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Title: Betty Gordon at Mountain Camp
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 Mountain Camp" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BETTY GORDON AT MOUNTAIN CAMP

Or, The Mystery of Ida Bellethorne

by

ALICE B. EMERSON

Author of _Betty Gordon at Bramble Farm_, _Betty Gordon at Boarding
School_, "Ruth Fielding Series," etc.

Illustrated

New York
Cupples & Leon Company
Publishers



Books for Girls
By ALICE B. EMERSON
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated

BETTY GORDON SERIES

    BETTY GORDON AT BRAMBLE FARM
    BETTY GORDON IN WASHINGTON
    BETTY GORDON IN THE LAND OF OIL
    BETTY GORDON AT BOARDING SCHOOL
    BETTY GORDON AT MOUNTAIN CAMP

RUTH FIELDING SERIES

    RUTH FIELDING OF THE RED MILL
    RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL
    RUTH FIELDING AT SNOW CAMP
    RUTH FIELDING AT LIGHTHOUSE POINT
    RUTH FIELDING AT SILVER RANCH
    RUTH FIELDING ON CLIFF ISLAND
    RUTH FIELDING AT SUNRISE FARM
    RUTH FIELDING AND THE GYPSIES
    RUTH FIELDING IN MOVING PICTURES
    RUTH FIELDING DOWN IN DIXIE
    RUTH FIELDING AT COLLEGE
    RUTH FIELDING IN THE SADDLE
    RUTH FIELDING IN THE RED CROSS
    RUTH FIELDING AT THE WAR FRONT
    RUTH FIELDING HOMEWARD BOUND
    RUTH FIELDING DOWN EAST
    RUTH FIELDING IN THE GREAT NORTH-WEST
    RUTH FIELDING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE

Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York
1922



[Illustration: THE WHOLE PARTY TURNED OUT GAILY.
"Betty Gordon at Mountain Camp."]



CONTENTS

    CHAPTER

        I  THE ORANGE SILK OVER-BLOUSE

       II  THE FRUITS OF TANTALUS

      III  OFF FOR A GALLOP

       IV  A SECOND IDA BELLETHORNE

        V  MEASLES

       VI  A DISAPPEARANCE

      VII  ALL MRS. STAPLES COULD SAY

     VIII  UNCLE DICK MUST BE TOLD

       IX  THE LIVE WIRE OCTETTE

        X  BEAUTIFUL SNOW

       XI  STALLED, AND WITHOUT A DOCTOR

      XII  THE TUNNEL

     XIII  AN ALARM

      XIV  THE MOUNTAIN HUT

       XV  THE LOST GIRL

      XVI  THE CAMP ON THE OVERLOOK

     XVII  OFF ON SNOWSHOES

    XVIII  GREAT EXCITEMENT

      XIX  THE EMERGENCY

       XX  BETTY'S RIDE

      XXI  BETTY COMES THROUGH

     XXII  ON THE BRINK OF DISCOVERY

    XXIII  CAN IT BE DONE?

     XXIV  TWENTY MILES OF GRADE

      XXV  ON THE DECK OF THE SAN SALVADOR



CHAPTER I

THE ORANGE SILK OVER-BLOUSE


"This doesn't look like the street I came up through!" exclaimed Betty
Gordon. "These funny streets, with their dear old-fashioned houses, all
seem, so much alike! And if there are any names stuck up at the corners
they must hide around behind the post when I come by like squirrels in the
woods.

"I declare, there is a queer little shop stuck right in there between two
of those refined-looking, if poverty-stricken, boarding-houses. Dear me!
how many come-down-in-the-world families have to take 'paying guests' to
help out. Not like the Peabodys, but really needy people. What is it Bobby
calls 'em? 'P.G.s'--'paying guests.'

"I was a paying guest at Bramble Farm," ruminated Betty, still staring at
the little shop and the houses that flanked it on either side. "And I
certainly had a hard time there. Bobby says that these people in
Georgetown are the remains of Southern aristocracy that were cast up on
this beach as long ago as the Civil War. Unlike the castaways on cannibal
islands that we read about, Bobby says these castaways live off the
'P.G.s'--and that's what Joseph Peabody tried to do! He tried to live off
me. There! I knew he was a cannibal.

"Oh! Isn't that sweet?"

Her sudden cry had no reference to the army of boarding-house keepers in
the neighborhood, nor to any signpost that pointed the way back to the
little square where the soldiers' monument stood and where Betty was to
meet Carter, the Littells' chauffeur, and the big limousine. For she was
still staring at the window of the little shop.

"What a lovely orange color! And that starburst pattern on the front! It's
lovely! What a surprising thing to see in a little neighborhood store like
this. I'm going to buy it if it fits me and I've money enough left in my
purse."

Impetuous as usual, Betty Gordon marched at once to the door of the little
side-street shop. The most famous of such neighborhood shops, as described
by Hawthorne, Betty knew all about. She had studied it in her English
readings at Shadyside only the previous term. But there was no
Gingerbread Man in this shop window!

In the middle of the display window, which was divided into four not very
large panes, was arranged on a cross of bright metal a knitted over-blouse
of the very newest burnt orange shade. The work was exquisitely done, as
Betty could see even from outside the shop, and she did hope it would fit
her.

On pushing open the door a silvery bell--not an annoying, jangling
bell--played a very lively tune to attract the attention of a girl who sat
at the back of the shop, her head bent close above the work on which she
was engaged. Although the bell stopped quivering when Betty closed the
door, the girl did not look up from her work.

Sharp-eyed Betty saw that the stranger was knitting, and she seemed to be
engaged upon another over-blouse like that in the window, save that the
silk in her lap was of a pretty dark blue shade. Betty saw her full, red
lips move placidly. The girl was counting over her work and she actually
was so deeply immersed in the knitting that she had not heard the bell or
realized that a possible customer had entered.

"Ahem!" coughed Betty.

"And that's twenty-four, and--cross--and two--and four----" The girl was
counting aloud.

"Why," murmured Betty Gordon, her eyes dancing, "she's like Libbie
Littell when she is somnambulating--I guess that is the right word.
Anyway, when Libbie walks in her sleep she talks just like that----

"_Ahem!_"

This time Betty almost shouted the announcement of her presence in the
shop and finally startled the other girl out of her abstraction. The
latter looked up, winked her eyes very fast, and began to roll up her work
in a clean towel. Betty noticed that her eyes were very blue and were
shaded by dark lashes.

"I beg your pardon," said the shopgirl. "Have you been waiting long?" She
came forward quickly and with an air of assurance. Her look was not a
happy one, however, and Betty wondered at her sadness. "What can I show
you?" asked the shopgirl.

She was not much older than Betty herself, but she was more self-possessed
and seemed much more experienced than even Betty, much as the latter had
traveled and varied as her adventures had been during the previous year
and a half. But now the stranger's questions brought Betty to a renewed
comprehension of what she had actually entered the shop for.

"I'm just crazy about that blouse in the window--the orange one," she
cried. "I know you must have made it yourself, for you are knitting
another, I see, and that is going to be pretty, too. But I want this
orange one--if it doesn't cost too much."

"The price is twelve dollars. I hope it is not too much," said the
shopgirl timidly. "I sold one for all of that before I left Liverpool."

Betty was as much interested now in the other girl as she was in the
orange silk over-blouse.

"Why!" she exclaimed, "you are English, aren't you? And you and your
family can't long have been over here."

"I have been here only two months," said the girl quietly.

There was a certain dignity in her manner that impressed Betty. She had
very dark, smoothly arranged hair and a beautiful complexion. She was
plump and strongly made, and she walked gracefully. Betty had noted that
fact when she came forward from the back of the shop.

"But you didn't come over from England all alone?" asked the curious young
customer, neglecting the blouse for her interest in the girl who spread
out its gossamer body for approval.

"It took only seven days from Liverpool to New York," said the other girl,
looking at Betty steadily, still with that lack of animation in her face.
"I might have come alone; but it was better for me to travel with
somebody, owing to the emigration laws of your country. I traveled as
nursemaid to a family of Americans. But I separated from them in New York
and came here."

"Oh!" Betty exclaimed, not meaning to be impertinent. "You had friends
here in Georgetown?"

"I thought I had a relative in Washington. I had heard so. I failed to
find her so--so I found this shop, kept by a woman who came from my
county, and she gave me a chance to wait shop," said the English girl
wearily.

"Mrs. Staples lets me knit these blouses to help out, for she cannot pay
large wages. The trade isn't much, you see. This one, I am sure, will look
lovely on you. I hope the price is not too much?"

"Not a bit, if it will fit me and I have that much money in my purse,"
replied Betty, who for a girl of her age had a good deal of money to spend
quite as she pleased.

She opened her bag hastily and took out her purse. The purse was made of
cut steel beads and, as Betty often said, "everything stuck to it!"
Something clung to it now as she drew it forth, but neither Betty nor the
shopgirl saw the dangling twist of tissue paper.

"And I'll buy that other one you are knitting," Betty hurried to say as
she shook the purse and dug into it for the silver as well as the bills
she had left after her morning's shopping. "I know that pretty blue will
just look dear on a friend of mine."

She was busy with her money, and the English girl looked on hopefully. So
neither saw the twist of tissue paper fly off the dangling fringe of beads
and land with a soft little "plump" on the floor by the counter.

"Dear me!" breathed the shopgirl, in reply to Betty's promise, "I shall
like that. It will help a good bit--and everything so high in this
country. A dollar, as you say, goes hardly anywhere! And this one will fit
you beautifully. You can see yourself."

"Of course it will. Do it up at once," cried the excited Betty. "Here is
the money. Twelve dollars. I was afraid I didn't have enough. And be sure
and keep that blue one for my friend. Maybe she will come for it herself,
so give me a card or something so she can find the place. Shall she ask
for you?"

"If you please," and the English girl ran to write a card. She brought it
back with the neatly made parcel of the over-blouse and slipped it into
Betty Gordon's hand. The latter thanked her and looked swiftly at the name
the other had written.

"Good-bye, Ida Bellethorne," she said, smiling. "What a fine name! I hope
I can sell some more blouses for you. I'll try."

The shopgirl made a little bow and the silvery bell jangled again as Betty
opened the door. Betty looked back at the English girl, and the latter
looked after Betty. They were both interested, much interested, the one in
the other, and for reasons that neither suspected. Ida Bellethorne was not
much like the girls Betty knew. She seemed even more sedate than the
seniors at Shadyside where Betty had attended school with the Littell
girls since the term had opened in September.

Ida Bellethorne was not, however, in any such happy condition as the girls
Betty Gordon knew. She might have told the warm-hearted customer who had
bought the over-blouse a story that would indeed have spurred Betty's
interest to an even greater degree. But the English girl was naturally of
a secretive disposition, and she was among strangers.

She turned back into the store when Betty had gone and the door, swinging
shut, set the bell above it jingling again. A door opened at the end of
the room and a tall, aggressive woman in a long, straight, gingham frock
strode into the room. She had very black, heavy brows that met over her
nose and this, with the thick spectacles she wore, gave her a very stern
expression.

"What's the matter with that bell, Ida?" she demanded, in a sharp voice.
"It seems to ring enough, but it doesn't ring any money into my
cash-drawer as I can see."

"I sold my over-blouse out of the window, Mrs. Staples," said the girl.

"Humph! What else?"

"Er--what else? Why--why, she said she might come back for the one I am
making."

"Humph!" ejaculated Mrs. Staples a second time. "I don't see as that will
fill my cellar with coal. Couldn't you sell her anything else out of the
shop?"

"She didn't say she wanted anything else," said Ida timidly.

"Oh! She didn't? You'll never make a sales-woman till you learn to sell
'em things they don't want but that the shop wants to sell. And I was
foolish enough to tell you that you could have all you could make out of
those blouses. Oh, well! I'm always being foolishly generous. Come! What's
that on the floor? Pick it up."

Mrs. Staples was very near-sighted, yet nothing seemed to escape her
observation. She pointed to the twist of white tissue paper on the floor
which had been twitched out of Betty Gordon's bag. Ida stooped as she was
commanded and got the paper. She was about to toss it into the
waste-basket behind the counter when she realized that there was some hard
object wrapped in the paper.

"What is it?" asked Mrs. Staples, in her quick, stern way, as she saw Ida
open the twist of paper.

"Why, I--Oh, Mrs. Staples! look what this is, will you?"

She held out in the palm of her hand a little, heart-shaped platinum
locket with a tiny but very beautiful diamond set in the center of its
face, and when she turned it over on the back was engraved the intertwined
letters "E.G."

"For the land's sake!" ejaculated Mrs. Staples, coming nearer and grabbing
the locket out of Ida's hand. "Where did you get this?"

"Why, Mrs. Staples, you saw me pick it up."

"But how did it come there?"

"Oh, I know!" Ida Bellethorne cried, with sudden animation. "That girl
stood right there. She opened her bag to get out her purse and she must
have flirted it out to the floor."

"Humph!" said the storekeeper doubtfully.

"Give it to me, Mrs. Staples, and I'll run after her," cried the English
girl anxiously.

"Humph!" This was Mrs. Staples' stock ejaculation and expressed a variety
of emotions. Just now it expressed doubt. "And then you'd come back and
tell me how thankful she was to get it, while maybe it doesn't belong to
her at all. No," said Mrs. Staples, "let her come looking for it if she
lost it."

"Oh!" murmured Ida Bellethorne doubtfully.

"Perhaps she will never guess she dropped it here."

"That's no skin off your nose," declared the vulgar shopwoman. "You've no
rights in this thing, anyway. What's found on the floor of my shop is just
as much mine as what's on the counter or in the trays behind the counter.
I know my rights. Until whoever lost this thing comes in and proves
property, it's mine."

"Oh, Mrs. Staples!" cried her employee. "Is that the law in this country?
It doesn't seem honest."

"Humph! It's honest enough for me. And who are you, I'd like to know, a
greenhorn fresh from the old country, trying to tell me what's honest and
what ain't? If that girl comes back----"

"Yes, Mrs. Staples?"

"You sell her that other blouse if you want to, or anything else out of
the shop. But you keep your mouth shut about this locket unless she asks
for it. Understand? I won't have no tattle-tales about me; and if you
don't learn when to keep your mouth open and when to keep it shut, I'll
have no use at all for you in my shop. Remember that now!"



CHAPTER II

THE FRUITS OF TANTALUS


Betty Gordon had glanced hastily at her wrist watch as she went out of the
little store. It was very near the minute appointed for her to meet Carter
at the square. And she had forgotten to ask that girl, Ida Bellethorne
(such an Englishy name!), how to find her rendezvous with the Littells'
chauffeur.

She hesitated, tempted to run back. Had she done so she would have been in
time to see Ida pick up the little locket that Uncle Dick had given Betty
that very Christmas and which she carried in her bag because it seemed the
safest place to treasure it while she was visiting. Her trunk was at
Shadyside.

So it is that the very strangest threads of romance are woven in this
world. And Betty Gordon had found before this that her life, at least, was
patterned in a very wonderful way. Since she had been left an orphan and
had found her only living relative, Mr. Richard Gordon, her father's
brother, such a really delightful guardian the girl had been to so many
places and her adventures had been so exciting that her head was
sometimes quite in a whirl when she tried to think of all the happenings.

Uncle Dick's contracts with certain oil promotion companies made it
impossible as yet for him to have what Betty thought of as "a real,
sure-enough home." He traveled here, there and everywhere. Betty loved to
travel too; but Uncle Dick was forced to go to such rough and wild places
that at first he could not see how Betty, a twelve year old, gently bred
girl, could go with him.

Therefore he had to find a home for his little ward for a few months, and
remembering that an old school friend of his was married to the owner of a
big and beautiful farm, he arranged for Betty to stay with the Peabodys at
Bramble Farm. Her adventures as a "paying guest" in the Peabody household
are fully related in the first book of the series, entitled "Betty Gordon
at Bramble Farm," and a very exciting experience it was.

In spite, however, of the disagreeable and miserly Joseph Peabody, Betty
would not have missed her adventures at the farm for anything. In the
first place, she met Bob Henderson there, and a better boy-chum a girl
never had than Bob. Although Bob had been born and brought up in a
poorhouse, and at first knew very little about himself and his relatives,
even a girl like Betty could see that this "poorhouse rat" as he was
slurringly called by Joseph Peabody, possessed natural refinement and a
very bright mind.

Betty and Bob became loyal friends, and when Betty, in the second volume,
called "Betty Gordon in Washington," had fairly to run away from Bramble
Farm to meet her Uncle Dick in the national capital, badly treated Bob ran
away likewise, on the track of somebody who knew about his mother's
relatives. Betty's adventures in Washington began with a most astonishing
confusion of identities through which she met the Littells--a charming
family consisting of a Mr. Littell, who was likewise an "Uncle Dick"; a
motherly Mrs. Littell, who never found young people--either boys or
girls--troublesome; three delightful sisters named Louise, Roberta, and
Esther Littell; and a Cousin Elizabeth Littell, who good-naturedly becomes
"Libbie" instead of "Betty" so as not to conflict in anybody's mind with
"Betty" Gordon.

The fun they all had in Washington while Betty waited for the appearance
of her real Uncle Dick, especially after Bob Henderson turned up and was
likewise adopted for the time being by the Littell family, is detailed to
the full in that second story. And at last both Betty and Bob got news
from Oklahoma, where Mr. Richard Gordon was engaged, which set them
traveling westward in a great hurry--Betty to meet Uncle Dick at Flame
City and her boy chum hard on the trace of two elusive aunts of his, his
mother's sisters, who appeared to be the only relatives he had in the
world.

Betty and Bob discovered the aunts just in time to save them from selling
their valuable but unsuspected oil holdings to sharpers, and in "Betty
Gordon in the Land of Oil" one of the most satisfactory results that Betty
saw accomplished was the selling of the old farm for Bob and his aunts for
ninety thousand dollars.

Uncle Dick decided that Betty must go to a good school in the fall, and
they chose Shadyside because the Littells and their friends were going
there. Bob, now on a satisfactory financial plane, arranged to attend the
Salsette Military Academy which was right across the lake from the girls'
boarding school, Uncle Dick, who was now Bob's guardian, having advised
this.

Hastening back from Oklahoma, while Uncle Dick was called to Canada to
examine a promising oil field there, Betty and Bob met the girls and boys
they previously got acquainted with in Washington and some other friends,
and Betty at least began her boarding school experience with considerable
confidence as well as delight.

It was not all plain sailing as subsequent events prove; yet in "Betty
Gordon at Boarding School," the fourth volume of the series, Betty had
many; pleasant adventures as well as school trials. She was particularly
interested in the fortunes of Norma and Alice Guerin, who had been Betty's
friends when she was living at Bramble Farm; and it was through Betty's
good offices that great happiness came to the Guerin girls and their
parents.

The hospitable Littells had invited their daughters' school friends (and,
to quote Bob, there was a raft of them!) to come to Fairfields for the
Christmas holidays, and at the close of the first term they bade good-bye
to Shadyside and Salsette and took the train for Washington.

Fairfields, which was over the river in Virginia, was one of the most
delightful homes Betty Gordon had ever seen. It was closer to Georgetown
than to the nation's capital, and that is why Betty on this brisk morning
was shopping in the old-fashioned town and had come across the orange silk
over-blouse in the window of the neighborhood shop.

It was really too bad that Betty did not run back to the shop to ask for
directions to the soldiers' monument square. She would have been just in
season to interrupt the scene between Ida Bellethorne and Mrs. Staples and
before the latter had threatened Ida with dismissal if she told Betty
about the tiny locket. When she came to find it out, this loss of Uncle
Dick's present, was going to trouble Betty Gordon very much.

"Where in the world can that soldiers' monument be?" murmured Betty to
herself as, after hurrying on for a distance and having turned two
corners, she found herself in a neighborhood that looked stranger than
ever to her.

Not a soul was in sight at that moment, but presently she saw a small
negro boy shuffling along, drawing a piece of chalk on the various houses
and stoops as he passed.

"Boy, come here!" called Betty to the little fellow.

At once the colored boy stopped the use of his piece of chalk and stared
at her with wide-open eyes.

"I ain't done nuffin, lady, 'deed I ain't," he mumbled, and then began to
back away.

"I only want to know where the soldiers' monument is," she returned. "Do
you know?"

"Soldiers' monument am over that way," and the boy waved his hand to one
side, where there was a hilly street, and then hurried out of sight.

"Oh, dear! that's not very definite," sighed Betty.

But now she ran down the hilly street at a chance, turned a crooked corner
and came plump upon the square and the soldiers' monument. There was the
Littells' big, closed car just turning into the square from another
street.

"What luck! Fancy!" gasped Betty, running swiftly to the place where the
big car stopped.

"You're better than prompt, Miss Betty," said the driver of the car. "I am
glad I hadn't to wait for you, for Mister Bob told me particular to get
you home for luncheon. You'll be wanted."

"What for? Do tell me what for, Carter!" Betty cried. "I thought Bob
Henderson was awfully mysterious this morning at breakfast. Do you know
what is in the wind, Carter?"

"Not me, Miss Betty," said the chauffeur, and having tucked the robes
about her he shut the door and got into his own place. But before he
started the car he said through the open window: "I have to delay a
little, Miss. Must drive around by the bank and pick up Mr. Gordon. But I
will hurry home after that."

"Oh! Uncle Dick did go to the bank here," murmured Betty, nestling back
into the cushions and robes. "I wonder if he is going to stop off at
Mountain Camp on his way back to Canada. Oh!" and she sighed more deeply,
"if we could only go up there with him----"

The car stopped before the gray stone bank building. Uncle Dick seemed to
have been on the watch for them, he came out so promptly. Although his
hair was graying, especially about the temples, Mr. Richard Gordon was by
no means an old looking man. He lived much out of doors and spent such
physical energy only as his out-of-door life yielded, instead of living on
his reserve strength as so many office-confined men do. Betty had learned
all about that in physics. She was thoroughly an out-of-door girl herself!

"Oh, Uncle Dick!" she cried when he stepped into the car, "are you really
and truly getting ready to go north again?"

"Must, my dear. Have still some work to do in spite of the ice and snow in
Canada. And, as I told you, I mean to stop and see Jonathan Canary."

"That is what I mean, Uncle Dick," she cried. "Will you go to that lovely
Mountain Camp all alo-o-one?"

"Mercy me, child, you never saw it--and in winter! You do not know whether
it is lovely or not."

"It must be," said Betty warmly, "You have explained it all so beautifully
to us. The lovely lake surrounded by hills, and the long toboggan slide,
and the skating, and fishing for pickerel through the ice, and--Oh, dear
me! if we can't go----"

"If who can't go?" demanded her uncle in considerable amazement.

"Why, me. And Bob. And Bobby Littell and Louise, and the Tucker
twins, and all the rest. We were talking about it last night.
It--would--be--won--der--ful!"

"Well, of all the--Why, Betty!" exclaimed Mr. Gordon, "you know you must
go right back to school."

"Yes, I know," sighed Betty. "It is like the fruits of Tantalus, isn't it?
We read about him in Greek mythology--poor fellow! He stood up to his chin
in water and over his head hung the loveliest fruits. But when he stooped
to get a drink the water receded, and when he stood on tiptoe to reach the
fruit, they receded too. It was dreadful! And Mountain Camp, where your
friend Mr. Canary lives, is just like that. Uncle Dick. For us it is the
fruits of Tantalus."

Uncle Dick stared at her for a moment, then he burst out laughing. But
Betty Gordon remained perfectly serious until they arrived at Fairfields.



CHAPTER III

OFF FOR A GALLOP


The crowd at the Littell lunch table (and it was literally a "crowd"
although the Guerin girls and some of the other over Christmas visitors
had already gone home) hailed Betty's arrival vociferously.

"How do you stand it?" asked Uncle Dick, smiling at Mrs. Littell who
presided at one end of the table. "I should think they would drive you
distracted."

Mrs. Littell laughed jovially and beamed at her young company. "I am only
distracted when Mr. Littell and I are here alone," she rejoined. "This is
what keeps us young."

"You've only a shake to eat in, Betty," exclaimed Bobby Littell, who was
very dark and very gay and very much alive all of the time. "Do hurry.
We're 'most through."

"Dear me! what can I eat in a shake?" murmured Betty, as the soup was
placed before her. "And I am hungry."

"A milk-shake should be absorbed in a shake," observed Bob Henderson,
grinning at her from across the table.

"I need more than that, Bob, after what I have been through this morning.
Such a job as shopping is! And oh, Bobby! I've got the loveliest thing to
show you. You'll just squeal!"

"What is it?" cried Bobby, eager and big-eyed at once. "Do hurry your
luncheon, Betty. We've all got to change, and it's almost time."

"Time for what?" demanded Betty, trying to eat daintily but hurriedly.

But Mrs. Littell called them to order here. "Give Betty time to eat
properly. Whatever it is, Betty, it can't begin until you are ready."

"I'm through, Mother," said Bobby. "May I be excused? I'll have to help
Esther, you know. You'd better forget your appetite, Betty," she whispered
as she passed the latter on her way out of the room. "Time and tide wait
for no man--or girl either."

"What does she mean?" wondered Betty, and became a little anxious as the
others began to rise, too, and were excused. "Have we got to change? What
is it--the movies? Or a party? Of course, it isn't skating? Even if there
was a little scale of ice last night, it would never in this world bear
us," added Betty, utterly puzzled.

Bob Henderson had slipped around to her side of the table and leaned over
her chair back to whisper in Betty's ear:

"You've got to be ready in twenty minutes. The horses won't stand this
cold weather--not under saddle."

"Saddle! Horses!" gasped Betty Gordon, rising right up from the table with
the soup spoon in her hand. "I--I don't believe I want any more luncheon,
Mrs. Littell. Really, I don't need any more. Will you please excuse me?"

"Not if you run away with my spoon, Betty," laughed her hostess. "It was
the dish that ran away with the spoon, and you are not a dish, dear."

"She'll be dished if she doesn't hurry," called Bob from the door, and
then he disappeared.

"Sit down and finish your luncheon, Betty," advised Mrs. Littell. "I
assure you that they will not go without you. The men can walk the horses
about a little if it is necessary."

"I haven't been in a saddle since I left the land of oil and my own dear
Clover-pony!" cried Betty later, as she ran upstairs. "I know just where
my riding habit is. Oh, dear! I hope I have as spirited a horse as dear
Clover was. Are you all ready, Bobby? And you, too, Louise--and Esther?
Goodness me! suppose Carter had broken down on the road and hadn't brought
me back in time----

"Libbie! For goodness' sake don't sit down in that chair. That package has
got the loveliest orange silk over-blouse in it. Wait till you see it,
Bobby."

She fairly dragged the plump girl, Libbie, away from the proximity of the
chair in question and then began to scramble into her riding dress. The
clatter of hoofs was audible on the drive as she fixed the plain gold pin
in her smart stock.

"Of course," Betty said with a sigh, "one can't wear a locket, with or
without a chain, when one is riding. That dear locket Uncle Dick gave me!
I suppose it is safe enough in my bag. Well, I'm ready."

They all ran down to the veranda to see the mounts. Betty's was a
beautiful gray horse named Jim that she had seen before in the Fairfields
stables.

"He's sort of hard-bitted, Miss," said the smiling negro who held the
bridle and that of Bobby's own pony, a beautiful bay. "But he ain't got a
bad trick and is as kind as a lamb, Miss."

"Oh, I'm not afraid of him," declared Betty. "You ought to see my Clover.
All right, Uncle Dick, I'm up!"

They were all mounted and cantering down the drive in a very few minutes.
Even plump little Libbie sat her steed well, for she had often ridden over
her own Vermont hills.

"I don't know where we're going, but I'm on my way!" cried Betty, who was
delighted to be once more in the saddle.

"We're going right across country to Bolter's stock farm," Louise told
her. "Here's where we turn off. There will be some fences. Can you jump a
fence, Betty?"

"I can go anywhere this gray horse goes," declared Betty proudly.

But Bob rode up beside her before they came to the first jump. "Look out
for the icy places, Betsey," he warned her. "None of these horses are
sharpened. They never have ice enough down here in Virginia to worry
about, so they say."

Which was true enough on ordinary occasions. But the frost the night
before had been a hard one and the air was still tingling with it. In the
shady places the pools remained skimmed over. A gallop over the fields and
through the woodland paths put both the horses and riders in a glow of
excitement.

Perhaps Betty was a little careless--at least too confident. Her gray got
the lead and sped away across some rough ground which bordered a ravine.
Bob shouted again for her to be careful, and Betty turned and waved her
hand reassuringly to him.

It was just then that Jim slipped on the edge of the bank. Both of his
front feet slid on an icy patch and he almost came to his knees. Betty
saved herself from going over his head by a skillful lunge backward,
pulling sharply on the reins.

But the horse did not so easily regain his foot-hold. The edge of the bank
crumbled. Betty did not utter a sound, but the girls behind her screamed
in unison.

"Stop! Wait! She'll be killed!"

Betty knew that Bob was coming at a thundering pace on his brown mount;
but the gray horse was on its haunches, sliding down the slope of the
ravine, snorting as it went. Betty could not stop her horse, but she clung
manfully to the reins and sat back in her saddle as though glued to it.

Just what would happen when they reached the bottom of the slope was a
very serious question.



CHAPTER IV

A SECOND IDA BELLETHORNE


The ravine was forty feet deep, and although the path, down which the gray
horse slid with Betty Gordon on his back, was of sand and gravel only,
there were some boulders and thick brush at the bottom that threatened
disaster to both victims of the accident.

Swiftly and more swiftly the frightened horse slid, and the girl had no
idea what she should do when they came, bumpy-ti-bump to the bottom.

She heard Bob shouting something to her, but she did not immediately
comprehend what he said. Something, she thought it was, about her
stirrups. But this was no time or place to look to see if her stirrup
leathers were the proper length or if her feet were firmly fixed in the
irons, which both Bob and Uncle Dick had warned her about when first she
had begun to ride.

Although she dared not look back, Betty knew that Bob had galloped to the
very edge of the ravine and had now flung himself from his saddle. She
heard his boots slam into the sliding gravel of the hill. He shouted
again--that cheery hail that somehow helped Betty to hold on to her fast
vanishing courage.

"Kick your feet out of the stirrups, Betty!"

What he meant finally seeped into Betty's clouded brain. She realized that
Bob Henderson, her chum, the boy she had learned to have such confidence
in, was coming down that bank in mighty strides, prepared to save her if
it was possible.

The gray horse was struggling and snorting; he was likely to tumble
sideways at any moment. If he did, and Betty was caught under him----

But she was not caught in any such crushing pressure. It was Bob's arm
around her waist that squeezed her. She had kicked her feet loose of the
stirrups, and now Bob, throwing himself backward, tore her out of the
saddle. He fell upon his back, and Betty, struggling and laughing and
almost crying, fell on top of him.

"All right, Betty! All right!" gasped Bob. "No need to squeal now."

"Who's squealing?" she demanded. "Let me up, do! Are you hurt, Bob?"

"Only the wind knocked out of me. Woof! You all right?"

"Oh, my dear!" shrieked Bobby at the top of the bank. "Are you killed,
Betty?"

"Only half killed," gasped Betty. "Don't worry. Spread the news. Elizabeth
Gordon, Miss Sharpe's prize Latin scholar, will yet return to Shadyside
to make glad the heart of----"

"She's all right," broke in Tommy Tucker, having dismounted and looking
over the brink of the bank. "She's trying to be funny. Her neck isn't
broken."

"I declare, Tommy!" cried Louise Littell admonishingly, "you sound as
though you rather thought her poor little neck ought to be dislocated."

"Cheese!" gasped Teddy, Tommy's twin. "You got that word out of a book,
Louise--you know you did."

"So I did; out of the dictionary. There are a lot more of them there, if
you want to know," and Louise laughed.

"Oh!" at this point rose a yearning cry. "Oh!" I just think he is too dear
for anything!"

"Cracky! What's broke loose now?" demanded Tommy Tucker, jerking back his
head to stare all around at the group on the brink of the high bank.

"Who is too expensive, Libbie?" asked Bobby, glancing at her cousin with a
look of annoyance displayed in her features.

"Robert Henderson. He is a hero!" gasped the plump girl.

"I know that hero has torn his coat," Louise said, still gazing down into
the ravine.

Of course Bob had played a heroic part; but the rest of those present
would have considered it almost indecent to speak of it as Libbie did. She
continued to clasp her hands and gaze soulfully into the ravine. Bob,
having made sure that Betty was all right, had gone down to the bottom of
the slope and helped the gray horse to its feet. The animal was more
frightened than hurt, although its legs were scratched some and it favored
one fore foot when Bob walked it about.

"Dear me!" cried Betty, coming closer. "Poor old Jim! Is he hurt much,
Bob?"

"I don't believe so," her friend replied.

"Can we get him up the bank?"

"I won't try that if there is any outlet to this ravine--and there must
be, of course. Say! do you hear that silly girl?"

"Who? Libbie?" Betty began to giggle. "She is going to make a hero of you,
Bob, whether you want to be or not. And you are----"

"Now, don't you begin," growled Bob.

"I never saw such a modest fellow," laughed Betty, giving his free hand a
little squeeze.

"Huh! Libbie will want to put a laurel wreath on my brow if I climb up
there. See! There is a bunch of laurels right over there--those
glossy-leaved, runty sort of trees. Not for me! I am going to lead Jim out
ahead, and you climb up, if you want to, and come along with the rest of
the bunch. Ride my horse, if you will, Betty."

"So you'd run away from a girl!" scoffed Betty, but laughing. "You are no
hero, Bob Henderson."

"Sure I'm not," he agreed cheerfully. "And I'd run away from a girl like
Libbie any day. I wonder how Timothy Derby stands for her. But he's almost
as mushy as a soft pumpkin!"

With this disrespectful observation Bob started off with the gray horse
and Betty scrambled up the bank down which she had plunged so heedlessly.

Bobby was one of those who had dismounted at the brink of the ravine, and
she held out a brown hand to Betty as the latter scrambled up the last
yard or two of the steep bank and helped her to a secure footing.

"Are you all right, Betty dear?" she cried.

"No. One side of me is left," laughed Betty. "Wasn't that some slide?"

"Now, don't try to make out that you did it on purpose!" exclaimed Esther,
the youngest Littell sister.

"It was too lovely for anything," sighed Libbie.

"I'm glad you think so," said Betty. "Oh! you mean what Bob did. I see. Of
course he is lovely--always has been. But don't tell him so, for it
utterly spoils boys if you praise them--doesn't it Bobby?"

"Of course it does," agreed Betty's particular chum, whose real name,
Roberta, was seldom used even by her parents.

"I like that!" chorused the Tucker twins. "Wait till we tell Bob, Betty,"
added Tommy Tucker, shaking his head.

"If you try to slide downhill on horseback again, we'll all just let you
slide to the very bottom," said Teddy.

"Don't fret," returned Betty gaily. "I don't intend to take another such
slide----"

"Not even if your Uncle Dick takes you up to Mountain Camp?" asked Bobby.
"There's fine tobogganing up there, he says. Mmmm!"

"Don't talk about it!" wailed Betty. "You know we can't go, for school
begins next week and Uncle Dick won't hear to anything breaking in on my
schooling."

"Not even measles?" suggested Tommy Tucker solemnly. "Two of the fellows
were quarantined with it when we left Salsette," he added.

"Oh! don't speak of such a horrid thing," gasped Libbie, who did not
consider measles in the least romantic. "You get all speckled like--like a
zebra if you have 'em."

The twins uttered a concerted shout and almost rolled out of their saddles
into which they had again mounted after assisting the girls, Betty being
astride Bob's horse.

"Speckled like a zebra is good!" Bobby Littell said laughingly to her
plump cousin. "I suppose you think a barber's pole is speckled, Libbie?"

These observations attracted the deluded Libbie sufficiently from her
hero-worship, so that when Bob Henderson came up out of the ravine to join
them a mile beyond the scene of the accident, he was perfectly safe from
Libbie's romantic consideration.

The boy and girl friends were then in a deep discussion of the chances,
pro and con, of Betty's Uncle Dick taking her with him to Mountain Camp
despite the imminent opening of the term at Shadyside.

"Of course there is scarcely a possibility of his doing so," Betty said
finally with hopeless mien. "Mr. Canary--Uncle Dick's friend is named
Jonathan Canary, isn't that a funny name?" she interrupted herself to ask.

"He's a bird," declared Teddy Tucker solemnly.

"Nothing romantic sounding about that name," his brother said, with a look
at Libbie. "'Jonathan Canary'--no poetry in that."

"He, he!" chuckled Ted wickedly. "Talking about poetry----"

"But we weren't!" said Bobby Littell. "We were talking about going to
Mountain Camp in the Adirondacks. Think of it--in the dead of winter!"

"Talking about poetry," steadily pursued Teddy Tucker. "You know Timothy
Derby is always gushing."

"A 'gusher,'" interposed Betty primly, "is an oil well that comes in with
a bang."

"Don't you mean it comes out with a bang?" teased Louise.

"In or out, Betty and I have seen 'em gush all right," cried Bob, as they
cantered on together along a well-defined bridle-path.

"Say! I'm telling you something," exploded Teddy Tucker, who did not
purpose to have his tale lost sight of. "Something about Timothy Derby."

"Oh, dear me, yes!" exclaimed Bobby. "Do tell it and get it over, Ted."

The twins both began to chuckle and Teddy had some difficulty in going on
with his story. But it seemed they had been at the Derby place the evening
before and Timothy had been "boring everybody to distraction," Ted said,
reading "Excelsior" to the family.

"And believe me!" interjected Tommy Tucker, "that kid can elocute."

"And he's always been at it," hurried on his twin, giggling. "Here's what
Mr. Derby says Timothy recited the first time he ever spoke a piece at a
Sunday School concert. You know; the stuff the little mites cackle."

"How elegant are your expressions, Teddy!" remarked Louise, sighing.

But she was amused as well as the others when Ted produced a paper on
which he had written down the verse Mr. Derby said his son had recited,
and just as Timothy had said it!

"Listen, all of you," begged Teddy. "Now, don't laugh and spoil it all,
Tom. Listen:

    "'Lettuce denby uppan doing
      Widow Hartford N E fate,
    Still H E ving, still pursuing,
      Learn to label Aunty Waite.'"

Libbie's voice rose above the general laughter, and she was quite warm.
For Libbie's was a loyal soul.

"I don't care! I don't believe it. His father is always making fun of
Timothy. He--he is cruel, I think. And, anyway, Timothy was only a little
boy then."

"What did he want to label his Aunty Waite for?" demanded Bob.

"You all be pretty good," called Betty, seeing that Libbie was really
getting angry. "If you aren't I'll ask Timothy and Libbie to my party at
Mountain Camp and none of the rest of you shall go."

"Easy enough said, that, Betty," Bob rejoined. "You haven't very much
chance of going there. But, crimpy! wouldn't it be great if Uncle Dick
did take us?"

"Remember our school duties, children," drawled Louise. "'Still H E ving,
still pursuing.' We must not cry for the moon."

Thus, with a great deal of laughter and good-natured chatter, the
cavalcade trotted on and came finally to what Louise and Bobby said was
the entrance to Bolter's Farm.

"All our horses were raised on this farm," explained Louise. "Daddy says
that Lewis Bolter has the finest stock of any horseman in Virginia. Much
of it is racing stock. He sells to the great stables up north. One of his
men will know what to do for your gray's scratched legs, Betty."

For Betty had changed with Bob again and rode Jim, the horse that had slid
down into the ravine. Betty was really sorry about the scratches and felt
somehow as though she were a little to blame for the accident. She should
have been more careful in guiding the gray.

Once at the great stables and paddocks, however, Betty's mind was relieved
on this point. Louise had an errand from her father to Mr. Bolter and went
away with Esther to interview the horse owner. Mr. Littell was a builder
and constructor and he bought many work horses of Mr. Bolter's raising, as
well as saddle stock.

If there was anything on four feet that Betty and Bob loved, it was a
horse. In the west they had ridden almost continually; their mounts out at
Flame City had been their dearest possessions and they would have been
glad to bring them east, both Betty's Clover-pony and Bob's big white
horse, had it been wise to do so.

At Shadyside and Salsette, however, there had been no opportunity for
horseback riding. They had found pleasure in other forms of outdoor
exercise. Now, enabled to view so many beautiful and sleek horses, Betty,
as well as Bob and the others, dismounted with delight and entered the
long stables.

While her gray was being examined by one of the stablemen, Betty went
along a whole row of box stalls by herself, in each of which a horse was
standing quietly or moving about. More than one came to thrust a soft
muzzle over the door of the stall and with pointed ears and intelligent
gaze seemed to ask if the pretty, brown-eyed girl had something nice in
her pocket.

"Hi, Miss!" croaked a hoarse voice behind her. "If you want to see a
bang-hup 'orse--a real topper--come down 'ere."

Betty turned to see a little crooked man, with one shoulder much higher
than the other, who walked a good deal like a crab, sideways. He grinned
at her cheerfully in spite of his ugly body and twisted features. He
really was a dreadfully homely man, and he was not much taller than Betty
herself. He wore a grimy jockey cap, a blue blouse and stained white
trousers, and it was quite evident that he was one of the stable helpers.

"This 'ere is the lydy for you to see, Miss," continued the little man
eagerly. "She's from old Hengland, Miss. I come with her myself and I've
knowed her since she was foaled. Mr. Bolter ain't got in 'is 'ole stable,
Miss, a mare like this one."

He pointed to a glossy black creature in the end box. Before the animal
raised her head and looked over the gate, Betty knew that the mare from
England was one of the most beautiful creatures she had ever seen.

"Hi, now, 'ow's that for a pretty lydy, Miss?" went on the rubber proudly.

"Oh! See! She knows you! Look at the beauty!" gasped Betty, as the black
mare reached over the gate and gently nipped the blue sleeve of the
crooked little man.

"Knows me? I should sye she does," he said proudly. "Why, she wouldn't
take her meals from nobody but me. I told 'em so w'en I 'eard she was sold
to Hamerica. And they found Hi was right, Miss, afore hever they got 'er
aboard the ship. They sent for me, an' Mr. Bolter gave me a good job with
'er. I goes with Ida Bellethorne wherever she goes. That's the----"

"Ida Bellethorne?" interrupted Betty in amazement

"Yes, Miss. That's 'er nyme. Ida Bellethorne. She comes of the true
Bellethorne stock. The last of the breed out o' the Bellethorne stables,
Miss."

"Ida Bellethorne!" exclaimed Betty again. "Isn't that odd? A horse and a
girl of the same name!"

But this last she did not say audibly. The cockney rubber was fondling the
mare's muzzle and he did not hear Betty's comment. The discovery of this
second Ida Bellethorne excited Betty enormously.



CHAPTER V

MEASLES


Betty Gordon's active mind could not let this incident pass without
further investigation. Not alone was she interested in the beautiful black
mare and the girl in the neighborhood shop, but she wanted to know how
they came to have the same name.

Betty was a practical girl. Bob often said it was not easy to fool Betty.
She had just as strong an imagination as any other girl of her age and
loved to weave fancies in her own mind when it was otherwise idle. But she
knew her dreams were dreams, and her imaginings unreal.

It struck her that the name "Ida Bellethorne" was more suitable for a
horse than for a girl. Betty wondered all in a flash if the English girl
who had sold her the silk sweater in the neighborhood shop that morning
and who confessed that she had come from England practically alone had not
chosen this rather resounding name to use as an alias. Perhaps she had run
away from her friends and was hiding her identity behind the name of a
horse that she had heard of as being famous on the English turf.

This was not a very hard thing for Betty to imagine. And, in any case, her
interest was stirred greatly by the discovery she had made. She was about
to speak to the little, crooked man regarding the name when something
occurred to draw her attention from the point of her first surprise.

The mare, Ida Bellethorne, coughed. She coughed twice.

"Ah-ha, my lydy!" exclaimed the rubber, shaking his head and stepping away
from the door of the stall that the mare should not muzzle his clothing.
"That's a fine sound--wot?"

"Is it dust in her poor nose?" asked the interested Betty.

"'Tis worse nor dust. 'Tis wot they call 'ere the 'orse distemper, Miss.
You tyke it from 'Unches Slattery, the change in climate and crossin' the
hocean ain't done Ida Bellethorne a mite of good."

"Is that your name? 'Hunches Slattery'?" Betty asked curiously.

"That's wot they've called me this ten year back. You see, I was a jockey
when I was a lad, and a good one, too, if Hi do say it as shouldn't. But I
got throwed in a steeplechase race. When they let me out o' the 'orspital
I was like this--'unchbacked and crooked. I been 'Unchie ever since,
Miss."

"I am so sorry," breathed Betty Gordon softly.

But the crooked little rubber was more interested in Ida Bellethorne's
history than he was in his own misfortune, which was an old story.

"I was working in the Bellethorne stables when this mare was foaled. I was
always let work about her. She's a wonnerful pedigree, Miss--aw, yes,
wonnerful! And she was named for an 'igh and mighty lydy, sure enough."

"Named for a lady?" cried Betty. "Don't you mean for a girl?"

"Aw, not much! Such a lydy, Miss! Fine, an' tall, and wonnerful to look
at. They said she could sing like a hangel, that she could. Miss Ida
Bellethorne, she was. She ought've been a lord's daughter, she ought."

"What became of her?" asked the puzzled Betty.

"I don't know, Miss. I don't rightly know what became of all the family. I
kept close to the mare 'ere; the family didn't so much bother me. But
there was trouble and ruin and separation and death; and, after all,"
added the rubber in a lower tone, "for all I know, there was cheating and
swindling of the fatherless and orphan, too. But me, I kept close to this
lydy 'ere," and he fondled the mare's muzzle again.

"It's quite wonderful," admitted Betty. But what seemed wonderful to her,
the stableman did not know anything about. "I suppose the pretty mare is
worth a lot of money?"

"Hi don't know wot Mr. Bolter would sell 'er for, if at all. But 'e paid
four thousand pun, laid down at the stables where she was kep' after the
smash of the Bellethorne family. She's got a pedigree longer than some
lord's families, and 'er track record was what brought Mr. Lewis Bolter to
Hengland when she was quietly put on the market.

"Maybe they couldn't 'ave sold 'er to Henglish turfman," he added,
whispering softly in Betty's ear, "for maybe the title to 'er would be
clouded hand if she won another race somebody might go into court about
it."

Betty did not understand this; and just then the mare began to cough again
and she was troubled by Ida Bellethorne's condition.

"Is that the black mare, Slattery?" demanded a voice behind them.

"Yes, sir," said the crooked little man respectfully, touching his cap.

Betty turned to see a gentleman in riding boots and a short coat with a
dog-whip in his gloved hand, whom she believed at once to be Mr. Bolter.
Nor was she mistaken.

"She's a beauty, isn't she, my dear?" the horseman said kindly. "But I do
not like that cough. I've made up my mind, Slattery. She goes to-morrow to
Cliffdale, and of course you go with her. Pack your bag to-night. I have
already telephoned for a stable-car to be on the siding in the morning."

"Yes, sir. Wot she needs is dry hair, an' the 'igher the better," said the
crooked man, nodding.

"They will put her on her feet again," agreed Mr. Bolter. "The balsam air
around Cliffdale is the right lung-healer for man or beast."

He went out and Betty heard the girls calling to her. She thanked Hunchie
Slattery, patted Ida Bellethorne's nose, and ran out of the stable.

But her head was full of the mystery of the striking name of "Ida
Bellethorne." She felt she must tell somebody, and Bobby of course, who
was her very closest chum, must be the recipient of her story as the
cavalcade started homeward. It was Bobby whom Betty wanted to have the
blue blouse just as soon as the shopgirl finished it.

"Now, what do you think of that?" Betty demanded, after she had delivered,
almost in a breath, a rather garbled story of the strange girl and the
black mare from England.

"Goodness, Betty, how wonderful!" exclaimed her friend. "I do so want to
see that over-blouse you bought. And you say she is making another?"

"Is that all you've got to say about it?" demanded Betty, staring.

"Why--er--you know, it really is none of our business, is it?" asked
Bobby, but with dancing eyes. "You know Miss Prettyman told us that the
greatest fault of character under which young ladies labor to-day is
vulgar curiosity. Oh, my! I can see her say it now," declared naughty
Bobby, shaking her head.

"But, Bobby! Do think a bit! A girl and a horse both of the same name, and
just recently from England! I'm going to ask right out what it means."

"Who are you going to ask--the horse?" giggled Bobby.

"Oh, you! No, I can't ask the pretty black mare," Betty said, shaking her
head. "For she is going to be sent away for her health. She's got what
they call 'distemper.' She has to be acclimated, or something."

"It sounds as though it might hurt," observed Bobby gravely.

"Something ought to hurt you," said Betty laughing. "You are forever and
ever poking fun. But I am going to see Ida Bellethorne in the shop and
find out what she knows about the pretty mare."

"Well, I'm sorry I didn't see the horse," confessed Bobby. "But I'll go
with you to see the girl. And I do want to see the blouse."

That, Betty showed her the moment they arrived at Fairfields and could run
upstairs to the room the two girls shared while Betty visited here. The
latter unfolded the orange-silk blouse and spread it on the bed. Bobby
went into exstacies over it, as in duty bound.

"Wait till you see the one she is making for you," Betty said. "You'll
love it!"

"What is that you are going to love?" asked a voice outside the open door.
"Measles?"

"Oh, Bob! Who ever heard the like?" demanded Betty. "Love measles, indeed.
Why--What makes you look so queer?"

"Greatest thing you ever heard, girls!" cried Bob, his face very red and
his eyes shining. "I didn't really understand how much I had come to hate
books and drill these last few weeks."

"What do you mean?" demanded Roberta Littell. "If you don't tell us at
once!"

"Why, didn't you hear? Telegrams have come. To all our parents and
guardians. Measles! Measles! Measles!"

He began to dance a very poor imitation of the Highland Fling in the hall.
The girls ran out and seized him, one on either side, and big as Bob was
they managed to shake him soundly.

"Tell us what you mean!" commanded Betty.

"Who has the measles?" cried Bobby.

"Everybody! Or, pretty near everybody, I guess. The chaps who had it and
were quarantined when we came away from Salsette, gave it to the servants.
And it has spread to the village. And Miss Prettyman's got it and a lot of
the other folks at Shadyside. Oh, my eye!"

"Are you fooling us, Bob?" demanded Betty.

"Honor bright! It is just as I say. Of course, it all isn't in the
messages the two schools have sent out to 'parents and guardians.' That is
the way the messages are headed, you know. But the Shadyside _Mirror_ has
come, too, and tells all about it. Opening is postponed for a fortnight.
What do you know about that?" and Bob began his clumsy dance again.

Betty broke away and darted down the stairs. She scarcely touched the
steps with her feet she flew so fast, and if it had not been for the
banister she surely would have come to the bottom in a heap.

She ran out on the porch to find her Uncle Dick smoking a cigar and
reading the paper in a warm corner. Like a stone from a catapult she flung
herself into his arms.

"Oh, Uncle Dick! Uncle Dick! Now we can go!" she cried, seizing him
tightly around the neck.

"Goodness, child!" choked Uncle Dick, fairly throttled by her exuberance.
"What is it? Go where, Betty?"

"To Mountain Camp! With you! All of us! No school for more than two weeks!
Oh, Uncle Dick!" Then she suddenly stopped and her glowing face lost its
color and her excitement subsided. "Dear me!" she quavered, "I 'member now
I had 'em when I was six, and they say you can't have 'em but once."

"What can't you have but once?"

"Measles," said Betty, sighing deeply. "I suppose after all I can go back
to Shadyside. Maybe Mrs. Eustice will expect all of us that have had 'em
to come."



CHAPTER VI

A DISAPPEARANCE


There was an exciting conclave at Fairfields that evening. Perhaps I
should say two. For in one room given over by the good-natured Mrs.
Littell to the young folks there was a most noisy conclave while the older
members of the household held a more quiet if no less earnest conference
in the library.

There were eight in the young folks' meeting for Mrs. Littell insisted
upon Esther's going to bed at a certain hour every evening "to get her
beauty sleep."

"And I'll say she is sure to be a raving beauty when she grows up, if she
keeps going to bed with the chickens," giggled Bobby.

"You know she can't go to Mountain Camp anyway," Louise said quietly, "for
her school isn't measly and it begins again day after to-morrow."

"Poor Esther!" sighed Betty. "We must make it up to her somehow. I was
afraid she would cry at dinner this evening."

"She's a good kid," agreed Bobby. "But are you sure, Betty, that we can
go to the mountains? Just think! Eight of us!"

"Some contract for Mr. Gordon," observed Tommy Tucker with unusual
reflection.

"How about it's being some contract for Mr. and Mrs. Canary?" suggested
Bob Henderson. "Maybe they will shy at such a crowd."

"I asked Uncle Dick about that," Betty said eagerly. "He told me all about
Mr. and Mrs. Canary. He has known them for years and years. They must be
awfully nice people and they have got a great, big, rambling bungalow sort
of house, all built of logs in the rough. But inside there is a heating
plant, and electric lights, and shower baths, and everything up-to-date.
Mr. Canary is very wealthy; but his money could not keep him from getting
tuber--tuber----"

"'Tubers,'" said Bob with gravity, "are potatoes, or something of that
kind."

"Now, Bob! you know what I mean very well," cried Betty. "His lungs were
affected. But they have healed and he is perfectly well as long as he
stays up there in the wilderness. The air there has wonderful
cur--curative properties. There!"

"Look! Will it cure such a bad attack of poetry?" interrupted Bobby,
drawing the attention of the others to Timothy Derby and Libbie who, with
heads close together, were absorbed in a volume of verses the boy had
brought with him from home.

"It might help," said Bob. "It ought to be cold enough up there at
Mountain Camp to freeze romance into an icicle."

"I hope we all go then," Teddy Tucker agreed. "Our folks have said we
could--haven't they, Tom?"

"With suspicious alacrity," agreed his twin. "How's that for a fine
phrase, Louise? Do you know, I think mother and dad were almost shocked
when they got the telegram from Salsette and knew our vacation was to be
prolonged. The idea of Mountain Camp seems to please them."

"Goodness! I know dear Mrs. Littell doesn't feel that way about it," cried
Betty.

"She's got girls," said Ted dryly. "You know it is us boys who are not
appreciated in this world."

"Yes," said Bob, "you fellows are terribly abused, I'll say. But, now! Are
we all sure of going? That's what I want to know."

"Timothy----" began Louise; but Bob held up his hand to stop her.

"I know from his father that Tim can go. Uncle Dick is sure to take us,
Betty, isn't he?"

"He sent off a telegram to Mrs. Canary this evening. If she sends back
word 'Yes' we can go day after to-morrow."

"That's all right then," said Bob, quite as eagerly. 'The thing to do then
is to plan what to take and all that. It is cold up there, but dry. Much
colder than it was at school before we came down. Furs, overcoats, boots,
mittens--not gloves, for gloves are no good when it is really cold--and
underthings that are warm and heavy. We don't want to come back with noses
and toes frozen off."

"Humph!" said Bobby scornfully, "what kind of underwear should you advise
our getting for our noses, Bob Henderson?"

"Aw--you know what I mean," said the boy, grinning. "Don't depend on a fur
piece around your neck and a muff to keep the rest of you warm. Us fellows
have all got Mackinaws and boots and such things. And we'll want 'em."

And so they excitedly made their plans. At least, six of them did while
Timothy and Libbie bent their minds upon the book. One thing about those
two young romanticists, they agreed to the plans the others made and were
quite docile.

At ten Timothy and the Tucker twins went home and the others went
cheerfully up to bed. While Betty Gordon remained at Fairfields Bobby
insisted on sharing her own room with her. They were never separated at
Shadyside, so why should they be here?

When she was half undressed Betty suddenly went down on her knees before
the tall chiffonier and opened the lower drawer. She dug under everything
in the drawer until she came to her handbag, and drew it forth.

"I declare!" chuckled Bobby, "I thought you were digging a new burrow like
a homeless rabbit. What did you forget?"

"Didn't forget anything," responded Betty, smiling up at her friend. "I
remembered something."

"Oh!"

"My locket. Uncle Dick's present. I wanted to see that it was safe."

"Goodness! Do you carry it in your bag?"

"I've got a lovely chain at Shadyside, you know. I told Uncle Dick not to
buy a chain. And I don't believe Mrs. Eustice will object to a simple
little locket like mine, will she?"

"M-m-m! I don't know," replied Bobby. "You know she is awfully opposed to
us girls wearing jewelry. And your locket is lovely. Just think! Platinum
and a real diamond. Why! what is the matter, Betty?"

For Betty had begun scrambling in her bag worse than she had in the bureau
drawer. Everything came out--purse, tickets, gloves, handkerchief, the
tiniest little looking-glass, a letter or two, a silver thimble, two
coughdrops stuck together, a sample of ribbon which she had failed to
match, a most disreputable looking piece of lead-pencil----

But no twist of tissue paper with the locket in it!

"What is the matter?" repeated Bobby, frightened by the expression of the
other girl's face.

"I--I----Oh, Bobby! It's gone!" wailed Betty.

"Not your locket?"

"Yes, my locket!" sobbed Betty, and she sat down on the floor and wept.

"Why, it can't be! Who would take it? When did you see it last? Nobody
here in the house would have stolen it, Betty."

"It--it must have dropped out of my bag. Oh! what shall I do? I can't tell
Uncle Dick."

"He won't punish you for losing it, will he?"

"But think how he'll feel! And how I'll feel!" wailed Betty. "He advised
me to put it somewhere for safe keeping until I got my chain. And I
wouldn't. I--I wanted it with me."

"You should have put it downstairs in daddy's safe," said Bobby
thoughtfully.

"But that doesn't do me a bit of good now," sobbed Betty Gordon.

"Don't you remember where you had it last?" asked her friend slowly.

"In my bag, of course. And I carried my bag to town to-day. Yes! I
remember seeing the paper it was in at the bottom of my bag more than
once while I was shopping. Oh, dear! what shall I do?"

"Then you are quite sure it was not stolen?" Bobby suggested.

"No. I don't suppose it was. It just hopped out somehow. But where? That
is the question, Bobby. I can't answer it."

She rose finally and finished her preparations for bed. Bobby was very
sympathetic; but there did not seem to be anything she could say that
would really relieve Betty's heart, or help in any way. The locket was
gone and no trace of how it had gone had been left in Betty's mind.

When the light was out Bobby crept into Betty's bed and held her tightly
in her arms.

"Don't cry, Betty dear!" the other girl whispered. "Maybe your Uncle Dick
will know how to find the locket."

"Oh, Bobby! I can't tell him. I'm ashamed to," sighed Betty. "It looks as
though I had not cared enough about his present to be careful with it. And
I thought if I carried it about with me that there would be no chance of
my losing it. And now----"

"Then tell Bob," suggested her chum, hugging Betty tightly.

"Bob?"

"Tell him all about it," said Bobby Littell. "Perhaps he will know what
to do. You can't really have lost that beautiful locket forever, Betty!"

"Oh, I don't know! It's gone, anyway!" sobbed Betty.

"Don't give up. That isn't like you, Betty," went on Bobby. "Maybe Bob can
help. We can ask him, at least."

"Yes, we can do that," was Betty's not very hopeful reply.



CHAPTER VII

ALL MRS. STAPLES COULD SAY


The two girls sought out Bob Henderson before breakfast and told him of
the disappearance of Betty's beautiful little locket. Betty's eyes, were a
little swollen and even Bobby seemed not to have passed a very agreeable
night. Bob was quite shrewd enough to see these evidences of trouble and
he refrained from making any remark even in fun to ruffle the girls.

"Here's a pretty mess!" exclaimed Bob, but cheerfully. "And we all going
to Mountain Camp to-morrow if Mrs. Canary telegraphs 'Yes,' Hunted
everywhere, I suppose?"

"Yes, Bob," Betty assured him. "And there was but one place to hunt. In my
bag."

"Sure?"

"Pos-i-tive!"

"Carried it loose in your bag, did you?" he asked reflectively.

"Wrapped up in white tissue paper. You know, the box it came in got
broken."

"I remember. Gee, Betty! that's an awfully pretty locket. You don't want
to lose it."

"But I have lost it!"

"For keeps, I mean," rejoined Bob, smiling encouragingly. "Come on! Let's
see the bag. Where did you carry it? When was the last time you saw the
locket in the bag and where?"

"Oh!" Betty cried suddenly. "I remember it was in the bag when I was
shopping yesterday."

"Shopping where? Let's hear about the last place you remember seeing it."

Betty remembered very clearly seeing the twist of paper with the locket in
it while she was at Purcell's where she had bought some veiling.

"Then, Betty," said Bobby, "you went to that little store afterward, you
said, where you got the over-blouse."

"Ye--es. But I didn't notice it while I was there. I was so excited over
the blouse and so interested in Ida Bellethorne that I don't remember of
looking in my bag to see if my locket was safe."

"'Ida Bellethorne'?" repeated Bob in surprise. "Why! that's the name of
Mr. Lewis Bolter's new mare from England. I heard Mr. Littell and Uncle
Dick talking about her."

"And I met a girl named Ida Bellethorne. I'll tell you all about her
later, Bob," said Betty. "Just now I want to know what to do about the
locket."

"I should say you did! And I'll tell you what," Bob said promptly. "Right
after breakfast we'll borrow the little car and I'll take you over to
Georgetown and we'll go to every place you went to yesterday, Betty, and
inquire. I'm allowed to drive in the District of Columbia, you know."

"Will you, Bob?" cried Betty. "Do you think there is any chance of our
finding it?"

"Why not? If it was picked up in one of the stores you went to. There are
lots more honest people in the world than there are dishonest. Come on
now, don't cry."

"I'm not going to cry," declared Betty. "I've cried enough already. Don't
tell the others, Bob. Nor Uncle Dick. I don't want him to know if I can
help it. It looks just as though I didn't prize his present enough to take
care of it."

Somehow, Betty felt encouraged by Bob's taking hold of the matter. The
small car was secured after breakfast and Bob and the two girls set off
for the other side of the river. It was not alone because of Bob's advice
that they stopped first at the little neighborhood shop on the hilly side
street where Betty had bought her sweater. Bobby was anxious to see her
blue sweater, and the two girls ran in as soon as the car halted before
the door.

The little bell over it jingled pleasantly at their entrance; but it was a
tall and rather grim-looking woman who came from the back of the shop to
meet them instead of the English girl with whom Betty had dealt on her
former visit.

"Humph!" said Mrs. Staples, for it was she, when she spied the over-blouse
under Betty's coat. "You are the young lady who was to purchase the blue
blouse when it was finished?"

"For my friend here," said Betty, bringing Bobby forward. "I know she will
like it."

"I hope so," said Mrs. Staples. "It is finished. Ida sat up most of the
night to finish it. Here it is," and she displayed the dark blue blouse
for the girls to see.

"How lovely!" ejaculated Bobby eagerly. "I like it even better than I do
your orange one, Betty. It's sweet."

"It's twelve dollars, Miss," said the shop woman promptly. "You can pay me
and take the blouse. I paid Ida for it."

"Isn't the girl who made it here?" asked Betty anxiously.

"No, she ain't," said Mrs. Staples in her blunt way. "She left an hour
ago."

"Oh! Will she come back?"

"I don't expect her. I am sure I cannot be changing help all the time. She
left me very abruptly. I did not ask her to come back."

"Why," said Betty, wonderingly, "I thought you were her friend. Isn't she
all alone in this country?"

"She is a girl who seems quite able to take care of herself," the grim
shopwoman said. "Or she is determined to try. I advised her to write to
her aunt----"

"Then she has an aunt over here?" cried Betty eagerly.

"So she thinks. An aunt for whom Ida was named. There was some family
trouble, and Ida's father and her father's sister seem to have had nothing
to do with each other for some years. The aunt is a singer--quite a noted
concert singer, it seems. Ida came to Washington expecting to find her.
She did not find the elder Ida Bellethorne----"

"Then there are three Ida Bellethornes!" whispered Bobby in Betty's ear.

"So she came here to help me," continued Mrs. Staples, all the time
watching Betty with a rather strange manner. "She would better have
remained with me, as I told her. But she found in the paper last night
this notice," the woman produced a torn piece of paper from the counter
and handed it to Betty, "and nothing would do but Ida must go right away
to find the place and the person mentioned here."

The two girls in great interest bent their heads above the piece of paper.
The marked paragraph was one of several in the column and read as
follows:

    "It is stated upon good authority that the great Ida Bellethorne
    will arrive at Cliffdale, New York, within a day or two, and will
    remain for the winter."

"Why, how odd," murmured Betty. "And did this make Ida go away?"

"She has gone to Cliffdale to meet her aunt. That was her intention," said
Mrs. Staples. "Are either of you young ladies prepared to buy this blue
blouse?"

"Oh, yes, indeed!" cried Bobby, who had taken a fancy to the blouse. "I've
got money enough. And it was nice of Miss Bellethorne to finish it for me
before she went. I wish I might thank her personally."

"I do not expect to see Ida again," the shopwoman repeated in her most
severe manner, wrapping up the over-blouse. "Twelve dollars--thank you,
Miss. Can I show you anything else?"

"Wait!" gasped Betty. "I want to ask you--I wanted to ask Ida Bellethorne
if she saw me drop anything here in the store yesterday?"

"I am sorry she is not here to answer that question," said Mrs. Staples.
"I was not here when you came, Miss."

"No, I know you weren't. But somewhere while I was shopping yesterday I
lost something out of my bag. If it dropped out here----"

"I can assure you I picked up nothing, Miss," declared the shop woman.

"If Ida----"

"If Ida Bellethorne did, she is not here, unfortunately, to tell you,"
said Mrs. Staples in her same manner and without a change of expression on
her hard face.

"Oh, dear!" sighed Betty.

"But you don't know that you dropped it here," Bobby said to encourage
her. But perhaps it encouraged Mrs. Staples more!

"I have nothing more to say, Miss," the woman declared. "Ida not being
here----"

"Oh, well," said Betty, trying to speak more cheerfully, "it is true I do
not remember having seen it while I was here at all. So--so we will go to
the other places. Of course, if Ida had found anything she would have told
you?"

"I cannot be responsible for what Ida Bellethorne would do or say,"
replied the shopwoman grimly. "Not having been here myself when you came,
Miss----"

"Oh, yes! I understand," said Betty hastily. "Well, thank you for keeping
the blouse for us. Good-bye."

She and Bobby were not greatly pleased with Mrs. Staples. But they had no
reason for distrusting her. When they had gone the shopwoman smiled a most
wintry smile.

"Well, I am not supposed to tell people how to go about their own affairs,
I should hope," was her thought. "That chit never told me what she had
lost. It might have been a pair of shoes or a boiled lobster! Humph! Folks
would better speak plain in this world. I always do, I am sure."



CHAPTER VIII

UNCLE DICK MUST BE TOLD


The two girls did not tell Bob Henderson all that had happened in the
little shop when they first came out. They were in too much haste to get
to the other places where it might be possible that Betty had dropped her
locket. Of all things, they did not suspect that Mrs. Staples knew the
first thing about it.

But they did tell the boy that Ida Bellethorne had gone away.

"Where's she gone?" asked the inquisitive Bob. "Couldn't be that she found
the locket and ran off with it?"

"Why, you're almost horrid!" declared Betty, aggrieved. "You don't know
what a nice girl Ida is."

"Humph!" (Could he have caught that expression from waiting outside Mrs.
Staples' shop?) "Humph! I don't believe you know how nice she is, or
otherwise. You never saw her but once."

"But she's seen the horse," giggled Bobby.

"What horse?" demanded Bob.

"Mr. Lewis Bolter's black mare, Ida Bellethorne."

"Oh!"

"And, oh, Bob!" cried Betty, "there's another Ida Bellethorne, and this
Ida has gone away to see her. She's her aunt."

"Who's her aunt?" grumbled Bob, who was having some difficulty just then
in driving the car and so could not give his full attention to the matter
the girls were chattering about.

"Why, see!" cried Betty, rummaging in her bag. "Here's the piece of
newspaper with the society item, or whatever it is, in it that made Ida go
away so suddenly this morning. It's about her aunt, the great concert
singer. Ida's gone to meet her where that says," and she put the piece of
paper into Bob's hand.

"All right," he said. "Here's Markham and Boggs' place. You said you were
in this store yesterday, Betty."

"So I was. Come on, Bobby," cried the other girl, hopping out of the car.
"I suppose we shall have to go to the manager or the superintendent or
somebody. Dear me! if we don't find my locket I don't know what I shall
do."

When Betty and Bobby came out of the store, much disappointed, they found
Bob grinning--as Bobby declared--"like a Cheshire cat."

"But never mind the cat," continued Bobby. "What is the matter with that
boy? For boys will laugh at the most serious things. And this is serious,
my poor, dear Betty."

"Indeed it is," agreed her friend, and so they crossed the walk to the
grinning Bob Henderson who had the scrap of newspaper Betty had given him
in his hand.

"Say," he drawled, "who did you say this aunt of Ida Bellethorne is?"

"Mrs. Staples says she is a concert singer--a prima donna," replied Betty.

"She's a prima donna all right," chuckled Bob. "Where now? Oh! To Stone's
shoe shop? Well, what do you know about this notice in the paper?" and his
smile grew broader.

"What do you mean, Bob?" demanded Betty, rather vexed. "You can read the
paragraph yourself. 'The great Ida Bellethorne'. That means she is a great
singer of course."

"Yes, I see," replied Bob, giving some attention to the steering of the
car. "But there is one thing about you girls--you never read the sporting
page of the newspaper."

"What is that?" gasped Bobby Littell.

"This string of items you handed me is torn out of the sporting page. All
the paragraphs refer to racing matters. That particular one deals with Mr.
Bolter's black mare, Ida Bellethorne. Cliffdale is the place he was
shipping her to far her health."

"Never!" cried Bobby.

"Oh, Bob! Is that so?" gasped Betty.

Bob burst into open laughter. "That's a good one on you and on your
friend, Ida," he declared. "If she has gone to meet her aunt up in New
York State she'll meet a horse instead. How's that for a joke?"

Betty Gordon shook her head without smiling. "I don't see the joke at
all," she said. "Poor Ida! She will be sadly disappointed. And she has
lost her position here with Mrs. Staples. We could see that Mrs. Staples
was angry because she went away."

"Why," cried Bobby, likewise sympathetic, "I think it is horrid--actually
horrid! You needn't laugh, Bob Henderson."

"Shucks!" returned the boy. "I can't cry over it, can I? Of course it is
too bad the girl has made such a mistake. But our weeping won't help her."

"No," confessed Bobby, "I suppose that is so."

"And our weeping won't find my locket," sighed Betty. "Dear me! If I did
drop it in Stone's place I hope they have saved it for me."

But the locket was not to be found in that shop, either. Nor in the two
others which Betty Gordon had visited the previous day. This indeed was a
perfectly dreadful thing! The plainer it was that the locket could not be
found, the more repentent and distracted Betty became.

"I shall have to tell Uncle Dick--I shall have to," she wailed, when Bob
drove them away from the last place and all hope was gone glimmering. "Oh,
dear! It is dreadful."

"Don't take on so, Betty!" Bob begged gruffly, for he could not bear to
see the girl actually cry. "I'll tell him if you are afraid to."

"Don't you dare!" she flared out at him. "I'm not afraid. Only I dread it.
It was the nicest present he ever gave me and--and I loved it. But I did
not take proper care of it. I realize that now, when it is too late."

Bob remained serious of aspect after that. That his mind was engaged with
the problem of Betty's lost trinket was proved by what he said on the way
back to Fairfields:

"I suppose you spoke to all the clerks you traded with in those stores,
Betty?"

"Why, yes. All but Ida Bellethorne, Bob."

"And Mrs. Staples said she didn't know anything about Betty's locket,"
Bobby put in.

Of course, this was not so; but Bobby thought she was telling the exact
truth. The two girls really had not explained Betty's loss to Mrs. Staples
at all.

"The English girl going off so suddenly, and on such a wild-goose chase,
looks kind of fishy, you know," drawled Bob.

"She thinks she is chasing her aunt!" Bobby cried.

"Maybe."

"You don't even know her, Bob," declared Betty haughtily. "You can't judge
her character. I am sure she is honest."

"Well," grumbled Bob, "being sure everybody is honest isn't going to get
you that locket back, believe me!"

"That's horrid, too! Isn't it, Betty?" demanded Bobby.

"It's sort of, I guess," said Betty, much troubled, "But, oh, Bob! I don't
want to think that poor girl found my locket and ran away with it. No, I
don't want to believe that. And, anyway, it doesn't help me out a mite.
I've got to tell Uncle Dick before he notices that I don't display his
pretty present any more. Oh, dear!"

"It's a shame," groaned Bobby, holding her chum's hand tightly.

"Guess there are worse things than measles in this world," observed Bob,
as he stopped the small car under the _porte cochère_ at Fairfields.



CHAPTER IX

THE LIVE WIRE OCTETTE


It was not an easy thing to do; but Betty Gordon did it. She confessed the
whole wretched thing to Uncle Dick and was assured of his forgiveness. But
perhaps his serious forgiveness was not the easiest thing for the girl to
bear.

"I am sure, as you say, that you did not mean to be careless," Mr. Richard
Gordon said gently. It was hard for him to be strict with Betty; but he
knew her impulsiveness sometimes led her into a reckless path. "But mark
you, Betty: The value of that locket should have, in itself, made you
particularly careful of it."

"I--I valued it more because you gave it to me, Uncle Dick," she sobbed.

"And yet that did not make you particularly careful," the gentleman
reminded her. "The main trouble with you, Betty, is that you have no very
clear appreciation of the value of money."

"Oh, Uncle Dick!" and she looked at him with trembling chin and tears
welling into her eyes.

"And why should you?" he added, laughing more lightly and patting her
hand. "You have never been obliged to earn money. Think back to the time
you were with the Peabodys. The money my lawyer sent you for your own use
just burned holes in your pinafore pockets, didn't it?"

"I didn't wear pinafores, Uncle Dick," Betty said soberly. "Girls don't
nowadays."

"No, I see they don't," he rejoined, smiling broadly again. "But they did
in my day. However, in whatever pocket you put that money as you got it,
the hole was figuratively burned, wasn't it?"

"We--ell, it went mostly for food. Mr. Peabody was such a miser!
And--and----"

"And so when you wanted to come away from Bramble Farm you actually had to
borrow money," went on Uncle Dick. "Of course, you were fortunate enough
finally to get the lawyer's check and pay your debts. But the fact remains
that you seem unable to keep money."

"Oh, Uncle Dick!"

"Now," continued her guardian still soberly, "a miser like Mr. Peabody for
instance is a very unpleasant person. But a spendthrift often does even
more harm in the world than a miser. I don't want my Betty-girl to be a
spendthrift."

"Oh, Uncle Dick!"

"The loss of your pretty locket, my dear, has come because of that trait
in your character which ignores a proper appreciation of the value of
money and what can be bought with it. Now, I can buy you another
locket----"

"No, no, Uncle Dick! I don't deserve it," she said with her face hidden
against his shoulder as she sat in his lap.

"That is true, my dear. I don't really think you do deserve another--not
right at once. And, anyway, we will advertise for the locket in the
newspapers and may recover it in that way. So we will postpone the
purchase of any other piece of jewelry at present.

"What I have in my mind, however, and have had for some time, is the
reorganization of your financial affairs," and now he smiled broadly as
she raised her head to look at him. "I think of putting you on a monthly
allowance of pocket money and asking you to keep a fairly exact account of
your expenditures. Not an account to show me. I don't want you to feel as
though you were being watched."

"What do you mean, Uncle Dick?"

"I want you to keep account for your own satisfaction. I want you to know
at the end of the month where your money has gone to. It is the best
training in the world for a girl, as well as a boy, to know just what she
has done with the money that has passed through her hands. And in this
case I am sure in time that it will give you a just comprehension of
money's value.

"If we do not recover the locket, why, in time, we will look about for
another pretty trinket----"

"No, Uncle Dick," Betty said seriously. "I loved that locket. I should
have been more careful of it. I hope it will be found and returned to me.
I do! I do! But I don't want you to give me another."

"Why not?" he asked, yet giving her quite an understanding look.

"I guess you know, Uncle Dick," she sighed. "I don't really deserve it.
And it wouldn't be that locket that you gave me for Christmas, you see."

"Well, my dear----"

"Wait, dear Uncle Dick! I want to say something more," said the girl,
hugging him tightly again. "If you give me a certain sum of money to spend
for myself every month I am going to save out of it until I have enough to
buy a locket exactly like that one I lost--If it isn't found, I mean."

"Ah!"

"You approve, Uncle Dick?"

"Most assuredly. That would be following out my suggestion of learning to
take care of money in the fullest sense, my dear."

"Then," said Betty, bouncing happily on his knee, "that is what I am going
to try to do. But I do hope my locket will be found!"

This serious conference was broken up at this point by the arrival of the
telegram Uncle Dick had been expecting from Mountain Camp. Mrs. Jonathan
Canary had signed it herself and it was to the effect that the young
friends of Mr. Richard Gordon would be as welcome as that gentleman
himself.

Bob immediately saddled a horse and galloped to the Derbys and the Tuckers
to carry the news. Final plans were made for departure the next morning
and in spite of a rather threatening change in the weather the party left
Fairfields on time and in high spirits for upper New York State.

A few flakes of snow had begun fluttering down as the train pulled out of
Washington; and as it raced across the Maryland fields and through the
hills which grace that State the snow blew faster and faster and thicker
and thicker. But even in midwinter snow storms do not much obstruct
traffic so far south, and the gay party from Fairfields had no suspicion
that it was being borne into any peril or trouble. What was a little snow
which scarcely, at first, caught upon the brown fields?

They had engaged two whole sections for the young folks and an extra place
for Uncle Dick. The latter did not interfere at all with the fun and
frolic of his charges. He was--he should have been--used by now to the
ridiculous antics of the Tucker twins and the overflowing spirits of the
rest of the octette. Bachelor as he was, Mr. Richard Gordon considered
himself pretty well acquainted with young folks of their age.

The two sections occupied by the eight girls and boys were opposite each
other and they had that end of the car pretty much to themselves. Of
course, people sometimes had to go through the aisle--and others besides
the conductor and the porter; but after running the gauntlet of that
lively troop once the restless passenger usually tried to keep out of the
"line of fire."

The fun the party had was good-natured sport for the most part. Their
practical jokes were aimed at each other rather than at their fellow
passengers. But it was a fact that there was very little peace for a
nervous person in that Pullman coach.

"We're the live-wire octette, and we are going to let everybody know it,"
proclaimed Tommy Tucker vociferously. "Say! there's a chap up at the other
end of the car, sprawled all over his seat--fresh kid, he is. Did you
notice him?"

"I did," replied his twin. "I fell over his foot twice when I went for a
drink."

"Why didn't you look where you were walking?" grinned Bob Henderson
craning his neck to see up the aisle and mark the passenger in question.

"Huh!" grumbled Ted, "he stuck it out for me to tumble over both
times--and you know this train is joggling some."

"Ill say so," agreed Bob.

But Betty had jumped up to look and she said eagerly:

"Do you mean the man with the silk handkerchief over his head? He must be
asleep, or trying to sleep."

"I tell you he is just a fresh kid," said Tommy Tucker. "And I'm going to
fix him."

"Now, boys, be careful what you do," advised Louise, who occasionally
considered it her duty to put on a sober, admonishing air.

Tommy, however, started for the nearest exit to the platform of the car.
He was gone some time, and when he reappeared he carried in both hands a
great soggy snowball, bigger than the biggest grapefruit.

"Gee, folks!" he whispered, "it's snowing, and then some! I never saw such
a snow. And the porter says it is likely to get worse the farther north we
go. Suppose we should be snowbound?"

There was a chorus of cries--of fearful delight on the part of the girls,
at least--at this announcement.

"Never mind," Bob Henderson said, "we have a dining car hitched to this
train, so we sha'n't starve I guess, if we are snowed up. What are you
going to do with that snow, Tommy?"

The Tucker twin winked prodigiously. "I'm going to take it up the aisle
and show it to Mr. Gordon. He doesn't know it's snowing like this," said
the boy quite soberly.

"Why, Tommy Tucker!" cried Betty, "of course Uncle Dick knows it is
snowing. Can't he see it through the window?"

But when she looked herself at the window beside her she was amazed to see
that the pane was masked with wet snow and one could scarcely see through
it at all. Besides, evening was falling fast.

"I do hope," Teddy remarked, watching his brother start up the aisle, "he
tumbles in the right place."

"What is he going to do with that snowball?" demanded Louise.

"I know! I know!" giggled Bobby, in sudden delight. "That man with the
silk hander chief over his head is going to get a shower."

"He isn't a man. He's just a fresh kid," declared Ted, but he said it
somewhat anxiously now.

"Stop him, somebody!" cried Louise. "He'll get into trouble."

"If you ask me," drawled Bob Henderson, "I think that somebody else is
going to get into trouble. I saw that chap stick his foot out and trip
Ted before."

"He did it unknowingly," cried Betty, under her breath. "He's asleep."

"If he is he won't be long," whispered Bobby, clutching at Betty and
holding her into the seat. "Let Tommy Tucker be. If that fellow trips
him----"

The next instant Tommy did trip. Without any doubt the well shod foot of
the man lolling in the seat slid into the aisle as the boy with the
snowfall approached, and Tommy pitched over it with almost a certainty of
falling headlong. Indeed, he would have gone to the floor of the car had
he not let go of the mass of snow in his hands and clutched at the seat
arms.

"Whoo!" burst out Teddy Tucker in delight. "Now that fresh kid's got his!"

For the soft snowball in Tommy's hands landed plump upon the
handkerchief-covered crown of the person sprawling so ungracefully in the
Pullman seat! The victim uttered a howl audible above the drumming of the
car wheels. And he leaped upright between the seats of his section, beat
the fast-melting snow off his head and face, and displayed the latter to
the young peoples' amazement as that of a very stern looking gentleman
indeed with a bald head and gray side whiskers.

"Oh, my aunt's cat and all her kittens!" gasped Bob Henderson. "Now Tommy
has done it! See who it is, Ted?"

Teddy Tucker was as pale as the snow his brother had brought in from
outside and which now showered about the victim of the ill-timed jest.

"Ma--Major Pater! From Salsette! He has an artificial leg, and that's why
it was sticking out in the aisle whenever he nodded off. Oh,
Jimminy-beeswax! what's going to become of Tommy?"



CHAPTER X

BEAUTIFUL SNOW


The girls had heard the boys who attended Salsette Academy mention that
martinet, Major Pater. Although his infirmity--or injury--precluded his
having anything to do with the drilling of the pupils of the academy, in
the schoolroom he was the most stern of all the instructors at Salsette.

"Oh, poor Tommy!" gasped Betty, wringing her hands.

"Served him right," declared Louise. "He should not have played that
trick. A lame man, too!"

"Oh, Louise!" exclaimed her sister Bobby, "Tommy didn't know it was an
artificial limb he was stumbling over."

"And I'm sure I didn't know it was his old peg-leg I tripped on twice,"
declared Teddy Tucker in high dudgeon. "What did he want to go to sleep
for, spraddled all over the aisle?"

He said this in a very low voice, however; and be kept well behind Bob and
the girls. As for Timothy Derby and Libbie Littell they actually never
heard a word of all this! They sat side by side in one of the sections and
read together Spenser's _Faerie Queene_--understanding, it must be
confessed, but an infinitesimal part of that poem.

The other passengers near Major Pater, without any doubt, were vastly
amused by his condition. The melting snow cascaded off his head and
shoulders, and not a little of it went down his neck. Such a military
looking and grim-faced man, standing so stiff and upright, seemed all the
more ridiculous under these conditions.

"H-r-r-rrp!" barked Major Pater, glaring at Tommy Tucker as though his
eyes would burn holes right through that boy's jacket.

Tommy sprang to attention. He was in citizen's dress, as was the major;
but Tommy was sure the martinet knew him.

"What do you mean, young man, by pouring a bucket of slush over my head
and shoulders?" demanded the angry Major.

"Please, sir, if you'll let me wipe it off----"

Tommy had produced his own handkerchief and made a feeble attempt to
attack the melting snow on the Major's shoulders.

"H-r-r-rrp!" barked the Major again, and Tommy translated it as meaning
"as you were" and came once more to attention in the middle of the aisle.

One could not really help the angry gentleman, if one was kept standing in
that ridiculous position. And the passengers near by were more amused than
before by the attitude and appearance of the two engaged in the
controversy.

"Are you aware of what you have done?" demanded Major Pater, at last
"Humph! Tucker of the Fourth, isn't it?"

"Ye--ye--yes, sir," gasped Tommy. Then: "One of the Tuckers, sir."

"Oh! Ah! Can there be two such awkward Tuckers?" demanded Major Paten
"Humph! Is this your father, Tucker?"

For by this time Uncle Dick saw what was going on and he approached,
smiling it must be confessed, but with a towel secured from the men's
lavatory.

"I am acting in the capacity of guardian for the present, sir," said Mr.
Gordon frankly. "This is a ridiculous thing; but I do not think the boy
quite intended all that happened."

At once he began flicking away the melted snow, and then rubbed Major
Pater's bald head dry. All the time he continued to talk to the military
academy instructor:

"I grant you that it looks very awkward on Tucker's part. But, you see,
Mr.--er--?"

"Ma--Major Pater!" stammered Tommy Tucker.

"Quite so. Major, of course. Major Pater, you will realize that the boy in
coming along the aisle--Er, by the way, Tommy, what were you coming for?"

"I was coming to you, Mr. Gordon, to show you how fast the snow was
gathering. I--I scraped that ball of it off the step. The porter opened
the door for me just a moment. I say, Mr. Gordon, it's a fierce storm!"

Tommy came through this explanation pretty well. Uncle Dick's
understanding smile helped him a good bit.

"Quite so," said Mr. Gordon, and looking at Major Pater again. "Of course,
I would never have known it was snowing if you had not undertaken to show
me. But you see, Major Pater, your foot was sticking out into the aisle. I
saw it. You have the misfortune to----"

"Artificial leg, sir," growled Major Pater.

"Quite so. Well, accidents will happen, you know. There! You are quite dry
again. I don't think you will get much sleep here until the porter makes
up the berths. Suppose we go into the smoking compartment and soothe our
minds, Major?"

"Ah--Humph! Thank you, Mr.--er----?"

"Mr. Gordon," explained Tommy Tucker still standing as though he had
swallowed a very stiff poker indeed.

"Ah! Glad to meet you, Mr. Gordon." They shook hands. Then Major Pater
shot another command at Tommy: "H-r-r-rrp!" (or so it sounded) and the boy
with vast relief dropped his stiff military pose.

The rest of the "live wire octette"--even Timothy and Libbie--were highly
delighted by the outcome of Tommy's joke. For, if there is fun in such a
practical joke as Tommy had tried to carry through, they thought there was
double fun in seeing the biter bitten!

"Now will you be good?" crowed his brother, Ted. "See what you get for
being so fresh! Tumbling over his game leg and pitching a wilted snowball
at the Major's head. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

"Oh, hush!" grumbled Tommy. "You needn't say anything. He doesn't know
which of the Tucker twins it was crowned him with that snowball, and you
are just as much in his bad books as I am. Remember that."

"Listen to him!" cried Ted, at once feeling abused. "And Major Pater is
near-sighted, too, although he scorns to wear glasses. You've got me into
a mess, too, Tommy Tucker."

"There! There!" said Betty Gordon, soothingly. "Never mind. Uncle Dick
will smooth him down. But I do think, boys, that you need not have got
into trouble at all."

"Huh! that's our natural state," observed Teddy. "Boys out of trouble are
like fish out of water. So my dad says. And he ought to know," he grinned.
"He has twins."

Tommy considered, however, that he had got out of a bad box pretty easily.

"Your Uncle Dick is fine, Betty," he observed. "Think of his getting on
the blind side of Major Pater so easy. But cracky! how that snow did
squash all over him," and he ended with a wicked giggle.

"One of your instructors, too!" exclaimed Louise. "For shame!"

"My!" chuckled Bobby, "what we'd like to do to Miss Prettyman at
Shadyside!"

"I am afraid Miss Prettyman is no more beloved than Major Pater is."

"Never mind, you girls!" interrupted Tommy, with renewed interest in the
storm and trying to peer through the window. "It's a regular blizzard.
When the porter opened the door of the vestibule for me to get that snow,
I thought he wouldn't get it shut again."

"Suppose we get stalled?" questioned Louise, inclined to be the most
thoughtful of the party.

"Well, suppose we do?" returned Bob. "I tell you we are all right for
food, for the dining car----"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you," Tommy put in. "The porter let me into a
secret. The diner was dropped about thirty miles back. Broken flange of
one wheel and no time, of course, to put on a new wheel."

"Goodness!" exclaimed Betty. "I begin to feel hungry already."

"Of course, we'll pick up another diner?" asked Libbie, though rather
doubtfully.

"We'll hope so!" Bobby cried.

"If we get through to Tonawanda, yes," said Tommy Tucker. "That's what the
porter told me. But we don't get there, if we are on schedule, until eight
o'clock."

"There! I knew I was perishing of hunger," exclaimed Betty. "It's half
past four already," she added, looking at her wrist watch.

"Three and a half hours to dinner time?" wailed Bobby. "Oh!
That--is--tough!"

"That is, if we make the regular time," Bob said thoughtfully. "And right
now, let me tell you, this train is just about crawling, and that's all.
Humph! The soup sure will get cold in that dining car at Tonawanda, if it
waits there to be attached to our train."

"Oh! Oh!" cried Bobby. "Don't let's think of it. I had no idea that snow
could be so troublesome."

"Beautiful snow!" murmured Betty. "Say, Libbie. Recite that for us, will
you? You know: the poetry about 'Beautiful Snow.' You or Timothy should
remember it."

"Pah!" exclaimed Bobby, grumblingly. "I'll give you the proper version:

    "Beautiful snow! If it chokes up this train,
     It certainly will give me a pain!"

"Goodness me, Bobby!" retorted her cousin, Libbie, "your versifying
certainly gives me a pain."



CHAPTER XI

STALLED, AND WITHOUT A DOCTOR


The rapidity with which the storm had increased and the drifts had filled
the cuts through which the rails were laid was something that none of the
party bound for Mountain Camp had experienced. Unless Uncle Dick be
excepted. As Betty said, Mr. Richard Gordon had been almost everywhere and
had endured the most surprising experiences. That was something that
helped to make him such a splendid guardian.

"Yes," he agreed, when Betty dragged him down the car aisle to the two
sections which he had wisely abandoned entirely to his young charges, "we
had considerable snow up there in the part of Canada where I have been
this fall. Before I came down for the Christmas holidays there was about
four feet of snow on the level in the woods and certain sections of the
railroad up there had been entirely abandoned for the winter. Horse sleds
and dog sleighs do all the transportation until the spring thaw."

"Oh, do you suppose," cried Libbie, big-eyed, "that we may be snowbound at
Mountain Camp so that we cannot get back until spring?"

"Not a chance," replied Uncle Dick, laughing heartily. "But it does look
as though we may have to lay by for a night, or perhaps a night and a day,
before we can get on to Cliffdale, which is our station."

"In a hotel!" cried Betty. "Won't that be fun?"

"Perhaps not so much fun. Some of these country-town hotels up here in the
woods are run in a more haphazard way than a lumber camp. And what you get
to eat will come out of a can in all probability."

The boys groaned in unison at this, and even Betty looked woebegone.

"I wish you wouldn't talk about eating, Uncle Dick. Do you suppose we will
catch up with that dining car?"

"I do not think we shall. But there is an eating room at the junction we
are coming to. We can buy it out. I only hope there will be milk to be had
for the little folks. There is at least one baby aboard. It's in the next
car."

"But we'll get to this place we're going to by morning, shan't we?" cried
Bobby, very much excited.

"We're two hours late already I understand," said Mr. Gordon. "We have
little to fear, however I fancy if the storm does not hold up they will
not try to push past the junction until morning. We've got to sleep in the
car anyway; and if we are on short rations for a few hours it certainly
will do you boys and girls little harm. At Cliffdale----"

"Oh, Uncle Dick!" suddenly exclaimed Betty, "that is where Mr. Bolter has
sent that beautiful black horse that he bought in England."

"Oh, indeed? I heard of that mare. To Cliffdale? I believe there is a
stockfarm there. It is some distance from my friend Canary's camp,
however."

"Do you suppose that girl got there?" whispered Bobby to Betty.

"Even if she did, how disappointed she must be," Betty rejoined. "I am
awfully sorry for Ida Bellethorne."

"I don't know," said Bobby slowly. "I've been thinking. Suppose she did
find your beautiful locket and--and appropriate it for her own use,"
finished Bobby rather primly.

"You mean steal it," said Betty promptly. "No. I don't think she did. She
didn't seem to be that sort of person. Do you know, the more I think of
her the more I consider that Mrs. Staples would be capable of doing that."

"Oh, Betty! Finding and keeping your locket?"

Betty nodded with her lips pursed soberly. "I didn't like that woman," she
said.

"Neither did I," cried Bobby, easily influenced by her friend's opinion.
"I didn't like her a bit."

"But, of course, we don't know a thing about it," sighed Betty. "I do not
suppose we should blame either of them, or anybody else. We have no
evidence. I guess, Bobby, I am the only one to blame, after all."

"Well, don't mind, Betty dear," Bobby said comfortingly. "I believe the
locket will turn up. I told Daddy and he will telephone to the stores once
in a while and see if it has been found. And, of course, we have no
particular reason to think that you dropped it in Mrs. Staples' shop."

"None at all," admitted Betty more cheerfully. "So I'll stop worrying
right now. But I would like to know where Ida Bellethorne is in this
blizzard."

"Girl or horse?" chuckled Bobby.

"Girl. I fancy that little cockney hostler, or whatever he is, will look
out carefully for the mare. But who is there to care anything about poor
Ida?"

Gradually even Betty and Bobby were convinced that there were several
other matters to worry about that were connected with neither Ida
Bellethorne the girl nor Ida Bellethorne the horse. The belated train
finally got to the junction where there was an eating place. But another
train had passed, going south, less than an hour before and the lunch
counter had been swept almost bare.

Uncle Dick and Major Pater were old travelers, however; and they were
first out of the train and bought up most of the food in sight. Others of
the passengers purchased sandwiches and coffee and tea to consume at once.
Uncle Dick and the military man swept the shelves of canned milk and
fruit, prepared cocoa and other similar drinks, as well as all the loaves
of bread in sight, a boiled ham complete, and several yards of
frankfurters, or, as the Fairfields folks called them, "wienies."

"We know what Mrs. Eustice and Miss Prettyman would say to such
provender," said Louise when the party, the boys helping, returned with
the spoils of the lunch-room. "How about calories and dietetics, and all
that?"

"We may be hungry enough before we see a regular meal in a dining-car or a
hotel to forget all about such things," Uncle Dick said seriously. "There!
We are starting already. And we're pushing straight into a blizzard that
looks to me as though it would continue all night."

"Well, Uncle Dick," Betty said cheerfully, "we can go to bed and sleep and
forget it. It will be all over by morning of course."

Uncle Dick made no rejoinder to this. They had a jolly lunch, getting hot
water from the porter for their drink. Bob and the Tucker twins pretty
nearly bought out the candy supply on the train, and the girls felt
assured that they were completely safe from starvation as long as the
caramels and marshmallows held out.

By nine o'clock, with the train pushing slowly on, the head locomotive
aided by a pusher picked up at the junction, the berths were made up and
everybody in the Pullman coach had retired.

Betty, as she lay in her upper berth with Libbie, heard the snow, or
sleet, swishing against the side and roof of the car, and the sound lulled
her to sleep. She slept like any other healthy girl and knew nothing of
the night that passed. The lights were still burning when she awoke. Not a
gleam of daylight came through the narrow ground-glass window at her head.
And two other things impressed her unfavorably: The train was standing
still and not a sound penetrated to the car from without.

Libbie was sound asleep and Betty crept out of the berth without awakening
the plump girl. She got into her wrapper and slippers and stole along the
aisle to the ladies' room. Nobody as yet seemed to have come from the
berths.

She could not hear the wind or snow when she got into the dressing room.
This convinced her at first that the storm was over. But she dropped one
of the narrow windows at the top to see out, and found that a wall of
hard-pack snow shrouded the window. She tried to break through this drift
with her arm wrapped in a towel. But although she stood on a stool and
thrust her arm out to her shoulder, her hand did not reach the open air!

"My goodness me!" gasped Betty Gordon. "We're stalled! We're snowbound!
What shall we ever do if the snow doesn't melt pretty soon, or they don't
come and dig us out?"

She washed in haste, and having brought her clothes with her, she dressed
promptly. All the time she was considering what was to be done if, as it
seemed, the train could not go on.

Just as she opened the door of the dressing room excited voices sounded at
the end of the car. The conductor and the porter were talking loudly. The
former suddenly shouted:

"Ladies and gentlemen! is there a doctor in this coach? We want a doctor
right away! Day coach ahead! Child taken poison and must have a doctor."

A breathless gabble of voices assured him that there was no physician in
the coach. He had already searched the other cars. There was no doctor on
the train.

"And we're stalled here in this cut for nobody knows how long!" groaned
the conductor. "That woman is crazy in the next car. Her two year old
child got hold of some kind of poison and swallowed some of it. The child
will die for sure!"

Betty was terribly shocked at this speech. She wriggled past the conductor
and the troubled porter, and ran into the car ahead. At first glance she
spied the little group of mother and children that was the center of
excitement.



CHAPTER XII

THE TUNNEL


The baby was screaming, the little boy of four or five looked miserably
unhappy, and the worn and meager-looking mother was plainly frightened out
of her wits. She let the baby scream on the seat beside her while she held
the little girl in her lap.

That youngster seemed to be the least disturbed of any of the party. She
was a pretty child, and robust. She kicked vigorously against being held
almost upside down by her mother (as though by that means the dose of
poison could be coaxed out of the child) but she did not cry.

"The little dear!" cooed Betty, pushing through the ring of other
passengers. "What has happened to her?"

"She'll be dead in five minutes," croaked a sour visaged woman who bent
over the back of the seat to stare at the crying baby without making an
effort to relieve the mother in any way.

"What is the poison?" demanded Betty excitedly.

"It--it's----I don't know what the doctor called it," wailed the poor
mother. "I had it in my handbag with other drops. Nellie here is always
playing with bottles. She will drink out of bottles, much as I can do or
say."

Betty was sniffing--that may not be an elegant expression, but it is
exactly what she did--and looking all about on the floor.

"Something's been spilled here," she said. "It's a funny odor. Seems to me
I remember smelling it before."

"That's the poison," groaned the woman over the back of the seat. "Her ma
knocked it out of the young one's hand. Too bad. She's a goner!"

This seemed to Betty very dreadful. She darted an angry glance at the
woman. "A regular Mrs. Job's comforter, she is!" thought Betty.

But all the time she was looking about the floor of the car for the
bottle. Finally she dropped to her knees and scrambled about among the
boots of the passengers. She came up like a diver, with an object held
high in one hand.

"Is this it?" she asked.

"That is the bottle, Miss," sobbed the mother. "My poor little Nellie!
Isn't there a doctor, anywhere? They say milk is good for some kinds of
poison, but I haven't any milk for baby even. That is what makes him cry
so. Poor little Nellie!"

Betty had been staring at the label on the bottle. Now she smelled hard
at the mouth of it She held the bottle before the woman's eyes.

"Are you sure this is the bottle the child drank out of?" she demanded.

"Yes, Miss. That is it. Poor little Nellie!"

"Why! can't you smell?" demanded Betty. "And can't you see? There is no
skull and cross-bones on this label. And all that was in the bottle was
sweet spirits of niter. I'm sure that won't do your Nellie any lasting
harm."

The mother was thunderstruck for a moment--and speechless. The gloomy
woman looking over the back of the seat drawled:

"Then it wasn't poison at all?"

"No," said Betty. "And I should think among you, you should have found it
out!"

She was quite scornful of the near-by passengers. The mother let the
struggling little girl slip out of her lap, fortunately feet first rather
than head first, and grabbed up the screaming baby.

"Dear me! You naughty little thing, Nellie! You are always scaring me to
death," she said scoldingly. "And if we don't come to some place where I
can buy milk pretty soon and get it warmed, this child will burst his
lungs crying."

Betty, however, considered that the baby was much too strong and vigorous
to be in a starving state as yet. She wondered how the poor women expected
to get milk with the train stalled in the snow. She had in her pocket
some chocolate wafers and she pacified the two older children with these
and then ran back to the sleeping car.

She was in season to head off a procession of excited Pullman passengers
in all stages of undress starting for the day coach with everything in the
line of antidote for poison that could be imagined and which they had
discovered in their traveling bags.

"Baby's better. She wasn't poisoned at all," Betty told them. "But those
children are going to be awfully hungry before long if we have to stay
here. Do you know we're snowbound, girls?"

This last she confided to the three Littell girls.

"Won't they dig us out?" asked the practical Louise.

"What a lark!" exclaimed Bobby, clapping her hands.

"Just think! Buried in the snow! How wonderful!" murmured Libbie.

"Cheese!" exclaimed Tommy Tucker, overhearing this. "You'll think it's
wonderful. The brakeman told me that the drivers were clogged at six
o'clock and the wheels haven't turned since. We're completely buried in
snow and it's still snowing. Head engine's an oil-burner and there is
plenty of fuel; but there isn't a chance of our being dug out for days."

"How brutal you are," giggled Bobby, who could not be frightened by any
misadventure. "How shall we live?"

"After we eat up the bread and ham we will draw lots and eat up each
other," Bob observed soberly.

"But those little children can't eat each other," Betty declared with
conviction. "Come on Bobby. You're dressed. Let's see what we can do for
that poor mother and the babies."

The two girls had to confer with Uncle Dick first of all. He had charge of
the supplies. Betty knew there was some way of mixing condensed milk with
water and heating the mixture so that it would do very well at a
pinch--the pinch of hunger!--for a nursing child. Uncle Dick supplied the
canned milk and some other food for the older children, and Betty and
Bobby carried these into the day coach where the little family had spent
such an uncomfortable night and were likely to spend a very uncomfortable
day as well.

For there was no chance of escaping from their present predicament--all
the train crew said so--until plows and shovelers came to dig the train
out of the cut.

Of course the conductors and the rest of the crew knew just where they
were. Behind them about three miles was a small hamlet at which the train
had not been scheduled to stop, and had not stopped. Had the train pulled
down there the situation of the crew and passengers would have been much
better. They would not have been stalled in this drifted cut.

Cliffdale, to which Uncle Dick and his party were bound, was twenty miles
and more ahead. The roadbed was so blocked that it might be several days
before the way would be opened to Cliffdale.

"The roads will be opened by the farmers and teams will get through the
mountains before the railroad will be dug out," Mr. Gordon told the boys.
"If we could get back to that station in the rear we might find
conveyances that would take us on to Mountain Camp. If I had a pair of
snowshoes I certainly could make it over the hills myself in a short
time."

"You go ahead, Mr. Gordon," said Tommy Tucker, "and tell 'em we're
coming."

"I'll have to dig out of here and get the webs on my feet first," replied
Uncle Dick, laughing.

His speech put an idea in the head of the ingenious Tommy Tucker. While
the girls were attending to the children in the car ahead, the twins and
Bob and Timothy Derby went through the train to the very end. The
observation platform was banked with snow, and the snow was packed pretty
hard. But there were some tools at hand and the boys set to work with the
two porters and a brakeman to punch a hole through the snowbank to the
surface.

It was great sport, although the quartette from Salsette Academy enjoyed
it more than the men did. It was fun for the boys and work for the men,
and the latter would have given it up in despair if the younger diggers
had not been so eagerly interested in the task.

They sloped the tunnel so that it was several yards long before it reached
the surface. The snow underneath, they tramped hard; they battered their
way through by pressing a good deal of the snow into solid walls on either
side. When the roof at the end finally fell in on them, they found that it
was still snowing steadily and the wind was pouring great sheets of it
into the cut and heaping it yard upon yard over the roofs of the cars.
They could barely see the top of the smokestack of the pusher a few feet
away.

That locomotive had been abandoned by its crew when the train was stalled.
Keeping the boiler of the head engine hot was sufficient to supply the
cars with heat and hot water.

"Cricky!" cried Bob. "We've found the way out; but I guess even Uncle Dick
wouldn't care to start out in this storm, snowshoes or not. Fellows, we're
in a bad fix, just as sure as you live."

"All right," said Teddy Tucker. "Let's go back and get something to eat
before somebody else gets ahead of us. I suppose those girls have given
all the milk to those kids up front, and maybe the ham sandwiches too."

"Dear me!" sighed Timothy, "it is like being cast away on a desert island.
We are Robinson Crusoes."

"And haven't got even a goat!" chuckled Tommy Tucker.



CHAPTER XIII

AN ALARM


Mr. Richard Gordon was not minded to allow the young folks to portion out
the little store of food as they pleased. He and Major Pater, who had now
joined the party from Fairfields quite as a matter of course, had
considered the use of the supplies to the best advantage. There was not
much else to eat on the train, for even the crew had devoured their
lunches, and most trainmen when obliged to carry food at all are supplied
with huge tin buckets that hold at least three "square meals."

"Though why meals should be 'square' I can't for the life of me see,"
Betty observed. "Why not 'round' meals? I am sure we manage to get around
them when we eat them."

"Quite a philosopheress, aren't you?" joked Bob.

"These rations are not to be considered with philosophy," complained
Bobby. "They are too frugal."

In truth, when the bread and meat and crackers and hot drink had been
portioned to those needed food most, the amount each received was nothing
to gorge upon.

"If it stops snowing--or as soon as it does," Bob declared, "we've got to
get out and make our way back to that station the brakeman says is only
three miles away."

"Uncle Dick won't let us try it, I am sure," sighed Betty. "How could we
wade through such deep snow?"

"If you had helped dig that tunnel," said Teddy Tucker confidently, "you'd
know that the snow is packed so hard you wouldn't sink in very deep in
walking."

"But of course, you girls can't go," Tommy said. "We fellows will have to
go for supplies."

The girls did not much like this statement. Betty and Bobby at least
considered that they were quite as well able to endure the hardships of a
tramp through the snow as the boys.

"I'd just like to see that tunnel, and see how hard it is snowing
outside," said Betty privately to her chum.

"Let's go look," exclaimed Bobby, equally curious.

Libbie and Timothy had their heads together over a book. Louise and the
boys were engaged socially with some of the other passengers in their
coach. So Betty and Bobby were able to slip away, with their coats and
caps, without being observed.

There were two Pullman coaches and but one day coach besides the express
and baggage and mail cars to the train. The passengers in the day coach
were confined to that or to the smoker's end of the baggage car ahead. The
occupants of the Pullman coaches could roam through both as they pleased;
and had the weather been fine it is certain that the young folks from
Fairfields would have occupied the observation platform at the rear of the
train a good part of the daytime.

They had been shut in by the storm the afternoon before, and now they were
doubly shut in by the snow. The doors of the vestibules between the cars
could not be opened, for the snow was banked up on both sides to the
roofs. That tunnel the boys and train hands had made from the rear
platform was the only means of egress for the passengers from the
submerged train.

Betty and Bobby passed through the rear car and out upon the snow-banked
platform. They saw that several people must have thrust themselves through
the tunnel since the boys had made it. Probably these explorers had
wished, like the two girls, to discover for themselves just what state the
weather was in.

"Dear me!" gasped Bobby, "dare we poke through that hole? What do you
think, Betty?"

"The snow is hard packed, just as the boys say. I guess we can risk it,"
declared the more daring Betty. "Anyway, I can go anywhere Bob Henderson
can, my dear. I will not take a back seat for any boy."

"Hear! Hear!" chuckled Bobby. "Isn't that what they cry at political
meetings? You have made a good speech, Bettykins. Now go ahead and do it."

"Go ahead and do what?"

"Lead the way through that chimney. My! I believe it has stopped snowing
and the boys don't know it."

"Come on then and make sure," Betty cried, and began to scramble up the
sloping tunnel on hands and knees.

Both girls were warmly dressed, booted, and mittened. A little snow would
not hurt them--not even a great deal of snow. And that a great deal had
fallen and blown into this railroad cut, Betty and Bobby soon realized
when they had scrambled out through what the latter had called "the
chimney."

Only a few big flakes drifted in the air, which was keen and biting. But
the wind had ceased--at least, it did not blow here in the cut between the
hills--and it seemed only an ordinary winter day to the two girls from the
other side of the Potomac.

Forward they saw a thin stream of smoke rising into the air from the stack
of the front locomotive. The fires in the pusher were banked. It was not
an oil-burner, nor was it anywhere near as large a locomotive as the one
that pulled the train.

Rearward they could scarcely mark the roadbed, so drifted over was it.
Fences and other landmarks were completely buried. The bending telegraph
poles, weighted by the pull of snow-laden wires, was all that marked the
right of way through the glen.

"What a sight!" gasped Betty. "Oh, Bobby! did you ever see anything so
glorious?"

"I never saw so much snow, if that is what you mean," admitted the
Virginia girl. "And I am not sure that I really approve of it."

But Bobby laughed. She had to admit it was a great sight. It was now
mid-afternoon and all they could see of the sun was a round, hazy ball
behind the misty clouds, well down toward the western horizon which they
could see through the mouth of this cut, or valley between the hills. At
first they beheld not a moving object on the white waste.

"It is almost solemn," pursued Betty, who possessed a keen delight in all
manifestations of nature.

"It looks mighty solemn, I admit," agreed Bobby. "Especially when you
remember that anything to eat is three miles away and the drifts are
nobody knows how many feet deep."

Betty laughed. She was about to say something cheerful in reply when a
sudden sound smote upon their ears--a sound that startled the two girls.
Somewhere from over the verge of the high bank of the cut on their left
hand sounded a long-drawn and perfectly blood-curdling howl!

"For goodness' sake!" gasped Bobby, grabbing her friend by the arm. "What
sort of creature is that? Hear it?"

"Of course I hear it," replied Betty, rather sharply. "Do you think I am
deaf?"

Only a very deaf person could have missed hearing that mournful howl. It
drew nearer.

"Is it a dog?" asked Bobby, almost in a whisper, as for a third time the
howl sounded.

"A dog barks, doesn't it? That doesn't sound like a dog, Bobby," said
Betty. "I heard one out West. I do believe it is one!"

"One what?" cried Bobby, almost shaking her in alarm and impatience.

"A wolf. It sounds just like a wolf. Oh, Bobby! suppose there should be a
pack of wolves in these hills and that they should attack this train?"

"Wolves!" shrieked Bobby. "_Wolves_! Then me for in-doors! I am not going
to stay here and be eaten up by wolves."

As she turned to dive into the tunnel there was a sharper and more eager
yelp, and a shaggy animal came to the edge of the bluff to their left and,
without stopping an instant, plunged down through the drifts toward the
two girls where they stood on the hard-packed snow at the mouth of the
tunnel.

"It is a wolf!" wailed Bobby, and immediately disappeared, head first,
down the hole in the snow drift.



CHAPTER XIV

THE MOUNTAIN HUT


If Bobby had not gone first and had not stuck half way down the hole with
her feet kicking madly just at the mouth of the tunnel, without doubt
Betty Gordon would have been driven by her own fears back into the Pullman
coach.

That shaggy beast diving from the top of the embankment, plunging, yelping
and whining, through the softer drifts of snow, frightened Betty just as
much as it had Bobby Littell. The latter had got away with a flying start,
however, and her writhing body plugged the only means of escape. So Betty
really had to face the approaching terror.

"Oh! Oh!" cried Betty, turning from the approaching beast in despair.
"Hurry! Hurry, Bobby Littell! Do you want me to be eaten up?"

But Bobby had somehow cramped herself in the winding passage through the
snow, and her voice was muffled as she too cried for help.

However, Bobby's demands for assistance were much more likely to bring it
than the cries of the girl outside. The porter heard Bobby first, and
when he opened the door of the coach several men who were near heard the
girl.

"Help! Help! A wolf is eating her!" shrieked the frightened Bobby.

"Ma soul an' body! He must be a-chawin' her legs off!" cried the darkey
and he seized Bobby by the wrists, threw himself backward, and the girl
came out of the tunnel like an aggravating cork out of a bottle.

"What's this?" demanded Mr. Richard Gordon, who happened to be coming back
to the end of the train to look for his niece and her chum.

"Oh, Mr. Gordon!" sputtered Bobby, scrambling up, "it's got her! A wolf!
It's got Betty!"

"A wolf?" repeated Uncle Dick. "I didn't know there were any wolves left
in this part of the country."

Major Pater was with him. Mr. Gordon grabbed the latter's walking stick
and went up that tunnel a good deal quicker than Bobby had come down it.
And when he got to the surface he found his niece, laughing and crying at
once, and almost smothered by the joyful embraces of a big Newfoundland
dog!

"A wolf indeed!" cried Mr. Gordon, but beating off the animal
good-naturedly. "He must be a friend of yours, Betty."

"Oh, dear me, he did scare us so!" Betty rejoined, getting up out of the
drift, trying to brush off her coat, and petting the exuberant dog at the
same time. "But it is a dear--and its master must be somewhere about,
don't you think, Uncle Dick?"

Its master was, for the next moment he appeared at the top of the bank
down which the "wolf" had wallowed. He hailed Uncle Dick and Betty with a
great, jovial shout and plunged down the slope himself. He was a young man
on snowshoes, and he proved to be a telegraph operator at that station
three miles south.

"Wires are so clogged we can't get messages through. But we knew that
Number Forty was stalled about here. Going to be a job to dig her out.
I've got a message for the conductor," he said when he reached the top of
the drift that was heaped over the train.

"Wasn't it a hard task to get here?" Mr. Gordon asked.

"Not so bad. My folks live right over the ridge there, about half a mile
away. I just came from the house with the dog. Down, Nero! Behave
yourself!"

"We are going to be hungry here pretty soon," suggested Mr. Gordon.

"There will be a pung come up from the station with grub enough before
night. Furnished by the company. That is what I have come to see the
conductor about."

"I tell you what," said Betty's uncle, who was nothing if not quick in
thinking. "My party were bound for Cliffdale."

"That's not very far away. But I doubt if the train gets there this week."

"Bad outlook for us. We are going to Mountain Camp--Mr. Canary's place."

"I know that place," said the telegraph operator. "There is an easy road
to it from our farm through the hills. Get there quicker than you can by
the way of Cliffdale. I believe my father could drive you up there
to-morrow."

"In a sleigh?" cried Betty delightedly. "What fun!"

"In a pung. With four of our horses. They'd break the road all right.
Ought to start right early in the morning, though."

"Do you suppose you could get us over to your house to-night?" asked Mr.
Gordon quickly. "There are a good many of us----"

"How many in the party?" asked the young man. "My name's Jaroth--Fred
Jaroth."

Mr. Gordon handed him his card and said:

"There are four girls, four boys, and myself. Quite a party."

"That is all right, Mr. Gordon," said Fred Jaroth cheerfully. "We often
put up thirty people in the summer. We've a great ranch of a house. And I
can help you up the bank yonder and beat you a path through the woods to
the main road. Nothing simpler. Your trunks will get to Cliffdale sometime
and you can carry your hand baggage."

"Not many trunks, thank goodness," replied Mr. Gordon. "What do you think,
Betty? Does it sound good?"

"Heavenly!" declared his niece.

Just then a brakeman came up through the tunnel to find out if the wolf
had eaten both the gentleman and his niece, and the telegraph operator
went down, feet first, to find the conductor and deliver his message.

"Then the idea of going on to Mountain Camp by sledge suits you, does it,
young lady?" asked Mr. Gordon of Betty.

"They will all be delighted. You know they will, Uncle. What sport!"

The suggestion of the telegraph operator did seem quite inspired. Mr.
Gordon and Betty reentered the train to impart the decision to the others,
and, as Betty had claimed, her young friends were both excited and
delighted by the prospect.

In half an hour the party was off, Betty and her friends bundled up and
carrying their bags while Mr. Gordon followed and Fred Jaroth led the way
on his snowshoes and carrying two suitcases. He said they helped balance
him and made the track through the snow firmer. As for Nero, he cavorted
like a wild dog, and that, Bobby said, proved he was a wolf!

Once at the top of the bank they found it rather easy following Jaroth
through the woods. And when they reached the road--or the place where the
highway would have been if the snow had not drifted over fences and
all--they met the party from the station bringing up food and other
comforts for the snowbound passengers. As the snow had really stopped
falling it was expected that the plow would be along sometime the next day
and then the train would be pulled back to the junction.

"But if this man has a roomy sled and good horses we shall not be cheated
out of our visit to Mountain Camp," Mr. Gordon said cheerfully.

The old farmhouse when they reached it certainly looked big enough to
accommodate them all. There was a wing thrown out on either side; but
those wings were for use only in the summer. There were beds enough and to
spare in the main part of the house.

When they sat down to Mrs. Jaroth's supper table Bob declared that quite
evidently famine had not reached this retired spot. The platters were
heaped with fried ham and fried eggs and sausages and other staple
articles. These and the hot biscuit disappeared like snow before a hot sun
in April.

Altogether it was a joyous evening that they spent at the Jaroth house.
Yet as Betty and Bobby cuddled up together in the bed which they shared,
Betty expressed a certain fear which had been bothering her for some time.

"I wonder where she is, Bobby?" Betty said thoughtfully.

"Where who is?" demanded her chum sleepily.

"That girl. Ida Bellethorne. If she came up here on a wild goose chase
after her aunt, and found only a horse, what will become of her?"

"I haven't the least idea," confessed Bobby.

"Did she return before this blizzard set in, or is she still up here in
the woods? And what will become of her?"

"Gracious!" exclaimed the sleepy Bobby, "let's go to sleep and think about
Ida Bellethorne to-morrow."

"And I wonder if it is possible that she can know anything about my
locket," was another murmured question of Betty's. But Bobby had gone fast
asleep then and did not answer.

Under the radiance of the big oil lamp hanging above the kitchen table,
the table itself covered with an old-fashioned red and white checked
cloth, the young folks bound for Mountain Camp ate breakfast. And such a
breakfast!

Buckwheat cakes, each as big as the plate itself with "oodles of butter
and real maple syrup," to quote Bob.

"We don't even get as good as this at Salsette," said Tommy Tucker grimly.
"Oh, cracky!"

"I want to know!" gibed his twin, borrowing a phrase he had heard New
England Libbie use on one occasion. "If Major Pater could see us now!"

Libbie and Timothy forgot to quote poetry. The fact was, as Bobby pointed
out, buckwheat cakes like those were poems in themselves.

"And when one's mouth is full of such poems, mere printed verses lack
value."

Romantic as she was, Libbie admitted the truth of her cousin's remark.

A chime of bells at the door hastened the completion of the meal. The boys
might have sat there longer and, like boa-constrictors, gorged themselves
into lethargy.

However, adventure was ahead and the sound of the sledge bells excited the
young people. They got on their coats and caps and furs and mittens and
trooped out to the "pung," as the elder Jaroth called the low, deep,
straw-filled sledge to which he had attached four strong farm horses.

There were no seats. It would be much more comfortable sitting in the
straw, and much warmer. For although the storm had entirely passed the
cold was intense. It nipped every exposed feature, and their breath hung
like hoar-frost before them when they laughed and talked.

During the night something had been done to break out the road. Mr.
Jaroth's horses managed to trample the drifts into something like a hubbly
path for the broad sled-runners to slip oven They went on, almost always
mounting a grade, for four hours before they came to a human habitation.

The driver pointed his whipstock to a black speck before them and higher
up the hill which was sharply defined against the background of pure
white.

"Bill Kedders' hut," he said to Mr. Gordon. "'Tain't likely he's there
this time o' year. Usually he and his wife go to Cliffdale to spend the
winter with their married daughter."

"Just the same," cried Bob suddenly, "there's smoke coming out of that
chimney. Don't you see it, Uncle Dick?"

"The boy's right!" ejaculated Jaroth, with sudden anxiety. "It can't be
that Bill and his woman were caught by this blizzard. He's as knowing
about weather signs as an old bear, Bill is. And you can bet every bear in
these woods is holed up till spring."

He even urged the plodding horses to a faster pace. The hut, buried in the
snow to a point far above its eaves, was built against a steep hillside
at the edge of the wood, with the drifted road passing directly before its
door. When the pung drew up before it and the horses stopped with a sudden
shower of tinkling bell-notes, Mr. Jaroth shouted:

"Hey, Bill! Hey, Bill Kedders!"

There was no direct reply to this hail. But as they listened for a reply
there was not one of the party that did not distinguish quite clearly the
sound of weeping from inside the mountain hut.



CHAPTER XV

THE LOST GIRL


"That ain't Bill!" exclaimed Jaroth. "That's as sure as you're a foot
high. Nor yet it ain't his wife. If either one of them has cried since
they were put into short clothes I miss my guess. Huh!"

He hesitated, standing in the snow half way between the pung and the
snow-smothered door of the hut. Sheltered as it had been by the hill and
by the woods, the hut was not masked so much by the drifted snow on its
front. They could see the upper part of the door-casing.

"By gravy!" ejaculated Mr. Jaroth, "it don't sound human. I can't make it
out. Funny things they say happen up here in these woods. I wouldn't be a
mite surprised if that crying--or----"

He hesitated while the boys and girls, and even Mr. Gordon, stared
amazedly at him.

"Who do you think it is?" asked Uncle Dick finally.

"Well, it ain't Bill," grumbled Jaroth.

The sobbing continued. So engaged was the person weeping in the sorrow
that convulsed him, or her, that the jingling of the bells as the horses
shook their heads or the voices of those in the pung did not attract
attention.

Jaroth stood in the snow and neither advanced nor retreated. It really did
seem as though he was afraid to approach nearer to the hut on the
mountain-side!

"That is a girl or a woman in there," Bob declared.

"Huh!" exclaimed Bobby sharply. "It might be a boy. Boys cry sometimes."

"Really?" said Timothy. "But you never read of crying boys except in
humorous verses. They are not supposed to cry."

"Well," said Betty, suddenly hopping out of the sleigh, "we'll never find
out whether it is a girl or a boy if we wait for Mr. Jaroth, it seems."

She started for the door of the hut. Bob hopped out after her in a hurry.
And he took with him the snow-shovel Jaroth had brought along to use in
clearing the drifts away if they chanced to get stuck.

"You'd better look out," said Jaroth, still standing undecided in the
snow.

"For what?" asked Bob, hurrying to get before Betty.

"That crying don't sound natural. Might he a ha'nt. Can't tell."

"Fancy!" whispered Betty in glee. "A great big man like him afraid of a
ghost--and there isn't such a thing!"

"Don't need to be if he is afraid of it," returned Bob in the same low
tone. "You can be afraid of any fancy if you want to. It doesn't need to
exist. I guess most fears are of things that don't really exist Come on,
now. Let me shovel this drift away."

He set to work vigorously on the snow heap before the door. Mr. Gordon,
seeing that everything possible was being done, let the young people go
ahead without interference. In two minutes they could see the frozen
latch-string that was hanging out. Whoever was in the hut had not taken
the precaution to pull in the leather thong.

"Go ahead, Betty," said Bob finally. "You push open the door. I'll stand
here ready to beat 'em down with the shovel if they start after you."

"Guess you think it isn't a girl, then," chuckled Betty, as she pulled the
string and heard the bar inside click as it was drawn out of the slot.

With the shovel Bob pushed the door inward. The cabin would have been
quite dark had it not been for a little fire crackling on the hearth. Over
this a figure stooped--huddled, it seemed, for warmth. The room was almost
bare.

"Why, you poor thing!" Betty cried, running into the hut. "Are you here
all alone?"

She had seen instantly that it was a girl. And evidently the stranger was
in much misery. But at Betty's cry she started up from the hearth and
whirled about in both fear and surprise.

Her hair was disarranged, and there was a great deal of it. Her face was
swollen with weeping, and she was all but blinded by her tears. At Betty's
sympathetic tone and words she burst out crying again. Betty gathered her
right into her arms--or, as much of her as she could enfold, for the other
girl was bigger than Betty in every way.

"You?" gasped the crying girl. "How--how did you come up here? And in all
this snow? Oh, this is a wilderness--a wilderness! How do people ever live
here, even in the summer? It is dreadful--dreadful! And I thought I should
freeze."

"Ida Bellethorne!" gasped Betty. "Who would ever have expected to find you
here?"

"I know I haven't any more business here than I have in the moon," said
the English girl. "I--I wish I'd never left Mrs. Staples."

"Mrs. Staples told us you had come up this way," Betty said.

Immediately the other girl jerked away from her, threw back her damp hair,
and stared, startled, at Betty.

"Then you--you found out? You know----"

"My poor girl!" interrupted Betty, quite misunderstanding Ida's look, "I
know all about your coming up here to find your aunt. And that was
foolish, for the notice you saw in the paper was about Mr. Bolter's black
mare."

"Mr. Bolter's mare?" repeated Ida.

"Now, tell me!" urged the excited Betty. "Didn't you come to Cliffdale to
look for your aunt?"

"Yes. That I did. But she isn't up here at all."

By this time Uncle Dick and the others were gathered about the door of the
hut. Jaroth, with a glance now and then at his horses, had even stepped
inside.

"By gravy!" ejaculated the man, "this here's a pretty to-do. What you been
doing to Bill Kedders' chattels, girl?"

"I--I burned them. I had to, to keep warm," answered Ida Bellethorne
haltingly. "I burned the table and the chairs and the boxes and then
pulled down the berths and burned them. If you hadn't come I don't know
what I should have done for a fire."

"By gravy! Burned down the shack itself to keep you warm, I reckon!"
chuckled Jaroth. "Well, we'd better take this girl along with us, hadn't
we, Mr. Gordon? She'll set fire to the timber next, if we don't, after
she's used up the shack."

"We most surely will take her along to Mountain Camp," declared Betty's
uncle. "But what puzzles me, is how she ever got here to this, lonely
place."

"I was trying to find the Candace Farm," choked Ida Bellethorne.

"I want to know!" said Jaroth. "That's the stockfarm where they pasture so
many sportin' hosses. Candace, he makes a good thing out of it. But it's
eight miles from here and not in the direction we're going, Mr. Gordon."

"We will take her along to Mountain Camp," said Uncle Dick. "One more will
not scare Mrs. Canary, I am sure."

Ida brought a good-sized suitcase out of the hut with her. She had
evidently tried to walk from Cliffdale to the stockfarm, carrying that
weight. The girls were buzzing over the appearance of the stranger and the
boys stared.

"Oh, Betty!" whispered Bobby Littell, "is she Ida Bellethorne?"

"One of them," rejoined Betty promptly.

"Then do you suppose she has your locket?" ventured Bobby.

To tell the truth, Betty had not once thought of that!



CHAPTER XVI

THE CAMP ON THE OVERLOOK


Mountain Camp was rightly named, for it was built on the side of one
mountain and was facing another. Between the two eminences was a lake at
least five miles long and almost as broad. The wind had blown so hard
during the blizzard that the snow had not piled upon the ice at all,
although it was heaped man-high along the edges. The pool of blue ice
stretched away from before Mountain Camp like a huge sheet of plate glass.

The two storied, rambling house, built of rough logs on the outside, stood
on a plateau called the Overlook forty feet above the surface of the lake.
Indeed the spot did overlook the whole high valley.

The hills sloped down from this height in easy descents to the plains.
Woods masked every topographical contour of the surrounding country. Such
woods as Betty Gordon and her friends had never seen before.

"Virginia forests are not like this," confessed Louise Littell. "The pines
are never so tall and there is not so much hardwood. Dear me! see that
dead pine across the lake. It almost seems to touch the sky, it is so
tall."

This talk took place the next morning when they had all rested and, like
all healthy young things, were eager for adventure. They had been welcomed
by Mr. and Mrs. Canary in a way that put the most bashful at ease.

Even Ida Bellethorne had soon recovered from that sense of strangeness
that had at first overpowered her. The girls had been able to help her out
a little in the matter of dress. She appeared at the dinner table quite as
one of themselves. Betty would not hear of Ida's withdrawing from the
general company, and for a particular reason.

In truth, Betty felt a little condemned. She had considered a suspicion of
Ida's honesty, and afterward she knew it could not be so! The English girl
had no appearance of a dishonest person. Betty saw that Uncle Dick was
favorably disposed toward Ida. If he did not consider her all right he
surely would not have introduced her to Mr. and Mrs. Canary as one of his
party.

Nor did Uncle Dick allow Ida to tell her story the evening they arrived at
the camp on the Overlook. "To-morrow will do for that," he had said.

At breakfast time there were so many plans for exciting adventure
discussed that Betty surely would have forgotten all about Ida
Bellethorne's expected explanation had it not been for the lost locket.
The possibility that Ida knew something about it had so impressed Betty
that nothing else held her interest for long.

Every one had brought skates from Fairfields, and the great expanse of
blue ice--no ice is so blue as that of a mountain lake--was unmarked.
Naturally skating was the very first pleasure that beckoned.

"Oh, I'm just crazy to get on skates!" cried Bobby.

"I think I'll be glad to do some skating myself," came from Libbie, who
had been reading a book even before breakfast.

"What do you say to a race on skates?" came from Tommy Tucker.

"I think we had better get used to skating up here before we talk about a
race," said Bob. "This ice looks tremendously hard and slippery. You won't
be able to do much on your skates unless they are extra sharp."

"Oh, I had 'em sharpened."

"Don't forget to wrap up well," admonished Mrs. Canary. "Sometimes it gets
pretty cold and windy."

"Not to say anything about its being cold already," answered Bobby. "My,
but the wind goes right through a person up here!"

While the other seven ran off for skates and wraps, Betty nodded to Uncle
Dick and then, tucking her arm through that of Ida Bellethorne, urged her
to follow Mr. Gordon from the breakfast room to a little study, or "den,"
that was possibly Mr. Canary's own.

"Now, girls," said Uncle Dick in his quiet, pleasant way and smiling with
equal kindness upon his niece and the English girl, "let us get
comfortable and open our hearts to each other. I think you know, Ida, that
Betty and I are immensely interested in your story and we are hungry for
the details. But not altogether out of mere curiosity. We hope to give you
aid in some way to make your situation better. Understand?"

"Oh, Mr. Gordon, I quite understand that," said the English girl seriously
and without smiling. "I never saw such friendly people as you are. And you
both strangers to me! If I were at home I couldn't find better friends, I
am sure."

"That's fine!" declared Uncle Dick. "It is exactly the way I want you to
feel. Betty and I are interested. Now suppose you sit down and tell us all
about it."

"Where shall I begin?" murmured the girl thoughtfully, hesitating.

"If I were you," returned Uncle Dick, with a smile, "I would begin at the
beginning."

"Oh, but that's so very far back!"

"Never mind that. One of the most foolish mistakes which I see in
educational methods is to give the children lessons in modern history
without any reference to ancient history which comes to them in higher
grades. Ancient history should be gone into first. Suppose, Ida, you begin
with ancient history."

"Before Ida Bellethorne was born, do you mean?" asked the English girl
doubtfully.

"Which Ida Bellethorne do you mean?" asked Mr. Gordon, while Betty stared.

"I was thinking of my beautiful black mare. The darling! She is seven
years old now, Mr. Gordon; but I think that in those seven years enough
has happened to me to make me feel three times seven years old."

"Go ahead, Ida," said the gentleman cheerfully. "Tell it in your own way."

Thus encouraged, the girl began, and she did tell it in her own way. But
it was not a brief way, and both Mr. Gordon and Betty asked questions and
that, too, increased the difficulty of Ida's telling her story.

She had been the only living child of Gwynne Bellethorne, who had been a
horse breeder and sometimes a turfman in one of the lower English
counties. She had been motherless since her third birthday. Her only
living relative was her father's sister, likewise Ida Bellethorne, who had
been estranged from her brother for several years and had made her own
way on the continent and later in America on the concert stage.

Ida, the present Ida, remembered seeing her aunt but once. She had come to
Bellethorne Park the very week the black mare was foaled. When they all
went out to see the little, awkward, kicking colt in the big box stall,
separated from its whinnying mother by a strong barred fence, the owner of
the stables had laughingly named the filly after his sister.

"But," Ida told them, "father told Aunt Ida that the filly was to be my
property. He had, I think, suffered many losses even then. He made a bill
of sale, or something, making the filly over to me; but I was a minor, and
after father died my guardian had that bill of sale. He showed it to me
once. I don't see how Mr. Bolter could have bought my lovely mare when I
got none of the money for her."

This was not, however, sticking to the main thread of the story. Ida knew
that although her aunt had come to the Park in amity, there was a quarrel
between her father and aunt before the haughty and beautiful concert
singer went away, never more to appear at Bellethorne, not even to attend
her brother's funeral.

Before that sad happening the mare, Ida Bellethorne, had come to full
growth and as a three-year-old had made an astonishing record on the
English race tracks. The year Mr. Bellethorne died he had planned to ship
her to France for the Grand Prix. Her name was in the mouths of every
sportsman in England and her fame had spread to the United States.

The death of her father had signaled the breaking up of her home and the
severing of all home ties for Ida. Like many men of his class, Mr.
Bellethorne had had no close friends. At least, no honorable friends. The
man he had chosen as the administrator of his wrecked estate and the
guardian of his unfortunate daughter, Ida felt sure had been dishonorable.

There seemed nothing left for Ida when the estate was "settled." One day
Ida Bellethorne, the mare, had disappeared, and Ida the girl could learn
nothing about her or what had been done with her. At that she had run away
from her guardian, had made her way to Liverpool, had taken service with
an American family sailing for the United States, and so had reached New
York.

"I found a letter addressed to Aunt Ida after my father died," explained
the girl, choking back a sob. "On the envelope in pencil father had
written to me to find Aunt Ida and give it to her. He hoped she would
forgive him and take some interest in me. I've got that letter safe in
here." She touched the belt that held her blouse down so snugly. "I hope
I'll find Aunt Ida and be able to give her the letter. I remember her as a
most beautiful, tall woman. I loved her on sight. But, I don't know----"

"Cheer up!" exclaimed Mr. Gordon, beamingly. "We'll find her. I take it
upon myself to say that Betty and I will find her for you. Sha'n't we,
Betty?"

"Indeed we will. If she is singing in this country of course it will be
comparatively easy to find her."

"Do you think so?" asked Ida Bellethorne doubtfully. "I have not found it
so, and I have been searching for her for three months now. This is such a
big country! I never imagined it so big until I began to look for Aunt
Ida. It seems like looking for a needle in a haystack."



CHAPTER XVII

OFF ON SNOWSHOES


Mr. Gordon encouraged the English girl at this point in her story by
assuring her that he would, before returning to Canada, put the matter in
the hands of his lawyers and have the search for the elder Ida Bellethorne
conducted in a more businesslike way.

"How did you expect to find your aunt," he asked, "when you first landed
in New York?"

"I knew of a musical journal published there which I believed kept track
of people who sang. I went to that office. The last they knew of my aunt
she was booked to sing at a concert in Washington," Ida said sadly. "The
date was the very day I called at the office. I hurried to buy a ticket to
Washington. But the distance was so great that when my train got into
Washington the concert was over and I could do nothing more until the next
day."

"And then?" asked Uncle Dick.

"She had gone again. All the company had gone and I could find nobody who
knew anything about her. I--I didn't have much money left," confessed the
girl. "And things do cost so much here in your country. I was frightened.
I walked about to find a cheap lodging and reached that street in
Georgetown where Mrs. Staples has her shop."

"I see," commented Uncle Dick.

"So I asked Mrs. Staples. She was English too, and she offered me lodgings
and a chance to serve in her shop. I took it. What else could I do?"

"You are a plucky girl, I must say. Don't you think so. Betty?" said Uncle
Dick.

"I think she is quite wonderful!" cried his niece. "And think of her
making those blouses so beautifully! You know, Ida, Bobby bought the blue
one of Mrs. Staples."

"I am glad, if you like them," said the other girl, blushing faintly. "I
had hard work to persuade Mrs. Staples to pay for that one on the chance
of your coming back for it."

"Well," interposed Uncle Dick, "tell us the rest. You thought you heard of
your Aunt Ida up here, in the mountains?"

"Yes, Mr. Gordon," said Ida. "I read it in the paper. But the notice must
have referred to my dear little mare. I never dreamed she had been sent
over here. I never dreamed of it!"

"No?"

"Of course I didn't! And when I got to Cliffdale there was nobody who had
ever heard of my aunt. There are two hotels. One of them is closed at
this time of year. At the other there was no such guest."

"Dear me! How disappointed you must have felt," murmured Betty.

"You can't imagine! But in talking with the clerk at the hotel I got news
of my little darling."

"Meaning the mare, of course?" suggested Uncle Dick.

"Yes. She had arrived the night before and had been taken directly to
Candace Farm. The clerk told me how to get there. I did not feel that I
could afford to hire anybody to take me there. And I knew nobody. So I set
out to walk day before yesterday morning."

"Before it began to snow?" asked Betty.

"Yes, Miss Gordon."

"Oh, please," cried Betty, "call me Betty. I'm not old enough to be Miss
Gordon. To a girl, anyway," she added. "With a strange boy it would be
different."

The English girl consented, and then went on with her story.

"It was cloudy but I did not know anything about such storms as you have
here. Oh, dear me, how it snowed and blew! I got to that little house and
I could open the door. If I had had to go many yards farther I would have
fallen down and been covered by the snow."

"You poor dear!" murmured Betty, putting an arm around the other girl.

Ida gave her a tearful smile, and Betty kissed her. And then the latter
suddenly remembered again her lost locket. She gave a little jump in her
chair. But she did not speak of it.

Not for a moment did she believe Ida Bellethorne would be guilty of
stealing her trinket. Uncle Dick evidently did not think of that
possibility, either. Could Betty suggest such a matter when already Ida
was in so much trouble? At least, she would wait and see what came of it.
So she hugged Ida more closely and said:

"Go on. What else?"

"Not much else, Betty," said the English girl, wiping her eyes again and
smiling. "I just stayed there in that house until you came along and saved
me. There was nothing to burn but the furniture in the house, and I burned
it. I suppose the poor man who owns it will want to be paid. Oh, dear!"

"I wouldn't worry about that," said Mr. Gordon, cheerfully. "You seem to
have come through a good deal. I'd take it easy now. Mrs. Canary and the
girls are glad to have you here. When we go back to town we will take you
with us and see what can be done."

"Thank you, Mr. Gordon. You are very kind. I should like to know about my
little mare. She is a darling! How this Mr. Bolter came to get her----"

"Oh, Ida!" cried Betty, breaking in suddenly, "do you know a little man, a
crooked little man, named Hunchie Slattery?"

"My goodness, Betty! Of course I remember Hunchie. He worked in our
stables."

"He is with Ida Bellethorne, your pretty mare. He takes care of her. I
talked with him at Mr. Bolter's farm in Virginia. The mare has a cough,
and she was sent up here to get well. And I heard Mr. Bolter himself tell
Hunchie Slattery that he was to go with her."

"Dear me, Betty! if I could find Hunchie, too, I'd feel better. He might
be able to tell me how it came that my mare was taken away and sold. She
really did belong to me, Mr. Gordon. Mr. Jackwood, father's administrator
and my guardian, showed me the bill of sale making me Ida's owner. And
even if I was a minor, wouldn't that be a legal transfer paper?"

"I am not sure of the English law, my dear. But it seems to me it would be
in this country. At any rate, that will be another thing to consult my
lawyers about. I understand Bolter paid somewhere near twenty thousand
dollars for the mare. It would be quite a fortune for you, Ida."

"Indeed it would. And the mare is worth all of four thousand pounds, I
know. Father always said there was no better mare in all England than Ida
Bellethorne, and Aunt Ida might be proud to have such a horse named after
her."

"We are not far from the Candace Farm and perhaps we can get over there
before we leave Mountain Camp," Mr. Gordon said kindly. "Then you can see
your horse and the man from home. I will get a statement from this jockey,
or hostler, or whatever he is, and it may aid my lawyers in their search
for the facts regarding the sale of the mare to Mr. Bolter."

"Thank you very kindly, Mr. Gordon."

The conference broke up and Betty ran out to join her mates on the lake.
Ida could not skate. And, anyway, she preferred to sit indoors with Mrs.
Canary. Ida had the silk for another sweater in her bag, and that very
hour she began to knit an over-blouse for Libbie, who had expressed a
desire to possess one like those Betty and Bobby had bought.

The skating was fine, but the wind had risen again and this time it was a
warm wind. The snow grew soft on the surface, and when the party came up
the bluff for luncheon it was not easy to walk and they sank deeply into
the snow.

"This is a weather breeder," said Mr. Canary, standing on the porch to
greet them. "I fear you young folks have come to Mountain Camp at the
beginning of the roughest part of the winter."

"Don't apologize for your weather, Jack," laughed Uncle Dick. "If it grows
too boisterous or unpleasant outside, these young people must find their
fun indoors."

And this is what they did for the next two days. The temperature moderated
a good deal, and then it rained. Not a hard downpour, but a drifting
"Scotch mist" that settled the snowdrifts and finally left them saturated
with water.

Then back came the frost--sharp, snappy and robust. The air cleared like
magic. The sun shone out of a perfectly clear sky. Just to put one's head
out of the door make the blood tingle.

Meanwhile both the girls and boys had found plenty of interesting things
to do indoors, as Uncle Dick had prophesied. Especially the boys. Under
the teaching of Uncle Dick and Mr. Canary they had learned to string
snowshoes. Mr. Canary had the frames and the thongs of which the webs are
woven. Even Timothy neglected the library to engage in this fascinating
work.

Of course, the girls must have webs as well. Betty and Bobby were
particularly eager to learn to walk on snowshoes and, as Bob Henderson
said, they "pestered" the boys until sufficient pairs of webs were made to
enable the entire party to try walking on them when the time was ripe.

On the third morning, just at dawn, there was a heavy snow squall for an
hour. It left about four inches of downy snow upon the hard-packed and
slippery surface of the drifts.

"This is an ideal condition," said Mr. Gordon with enthusiasm. "My feet
itch to be off on the webs myself. After breakfast we will try them out.
Now remember the rules I have been telling you, and see how well you can
all learn to shuffle over this snow."

Thoughtful Bob had strung an extra pair of shoes for Ida. He knew that
Betty did not want the English girl left out of their good times. And all
the crowd liked Ida. Although she was in the main a very quiet girl, as
one grew to know her she proved to possess charming qualities both of mind
and heart.

Ida was not as warmly dressed for venturing into the open as the other
girls. But Mrs. Canary, one of the kindest souls in the world, mended this
defect. She furnished Ida with a fur coat and gloves that secured her from
frostbite.

The whole party turned out gaily. Having been confined to the house for
almost forty-eight hours, they were as full of life as colts. But in a few
minutes the nine of them were on snowshoes and watched and instructed by
Uncle Dick were learning their first lesson in the rather ticklish art of
scuffling over the soft snow without tripping and plunging headlong into
it.

Not that there were not many laughable accidents. The capers both boys
and girls involuntarily cut led to shouts of laughter, and sometimes to a
little pain. For the frozen crust underneath the light surface snow
offered a rather hard foundation when one fell flat.

The necessary falls incident to learning the right trick of handling one's
self on snowshoes soon cured the first enthusiasm of several of the party.
Louise, for instance, found it too strenuous for her liking. And Timothy
got a bump on the back of his head that no phrenologist could have easily
described.

The second day, however, Betty, Bobby and Ida, with Bob and Tommy Tucker,
were just as enthusiastic on the subject of snowshoeing as at first. While
the others swept off a part of the lake just below the Outlook, the
snowshoeing party set off on their first real hike through the woods; and
that hike led to an unexpected adventure.



CHAPTER XVIII

GREAT EXCITEMENT


Mr. Richard Gordon was, as Betty and Bob often declared, the very best
uncle that ever lived! One good thing about him they thought was that he
never "fussed."

"He isn't always wondering what you are going to do next and telling you
not to," explained Bob to Ida Bellethorne as the party started out from
Mountain Camp. "Not like a woman, oh, no!"

"Hush, bad boy!" cried Bobby. "What do you mean, throwing slurs at women?"

"You know even if Mrs. Canary had seen us start off she would have given
us a dozen orders before we got out of earshot. And she's a mighty nice
woman, too. Almost as nice as your mother, Bobby," finished Bob.

"Bob doesn't like chaperons," giggled Betty.

"Nor me," said Tommy Tucker, sticking close to Bobby Littell as he always
did when Roberta would let him. "Uncle Dick suits me as a chaperon every
time."

Uncle Dick had let the party troop away on their snowshoes without
advising them when to return or asking where they were going, and
presently Betty and Bob formed a sudden plan about their hike.

From one of the men working about the camp Bob had got directions
regarding the nearest way to Candace Farm. Ida longed to go there. It was
but seven miles away in a direct line, and now, when Betty spoke of going
there, Bob said that, with the aid of his compass, he knew he could find
it without difficulty.

"We didn't mention it to Uncle Dick, but he won't be bothered about it,"
said Bob. "We've got all day. We can tell him where we have been when we
get back, which will be just the same."

"Will it, Bob?" the girl asked doubtfully. "But of course there is nothing
really wrong in going."

"I--should--say--not!" exploded Bob. "I'm sure it will be all right with
Uncle Dick, Betty. Remember how he let us roam and explore in Oklahoma?"

The others in the party were not troubled by doubts in the least. They
went hurrying through the snow with shouts and laughter; and if any forest
animals were astir that day they must have been frightened by the noise
the party made scrambling along on snowshoes. Not one of them but fell at
times--and the very "twistiest" kind of falls! But nobody was hurt;
although at one point Bobby fell flat on her back at the verge of a steep
descent and there was no stopping her until she plunged into a deep drift
at the bottom.

Tommy kicked off his snowshoes and ran down to haul her out while the
others, seeing that she was unhurt, shouted their glee. Bobby was not
often in a fix that she could not get out of by her own exertions. Being
such an energetic and independent girl, she would not often accept help of
her boy friends, especially of Tommy who hovered around her like a moth
around a candle.

But when she had lost her snowshoes she found the soft snow so much deeper
than she expected at the bottom of that hill that she was glad indeed to
accept Tommy's aid. He dragged her out of the drift and set her upright.
Even then she found that she could not climb up again by herself to where
her friends were enjoying her discomfiture.

"Come on!" cried Tommy, who had kicked his own snowshoes off at the top of
the slide. "Give us your hand, Bobby. We'll make it somehow."

But they did not "make it" easily. It seemed as though they could climb
only so high and then slide back again. Under the shallow top snow the
frozen crust was like pebbled glass. Tommy could barely kick the toes of
his boots into it to make steps, and just as he had secured a footing in a
particularly slippery place, Bobby would utter a shriek and slide to the
bottom again.

Even Betty was almost ill with laughter as this occurred over and over
again. But the Tucker twin finally proved himself to be master of the
situation. He was determined to get Bobby to the top of the hill, and he
succeeded.

Tom Tucker was a strong lad. Stooping, he commanded the girl to put her
arms over his shoulders so that he could seize both wrists with one hand.
Then he bent forward, carrying Bobby on his back and her weight upon his
aided in breaking through the snow-crust and getting a footing.

He plodded up the slope, a little at a time, and after a while Betty and
Bob helped them to the level brink of the hill. Tommy fell to the snow
panting, and Bobby was inclined to scold for a minute. Then she gave Tommy
one of her rare smiles and helped him up. She was not often so kind to
him.

"You are a good child, Tommy Tucker," she proclaimed saucily, as she beat
the loose snow off his coat. "In time you may be quite nice."

Betty and Ida Bellethorne praised him too; but Bob continued to laugh and
when the party started on again the others learned why he was so amused.

The way to Candace Farm lay right down that slope to the bottom of which
Bobby had tumbled, and all the exertion Tommy had put forth to save her
was unnecessary. Bob led them along a lane right past the spot where
Tommy had pulled the girl out of the snowbank!

"That's the meanest trick that was ever played on me!" declared Bobby, in
high wrath at first. Then she began to appreciate the joke and laughed
with the others. "I was going to tell the folks at home how Tommy saved me
from the peril of being buried in the snowbank; but I guess I'd better
not," she observed. "Don't blame me, Tommy. Give it to Bob."

"Ill get square with Bob," grumbled the Tucker twin. "No fear of that."

Bobby remained kind to him however; and as Tommy frankly admired her he
was repaid for his effort. But every time Bob looked at Tom he burst out
laughing.

They had struck into a straight trough in the snow, with maples on either
side standing gaunt and strong, and a windrow of drifted snow where the
fences were supposed to be--a road which Bob said the man at Mountain Camp
had told him led straight to Candace Farm.

"Wish we had brought a sled with us," Tommy said. "We could have ridden
the girls on it. Aren't you tired, Bobby?"

"Not as tired as you are, I warrant," she said, laughing at him. "Poor
Tommy!"

"Aw, you go fish! I could carry you a mile and not feel it. Gee! What's
this coming?"

Far down the snow-covered road they first heard shouts, then a cloud of
snow-dust spurted into the air and hid whatever it was coming along the
way toward them. Bob immediately drew Betty and Ida to one side of the
road and Tommy urged Bobby to follow.

Suddenly out of the cloud of flying snow appeared a horse's head and
plunging fore feet. Then another and another! They came along the road at
a plunging, blundering pace, snorting and neighing. Behind them were men,
evidently trying to stop the runaways.

"Colts!" shouted Bob. "Yearlings. All young horses. And just about wild.
Remember that bunch we saw in Oklahoma, Betty, that was being driven to
the shipping station? They are wild as bears."

Ida Bellethorne did not seem to be much disturbed by the possibility of
the horses doing them any harm. She stood out before her companions and
stared at the coming herd eagerly. The black mare she loved so, however,
was not in this bunch of runaways.

The young stock swept past the watching party from Mountain Camp, their
pace rapid in spite of the hard going. They kept to the snow-covered road,
however. Behind them came half a dozen men, wind-spent already and not a
little angry.

"Why didn't you stop 'em?" bawled one red-faced fellow. "If they spread
out in some open pasture we'll be all day gathering them."

"Easy to stop 'em, I guess," returned Tommy. "They'd have trampled us
down."

"Could stop a snowslide easier, I guess," Bob suggested. "But I tell you:
We'll give you a hand collecting them. How did they get away?"

"Went over the paddock fence like a flock of sheep. Snow is so deep, you
know," said the red-faced man. "Come on, you boys, if you will. The girls
can go on to the house and Mrs. Candace will let 'em warm up. It's only a
little way."

The "little way" proved to be a good two miles; but the three girls did
not falter. They saw the big farmhouse and the great barns and snow-filled
paddocks a long way ahead.

"I'll be glad of that 'warm'," confessed Betty, as they turned in at the
entrance to the lane. "And maybe Mrs. Candace will give us a cup of tea."

At that moment Bobby clutched her arm and pointed up the lane. "See there!
He'll fall! Oh, look!"

Betty was as startled as her chum when she spied what Bobby had first
seen. A little, crooked man was crawling out above the hay door of the
main barn upon a timber that was here thrust out from the framework and to
which was attached a block and fall. The rope had evidently fouled in the
block and he was trying to detach it.

"That's Hunchie Slattery!" gasped Betty, "What a chance he is taking!"

For everything was sheathed in ice from the effect of the rain and frost
of the night before. That timber was as slippery as glass.

Ida Bellethorne set off on a run for the barn; but unlike Bobby she did
not say a word. Had she thought of any way to help the crooked little man,
however, she was too late. Hunchie suddenly slipped, clutched vainly at
the rope, which gave under his weight, and he came down "on the run."

The rope undoubtedly broke his fall. He would have been killed had he
plunged immediately to the frozen ground beneath.

As it was, when the three girls reached him, he was unconscious and it was
plain by the attitude in which he lay that his leg was broken.



CHAPTER XIX

THE EMERGENCY


"Poor Hunchie!" murmured Ida Bellethorne, "I hope it wasn't because he was
surprised to see me that he fell."

"His surprise did not make that timber slippery with ice," said Betty,
looking up. "Oh! Here's a lady!"

A comfortable looking woman with a shawl over her head was hurrying from
the kitchen door of the Candace farmhouse.

"What has happened to that poor man? He's been battered and kicked about
so much, it would seem, there ain't much can happen to him that he hasn't
already suffered.

"Ah! Poor fellow!" she added, stooping over the senseless Hunchie. "What a
deal of trouble some folks seem bound to have. And not another man on the
place!"

She stood up again and stared at the three girls. Her broad, florid face
was all creased with trouble now, but Betty thought she must ordinarily be
a very cheerful woman indeed.

"They've gone chasing the young stock that broke away. Dear me! what is
going to happen to this poor fellow? Bill and the rest may be gone for
hours, and there's bones broke here, that's sure."

"Where's a doctor?" asked Bobby eagerly.

"Eleven miles away, my dear, if he's an inch. Dr. Pevy is the only man for
a broken bone in these woods. Poor Hunchie!"

"Can't we get him into his bed?" asked Betty. "He'll freeze here."

"You're right," replied the woman, who afterward told them she was Mrs.
Candace. "Yes, we'll take him into the house and put him into a good bed.
Can you girls lift him?"

They could and did. And without too much effort the three transported the
injured man, who was but a light weight, across the yard, into the house,
and to a room which Mrs. Candace showed them. He began to groan and mutter
before they managed to get him on the bed.

There was an old woman who helped Mrs. Candace in the house, and the two
removed Hunchie's outer garments and made him as comfortable as possible
while the girls waited in much excitement in the sitting room.

"He saw one of you girls and knows you," said Mrs. Candace, coming out of
the bedroom. "But he talks about that mare, Ida Bellethorne."

"This is Ida Bellethorne," said Betty, pointing to the English girl.

"I declare! I thought Hunchie was out of his head. How comes you are named
after that horse, girl?"

Ida explained her connection with the black mare and with Hunchie.

"You'd better go in and talk to him. Maybe it will case his pain. But that
shin bone is sticking right through the flesh of his leg. It's awful! And
he's in terrible pain. If Bill don't come back soon----"

"Isn't there any man on the place?" asked Betty, interrupting.

"None but them with Bill hunting the young stock."

"And the boys--our friends--have gone with them," explained Betty.
"Somebody must get the surgeon."

"How are we going to do it? The telephone wires are down," explained Mrs.
Candace. "And there ain't a horse properly shod for traveling on this ice.
I fear some of that young stock will break their legs."

"We saw them skating all over the road," said Bobby. "But how gay and
excited they were!"

"A ridin' horse would have to go at a foot pace," explained Mrs. Candace,
"unless it was sharpened. I don't know----"

Ida had gone into the bedroom to speak with the injured man. She looked
out at this juncture and excitedly beckoned to Betty. Betty ran in to find
the crooked little man looking even more crooked and pitiful than ever
under the blankets. He was groaning and the perspiration stood on his
forehead. That he was in exceeding pain there could be no doubt.

"He says Ida Bellethorne is sharpened," gasped Ida.

"Oh! You mean she is fixed to travel on ice on frozen ground?"

"I 'ad to lead 'er up 'ere from the station, Miss. Ain't I saw you before,
Miss?" said Hunchie, staring at Betty. "At Mr. Bolter's?"

"Yes, yes!" cried Betty. "Can the mare travel on this hard snow?"

"Yes, ma'am. I didn't draw the calks for I exercised 'er each d'y, I did.
I didn't want 'er to fall. An' now I failed myself!"

The two girls looked at each other significantly. Ida was easily led out
of the room. Betty put the question to her.

"That's just it, Betty," said the English girl, almost in tears. "I never
learned to ride. I never did ride. My nurse was afraid to let me learn
when I was little, and although I love horses, I only know how to drive
them. It's like a sailor never having learned to swim."

Betty beat her hands together in excitement. "Never mind! Never mind!" she
cried. "I can ride. I can ride any horse. I am not afraid of your Ida
Bellethorne. And none of the boys or men is here. I'll go for the doctor."

"I don't know if it is best for you to," groaned Ida.

"Call Mrs. Candace." They were in the kitchen, and Ida ran to summon the
farm woman while Betty got into her coat. Mrs. Candace came, hurrying.

"What is this I hear?" she demanded. "I couldn't let you ride that horse.
You will be thrown or something."

"No I shan't, Mrs. Candace. I can ride. And Hunchie says the mare is
sharpened."

"So she is. I had forgotten," the woman admitted thoughtfully.

"And the poor fellow suffers so. Some lasting harm may be done if we don't
get a surgeon quickly. Where does Dr. Pevy live?" demanded Betty urgently.

The fact that the injured hostler was really in great pain and possibly in
some danger, caused Mrs. Candace finally to agree to the girl's demand.
Betty ran out with Ida to get the mare and saddle her. Betty was not
dressed properly for such a venture as this; but she wore warm
undergarments, and stout shoes.

The black mare was so gentle with all her spirit and fire that Betty did
not feel any fear. She and Ida led the beautiful creature out upon the
barn floor and found saddle and bridle for her. In ten minutes Betty was
astride the mare and Ida led her out of the stable.

Mrs. Candace had already given Betty clear directions regarding the way to
Dr. Pevy's; but she now stood on the door-stone and called repetitions of
these directions after her.

Bobby waved her fur piece and shouted encouragement too. But Ida
Bellethorne ran into the house to attend the injured Hunchie and did not
watch Betty and the black mare out of sight as the others did.



CHAPTER XX

BETTY'S RIDE


When Betty Gordon and her young friends had set out from Mountain Camp on
their snowshoe hike the sun shone brilliantly and every ice-covered branch
and fence-rail sparkled as though bedewed with diamond dust. Now that it
was drawing toward noon the sky was overcast again and the wind, had Betty
stopped to listen to it, might be heard mourning in the tops of the pines.

But Ida Bellethorne, the black mare, gave Betty no opportunity of stopping
to listen to the wind mourn. No, indeed! The girl had all she could do for
the first mile or two to keep her saddle and cling to the reins.

When first they set forth from the Candace stables the mare went gingerly
enough for a few rods. She seemed to know that the frozen crust of the old
drifts just beneath the loose snow was perilous.

But her sharpened calks gave her a grip on the frozen snow that the wise
mare quickly understood. She lengthened her stride. She gathered speed.
And once getting her usual swift gait, with expanded nostrils and erect
ears, she skimmed over the frozen way as a swallow skims the air. Betty
had never traveled so fast in her life except in a speeding automobile.

She could easily believe that Ida Bellethorne had broken most of the track
records of the English turf. She might make track history here in the
United States, if nothing happened to her!

Betty was wise enough to know that, had Mr. Candace been at home, even in
this earnest need for a surgeon he would never have allowed the beautiful
and valuable mare to have been used in this way. But there was no other
horse on the place that could be trusted to travel at any gait.

Ida Bellethorne certainly was traveling! The speed, the keen rush of the
wind past her, the need for haste and her own personal peril, all served
to give Betty a veritable thrill.

If Ida made a misstep--if she went down in a heap--Betty was pretty sure
that she, herself, would be hurt. She retained a tight grip upon the
reins. The mare was no velvet-mouthed animal. Betty doubted if she had the
strength in her arms to pull the creature down to a walk now that she was
started.

The instructions Mrs. Candace had given the girl pointed to a descent into
the valley for some miles, and almost by a direct road, and then around a
sharp turn and up the grade by a branch road to the village where Dr. Pevy
lived. Betty was sure she would not lose her way; the question was, could
she cling to the saddle and keep the mare on her feet until the first
exuberance of Ida's spirit was controlled? The condition of the road did
not so much matter, for once the mare found that she did not slip on the
crust she trod the way firmly and with perfect confidence.

"She is a dear--she undoubtedly is," Betty thought. "But I feel just as
though I were being run away with by a steam engine and did not know how
to close the throttle or reverse the engine. Dear me!"

She might well say "dear me." Uncle Dick would surely have been much
worried for her safety if he could know what she was doing. Betty by no
means appreciated in full her danger.

Indeed, she scarcely thought of danger. Ida Bellethorne seemed as
sure-footed as a chamois. Her calks threw bits of ice-crust behind her,
and she never slipped nor slid. There was nobody on the road. There was
not even the mark of a sledge, although along the ditch were the shuffling
prints of snowshoes. Some pedestrian had gone this way in the early
morning.

This was not the road by which Betty and her friends had been transported
by Mr. Jaroth. There was not even a hut like Bill Kedders' beside it. In
places the thick woods verged right on the track on either side and in
these tunnels it seemed to be already dusk.

It flashed into Betty's mind that there might be savage animals in these
thick woods. Bears, and wild cats, and perhaps even the larger Canadian
lynx, might be hovering in the dark wood. It would not be pleasant to have
one of those animals spring out at one, perhaps from an overhanging limb,
as the little mare and her rider dashed beneath!

"Just the same," the girl thought, "at the pace Ida Bellethorne is
carrying me, such wild animals couldn't jump quick enough to catch me.
Guess I needn't be afraid of them."

There were perils in her path--most unexpected perils. Betty would never
have even dreamed of what really threatened her. For fifteen minutes Ida
Bellethorne galloped on and the girl knew she must have come a third of
the way to Dr. Pevy's office.

The mare's first exuberance passed. Of her own volition she drew down to a
canter. Her speed still seemed almost phenominal to the girl riding her,
but Betty began to feel more secure in the saddle.

They reached the top of a steep hill. The hedge of tall pines and
underbrush drew closer in on either side. The road was very narrow. As
the mare started down the incline it seemed as though they were going into
a long and steep chute.

Before this Betty had noted the ice-hung telephone and telegraph wires
strung beside the road. Sheeted in the frozen rain and snow the heavy
wires had dragged many of the poles askew. Here and there a wire was
broken.

It never entered the girl's mind that there was danger in those wires.
And, perhaps, in most of them there was not. But across this ravine into
which the road plunged, and slantingly, were strung much heavier
wires--feed cables from the Cliffdale power station over the hill.

"Why, look at those icicles!" exclaimed Betty, with big eyes and watching
the hanging wires ahead. "If they fell they would kill a person, I do
believe!"

She tugged with all her might at Ida Bellethorne's reins, and now, well
breathed, the mare responded to the unuttered command. She came into a
walk. Betty continued to stare at the heavily laden wires spanning the
road, the heavier power wires above the sagging series of telephone and
telegraph wires.

In watching them so closely the girl discovered another, and even more
startling fact. One of the poles bearing up the feed wires was actually
pitched at such an angle from the top of the bank on the right hand that
Betty felt sure the wires themselves were all that held the pole from
falling.

"There is going to be an accident here," declared the girl aloud. "I
wonder the company doesn't send out men to fix it. Although I guess they
could not prop up that pole. It has gone too far."

Even as she spoke the mare stopped, snorting. Her instinct was more keen
than Betty's reasoning.

With a screeching breaking and tearing of wood and wire the trembling pole
fell! Betty might, had she urged her mount, have cleared the place and
escaped. But the girl lacked that wisdom.

The pole fell across the deep road and its two heavy cables came in
contact with the wires strung from the other poles below. Instantly the
ravine was lit by a blinding flash of blue flame--a flame that ran from
wire to wire, from pole to pole, melting the ice that clung to them,
hissing and crackling and giving off shooting spears of flame that
threatened any passer-by.

The mare, snorting and fearful, scrambled back, swerved, and tried to
escape from the ravine; but Betty had her under good control now. She had
no spurs, but she yanked savagely at the bit and wheeled Ida Bellethorne
again to face the sputtering electric flames that barred the road.

Only a third of the way to the doctor's and the way made impassable! What
should she do? If she turned back, Betty did not know where or how to
strike into the thick and pathless forest. Hunchie, suffering from his
injured leg, must be aided as soon as possible. Her advance must not be
stayed.

Yet there before her the sparking, darting flames spread the width of the
ravine. Burning a black hole already in the deep drifts, the crossed wires
forbade the girl to advance another yard!



CHAPTER XXI

BETTY COMES THROUGH


Betty admitted that she was badly frightened. She was afraid of the
crossed wires, and would have been in any case. The spurting blue flames
she knew would savagely burn her and Ida Bellethorne if they touched them,
and the wires might give a shock that would kill either girl or horse.

But seven miles or so beyond those sputtering flames was Dr. Pevy's
office. And Dr. Pevy was needed right away at Candace Farm.

A picture of poor Hunchie lying white and moaning in the bed rose in
Betty's memory. She could not return and report that it was impossible for
her to reach the doctor's office. Afraid as she was of the crossed wires,
she was more afraid of showing the white feather.

If Bob Henderson were here in her situation Betty was sure he would not
back down. And if Bob could overcome difficulties, why couldn't Betty? The
thought inspired the girl to do as Bob would do--come through.

"I must do it!" Betty choked, holding the mare firmly headed toward the
writhing, crackling wires. "Ida! Get up! You can jump it.
You--just--must!"

The black mare crouched and snorted. Betty would have given a good deal
for tiny spurs in the heels of her shoes or for a whip to lay along the
mare's flank. Spirited as the creature was, and well trained, too, her
fear of fire made her shrink from the leap.

There was a width of six feet of darting flames. The electricity in the
heavy cables was melting the other wires, and from the broken end of each
wire the blue light spurted. The snow was melting all about, turning black
and yellow in streaks. Betty did not know how long this would keep up; but
every minute she delayed poor Hunchie paid for in continued suffering.

"We must do it!" she shrieked to the horse. "You've got to--there!"

She whipped off her velvet hat and struck Ida Bellethorne again and again.
The mare crouched, measured the distance, and leaped into the air. Well
for her and for Betty that Ida Bellethorne had a good pedigree; had come
of a long line of forebears that had been taught to jump hedges, fences,
water-holes and bogs. None of them had ever made such a perilous leap as
this!

The mare landed in softening snow, for the scathing flames were melting
the drifts on either side. Betty had felt the rush of heat rising from
the cables and had put her hat over her face.

Ida Bellethorne squealed. Without doubt she had been scorched somewhere.
And now secure on her feet she darted away through the ravine, running
faster than she had run while Betty had bestrode her.

Betty could not glance back at the sputtering wires. She must keep her
gaze fixed ahead. Although at the speed the mare was now running it is
quite doubtful if the girl could have retarded her mount in any degree.
They came to the forks that Mrs. Candace had told her of, and Betty
managed to turn the frightened mare up the steeper road to the left. There
were few landmarks that the snow had not hidden; but the way to Dr. Pevy's
was so direct that one could scarcely mistake it.

Ida Bellethorne began to cool down after a while and Betty could guide her
more easily. She had begun to talk to the pretty creature soothingly, and
leaned forward in her saddle to pat the mare's neck.

"I don't blame you for being scared, Ida Bellethorne," crooned Betty. "I
was scared myself, and I'm scared yet. But don't mind. Just be easy. Your
pretty black apron in front is all spattered with froth, poor dear! I
wonder if this run has done your cough any harm--or any good. Anyway, you
haven't coughed since we started."

But Betty knew that if the mare stood for a minute she must be covered and
rubbed down. She had this in her mind when she came to the blacksmith shop
and the store, directly opposite each other. Dr. Pevy's, she had been
told, was the second house beyond on the blacksmith side of the road.

It proved to be a comfortable looking cottage with a barn at the back, and
she urged Ida Bellethorne around to the barn without stopping at the
house. The barn door was open and a man in greasy overalls was tinkering
about a small motor-car. He was a pleasant-looking man with a beard and
eyeglasses and Betty was sure he must be the doctor before he even spoke
to her.

"Hullo!" exclaimed the amateur machanic, rising up with a wrench in one
hand and an oil can in the other. "Whew! That mare has been traveling
some. And such a beauty! You're from Bill Candace's I'm sure. Did she run
away with you? Here, let me help you."

But Betty was out of the saddle and had led the mare in upon the floor,
although Ida Bellethorne looked somewhat askance at the partly dismantled
car.

"Needn't be afraid of the road-bug, my beauty," said Dr. Pevy, putting out
a knowing hand to stroke the mare's neck. "She must be rubbed down and a
cloth put on her----"

"I know," said Betty hastily. "I'll do it if you'll let me. But can you go
back with me, Doctor?"

"To the Candace Farm?"

"Yes, sir. A man has been seriously hurt and there was nobody else to
come."

"Wonder you got here without having a fall," said Dr. Pevy.

"She is sharpened. And she is a dear!" gasped Betty. "But I hope you can
start right away. Hunchie is suffering so."

"Can't use the road-bug, that's sure," said Dr. Pevy, glancing again at
the car. "That's why I was doctoring her now while the snow is too deep.
But I still have old Standby and the sleigh. I'll start back with you in a
few minutes and we'll lead the mare. The exercise will do her good. My!
What a handsome creature she is."

"Yes, sir. She is quite wonderful," said Betty; and while they gave Ida
Bellethorne the attention she needed Betty told the doctor all about
Hunchie and her ride through the forest. When Dr. Pevy heard about the
broken wires in the road, he went to the house and telephoned to the
Cliffdale power house to tell them where the break was. The linemen were
already searching for it.

"That peril will be averted immediately," he said coming back with his
overalls removed, a coat over his arm and carrying his case in his other
hand. "That's it, my dear. Walk her up and down. Such a beauty!"

He got out his light sleigh and then led Standby, a big, red-roan horse,
out on the floor to harness him.

"These automobiles are all right when the snow doesn't fly," Dr. Pevy
remarked. "But up here in the hills we have so much snow that one has to
keep a horse anyway or else give up business during the winter. You were a
plucky girl to come so far on that mare, my dear. A Washington girl, you
say?"

"We just came from Washington," Betty explained. "But I can't really claim
to belong there. I--I'm sort of homeless, I guess. I do just love these
mountains and this air."

"This air," commented Dr. Pevy, "smells just now of a storm. And I think
it may drizzle again. Now, if you are ready, my dear."

He unbuckled Ida Bellethorne's bridle rein and made it a leading rein. He
helped Betty into the sleigh and gave her the rein to hold. The mare led
easily, and merely snorted when Standby leaned into the collar and started
the sleigh.

The roan was heavy footed, and his shoes, too, were calked. They started
off from the village at a good jog with the blanketed black mare trotting
easily behind the sleigh.

Betty tried to mould her velvet hat into shape. It had been a hat that she
very much prized, and was copied after one Ada Nansen wore, and Ada set
the fashions at Shadyside. But that little hat would never be the same
again after being used as a goad for Ida Bellethorne. Betty sighed, and
gave up her attempt.

When they came to the place in the ravine where the wires were down Dr.
Pevy drew up Standby. The mare snorted, recognizing the spot. But the
electrical display was over, for the power had been turned off.

"You certainly must have had a narrow squeak here," remarked the
physician, as he looked at the fallen wires.

"Oh, Doctor, it was awful!" breathed Betty. "I thought sure that we were
going to have the worst kind of accident."

"The company ought really to put up a new line of poles, so many of these
are getting rotten," was the doctor's reply. "But I suppose they are hard
up for money these days, and can afford only the necessary repairs."

The sleigh climbed the mountain after that to the Candace Farm. As they
came in sight of it Betty saw the troop of young stock being driven in
through the lane, and saw Bob and Tommy with the stock farmer and his men.
It was well she had ventured for the doctor on the black mare, or poor
Hunchie Slattery would have suffered much longer without medical
attention.

Bobby ran out to meet them when the sleigh came into the yard. Mrs.
Candace stood at the back door explaining to the red-faced man, her
husband. It was Bob who came to take the leading rein of the black mare
from Betty's hand.

"Cricky!" he exclaimed. "What have you been up to now, Betsey? Is this
that English mare? Isn't she a beauty! And you've been riding her?"

"I've been flying on her," sighed Betty, "Don't talk, Bob! I never expect
to travel so fast in the saddle again unless I become a jockey. And I know
I am growing too fat for that."



CHAPTER XXII

ON THE BRINK OF DISCOVERY


The three girls and their boy friends remained at the farm until Dr. Pevy
had set the bad fracture that Hunchie had suffered and the poor little man
had been made as comfortable as he could be made at the time. He had been
badly shaken in falling so far at the barn, and the surgeon declared he
would be confined to his bed for some weeks.

"And oo's to take care of Ida Bellethorne, I ask you?" demanded Hunchie
faintly. "Mr. Bolter hexpects me to give hundivided hattention to 'er."

"She shall have the best of care," said Candace, the farmer, warmly. "A
mare like her ought to be bedded down in roses. The way she took this
little girl over the drifts was a caution. She is some horse, she is! We
will give her the best of attention, Hunchie, never you fear."

The cockney was so much troubled about his charge that he seemed to have
forgotten Ida Bellethorne, the girl. But Betty heard him say one thing to
Ida before they left.

"You ought to be 'appy, Miss Ida, even if the mare was sold. She brought a
good price, and ev'rybody about Bellethorne Park knows as Mr. Bellethorne
give 'er to you when she was a filly. I 'ope you'll come to see us
again--me and the mare."

"I surely will, Hunchie," said the English girl.

But when they came out of the house and bade the family good-bye, Betty
saw that Ida was very grave. Hunchie's words seemed to have been
significant.

It was late in the afternoon when the quintette arrived at Mountain Camp.
Mrs. Canary had expressed some anxiety about them, but Uncle Dick had
scouted any peril that might threaten the young folks. He admitted that he
had overlooked some possibilities when he heard the full account of their
adventures--and especially of his niece's adventures--at the dinner table.

"I declare, Betty," he said with some little exasperation, "I believe if
you were locked inside a trunk with only gimlet holes to breathe through
you would manage to get into trouble."

"I think I'd be in trouble fast enough in that case," answered Betty,
laughing.

"I don't know," said Louise thoughtfully. "Locked up in a box, you really
couldn't get into much harm, Betty."

"Sure she could get into trouble," declared Bobby. "Bees could crawl in
through the gimlet holes and sting her."

"I'd like to have seen her jumping that fire on horseback," sighed Libbie.
"It must have been wonderful!"

Mr. Gordon looked rather disturbed as he stared at his niece.

"That's exactly what I shouldn't want to see her do," he said. "I do not
know what I am going to do if, as she gets older, she grows more
energetic," he added to Mr. and Mrs. Canary. "Betty is more than a handful
for a poor bachelor uncle, I do believe!"

He forbade any more excursions away from the camp after that unless the
excursionists took some adult person with them. He went himself to Candace
Farm to see Hunchie Slattery; but he took only Ida Bellethorne with him.
They went on their snowshoes. During this trip Mr. Gordon won the abiding
confidence of the girl.

Meanwhile the youthful visitors at Mountain Camp allowed no hour to be
idle. There was always something to do, and what one could not think of in
the way of fun another could.

Mr. Canary's men had smoothed a coasting course down the hillside to the
lake not a quarter of a mile from the Overlook. There was a nest of
toboggans in one of the outhouses. Tobogganing afforded the nine young
people much sport.

For the others insisted that Ida Bellethorne share in all their good
times. She declared she never would get Libbie's blouse done in time; but
Libbie said that she could finish it afterward and send it on to
Shadyside. Just now the main thing was to crowd as much fun as possible
into the remaining days of their vacation.

The young folks from Fairfields were paired off very nicely; but they did
not let Ida feel that she was a "fifth wheel," and she really had a good
time. These snow-sports were so unfamiliar to her that she enjoyed them
the more keenly.

"I do think these boys are so nice," she said to Betty as they climbed the
hill from the lakeshore, dragging the toboggan behind them by its rope.

"Of course they're nice," said the loyal Betty. "Especially Bob Henderson.
He's just like a brother to me. If he wasn't nice to you I should scold
him--that I should, Ida."

"I never can repay you for your kindness," sighed the English girl, quite
serious of visage. "And your uncle, too."

Betty flashed her a penetrating look and was on the verge of speaking of
something that she, at least, considered of much importance. Then she
hesitated. Ida had never mentioned the possibility of Betty's having
dropped anything in Mrs. Staples' store. Betty shut her lips tight again
and waited. If Ida did know anything about her lost locket, Betty wanted
the English girl to speak of it first.

They went in to dress for dinner that afternoon just before a change in
the weather. A storm had been threatening for some hours, and flakes of
snow began to drift down before they left the slide.

"Let's dress up in our best, girls," Louise said gaily. "Put on our best
bibs and tuckers. Make it a gala occasion. Teddy, be sure and scrub behind
your ears, naughty boy!"

"I feel as though I ought to be in rompers the way you talk," said the
Tucker twin, but he laughed.

The boys ran off to "primp," and what the girls did to make themselves
lovely, Libbie said "was a caution!" One after the other they came into
Betty's and Bobby's room and pirouetted to show their finery. Ida had been
decked out very nicely by her friends, and her outfit did not seem shabby
in the least.

But the English girl noted one thing about Betty, and it puzzled her. The
other girls from Shadyside School wore their pieces of jewelry while Betty
displayed not a single trinket. As the other girls were hurrying out to
join the boys and descend to the big hall, Ida held Betty back.

"Where is it, Betty?" she asked. "Don't you wear it at all? Are you
afraid of losing it again?"

"What do you mean?" asked Betty, her heart pounding suddenly and her eyes
growing brighter. Ida Bellethorne placed her hand upon Betty's chest,
looking at her closely as she asked the question:

"Didn't Mrs. Staples give it to you? That beautiful locket, you know.
Aren't you allowed to wear it?"



CHAPTER XXIII

CAN IT BE DONE?


"Dear me!" exclaimed Betty. "How curious you are. I am not allowed to wear
my diamond earrings that Doctor and Mrs. Guerin gave me, of course. They
are the old-fashioned kind for pierced ears, and would have to be reset,
and diamonds are too old for me anyway. But Uncle Dick lets me wear any
thing else I own----"

"That locket," questioned Ida. "That pretty locket. It did fall out of
your bag in the shop, didn't it, Betty?"

"My goodness!" stammered Betty, "did you find it?"

"I picked it up," said Ida soberly. "Mrs. Staples would not let me run
after you with it. But she promised to give it to you when you came and
asked for it."

"She did? She never----"

Then Betty hesitated a moment. She remembered clearly just what had been
said in the little neighborhood shop when she and Bobby had called there
to get Bobby's blue over-blouse.

"It's a fact, I never asked her for it," she said slowly. "No, I never. I
just asked her if she had found anything, and she said 'No.'"

"She would! That would be like her!" cried Ida Bellethorne. "She is a
person who prides herself upon being exactly honest; and I guess that
means barely honest. Oh, Betty Gordon!"

"Well, now what's the matter?" asked Betty.

"Did--did you know you lost it in Mrs. Staples' shop?"

"No. I didn't know where I lost it. I only thought----"

"That I might have picked it up and said nothing about it?" demanded Ida
Bellethorne.

"Why Ida! I would not have hurt your feelings by saying anything about it
for the world," said Betty honestly. "That was why I didn't tell you. You
see, if you really had known nothing about the locket when I asked you,
all the time you would be afraid that I suspected you. Isn't that so?"

"You dear, good girl!" gasped Ida, dabbling her eyes with her
handkerchief. "And I didn't say anything because I thought you would think
I wanted a reward for returning it."

"So, you see, I couldn't speak of it. But now, of course, we'll get it
away from Mrs. Staples. I think she's horrid mean!"

Betty expressed her opinion of the shopwoman vigorously, but she put her
arms around the English girl at the same time and kissed her warmly.

"You're a dear!" repeated Ida.

"You're another!" cried Betty gaily. "Now come on! Maybe those boys will
eat up all the dinner, and I am so hungry!"

One of the men arrived from Cliffdale during dinner with the mail and the
information that another cold rain was falling and freezing to everything
it touched.

"The whole country about here will be one glare of ice in the morning,"
said Mr. Canary. "You young folks will have all the sledding you care for,
I fancy. I have seen the time when, after one of these ice storms, one
might coast from here to Midway Junction on the railroad, and that's a
matter of twenty miles."

"What a lark that would be," cried Tommy Tucker. "Some slide, eh, Bob?"

"How about walking back?" asked the other boy promptly, grinning.

Letters and papers were distributed. There was at least one letter for
everybody but Ida, and Betty squeezed her hand under the table in a
comforting way.

When they all retired from the table and gathered in groups in the big
living room where the log fire roared Uncle Dick beckoned Betty to him. He
put a letter from Mrs. Eustice into the girl's hand and at one glance she
"knew the worst."

"Oh Betty!" gasped Louise, "what's the matter?"

For Betty had emitted a squeal of despair. She shook the paper before
their eyes.

"Come on, Betty!" cried Bob. "Get it out--if it's a fishbone."

"It's all over!" wailed Betty. "Measles don't last as long as we thought
they did. Shadyside opens two days from to-morrow, and we have got to be
there. That's Monday. Oh, dear, dear, dear!"

"Say a couple more for me, Betty," growled Teddy Tucker. "I suppose
Salsette will open too. Back to Major Pater and others too murderous to
mention."

"And the Major's got it in for you Tucker twins," Bob reminded him
wickedly.

"That's Tom's fault," grumbled Teddy. "If he hadn't sprung that snowball
stunt--Oh, well! What's the use?"

"Life, Ted believes," said Louise, "is just one misfortune after another.
But I do hate to leave here just as we have got nicely settled. My
goodness! what's the matter with Ida? Something's happened to her, too."

Ida had sprung to her feet with one of the recently arrived New York
papers in her hand. Actually she was pale, and it was no wonder the
company stared at her when her cheeks were usually so ruddy.

"What is the matter, dear?" asked Mrs. Canary.

Betty went to the English girl at once and put an arm about her shoulders.

"Did you see something in the paper that frightened you, Ida?" she asked.

"It doesn't frighten me," replied the girl, with trembling lips. "See.
Read it. This time I am sure it is my aunt. See!"

Uncle Dick joined the group about the excited girl. Her color had come
back into her cheeks now and her eyes shone. She was usually so
self-contained and quiet that Mr. Gordon now thought perhaps they had not
really appreciated how much the hope of joining her aunt meant to Ida.

"Read it aloud, Betty," said her uncle quietly.

"Oh! Here's her name! It must be right this time!" cried Betty; and then
she obeyed her uncle's request:

    "'The Toscanelli Opera Company, Salvatore Toscanelli manager,
    which has made a very favorable impression among the music lovers
    of the East and Middle West during the last few months, will sail
    for Rio Janeiro on Sunday on the _San Salvador_ of the Blue Star
    Line. The company has been augmented by the engagement of
    several soloists, among them Madam Ida Bellethorne, the English
    soprano, who has made many friends here during the past few
    years.'"

"Day after to-morrow!" exclaimed Bobby, the first to speak. "Why! maybe if
you can go to New York you will see her, Ida."

"Day after to-morrow," repeated Ida, anxiously. "Can I get to New York by
that time? I--I have a little money----"

"Don't worry about the money, honey," Betty broke in. "You will have to
start early in the morning, won't she, Uncle Dick?"

"If she is to reach the steamer in time, yes," said the gentleman rather
doubtfully.

"Oh! if I don't get there what shall I do?" cried Ida. "Rio Janeiro, why,
that is in South America! It would cost hundreds of your dollars to pay my
passage there. I must get to Aunt Ida before she sails. I must!"

"Now, now!" put in Mrs. Canary soothingly. "Don't worry about it, child.
That will not help. We will get you to the train to-morrow----"

"If we can," interrupted her husband softly.

He beckoned Uncle Dick away and they went out through the hall to look at
the weather, leaving the young folks and Mrs. Canary to encourage the
English girl.

Outside the two men did not find much in the appearance of the weather to
encourage them. It was raining softly, for there was no wind; and it was
freezing as fast as it fell.

"And that old shack-a-bones I keep here during the winter isn't sharpened.
Ought to be, I know. But he isn't," grumbled Jonathan Canary.

"No use to think of snowshoes if it freezes, Jack," rejoined Mr. Gordon.
"It is too far to the railroad anyway. I doubt if these children get to
school on time."

"Telephone wires are down again. I just tried to get Cliffdale before
dinner. This is a wilderness up here, Dick."

"I am sorry for that young English girl," mused Mr. Gordon. "She is fairly
eaten up with the idea of getting in touch with her aunt. Good reason,
too. She has told me all about it. She carries a letter from her dead
father to the woman and he begged the girl to be sure to put it into his
sister's hands. Family troubles, Jack."

"Well, come on in. You're here without your hat. Want to get your death of
cold?" growled Mr. Canary.

The young folks did not dream at this time that nature was doing her best
to make it impossible for Ida Bellethorne to reach New York by Sunday
morning when the steamship _San Salvador_ would leave her dock. It was,
however, the general topic of conversation during the evening. When
bed-time came they went gaily to bed, not even Betty doubting the
feasibility of their getting to the train on the morrow.

Her uncle, however, put his head out of the door again when the others had
gone chamberward and seeing the shining, icy waste of the Overlook,
muttered with growing anxiety:

"Can it be done?"



CHAPTER XXIV

TWENTY MILES OF GRADE


Ida slept in the room with Betty and Bobby that night. Betty had confided
to her chum, as well as to Uncle Dick, the outcome of the mystery of her
locket. Because of Ida's information, Uncle Dick had assured his niece
they would recover the trinket.

"If Mrs. Staples is not a dishonest woman, she shades that character
pretty closely. There are people like that--people who think that a found
article is their own unless absolutely claimed by the victim of the loss.
A rather prejudiced brand of honesty to say the least."

The two Shadyside girls made much of Ida Bellethorne on this evening after
they had fore-gathered in the bedroom. Just think! her Aunt Ida might take
her to South America. Ida already had traveled by boat much farther than
even Betty had journeyed by train.

"Although I am not at all sure how my aunt will meet me," the English girl
said. "She was very angry with my father. She wasn't fair to him. She is
impulsive and proud, and maybe she will think no better of me. But I must
give her father's letter and see what comes of it."

The main difficulty was to get to New York in time to deliver the letter
before the _San Salvador_ sailed. When the girls awoke very early and saw
a sliver of moon shining low in the sky, they bounced up with glad if
muffled cries, believing that everything was all right. The storm had
ceased. And when they pushed up the window a little more to stick their
heads out they immediately discovered something else.

"Goodness me!" gasped Bobby. "It's one glare of ice--everything! And so-o
cold! Ugh!" and she shivered, bundled as she was in a blanket robe.

First Betty and then Ida had to investigate. The latter looked very
mournful.

"The horse can never travel to-day," she groaned. "You saw how he slipped
about in the soft snow the other day when they had him out. He is not shod
properly."

"If you only had Ida Bellethorne here!" cried Betty.

"But she is a long way off, and in the wrong direction. Why, none of us
could walk on this ice!"

"How about skating?" cried Bobby eagerly.

"Mr. Canary says it is all downhill--or mostly to the railroad station,"
Betty said. "I would be afraid to skate downhill."

They dressed quickly and hastened to find Uncle Dick. He had long been up
and had evidently canvassed the situation thoroughly. His face was very
grave when he met his niece and her friends.

"This is a bad lookout for our trip," he said. "I don't really see how any
of you will get to school on Monday, let alone Ida's reaching New York
to-morrow morning."

"Oh, Uncle Dick, don't say that!" cried Betty. "Is it positive that we
cannot ride or walk?"

"Walk twenty miles downhill on ice?" he exclaimed, "Does it seem
reasonable? We can neither ride nor walk; and surely we cannot swim or
fly!"

"We could fly if we had an aeroplane. Oh, dear!" sighed Bobby. "Why didn't
we think of that? And now the telephone wires are down."

But Betty was thoughtful. She only pinched Ida's arm and begged her to
keep up her courage--perhaps something would turn up. She disappeared then
and was absent from the house, cold as the morning was, until breakfast
time.

The whole party had gathered then, excited and voluble. It was not only
regarding Ida's need that they chattered so eagerly. In spite of the fun
they were having at Mountain Camp, the thought that Shadyside and Salsette
might begin classes before they could get there was, after all, rather
shocking.

"Measles is one thing," said Bob. "But being out of bounds when classes
really begin is another. The other fellows will learn some tricks that we
don't know."

"And somebody else may be put in our room, Betty!" wailed Bobby, as her
chum now appeared.

Betty was very rosy and full of something that was bound to spill over at
once. As soon as she had bidden Mr. and Mrs. Canary good morning she cried
to all:

"What do you think!"

"Just as little as possible," declared Tommy Tucker. "Thinking tires me
dreadfully."

"Behave, Tommy!" said Louise admonishingly.

"There's a big two-horse pung here. I found it in the barn. Like Mr.
Jaroth's. It has a deep box like his. And a tongue. It's like a
double-runner sled, Bob--you know. The front runners are independent of
the rear."

"I know what it is, Betty," said Bob, while the others stared at her.
"I've seen that pung."

"Your observations are correct, Miss Betty," said Mr. Canary, smiling at
the girl. "I own such a pung. But I do not own two horses to draw it. And
I am sorry to say that the horse I have got cannot stand on this ice."

"Gee!" exclaimed Teddy, "if we got old Bobsky started down that hill he'd
never stop till he got to the bottom. How far do you say it is to the
station, Mr. Canary?"

"It is quite twenty miles down grade. Of course there are several places
where the road is level--or was level before the snow fell. But once
started there would not be many places where you would have to get out and
push," and the gentleman laughed.

Betty's mind was fixed upon her argument. Her face still glowed and she
scarcely tasted her breakfast.

"I believe we can do it," she murmured.

"What under the sun do you mean, Betty?" asked Louise.

"I hope it is something nice we can do," said Libbie dreamily. "I looked
out the window and it is all like fairyland--isn't it, Timothy?"

"Uh-huh!" said Timothy Derby, his mouth rather full at the moment. "It is
the most beautiful sight I ever saw. Will you please pass me another
muffin?"

But Bob gave Betty his undivided attention. He asked:

"What do you believe we can do, Betty?"

"Make use of Mr. Canary's pung."

"Cricky! What will draw it? Where is the span of noble steeds to be found?
Old Bobsky would break his neck."

"One horse. One wonderful horse, Bob!" cried Betty clapping her hands
suddenly. "I am sure I'm right. Uncle Dick!"

"What do you mean, Betty?" cried Bobby, shaking her. "What horse?"

"Gravitation," announced Betty, her eyes shining. "That's his name."

"Great goodness!" gasped Bob. "I see a light. But Betty, how'd we steer
it?"

"The front runners are attached to the tongue. Tie ropes to the tongue and
steer it that way," Betty said, so eagerly that her words tumbled over
each other. "Can't we do it, Uncle Dick? We'll all pile into the pung,
with a lot of straw to keep us warm, and just slide down the hills to the
railroad station. What say?"

For a while there was a good deal said by all present. Mr. and Mrs. Canary
at first scouted the reasonableness of the idea. But Mr. Gordon, being an
engineer and, as Bob said, "up to all such problems," considered Betty's
suggestion carefully.

In the first place the need was serious. Especially for the much troubled
Ida. If she could not reach the dock on New York's water-front by eleven
o'clock the next morning, her aunt would doubtless sail on the _San
Salvador_, and then there was no knowing when the English girl would be
able to find her only living relative.

The party had ridden over the mountain road in coming to Mountain Camp,
and Uncle Dick remembered the course pretty well. Although it was a
continual grade, as one might say, it was an easy grade. And there were
few turns in the road.

Drifted with snow as it was, and that snow crusted, the idea of coasting
all the way to the railroad station did not seem so wild a thought. The
road was fenced for most of the way on both sides. And over those fences
the drifts rose smoothly, making almost a trough of the road.

"When you come to think of it, Jack," Uncle Dick said to Mr. Canary, "it
is not very different from our toboggan chute yonder. Only it is longer."

"A good bit longer," said Mr. Canary, shaking his head.

However, it was plain that the idea interested Uncle Dick. He hastened out
to look at the pung. Bob followed him, and they were gone half an hour or
more. When they returned Bob was grinning broadly.

"Get ready for the time of your lives, girls," he whispered to Betty and
Bobby. "The thing is going to work. You wait and see!"

Uncle Dick called them all into the living room and told them to pack at
once and prepare for a cold ride. There was plenty of time, for the train
they had to catch did not reach the station until noon.

"If our trip is successful--and it will be, I feel sure--it will not take
an hour to reach the station. But we shall give ourselves plenty of time.
Now off with you! I guess Mrs. Canary will be glad to see the last of us."

But their hostess denied this. The delight of having young people at the
lonely camp in the hills quite counterbalanced the disturbance they made.
But she bustled about somewhat anxiously, aiding the girls and the boys to
make ready for departure. The Canarys, being unused to roughing it, even
if they did live in the Big Woods, were much more afraid of the
possibility of an accident arising out of this scheme Betty had conceived
than was Uncle Dick.

A little after ten o'clock they all piled out of the bungalow with their
baggage. The two men working at the camp had filled the box of the pung
with straw and had drawn it out to the brow of the hill where the road
began. The tongue was raised at a slant, as high as it would go, and half
of it had been sawed off. Ropes were fastened from this stub of the tongue
to ringbolts on either side of the pung-box.

"It will take two of us to steer," said Uncle Dick, "and we must work
together. Get in here, Bob, and I'll show you how it works."

It worked easily. The girls and the baggage were piled into the pung. The
Tucker twins were each handed an iron-shod woodsman's peavey and were
shown how the speed of the pung might be retarded by dragging them in the
crust on either side.

"You boys are the brakes," sang out Uncle Dick, almost as excited as the
young people themselves. "When we shout for 'Brakes!' it is up to you
twins to do your part."

"We will, sir!" cried Tommy and Teddy in unison.

"And don't hang your arms or legs over the sides," advised Uncle Dick.
"Farewell, Jack! Take care of him, Mrs. Canary. And many, many thanks for
a jolly time."

The boys and girls chorused their gratitude to the owner of Mountain Camp
and his wife. The men behind gave the pung just the tiniest push. The
runners creaked over the ice, and the forward end pitched down the slope.
They had started.

And what a ride that was! It is not likely that any of them will ever
forget it. Yet, as it proved, the danger was slight. They coasted the
entire down-grade to the little railroad station where Fred Jaroth was
telegraph operator with scarcely more peril than as though they had been
riding behind the Jaroth horses.

But they were on the _qui vive_ all the time. Bobby declared her heart was
in her mouth so much that she could taste it.

There were places when the speed threatened disaster. But when Uncle Dick
shouted for "Brakes!" the twins broke through the crust with their peaveys
and the hook broke up the thick ice and dragged back on the pung so that
the latter was brought almost to a stop. The handles of the peaveys were
braced against the end staffs of the pung, and to keep them in position
did not exceed the twins' strength.

Once Ted's peavey was dragged from his hands; but he jumped out and
recovered it, and then, falling, slid flat on his back down the slippery
way until he overtook the slowly moving pung again amid the delighted
shouts of his chums.

Otherwise there were no casualties, and the pung flew past the Jaroth
house a little before eleven to the great amazement of the whole family,
who ran out to watch the coasting party.

"I don't know how Jonathan Canary will recover his pung," said Mr. Gordon
when they alighted on the level ground. "But I will leave it in Jaroth's
care, and when the winter breaks up, or before, it can be taken back to
Mountain Camp.

"Now how do you feel, young folks? All right? No bones broken?"

"It was delightful," they cried. But Ida added something to this. "I feel
rather--rather dazed, Mr. Gordon," she said. "But I am very thankful. And
I know whom I have most to thank."

"Who is that; my dear?" asked Uncle Dick smiling.

"Betty."



CHAPTER XXV

ON THE DECK OF THE SAN SALVADOR


Mr. Richard Gordon sent several telegrams before the train arrived, and
they were all of importance. One recovered Betty's locket, for, informed
of the circumstances by this telegram, the lawyer in Washington sent his
clerk to Mrs. Staples and showed her in a very few words that she was
coasting very close to the law by keeping the little platinum and diamond
locket.

"So," said Betty to Bobby, "if the lawyer gets it--and Uncle Dick says he
will--I can wear the locket to parties at the school."

"If Mrs. Eustice allows it," said her chum grimly. "You know, she's down
on jewelry. Remember how she got after Ada Nansen and Ruth Gladys Royal
for wearing so much junk?"

"My goodness!" giggled Betty, "what would she say to you if she heard you
use such an expression? Anyway, I am going to show her Uncle Dick's
present and ask her. I know the beautiful diamond earrings Doctor and Mrs.
Guerin sent me can't be worn till I grow up a bit. But my locket is just
right."

It was a noisy crowd that boarded the train; and it continued to be a
noisy crowd to the junction where it broke up. All the young folks would
have been glad to go with Uncle Dick and Ida Bellethorne to New York; but
he sent all but Betty and Bob on to school. They would reach the Shadyside
station soon after daybreak the next morning, and Mr. Gordon had
telegraphed ahead for the school authorities to be on the look-out for
them.

Betty and Bob, with Uncle Dick and the English girl, left the train at the
junction and boarded another for New York City in some confidence of
reaching their destination in good season.

The train, however, was late. It seemed merely to creep along for miles
and miles. Luckily they had secured berths, and while they slept the
delayed train did most of its creeping.

But in the morning they were dismayed to find that they were already two
hours late and that it would be impossible for the train to pick up those
two hours before reaching the Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

"Now, hold your horses, young people!" advised Mr. Gordon. "We are not
beaten yet. The _San Salvador_ does not leave her dock until eleven at the
earliest. It may be several hours later. I have wired to Miss Bellethorne
aboard the ship and in care of the Toscanelli Opera Company as well. I do
not know the hotel at which Miss Bellethorne has been staying."

"But, Uncle Dick!" cried Betty, who seemed to have thought of every chance
that might arise, "suppose Ida's aunt wants to take her along to Brazil?
Her passport----"

"Can be viséd at the British consulate on Whitehall Street in a very few
minutes. I have examined Ida's passport, and there is no reason why there
should be any trouble over it at all. She is a minor, you see, and if her
aunt wishes to assume responsibility for her no effort will be made to
keep her in the country, that is sure."

"Then it all depends upon Ida's aunt," sighed Betty.

"And our reaching the dock in time," amended Uncle Dick. "I would not wish
to interfere with Miss Bellethorne's business engagement in Rio Janeiro;
but I am anxious for her to authorize me, on behalf of her niece, to get
legal matters in train for the recovery of that beautiful mare. I believe
that she belongs--every hair and hoof of her--to our young friend here.
There has been some trickery in the case."

"Oh, Uncle Dick!" shrieked Betty.

"When I went to see that poor little cripple Hunchie Slattery he told me
that the very papers that were given to Mr. Bolter with the horse must
prove Ida's ownership at one time of the mare. There was some kind of a
quit-claim deed signed by her name, and that signature must be a forgery.

"The horse could never have been sold in England, for the Bellethorne
stable was too well known there. The men who grabbed the string of horses
left when Ida's father died are well-to-do, and Mr. Bolter will be able to
get his money back, even if he has already paid the full price agreed upon
for Ida Bellethorne.

"I am convinced," concluded Uncle Dick, "that the girl has something
coming to her. And it may even pay Miss Bellethorne to remain in the
United States instead of going to Rio Janeiro until the matter of the
black mare's ownership is settled beyond any doubt."

When the train finally reached New York, Uncle Dick did not even delay to
try to reach the dock by telephone. He bundled his party into a taxicab
and they were transported to the dock where the _San Salvador_ lay.

A steward seemed to be on the look-out for the party, and addressed Uncle
Dick the moment he alighted from the cab.

"Mr. Gordon, sir? Yes, sir. Madam Bellethorne has received your wire and
is waiting for you. I have arranged for you all to be passed through the
inspection line. The steamship, sir, is delayed and will not sail until
next tide."

"And that is a mighty good thing for us," declared Mr. Gordon to his
charges.

His business card helped get them past the inspectors. It is not easy to
board a ship nowadays to bid good-bye to a sailing friend. But in ten
minutes or so they stood before the great singer.

She was a tall and handsome woman. Betty at first glance saw that Ida, the
niece, would very likely grow into a very close resemblance to Madam
Bellethorne.

The woman looked swiftly from Betty to Ida and made no mistake in her
identification of her brother's daughter. Ida was crying just a little,
but when she realized how close and kindly was her aunt's embrace she
shook the drops out of her eyes and smiled.

"Father wanted I should find you, Aunt Ida," she said. "He wrote a letter
to you and I have it. I think it was the principal thing he thought of
during his last illness--his misunderstanding with you."

"My fault as much as his," Madam Bellethorne said sadly. "We were both
proud and high-tempered. But no more of this now. Something in this
gentleman's long telegram to me----"

She bowed to Mr. Gordon. He quickly stated the matter of the black mare's
ownership to the singer.

"If you will come to the British consulate where Ida's passport must be
viséd, and sign there a paper empowering me to act in your behalf, you
assuming the guardianship of Ida, I can start lawyers on the trail of this
swindle."

Miss Bellethorne was a woman of prompt decision and of a business mind,
and immediately agreed. She likewise saw that her niece had made powerful
friends during the weeks she had been in America and she was content to
allow Mr. Gordon to do the girl this kindness.

It was a busy time; but the delay in the sailing of the _San Salvador_
made it possible for everything necessary to be accomplished. Uncle Dick
and Betty and Bob accompanied the Bellethornes aboard the ship again and
had luncheon with them. Ida cried when she parted with Betty; but it would
be only for the winter. When the opera company returned to New York it was
already planned that the younger Ida Bellethorne should join the friends
of her own age she had so recently made at Shadyside School.

It was an astonishing sight for Betty and Bob to see the great ship
worried out of her dock by the fussy little tugs. It was growing dark by
that time and the great steamship was brilliantly lighted. They watched
until she was in midstream and was headed down the harbor under her own
steam.

"There! It's over!" sighed Betty. "I feel as if a great load had been
lifted from my mind. Dear me, Bob! do you suppose we can ever again have
so much excitement crowded into a few hours?"

As Betty was no seeress and could not see into the future she of course
did not dream that in a very few weeks, and in very different
surroundings, she would experience adventures quite as interesting as any
which had already come into her life. These will be published in the next
volume of this series, entitled: "Betty Gordon at Ocean Park; or, Gay
Doings on the Boardwalk."

Bob shook his head at Betty's last observation. "Does seem as though we
manage to get hooked up to lots of strange folks and strange happenings.
Certain metals attract lightning, Betty, and I think you attract
adventures. What do you say, Uncle Dick?"

Mr. Gordon only laughed. "I say that you young folks had better have
supper and a long night's rest. I shall not let you go on to school until
to-morrow. For once you will be a day late; but I will chance explaining
the circumstances to your instructors."

They got into the taxicab again and bowled away up town. The lights came
up like rows of fireflies in the cross streets. When they struck into the
foot of Fifth Avenue at the Washington Arch the globes on that
thoroughfare were all alight. It was late enough for the traffic to have
thinned out and their driver could travel at good speed save when the red
lights flashed up on the traffic towers.

"Isn't this wonderful?" said Betty. "Libbie is always enthusing about
pretty views and fairylike landscapes. What would she and Timothy say to
this?"

"Something silly, I bet," grumbled Bob. "Cricky! but I'm hungry," proving
by this speech that he had a soul at this moment very little above mundane
things.

Uncle Dick chuckled in his corner of the car, and made no comment. And
Betty said nothing further just then. The brilliant lights of the avenue
were shining full in her face, but her thoughts were far away, with Ida
Bellethorne on that ocean-going steamer bound for South America. What a
wonderful winter of adventures it had been!

"And the best of it is, it all came out right in the end," murmured the
girl softly to herself.





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