'll locate the right trail and take
'em over it home in a hurry."

This suggestion sounded like good, common-sense to Bob, and he said so.

"Betty could walk ten miles and be all right," he declared proudly, "and
I think Bobby is good for a hike, too. But Frances Martin can't see when
the rain gets on her glasses, and, as you say, something is the matter
with Libbie. So let's make for the cabin, quick."

The Salsette boys had explored the woods pretty thoroughly, and on a
recent expedition Bob and his chums had stumbled on an old one-room
cabin, buried deep in the woods and evidently unoccupied for years. It
was not far from the end of the lake, and toward it they now led the
girls, explaining as they went what they intended to do.

"We'll be all right," said Betty at once. "I think if Libbie can sit down
and rest she'll feel better, too. And if you all want to go and hunt for
the trail, you needn't worry about us."

"Oh, Sydney and I intend to stay," Gilbert Lane assured her quickly. (The
boys had settled that among themselves.) "We'll be handy in case any
Indians or the like come after you."

Betty gave him a warning glance, for Libbie looked frightened. Surely
something was wrong with the girl!

The cabin door was open and the interior was comparatively dry. There was
no furniture, but three or four old packing boxes furnished the girls
with seats. Bob and five of his friends disappeared, whistling. Gilbert
and Sydney were investigating the ramshackle fireplace to see what the
prospects were for starting a fire when a shriek from Libbie brought them
to their feet.

"A ghost!" cried the girl. "A ghost! Over there in the corner!"

Frances Martin gave a cry, and Betty and Bobby went white. Even Gilbert
afterward confessed that his scalp prickled when a figure stepped forward
from a narrow closet against the wall.

"Ugh! Howdy!" he grunted, and they saw that he was a very old and very
dirty Indian.

"Rain," he said slowly, pointing to the door. "Stop soon now. Go
get supper."

He shuffled over the doorsill and at the edge he turned.

"Howdy!" he said, apparently with some vague idea of farewell.
"Much rain!"

Petrified, they watched him hobble away through the woods.



CHAPTER XVIII

LIBBIE'S SECRET


Gilbert Lane was the first to recover his voice.

"Well, what do you know about that!" he ejaculated. "The old bird was
here all the time."

"Are--are--are there any more of them?" stammered Louise.

"No, that old fellow is the only Indian for miles around," said Gilbert
carelessly. "He was left behind, the fellows at school say, when that
band stole the Macklin treasure. They had a grudge against him, it seems,
and they tripped him and left him with a broken leg. He worked around on
different farms for years and now does a day's work often enough to keep
him in food. Queer old dick, I guess."

"What makes you girls look so funny?" demanded Sydney. "You're not afraid
now, are you? That Indian won't come back--he was more afraid of us than
we were of him. I figure out he was asleep when we came in and the noise
woke him up. What are you smiling about?"

"My grandmother is Mrs. Marcia Macklin," explained Norma. "And you see
it was her gold and silver and jewels the Indians stole. I wonder what he
would have said if we had told him?"

"Gee, is that so?" asked Sydney, ignoring the latter half of Norma's
sentence. "And is all that stuff down in the chasm yet?"

"As far as we know, it is," said Norma. "And likely to remain there," she
added, with a sigh.

Bob and the boys returned in less than half an hour, to announce that
they had found the right road and were prepared to pilot the girls
expeditiously homeward. Libbie's cheeks were unnaturally flushed and she
looked miserable, but she refused to let Bob and Tommy carry her by
forming a "chair" with their hands.

"I'm all right," she insisted hoarsely. "I only want to get home."

Knowing the way positively saved much fumbling and time, and soon the
familiar buildings of Shadyside loomed up before them. The boys had a
long tramp still before them, and if they were not to be late for supper,
must walk briskly. They continued on their way, while the girls ran up
the steps of the dormitory building.

"There's no use talking, Libbie, you've got to see the infirmary nurse,"
said Bobby resolutely. "I promised your mother to look after you, and if
you're going to be sick you'll at least have the proper care. Wait till
we get into some dry things, and I'll take you."

Libbie looked rebellious, but she made no verbal protest, and when they
were once more in dry clothes Bobby marched her cousin to the immaculate
infirmary. She returned alone, saying that the nurse had detained Libbie
for observation over night.

"She thinks she's getting a heavy cold, but it may be more serious,"
Bobby reported. "Well, anyway, I've done my duty. But romantic people are
always forgetting to wear their rubbers."

Betty had just drowsed off to sleep that night, the girls having gone to
bed immediately after the study hour, for the afternoon in the wind and
rain had made them extraordinarily sleepy, when a soft knock on the door
startled her.

She slipped out of bed and ran to the door, opening it carefully so
as not to wake Bobby. Miss Morris, the school nurse, and Miss Lacey
stood there.

"Elizabeth isn't worse," said Miss Morris hastily, noting Betty's look of
alarm. "But she is very restless and wants to see you. Miss Lacey says
you may come up. Get your dressing gown and slippers, dear."

Betty obeyed quickly. Libbie was probably lonely, she reflected.

The infirmary consisted of three connecting rooms, fitted with two
single beds in each, and Libbie happened to be the only patient. She was
sitting up in bed, well wrapped up, when Betty saw her, her eyes
unnaturally bright, her cheeks very red.

"Now I'll leave you two girls together for exactly half an hour," said
the nurse kindly. After that Elizabeth must go to sleep."

"Is the door shut--shut tight?" demanded Libbie feverishly, grasping
Betty's hand with both her hot, dry ones.

"Yes, dear, yes," affirmed Betty soothingly. "What's the matter,
Libbie--is your throat sore?"

"Oh, Betty, I'm in such terrible trouble!" gasped Libbie, her eyes
overflowing. "I'm so frightened!"

"Tell me about it, dear," soothed Betty. "I'll help you, you know I will.
Has it anything to do with school?"

She was totally unprepared for Libbie's next words.

"I have to have some money--a lot of money, Betty. I've spent my last
allowance and I can't write home for more because they will ask me why
I want it. I've borrowed so much from Louise that I can't ask her
again! I ought to pay it back. But I've got to have twenty dollars by
to-morrow night."

"What for? What's the matter?" asked Betty, in alarm.

"You'll promise not to tell Bobby?" demanded Libbie intensely. "Promise
me you won't tell Bobby? She'd scold so. And Mrs. Eustice would expel me.
If you won't tell Bobby or Mrs. Eustice, Betty, I'll tell you."

Betty was now thoroughly aroused. She knew that impulsive novel-reading
Libbie went about with her pretty head filled with all sorts of trashy
ideas, and she didn't know what lengths she might have gone to. If Mrs.
Eustice would expel her, the affair must be serious indeed.

"I'll promise," said Betty rashly. "Tell me everything, Libbie, and if I
can I'll help you."

"Well, you remember when we went nutting?" said Libbie. "I carried a
bottle with me with--with my name and address written on a slip of paper
inside. I read about that in a book. And I said to leave an answer in the
same bottle. I--I buried it just at the foot of the hill, before we began
to climb. Louise was with me, but she was hunting for specimens for her
botany book."

"So that's why you hung back, was it?" said Betty. "I wish to goodness
Louise was more interested in what is going on around her. She might
have stopped you. Go on--what happened to your silly bottle?"

"I buried it," repeated Libbie, "and two days after I went out and dug it
up. And there was an answer in it."

"What did it say?" demanded Betty practically.

"I've got it here--" Libbie reached under her pillow and pulled out a
slip of paper.

"It says 'Leave ten dollars in this same place to-night, or Mrs. Eustice
shall hear of this.' And, of course," concluded Libbie, "I put ten
dollars in the bottle, because whoever found it had the slip with my name
on it to show Mrs. Eustice."

Betty studied the paper. The handwriting was a strong backhand, not at
all an illiterate hand.

"Oh, dear, what shall I do?" wailed Libbie. "He keeps asking for more,
and I won't have any money till the first of the month. I only meant
to do like the girl in the book--have a thrilling unknown
correspondent. I never knew he would ask for money! Suppose he is a
horrid, dirty tramp and he comes and tells Mrs. Eustice he found my
note? I should die of shame!"

"I'll have the money ready for you in the morning," said Betty firmly. "I
have that much. But, of course, he'll keep demanding more. I do hope,
Libbie, that if you ever get out of this mess, you'll be cured of some of
your crazy notions!"

"Oh, I will," promised Libbie earnestly. "I will be good, Betty. Only
don't tell Bobby."

She was manifestly relieved by her confession, and when Miss Morris came
in to send Betty back to her own room, Libbie curled down contentedly for
a restful night.

Not so poor Betty. She turned and tossed, wondering how she could get
more money for her chum without arousing suspicion.

"What ever made her do a thing like that!" she groaned. "Of all the wild
ideas! The twenty will take every cent I have. I must see Bob and borrow
from him."

Libbie was much improved in the morning--so well, in fact, that after
breakfast in bed she was permitted to dress and go to her room, though
strictly forbidden to attend classes or go out of doors. Betty brought
her the twenty dollars and when school was in session, the benighted
Libbie sped out to her buried bottle and put the money in it, regaining
her room without detection.

Two days later there was another demand for money, and two days after
that, another. Libbie visited the bottle regularly, afraid to let a
day pass lest the blackmailer expose her to the principal. Betty had
seen Bob at a football game, and had borrowed fifteen dollars from
him. She could not write her uncle, for communication with him was
uncertain and her generous allowance came to her regularly through his
Philadelphia lawyer.

"He wants twenty-five dollars by to-morrow night!" whispered Libbie,
meeting Betty in the hall after her last visit to the buried bottle. "Oh,
Betty, what _shall_ we do?"

Both girls had watched patiently and furtively in their spare time in an
effort to detect the person who dug up the bottle, but they had never
seen any one go near the spot.

As it happened, when Libbie whispered her news to Betty, they were both
on their way to recitation with Miss Jessup whose current events class
both girls nominally enjoyed. To-day Betty found it impossible to fix
her mind on the brisk discussions, and half in a dream heard Libbie
flunk dismally.

When next she was conscious of what was going on about her--she had been
turning Libbie's troubles over and over in her mind without result--Miss
Jessup was speaking to her class about the "association of ideas."

"We won't go very deeply into it this morning," she was saying, "but
you'll find even the surface of the subject fascinating."

Then she began a rapid fire of questions to which Betty paid small
attention till the sound of Ada Nansen's name aroused her.

"Key, Ada?" asked Miss Jessup.

The answers were supposed to indicate definite ideas.

"Key hole," said Ada promptly.

"Purse?"

"Money."

"Bee?" asked Miss Jessup.

To her surprise and that of the listening class, nine-tenths of whom were
forming the word "honey" with their lips, Ada answered without
hesitation, "Bottle."

"You must have thought I meant the letter 'B,'" said the teacher lightly,
passing on to the next pupil.

Betty heard the dismissal bell with real relief. She cornered Libbie in
the hall as the class streamed out and announced a decision.

"I'll have to go see Bob--I'll paddle one of the canoes," she said
hurriedly.

"If any one asks for me, say I'm out on the lake."

Betty was now an expert with the paddle, and the trip across the lake was
easy of accomplishment. She had the great good fortune to meet Bob
returning from a recitation, and though surprised to see her, he knew she
must have come by boat or canoe. The boys had gone the next day and
brought back the canoes from the woods where they had placed them during
the storm.

"I'm ever so sorry, Bob," said Betty earnestly, "But--could you lend me
twenty-five dollars?"

Bob whistled.

"I could," he admitted cautiously. "What's it for, Betsey?"

"That," said Betty, "is a secret."

Bob glanced at her sharply. His chin hardened.

"Come down here where we won't be interrupted," he said, leading the way
to the wharf. "You'll have to give me a good reason for wanting the
money, Betty."



CHAPTER XIX

BOB'S SOLUTION


"If you wanted twenty-five dollars and I had it," said Betty
persuasively, "I'd give it to you without asking a solitary question."

Rob's lips twitched.

"But, Betty--" he began. Then--"Oh, do play fair," he urged. "You're
younger than I am. Uncle Dick expects me to look after you. Goodness
knows I don't want to pry into your affairs, but when you borrow fifteen
dollars and then want twenty-five the same week, what's a fellow to
think? If some one is borrowing from you, it's time to call a halt;
you're not fair to yourself."

Betty looked startled. How could Bob possibly guess so near the truth?
She began to think that the better part of wisdom was to confide in this
keen young man.

"Come on, Betty, tell me what you want it for, and you shall have twice
twenty-five," said Bob earnestly. "I've most of my allowance in the
school bank. It's all yours, if you'll let me have an inkling of the
reason you need money."

"Well," said Betty, slowly, "I didn't promise I wouldn't tell--only
that I wouldn't tell Bobby or Mrs. Eustice. It's Libbie who has to have
the money."

She sketched Libbie's story for him rapidly, Bob listening in silence. At
the end he asked a single question.

"Have you any of those notes asking for money?"

"Here's one." Betty thrust her hand into the pocket of her sweater and
pulled out the crumpled paper that Libbie had shaken out of the bottle
that morning.

"Were they all written on this same kind of paper?" asked Bob,
reading the note.

"Ye-s, that is, I think so," hesitated Betty. "I really haven't
noticed. Why?"

"Because I don't think any man wrote this," announced Bob confidently.
"I think some girl at school has done it, either as a joke or to
torment Libbie."

"But it's grown-up writing," protested Betty. "Though, come to think of
it, we don't know any of the girls' handwriting," she added thoughtfully.

"What girl would be likely to do it?" asked Bob. "Can you recall a
practical joker? This is copy book paper torn from an ordinary theme
book. Yes, I'll bet a cookie a girl wrote it."

"Ada Nansen or Ruth Gladys Royal might do it to plague Libbie," said
Betty slowly. "They don't like any of our crowd, and Libbie is so good
at French she turns Ada green with envy. The more I think of it, the
surer I am it is Ada. Ruth doesn't dislike any one actively enough to
exert herself."

"Ada Nansen?" repeated Bob. "Isn't she that girl we saw on the train and
who plumped herself down in my seat? I thought so--I remember you told
me. Well, from the sidelight I have on her character, I believe she is
the one at the bottom of this. That will explain, too, why you never
catch any one digging up the bottle--she knows exactly when you are busy
and when you are not."

"Bottle!" said Betty explosively, to Bob's amazement. "Oh, Bob! this
morning Miss Jessup was talking to us about association of ideas, and she
asked Ada what bee meant to her. We thought she'd say 'honey,' of course,
but she said 'bottle.' Doesn't that show--"

"I should say it did!" Bob's voice was eager. "She took it for the letter
'B' and bottle was in her mind. You may depend upon it, that girl is at
the back of all this fuss! Gee, when I've nothing else to do, I'm going
to study up on this association of ideas stuff."

"You don't need it--you can get at things without a bit of trouble,"
Betty assured him affectionately.

"How will you go about pinning down Ada?" Bob asked anxiously.

"I'll cut out Latin to-morrow afternoon when she has a study period,"
planned Betty. "She'll think Libbie is reciting, and she'll not think of
me at all, and I'll slip out and watch to see if she goes near the
bottle. But what can I do if she does prove to be the right one? She'll
tell Mrs. Eustice, and poor Libbie will be in a peck of trouble. I really
think Mrs. Eustice would send her home if she knew."

"And serve Libbie right for being such an idiot!" pronounced Bob
severely. "However, I think she has been pretty thoroughly punished
through fear. I only wish you'd told me this before, Betty, because I
know exactly how you can deal with Ada."

"You do? Oh, Bob, what should I ever do without you!" cried Betty,
forgetting that a few moments before she had berated him for his
insistence. "Tell me, quick."

"Well, a crowd of us fellows happened to be over in Edentown last Friday
night, and we saw Ada and Ruth at the movies," said Bob. "They didn't see
us, for we sat back. They were the only girls from Shadyside, and Tommy
and I decided they had sneaked out after dinner and walked all that
distance. Now threatening isn't a very nice performance, Betty, but
sometimes you have to meet like with like. I think, if when you see Ada
digging up the bottle, you go to her and say that unless she returns the
money and Libbie's first note to you and promises to let the matter
drop--forever--you will expose her Edentown trip to Mrs. Eustice, she
will listen to reason."

"So do I," agreed Betty. "I don't think she has touched the money--she
has plenty. But I must have the note so that Libbie can destroy it. Mrs.
Eustice never lets us go to town at night, and I'm sure Ada and Ruth had
to go down the fire-escape. Goodness, didn't they take a chance of being
discovered!"

"Well, as I've already missed half an algebra recitation, and you know
you have no business over here at this time of day, I move we begin our
penance," suggested Bob. "Paddle home, Betsey, and if our hunch turns out
wrong, we'll tackle another one."

"Oh, it won't--I'm sure you're right," said Betty gratefully. "Thank you
ever so much, Bob. And the next time I'll tell you everything at the
very first."

"Don't let me hear of another time," Bob called after her, with
mock severity.

"Well, I never!" gasped Libbie, astonished, when Betty told her of Bob's
suspicions. "Oh, Betty, wouldn't it be wonderful if it should be true!"

"I'm going to cut Latin this afternoon and find out," said Betty
vigorously. "If Miss Sharpe asks for me, you don't know where I am; she
never does anything but give you double lines to translate."

Betty knew that Ada had a study period, which she usually spent in her
room, directly after lunch.

Directly after she left the dining room that noon Betty sped away to the
foot of the hill. There were several stubby bushes about half-filled with
wind-blown leaves and old rubbish and affording an excellent screen.
Betty crouched down behind one of these.

She had not long to wait. Ada, in her beautiful mink furs, which she
clung to persistently, though the fall weather so far had been very mild,
was presently seen coming across the grass. She walked straight to the
spot where the bottle was buried, and, stooping down, brushed away the
leaves and dirt. She lifted the bottle.

"Pshaw, it's empty!" she said aloud.

"Yes, it's empty," echoed Betty, stepping out from behind the bush. "And
you are to give the money back to me, and Libbie's note with it."

"Is that so?" said Ada contemptuously. "I have something to say
about that. I intend to see that that note reaches the proper
person--Mrs. Eustice."

Betty took a step nearer, her dark eyes blazing.

"I can play the kind of game you play--if I must," she said in a
curiously repressed tone. "What about the trip you and Ruth Gladys made
to Edentown last Friday night?"

Ada glared at her.

"Were you there? How did you know?" she stammered jerkily. "If you were
up to the same trick, you'll look nice tattle-telling on us, won't you?"

"I wasn't there, but I have witnesses whom I can summon to say you
were," declared Betty, wishing her voice did not tremble with
nervousness. "You were the only girls from Shadyside, and you must have
climbed down the fire--"

Ada raised her hand that held the bottle.

"You--you tell-tale!" she screamed threateningly.

Betty flung up her arm to knock the bottle aside, missed Ada's hand and
hit her shoulder. Ada went down, Betty on top of her.

"Girls! For mercy's sake!" Miss Anderson stood beside them, scandalized.
"Betty, get up. Ada, what are you thinking of? I saw you from the gym
windows. You'll have the whole school out here presently. Betty, I
thought you had Latin at this period?"

"I have," admitted Betty, so meekly that Miss Anderson looked away lest
she laugh. "Only I had to see Ada."

"I don't know what you were quarreling about," said Miss Anderson, with
characteristic frankness. "But I do know that both of you are old enough
to know better than to revert to small-boy tactics. You've a hole in your
stocking, Betty, that would do credit to a little brother."

"I ripped it on that stone," said Betty regretfully.

Ada stood sullenly, unconscious of two dead leaves hanging to her hat
which completely destroyed her usual effect of studied elegance.

"Go on in, Betty," said the physical culture teacher, who labored under
no delusions about the duties of a peacemaker. To tell the truth, she did
not believe in forced reconciliation. "Ada will come with me."

"Ada has something I want," said Betty stubbornly. "She has to promise to
give it to me first."

Ada looked at the resolute little figure facing her. Betty, she knew, was
capable of doing exactly what she had said. Mrs. Eustice had no more
rigid rule than the one against going to town, day or night, without
permission. Ada gave in.

"I'll leave it in your room before dinner--you didn't think I carried it
with me, did you?" she snapped.

"Both?" said Betty significantly, meaning the note and the money.

"Everything!" cried the exasperated Ada, on the verge of angry tears.

"Then you have my promise never to say a word," Betty assured her
blithely.

"Do you want this bottle?" Miss Anderson called after her, as she started
for the school.

Miss Anderson had been studying both girls as she waited quietly.

Now Betty turned, smiled radiantly, and took the bottle the teacher held
out to her. With careful aim, worthy of Bob's training, she fixed her eye
on a handy rock, hurled the bottle with all her strength, and had the
satisfaction of seeing it dashed into a thousand fragments as it struck
the target squarely.

Then she trotted sedately on to her delayed recitation, and Miss Anderson
and the scowling Ada followed more slowly.

Just before dinner that night there came a knock on Betty's door, and
Virgie Smith, one of Ada's friends, thrust a package at Bobby, who had
answered the tap.

Betty managed to turn aside her chum's curiosity and to get away to
Libbie and give her the note. They burned it in the flame of a candle,
and counted the money. It was all there, folded just as Libbie had
placed it in the bottle. Evidently Ada had never carried it.

Libbie paid Louise the money she had borrowed of her and gave Betty the
amount she owed her, most of which was Bob's.

"Now do try to be more sensible, Libbie," pleaded Betty, turning to go
back to Bobby. "When you want to do something romantic think twice and
count a hundred."

"I will!" promised Libbie fervently. "I'll never be so silly
again, Betty."

But dear me, she was, a hundred times! But in a different way each time.
Libbie would be Libbie to the end of the chapter.

Betty, rushing back to brush her hair for dinner, heard a sound
suspiciously like a sob as she passed Norma Guerin's door. It was
unlatched, and as no one answered when she tapped Betty gently pushed it
open and stepped into the room.

Norma lay on her bed crying as though her heart would break, and Alice,
looking very forlorn and solemn, was holding a letter in her hand.



CHAPTER XX

THE SECOND DEGREE


"My patience, what a world of trouble this is!" sighed Betty to herself,
but aloud she said cheerily: "What's the matter with Norma?"

Norma sat up, mopping her eyes.

"Oh, Betty," she choked, "I don't believe Alice and I can come back
after Christmas! They've had a fire in Glenside and a house dad owns
there burned. He hasn't a cent of insurance, and the mortgagee takes
the ground. So that's the rental right out of our income. Besides,
grandma has had an operation on her eyes and she has to spend weeks in
an expensive Philadelphia hospital. Even with the small fees the
surgeons charge because of dad, the board will amount to more than he
can afford to pay. Alice and I ought to be learning stenography or
something useful."

"Well, now, your father would say," suggested Betty, with determined
optimism, "that the Christmas vacation is too far off to make any plans
about what you're going to do afterward. You know Bobby Littell has set
her heart on you and Alice spending the recess with them in Washington.
Anyway, lots of things can turn up before Christmas, Norma--even the
treasure!"

Norma tried to smile.

"I dream about that chasm nearly every night," she said. "Sometimes I
think the Indians came back and got the stuff, Betty. They're so clever
about climbing, and I know they wouldn't easily give up."

"Nonsense!" chided Betty. "The treasure is there, and we've just got to
think up a way to get it out. At all costs you mustn't cry yourself sick
about the future--you'll spoil all the fun awaiting you in the weeks
before Christmas. And you know you can't study as well when you're
depressed, and, goodness knows! one has to study at Shadyside."

"I've a headache now," confessed Norma, pushing her tumbled hair out
of her eyes. "I can't go down to dinner--I'm a perfect sight. There's
the bell!"

"Just lie down and try to rest," advised Betty, smoothing the tangled
covers with a deft hand. "I'll bring you up some supper on a tray. Aunt
Nancy thinks you're an angel on general principles, and she has a special
soft spot in her heart for you because her mother used to cook for your
grandmother. Come on, Alice, we'll turn the light out and let her rest
her eyes."

"I do wish some one would think up a way to get those pearls and the
gold," fretted Betty, turning restlessly on her pillow that night. "If
Norma and Alice are ever going to be well-off now is the time. When
they're so old they can't walk, money won't do 'em any good!"

Which showed that Betty, for all her sound sense, was still a little
girl. Very old ladies, who can not walk, certainly need money to make
them comfortable and keep them so.

The next night was Friday, and Betty welcomed the prospect of the second
degree necessary to stamp the freshmen as full-fledged members of the
Mysterious For. The week had been noticeably tinged with indigo for at
least two of Betty's friends, and she hoped the initiation might take
their minds from their troubles.

The second degree, it was whispered about among the girls, was bound to
be a "hummer."

"They say it's a test of your character," said Bobby, with a shiver.
"Somehow, Betty, my character oozes out of my shoes when it knows it
should be prancing up to the firing line."

"I guess you imagine that," smiled Betty. "Speak sternly to it, Bobby,
and explain that funking is out of the question."

However, more girls than Bobby found it necessary to clutch at their
oozing courage when, upon assembling in the large hall, the lights
suddenly went out. In the shadows, four white veiled figures were seen
slowly to mount the platform.

"To-night," said one of them, stretching out a long arm and pointing
toward the fascinated and expectant audience, "we are your fates! You
have come to the final tests. We have no choice in these tests, nor have
you. You are to come forward, one at a time, and take a slip from this
basket here on the table. Go directly to your room after drawing your
slip, and there open it and follow the directions explicitly. Come to the
platform in the order in which you are seated, please."

The lights did not come on, and one by one the girls stumbled up the
steps to the platform, felt around in the basket, and drew a slip. Then
they hurried away to their rooms to see what was to happen next.

Bobby and Betty could hardly wait to open their notes, and before they
had them fairly digested, Frances and Libbie and Constance and Louise and
the Guerin girls were crowding in to compare notes.

"I have to go and ask Miss Prettyman if I may telephone to Salsette
Academy and ask for a lost-and-found notice on their bulletin board,"
wailed Bobby. "I'm supposed to have lost a pair of gloves at the last
football game. I always have the worst luck! Can't you imagine how Miss
Prettyman will lecture me? She'll say that at my age I ought to have
something in my head besides excuses to talk to the boys!"

The girls laughed, recognizing the ring of prophecy in Bobby's speech.

"That's nothing--I'm to row Dora Estabrooke twice around the lake,"
mourned Louise. "She weighs two hundred, if she weighs a pound. Thank
goodness, I don't have to do it to-night."

Norma was instructed to walk three times around the cellar, chanting
"Little Boy Blue" before ten o'clock that night. Frances Martin, to her
horror, was enjoined to produce six live angle worms the following
morning--"and you know I despise the wiggling things," she wailed. Alice
Guerin, the silent member of the octette, was condemned to recite "The
Children's Hour" in the dining room "between cereal and eggs." And
Constance Howard was told she must add up an unbelievably long column of
figures and present the correct answer within half an hour. Constance's
_bête noir_ was figures, and already these long columns danced dizzily
before her eyes.

"You needn't tell me that chance made such canny selections," observed
Betty. "One of those girls manipulated the right notes into our hands.
Libbie, what does yours say?"

Libbie handed her slip of paper to Betty without a word.

"Go to bed at once," the latter read aloud.

There was a gale of laughter. Libbie, the curious, who dearly loved to
hear and see, to be sent off to bed in the middle of the most wildly
exciting night they had known in weeks!

"Hurry," admonished Bobby. "You're disobeying by staying up this long.
Where's your character, Libbie?"

Libbie scowled, but departed, grumbling that she didn't see why she
couldn't stay up and watch Norma walk down in the cellar.

"Mine is the most spooky," said Betty, when the door had closed behind
Libbie. "Listen--I'm to climb the water tower at midnight and leave this
card there to show I have complied."

She held out a little plain white card in a green envelope.

"Hark! was that somebody at the door?" asked Bobby, and she ran over to
it lightly and jerked it open.

The corridor was empty.

"We're all nervous," remarked Betty lightly. "I'll set the alarm for
eleven-forty-five and put the clock under my pillow so Miss Lacey won't
hear it. I'll lie down all dressed, and then I won't have to use a light.
She might see that through the transom."

"Don't you want some of us to go with you?" asked Constance. "We needn't
go up into the tower, if you say not. But at least we could go that far
with you; you might fall off the roof."

"No, please, I'd rather go alone," said Betty firmly. "It's a test, you
see, and the idea isn't to make it easy. I'll be all right, and in the
morning the girls will find the card and know I didn't flunk."

After the girls had gone away to their own rooms the clock was set for a
quarter of twelve, but Betty and Bobby decided that they might as well
stay awake till midnight. They would lie down on their beds--Betty
insisted that Bobby should undress and go to bed "right"--and wait for
the time to come. Within twenty minutes they were both sound asleep.

The muffled whir of her alarm clock awakened Betty. For a moment she was
dazed, then recollection cleared her mind. She slipped to the floor
without waking Bobby and softly tiptoed from the room.

A dim light burned in the corridor, and Betty knew the way to the water
tower. To reach it, one had to mount to the roof of the dormitory
building. Betty experienced a little difficulty with the obstinate catch
of the scuttle cover, but she finally mastered it and stepped out on the
tarred graveled roof. The water tower, a huge tank on an iron framework,
had a little enclosed room built directly under it reached by an iron
ladder. Here the engineer kept various plumbing tools. It was in this
room that Betty was to leave the card.

The night wind blew damp and keen, and the stars overhead seemed very far
away. Betty had no sense of fear as she began to climb, mounting slowly
and feeling for each step with her hands. The friendly dark shut in
around her and somewhere in the distance a train whistle tooted shrilly.

She knew she had reached the last step when her hands encountered wood,
and she felt about till she touched the knob of the door. It opened at
her touch and she pulled herself in over the sill.

"Now the card," she whispered, feeling in her pocket.

A gust of wind fanned her cheek and something clicked.

The door had blown shut!



CHAPTER XXI

DRAMATICS


There are pleasanter places to be at midnight than the dark room of a
strange water tower, but Betty was not frightened. She tripped over some
tool as she felt for the door and discovered that she had lost her sense
of direction completely.

"I'm all turned around," was the way she expressed it. "I must start and
go around the sides, feeling till I come to the door."

Following this plan, she did come to the door and confidently turned the
knob. The door stuck and she rattled the knob sharply. Then the
explanation dawned on her.

The door was locked!

Could it have a spring lock? she wondered. Then she remembered a day
when, on exploration bent, a group of girls had made the trip to the roof
and the kindly Dave McGuire had taken a key from his pocket and unlocked
the door of the little room for the more adventurous ones who wanted to
climb up and see the inside.

"It was a flat key, like a latch key," Betty reflected. "The girls must
have had the door unlocked for me to-night, but I don't think they would
follow me and lock it. That would be mean!"

However, the door was locked and she was a prisoner. It was inky black
and at every step she seemed to knock over something or stumble against
cold iron. Gradually her eyes became accustomed to the lack of light, and
she made out the outlines of something against the wall.

"Why, there is a window--I remember!" she said aloud. "I wonder if I can
reach it."

Cautiously she felt her way around and stretched up tentative fingers.
She could barely touch the lower frame.

Then, for the first time, Betty felt a little shiver of fear and
apprehension. It was close in the tower room, and the smell of oil and
dead air began to be oppressive. She had no wish to shout, even if she
could be heard, a doubtful probability, for she had no mind to be rescued
before the curious eyes of the entire school.

"I'll get out of it somehow, if I have to stay here all night," she told
herself pluckily. "Oh, my goodness, what was that?"

A tiny sawing noise in one corner of the room sent Betty scurrying to
the other side. She would have indignantly denied any fear of mice or
rats, but the bravest girl might be excused from a too close
acquaintance thrust upon her in the dark. Betty had no wish to put her
fingers on a mouse.

"How can I get out?" she cried aloud, a little wildly. "I can't breathe!"

In the uncanny silence that followed the sound of her voice, the sawing
noise sounded regularly, rhythmically. In desperation Betty seized an
iron crowbar she had backed into on the wall, and hurled it in the
direction of the industrious rodents.

"Now I've done it," she admitted, as with a clatter and a bang that, she
was sure, could be heard a mile away, an evident avalanche of tools
tumbled to the floor. Her crowbar had struck a box of tools.

But the silence shut down again after that. Betty did not realize that
the water tower was so isolated that even unusual noises inside it would
not carry far, and with the door and the window both closed the room was
practically sealed.

The sawing noise was not repeated, there was that much to be grateful
for, Betty reflected. She wondered if she could batter down the door.

"I'll try, anyway," she thought wearily.

And then she could not find the crowbar! Around and around she went,
feeling on the floor for the tools that had clattered down with such a
racket and for the iron bar she had hurled among them. Not one tool could
she put her hands on.

"I must be going crazy," she cried in despair. "I couldn't have dreamed
those tools fell down, and yet where could they have gone? There's no
hole in the floor--"

Now Betty's nerves were sorely tried by the lonely imprisonment, the bad
air, the heat, and the darkness, and it is not to be wondered at that her
usual sound common sense was tricked by her imagination. Her fancy
suggested that the weight of the tools might have torn a hole in the
floor, they might have dropped through to the roof, and Betty herself
might be in momentary danger of stepping into this hole.

Nonsense? Well, wiser minds have conceived wilder possibilities under
similar trying conditions.

"I won't walk another step!" cried poor Betty, as she visioned this
yawning hole. "Not another step. I'll wait till it's light."

But she waited, fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes, and the darkness if
anything grew blacker. She had no idea how long she had been locked in
the room, and she could not calculate how far off the morning might be.

"I'll put my hands out before me and creep," she said finally. "That
ought to be safe. Perhaps I can find something to stand on to reach that
window. I guess I could drop to the roof from there."

Stiffly and painfully, she began to crawl, holding out her hands before
her and starting back time and again as she fancied she felt an opening
just ahead. But when she brought up against a step ladder she forgot her
fears in the joy of her discovery.

It was a short ladder, but she dragged it over to the window and put it
in place and mounted it, all in the twinkling of an eye. By stretching to
her full height, she was able to raise the creaky window, but to her
dismay the roof offered a very long drop. She had not realized how high
she had climbed.

"Dave was fussing with ropes and buckets the other day," she recalled.
"Now I wonder--wouldn't it be the best luck in the world if I could
find a rope?"

Hope was singing high in her heart now, but she almost despaired of such
good fortune after a diligent search. Then something told her to feel
about again on the floor. Round and round she went, getting her fingers
into spider webs and sticky substances that renewed her inward shudders
because she could not identify them. And when she found the rope, a tarry
coil, she also solved the mystery of the tools. They had fallen down
behind the coil of rope and were effectively fenced off from the circle
of floor explored by the bewildered Betty.

It was the work of a moment to tie one end of the rope to a heavy staple
driven under the window sill, and then, closing her eyes to the pitch
black void beneath her, Betty let herself slide down to the roof. Her
hands were cruelly scratched by the rope fibres and she was too tired to
care about the evidences of her flight.

"If anybody wants to know about that rope and the locked door, let 'em!"
she sighed defiantly.

Bobby woke up as Betty came in the door, and then there were questions
galore to be answered. Betty was covered with dust and her clothing was
torn and rumpled. Bobby declared she looked as if she had been to war.

"I feel it," admitted Betty. "Let me take a hot bath and get into bed.
And, Bobby, promise me on your word of honor that you'll call me in the
morning. Whoever locked me in expects me to stay there till I'm missed,
and I want to walk into breakfast as usual."

She half regretted her instructions when Bobby called her at seven the
next morning, but Betty was nothing if not gritty, and she sleepily
struggled into her clothes. Ada Nansen's look of utter astonishment when
she saw Betty come into the dining room with the rest for breakfast told
those in the secret what they had already suspected.

"Bobby must have heard her listening at our door last night," said
Betty. "What am I going to do? Why nothing, of course! That was part of
the stunt, or at least I'm going to consider it so. My card is there, so
they'll know I fulfilled my part."

Dave McGuire scratched his head when he found the rope and the open
window, but he wisely said nothing. He had two keys, and one he had
loaned at the request of the senior class president to a fellow student.
The other key, for emergency use, hung on a nail in the fourth story
hall. That was the key Dave found in the door lock when he made his early
morning tour of inspection. "But the young folks must be having their
fun," he said indulgently, "and, short of burning down the place, 'tis
not Dave McGuire who will be interfering with 'em."

Mid-term tests were approaching. Bobby, who, with all her love of fun,
was a hard student, felt prepared and went around serenely. Constance
Howard had, most humanly, neglected, so far as the teacher of mathematics
permitted, the study that was hardest for her, her algebra. She now spent
hours in "cramming" on this, meanwhile complaining to those of her
special chums who would listen to her of "the unfairness of being made to
study algebra."

"I can add--with the use of my fingers--and subtract and divide and
multiply--at least I know the tables up through the twelves. Of what use
will a's and b's and x's, y's and z's ever be to me?"

"Constance, you know that's nonsense," Bobby told her. "We're every one
of us here because we want to play a bigger part in life than the
two-plus-two-is-four people, and we've got to dig in and prepare
ourselves. If you'd do your work when you ought to, you wouldn't be in
such an upset state now."

"Yes'm," grinned Constance, and went back to her belated work.

Betty had found that her year away from school had made it hard for her
to concentrate her mind on her studies, and while she had not
deliberately neglected her work, as Constance had in her algebra, she had
not always kept up to the highest pitch. She was working furiously now,
with the tests to face so soon, and with it went the resolve to be more
studious from day to day during the rest of the school year. The
concentration was becoming easier, too, as the term advanced, and, the
teaching at Shadyside being of the best, she felt sure she would feel
that she had accomplished something by the end of the year.

The Dramatic Club of Shadyside woke to ambition as the term progressed.
Soon after the mid-term tests, which all the girls, even Constance,
passed successfully, by dint of threat and bribery, each student was
"tried out" and her ability duly catalogued.

Betty liked to act, and proved to have a natural talent, while Bobby,
professing a great love for things theatrical, was hopeless on the stage.
Her efforts either moved her coaches to helpless laughter or caused them
to retire in indignant tears.

"She is--what you call it?--impossible!" sighed Madame, the French
teacher, shaking her head after witnessing one rehearsal in which Bobby,
as the villain, had convulsed the actors as well as the student audience.

"Well then, I'll be a stage hand," declared Bobby, whose feelings
were impervious to slights. "I'm going to have something to do with
this play!"

Ada Nansen was eager to be assigned a part--the players were chosen on
merit--and she aspired modestly to the leading rôle, mainly because, the
girls hinted, the heroine wore a red velvet dress with a train and a
string of pearls.

But Ada, it developed, was worse than Bobby as an actress. She was
self-conscious, impatient of correction, and so arrogant toward the other
players that even gentle Alice Guerin was roused to retort.

"I haven't been assigned the maid's part yet!" she flashed, when Ada
ordered her to remove several stage properties that were in the way.

"Give it to her, Alice!" encouraged the mischievous Bobby. "That girl
would ruffle an angel."

Alice and Norma were both valuable additions to the Dramatic Club
ranks. Norma especially proved to be a find, and she was given the
hero's part after the first rehearsal while Alice was the heroine's
mother. Betty, much to her surprise, was posted on the bulletin board
as the "leading lady."

Down toward the end of the list of the cast was Ada Nansen's name as
"the maid."

"She'll be furious," whispered Bobby. "Miss Anderson told Miss Sharpe,
when she didn't think I could hear, that Ada wasn't really good enough to
be the maid, but that they hoped she would sing for them between the
acts. Miss Anderson said if they didn't let her have some part she'd be
so sulky she wouldn't sing."

A rehearsal was held in the gymnasium after school that afternoon, and as
she went through her first act Betty was uncomfortably conscious of Ada's
glowering eyes following her. When the cue was given for the maid, Ada
did not move.

"That's your cue, Ada," called Miss Anderson patiently.

"I've resigned, Miss Anderson," said Ada clearly. "It's a little too
much to ask me to play maid to two charity students."

Norma and Alice shrank back, but Betty sprang forward.

"How dare you!" she flared, white with rage. "How dare you say such a
thing! It's untrue, and you know it. Even if it were so, you have no
right to say such an outrageous thing."

Betty was angrier than she had ever been in her life. She possessed a
lively temper and was no meeker than she should be, but during the past
summer she had learned to control herself fairly well. Ada's cruel taunt,
directed with such a sneer at the Guerin sisters that every girl knew
whom she meant, had sent Betty's temper to the boiling point.

"Easy, easy, Betty," counseled Miss Anderson, putting an arm about the
shaking girl. "You're not mending matters, you know."

Then she turned to Ada, who was now rather frightened at what she had
done. She had not meant to go so far.

"Ada," said Miss Anderson sharply, "you will apologize immediately before
these girls for the injustice you have done to two of them. What you have
just said is nothing more nor less than a lie. I will not stoop to put my
meaning in gentler phrases. Apologize to Norma and Alice at once."

Ada set her lips obstinately. The teacher waited a moment.

"I will give you just three minutes," she declared. "If at the end of
that time you still refuse to obey me, I will send for Mrs. Eustice."

Ada shuffled her feet uneasily. She had no fancy to meet Mrs. Eustice,
whose friendship for the Guerins was well known. Mrs. Eustice had a
hot white anger of her own that a pupil who once witnessed it could
never forget.

"Well, Ada?" came Miss Anderson's voice at the end of the three minutes.

Ada hastily stumbled through a shame-faced apology, painful to listen
to, and then, the angry tears running down her face, turned and dashed
from the room.



CHAPTER XXII

ANOTHER MYSTERY


"Ready, Betty," said Miss Anderson briskly. "You enter at the left and
begin 'I thought I heard voices--' Don't look toward the auditorium.
Remember you are supposed to be in a small room."

Betty managed to command her voice, and the rehearsal went on. Miss
Anderson herself took the part of the maid and, as she had foreseen,
by the time they had finished the hour they were in a normal, happy
frame of mind.

No reference was ever made by any one to Ada's speech, but she never
appeared at another rehearsal. After two weeks' diligent practice, the
players were pronounced perfect and a night was set for the performance
of "The Violet Patchwork."

"Why don't we go to the woods and get some leaves to trim the assembly
hall?" suggested Betty two days before the time for the play. "Mrs.
Eustice's sister is coming to see her, and some other guests, and we want
it to look nice. We might get some nuts, too. Aunt Nancy promised us nut
cake with ice cream if we'll get her enough."

"All right, I like to go nutting," agreed Bobby. "But, for goodness'
sake, if we're going to walk a hundred miles this time, let's have
something to eat with us. Sandwiches and a regular spread. How many have
boxes from home?"

A canvass showed that a round dozen of the girls had been favored that
week, and, at Bobby's suggestion, they donated their goodies to "the
common cause."

"Not all the girls will want to go," said Betty. "Some are such poor
walkers, they'll decline at the first hint of a hike. Every one in the
V.P. will want to go, I think, and that's eleven. Then, counting the
girls with boxes and the others who have asked to come, we'll have
twenty. Twenty of us ought to manage to bring home enough leaves to trim
the hall respectably."

"We might ask for a holiday!" Bobby's face beamed at the thought. "We
haven't had a day off in weeks, and Mrs. Eustice said a long time ago she
thought we'd earned one. Will you do the asking, Betty?"

Betty was accustomed to "doing the asking," and she said she would once
more if Norma Guerin would go with her. Wherever possible, Betty drew
Norma into every school activity, and she persistently refused to allow
her friend to talk as though the Christmas holidays would end their days
at Shadyside. Alice worried less than Norma, but both girls grieved at
the thought of the sacrifice those at home were making for them and felt
that they could not accept it much longer without vigorous protest.

Betty and Bobby, on the other hand, were determined to see to it that
the sisters spent their holidays in Washington, and while Bobby
cherished wild plans of filling a trunk with new dresses and hats and
forcing it in some manner upon her chums, Betty concentrated her
attention on the subject of cash. She intended to consult her uncle, in
person if possible, and if that proved impossible, by letter, and Bob as
to the feasibility of persuading Norma and Alice to borrow a sum
sufficient to see them through to graduation day at Shadyside. Betty was
sure her uncle and Bob, in both of whom she had infinite faith, could
manage this difficult task satisfactorily, though the Guerin pride was a
formidable obstacle.

Acting immediately on the decision to ask for a holiday, Betty and Norma
went down to the office and preferred their request, which was cordially
granted after an explanation of its purpose.

"All day to-morrow off!" shouted Betty, bursting in upon the six girls
assembled to hear the result.

"We may go after breakfast and needn't come back till four o'clock when
Miss Anderson has called a dress rehearsal," chimed in Norma.

Libbie and Louise were dispatched to notify the other girls and to
give strict instructions to those who had boxes not to eat any more of
the contents.

"Elsie Taylor had already eaten six eclairs when I requisitioned her box
for the picnic," said Constance Howard. "It's lucky we're going tomorrow,
or there wouldn't be much left to eat."

Betty and Bobby each had a box from Mrs. Littell, who sent packages of
sensible goodies regularly to her girls in turn.

"I hope the sandwiches will keep fresh enough," worried Betty.

But she might have saved her worry.

Just as she and Bobby were going to bed that night Norma and Alice came
in, wrapped in their kimonos, each carrying a large box under her arm.

"What do you suppose?" asked Norma. "Good old Aunt Nancy heard we were
going after nuts for her cake and leaves for the hall, and she's made us
dozens of sandwiches. She said she did it because Mrs. Eustice reserved
one of the best seats for her at the play. Anyway, we'll be glad to have
them, shan't we? And, oh yes, Aunt Nancy says she'll make us a cake as
big as 'a black walnut tree' and two kinds of ice cream!"

"And she brought the sandwiches up to Norma and Alice because she
was determined they should have something for the picnic," thought
Betty after the girls had gone. "Talk about tact! Aunt Nancy has the
real thing."

The girls were all up early the next morning, and soon after breakfast
they were on their way to the woods. Many of those who were not of the
nutting party went to Edentown, some took canoes and went paddling,
others "puttered" around the school grounds, enjoying the beautiful
autumn weather and the luxury of a holiday.

Ada Nansen and her friends had elected to go to Edentown, and passed the
nutting party on the way. Betty took one glance into the bus and then
looked at Bobby. That young person promptly giggled.

"Did you see what I saw?" she asked.

"Poor Ada!" said Betty. "She does have troubles of her own!"

For of all the teachers, Miss Prettyman alone had been available as
chaperone, and to go to town under Miss Prettyman's eagle eye was
anything but an exciting experience. She was usually bent on "improving"
the minds of her charges, and she improved them with serene disregard of
the victims' tastes and interests. Betty and Bobby had seen her sitting
bolt upright in the bus, reading a thin volume of essays while Ada
scowled at the happy crowd tramping in the road.

The woods reached, they separated, some to gather branches of leaves and
others intent on filling their sacks with nuts. The boxes of lunch were
neatly piled under a tree, and sweaters were left with them, for it was
comfortably warm even in the shadiest spots.

"I don't believe we will have many more days like this," remarked Frances
Martin, her nearsighted eyes peering into a hollow tree stump. "Girls,
what have I found--a squirrel?"

"Plain owl," laughed Betty. "Isn't he cunning?"

They crowded around to admire the funny little creature, and then,
admonished by Bobby, whom Constance declared would make a good drill
sergeant, set busily to work again. Nuts were not plentiful, but they
filled half a sack, and then, a large pile of flaming branches having
been gathered, they decided to drag their spoils back to the tree and to
have lunch.

"Girls, girls, girls!" shrieked Libbie, who was in the lead, "our lunch
is gone--every crumb of it!"

Sure enough, the sweaters were all tossed about in confusion and the
boxes had disappeared.

"Who took it?" demanded Bobby wrathfully. "You needn't tell me that
lunch walked off!"

High and clear and shrill, a familiar whistle sounded back of them.

"That's Bob!" Betty's face brightened. "Listen!"

She gave an answering whistle, and Bob's sounded again.

There was a scrambling among the bushes, and a group of cadets burst
through. Bob and the Tucker twins were first, and after them came Gilbert
Lane and Timothy Derby and Winifred Marion Brown.

"Hello, anything the matter?" was Bob's greeting. "You look rather glum."

"So would you," Betty informed him, "if you were starving after a
morning's work and your lunch was stolen."

"Gee, that is tough!" exclaimed Bob sympathetically. "Who stole it?"

"We don't know," volunteered Bobby. "But all those boxes couldn't take
wings and fly away."

"You go back and get the fellows," Bob commanded Tommy Tucker. "We were
having a potato roast down by the lake, and while the potatoes were
baking some of us came up for more wood," he explained to the girls. "We
thought we heard voices, and so I whistled."

Tommy Tucker was flying down to the lake before half of this explanation
was given.

"Have you a holiday, too?" Betty asked. "We're out to get decorations for
the play."

"It's the colonel's birthday," explained Bob, "and the old boy gave us
the day off. Here come the fellows."

Half a dozen more cadets joined them, all boys the girls had met at the
games. They were loud in their expressions of sympathy for the
disappointed picnickers and promptly offered their potatoes as
refreshments when they should be done.

"Oh, we're going to get that lunch back," announced Bob Henderson
confidently. "Look here!"

He pointed to some footprints in a bit of muddy ground.

"Cadet shoes!" cried Tommy Tucker. "Jimminy Crickets, I'll bet it's that
Marshall Morgan and his crowd!"

"But this is a girl's shoe," protested Betty, pointing to another print.
"See the narrow toe?"

"Ada Nansen or Ruth Royal!" guessed Bobby quickly. "They're the only ones
who won't wear a sensible shoe."



CHAPTER XXIII

JUST DESERTS


"Who," demanded Betty, "is Marshall Morgan?"

"He's a pest," said Tommy, with characteristic frankness. "He has one
mission in life, and that is to plague those unfortunates who have to be
under the same roof with him. He never does anything on a large scale,
but then a mosquito can drive you crazy, you know."

"Dear me, he ought to know Ada," rejoined Bobby. "Perhaps he does. She is
a pestess, if there is such a word."

"There isn't," Betty assured her. "Anyway, this won't get our lunch back.
What are you going to do, Bob?"

"A little Indian work," was Bob's reply. "We'll send out scouts to locate
the thieves and then we'll surround them and let the consequences fall."

"I'll be a consequence," declared Bobby vindictively. "I'll fall on Ada
with such force she'll think an avalanche has struck her."

Bob sent some of the boys to trace the steps, and while they were gone
outlined his plans to the others. Once they knew where the marauders
were, they were to spread out fan-shape and swoop down upon the enemy.

"I figure they'll get a safe distance away and then stop to eat the
lunch," said Bob. "It is hardly likely that they will take the stuff back
to school with them."

"But Ada went to Edentown," protested Libbie. "We saw her in the bus,
didn't we, girls? And Ruth, too."

"They could easily come back in the same bus," said Betty. "Indeed, I'm
willing to wager that is just what they did. Miss Prettyman as a
chaperone probably killed any desire Ada had to go shopping."

The scouts came back after fifteen or twenty minutes to report that they
had discovered the invaders camped under a large oak tree and preparing
to open the boxes.

"They were laughing and saying how they'd put one over on you," said
Gilbert Lane.

"Well, they won't laugh long," retorted Bob grimly. "How many are there?"

"Marshall Morgan, Jim Cronk, the Royce boys, all three of 'em, Hilbert
Mitchell and George Timmins," named Gilbert, using his fingers as an
adding machine. "Then there are nine girls."

"Has one of them a brown velvet hat with a pink rose at the front and
brown gaiters and mink furs and a perfectly lovely velvet handbag?" asked
Betty. "And did you see a girl with black pumps and white silk stockings
and a blue tricotine dress embroidered with crystal beads?"

The boys looked bewildered.

"Don't believe we did," admitted Gilbert regretfully. "But one of 'em
called a skinny girl 'Ada' and somebody is named 'Gladys.'"

"Never mind the clothes," Bobby told him gratefully. "We knew those two
were mixed up in this."

They started cautiously, mindful of Bob's instructions not to make a
noise, and succeeded, after ten or fifteen minutes creeping, in getting
within hearing distance of the despoilers.

"You girls will have to tend to your friends," grinned Bob. "You can't
expect us to discipline them. But we'll give the boys something to
remember!"

The party spread out, and at his signal whistle they sprang forward,
shouting like wild Indians. Straight for the oak tree they charged and
closed in on the group beneath it. Those seated there rose to their feet
in genuine alarm.

"Rush 'em!" shouted Bob.

Pushing and scrambling, those in the attacking party began to force the
others down the narrow path. The boys were struggling desperately and
the girls were resisting as best they could and some were crying.

"Let us out!" wept Ada. "Ow! You're stepping on me! Let us out!"

She kicked blindly, and fought with her hands. The first person she
grasped was Ruth, who was nearly choked before she could jerk her fur
collar free.

"I will get out!" panted Ada. "Push, girls!"

The circle opened for them, and following Ada they dashed through
straight into a tangle of blackberry bushes. Half mad with rage and blind
from excitement they ploughed their way through, fighting the bushes as
though they were flesh and blood arms held out to stop them. When they
were clear of the thicket their clothes were in tatters and their faces
and hands scratched and bleeding cruelly.

There was nothing for them to do but to go back to the school and try to
invent a plausible story for their condition. All the cold cream in the
handsome glass jars on Ada's dressing table could not heal her smarting
face and thoughts that night.

Bob and his friends continued on their resolute way, pushing the luckless
cadets before them. Once out of the woods, they seized them by the jacket
collars and rushed them down to the lake and into the icy waters. They
generously allowed them to come out after a few minutes immersion, and
the sorry, dripping crew began the long run that would bring them to dry
clothes and, it is to be hoped, mended ways.

"Now the potatoes are done," Bob reported, after examining the oven
hollowed out and lined with stones. "Why not combine forces and eat?"

Every one was famished, and they found plenty of good things left in the
boxes. The uninvited guests could not have had those packages open long
before they were overtaken.

After a hearty picnic meal the boys helped the girls gather up their
branches and walked with them to the point where their boats were tied.
They had rowed over because of the attraction of the woods--Salsette
being located on the flat side of the lake--and now they must go back for
the afternoon drill that was never omitted even for such an important
occasion as the colonel's birthday.

Ada and her chums did not come down to dinner that night, and so did not
help with the decorating of the hall. That was pronounced an unqualified
success, as was the performance of "The Violet Patchwork" the following
night and the nut cake and the chocolate and the pistache ice-cream that
was served at the close.

Both audience and players were treated to two surprises in the course of
the evening. Bobby was responsible for one and, much to the astonishment
of the school, Ada Nansen and Constance Howard for the other.

True to her promise, the dauntless Bobby had accepted the humble rôle of
stage hand rather than have no part in the play, and she trundled scenery
with right good will and acted as Miss Anderson's right hand in a mood of
unfailing good humor. There was not an atom of envy in Bobby's character,
and she thought Betty the most wonderful actress she had ever seen.

"You look lovely in that dress," she said, as Betty stood awaiting her
cue at the opening of the second act.

Betty smiled, took her cue and walked on the stage.

A ripple of laughter that grew to hilarity greeted her after the first
puzzled moment.

"Oh, oh!" cried Madame hysterically, in the wings. "See, that Bobby! Some
one call her! She is walking with the tree!"

The rather primitive arrangements of the background provided for the play
called for a girl to stand behind each tree in the formal garden scene as
support. In her admiration of Betty, Bobby had unconsciously edged after
her to keep her in sight, and the startled audience saw the heroine being
persistently pursued by a pretty boxwood tree. Bobby was recalled to
herself, the tree became rooted in its place, and "The Violet Patchwork"
proceeded smoothly.

Between the third and fourth acts, the lights went out at a signal and
to the general surprise--for the players had known nothing of what was
to come--a velvety voice rolled out in the darkness singing the words
of "A Maid in a Garden Green," a song a great singer had made popular
that season.

"It's Ada," whispered the school with a rustle of delight. "No one else
can sing like that."

They encored her heartily, and she responded. Then the lights flared up
and died down again for the last act.

"Constance got her to do it," whispered Betty to Bobby. "I heard Miss
Anderson telling Miss Sharpe. Ada's face is so scratched she couldn't, or
rather wouldn't, show herself, and Constance said why not sing in the
dark the way they do at the movies? That tickled Ada--who'd like to be a
movie actress, Connie says--and she said she would."

"Constance Howard has a way with her," remarked Bobby sagely. "Any one
that can persuade Ada Nansen to do anything nice is qualified to take a
diplomatic post in Thibet."

Soon after the play the weather turned colder and skating and coasting
became popular topics of conversation. There was not much ice-skating,
as a rule, in that section of the country, but snow was to be expected,
and more than one girl had secret aspirations to go from the top of the
hill back of the school as far as good fortune would take her.

"Coasting?" Ada Nansen had sniffed when the subject was mentioned to her.
"Why, that's for children! Girls of our ages don't go coasting. Now at
home, my brother has an ice-boat--that's real sport."

"Well, Ada, I suppose you think I'm old enough to be your grandmother,"
said Miss Anderson, laughing. "I wonder what you'll say when I tell you
that I still enjoy a good coast? If you girls who think you are too old
to play in the snow would only get outdoors more you wouldn't complain of
so many headaches."

But Ada refused to be mollified, and she remained indifferent to the
shrieks of delight that greeted the first powdering of snow. Thanksgiving
morning saw the first flakes.

The holiday was happily celebrated at Shadyside, very few of the girls
going home. Mrs. Eustice preferred to add the time to the Christmas
vacation, and the girls had found that this plan added to their
enjoyment. Aunt Nancy and her assistants fairly outdid themselves on the
dinner, and that alone would have made the day memorable for those with
good appetites, and where is the school girl who does not like to eat?

The Dramatic Club gave another play to which the Salsette boys were
invited as a special treat, and a little dance followed the play.

"You're a great little actress, Betty," Bob told her when he came to
claim the first dance. "I'm almost willing to let you steer the new
bobsled the first time it snows."

The bobsled, built by Bob and his chums, was an object of admiration to
half of Salsette Academy. It was large and roomy and promised plenty of
speed. The boys, of course, were wild to try it, and Betty and Bobby, who
had been promised one of the first rides, joined them in earnestly
wishing for snow. Betty had a sled of her own, too, a graceful, light
affair her uncle had sent her.

The desired snow did not come for several days. Instead the weather grew
still and cold and the girls were glad to stay indoors and work on their
lessons or on things they were making for Christmas gifts.

"You may not have much money to spend, Norma," remarked Bobby one
afternoon, "but then you don't need it. Just look at the things you can
do with a crochet hook and a knitting needle."

Norma, bent over a pretty lace pattern, flushed a little.

"I'd like to be able to give grandma the things she needs far more than a
lace collar," she said quietly.

Betty knew that Mrs. Macklin was still in the Philadelphia hospital.
Every letter from Glenside now meant "a spell of the blues" for Norma,
who was beginning to have dark circles under her eyes. She looked as
though she might lie awake at night and plan.

When the girls put away their books and their sewing to go down to
dinner, a few uncertain feathery flakes were softly sifting down and late
that night it began to snow in earnest, promising perfect coasting.



CHAPTER XXIV

BETTY GOES COASTING


It did seem a shame that lessons should be as exacting as ever when
outside the trees bent beneath their white burden and eager eyes were
fixed longingly on the hill back of the school.

"You can't coast through the woods, anyway, Betty," Libbie whispered in
the French period. "You may be a wonder, but how can you go through the
tree stumps?"

"Don't intend to," whispered back Betty. "There's a cleared space in
there--I'll show you."

"Young ladies, if you please--" suggested Madame politely, and the girls
jerked their thoughts back to translation.

The moment lessons were over that afternoon, they dashed for their sleds.
The eight who chummed together had four sleds between them which was
enough for the enjoyment of all. Constance Howard had seen so little snow
in her life spent in California that she was very much excited about it
and had bought her sled in August to be ready for the first fall. Bobby
had been to Edentown and bought a little toy affair, the best she could
get there, and Frances Martin had sent home for her big, comfortable
Vermont-made sled that made up in dependability what it lacked in varnish
and polish. Counting Betty's, this gave them four sleds.

There was a conventional hill half a mile away from the school, toward
which most of the girls turned their steps. On the first afternoon it was
crowded. The Salsette cadets had come coasting, too, for on their side of
the lake there was not so much as a mound of earth, and whoever would
coast must perforce cross the lake.

"We'll go up to the woods," announced Betty. "There will be more room,
and it's much more exciting to go down a steep hill."

So it proved. The cleared space to which Betty had referred demanded
careful steering, and Frances Martin at the first glance relinquished the
control of her sled.

"I can't judge distances," she explained, touching her glasses, "and
I'd be sure to steer straight for a tree. Libbie, you'll have to be
the skipper."

So Libbie took Frances, Betty took Bobby, Constance took Norma on her
sled, and Alice steered for Louise, using Bobby's sled.

Such shrieks of laughter, such wild spills! If Ada Nansen had been there
to see she would certainly have been confirmed in her statement that
coasting was "for children." They were coming down for the sixth time
when Bob Henderson, the Tucker twins and Timothy Derby appeared.

"We thought we'd find you here!" was Bob's greeting. "Trust Betty to pick
out a mystic maze for her coasting. It's a wonder some of you girls
haven't shot down into Indian Chasm!"

"Well, I like a steep coast," said Betty defensively. "I wouldn't give a
cent a hundred for a little short coast down a gentle slope. Want me to
take you down on my sled, Bob?"

"I don't believe I do, thank you just the same," returned Bob politely.
"Six of you can pile on the bob, though, and I'll give you a thrilling
ride, safety guaranteed. Who wants to come?"

It ended by all taking turns, and by that time it was half-past four and
they must start back to school.

"I'm coming to-morrow," declared Betty. "I think winter is the nicest
time of the whole year."

"You say that of every season," criticised Bobby. "Besides, I think it
will rain to-morrow; it is much warmer than when we came out."

Bobby proved a good weather prophet for the next day was warmer and
cloudy, and when lessons for the day were over at half-past two, a fine
drizzle had begun to fall.

"Just the same I'm going," persisted Betty, pulling on her rubbers and
struggling into a heavier sweater. "The snow hasn't all melted, and
there will be enough for a good coast. I think you're a lazy bunch to
want to stay cooped up in here and knit. A little fresh air would be good
for you, Norma."

"I've a cold," said Norma, in explanation of her red eyes. "Anyway, I
don't feel like playing around outdoors. And Alice has gone to bed with a
headache and I'd rather not leave her."

Some had studying to do and others refused to be moved from their fancy
work, so Betty and her sled finally set off alone. She knew, of course,
that Norma's red eyes were the result of crying, as was Alice's headache.
They had definitely decided the night before that they would not return
to Shadyside after the Christmas holidays.

"I think this is a funny world," scolded Betty to herself, as she reached
her favorite hill and put her sled in position. "Here are Norma and
Alice, the kind of girls Mrs. Eustice is proud to have represent the
school, and they can't afford to take a full course and graduate. And Ada
Nansen, who is everything the ideals of Shadyside try to combat, has
oceans of money and every prospect of staying. She'll probably take a
P.G. course!"

A wild ride through the slushy snow made Betty feel better, and when, as
she dragged the sled up again, Bob's whistle sounded, the last trace of
her resentment vanished.

"Something told me you'd be out hunting a sore throat to-day," declared
Bob, in mock-disapproval. "The fellows all said there wouldn't be enough
snow to hold up a sparrow."

"Silly things!" dimpled Betty. "There's plenty of snow for a good coast.
Take me, Bob?"

"Well, if you'll come on over where there's a decent hill," Bob
assented. "With only two on the bob, we want to get some grade. Here,
I'll stick your sled in between these two trees and you can get it when
we come back."

Together they pulled the heavy bobsled up the hill and crossed over the
hollow, taking a wagon trail that led up over another hill.

"It's a long walk," admitted Bob, panting. "But wait till you see the
ride we're going to get."

They reached the top of Pudding Hill presently, and Betty looked down
over a rolling expanse of white country covered closely by a lowering
gray sky that looked, she said to herself, like the lid of a soup kettle.

"Bully coast!" exclaimed Bob with satisfaction, swinging the bodsled into
position. "All ready, Betsey?"

"Just a minute," begged Betty, with a delightful little shiver of
excitement as she tucked in her skirts and pulled her soft hat further
over her eyes. "Ye-s, now I guess I'm fixed."

They started. The wind sang in their ears and sharp particles of snow
flew up to sting their faces. Zip! they had taken one hill, and the
gallant bobsled gathered momentum. Betty clung tightly to Bob.

"All right?" he shouted, without turning his head.

"It's fine!" shrieked Betty. "It takes my breath away, but I love it!"

The bobsled seemed fairly to leap the series of gentle slopes that lay at
the foot of the long hill, and for every rise Betty and Bob received a
bump that would have jarred the bones of less enthusiastic sportsmen.
Then, suddenly, they were in the hollow, and the next thing they knew
Betty lay breathless in a soft snow bank and Bob found himself flat on
his back a few feet away. The sled had overturned with them.

"Betty! are you hurt?" cried Bob, scrambling to his feet. "Here, don't
struggle! I'll have you out in a jiffy."

He pulled her from the bank of snow and helped her shake her garments
free from the white flakes.

"I'm not hurt a bit, not even scratched," she assured him. "Wasn't that a
spill, though? The first thing I knew I was sailing through space, and
I'm thankful I landed in soft snow. Where's the sled? Oh, over there!"

"Want to quit?" asked Bob, as she began to help him right the overturned
sled. "We can walk over to where we left your sled, you know, Betty."

"And miss the coast?" said Betty scornfully. "Well, not much, Bob
Henderson. It takes more than one upset to make me give up coasting."

She seated herself behind Bob again, and with a touch of his foot they
began the descent of the second hill. The snow had melted more here, and
in some spots the covering was very thin. Bob found the task of steering
really difficult.

"I don't think much of this," he began to say, but at the second word the
bobsled struck a huge root, the riders were pitched forward, and for one
desperate moment they clung to the scrubby undergrowth that bordered what
they supposed was the side of the road.

Then their hold loosened and they fell.

Slipping, sliding, tumbling, rolling, a confused sound of Bob's shouts in
her ears, Betty closed her eyes and only opened them when she found that
she was stationary again. She had no idea of where she was, nor of how
far she had fallen.

"Bob?" she called timidly at first, and then in terror. "Bob!"

"Look behind you," said Bob's familiar voice.

Betty turned her head, and there was Bob, grinning at her placidly. His
cap was gone and several buttons were ripped bodily from his mackinaw,
but he did not seem to be injured and when he pulled Betty to her feet,
that young person found that she, too, was unhurt.

"What happened?" she asked. "Where are we?"

"The bobsled balked," explained Bob cheerfully. "Guess it knew where we
were heading for better than I did. Anyway, you and I took a double
header that was a beauty. If you want to see where we came down, just
look up there."

Betty followed the direction of his finger and saw a trail gashed in the
snow, a trail that twisted and turned down the steep, forbidding sides
of a frowning gorge. Was it possible that they had fallen so far and
escaped injury?

"Know where you are?" asked Bob, watching her.

Betty shook her head.

"I must have been away off the road," explained Bob. "Betsey, you and I
are standing at the bottom of Indian Chasm."



CHAPTER XXV

THE TREASURE


Indian Chasm!

Betty stared at Bob in dismay. Afterward she confessed that her first
thought was of Indians who might capture them.

"Indian Chasm," repeated Bob firmly. "Come on, Betty, we mustn't stand
here. If you once get cold, there's no way to warm you up. We must walk,
and try to find a way out."

Betty stumbled after him, her mind a bewildered maze. She could not yet
grasp the explanation that Bob, turned about by their spill in the
hollow, had followed an old trail instead of the hill road. The trail had
led straight to the border of the chasm.

Bob ploughed along, head bent, a heavy sense of responsibility keeping
him silent. He knew better than Betty the difficulties that in all
probability lay before them.

He glanced back at Betty, wearily toiling after him.

"Want to rest a moment?" he suggested. "Sit on that rock till you begin
to feel chilly."

Betty accepted the suggestion gratefully. She was very tired and she was
hungry. Her rubbers had been torn on the stones she had encountered in
her fall and her shoes were damp.

"What a funny rock," she said idly.

It was a huge slab that had once been a part of another huge rock
which still stood upright. Some force of nature had slit the two like
a piece of paper--from the looks of it, the break was a recent
one--and had forced a section outward, making it look like a wall
about to topple over.

Rested a little, Betty rose and walked around to the other side of the
rock on which she sat, moved by an impulse of curiosity. She went close
to the rock that stood upright like a sentinel.

"What's the matter?" called Bob as she started back.

"I--I thought I kicked against something," answered Betty. "There, did
you hear that?"

"Something clinked," admitted Bob. "Wait, I'll help you look."

He ran around to her and together they began to dig in the snow and
dead leaves.

"Bob! Bob!" Betty's voice rose in delight. "Look!"

She held up a small rusty iron box that, as she tilted it, yawned to
disgorge a shower of gold coins.

"The Macklin treasure! We've found it!" cried Betty, beginning to dig
like an excited terrier. "Help me hunt, Bob! It must be Mrs. Macklin's
treasure, mustn't it?"

"Looks that way," admitted Bob.

As he spoke he drew something from under the shadow of the rock that
settled the question immediately. Something that sparkled and glittered
and slipped through his cold red fingers like glass.

"The emeralds!" breathed Betty. "Oh, Bob, aren't they beautiful!"

"Look, Betty! That slab was forced outward not long ago. Before that this
treasure was concealed in a narrow crack between the two rocks. That's
why no one was able to find it when the search was made soon after the
loss! Isn't it great that we have found it?"

In a frenzy now, they dug, and when there seemed to be nothing more
hidden under the accumulation of dirt and leaves, the two stared at each
other in delighted amazement. At their feet lay little jewel bags
containing the pearls of which Norma had talked, the rose topazes, the
dozen cameos. Magnificent diamonds sparkled in a rusty case, ear-rings
and rings lay in a little heap, and a handful of uncut stones was wrapped
in a bit of chamois skin. Solid silver pitchers and goblets and trays,
sadly battered by being flung against the rocks, lay just as they had
fallen until Bob and Betty had uncovered the leaves which, had so long
covered them.

"How are we going to get it out of here?" asked Betty, when they had
satisfied themselves there was nothing left undiscovered.

"That's the pressing question," confessed Bob. "Incidentally, we have to
get ourselves out, too. I think we'd better walk on a bit, and look for
some trail out. One lucky thing, no one will take the treasure while
we're scouting."

"Where do you suppose that goes to?" said Betty, when they had been
tramping about five minutes.

She pointed to a rocky formation that led off into the side of the chasm.
It was evidently the mouth of a cave.

"I don't know, of course," admitted Bob. "But I think we had better take
a chance and follow it. It will be dark, but so will the chasm in another
half hour. I'll go first and you come after me."

It was inky black in the cave, and there was no assurance that it would
lead them anywhere and every prospect that they would have to retrace
their steps. He was careful to hint nothing of this to Betty, however,
and she, on her part, determinedly stifled any complaint of weariness
that rose to her lips.

It was an experience they both remembered all their lives--that slow,
halting groping through the winding cavern, where the rocky walls
narrowed or widened without warning and the roof rose to great heights or
dropped so low they must crawl on hands and knees. The thought of the
found treasure sustained them and gave them courage to keep on.

"I see a light!" cried Bob after what seemed to Betty hours of this.
"Betty, I do believe we've come to an opening!"

The pin-spot of light grew and broadened, and, as they approached it,
they saw it was the winter sky. The sun was setting, for the clouds had
cleared, and never was a sight half so beautiful to the anxious eyes that
rested on it. What did it matter that they were miles from the school, or
that both were wet and cold and tired to the point of collapse? Just to
get out of that awful chasm was enough.

"I'll go get your sled and pack the stuff on that," proposed Bob, "I
don't suppose it would hurt to leave it there all night, but somehow I
can't. Will you go on ahead, Betty? You're so tired."

"I'm going back with you," said Betty firmly. "I couldn't rest one
minute, knowing you were crawling through that awful cave again. Oh, yes,
I'm coming with you, Bob--you needn't shake your head like that."

Bob realized that it was useless to try to persuade her to go on to the
school alone. His common sense told him that it would be wiser to leave
the treasure where it was and come after it the next day, but common
sense does not always win out. It was actually impossible for Bob or
Betty to abandon the Macklin fortune now that they had found it.

Bob found Betty's sled, after some search, where they had left it
between two trees, and together they began to thread the tortuous maze
of the cave again, Bob going ahead and dragging the sled after him.
Betty thought despairingly that she had never known what it meant to be
tired before.

"I'll wrap the little things in my middy tie," she said when they came
out in the chasm at last and found the heap of treasure where they had
piled it, "and we can fasten down the rest of the stuff with the belt
from my coat."

Their fingers were stiff with cold, but they managed to get everything on
the sled and lash it securely with a rope and the leather belt from
Betty's coat. Then, once more, they started back through the cave.

The sled was heavy and the way seemed twice as long as the first time
they had followed it, but they kept doggedly on. It was dark when they
emerged on the familiar hillside.

"Sit on the sled, and I'll pull you, Betty," offered Bob, looking a
little anxiously at his companion's white face.

But Betty resolutely refused, and she trotted beside him all the way,
helping to pull the sled, till the gray buildings of Shadyside loomed up
before them.

She insisted that Bob must come in with her, and they told their story to
Mrs. Eustice, breathlessly and disconnectedly, to be sure, but the rope
of emeralds and the gleaming diamonds filled in all gaps in the
narrative. Before she went to sleep Betty had the satisfaction of knowing
that Norma and Alice had been told the good news and that a telegram was
speeding off to the home folks.

The discovery and recovery of the missing treasure created a wave of
excitement when it became generally known. A few girls, who valued
worldly possessions above everything else, made overtures of friendship
to the sisters whom previously they had ignored. Their old friends
heartily rejoiced with them and Norma and Alice went about in a dream of
bliss compounded of joy for their grandmother and parents, plans for new
frocks and the proposed holiday trip to Washington.

"It's the nicest thing that ever happened," Betty wrote her uncle. "Now
Norma and Alice can graduate from Shadyside, and Grandma Macklin can
spend the rest of the winter in Florida and dear Doctor and Mrs. Guerin
can doctor and nurse half the county for nothing, if they please."

       *       *       *       *       *

Doctor Guerin and his wife wrote that Norma and Alice should go happily
with the Littell girls for a visit and forget the "no longer depressing
question of finances." Both Doctor and Mrs. Guerin were enthusiastic in
their praise of Betty and Bob, who began to feel that too much was made
of their lucky discovery, especially when, at the direction of Mrs.
Macklin, the Macklin family's old lawyer (who had taken charge of the
recovered treasure and appraised it at nearly twice its value when lost)
sent Betty a pair of the diamond earrings and Bob one of the priceless
old silver platters.

"But you not only found it, you went through a lot to bring it to us,"
said Norma affectionately. "No, Betty, you and Bob can't wriggle out of
being thanked."

The finding of the treasure was not the last of Betty's adventures. What
happened to her and her chums the following summer will be related in the
next volume of this series.

The remaining days of the term fairly flew, and almost before they
realized it, school closed for the Christmas holidays. A merry party
boarded the train for the Junction, where they could make connections for
Washington, one crisp, sunny December morning.

"Every one here?" demanded Bobby Littell. "I don't want to run the risk
of arriving home short a guest or two."

"I'm willing to be kidnapped," suggested Tommy Tucker, who knew the story
of Betty's first meeting with Bobby.

Both girls laughed, and Betty was still smiling as she held out her
ticket to the conductor.

"Have a good time, young 'uns," chirped the grizzled little man cheerily.
"Only one thing's more fun than goin' to school, and that's goin' home
from school for a spell of play."

And with this happy prospect before her, let us leave Betty Gordon.

THE END





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