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Title: The Automobile Girls at Newport - Watching the Summer Parade
Author: Crane, Laura Dent
Language: English
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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 "The Automobile Girls at Newport - Watching the Summer Parade" ***

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[Illustration: “The Automobile Girls” Were Fairly Started.
_Frontispiece._]



                    The Automobile Girls at Newport


                       Watching the Summer Parade

                                   By
                            LAURA DENT CRANE

         Author of The Automobile Girls in the Berkshires, The
             Automobile Girls Along the Hudson, Etc., Etc.

                              Illustrated

                              PHILADELPHIA
                         HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY



                 Copyright, 1910, by Howard E. Altemus



                                CONTENTS

           CHAPTER                                         PAGE
                I. Barbara to the Rescue                      7
               II. Lost, Strayed or Stolen                   16
              III. Ruth’s Perfect Plan                       30
               IV. Mother’s Secret                           39
                V. The Glorious Start                        47
               VI. What Happened the First Day               59
              VII. Showing Their Mettle                      71
             VIII. “For We Are Jolly Good Fellows!”          86
               IX. Only Girls                                93
                X. Enter Gladys and Mr. Townsend            104
               XI. Newport at Last                          111
              XII. A Week Later                             121
             XIII. The Night of the Ball                    131
              XIV. Barbara’s Secret                         142
               XV. Ruth in Danger                           150
              XVI. Help Arrives                             162
             XVII. The Fortune-Tellers                      169
            XVIII. A Word to the Wise                       180
              XIX. “Eyeology”                               190
               XX. Ruth Wakes Up!                           204
              XXI. The Capture of the Butterfly             213
             XXII. The Tennis Tournament                    224
            XXIII. Brought to Bay                           236
             XXIV. Good-Bye to Newport                      242



THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT NEWPORT



CHAPTER I—BARBARA TO THE RESCUE


“Pink hair ribbons!”

Barbara Thurston’s brown, bright face seemed to twinkle all over, as she
clinked a yellow coin on the marble top of the little sewing table.

“Silk stockings!” chorused Mollie Thurston gleefully. “Wasn’t it the
luckiest thing that the hotel people wanted so many berries this year!”
And she, too, sent a gold piece spinning over the smooth surface. “But,
perhaps, we won’t be invited after all,” she sighed.

“Nonsense!” rejoined Barbara energetically. “When Grace Carter says
she’ll fix a thing, you can wager she will. She’s known Ruth Stuart for
three summers now, and she’s told us we’d be invited to Ruth’s party
this year. I can read the invitations already. The only thing worrying
me was what we’d wear. Now the strawberry crop has turned out so well,
and mother’s a brick, and will let us use our money as we wish—I think
we’re fixed. Then—who knows?”

“I am sure Ruth Stuart’s lots of fun when you get to know her,”
interrupted Mollie eagerly. “If Cousin Gladys wasn’t boarding at the
hotel with her, we’d have met her long before. Isn’t Gladys a stuck-up
goose? Never mind. We’ll have the laugh on her when she sees us at the
party. Let’s be de-lighted to meet her. I should love to watch her when
she is fussed!”

“After all,” mused Barbara, thoughtfully, “her father was in partnership
with papa. It’s mighty funny that uncle got all the money. I wonder——”
She stopped playing with her gold piece and gazed thoughtfully out of
the sitting room window at the hot, empty, yellow road that ran so near
the tiny cottage.

Barbara Thurston was sixteen, Mollie just two years younger, and nearly
all their lives had been spent in that little cottage. John Thurston,
the girls’ father, had died suddenly when Mollie was only three years
old.

He had been at that time in the wholesale clothing business with his
wife’s brother, Ralph Le Baron, and was supposed to be a rich man. But
when his affairs were settled up, his brother-in-law, the executor,
announced that a very small interest in the business remained to Mrs.
Thurston. He hinted, darkly, at stock speculation on her husband’s part,
and poor Mrs. Thurston, overcome by grief, had not wanted to question
deeply.

She, herself, happened to own the little cottage, in Kingsbridge, in
which she and her brother had lived as children. Acting on his advice,
she settled there with her two little girls, and had remained ever
since, subsisting on the small income her brother regularly transmitted
to her from her dead husband’s tiny business interest. Le Baron and his
wife, with their daughter, Gladys, usually spent the summer in
Kingsbridge, at the one “summer hotel” in the place; but intercourse
between the two families had come to be little sought on either side.
Kingsbridge was a quiet little village in New Jersey, and, except for
the summer visitors, there was little gayety. Gladys Le Baron,
especially, had shown herself icily oblivious of the existence of her
younger cousins, Barbara and Mollie.

These two were delightful examples of self-reliant young America.
Barbara, the elder, looked a regular “nut-brown maid,” with chestnut
hair that never would “stay put,” and usually a mischievous twinkle in
the brown eyes beneath the straying locks. But there was plenty of
genuinely forceful energy stored away in her slim, well-knit young body,
and her firm chin and broad forehead told both of determination and
intelligence.

Her sister, Mollie, was fair, with lovely curling blond hair, and a
quaint drollery of speech that won her many friends. Both sisters had
grown up quietly, helping their mother about the house, as they could
afford no servant, going to the village school, and, when they wanted
anything beyond the plainest necessities of life, earning it.

This summer both had set their hearts on “really-truly” party clothes,
not “hand-me-downs.” Their friend, Grace Carter, daughter of Squire
Carter, the village dignitary, had promised them invitations to “the
event of the season,” the party to be given by her friend Ruth Stuart, a
rich Western girl who quite recently had come to spend her summer at
Kingsbridge. And didn’t Ruth Stuart live at the same hotel with Gladys
Le Baron, the snobbish cousin?

To meet the enemy on her own ground, and to have the fun of a party
besides, was certainly worth picking strawberries for, thought Barbara
and Mollie. So they scoured the country round for the sweet wild ones
the hotel visitors liked best. Now each of the girls was fingering
gleefully her twenty-dollar gold-piece that meant many days’ work in the
past, but pretty dresses in the future.

The prospect was too alluring for Barbara to spend much time in
wondering about the real “why” of their fallen fortunes, though the
question had come to her before, and would again. Now she was ready to
join Mollie in eager planning as to “just what they’d get.”

“Go get a pencil and paper, Molliekins, and we’ll set it all down,” she
laughed.

Mollie went into the further room and Barbara waited, eyes
absent-mindedly fixed on the yellow stretch of road.

Suddenly she became conscious of a curious pounding. There was a queer,
wild rhythm to it, and it seemed to be coming nearer and nearer.

Barbara put her head out of the open window. She could see nothing but a
cloud of dust far down the road. Yet the pounding sounded louder every
moment.

Then she knew. The noise came from the furious feet of runaway horses.
And they were coming past the house with their helpless, unknown
victims.

What could Barbara do? Her mother was asleep upstairs and there was no
man about the place. There was no other house near. Besides, the
slightest delay might prove fatal.

All this seemed to flash through Barbara’s brain in a second. She knew
she must act. Swiftly and easily as a boy she vaulted the open window,
pausing only to snatch a closed umbrella that leaned against the sill.
How glad she was she had forgotten to put it away in the closet when she
came in from the shower yesterday!

In an instant the girl sped through the gate and out into the road,
opening her umbrella as she ran.

There she paused, squarely in front of the approaching dust cloud, very
near now. She could hear the click of the stones, cast aside by the
flying feet of the horses, and she caught a glimpse of two black heads,
wild-eyed and foam-flecked, through the whirling dust.

Barbara strained her eyes to locate hanging bridles. But meantime,
swiftly and mechanically, she was opening and shutting the big black
umbrella.

“If they’ll only stop!” she murmured.

And they did. Fear-crazed already, their legs trembling after a terrific
run, the horses dared not seek encounter with that horrible bat-like
creature that seemed to await them.

Scarcely five feet away, their wild pace broke. They hesitated, and
Barbara flung herself forward and seized the dangling bridles. For a
moment she pulled on them with wrists of steel, but it was not
necessary. The horses drooped their weary heads and gladly stood still.

Then, and only then, Barbara glanced at the carriage and its occupants.

It was an open four-seated carriage, and in it were Ruth Stuart, Grace
Carter, Gladys Le Baron and a strange young man somewhat older than the
rest of the party. The girls were leaning back, with closed eyes and
white faces. The young man was staring straight ahead, with a blank
expression, fear depicted on every feature.

Barbara dared not leave the horses even now. “Mollie! Mollie!” she
called.

Mollie was already out of the house. From the window, terror-stricken,
she had seen it all.

“Get the girls out,” Barbara directed. “I can’t leave these brutes,
though I guess they’re all right now.”

In the meantime, Grace and Gladys had opened their eyes. Mollie now
stood at the carriage step, her hand outstretched.

As they recognized their rescuers, Grace’s pale face lit up. Even
Gladys, for once, tried to summon a gracious and grateful smile.

“We’re all right, Mollie,” spoke up Grace, “but I think Ruth has
fainted. I’ll help you get her into the house.”

Suddenly the young man started up. “I beg your pardon,” he remarked in a
smooth, pleasantly-modulated voice, “but you really must let me help. I
have been utterly helpless so far,” and his glance wandered admiringly
and a trifle shamefacedly toward Barbara.

In an instant, he had sprung over the wheel and gently half lifted, half
dragged Ruth Stuart off the seat.

As her feet touched the ground, she too opened her eyes, only to close
them again with a shivering sigh. Grace was at her side in a moment.

“Try to walk to the house, dear,” Grace urged. “It’s only a few steps.”

Mollie took the place of the young man, and, between the two girls, Ruth
stumbled to the gate.

The young man stepped up to Barbara. “Can I help you?” he ventured,
looking at the now quieted horses.

But a cold voice sounded from the carriage, where Gladys still sat. “I
think you might think a little about me, Harry,” she exclaimed.

The young fellow bit his lip and hesitated.

“Please,” broke in Barbara, “please take her to the house. I can’t get
these horses and this carriage through the gate. It isn’t big enough.
But I’ll hitch them to the fence and stay with them for a few minutes.
You must need rest, all of you!”

Harry Townsend bit his lip as he caught the sarcastic inflection in
Barbara’s last sentence, but did as he was directed, and walked slowly
toward the house with Gladys.

Left to herself, Barbara led the horses, still attached to the carriage,
toward the fence, and hitched them by the reins in a clever way all
country girls know. “Good boys! Poor boys!” she murmured, petting them,
for they were still shivering pitifully with fright.

For several minutes she stood talking to them. Then Mollie’s anxious
face appeared at the door, and in a moment she stood beside her sister.

“What shall we do?” she asked. “Miss Stuart is feeling very ill, and
wants to go home at once. She and all the others refuse to step foot
into that carriage again—and I can’t blame them; but, you know, it’s two
miles to the hotel, if it’s a step, and we haven’t a telephone. Grace
says Ruth’s father would send the au-to-mo-bile,”—Mollie pronounced the
word with reverent care—“but what’s the quickest way of getting the
message to them? Mother suggests running over to Jim Trumbull’s and
seeing if he’ll hitch up and drive to the hotel. But it’s half a mile to
his place, and he’s very likely to be away anyhow. What do you——?”

Barbara interrupted her decisively. “I’ll just drive those horses back
to the hotel myself, Mollie Thurston,” she said calmly.

“Barbara, you can’t! It’s risking your life!”

“Nonsense! There isn’t an ounce of spirit left in the poor, frightened
things. I guess I haven’t broken Jim Trumbull’s colts for him without
knowing how to handle horses. You go tell Miss Stuart that her
automobile will be here in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. And see,
Mollie,” the twinkle shone in Barbara’s eyes, “of course they’ll give me
a ride back in the auto!”

Laughing at Mollie’s protests, the plucky girl untied the horses and
turned them carefully.

“Stand at their heads, just a minute,” she cheerfully directed. Then
Barbara gathered up the reins and climbed up to the high seat.

“Drop anchor, Mollie,” she called, and trotted slowly down the road
behind the quieted blacks.



CHAPTER II—LOST, STRAYED OR STOLEN


“Mollie Thurston, has Barbara driven off with those awful horses?”

It was Grace Carter who spoke. She had reached the doorway of the
cottage just in time to catch a glimpse of the departing equipage.

Without waiting for a reply, she turned from the open door to the group
inside just as Mollie rejoined them, exclaiming:

“Barbara is driving the runaways to the hotel for the machine!”

Mrs. Thurston started. She had been downstairs for some time helping to
make the victims of the accident comfortable. She was a slim,
sweet-faced little woman, whose entire world lay in her two lively young
daughters, in whom she had unlimited faith.

But, in a moment, she smiled and said, “I am not afraid to trust Barbara
with anything.”

Ruth Stuart’s lately pale face was glowing. “I think that is regularly
splendid of her!” she exclaimed, with more animation than she had shown
since she had left the carriage.

“Oh, Barbara is used to taking care of herself,” Gladys Le Baron
interposed with a supercilious smile.

Mollie looked at her cousin a moment. “Yes,” she answered steadily, “we
think it is a pretty good thing in our family.”

Gladys flushed, and had no reply ready. Ruth looked surprised and Grace
plunged into the breach.

“Oh,” she tried to murmur off-handedly, “Barbara and Mollie and Gladys
are cousins, you know.”

“And you never——” Ruth turned to Gladys, then stopped and smiled. “Well,
it’s awfully jolly to have met you all in this nice, informal way. Grace
has often spoken of you,” she said.

The girls had to laugh at this, so Ruth continued: “I’m well enough now
to be proper and conventional, I suppose. I believe you know I’m Ruth
Stuart. Mrs. Thurston, Mollie, have you met Gladys’s friend, Mr.
Townsend?”

The young man came out from the corner near the window, where he had
been seated, and bowed gayly. Ruth nodded in a satisfied fashion.

“There, doesn’t that finish it?” she sighed. “The rest of you are all
acquainted, aren’t you? Now, won’t one of you, please tell me why those
awful horses aren’t running still? I know some horrible white hay-caps
started them, and Jones fell off the seat, and now we are here. Who
stopped us?”

Everybody turned to Ruth at once. “Why, Barbara stopped them,” Grace
managed to say first. “Barbara——”

A gay laugh sounded in the doorway, and Barbara herself appeared before
them.

“Now I’ve caught you!” she cried merrily, her bright eyes sweeping the
circle. Then she turned to Ruth with a mock curtsey.

“Your ladyship’s chariot waits,” she declaimed, then continuing in quick
explanation: “You see, your driver was scarcely hurt and he rushed back
to the hotel at once and sent the automobile along the road where he had
seen the horses disappearing. Before I’d gone a quarter of a mile, I met
the machine with the chauffeur, and doctor and Jones himself. We sent
Jones back with the horses, though they weren’t bothering me a bit, and
I came back in the automobile. How are you feeling?” and the bright
voice softened sympathetically, as she noted Ruth’s pale cheeks.

For answer the girl arose quickly, and held out both hands to Barbara.
“You’re a brick,” she said simply. “I fainted, like a goose, and they’ve
just told me what you did. I am so glad I know you, and I guess my
father will be glad, too—not to say thankful! Now, please won’t you and
your sister dine with us to-morrow? No? Make it lunch; then I’ll see you
sooner. I won’t take no for an answer, because I have a very important
plan. Dad decides as quickly as I do. So if you’ll only say yes—but I
can’t tell you about it now. Perhaps, if I make you curious, you’ll be
more interested when the time comes!” Ruth laughed mischievously.

“What have you up your sleeve now, Ruth Stuart?” asked Grace, curiously.
“I never saw such a girl as you are for chain-lightning projects!”

“You’ll see,” laughed Ruth. “You’re in it too, you know. You must be one
of my lunch party to-morrow. I know you and Mr. Townsend have another
engagement, Gladys, so you will pardon my delivering my invitation
before you. Now, I won’t say another word.

“Come,” she continued, addressing the party, “we must be off at once. If
the news of this runaway circulates through the hotel and reaches either
your father or mine, Gladys, they’ll be wild with fright. Good-bye, Mrs.
Thurston, and thank you. You’ve been awfully good to us. As for you
two”—holding out her hands to Barbara and Mollie—“wait till tomorrow at
lunch!”

Drawing the two Thurston girls with her, she stepped outside the door
and to the gate, the rest of the party following. The machine was
waiting in the road, and out of it hurried the hotel doctor toward Ruth.

“Aren’t you hurt, Miss Stuart?” he cried. “I would have come in, but
Miss Thurston said she would go in first and see how you were.”

“I’m perfectly well, doctor,” smiled Ruth. “It’s too bad you had to come
way out here. I hope father will not hear you have been sent for!”

She patted affectionately the nearest tire-rim of the big automobile.
“Bless the ‘bubble’s’ heart,” she murmured. “He wouldn’t run away with
his missus. Barbara, Mollie, this is my best friend, Mr. A. Bubble. I
think you’ll get better acquainted with him before long. I wish you
could come with me now, but I’m afraid neither you nor ‘Bubble’ would be
quite comfortable. And you three must get along well together from the
start.”

The doctor helped Ruth into the big red touring car and Gladys and Grace
followed. The two men and the chauffeur crowded together in the front
seat.

“Au revoir,” chorused the autoists, and “see you tomorrow,” nodded Ruth
emphatically to the girls. Then, in a whirl of dust, the big machine
sped out of sight.

“Isn’t she a dear?” burst forth Mollie, as the sisters turned to go back
to the house. “How her eyes shine when she talks! I wonder if I could do
my hair that way. I was sure she’d be nice—but what do you suppose she
means by that plan? Barbara, for heaven’s sake, how did you happen to
think of that umbrella stunt? It was great, but you did look so
funny—like a sort of desperate, feminine Darius Green with his flying
machine! No wonder you stopped the horses!”

“Oh, I heard of a man who stopped a stampede of cattle that way out West
once,” Barbara answered abstractedly. There was a puzzled look on her
face. “Mollie,” she said abruptly, as they entered the house, “you
didn’t take our money with you, when you went into the bedroom for
pencil and paper?”

“Why, no,” replied Mollie wonderingly. “It must be over there on the
table now. I remember I noticed it as I came into the room. I wondered,
for a second, why you’d gone away and left it so near the open window.
That was before I looked through the window and saw what you were doing.
It must be there,” and Mollie hurried over to the window.

The next moment she turned an astonished face to her sister. “Barbara!”
she exclaimed, “it isn’t here, anywhere!” Indeed, the marble top of the
little table was absolutely bare. There was no sign of either of the
gold pieces.

“Let’s look on the floor,” said Barbara, quietly. “One of our guests may
have unconsciously brushed them off.”

Both girls stopped and began a careful survey of the carpeted floor,
under the table, and near the window. Their search was unrewarded.

“Let’s look in the grass outside,” suggested Mollie. “You might have
brushed them off as you went through the window.”

“But didn’t you say you saw them on the table, when you came back into
the room and found me gone?” queried Barbara, thoughtfully.

“I was sure I did,” Mollie replied. “But sometimes one remembers
imaginary things. And if the money had been in the room when I came in,
it would be there now. I’ll ask mother——”

“No, don’t,” said Barbara quickly; “at least, not yet.” Mrs. Thurston
had gone into the kitchen directly after her return from the gate, and
had heard none of the conversation. “There’s no need to worry mother
about it now. Of course we must find it somewhere. Money doesn’t walk
off by itself. We’ll go out and look in the grass under the window.”

On hands and knees the girls worked through the closely cropped grass
underneath the sitting room window. Not two days before, they themselves
had clipped this bit of lawn with big shears, and it was so close that
there seemed no possibility of anything being hidden in it. Certainly
nothing was to be found. The girls even looked over the short path, and
ground near it. “Your skirts might have switched those small things a
long way,” observed Mollie, wisely. Yet, as before, the result
was—nothing.

Giving it up, at last, the girls sat down in a little garden seat at one
side of the tiny yard, and looked at each other ruefully.

“I am so glad I feel sure Miss Stuart will invite us to her party, now,”
commented Mollie dryly. “Our new gowns and the pink hair ribbons and the
silk stockings will be so awfully fetching! But where, where, where, by
all that’s mysterious, can those double-eagles have flown?”

Suddenly she looked curiously at her sister. “Barbara, you are thinking
of something!” she exclaimed. “Have you any nameable idea?”

“No,” said Barbara, quickly; “it isn’t nameable.”

“All right; you never would talk when you didn’t want to,” complained
Mollie. “And I know you want that money back as badly as I do. Tell you
what—I’ll say the fairies’ charm. Don’t you remember the one the old
gypsy woman taught us? Wish she were here to say it for us! She promised
to do all sorts of things for me when I found her in the field with a
sprained ankle and helped her back to camp. Why! why! Barbara, this is
_uncanny_—she’s coming now!”

In truth, down the road a queer little bent figure was seen approaching.
“I know her,” continued Mollie eagerly, “by that funny combination of
red and yellow handkerchiefs she wears on her head. Do let’s go and meet
her and tell her—it can’t do any harm.”

“What nonsense, Mollie!” laughed Barbara. But she followed her younger
sister, who had already started down the road toward the quaint, little,
gaudily-turbaned dame.

Between them, the girls brought her into the yard, Mollie meanwhile
busily explaining their predicament. “You’ll help us, won’t you, Granny
Ann?” she coaxed childishly. “You said, that time that I helped you
home, you’d always be near when I wanted you.”

Granny Ann sat on the garden seat, looking gravely down at the
half-laughing, half-serious girls huddled at her feet.

“I knowed,” she began in a high, cracked voice, “I knowed my little fair
one,” lightly touching Mollie’s curls, “would need me to-day. Far away I
was, when I heard the shadow of her voice callin’ out to me—and miles I
have traveled to reach her. Granny Ann is thirsty, and she has had no
food since morning.” The old woman looked reproachfully at her
listeners.

Barbara’s eyes twinkled at Mollie’s rather crestfallen face, when the
sybil voiced this most human request. But she said cheerily: “All right,
Granny; supper isn’t ready yet, but I know mother’ll have something.”
Then Barbara hurried into the house, the gypsy dame waiting solemnly
until she reappeared, a moment later, with sandwiches, doughnuts and a
big glass of milk.

Granny Ann smiled, but she didn’t speak until the lunch had quite
disappeared. Then the old woman rose impressively. “There’s one sure
magic for fetching back money that has gone,” she declaimed. “Because
you have been good to me, ‘Little Fair One,’ you and your sister, I will
say the golden spell for you.” With her hands crossed, Granny Ann began
to croon dreamily:

  Gold is gladsome, gold is gay,
  Here to-night and gone to-day,
  Here to-day and gone to-morrow,
  Guest of joy and host of sorrow.
  Gold of mine that’s flitted far,
  Forget me not, where’er you are.
  Mine you are, as Pluto wrought you,
  Mine you are, whoever’s sought you,
  Come by sea or come by land—
  Homeward fly into my hand!

Three times Granny Ann repeated this. Then, with a queer dignity, oddly
assorting with her variegated raiment, she turned to the girls. “It will
return,” she said; “now, I must go to my own people.”

“But I thought you said you came here for us by yourself!” protested
Mollie.

The gypsy dame drew herself up. “I travel not alone!” she said, stiffly.
“Good-bye.”

“Oh, good-bye, and thanks ever so much, Granny Ann!” cried both of the
girls.

But Granny Ann did not turn her head. Barbara looked at Mollie, her eyes
dancing. “The blessed old fraud!” she teased; “her people decided to
camp somewhere about, and she thought she’d come over for a call and a
lunch, and whatever else she could get! I believe she actually expected
us to cross her palm with silver for saying that little rhyme. But I
wish I knew really——”

All at once a faint chug-chug sounded in the distance. In a moment a big
red touring car appeared, enveloped in dust. “Why, it looks like Ruth’s
car!” exclaimed Mollie, excitedly. “Yes, I do believe that young man
seated beside the chauffeur is the Mr. Townsend who was with them.
Barbara——”

But Barbara was walking quickly toward the gate. A moment later the
automobile stopped before it, and Harry Townsend stepped out.

“Miss Thurston,” he began, soberly, “have you lost any money?”

“Oh, yes!” burst out Mollie, who was just behind, before Barbara could
speak; “two twenty-dollar gold-pieces! We’ve hunted and hunted. We had
them this afternoon——”

“Then these must be yours,” said the young man, extending his hand to
Barbara. In it were two golden double-eagles. “When the young ladies
were getting out at the hotel these were found on the seat, and Miss
Stuart was sure you had dropped them out of your pocket, Miss Thurston,
during the few moments you were in the machine. I am very glad to be
able to restore them to you.”

“Yes,” said Barbara, “but I——” Then she stopped. “Thank you, Mr.
Townsend,” she said, giving him a clear, direct glance. For some unknown
reason the young man’s eyes wavered under it, and he climbed hurriedly
into the automobile. “I am very glad,” he murmured again.

“Miss Stuart expects you to-morrow,” he added quickly, and the machine
backed round and hurried off.

Barbara stood looking at it, the money still in her hand. But Mollie was
laughing happily. Then she saw Barbara’s face. “Barbara, what is it,
dear?” she demanded. “You look exactly as you did before Granny Ann
appeared, and I asked you if you were thinking of something. What is it?
Can’t you tell me?”

Barbara shook her head. “It really isn’t anything, Molliekins. I did
have an idea in my head, but I must be mistaken somehow. You are sure
you saw the money on the table after I left the room? It must have been
there, then, when the crowd from the automobile came in. I thought I saw
some one standing near the table with one hand resting on it, when I
came back and called out: ‘Now, I’ve caught you!’ But I must not think
anything more about it. Please don’t ask me any questions. Let us just
be glad we have the money back. It is queer, though. Mr. Townsend says
the money was found on the seat. I wonder who found it, and whether it
was found on the front or back seat? Let’s ask Grace. I don’t understand
it. But he brought the money back, and he’s Miss Stuart’s friend. Of
course we will keep quiet, you and I, Mollie, whether the money was
lost, strayed or stolen!”

“Well, I am sure, Barbara Thurston,” Mollie answered a little
indignantly, “I am not likely to talk of what I know nothing about. If
there is any mystery about the disappearance of that money, I am sure
you have left me utterly in the dark.”

“Don’t be cross,” said Barbara, putting her arm in Mollie’s. “But do you
know if Mr. Townsend is a special friend of Gladys’s?”

Mollie shook her head. “How should I know?” she said. “Let’s go in, it’s
nearly dark.”



CHAPTER III—RUTH’S PERFECT PLAN


Wonderment over the mystery of the money, and excited anticipation of
Ruth Stuart’s luncheon and “plan,” kept the Thurston girls from getting
to sleep very early that night. They awoke bright and fresh next
morning, nevertheless. Just before eleven they started on their two-mile
tramp to the hotel. They were hardly out of sight of the house, however,
when what should they see but the now familiar red car speeding toward
them. “Look—yes, it is!” cried Mollie. “Ruth herself is making it go!”

The young driver waved a free hand for a second, as she neared them,
then wheeled in a broad turn and stopped. “I was so afraid you might
have started,” she protested tactfully, “for it is such a fine morning
for a nice leisurely walk. I was so anxious to see you that I simply
couldn’t wait, and I told Dad I’d take the ‘bubble’ and spin out to meet
you. Now, won’t you please hop in, and ride back with me?”

The girls “hopped” with delighted celerity, and Ruth turned back to them
for a moment. “I have reams to talk about,” she continued, “but, to tell
you the truth, I want my father to be with us, when I begin. So, now, if
you don’t mind, we’ll just ride.”

Neither Mollie nor Barbara will ever forget their first ride. “I felt as
if I had chartered my own private flying machine, and I was sure the
angels were jealous,” Mollie confessed, naïvely, at lunch.

They reached the hotel very quickly, and after a cosy chat on the
private balcony belonging to Ruth’s tiny suite of rooms, found
themselves seated around a little table in a cool, palm-shaded corner of
the big dining-room. Between them, opposite Ruth, sat big, blue-eyed,
open-hearted, Robert Stuart, Ruth’s “Dad.”

Robert Stuart had made his fortune out West, in the mining country. That
was how he started, anyway. For years, now, he had lived in Chicago,
buying and selling real estate in the vicinity. There his wife had died,
and there his eighteen-year-old daughter Ruth had spent nearly all her
life. During the summers she had traveled more or less, and the last few
years had frequently gone East. Her father’s sister, Aunt Sallie Stuart,
had brought the girl up since her mother’s death, which had occurred
when Ruth was a little girl. Aunt Sallie was not present at the
luncheon, because of a bad headache. “Grace Carter has come over and is
staying with her, like a dear,” Ruth explained. Later, if Auntie felt
better, the girls were to go up to her room.

Ruth, as has appeared, was an extremely impulsive young person.
Fortunately, most of her impulses were inspired by a natural kindliness,
and a cheerful, youthful energy, with a stratum of good common sense at
bottom. There was apt to be method in her madness. Her “plan,” for
instance, had long been her desire, but before she had never seen the
way.

Ruth couldn’t wait for the cold boullion to be taken off. “Father, I
want to tell them now!” she exclaimed. After his cheerful, “Go ahead,
daughter,” she burst out: “Barbara, Mollie, won’t you go on an
automobile tour to Newport with Grace Carter and me, with Aunt Sallie
for chaperon? Won’t you, can’t you come?”

While the amazed girls could only look at her and at each other, she
hurried on: “Oh, yes, you probably think I’m crazy. But I’m not. You see
it’s like this: all my life I have longed to travel by myself; at least,
with the people I want, not in a train, or a big crowded boat. Dad knows
the feeling; it’s what makes him run away from Chicago, and get out on
the prairies and ride and ride and ride! I’m a girl, so I can’t do that
or lots of things. But I can run an automobile. For two years I have
just been waiting to get the right crowd. Grace is a dear, but I wanted
two more. The other girls I know are all right to meet at dances and to
see now and then; but they’d collapse at the thought of starting off on
a lark like this. You two—you’re different, I knew it the minute I saw
you. Besides,” she continued, “Grace has been telling me things about
you. I always know right off whether I like anybody, and it doesn’t take
long to find out how much I like them. I like both of you a whole
lot—and I know we will have a perfectly delightful trip if you will go
with me. If you don’t, I simply can’t go—that’s all. It would be absurd
setting off in that great machine with only Grace and Aunt Sallie to
rattle around like two peas in a pod. Daddie understands, and he likes
you just the way I do—I can see it in his eyes. So it’s just up to you!
Do you like me a little bit—well, say enough to visit me in my
automobile for a month or so? Oh, please say you do!”

She stopped, her voice catching impulsively over the last words.
Barbara’s eyes were shining. “I don’t believe we need to tell you that,”
she said softly; “you must just know. But there’s mother. And we haven’t
the money.”

“Now that’s not fair,” Ruth broke in. “The money is out of the question
altogether. You are my guests. Why, it’s you who will do me the favor,”
she pleaded, as she caught the look of dissent on Barbara’s face.
“Remember, if you fail me, I can’t have my trip at all—and I have been
looking forward to it for two whole years. As for your mother, if she
will consent to it, Dad and I have a beautiful plan, to keep her and Dad
both from being lonely. Poor Dad is sick and tired of hotel cooking and
I told him all about your dear little cottage and the dandy tea and
cookies your mother makes, and—and—do you suppose your mother would let
Dad take his meals with her while we are away? Then he won’t be too
wretched living all alone up here. Also, you wouldn’t have to worry
about your mother, nor would I have to worry about Dad. Aunt Sallie has
been with him so long that I don’t know what he’d do all by himself. He
could get on very well, if only your mother would look after him at
meals, I know that.

“Now I won’t say another word about it for the rest of our lunch. Then
we’ll run in and call on Aunt Sallie. Afterward we will take the car out
and see your mother, and get her to say yes! Then you’ll say it, too,
won’t you? But don’t let’s spoil this good chicken salad, through
worrying about it.”

In a more or less complete, yet altogether happy silence, the luncheon
was finished. Ruth and her father did not try to force their guests to
talk, realizing that the girls would want to think. From the smiling
glances the two Stuarts exchanged now and then it was evident they hoped
the thinking would have a happy outcome.

After the last course had been served, and the finger bowls, a sprig of
rose geranium floating in each, had been pushed aside, Ruth said
quietly: “Now we will go to see Aunt Sallie for a few minutes. Daddie,
you’ll have the machine at the door?”

The girls filed into the elevator, and soon were speeding down a long
hall to Aunt Sallie’s suite, just across from Ruth’s. The latter knocked
softly, and Grace Carter came to the door. “Yes, ever so much better,”
Grace murmured, in reply to Ruth’s whispered inquiry. “She wants you to
be sure to come in with your friends before they go. Yes; I am sure she
would be glad to see them now.”

As the girls entered the vestibule of the apartment, Grace gave
Barbara’s hand a furtive squeeze, and whispered: “I’ll just never
recover if you don’t come.” There was no chance for a reply, for a
precise, though rather kindly voice called from the room beyond: “Ruth,
please bring your friends in here.”

With some trepidation the girls advanced toward “Aunt Sallie.” She was a
somewhat stout woman, who reclined on a couch in a handsome violet
negligée. She scanned the girls sharply for a moment, then in her
carefully enunciated syllables, which contrasted oddly with her smooth,
plump face, she said: “So you’re the young ladies who stop runaway
horses! Well, I never could have done it when I was young. But I’m sure
I am indebted to you, and I am happy to know you, my dears. I hope and
trust, since my madcap niece is bound to take her trip, that you will
come along to keep her company.”

The girls smiled, and Ruth murmured to them: “You see, you really must
come for the sake of my family!” Then Aunt Sallie stretched out two
plump, jeweled hands and remarked: “I am sure I shall see a great deal
of you very soon, my dears, and you will see all you want to of me. So,
if you don’t mind, I’ll ask you to excuse me now, my head is so tired.”

“She likes to take a cat-nap pretty often,” explained irreverent Ruth,
as soon as they were safely outside the door. “But Aunt Sallie is a good
sort, just the same, and the best possible dragon for our trip. Your
mother needn’t be in the least afraid to trust you to her. Now for your
mother,” Ruth added as the girls entered the elevator.

In front of the broad piazza, the automobile waited on the driveway,
with Mr. Stuart as chauffeur. “Pile in,” he smiled, and, in a trice, the
girls were whirled homeward once more.

There a mighty conference was held. At first, Mrs. Thurston simply
gasped. Then she dumbly shook her head. Barbara and Mollie both
protested that nothing would persuade them to leave their mother against
her wishes. As Ruth said afterwards, “Daddie did the whole thing.” He
explained to the girls, and to their mother, how brief the separation
would be. To the mother he expatiated on the delights and educational
value of such a trip. To the girls he hinted, delicately, that perhaps
the little mother would get a bit of a rest, all by herself, for a few
weeks, even with him to take care of. To all present Mr. Stuart enlarged
upon the duty of charity toward him, a homeless vacation visitor,
starving from eating only hotel food, and toward his daughter, a
sisterless girl with a longing for friends. Though the Thurstons shook
their heads, between smiles and tears, at the absurdity of these
arguments, they finally said a grateful “yes.”

“One really doesn’t need any clothes except veils and dusters for an
automobile trip, and I have a big extra stock of those,” concluded Ruth.
“I want to run up here for you people—let me see—to-day is Friday—next
Monday morning. That’s such a nice day to start.”

“Yes,” again cried Mollie and Barbara.

The girls joined hands and made a low curtsey to Mrs. Thurston and Mr.
Stuart. “Allow me to introduce you,” said Ruth in her most impressive
voice, “to ‘The Automobile Girls’ on their way to Newport.”

“Long may they flourish!” concluded Mr. Stuart, turning to the girls’
mother. “I’ll come up with Ruth and help you start them off, Mrs.
Thurston. Then, if I may, I will come back and have lunch with you later
in the day.”

“Till Monday!” called Ruth, and the machine whirled off.

Barbara and Mollie watched it from the gate. “I wish—I wish I could do
something for them,” mused Barbara, her chin sunk in her hand, her brown
eyes showing that soft brightness that only came to them when she was
greatly moved.

How well she was to repay the Stuart kith and kin she could not then
guess.



CHAPTER IV—MOTHER’S SECRET


Mollie danced into the kitchen, waving the feather duster. “I’m so
happy, I can’t keep still!” she declared, waltzing in a circle around
her mother and Barbara, who were in the kitchen washing the breakfast
dishes.

“It is just as well you don’t have to,” Mrs. Thurston laughed. “But,
children, do be sensible a minute,” she urged, as Barbara joined in the
dance, still polishing a breakfast tumbler. “I’ve been thinking, that
going to Newport, if only to stay a few days, _does_ mean more clothes
than automobile coats and motor veils.”

“Now, you are not to worry, mother dearest,” interrupted Barbara, “or we
won’t go a single step. Beside, have you forgotten the twenty-dollar
gold-pieces? They are a fortune, two fortunes really.” Barbara had been
doing some pretty deep thinking herself, on the clothes question, but it
would never do to let her thoughts be known. As elder daughter she tried
to save her mother from all the worries she could. “While there are no
men around in the family, you’ll just have to pretend I’m older son
instead of daughter,” she used to say. “When Mollie marries I’ll
resign.”

“I’m through dusting,” Mollie called from the dining-room. “This time I
am surely going to get paper and pencil to put down what clothes we most
need, if Barbara won’t stop any runaway horses while I am away.”

Mollie’s golden head and Barbara’s tawny one bent anxiously over the
paper.

“Ruth’s such an impetuous dear! Starting off on our trip Monday does not
give us time to get anything new. Mother, will you go in to town
shopping for us, and then send the clothes on later? I suppose we shall
be on the road some time. Ruth says we are to stop in any of the places
we like, and see all the sights along the way,” continued Barbara.

Gloves, ribbons, stockings, hair ribbons, and—oh, dear, yes! A pink sash
for Bab and a blue one for Mollie. Forty dollars wasn’t such a fortune
after all. Where was the money left over for the party dresses? Both
girls looked a little crestfallen, but Barbara shook her head at Mollie
as a signal not to say anything aloud.

Mother had come into the open dining-room door and was watching the
girls’ faces.

“I’ve a secret,” Mrs. Thurston said, after a minute. “A beautiful secret
that I have been keeping to myself for over a year, now. But I think
to-day is the best time I can find to tell it.” Mrs. Thurston was
fragile and blond, like Mollie, with a delicate color in her cheeks, and
the sweetest smile in the world.

“It’s a nice secret, mother, I can tell by your face.” Mollie put her
arm around her mother and pulled her down in a chair, while she and Bab
sat on either side of her. “Now, out with it!” they both cried.

“Daughters,” Mrs. Thurston lowered her voice and spoke in a whisper,
“upstairs, in my room in the back part of my desk is an old bank book.
What do you think is pressed between the pages?” She paused a minute,
and Mollie gave her arm a little shake. “In that book,” the mother
continued, “are two fifty-dollar bills; one is labeled ‘Bab’ and the
other is labeled ‘Baby.’” Mrs. Thurston still called her big,
fourteen-year-old daughter “baby” when no one was near.

Mollie and Barbara could only stare at each other, and at their mother
in surprise.

“Please, and where did they come from?” queried Barbara.

“They came from nickels and dimes, and sometimes pennies,” Mrs. Thurston
replied, as pleased and excited as the girls. “Only a week ago, I went
to the bank and had the money changed into the two big bills. Oh, I’ve
been saving some time. I saw my girls were growing up, and I imagined
that, some day, something nice would happen—not just this, perhaps, but
something equally exciting. So I wanted to be ready, and I am. I will
get the prettiest clothes I can buy for the money, and I’ll have Miss
Mattie, the seamstress, in to help me. When you arrive in the
fashionable world of Newport, new outfits will be awaiting my two
girls.”

Mrs. Thurston’s face was radiant over the joys in store for her
daughters, but Barbara’s eyes were full of tears. She knew what pinching
and saving, what sacrifices the two banknotes meant.

Soon Bab asked: “You don’t need me any more, do you, mother? Because, if
you don’t, I am going up to look in the treasure chest. I want to find
something to re-trim Mollie’s hat. The roses are so faded, on the one
she is wearing, it will never do to wear with her nice spring suit.”

There was a little attic over the cottage, and it almost belonged to
Barbara. Up there she used to study her lessons, write poetry, and dream
of the wonderful things she hoped to do in order to make mother and
Mollie rich.

Barbara skipped over to the trunk, where they kept odds and ends of
faded finery, gifts from rich cousins who sent their cast-off clothes to
the little girls. “This is like Pandora’s chest,” laughed Barbara to
herself. “It looks as if everything, now, has gone out of it, except
Hope.”

Bump! bang! crash! the chandelier shivered over Mrs. Thurston and
Mollie’s heads. Both started up with the one word, “Bab,” on their lips.
It was impossible to know what she would attempt, or what would happen
to her next.

Just as they reached the foot of the attic steps an apologetic head
appeared over the railing. “I am not hurt,” Bab’s voice explained. “I
just tried to move the old bureau so I could see better, and I knocked
over a trunk. I am so sorry, mother, but the trunk has broken open. It
is that old one of yours. I know it made an awful racket!”

“It does not matter, child,” Mrs. Thurston said in a relieved tone, when
she saw what had actually happened. “Nothing matters, since you have not
killed yourself.”

She bent over her trunk. The old lock had been loosened by the fall, and
the top had tumbled off. On the floor were a yellow roll of papers, and
a quaint carved fan. Mrs. Thurston picked them up. The papers she
dropped in the tray of the trunk, but the fan she kept in her hand.
“This little fan,” she said, “I used at the last party your father and I
attended together the week before we were married. I have kept it a long
time, and I think it very beautiful.” She opened, with loving fingers, a
fan of delicately-carved ivory, mounted in silver, and hung on a curious
silver chain. “Your great-uncle brought it to me from China, when I was
just your age, Mollie! It was given him by a viceroy, in recognition of
a service rendered. Which of my daughters would like to take this fan to
Newport?”

Barbara shook her head, while Mollie looked at it with longing eyes. “I
don’t believe either of us had better take it,” protested Bab, “you have
kept it so carefully all this time.”

But her mother said decidedly: “I saved it only for you girls. Here,
Mollie, suppose you take it; we will find something else for Bab.”

As Mollie and her mother lifted out the tray of the old trunk, Bab’s
eyes caught sight of the roll of papers, and she picked them up.

“Hello, hello!” a cheerful voice sounded from downstairs.

“It’s Grace Carter,” said Mollie. “You don’t mind her coming up, do you,
mother?”

Grace was almost a third daughter at the little Thurston cottage. Her
own home was big and dull! her mother was a stern, cold woman, and her
two brothers were much older than Grace.

“No,” said Mrs. Thurston, going on with her search.

“I couldn’t keep away, chilluns,” apologized Grace as she came upstairs.
“Mother told me I’d be dreadfully in the way, but I just had to talk
about our trip. Isn’t it too splendid! You are not having secrets, are
you?”

“Not from you,” Mrs. Thurston said. “See what I have found for Bab.”
Mrs. Thurston held out an open jewel-case. In it was a beautiful spray
of pink coral, and a round coral pin.

“I think, Bab, dear,” she said, “you are old enough, now, for such
simple jewelry. I will buy you a white muslin, and you can wear this pin
at your throat and the spray in your hair. Then, with a coral ribbon
sash, who knows but you may be one of the belles of a Newport party?”

Barbara flushed with pleasure over the gifts, but she looked so
embarrassed at her mother’s compliment that Mollie and Grace both
laughed.

“I declare,” Grace said, “you have less vanity than any girl in the
world. Oh, wasn’t it fortunate I discovered your money yesterday? Just
as we all jumped out of the car I heard something clink, and picked up
one of your twenty dollars. Harry Townsend said he found the other
tucked away in the leather of the front seat.”

“And I sat in the back seat all the time I was in the car,” reflected
Barbara, under her breath.

When a turquoise blue heart on a string of tiny beads had been added to
Mollie’s “going-away” treasures, she and Grace went down stairs.

Barbara still held the roll of papers in her hand and kept turning them
over and over, trying to read the faded writing. She caught sight of her
father’s signature. “Are these papers valuable?” she asked her mother.

Mrs. Thurston sighed deeply as she answered: “They are old papers of
your father’s. Put them away again. I never like to look at them. I
found them in his business suit after he was dead. He had sent it to the
tailor, and had forgotten all about it.” Mrs. Thurston took the papers
from Barbara’s hand and put them back into her trunk.

“Do you think they are valuable, mother?” persisted Barbara.

“I don’t think so,” her mother concluded. “Your uncle told me he looked
over all your father’s papers that were of any value.”

After the two had mended the lock of the old trunk, and turned to leave
the attic, Barbara was still thinking. “Dearest,” she said thoughtfully,
“would you mind my going through those papers some time?” To herself Bab
added: “I’d like to ask a clever business man, like Mr. Stuart, to
explain them to me.”

But Mrs. Thurston sighed as she said: “Oh, yes, you may look them over,
some day, if you like. It won’t make any difference.”

What difference it might make neither Mrs. Thurston or Barbara could
then know.



CHAPTER V—THE GLORIOUS START


Before daylight, on the great day, Mollie’s two arms encircled a sleepy
Barbara, and a soft voice whispered in her ear: “It isn’t true, is it,
Bab, that you and I, two insignificant little girls, who never could
have conceived of anything so glorious, are off to-day for Newport,
escorted by Ruth’s distinguished friend, ‘Mr. A. Bubble’?”

Barbara was wide awake in a minute.

“I suppose it’s true,” she said, “because it was last night, before we
went to bed. Otherwise I would think we had both dreamed it.”

The two girls talked in excited whispers. It wouldn’t do to waken mother
any earlier than they must, for she was tired with their preparations,
though her daughters had persuaded her to have a little country girl in
to help with the work, now that she was to have so important a person as
Mr. Stuart for “boarder.”

But at seven o’clock it was mother who called:

“Get up, girls. It is time for coffee and clothes, if you are to start
off at ten as you promised. It will not do to keep Miss Stuart and the
girls waiting. As for Mr. A. Bubble, I don’t believe he can stand still,
even if he tries.”

Aunt Sallie having called on Sunday afternoon, had waived ceremony and
stayed to tea in the tiny cottage, so impressed was she with Mrs.
Thurston’s quiet charm and gentle manners.

The two girls hurried into their kimonos. Mother had suggested these
garments for this morning, since they were to dress so soon afterwards
in their “going away” clothes.

By the time that Barbara and Mollie had put on their pretty brown and
blue serge suits, with their dust coats over them, they heard strange
noises on the front porch, mingled with giggles and whispers. Barbara
was putting the sixth hat pin into her hat, and tying the motor veil so
tightly under her chin that it choked her, when Mollie peeped out the
front window.

“It’s a surprise party, I do believe,” she whispered. “There’s Harold
Smith, with a big bunch of pink roses. I know they are for you. The
girls have little bundles in their hands. What fun! I didn’t know they
had heard of our trip. How fast news _does_ fly around this village.”

While Mollie and Barbara were saying their good-byes on their little
veranda there was equal excitement at the big hotel.

Before breakfast Ruth had gone out to the garage with her arm in her
father’s.

“I want to see with my own eyes, Dad,” she said, “that the machine is
all right. Isn’t it well that I have a taste for mechanics, even though
I am a girl? Suppose I hadn’t studied all those automobile books with
you until I could say them backwards, and hadn’t helped you over all the
accidents—you never would have let me go on this heavenly trip, would
you? I am going to be as careful as can be, just to show you did right
to trust me, also not to give Aunt Sallie a chance to say, ‘I told you
so.’”

Ruth had pretty, sunny, red-gold hair and big, gray-blue eyes. Though
she wasn’t exactly a beauty, her face was so frank, and her coloring so
fresh and lovely, many people thought her very good-looking.

Mr. Stuart smiled at his daughter’s enthusiasm. “She’s ‘a chip of the
old block,’” he said to himself. “She loves fun and adventure and
‘getting there,’ like a man. I am not going to stand in her way.”

Mr. Stuart was feeling rather nervous about the trip this morning, but
he didn’t intend Ruth to know.

To judge by the looks of the automobile, the chauffeur must have been up
all night. The machinery was cleaned and oiled. The extra tires, in
their dark red leather cases, were strapped to the sides of the car. A
great box of extra rugs and wraps, rubber covers for the machine and
mackintoshes in case of rain, was tied on the back. Between the seats
was an open hamper for lunch, with an English tea service in one
compartment, and cups, saucers, a teapot and a hot-water jug and alcohol
lamp, all complete. The luncheon was to be sent down later from the
hotel.

“You are to take your meals at the inns along the way, when you prefer,”
Mr. Stuart had explained, “but I don’t mean to have you run the risk of
starving in case you are delayed, or an accident occurs. Be sure to take
your picnic lunch along with you, when you start out each day. What you
don’t eat, feed to the small boys along the road, who will insist on
playing guide.”

Aunt Sallie was the only one of the hotel party who enjoyed breakfast.
Grace had driven over early, and was breakfasting with Ruth in order to
save delay. Both the girls and Mr. Stuart were too excited to take much
interest in their bacon and eggs, but Aunt Sallie ate with a resigned
expression that seemed to say: “Perhaps this is my last meal on earth.”
Yet, secretly, she was almost as delighted as were the girls in the
prospect of the trip.

“Now, Sallie, you are not to go if you don’t wish to,” Mr. Stuart had
protested. “You must not let Ruth drag you into this trip against your
will.”

But all he could persuade his sister to answer was: “If Ruth is going on
such an extraordinary excursion, then, at least, I shall be along to see
that nothing worse happens to her.”

Gladys Le Baron came into the dining-room, stopping in front of Ruth’s
table. “You dear things,” she drawled in her most careful society
manner, “how can you look so fresh so early in the morning? I hope you
appreciate my getting up to see you off.” Gladys wore a lingerie frock
more appropriate for a party than for the breakfast room.

But Ruth answered good naturedly. “I do appreciate it, if it is such an
effort for you. Did you know Mr. Townsend is going to ride over to the
Thurston’s with us to see us start? He tells me you and he are both to
be in Newport while we are there.”

“Yes,” Gladys declared with more airs than before. “Mrs. Erwin has asked
me to be one of the house-party she’s to have for her ball. She told me
I could bring a friend along, and I have asked Mr. Townsend.”

“Wonderful! We won’t expect you to associate with us!” laughed Grace.

“Gladys,” Ruth asked, “would you like to drive over to Mrs. Thurston’s
with us? Father is going, and the carriage will be there to bring him
back.”

“I would like to go,” murmured Gladys, “if I didn’t have on this old
frock. I don’t know Mollie and Barbara very well, but I suppose I shall
have to see a great deal of them, now you have taken them up. I wonder
how they will behave at Newport? They have hardly been out of
Kingsbridge before.”

Grace and Ruth both looked angry, and Mr. Stuart broke in, quite curtly:
“I am sure we can depend on their behaving becomingly, which is all that
is necessary at Newport or any other place.” Ruth’s father was a
business acquaintance of Gladys’s father, and had known her mother when
the latter was a girl, but the airs of Mrs. Le Baron and her society
daughter were too much for his western common sense. Only Aunt Sallie
was impressed by their imposing manner.

Ruth was very popular at the big summer hotel, and a number of the
guests had assembled to see her off. But Ruth let her father run the car
and sat quietly by his side. “You’ll turn over the command to me,
captain, won’t you, when the trip really commences?” and she squeezed
his arm with a little movement of affection.

“Yes, lieutenant,” Mr. Stuart said quietly.

“Oh, Miss Ruth,” called Mr. Townsend from the back seat, “do show all
these people how you can handle your car!” But she only shook her head.

“Goodness me, what are all those people doing on Mrs. Thurston’s porch?”
Ruth asked, in alarm. “I hope nothing has happened.” But, as the car
neared the quiet little house, which stood midway between the hotel and
the New York high road, she saw the party of young people gathered on
the front lawn.

“It’s only their friends, come to say good-bye to them,” Harry
volunteered. In answer to “What a bore!” from Gladys, he continued: “I
don’t know why you should think it a bore. Miss Stuart enjoys her
friends’s popularity.” Mr. Townsend had been trying, for several weeks,
to make himself equally agreeable to Ruth and Gladys. They were both
very wealthy, and it seemed wise to him to associate with rich people.
But as Ruth was not easily impressed with what she called “just
foolishness,” he had become very intimate with Gladys Le Baron.

When Mr. Stuart tooted the horn to announce their approach to the
cottage a chorus of tin horns answered him from Mrs. Thurston’s front
garden. As the car drew up to the gate, the boys and girls began to
sing, “See the Conquering Hero Comes,” while Barbara ran down to the car
and Mollie urged her friends to be quieter. “I just don’t know what Miss
Stuart and Mr. Stuart will think of us!” she blushingly remonstrated.

But Aunt Sallie and Mr. Stuart were in for all the fun going this
morning. Barbara was invited to call her seven friends who had come to
give the girls a send-off, down to meet the occupants of the car. Even
Gladys, as she was forced to get out of the automobile to let the other
travelers in, was condescending enough to permit Harold Smith to assist
her. Harold was an old friend of Barbara’s, and one of the cleverest
boys in the village.

Mr. Stuart went into the house for the suit cases and satchels, which
were all the girls were to take with them, as they were to manage with
as few clothes as possible. It had been arranged that extra luggage was
to be expressed to them along the way.

Barbara had caught Mollie storing away a sample package of cold cream
among her most treasured possessions.

“I am sure I don’t see why you should laugh so,” Mollie urged quite
seriously. “It reads on the label ‘especially adapted for automobile
travelers to remove dust and tan from the face after the drive.’ Aren’t
we going to be automobile travelers?”

“Sure and we a’ire,” said Bab, imitating the old Irish washerwoman, “and
it shall put grease on its nose if it likes.”

“Come, daughter,” said Mr. Stuart finally, as Ruth was trying to explain
to a group of admiring boys the first principles of running an
automobile. She talked as familiarly of an emergency brake and a
steering wheel, of horse power and speed-transmission, as most girls
talk of frills and furbelows.

“It’s ten-thirty,” Mr. Stuart continued, “and, if this party is to be a
strictly on time affair, you must be off! You couldn’t have a more
wonderful day.”

It was late in the month of June. The summer clouds were sailing
overhead, great bubbles of white foam thrown up into the blue depth of
the sky. The sun shone brightly and the whole atmosphere was perfumed
with the bloom of the honeysuckle, that hung in yellow clusters from
Mrs. Thurston’s porch.

Barbara and Mollie flung their arms around their mother until she was
completely enveloped in their embrace. Ruth kissed her father, and put
her hand to her trim leather cap with a military salute. “It’s all
right, captain,” she said; “I’ll bring my crew and good ship ‘Bubble’
safely into port.”

Aunt Sallie was anxious to be off. She could see that Mrs. Thurston was
on the verge of tears at the thought of parting with her daughters.
Still the young people were laughing and talking, and storing their
little gifts under the seats in the car, as though they had all day
before them.

“Hurry, child,” Aunt Sallie urged, reaching out a hand to Mollie. “Jump
up on the back seat with Grace and me. We will let Mistress Barbara sit
with Ruth for the first of the journey.” Aunt Sallie was very imposing
in a violet silk traveling coat, with a veil and hat of the same shade;
indeed, Miss Sallie had a fancy for a “touch of lavender” in everything
she wore. With her snow-white hair, and commanding appearance, she would
add prestige to the party, Mollie thought, no matter how dusty and
wind-blown the rest of them might appear.

The girls hopped gayly in. Toot, toot, toot! the horn blew three times.
Chug-chug-chug! and the great machine began to breathe with deep,
muffled roars. Mr. Stuart gave the starting crank a strong turn, and the
car slid gracefully along the road, red, blue, pink and violet motor
veils floating behind in the breeze.

“Here’s good luck to you!” shouted Harold Smith, and roses and flowers
of every kind were flung after them. Mollie and Grace picked up those
that fell into their laps, and turned to wave their hands and throw
kisses for good-bye.

“They look like a rainbow,” said Mr. Stuart, turning to Mrs. Thurston,
who was no longer trying to hide her tears. Then he smiled at her
gently. She was such a tiny, girlish-looking little woman, it was hard
to think of her as the mother of two nearly grown-up daughters. “I
expect,” he continued, “that that rainbow holds most of our promise of
sunshine.”

They were still watching the car!

Down to the gate, at the furthest end of the road, a baby boy, chubby
and fat, had crawled on two round, turned-in legs. There was something
unusual going on down the street. He could hear strange noises, but,
though he stuck his small nose through the fence, he was still unable to
see. Just as Ruth’s car was almost in front of the house, open flew the
stubborn old gate, and the child flung himself out in the middle of the
road, just in front of the wonderful red thing he could see flying
toward him. The baby was too young to understand the danger.

From the watchers at Mrs. Thurston’s came a cry of horror. A thrill of
terror passed through the occupants of the car. Ruth’s face turned
white. Like a flash, she slowed a little, turned her steering wheel and
with a wide sweep drove her motor to the far side of the road, then
straight on out of the path of the wondering baby.

Mr. Stuart’s, “Bravo, daughter!” was lost in his throat. But the little
group of waiting friends gave three cheers for the girl chauffeur, which
Ruth heard even at such a distance. Truly “The Automobile Girls” were
fairly started on their adventures.



CHAPTER VI—WHAT HAPPENED THE FIRST DAY


The car flew along by sunny meadows and farms. New York was the first
day’s goal.

“Barbara,” Ruth said to her next-door neighbor, “you are hereby
appointed royal geographer and guide-extraordinary to this party! Here
is the route-book. It will be up to you to show us which roads we are to
take. It is a pretty hard job, as I well know from experience; but then,
honors come hard. You don’t need to worry to-day. I know this coast trip
into New York as well as I know my A.B.C.‘s. I have often come along
this way with father. Let’s have a perfectly beautiful time in New York.
We’ll make Aunt Sallie chaperon us while we do the town, or, at least, a
part of it. Have you ever been to a roof garden?”

Barbara’s eyes danced. It didn’t sound quite right somehow—a roof
garden—but then they were out for experiences, and Miss Sallie wouldn’t
let them do anything really wrong.

Ruth glanced out of the corner of her eye at Barbara. Miss Stuart was a
good little chauffeur who never allowed her attention to be distracted
from running her car, no matter what was being talked of around her, nor
how much she was interested, but she couldn’t help laughing at Barbara’s
expression; it told so plainly all that was going on inside her head.

“I do assure you, Miss Barbara Thurston, that a roof garden may be a
fairly respectable thing, quite well suited to entertaining, without
shocking either Miss Sallie Stuart or her four charming protégées.” Ruth
called back: “Aunt Sallie, will you take us up on the Waldorf roof
to-night? You know we are going to stay at the Waldorf Hotel, girls.
Father said we might enjoy the experience, and it would be all right
with Aunt Sallie for chaperon.”

Grace pinched Mollie’s arm to express her rapture, and that little
maiden simply gasped with delight. It was Mollie, not Barbara, of the
two sisters, who had the greatest yearning for wealth and society, and
the beautiful clothes and wonderful people that she believed went along
with it. Barbara was an out-door girl, who loved tennis and all the
sports, and could swim like a fish. An artist who spent his summers at
Kingsbridge, once called her a brown sea-gull, when he saw her lithe
brown body dart off the great pier to dive deep into the water.

Aunt Sallie had been taking a brief cat-nap, before Ruth’s question, and
awakened in high good humor. “Why, yes, children,” she answered, “it
will be very pleasant to go up on the roof to-night, after we have had
our baths and our dinners. I am quite disposed to let you do just what
you like, so long as you behave yourselves.”

Grace Carter pressed Aunt Sallie’s fat hand, as a message of thanks.
Grace was Aunt Sallie’s favorite among Ruth’s friends. “She is a quiet,
lady-like girl, who does not do unexpected things that get on one’s
nerves,” Miss Sallie had once explained to Ruth. “Now, Aunt Sallie,”
Ruth had protested, “I know I do get on your nerves sometimes, but you
know you need me to stir you up. Think how dull you would be without
me!” And Aunt Sallie had answered, with unexpected feeling: “I would be
very dull, indeed, my dear.”

The girls were full of their plans for the evening.

“That is why Ruth told us each to put a muslin dress in our suit cases!
Ruth, are you going to think up a fresh surprise every day! It’s just
too splendid!” Mollie spoke in a tone of such fervent emotion that
everyone in the car laughed.

“I don’t suppose I can manage a surprise every day, Molliekins,” Ruth
called back over her shoulder, “but I mean to think up as many as I
possibly can. We are going to have the time of our lives, you know, and
something must happen to make it.”

All this time the car had been flying faster than the girls could talk.
“This is ‘going some,’” commented Ruth, laughing.

When they came into Lakewood Ruth slowed up, as she had promised her
father not to go any faster than the law allowed. “I cross my heart and
body, Dad,” she had said. “Think of four lovely maidens and their
handsome duenna languishing in jail instead of flying along the road to
Newport. Honest Injun! father, I’ll read every automobile sign from here
to Jehosaphat, if we ever decide to travel that way.”

In Lakewood, Ruth drove her car around the wonderful pine shaded lake.

“It’s a winter resort,” she explained to her companions. “Nearly all the
cottages and hotels are closed in the summer, but I wanted you to have a
smell of the pines. It will give you strength for the rest of the trip.”

Silence fell on the party as they skimmed out of Lakewood. After so much
excitement it was pleasant to look at things without having to talk.

Mollie had begun, once in a while, to tap the lunch basket with her
foot. The fresh air and the long ride had made her desperately hungry.
She really couldn’t remember having eaten any breakfast in the
excitement of getting off. But nobody said f-o-o-d! She felt she was the
youngest member of the party and should not make suggestions before Miss
Sallie.

Ruth turned into a narrow lane; a sign post pointed the way to a
deserted village.

“Oh, dear me!” sighed Mollie to herself. “Why are we going to a deserted
village, just as we are dying of hunger!”

Ruth said never a word. She passed some tumble-down old cottages of a
century ago, then an old iron foundry, and drew up with a great flourish
before an old stone house, green with moss and ivy and fragrant with a
“lovely” odor of cooking! There were little tables set out on the lawn
and on the old-fashioned veranda, and soon the party was reveling in
lunch.

“I didn’t know food could be so heavenly,” whispered Mollie in Bab’s
ear, when they were back in the car, for Grace had begged for a seat by
the chauffeur for the afternoon trip.

Soon Ruth left the country behind, and came out on the sea-coast road
that ran through Long Branch, Deal Beach, Monmouth and Seabright.

From carriages and other automobiles, and along the promenades, everyone
smiled at the crimson car full of happy, laughing girls.

Ruth was driving in her best fashion, making all the speed she could,
with the thought of town fifty miles or more ahead. “It is a sight to
see,” quoth Barbara, “the way the fairy princess handles her chariot of
fire.”

It was a little after four o’clock when the car boarded the Staten
Island ferry and finally crossed to the New York shore.

“You see, Bab,” Mollie said, trying to stuff her curls under her motor
cap and to rub the dust from her rosy cheeks with a tiny pocket
handkerchief as they sped up Broadway, “I might be dreadfully
embarrassed arriving at the Waldorf looking the way I do, if I were not
in a motor car, but riding in an automobile makes one feel so awfully
swell that nothing matters. Isn’t it lovely just to feel important for
once? You know it is, Bab, and you needn’t say no! It’s silly to
pretend.”

Miss Sallie was again on the border of slumberland, so that Mollie and
Barbara could have their low-voiced talk.

“Does Ruth know I have never even been to New York before?” asked
Mollie. “I hope I won’t seem very green about things. You must tell me
if I do, Bab.”

But Bab only laughed and shook her head. “You are a foolish baby,” she
said.

Two respectful porters at the Waldorf helped a dusty, crumpled party out
of the big red touring car.

The girls, a little dazed, followed Miss Sallie through a maze of palms
and servants in livery, with handsomely dressed people strolling through
the halls, until their suite of rooms, which Mr. Stuart had engaged by
telegraph a few days before, was reached.

The three rooms adjoined, only separated by white tile bathrooms. Miss
Sallie, naturally, had a room to herself, and it was decided that Ruth
and Grace were to sleep together, leaving the sisters to themselves.

“Isn’t it too beautiful!” sighed Mollie, standing in the midst of their
luxurious chamber, gazing around at the single brass beds, with their
rose-colored draperies, and the ivory-striped satin wall paper,
garlanded in pink flowers. Ruth and Grace were equally fine in a room
decorated in blue, and, even in the Waldorf, Miss Sallie’s taste seemed
to have been consulted, as her room was in her favorite violet shade.

In some mysterious way the crumpled muslin dresses were taken downstairs
by a maid, and came back smooth and fresh. Even Miss Sallie’s elaborate
chiffon gown looked as though it had just come home from the modiste’s.

“O Ruth! Ruth!” Mollie exclaimed, as the four girls made their way to
the dining-room, Miss Sallie in the lead, “I didn’t know there could be
such a magnificent place in the world as this. I don’t know what I can
ever do to repay you, except to love you and be grateful my whole life
long.”

“Well, I am sure that is all the gratitude I should ever want, Mollie,”
laughed Ruth. “But wait until you see the houses at Newport.”

All eyes near the door turned to see the little automobile party enter
the “palm room.” Miss Sallie swept ahead in her black lace and chiffon,
looking very handsome and impressive. Barbara and Grace came next;
Barbara with her red-brown hair breaking into willful curves and waves,
her big brown eyes glowing with pleasure, and the deep red showing in
her olive cheeks; Grace with her look of refinement and gentle dignity.
The blond maidens came in last. Ruth’s bright gold hair and fresh
coloring showed to best advantage in a dainty white muslin and lace
frock. She was half a head taller than dainty Mollie, who looked like a
flower with her yellow curls gathered in a soft cluster at the back of
her neck and tied with a black velvet ribbon.

On the Waldorf roof, Miss Stuart and the girls sat under an orange tree,
hung in some mysterious way with golden oranges. The whole place was
decorated with palms and evergreens and beautiful flowers. The soft,
shaded yellow lights rivaled the moonlight that glowed above.

“It’s like the enchanted garden in the French fairy story, isn’t it,
Miss Sallie? Where the flowers and fruits bloomed all the year round?”
whispered Barbara, who sat next their chaperon.

Miss Sallie smiled very kindly at her enthusiasm.

“I expect it is, but I am afraid I have forgotten the story. It has been
a long time, remember, Barbara, since fairies and I have had much to say
to each other.”

Barbara blushed. “Oh, I am not so young as all that, Miss Sallie; but I
have never forgotten the fairy tales I read when I was a little girl.
Though I must confess I liked boys’ stories better. I just love
adventures!” And Barbara’s eyes shone. In a little while the music
commenced, and she forgot everything but that.

Mollie was differently occupied. What she liked best was to gaze around
her at the women in their jewels and wonderful gowns.

Just across from her on the other side of the aisle was a rarely
beautiful woman in a white lace gown, with a string of pearls round her
throat, and a pearl and diamond butterfly that glowed and sparkled in
her hair.

Mollie was so fascinated by her beauty that she couldn’t help watching
this stranger, and even overhearing a little of her conversation. “It
isn’t exactly eavesdropping,” Mollie apologized to herself, “because I
don’t know them and they can never possibly know me.” So nobody noticed,
but Mollie, that when the woman gave a laughing toss of her head in
answer to some question from her husband, who sat back of her, that the
beautiful, jeweled butterfly slipped softly out of her hair, fell into
the softer lace folds of her gown and then down—down—to the floor!

The little girl waited half a minute. No one else had noticed the loss.
At any time an usher might come down the aisle and crush the exquisite
jewel. Mollie forgot herself and her shyness. If it had been Barbara she
would not have minded, but Mollie was timid before strangers. She
slipped quietly across the aisle and picked up the butterfly.

“I beg your pardon,” her soft voice explained, “but I saw this fall from
your hair, and, as you did not notice it, I was afraid it might be
crushed.”

The lovely woman turned in surprise. It is just as well to call her “the
lovely lady,” now, for that was Mollie’s name for her ever afterwards.

“My dear,” she said, “I am very grateful to you. How could I have failed
to see it? I am especially obliged to you, because I am very fond of
this ornament.”

Mollie blushed rosy-red, as the people close to them had observed what
had happened and were watching her. As she tried to slip over to her
seat, the lady reached out and gave the child’s hand a gentle squeeze of
thanks, glancing across as she did so to see what friends the little
girl was with, and so caught Ruth Stuart’s eye.

The intermission came at this minute.

“Why, Ruth Stuart!” Mollie, to her surprise, heard her friend’s name
called in a low voice, and Ruth came across to them.

“It’s Mrs. Cartwright,” she said. “I am so pleased! I didn’t suppose you
would remember me.”

“Of course I remember you, Ruth,” Mrs. Cartwright protested. “It has
been only two years since I saw you at my own wedding in Chicago. My
memory is surely longer than that. Isn’t that your aunt, Miss Stuart?”
Mrs. Cartwright moved across the aisle to speak to Miss Sallie and to
introduce her husband. When they had shaken hands, Mrs. Cartwright
asked: “May I know what you are doing in this part of the world at this
season?”

“I am playing chaperon to my madcap niece and her three friends, who are
doing an automobile trip to Newport without a man. Ruth is her own
chauffeur,” Miss Sallie explained, laughing.

“How jolly of you, Ruth, and how clever! I am so glad you are going to
Newport. Did you know my summer place is down there? I am only in town
for a day or two. My husband had to come on business and I am with him.
We shall be motoring home, soon, and may pass you if you are to take
things slowly. Why not join me at New Haven? My husband’s brother is a
junior at Yale, and we’ve promised to stop there for a day. There is a
dance on at Alumni Hall. I’d be too popular for words if I could take
you four pretty girls along with me!”

Ruth turned to her aunt with glowing eyes. “We did want to see the
college dreadfully,” she said. “I have never seen a big Eastern
university. We didn’t dream of knowing anybody who would show us around.
Wouldn’t it be too much for you to have us all on your hands?”

“Certainly not,” said Mrs. Cartwright, “but a most decided pleasure. I
shall meet you in New Haven, say, day after to-morrow, and I’ll
telegraph to-night to my brother, whose name is Donald Cartwright, by
the way, to expect us.”

The music was about to begin again, but, before Mrs. Cartwright went
over to her seat, she put her hand on Mollie’s curls. “I must see this
little girl often at Newport. Then I can thank her better for saving my
lovely butterfly for me. I hope to make all of you have a beautiful
time.” She put the jewel into her hair again, and Mollie looked at it
thoughtfully. She was to know it again some day, under stranger
circumstances.



CHAPTER VII—SHOWING THEIR METTLE


“Girls!” Aunt Sallie said solemnly next morning, as Mr. Cartwright and
two footmen helped her into the motor car, while Barbara, Grace and
Mollie stood around holding her extra veils, her magazines and
pocketbook. “I feel, in my bones, that it is going to rain to-day. I
think we had better stay in town.”

“Oh, Aunt Sallie!” Ruth’s hand was already on the spark of her steering
wheel, and she was bouncing up and down on her seat in her impatience to
be off. “It’s simply a splendid day! Look at the sun!” She leaned over
to Mr. Cartwright. “Do say something to cheer Aunt Sallie up. If she
loses her nerve now, we’ll never have our trip.”

Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright both reassured her. “The paper says clear
weather and light winds, Miss Stuart. You’ll have a beautiful day of it.
Remember we shall meet you in New Haven to-morrow, and you have promised
to wait for us.”

Aunt Sallie settled herself resignedly into her violet cushions, holding
her smelling bottle to her nose. “Very well, young people, have it your
own way,” she relented. “But, mark my words, it will rain before night.
I have a shoulderblade that is a better weather prophet than all your
bureaus.”

“You’re much too handsome a woman,” laughed Ruth, the other girls
joining her, “to talk like Katisha, in the ‘Mikado,’ who had the famous
shoulderblade that people came miles to see.”

Ruth was steering her car through Fifth Avenue, so Aunt Sallie merely
smiled at her own expense, adding: “You’re a very disrespectful niece,
Ruth.”

“I’d get on my knees to apologize, Auntie,” declared Ruth, “only there
isn’t room, and we’d certainly be run into, if I did.”

Barbara was poring over the route book. Her duty as guide to the
automobile party really began to-day, and she was studying every inch of
the road map. What would she do if they were lost?

“You may look up from that book just once in every fifteen minutes,
Guide Thurston,” Ruth said, pretending to be serious over Barbara’s
worried look. “We promise not to eat you if you do get us a little out
of our way. The roads are well posted. What shall we do if we meet some
bandits?”

“Leave them to me,” boasted Barbara. “I suppose it’s my fate to play man
of the party.”

“And what of the chauffeur?” Ruth protested. “I wonder what any of us
could do if we got into danger.”

The day was apparently lovely. The girls were in the wildest spirits.

“I never believed until this minute,” announced Mollie, “that we were
actually going on the trip to Newport. I felt every moment something
would happen to stop us. I even dreamed, last night, that we met a great
giant in the road, and he roared at us, ‘I never allow red motor cars
with brass trimmings to pass along this road!’ Ruth wouldn’t pay the
least attention to him, but kept straight ahead, until he picked up the
car and started to pitch us over in a ditch. Then Ruth cried: ‘Hold on
there! If you won’t let a red car pass, I’ll go back to town and have
mine painted green. I must have my trip.’ Just as she turned around and
started back, I woke up. Wasn’t it awful?”

“You are a goose,” said Grace, rather nervously. “It isn’t a sign of
anything, is it? You ought not to tell your dreams after breakfast. You
may make them come true.”

Barbara and Ruth both shouted with laughter, for Mollie answered just as
seriously: “You’re wrong, Grace; it’s telling dreams before breakfast
that makes them come true. I was particularly careful to wait.”

The car passed swiftly through the town in the early morning. Soon the
spires and towers of the city were no longer visible.

“Hurrah for the Boston Post Road!” sang Barbara, as the car swung into
the famous old highway.

“And hurrah for Barbara for discovering it!” teased Ruth. “Now, clear
the track, fellow autoists and slow coach drivers! We know where we’re
going, and we’re on the way!”

It had been decided to make a straight trip through to New Haven, and to
wait there for Mrs. Cartwright. Miss Sallie had insisted on some rest,
and the girls were wild to see the college—and the college men.

“It will be sure enough sport,” Ruth confided, “to have one dance with
all the partners needed to go round.” Men were as scarce at the
Kingsbridge Hotel as they were in other summer resorts, and Ruth was
tired of Harry Townsend and his kind, who liked to stay around the
hotel, making eyes at all the girls they saw.

“Yes,” said Barbara thoughtfully, “it will be fun. Yet, Ruth, suppose we
are sticks and no one dances with us?” Barbara didn’t like the thought
of being a wall-flower. Ruth laughed and quickly replied, “Oh, Mrs.
Cartwright is awfully jolly and popular, so we will have plenty of
invitations to dance.”

“Ruth,” said Miss Sallie, a little after noon, when they had passed,
without a hitch, through a number of beautiful Connecticut towns, and
were speeding along an open road, with a view of the waters of Long
Island Sound to the right of them, “I have not looked at my watch
lately, but I’ve an impression I am hungry. As long as we have made up
our minds to eat the luncheon the hotel has put up for us, why not stop
along the road here, and have a picnic?”

“Good for you, Aunt Sallie!” said Grace, emphatically. “This is a beauty
place. Ruth can leave the car right here, and we can go up under that
elm and make tea. What larks!”

The girls all piled out, carrying the big lunch hamper between them. On
the stump of an old tree the alcohol lamp was set up and tea was quickly
brewed. Then the girls formed a circle on the ground, while Miss Sallie,
from her throne of violet silk pillows, gave directions about setting
the lunch table.

No one noticed how the time passed. No one could notice, all were having
such a jolly time; even Miss Sallie was now in excellent spirits. She
had been in Newport several times before, and the girls were full of
questions.

Mollie leaned her head against Miss Sallie’s knee, so intimate had she
grown in a day and a half with that awe-inspiring person. “Is it true,”
she inquired in a voice of reverence, “that every person who lives in
Newport is a millionaire?”

“And are the streets paved with gold, Miss Sallie?” queried Grace. She
was Mollie’s special friend, and fond of teasing her. “I read that the
water at Bailey’s Beach is perfumed every morning before the ladies go
in bathing, and that all the fish that come from near there taste like
cologne.”

Miss Sallie laughed. “There are some people at Newport who are not
summer people,” she explained. “You must remember that it is an old New
England town, and there are thousands of people who live there the year
around. My brother has persuaded some old friends of ours, who used to
be very wealthy when I was a girl, to take us to board with them. There
are very few hotels.”

Several times during their talk Ruth’s eyes had wandered a little
anxiously to the sky above them. Every now and then the shadows darkened
under the old elm where they were eating their luncheon, bringing a
sudden coolness to the summer atmosphere.

“Aunt Sallie made me nervous about the weather with that story of her
shoulderblade,” Ruth argued with herself. So she was the first to say:
“Come, we had better be off. What a lot of time we’ve wasted!”

“No hurry, Ruth,” Aunt Sallie answered, placidly. “New Haven is no great
distance. We shall be there before dark.”

It was fully half after two before the automobile girls had gathered up
their belongings and were again comfortably disposed in the car.

“It certainly is great, Ruth, the way you crank up your own car,” Grace
declared. “It must take an awful lot of strength, doesn’t it?”

“Yes,” admitted Ruth, as she jumped back into her automobile and the car
plunged on ahead. “But I’ve a strong right arm. I don’t row and play
tennis for nothing. Father says it takes skill and courage, as well as
strength, to drive a car. I hope I’m not boasting; it’s only that father
believes girls should attempt to do things as well as boys. Girls could
do a lot more if they tried harder. ‘Sometimes,’ Dad says, ‘gumption
counts for more than brute force.’”

“Whew, Ruth! You talk like a suffragette,” objected Grace.

“Well, maybe I am one,” said Ruth. “I’m from the West, where they raise
strong-minded women. What do you say, Barbara?”

“I don’t know,” replied Barbara. “I would not like to go to war, and I’m
awfully afraid I’d run from a burglar in the dark.”

“Who’d have thought Barbara would confess to being a coward?” Grace
broke in, just to see what Bab would say. But Bab wouldn’t answer. “I
don’t know what I would do,” she ended.

“Anyhow,” said Miss Ruth, from her position of dignity on the
chauffeur’s seat, “I should be allowed to vote on laws for motor cars,
as long as I can run a machine without a man.”

“My dear Ruth,” interposed Miss Sallie at last, “I beg of you, don’t
vote in my lifetime. Girls, in my day, would never have dreamed of such
a thing.”

“Oh, well, Auntie,” answered Ruth, “I wouldn’t worry about it now. Who
knows when I may have a chance to vote?”

Ruth was worried by the clouds overhead, so she ran her machine at full
speed. It took some time and ingenuity to make their way through
Bridgeport, a big, bustling town with crowded streets. By this time the
clouds had lifted, and, for the next hour, Ruth forgot the rain. She and
Barbara were having a serious talk on the front seat. Mollie and Grace,
with their arms around each other, were almost as quiet as Aunt Sallie;
indeed, they were more so, for that good soul was gently snoring.

“If we should have any adventures, Bab,” said Ruth, “I wonder if we’d be
equal to them? I’ll wager you would be. Father says that when people are
not too sure of themselves before a thing happens, they are likely to be
brave at the critical minute.”

The car was going down a hill with a steep incline. Ruth’s hand was on
the brake. Biff! Biff! Bang! Bang! A cannon ball seemed to have exploded
under them. Miss Sallie sat up very straight, with an expression of
great dignity; Grace and Mollie gave little screams, and Barbara looked
as though she were willing to be defended if anything very dreadful had
happened.

Only Ruth dared laugh. “You’re not killed, girls,” she said. “You might
as well get used to that racket; it happens to the best regulated motor
cars. It is only a bursted tire; but it might have been kind enough to
have happened in town, instead of on this deserted country road. Oh,
dear me!” she next ejaculated, for, before she could stop her car, it
had skidded, and the front wheel was imbedded in a deep hole in the
road.

“Get out, please,” Ruth ordered. “Grace, will you find a stone for me? I
must try to brace this wheel. Did I say something about skill, instead
of strength, and not needing a man?” Ruth had taken off her coat and
rolled up her sleeves in a business-like fashion.

“I have helped father with a punctured tire before.” She tugged at the
old tire, which hung limp and useless by this time. She was talking very
cheerfully, though Aunt Sallie’s woeful expression would have made any
girl nervous. At the same time dark clouds had begun to appear overhead.

“You’d better get out the rain things,” Ruth conceded. “I can’t get this
fixed very soon. Queer no one passes along this way. It’s a lonesome
kind of road. I wonder if we are off the main track?”

“It is a country lane, not a main road. I saw that at once,” said Miss
Sallie.

“Then why didn’t you tell us, Aunt Sallie?”

“My eyes were closed to avoid the dust,” replied Aunt Sallie firmly.

Poor Ruth had a task on her hands. If only the car had not skidded into
that ugly hole, she could have managed; but it was impossible for her,
with the help of all the girls, to lift the car enough to slip the new
tire over the rim.

Mollie and Grace were taking Miss Sallie a little walk through the woods
at the side of the road to try to make the time pass and to give Ruth a
chance. Grace had winked at her slyly as they departed.

“Barbara,” Ruth said finally, in tragic tones, “I’m in a fix and I might
as well confess it. I know it all comes of my boasting that I didn’t
need a man. My kingdom for one just for a few minutes! Do you suppose
there is a farmhouse near where we could find some one to help me get
this wheel out of the rut? I’d surrender this job to a man with
pleasure.”

“I don’t believe we are on the right road, Ruth, dear.” Barbara felt so
responsible that she was almost in tears. Ominous thunder clouds were
rolling overhead, and Bab tried not to notice the large splash of rain
that had fallen on her nose.

“Don’t worry Bab, dear,” urged Ruth. “I should have looked out for the
road, too. It can’t be helped.”

“But I am going to help. You can just rely on that,” announced Barbara,
shaking her brown curls defiantly. She had taken off her hat in the
exertion of trying to help Ruth. “We passed a sleepy-looking old farm a
little way back, but I am going to wake it up!”

She heard Miss Sallie and the girls returning to the shelter of the car,
for the rain had suddenly come down in torrents. Down the road sped Bab,
shaking her head like a little brown Shetland pony.

Miss Sallie was in the depths of despair.

“Child,” she said sternly to Ruth, “get into the car out of that mud. We
will remain here, under the shelter of the covers until morning. Then,
if we are alive, I myself will walk to the nearest town and telegraph
your father. We will take the next train back to New York.” Miss Sallie
spoke with the extreme severity due to a rheumatic shoulder that had
been disregarded.

“Please let me keep on trying, Aunt Sallie,” pleaded Ruth. “I’ll get the
tire on, or some one will come along to help me. I am so sorry, for I
know it is all my fault.”

“Never mind, Ruth; but you are to come into this car.” And Ruth, covered
with mud, was obliged to give in.

“Where, I should like to know,” demanded Miss Sallie, “is Barbara?”

Through the rain they could hear the patter, patter of a horse’s hoofs.

[Illustration: On Came Barbara, Riding Bareback.]

“Cheer up, Ruth, dear,” whispered Grace. “What difference does a little
rain make? Here is some one coming along the road!”

Ruth’s eyes were full of tears; Aunt Sallie’s threat to stop their trip
was more than she could bear; but she was soon smiling.

“Why, Barbara Thurston,” the girls called out together, “it can’t be
you!” On came Barbara, riding bareback astride an old horse, the
animal’s big feet clattering, its mane and tail soaked with rain.

“Great heavens!” said Miss Sallie, and closed her eyes.

Barbara rode up to the automobile, her hand clasped tightly in the
horse’s mane.

“I’m as right as can be, Miss Sallie. I went back to that sleepy old
farm, knocked and knocked for help, and called and called, but nobody
would answer. Just as I gave up all hope, old Dobbin came to the porch
and neighed, as if inquiring what I was doing on his premises. Like a
flash I put out my hand, as though to pat him, grabbed him by the mane,
hopped up here, and now you see the best lady bareback rider from
Rinkhem’s Circus. I led you into this mess; now I’m going to get you
out. I shall ride old Dobbin into town and come back with help.” Bab
declaimed this, ending out of breath.

“Never mind, Miss Sallie,” Mollie explained, seeing her consternation.
“Bab never rode any other way than bareback when she was a little girl.
Do let her go!”

“Very well; but she may be arrested as a horse thief. That is all I have
to say in the matter.” Miss Sallie sank back on her cushions, but
Barbara had clattered off before she could be forbidden to go. She
caught the words, “horse thief,” as she rode as fast as old Dobbin would
carry her.

“It’s Barbara to the rescue again!” Ruth shouted after her.



CHAPTER VIII—“FOR WE ARE JOLLY GOOD FELLOWS!”


“Suppose I should be arrested!” thought Barbara uncomfortably. “It would
be distinctly unpleasant to be hauled off to jail, while Aunt Sallie and
the girls remain stuck in the mud, not knowing my fate, and helpless to
save me! I may meet old Dobbin’s owner at any minute!”

It was after six o’clock, and, because of the heavy storm, was almost
dusk. Barbara had decided to go to the end of the lane and find the main
road to New Haven, hoping to sooner discover help in that direction.

Before long she came to a fork in the road. By riding close to the
sign-post she found a hand pointing: “Nine Miles to New Haven.” On she
sped through the mud and rain, slipping and sliding on the horse’s back,
but still holding tight to his mane.

“Stop! Hello, there! Why, Mirandy, if that ain’t my own hoss, and that
girl astride it running off as fast as she can! Hello! Stop!” The farmer
lashed the horse hitched to his rickety old buggy, and dashed after
Barbara, who had ridden past without noticing them. “Stop, thief!”

Down to her wet toes sank Barbara’s heart. The worst she had feared had
happened. If only she had seen their buggy in time to stop first and ask
their help. Now, rushing by them, how could she explain? Horse thief,
indeed.

“Oh, please,” she said, her voice not quite steady, “I am not exactly
running away with your horse; I am only going for help! My friends——”

The farmer grabbed the horse savagely by the mane. “Come on,” he said.
“You can tell your story at the nearest police station. I ain’t got time
fer sech foolishness. What I see, I see with my own eyes. You’re plain
running away with my hoss!”

“John,” pleaded the farmer’s wife, “you might listen to the young lady.”

But Barbara’s looks were against her. The rain had beaten her hair down
over her eyes. Her clothes were wet and covered with mud from trying to
help Ruth. What could she do? Barbara was frightened, but she kept a
cool head. “I’ll just let the old man haul me before the nearest
magistrate. I expect _he’ll_ listen to me!” She was shivering, but she
knew that to think bravely helped to keep up one’s courage. “If only it
were not so awful for Aunt Sallie and the girls to be waiting there, I
could stand my part,” murmured Bab.

For fifteen minutes captors and girl jogged on. Only the old man talked,
savagely, under his breath. He wanted to get home to his farmhouse and
supper, but this made him only the more determined to punish Barbara.

“I suppose we’ll take all night to get to town at this rate,” she
thought miserably.

  For we are jolly good fellows, For we are jolly good fellows!

Barbara could hear the ring of the gay song and the distant whirr of a
motor car coming down the road. If only she could attract someone’s
attention and make them listen to her! She could now see the lights of
the automobile bearing down upon them.

Like a flash, before the farmer could guess what she was doing, Barbara
whirled around on old Dobbin’s back, and sat backwards. She put one hand
to her lips. “Oh, stop! Stop, please!” she cried, looking like a gypsy,
with her rain-blown hair and brown cheeks, which were crimson with
blushes at her awkward position.

On account of the rain, and the oncoming darkness, the car was going
slowly. At the end of one of the choruses the song stopped half a
second. One of the young fellows in the car caught sight of Barbara,
evidently being dragged along by the irate farmer and his wife.

“Hark! Stop! Look! Listen! Methinks, I see a female in distress,” the
young man called out.

The car stopped almost beside the buggy, and one of the boys in the car
roared with laughter at Barbara’s appearance, but the friend nearest him
gave a warning prod.

“Hold on there!” called the first young man. “Where are you dragging
this young lady against her will?”

“She’s a hoss thief!” said the old man sullenly.

“I am no such thing,” answered Barbara indignantly. Then, without any
warning, Barbara threw back her head and laughed until the tears ran
down her cheeks, mingling with the rain. It was absurdly funny, she
sitting backwards on an old horse, one hand in his mane, and the farmer
pulling them along with a rope. What must she look like to these boys?
Barbara saw they were gentlemen, and knew she had nothing more to fear.

“Do please listen, while I tell my story. I am not a horse thief! I’ve
some friends up the road, stuck in the mud with a broken tire in their
automobile. I saw this old horse in the farm-yard, and I borrowed or
rented him, and started for help. The old man wouldn’t let me explain.
Won’t you,” she looked appealingly at the four boys in their motor car,
“please go back and help my friends?”

“Every man of us!” uttered one of the young fellows, springing up in his
car. “And we’ll drag this old tartar behind us with his own rope! We’ll
buy your old horse from you, if this young lady wants him as a
souvenir.”

It was the farmer’s turn to be frightened.

“I am sure I beg your pardon, miss,” he said, humbly enough now. His
wife was in tears.

“Oh, never mind him,” urged Barbara. “Please go on back as fast as you
can to my friends. You’ll find them up the lane to the left. I’ll ride
the old horse back to the farm, and settle things and join you later.”

“Excuse me, Miss Paul Revere,” disputed a tall, dark boy with a pair of
laughing blue eyes that made him oddly handsome, “you’ll do no such
thing. Kindly turn over that fiery steed to me, take my seat in the car
and show these knights-errant the way to the ladies in distress. I want
to prove to you that a fellow can ride bareback as well as a girl can.”

But the farmer was anxious to get out of trouble.

“I’ll just lead the hoss back myself,” he said. “No charge at all,
miss.” Evidently afraid of trouble, the farmer made a hurried start
homeward, and was soon lost to view, while Barbara rode back to her
friends with help.

In ten minutes two motor cars were making their way into New Haven. The
passengers had changed places. Ruth sat contentedly with her hands
folded in her lap, by the side of a masculine chauffeur, who had
introduced himself as Hugh Post, and turned out to be the roommate, at
college, of Mrs. Cartwright’s brother, Donald. Barbara, wrapped in
steamer rugs, sat beside the boy with the dark hair and blue eyes, whom
Miss Sallie had recognized as Ralph Ewing, son of the friends with whom
they expected to board at Newport.

It was arranged that Barbara and Ruth were to sleep together the first
night at New Haven. The truth was, they wanted to talk things over, and
there were no connecting doors between the three rooms. The hotel was an
old one, and the rooms were big and dreary. They were connected by a
narrow private hall, opening into the main hall by a single door, just
opposite Ruth’s and Barbara’s room. The automobile girls were in a
distant wing of the hotel, but the accommodations were the best that
could be found.

Miss Sallie bade their rescuers a prompt farewell on arrival at the
hotel. “We shall be delighted to see you again in the morning,” she
said, “but we are too used up for anything more to-night.”

Barbara was promptly put to bed. She was not even allowed to go down to
supper with the other girls, but lay snuggled in heavy covers, eating
from a tray by her bed. Once or twice she thought she heard light
footfalls outside in the main hall, but she had noticed a window that
opened on a fire escape, and supposed that one of the hotel guests had
walked down the corridor to look out of this window.

In a short time Ruth came back and reported that the automobile girls,
including Miss Sallie, were ready for bed.

“I am not a bit sleepy. Are you?” Ruth asked Barbara. “I will just jump
in here with you, so we can talk better. We’ve certainly had enough
adventures for one day!”

“Oh, no!” replied Barbara; “I feel quite wide awake.” Five minutes later
both girls were fast asleep.



CHAPTER IX—ONLY GIRLS


Barbara and Ruth both awoke with a feeling that a light had flashed over
their faces, but neither of them spoke nor moved. How long they had
slept they could not know. It seemed almost morning, but not a ray of
daylight came through the closed blinds.

Across the room the flash shone for an instant, then darted on like a
will-o’-the-wisp. Both girls dimly saw the outline of a man crouching in
the shadow along the wall. His hand slid cautiously up the sides of the
bureau, fingering, for a moment, the toilet articles on the dresser.
Then the search-light for an instant darted along the mantel and turned
to the bed again. The girls were nearly fainting with terror. Ruth
remembered that, for once, she had locked her money and her jewels in
her trunk.

The man stood absolutely still and listened. Not a sound!

So quiet lay both girls that neither one knew the other had wakened.

The man continued his search, but plainly this was not the room he
sought. Still moving, his feet making absolutely no sound, the dark
figure with the lantern crept out of the girls’ room, to the front of
the corridor, and turned down the narrow, private hallway.

“Aunt Sallie!” Ruth thought with a gasp. She had said she would leave
her door open, so she might hear if the girls called her in the night.
And Aunt Sallie carried a large sum of money for the expenses of the
trip, and her own jewelry as well.

It may be that Ruth made a sound, anyway Barbara knew that her roommate
was awake. Both had the same thought at just the same instant.

Noiselessly, without a word, on bare feet, both girls sped down the hall
to Miss Sallie’s open door. What they would do when they got there
neither of them knew. It was time for action, not for thought! At the
open door they paused and knelt in the shadow. Black darkness was about
them, save in Aunt Sallie’s room, where a dark lantern flashed its
uncanny light. The girls were alert in every faculty. Now they could see
more distinctly the form of the man who carried the lantern. He was of
medium height and slender. Over his face he wore a black mask through
which gleamed his eyes, narrowed to two fine points of steel.

Should the girls cry out? The man was armed and it might mean death to
Aunt Sallie or themselves.

Evidently the burglar meant to make a thorough search of the room before
he went to the bed, where, he guessed, the valuables were probably kept;
but he must know first. The room was bare of treasure. He walked
cautiously to where Miss Sallie still slept in complete unconsciousness,
this time holding his lantern down, that its light should not waken the
sleeping woman.

As he drew near her Ruth could bear the suspense no longer. She saw him
drag out a bag from under Miss Sallie’s head and could not refrain from
uttering a low cry. It was enough. The man dashed the lantern to the
ground and made a rush for the door.

There was no time for Ruth and Barbara to plan. They were only girls;
but as the man ran toward them in the darkness, striking out fiercely,
Barbara seized one of his legs, Ruth the other. Together, the three of
them went down in the blackness. The girls had not the robber’s
strength, but they had taken him by surprise and they meant to fight it
out.

He kicked violently to free himself, then turned and tore at Barbara’s
hands, but she clung to him. He raised the butt end of his pistol and
struck with all his force. As the blow fell with a terrific thud,
Barbara relaxed her hold, and tumbled over in the darkness.

By this time Miss Sallie realized what was happening. Yet, in the
darkness, she could only cry for help, and moan: “Let him alone, girls!
Let him go!”

With one leg free it seemed a simple task to get away. The noises were
arousing the sleeping hotel guests. Another minute, and the burglar knew
that he would be lost! With a violent wrench he tore himself away, and
started down the hall, Ruth after him. If she could delay him a few
seconds help would come!

The outside door leading from their private hall into the main one was
nearly closed; in reaching to open it there was a second’s delay. Ruth
flung herself forward, caught the man’s coat and clung desperately, but
the burglar was too clever for her. In less than a second he slipped out
of his coat, ran quickly to the window leading to the fire escape, and
was gone! When assistance arrived, Ruth was standing in the front hall
holding a man’s coat in her hand.

“Oh, come!” she said in horror. “A light, please! Aunt Sallie has been
robbed, and I am afraid Barbara has been killed!”

Ten or twelve people came running down the hall. The hotel proprietor
and several servants made for the fire escape. Grace and Mollie, clad in
kimonos, had joined Ruth in the hall, and were shaking with terror.
Neither of them had spoken a word, but Grace silently handed Ruth her
bath robe.

They turned and the three girls followed the rescuers, who were
hastening toward Aunt Sallie’s room. That elderly woman had already
risen, struck a light and was in her kimono.

Barbara was leaning against a chair, white as a sheet, but unhurt!

“O Bab!” said Ruth, flying toward her, forgetting everything else in her
relief, “I thought you were killed!”

“I thought so, too,” nodded Barbara, calmly smiling, as she reached for
one of the blankets and wrapped herself in its folds, “but I wasn’t.
When the burglar raised the end of his pistol to strike me, I knew what
was coming and ducked. He struck the side of the chair, and I tumbled
over under it.”

The hotel proprietor came into the room carrying a chamois bag.

“Madam,” he asked, “is this your property? I found it outside here.
Evidently the man dropped it in trying to make his escape. I cannot
understand what has happened. The hotel is securely locked. The fire
escape goes down into a closed court. The man could not have made his
way down five stories, without being seen when we reached the window. It
is incredible!”

By this time the halls were swarming with frightened visitors.

Grace had gone out to speak to them, and came in holding the burglar’s
coat in her hand. “How curious!” she said, handing the garment to the
proprietor. “This is a gentleman’s coat. I can tell by the lining and
the whole appearance of it. It was not worn by a common thief!”

“Ruth, my child, and Barbara,” said Aunt Sallie, when everyone had left
their apartments, “I shall never forgive you!”

“Why not, Aunt Sallie?” both girls exclaimed, at once.

“Because, my dears, you didn’t just scream and let the wretch escape at
once. In my day girls would never have behaved as you did!”

“But, Aunt Sallie,” protested Ruth, “the jewels and money are both safe,
and neither Barbara nor I am hurt. I don’t see how we could have done
any better, even in your day.”

“Kiss me,” said Aunt Sallie, “and go back to bed at once. It is nearly
morning.”

When Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright drew up in front of the New Haven hotel, at
a little after two o’clock next day, they found Miss Sallie and the four
girls surrounded by a circle of college boys. With them stood a
policeman.

“What has happened?” said Mrs. Cartwright in astonishment, jumping out
of her car, as Donald Cartwright, Hugh Post and Ralph Ewing came down to
meet her. “Are those my girls, to whom I am to introduce you to-day?”

“Goodness!” demanded Hugh. “Did you think we would wait twelve hours for
an introduction! Do come and hear all that has happened.”

Miss Stuart, looking a good deal shaken by her adventures, came forward
to meet Mrs. Cartwright. “Listen!” she said dramatically, for Barbara
was talking to the policeman.

“No, we would neither of us know him, because neither my friend nor I
ever saw him before. It was dark and he was masked. But he was
slight—not a big, rough kind of man—and his hands were soft, but strong
as steel. I don’t believe,” she leaned over and whispered, “he could
have been a servant, or an ordinary burglar.”

“We have discovered, miss, that no entrance was made from the outside.
Any guests who left the hotel this morning will be followed and
examined. The chief will report to you later,” the policeman said, with
a low bow to Miss Sallie.

“Well, is this the way you see a nice, quiet, old college town?” Mrs.
Cartwright inquired. “I suppose you mean to take the next train for
home.”

“No such thing!” retorted Ruth, smiling, and looking as bright and fresh
as ever. “We don’t mind a few weeny adventures, do we, Aunt Sallie?”

Miss Sallie held up her hands in horror. “Weeny adventures! What shall
we expect next! However, I’ve promised the girls to go on. I think we
need the trip, now, more than ever, and I want to ask Mr. Cartwright to
keep the matter as quiet as possible. I do not wish my brother to know.”

“Do please come on,” said Hugh Post, turning to Ruth. “We are going,” he
explained, “out to the athletic grounds in our motor cars. The girls
came to see the university, and we haven’t shown them a blooming thing.”

“We are going to the dance to-night, just the same,” announced Mollie to
Mrs. Cartwright. “Aunt Sallie is to rest this afternoon, so she will be
equal to it. We wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright joined the party, and, in a few minutes, the two
motor cars had covered the two miles between the college campus and the
thirty acres Yale devotes to college sports. The visitors saw the
athletic grounds thoroughly; here the football champions of the world
had been trained, and there was the baseball diamond.

“Ralph’s the crack oarsman of the lot,” said Donald Cartwright;
“but—great Scott! We can’t show these girls anything, after the way they
tackled the burglar last night.”

“We’ll get up a regatta in your honor, if you’ll come again next year,
Miss Thurston,” said Ralph.

Barbara only laughed at him. “Look out,” she warned. “I may make you
keep your promise.”

“Barbara,” said Mollie that night, as they were getting ready for the
dance which was to take place in the Old Alumni Hall, “are you sure you
feel well enough for the ball to-night?”

“Nonsense, child, why shouldn’t I? I feel as fine as a fiddle. It isn’t
doing things that uses one up, even tackling a burglar; it is thinking
about them. Ruth and I didn’t have any time to think about our burglar.”

“Well,” said Mollie, a little wistfully, smoothing the folds of her
muslin dress, “I don’t believe I am as anxious to go to the dance as I
thought I was. Does this dress look _very_ shabby? I wouldn’t go, now,
only it seems kind of hateful of me to refuse Mrs. Cartwright’s
invitation.”

“Now, Molliekins,” Barbara answered quite seriously, “it’s your dress,
isn’t it? Of course, I have thought about mine, too. These are just
simple muslins that we have worn before; but, when we left home, we
neither of us dreamed we would go to a party in them. Let’s just make
the best of things. Anyhow, I’ve made up my mind to one thing, and I
wish you would, too. You and I must not worry about being poor while we
are on this trip. Let us not pretend that we are rich, because everybody
we meet seems to be. Ruth knows we are poor, knows about our little
cottage and not keeping a servant, and she doesn’t mind. I don’t believe
really nice people care whether young girls are rich or poor, if they
happen to like them. I don’t mean to preach.” Barbara put her arm around
Mollie and waltzed her around the room. “Let us pretend we are both
Cinderellas before the arrival of the fairy godmother.”

Mollie didn’t answer; but she tucked some pink roses in her belt. “It
doesn’t really matter about me, anyway,” she decided. “I can’t expect
these grown-up boys to dance with me. I will just stay by Miss Sallie.”

“All right, little Miss Wall-flower,” laughed Bab, as she pinned on a
knot of blue that Ralph Ewing had asked her to wear, as a tribute to the
Yale colors.

It was Mollie, after all, who was the belle of the party. Perhaps this
was because the other girls whispered to their partners that Mollie was
afraid nobody would dance with her; or, perhaps, because she was the
youngest, and the best dancer among them all.

“I am going to take this little lady under my special protection at
Newport,” Mrs. Cartwright said to Miss Stuart, late that evening. “I
don’t mean my ‘butterfly girl’ to be losing her beauty sleep.”

Mollie looked at her “lovely lady” with eyes as blue as myrtle blossoms.
Mrs. Cartwright was so exquisite, so young and so wealthy, she seemed to
Mollie to have stepped out of a book.

Miss Sallie was vainly trying to collect her four charges all at once,
in order to take them home.

“Aunt Sallie,” Hugh Post said roguishly, as that lady made a last
determined stand, and gathered her girls together, “you know, from your
experience yesterday, that Miss Ruth can’t handle a motor car, even
though she can tackle a burglar. So we are going to follow you in my
automobile to-morrow and see that you get to New London all right.”

“Oh, no, you’re not,” protested Ruth. “This I will have you know is an
automobile girls’ excursion and nary a man allowed.”

“This one time, kindly permit us to follow you at a respectful distance,
won’t you?” Hugh urged. “It’s only a short trip to New London. To tell
you the truth, the governor’s yacht is over there and I hope to be able
to persuade you to go aboard. It is not disrespectful of me, Miss
Stuart, to speak so of my father; he was once governor of the state, and
he rather likes to be reminded of it. Mother has a number of friends on
board the yacht, and we shall be cruising up to Newport in a few days. I
think it would be jolly for father and mother to know you.”



CHAPTER X—ENTER GLADYS AND MR. TOWNSEND


“Why, Gladys Le Baron, this is a surprise!” gayly said Grace Carter next
afternoon, when the two parties of girls and men had left their
automobiles and had come aboard Governor Post’s yacht, the “Penguin,”
that lay just outside the New London harbor.

Grace was awaiting her turn to be introduced to her host and hostess,
when she spied Gladys, in a pale blue flannel suit and a cream felt hat,
strolling down the deck, looking very much at home.

“How ever did _you_ get here?” queried Grace, smiling.

Gladys gave Grace’s cheek an affected peck with her lips.

“I have a better right to ask that question of you,” Gladys pouted,
“only I am not surprised. Harry Townsend came over from New London,
yesterday, and told me you had arrived the night before. He went over
with Hugh for the dance, but I didn’t feel like going, so he came back
early yesterday morning. I am amazed Hugh did not speak of it to you.”

“Oh, Mr. Post didn’t know we had ever heard of Harry Townsend, or you
either. We met most unexpectedly, and we had plenty of excitement of our
own. I must tell you about it.”

At this moment, Hugh came over for Grace to introduce her to his mother.

“This is Miss Carter, mother,” he said. “Will you introduce her to Mrs.
Erwin and father? She seems to know Gladys already.”

Harry Townsend had seen the newcomers, and came forward to speak to them
with his most charming manner.

“Say, Townsend,” challenged Hugh, “what made you run away from us? We
thought, of course, you’d stay over for the dance. Thought that was your
plan in going over to New Haven.”

Harry turned to Miss Stuart. “I heard of your arrival in New Haven, the
other evening,” he said. “The fellows told me of your experiences; but I
got away from the hotel too early next morning to pay my respects.”

“Then you didn’t hear of the burglar, did you?” queried Hugh.

In spite of Miss Sallie’s protestations the whole story had to be gone
over again.

Barbara was talking to Ralph Ewing and had not looked at Harry Townsend
during the conversation, until he came over to speak to her.

“I have half an idea, Miss Thurston,” he said, “that you do not like me,
and I am sorry. I was looking forward to our having good times together
at Newport, as I am to be Mrs. Erwin’s guest, with your cousin Miss Le
Baron. Mrs. Post asked us on for the yacht trip a day or two sooner than
we expected. We are all going up to Newport together.”

“Mr. Townsend,” said Barbara, her usually laughing, brown eyes now
steadfast and serious, “I wonder why you think I do not like you?”

“Miss Stuart,” begged Mrs. Post, after the governor had conducted the
party over his trim little craft, “you must stay and dine with us on
board the yacht to-night. I refuse to take no for an answer. I wish I
could keep you over until morning, but unfortunately the yacht is too
small.”

Miss Sallie protested. No; they couldn’t think of it. They had come
aboard only for a call, and must get back to their hotel before night.
But Hugh swept all her arguments aside. He was an adored only son, and
accustomed to having his own way. To tell the truth, Miss Sallie was not
averse to the idea of staying; it was pleasant to be meeting Newporters
in advance. Miss Stuart was a woman who thought much of appearances, and
of this world’s goods, and their new acquaintances seemed to have plenty
of both.

“It’s an ill wind,” she thought to herself, “and I must say, for my
young niece, that she has a habit of falling on her feet.”

But aloud Miss Sallie accepted the invitation with much decorum.

On the deck aft, where the young people had gathered, there was much
laughter.

Gladys was really pleased to see Ruth. As for her cousins, they were a
bore, but she had no idea of being openly rude to them. She simply meant
to ignore them.

It was not easy to disregard two such popular girls. Barbara and Mollie
seemed to be well able to get on without her patronage. Barbara was
already smiling and chattering with Governor Post, while the boys
described her mad ride of two days before.

“Father,” said Hugh, “I forgot to introduce you to Miss Thurston by her
proper title, ‘Miss Paul Revere.’”

“Harry,” asked Gladys, as they stood on the outside of the circle,
“don’t you think it is disgusting the way that forward cousin of mine
always manages to put herself before the public?”

“Well,” said Mr. Townsend—was there a little admiration in his
tone?—“she seems to have plenty of grit.”

It was really Mollie, not Barbara, who saw through Gladys’s treatment of
them. Barbara was too open-hearted and boyish to notice a slight, unless
it was very marked.

Gladys had asked Ruth and Grace to her stateroom, and Mrs. Post had put
the other two girls into her unoccupied guest chamber. It was a little
gem of a stateroom, upholstered in pale green to relieve the glare from
the water.

“Bab,” Mollie chuckled, rubbing her cheeks until they were pink, “do you
remember the story of ‘The Water Baby’?”

“Yes,” Bab answered absently; “I do, after a fashion. But why do you
ask? You haven’t turned into a water baby, have you, just because you
are on board a yacht for the first time in your life?”

“No,” laughed Mollie. “I was thinking of the story in it of the salmon
and the trout. Have you forgotten it?”

“Of course I have,” admitted Barbara.

Mollie chuckled gleefully. “Our high and mighty cousin, Gladys, reminds
me very much of the salmon, who thought the trout a very common fish,
and disliked him all the more because he was a relation. Feel like a
trout, Bab?”

“Not at all, Mollie; but do hurry and go out on deck. That young
freshman, who came down in the automobile with us to amuse you, is
wandering around outside, looking frightened to death. You must go and
talk to him.”

As Barbara stepped into the big salon, which was fitted up like a
library, she saw one of the young men disappear quickly through the open
door. Bab went over to their wraps, which they had dropped in a heap on
a couch when they boarded the yacht, and selected her own jacket. Ruth’s
pocketbook was in full view among their belongings, and Bab covered it
over before she went on deck.

Before dinner ended the moon had risen, the pale crescent hanging like a
slender jewel in the sky.

Barbara was standing alone, for a second, when Mrs. Erwin approached
her.

“Pardon me, dear,” she said, “but did you or your sister see a small pin
on the dressing table of the guest room, when you went in there before
dinner? I have misplaced a ruby and diamond circle of no great value. I
went into the guest chamber this morning, while the maid was cleaning my
room, and I thought perhaps I had laid it down in there.”

“No,” said Bab, frowning. It did seem curious how losses were following
them! “I didn’t look, although it was probably there. I am most
unobservant. I will ask my sister.”

“No, no,” said Mrs. Erwin, hastily; “please don’t. I shall probably find
it again. I don’t want Mrs. Post to hear.”

The next morning, when Grace and Ruth were donning their best motor
veils and coats, Ruth suddenly looked surprised and began to search
hurriedly through her pocketbook.

“Grace,” she said, “I can’t find fifty dollars. I am sure I had it
yesterday, because I looked carefully after that wretched burglar had
gone, though I knew all my money was safe in my trunk. Now it’s gone!”

Ruth turned her pocketbook upside down. “Don’t tell Aunt Sallie,
please,” she begged. “I don’t know what she would say to have this item
added to our adventures.”

Miss Sallie’s voice was heard calling from the next room.

“Girls, are we or are we not, going to Newport to-day? I, for my part,
wish to spend no more time on the way!”



CHAPTER XI—NEWPORT AT LAST!


The automobile girls were in a flutter of excitement. Another half hour,
and they would arrive in Newport!

“Ruth,” said Miss Sallie, “slow up this car a little! Before we enter
Newport, I must see to my appearance. To think of all I have gone
through since I left Kingsbridge!” Miss Sallie took out a small hand
mirror, thoughtfully surveying her own unwrinkled face. “What will you
children get me into before we are through with this trip?”

Ruth slowed down obediently.

“Open my bag, Mollie,” said Miss Sallie, decidedly, “and you, Grace,
look under the seat for my other hat. We shall probably arrive in
Newport at five o’clock, the hour for the fashionable parade. I, at
least, shall do what I can to give our car an appearance of gentility. I
advise you children to do the same.”

“Would you like a little cold cream, Miss Sallie, to wipe off your
face?” Mollie spoke timidly, remembering how Barbara had laughed at her.

“Certainly I should, my child, and very intelligent of you to have
brought it along.”

“Well,” said Ruth, “if you must ‘fix up,’ and I am to take a party of
belles and beauties into Newport, instead of true lovers of sport, there
are lots of new veils under my seat. Bab, take them out and pass them
around. Only the chauffeur shall be dusty and dilapidated enough to look
the part.”

Behold their dream had come true! The automobile girls were at last in
Newport, watching the summer parade!

Ruth, at the expected hour, turned her car, with a great flourish, into
Bellevue Avenue, Newport’s most fashionable thoroughfare. For a few
minutes the girls beheld a long procession of carriages and automobiles;
a little later, they swung round a corner and stopped in front of a
beautiful old Colonial house, with a wide veranda running around three
sides of it, and a hospitably open front door.

Miss Sallie descended first, to be greeted by Ralph’s mother, who was
expecting them.

“I don’t like her. She’s not a bit like Ralph,” thought Barbara. Then
she gave herself an inward shake. “There, Barbara, you know what mother
would say to you about your sudden prejudices!”

Mrs. Ewing, who had been a great beauty in her day, looked as though
life had disagreed with her.

Barbara had wondered how a private home could accommodate so many
people, never having seen a handsome old New England house, but their
three rooms occupied only half of one side of the long hall on the
second floor. “And they think they are poor!” smiled Bab, to herself, as
she looked admiringly at the handsome furniture. “I wonder what they
would think of our little five-room cottage.”

“I want some clean clothes before anything else,” sighed dainty Mollie,
standing before a mirror, gazing with disdain at her own appearance. “I
believe I have one clean shirtwaist left, but I must still wear this
dusty old skirt.”

But Ruth was staggering into the room under an immense box.

“Fifteen dollars express charges, mum; not a cent less! Them’s my
orders. And extry for carrying the box upstairs. It ain’t my business.
I’m too accommodating I am! Where shall I put it down, mum?”

Ruth dropped the heavy bundle on the bed; she couldn’t carry it a moment
longer.

“Why, Ruth Stuart!” said Mollie, dancing with glee. “It’s some clothes
for us! How did mother get them here in such a hurry? Oh, joy! oh,
rapture! I was just fussing about having to wear this old suit
to-night.”

Bab was tugging at the heavy cords.

“Foolish Bab!” scoffed Ruth. “You’ll never get it open that way,” and
she cut the cord in a business-like fashion with a little knife she
always carried.

“Now I’ll run away and leave you,” Ruth continued. “Grace is calling
that it is time for my bath. Your turn next. I’ll see the pretty things
when I come back.”

Ruth would like to have stayed to see the girls open the box, but she
had an instinctive feeling that they would prefer to be alone.

“Here’s a letter from mother. Let’s read that first,” said Bab.

Inside the letter lay two crisp ten-dollar bills!

“I have had a windfall, children,” the letter read, “through the
kindness of Mr. Stuart. He told me that some of my old stock that I
thought of no value was paying a dividend again. Curiously, your Uncle
Ralph had not mentioned it to me; but, when I wrote and told him of Mr.
Stuart’s advice, he sent it to me at once. So here’s a little spending
money. And oh, my darlings, I hope you will like your new clothes! Mr.
Stuart is so kind to me, I am not lonely,” the letter ended, “so have
the best time you possibly can. I shall send your trunk to-morrow with
your summer muslins and underwear.”

“Mollie mine, don’t tear the paper in that fashion,” remonstrated
Barbara. “Let me open the box. Behold and see!” She held up two dainty
organdie frocks, delicate and airy. Mollie’s gown was white, with little
butterfly medallions of embroidery and lace sprinkled over it.

“Mollie, Mollie! How could mother have guessed your new name was ‘the
butterfly girl’? Isn’t it too lovely!” Bab almost forgot to look at her
own frock, so enraptured was she with her sister’s.

But Barbara’s frock was just as charming, and as well suited to her. A
circle of pink wild roses outlined the hem and encircled the yoke, which
was of delicate pink tulle.

Mollie was rummaging with impatient fingers. “Party capes, I do
declare—the very newest style! I never reached the point of expecting
capes even in my wildest dreams. See, yours is all white, and mine has a
pale blue lining with a dear little ‘blue riding hood cap.’ Oh, won’t I
be charming?” murmured Mollie, putting the cape over her shoulders and
pirouetting before the mirror. “Surely no sensible wolf would want to
eat me up!”

Two light flannel suits, one of cream color for Bab, and a pin-stripe of
blue and white for Mollie, completed the glories of the box.

“Now,” said Bab, “what more can we want, for tennis, for rowing, for
yachting, for driving? Are there any more entertainments that the rich
enjoy, Mollie? Because, if there are, I should like to mention them.”

  Oh, the girls will all declare,
  When they see me on the square—
  Here comes a millionaire,
  Mollie darling!

“What do you think of that for poetry made while you wait? You don’t
half appreciate my talents, Miss Mollie Thurston,” ended Bab, with a
final hug.

“Hurry, children,” called Miss Sallie, appearing at their door. “You
know we are to meet Mrs. Cartwright at the Casino to-night. She wants to
introduce us to the place where a large part of Newport’s gayety
occurs.”

“What is the ‘Casino’?” whispered Mollie, when Miss Sallie had
disappeared.

“Oh, it’s only a big club, where you play tennis and have dances, and
any sort of entertainments. Nearly all the nicest people in Newport
belong to it. Mrs. Cartwright says we’ll have most of our fun over
there.”

Bab put her arm round her sister, as they walked downstairs.

“Mollie,” she said, “I have the queerest feeling. I am so happy, it
frightens me. I never had such a good time before. I wonder how it will
all turn out?”

Barbara could not guess that there were to be tears for her, as well as
joys, at Newport. It was as well she did not know, or her pleasure would
have been marred.

The girls finished dinner as quickly as possible.

“There’s time for a stroll on the cliffs, isn’t there, before eight?”
inquired Ruth. “Do you feel equal to exercise, Aunt Sallie? Everyone
takes the cliff walk the first thing after arrival in Newport.”

“Certainly,” Miss Sallie agreed. “I suppose I can manage it, though I
have ridden so far that I may have lost the use of my limbs. However, I
can sit down if I grow tired, and you children can go on without me.
It’s perfectly safe, isn’t it, Mrs. Ewing?”

“Oh, yes,” Mrs. Ewing replied; “though it looks fairly dangerous, the
cliffs are so high, the highest on the Atlantic Coast from Cape Ann to
Yucatan. But very few accidents have occurred there—so far.”

Ruth and Barbara led the way. They could hear the sea booming and
pounding below them. From the edge of the cliff they looked down a
hundred feet at the sea, washing in on the level stretch of beach.

Ruth shivered and turned pale. “Oh,” she shuddered, “it makes me
horribly nervous! I am ashamed of it, so I don’t often mention it, but I
simply can’t look down from great heights. It even makes me a little
sick to look out of a high window, and I’m a miserable climber, I get so
dizzy. Let us go back. Do you mind, Bab?”

“No, Ruth,” Bab answered. “I suppose I am a tomboy; I used to play hare
and hounds with the boys at school, and I learned to climb like a goat
over the rocks at Kingsbridge; but these Newport cliffs are a different
matter.”

Barbara’s powers were to be tested, but neither she nor Ruth thought
anything more of their talk. Miss Sallie and the other two girls had
joined them, and they made their way along the narrow, winding path that
dipped in hollows and curves, and stretched for two miles ahead of them.

“How hard it is,” said Miss Sallie, “to tell which view is the more
beautiful!”

On the inland side of the cliffs, beautiful, shaded lawns, luxuriant
with flowers, ran down to the edge of the path. Set in their midst were
the marble palaces of Newport’s millionaires. Toward the sea, great
points of land jutted out into the harbor, where the water was violet
with the shadows of the closing day.

“Miss Stuart! Miss Stuart!” Aunt Sallie heard a gay voice calling her.

Running across the lawn, and waving her scarf at them, came Mrs.
Cartwright.

“Were you coming to see me first?” she asked.

Miss Stuart confessed that she had not the shadow of an idea which house
belonged to Mrs. Cartwright.

“You must see it for a minute, since you are already here,” urged Mrs.
Cartwright, and led the way up the graveled path to her veranda.

“Mollie,” she said, addressing the young girl, “I think it is peculiarly
appropriate for my butterfly girl to be introduced to my piazza. It is
made to look like a Japanese teahouse,” she explained to Miss Sallie.

The sides of Mrs. Cartwright’s veranda were of heavy Japanese paper
stretched on bamboo poles which opened and closed at will. The paper had
been painted by a famous Japanese artist to represent springtime in
Japan. There were whole rows of cherry trees in full blossom, with
little Japanese children playing beneath them. Opposite this scene was
another painting—a marshy lake, surrounded by queer Japanese birds.

The veranda was lighted by a hundred tiny shaded lamps. Japanese matting
covered the floor, while the tea tables were set with tea services
bought in old Japan. The girls had never seen anything so lovely.

“You are officially invited to have tea with me here, any or every
afternoon you are in Newport. Now I will run and get Mr. Cartwright,”
added their hostess, “and we will go over to the Casino.”

Outside, the Casino looked like a rambling, old Dutch mansion, with
peaked gables and overhanging eaves.

“We’ve a Dutch house, English lawns and a French chef,” Mr. Cartwright
laughingly explained to Miss Sallie as they entered.

“And we’ve dozens of tennis courts,” added Mrs. Cartwright. “We are
working dreadfully hard, now, for the tournament that is to take place
in a few weeks. It is really the social event of the whole year at
Newport. Is there a star player among you girls? Why not enter the
tournament and compete for the championship? We are to have a special
match game, this year, played by the young people. Let us keep these
tennis courts busy for a while. You’ll come over, too, Miss Stuart,
won’t you, and play bridge while we work. Or you’ll work at bridge,
while we play tennis. Perhaps you think that is the way I should have
put it.”



CHAPTER XII—A WEEK LATER


“Barbara, I wouldn’t play tennis with Gladys and Harry Townsend, if I
were you,” said Mollie to her sister, one morning a week later. “They
were horrid to you yesterday. Didn’t you notice, when you called to Hugh
and Ruth that their last ball had gone over the line, Gladys just
shrugged her shoulders, and gave a sneery kind of smile to that Townsend
fellow, and he lifted his eyebrows! Is your score the best, or Ruth’s? I
know you’re both ahead of Gladys and Grace. I am sure Gladys doesn’t
play a bit better than I do; so she needn’t have been so high and
mighty.”

Mollie shrugged her dainty shoulders. “You see, she told me, the first
day she arrived, that, of course, I didn’t play in the class with the
others, so you had just the right eight for the two courts—four girls
and four men.”

“Why, Mollie!” Bab looked surprised. “I thought you said you didn’t want
to play. You can take my place any time.”

Mollie smiled. “No,” she answered; “I don’t want to play. It’s not that.
But it annoys me when you let Gladys Le Baron, cousin or no cousin, snub
us all the time, and you not notice it. Ralph certainly wouldn’t like to
have me play with him now, when you’re in for a match game.”

“Mollie,” said Bab, tying her tennis shoe, “I _do_ notice how rude
Gladys is. She left me standing all alone the other afternoon, when Ruth
and Grace had gone into the club house to speak to Aunt Sallie. Friends
of Gladys’s came up, and she deliberately turned her back on me and
didn’t introduce me. I felt so out of it! Mrs. Post and Mrs. Erwin soon
joined them, and they shook hands with me. I found the other people were
some guests who had come down for Mrs. Erwin’s ball, next week, and were
staying at her house.

“I know,” she continued, “Gladys is furious that we are invited to the
dance. Mrs. Erwin was so cordial and nice. She said, right before me,
that though the ball was a grown-up affair, she knew Gladys would want
her cousins and friends, and she had invited us on her account. Wasn’t
it funny? Miss Gladys couldn’t say a word. Goodness knows, _she_ doesn’t
want us. She has been lording it over us, for days, because she and
Harry were to be the only very young people invited. Gladys imagines
herself a woman of society, and is in reality merely a foolish little
girl,” said Barbara. Then she added reflectively: “Miss Sallie says we
are all too young to ‘go out,’ and she doubts the propriety of allowing
us to attend Mrs. Erwin’s ball. Last night she told Ruth she had almost
decided against our going. Ruth championed our cause on the strength of
the shortness of our stay in Newport, also that we should be permitted
to go as a special favor to our hostess. You know Miss Sallie hates to
refuse Ruth anything. Consequently we will be ‘among those present’ at
Mrs. Erwin’s ball whether Miss Gladys approves or not.”

“I just wish I could tell my lovely Mrs. Cartwright how mean Gladys is,”
said Mollie. “She would not ask her to her charity fair.”

“Please don’t say anything, Mollie,” pleaded Barbara, taking her tennis
racquet from the bed. She had already answered Ralph’s impatient whistle
from the garden below. “It won’t do any good for us to be horrid to
Gladys in return; it will only make us seem as hateful as she is. Things
will come around, somehow. I don’t mind her—so very much.”

“Well, I do,” answered Mollie. “But you haven’t told me how your score
and Ruth’s stand.”

“Oh, I think we are pretty nearly even.” Barbara was half way out the
door. “Be careful, Molliekins,” she urged, “if you go rowing with that
freshman this afternoon. Why do you want to know about Ruth’s score and
mine? It’s a week before the game, and anything may happen before then.
We all play pretty evenly; Hugh Post and Ralph Ewing, too.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean anything, Bab,” Mollie said, thoughtfully. “Only
Ruth’s awfully anxious to play in the tournament. She’s just crazy about
it.”

“Of course she is, child. So are we all, for that matter,” answered Bab.
“You don’t mean——”

“I don’t mean a single thing, Bab Thurston!” said Mollie, a little
indignantly.

“Yes, I am coming, at last, Ralph,” Barbara sang softly over the
banisters. She had not overcome her awe of Mrs. Ewing. Ralph’s mother
was by no means pleased with the idea that her adored Ralph preferred
Barbara to any of the other girls.

“It’s like Ralph,” she complained to his father, “to pick out the
poorest girl of the lot, when the rich ones are so much more charming. A
great way for him to retrieve the family fortunes!”

“We will hope,” said Ralph’s father quietly, “that Ralph will not try to
restore our fortunes by marrying for money.”

As Barbara walked down to meet Ralph she looked grave, and her face was
flushed. Ruth _did_ want to play in the tournament, but so did she, for
that matter! Could she resign in Ruth’s favor? Then Barbara laughed to
herself. “Catch a girl like Ruth letting me give up to her! I wonder if
it would be fair of me to disappoint Ralph?”

“Come on, Miss Day-dreamer,” ordered Ralph, hurrying her along. “The
others have been waiting for us for fifteen minutes down at the Casino
courts. Do you know that there is a party on for the afternoon? Ruth and
Hugh are to pile as many of us as they can into their motor cars, and
take us ten miles out the Ocean Drive. We are to stop at Mrs. Duffy’s
English tea place on our way back.”

Bab was certainly not playing in good form today. She even missed one of
Gladys’s serves, which were usually too soft to count. When the
morning’s practice was over, Ruth’s and Hugh’s score was two points
ahead.

“Who is going to play in the tournament from these courts?” asked Mrs.
Cartwright, crossing the lawn, her tennis racquet swinging in her hand.
Mollie was close beside her, also “that freshman,” who followed Mollie
wherever she went.

“Bab,” answered Ruth, coming up to smile at Mrs. Cartwright, who was
looking prettier than usual in her tennis blouse of pale pink madras
with a linen skirt of the same shade.

“What a funny Gladys!” Mrs. Cartwright laughed as the other girls joined
her. “You are following our latest Newport fad, are you not, of having
your head wrapped in a chiffon veil while you play tennis. You look like
a Turkish girl, with only your eyes peeping out.”

Gladys had tied up her head in a pale blue chiffon veil, with a fetching
bow just over the ear. The other women who were playing on the courts,
with the exception of Mrs. Cartwright and the automobile girls, were
draped in the same fashion.

“That suggests a game to me,” continued Mrs. Cartwright. “You must come
to my veranda some night and we will play it. It is called ‘eyeology.’ I
won’t tell you anything more about it now. Just you wait! But to go back
to my first question. Then I am to enter Barbara for the tournament?”

“I should say not, Mrs. Cartwright,” said Barbara, who was standing
near. This time she would not let Ruth speak.

“Ruth is certainly the best player among us,” drawled Gladys; “she and
Mr. Post; but,” she went on in insinuating tones, “you know there are
strange things that can happen in tennis!”

“If you mean, Gladys, that I cheated the other day,” broke out Barbara
fiercely, “I simply won’t bear it! I know it is horrid of me to make a
scene,” she turned to Ruth with her eyes full of tears, “but this is the
second time.”

“Please don’t get excited, Miss Thurston,” cried Gladys scornfully. “I
have not said you cheated. It looks a little bit like a case of guilty
conscience.”

Harry Townsend smiled knowingly.

Bab, nearly in tears, couldn’t answer, but Ralph and Hugh Post both
protested indignantly.

“Please don’t discuss a thing of this kind here,” said Mrs. Cartwright,
angrily. “We don’t allow quarreling on the Casino courts. I am surprised
at you, Barbara. You were accused of nothing.”

Mollie’s eyes were black, instead of their usual lovely blue. She was
very indignant, but she was always more of a diplomat than Barbara.

“Lovely lady,” she said, putting her hand in Mrs. Cartwright’s as they
moved away, “Gladys did mean that Bab cheated. This is the second time
she has said it. Wouldn’t you answer back if you were accused of not
playing fair with your very best friend?”

Mrs. Cartwright gave Mollie’s hand a squeeze. “Tell Barbara I am sorry
if I was too hard on her, but I don’t like scenes!”

“I wish I could get an excuse to pummel that Harry Townsend!” muttered
Ralph indignantly to Hugh, when the girls had gone home. “I can’t take
it out on Gladys, for she’s a girl. That Townsend fellow’s nothing but a
sneak. He just stands round and smiles and says nothing, until he puts
me in a rage!”

“Oh, don’t fight, Ralph,” Hugh protested. “I hate that Townsend man,
though, as much as you do. He is too infernally polite, for one thing,
and he walks on his tiptoes. He comes right up behind you, and you never
know where he is until he speaks. I believe he wears rubber soles on his
shoes!”

That afternoon, when the automobile parties had finished drinking their
tea, Barbara asked Ralph to take a little walk with her in the woods.
She wanted to ask him something.

“Ralph,” she began, “if I should fall down in my tennis, in the next few
days, would you and Hugh play a test game to see which of you is the
better man to help Ruth out in the tournament?”

Ralph shook his head. “No,” he answered. “You are not losing your nerve,
are you, Bab? Ruth and Hugh are wonderfully good players, but we are as
good as the rest of ’em. I’ll take my chances with you.”

“Would you be very, very much disappointed if we lost?”

“Oh, yes,” said Ralph, cheerily, “but I could bear it all right.” He
looked hard at Barbara for a minute. Then he said: “Go ahead, Barbara; I
think I understand. I am game. And I’ll never breathe it to a soul. Hugh
and Ruth would never forgive us, if they found out!”

“Well, Ralph,” said Barbara, “I don’t think there’s going to be any
reason for my trying to let Ruth win; she’s a better player than I am,
and she will win anyhow, but, in case she shouldn’t, Ruth has been a
perfect dear to Mollie and me!”

“Gladys,” said Ruth that night, when the young people were having an
informal dance at the Casino, “I shall never forgive you for accusing
Barbara of cheating, as you did today. Barbara is perfectly incapable of
cheating. I can’t understand why you don’t like her.”

Ruth’s frank face clouded. She was incapable of understanding the petty
meannesses in Gladys’s nature.

“Mr. Townsend and I thought differently concerning Miss Thurston,”
Gladys replied, “but I have made no accusations, and will make none. You
will find things out for yourself, though, when it is too late!”

Mollie was very sympathetic with Barbara that night. Things had not been
going well with Bab for several days; she had an unfortunate habit of
speaking her mind without thinking, and this trait had gotten her into
trouble with Miss Sallie several times. That lady had a profound respect
for the rich, while Barbara had been heard to say that some of the most
fashionable ideas of Newport were “just nonsense.”

“Bab,” comforted Mollie, “Mrs. Cartwright told me to say she was sorry
she had been cross to you. She wants you to be the gypsy fortune-teller
at her bazaar. She says you are very clever, and would do it better than
anyone else; besides, she thinks no one would know you. She has lots of
gypsy things to dress up in.”

“I would much rather be a waitress, like you girls,” Bab declared.

“But you will do what Mrs. Cartwright wants you to, won’t you?” urged
Mollie.

“I’ll see,” said Bab.

The automobile girls were seeing Newport indeed! Mrs. Erwin and Mrs.
Cartwright were both leaders in society. The girls had not only been
invited to Mrs. Erwin’s ball, but to the big dance which took place
after the tennis tournament, and Mrs. Cartwright was arranging for a
Charity Fair, which was to be the most original entertainment of the
Newport season.



CHAPTER XIII—THE NIGHT OF THE BALL


“Yes, Hugh,” Barbara said, as the last strains of the Merry Widow waltz
died away, “I should like to rest here a minute.” Barbara sank down on
the low, rose-colored divan shaded by magnificent palms in Mrs. Erwin’s
conservatory. “I would love an ice, too,” she added.

It was the night of Mrs. Erwin’s famous white and gold ball, long
remembered in the history of splendid entertainments in Newport.

Barbara truly wanted a minute to think. She had come to the ball under
Miss Sallie’s excellent chaperonage, early in the evening, and had been
dancing hard ever since. The little girl from Kingsbridge, who had never
before seen anything finer than a village entertainment, felt almost
overcome by the splendor and magnificence of everything about her.

Mrs. Erwin’s ballroom was built out from the side of her handsome villa
like a Greek portico. The conservatory joined it at one end, forming an
inner triangular court. This court was filled with rare trees which
threw their branches out over a miniature artificial lake. The guests
could pass from the ballroom into this open garden, or they could enter
it through the conservatory.

The walls of the wonderful ballroom were covered with a white silk
brocade, and on this night Mrs. Erwin had allowed only yellow flowers to
be used as decorations. Great bowls of yellow roses perfumed the air,
and golden orchids looked like troops of butterflies just poising before
they took flight.

“Now I know,” said Mollie, with a catch in her breath, as she first came
into the magnificent ballroom, “what King Midas’s garden must have
looked like, when he went round and caressed all the flowers in it with
the golden touch.”

“Clever Mollie!” laughed Ruth. “I expect it is the golden touch that has
been round this ballroom, or the touch of golden dollars, anyway.”

Mollie blushed. “I didn’t mean that,” she said.

Barbara leaned her head against the rose-colored cushion, just the color
of the jeweled spray in her hair; she was wearing the coral jewelry her
mother had given her. Fortunately the two girls had saved their best
party dresses for this ball, having been content to wear their summer
muslins at the informal dances at the Casino.

Barbara, in her dainty pink flowered organdie, with her cheeks flushed
to match it in color, resembled a lovely wild rose.

Curiously enough, amid all this elegance, Bab felt a little homesick.
She kept thinking of her mother and the little cottage.

“It’s a wonderful experience for Mollie and me,” she said to herself. “I
hope I can tell mother exactly what it looks like. I am sure fairyland
can’t be half so gorgeous; fairies wear only dewdrops for jewels; but
here, I believe, there must be nearly all the jewels in the world.”

Barbara did not know how big the world really is, nor how many people
and jewels, both real and paste, there are in it. After all, artificial
people are no better than paste jewels!

Earlier in the evening Mollie and Barbara had stood with their hands
tight together, watching the men and women enter the great reception
room to speak to their host and hostess.

“Diamonds,” whispered Mollie to Bab, “seem as plentiful as the
strawberries we gathered for the hotel people this summer. We didn’t
dream, then, that we were coming to Newport! Isn’t my Mrs. Cartwright
the most beautiful of them all?” wound up the loyal child.

Mrs. Cartwright wore a white satin gown, with a diamond star in the
tulle of her bodice. In her hair was a spray of diamonds, mounted to
look like a single stalk of lilies of the valley, each jewel hanging
from the slender stem like a tiny floweret.

The conservatory was almost empty while Bab rested and waited.

During the intermission in the dance nearly all the guests had wandered
into the dining-room or into the moonlit garden.

Barbara realized that she was almost completely hidden by the great palm
trees that formed an arch over her head and drooped their long arms down
over her. She had crept into this seat in order that she might see
without being seen.

Yet in spite of the quiet, Barbara was not resting. Her heart was
beating fast with the excitement of this wonderful evening, and her tiny
feet in the pink silk slippers still kept time to the last waltz she had
danced with Hugh.

The conservatory door, leading into the garden, was open. Barbara saw
Mrs. Post, Governor Post, Harry Townsend and a woman in a gold-colored
brocade enter the conservatory and stop to talk for a few minutes. They
had not noticed Barbara nor did she feel it was quite proper to
interrupt them, as she did not know the strange woman who was with them.

Governor Post bowed in military fashion to the ladies.

“Now,” he said, “I’ll go, and leave the young man to do the
entertaining. We old fellows must make ourselves useful when our
ornamental days are over. Mr. Townsend will look after you here, and I
shall find a waiter and have him bring you something to eat.”

Barbara saw Harry Townsend talking in his most impressive manner to the
two women.

“It is curious,” Bab thought, to herself, “what a society man Harry
Townsend is. Gladys says he is only twenty-two. I wonder where he comes
from. Nobody seems to know. Oh, yes; Gladys said he was educated in
Paris. She met him on shipboard.”

The little girl from her green bower was an interested watcher. It was
fascinating to be able to see all that was going on, without being seen.
Bab sat as quiet as a mouse, taking no part in the conversation.

Mrs. Post was a handsome woman of about fifty, who looked rather stern
to the girls; but Hugh assured them that she was “dead easy,” once you
got on the right side of her. Her husband was a prominent lawyer in
Washington, and their winters were usually spent in the capital.

Mrs. Post’s gown was nearly covered by a long, light-colored chiffon
wrap, with a high collar lined with a curious ornamental embroidery.

“Harry,” she said, turning to the young man with her, “it is warm in
here with these tropical plants; will you be kind enough to remove my
wrap?”

The conservatory was dimly lighted. Barbara sat in the shadow. Between
her and the party she was watching was a central row of flowers and
evergreens, dividing the long room into two aisles.

She saw Harry rise and lean over Mrs. Post, who only half rose from her
chair. Deftly and with wonderful ease and swiftness, Townsend undid the
clasp at her throat; but, for a moment, the embroidery from the collar
seemed to have caught in her hair.

Barbara’s eyes grew wide and staring with surprise. As the coat slipped
back from Mrs. Post’s shoulders, she saw a string like a tiny green
serpent glide with magic smoothness and swiftness from her throat, and
drop into the shrubbery back of her, or—into Harry Townsend’s hand?

What should she do? Announce that she had seen her string of emeralds
disappear? Mrs. Post was talking and laughing gayly with her friend in
the gold-colored dress. Harry was smiling quietly by them. Barbara
rubbed her eyes. Surely she was mistaken. She had been dazzled by the
wonderful sights she had seen that night. While she hesitated her
opportunity passed.

Governor Post returned, saying to his wife: “Come, my dear, I have found
Miss Stuart and a friend. They have a table out in the garden, and want
us to join them.”

Mrs. Post again drew her wrap over her shoulders and turned to leave the
conservatory. As she rose she saw Barbara.

“You there, my child?” she said in a friendly way. “Why didn’t you speak
to me?”

Barbara could only answer her stupidly. “I was waiting for Hugh.”

When Hugh returned he found Barbara looking as pale as though she had
just seen a ghost.

“What’s the matter?” he asked at once. “Are you ill?”

But Bab shook her head. “I’ll go find Miss Stuart,” the young man
suggested.

“You’ll do no such thing, Hugh!” Barbara had recovered her breath.
“There’s nothing much the matter with me—at least, I am not sure whether
I ought to tell you.”

“Bab and Hugh! Well, I like this!” Grace’s voice sounded from the
doorway, as she and Donald Cartwright came in, followed by Ruth and
Ralph. “Here you two have run away by yourselves, when we promised to
stick together this evening, in order to keep up each other’s courage.
You ought to see Gladys! She’s as angry as can he, and is wandering
round with Mollie and the freshman. Harry has been gone somewhere for a
long time, and she has no partner for the next dance.”

“Are you sick, Bab?” inquired Ruth. She, too, noticed that Bab was
unusually pale. Before she received an answer, Governor and Mrs. Post
came into the conservatory, followed by Harry Townsend, Miss Stuart and
the woman in yellow.

“You are just the fellow I want to see, Hugh,” said his father, so
quietly that no one except those near him could hear. “Your mother has
lost her emerald necklace, and she thought she had it on when she was
last in here. We don’t want to create any excitement, or to let Mrs.
Erwin or the servants know until we have made a thorough search. She
very probably dropped it among these flowers. Lock the door out there,
will you? Miss Carter, you and Donald, please keep guard at the other
door while these young people help me look.”

“I thought——” said Barbara.

“Why, you were in here, child, when we were. You were on the other side
of these evergreens,” said Mrs. Post. “What did you say?”

“I thought it might be in these evergreens,” Barbara finished, lamely,
getting down on her knees to assist in the search. Dared she speak of
what she thought she had seen? Dared she speak with no evidence but her
own word? Could she have been in error? First, she would look with the
others.

Every palm, every flower, every inch of space was carefully gone over.
No sign of the missing emeralds!

“Did anyone enter the conservatory after I left, Miss Thurston?”
inquired Mrs. Post coldly. She was worried by the loss of her jewels,
which were of great value, as well as annoyed by the excitement she was
causing.

“Nobody came in,” Bab said, “only Hugh.”

“I am exceedingly sorry,” the governor said at last, “but Mrs. Erwin
will have to be notified. The jewels were either lost or stolen, and
must be found. If the servants find the necklace a liberal reward will
induce them to return it.”

The older people left the conservatory.

Just as the younger ones turned to leave, Barbara, whose strange
expression had not escaped the sharp eyes of Ruth, laid her hand on
Hugh’s arm.

“Ask Harry Townsend to stay here a minute with us, won’t you please,
Hugh?” said Barbara hoarsely.

“Say, Townsend,” Hugh called, “come back a moment. I want to speak to
you. Or, rather, Miss Thurston does.”

“Mr. Townsend,” said Barbara, her face pale as death, “did you not see
Mrs. Post’s necklace when you took off her wrap in here?”

“No,” said Harry quietly. “Did you?”

“Ask him, Hugh,” said Barbara, desperately, “to show you what he has in
his pockets!”

“Oh, say, Barbara!” Hugh answered. “I can’t do that. It’s a little too
much.”

But Ralph stepped forward. “We don’t know what Miss Thurston means, but
she most certainly doesn’t mean to insult Mr. Townsend unnecessarily.
Why, then, should he mind turning out his pockets? Here Hugh,” Ralph
turned, “search me first. Then Mr. Townsend won’t object to the selfsame
process.”

Hugh’s face was crimson, but he looked through Ralph’s pockets in a
gingerly fashion.

When he finished Harry Townsend turned quietly to Barbara. “I don’t know
why you wish to insult me,” he said to her, “but I am perfectly willing
to have Mr. Post search me. You were the only person in the conservatory
after the jewels were lost!”

Hugh started his search.

Barbara leaned sick and faint against her chair, expecting every moment
to see Hugh draw the jewels forth. She kept her eyes averted while Harry
turned his pockets wrong side out and finally opened his vest.

“Barbara,” said Hugh, coldly, and Bab turned around. “We owe Mr.
Townsend an apology. He is certainly no thief!”

The jewels were nowhere to be found.



CHAPTER XIV—BARBARA’S SECRET


“Bab, Bab! What is the matter with you!” cried Mollie, for Barbara had
thrown herself on the bed after their return from the ball, bursting
into a torrent of tears.

“Oh, I don’t know,” sobbed Bab. “I must be wrong, or crazy, or
something. Yet how can people doubt their own eyes?”

Mollie stopped spreading out her butterfly dress, in which she had
looked so pretty at the party, and flung her arms round her sister.

“Just tell me what is the matter, dear! Has anyone hurt your feelings?
If it’s that Gladys Le Baron I’ll certainly get even with her!”

But Bab didn’t answer.

“I’m going to call Ruth,” said Mollie. “I don’t want to waken Aunt
Sallie, but you seemed queer all the way home from the ball.”

Bab sat up, when Ruth came in, and dried her eyes.

“I am so sorry you feel so badly, Barbara, dear,” said Ruth, “but, of
course, it was a wretched mistake for you to have made. Let’s try to
forget that horrid scene. Some servant will pick up the necklace in the
morning, and return it to Mrs. Post. Hugh and I have decided that it
will be wise for those of us who were in the conservatory just at the
last not to speak of what happened. You will forgive us, Mollie, dear,
won’t you, if we don’t tell even you?”

“No, I won’t!” cried Mollie, stamping her little slippered foot. “Bab
can’t have secrets that make her cry—not from her own sister. And I
don’t see, anyway, what Bab has to do with Mrs. Post having lost her
emerald necklace. If you think the loss is a secret, you’re wrong,
because everybody in the ballroom was whispering it about half an hour
afterwards. I heard of it from a perfect stranger!”

“Mollie,” said Ruth quietly, “will you please do me a favor? Don’t ask
Barbara to tell you what happened that has worried her. It was nothing
but an unfortunate mistake, and will all blow over in the morning.”

“Very well, Ruth,” agreed Mollie. “I won’t ask. But I am not a baby, and
I am very sure it would be better if I were told.”

Thus poor Bab had no one in whom to confide, and had to bear her ugly
secret all alone.

Ruth kissed her good night, saying: “Cheer up, silly girl, and sleep
late as you can in the morning. You know, it’s to be the last day of our
tennis practice, and you are going to beat me tomorrow!”

Ruth tiptoed over to Mollie, who was undressing in silence. “Mistress
Mollie,” she said, “forgive me; do, please, like a dear. Talking about
horrid things only makes them _horrider_!”

Ruth, in the depths of her heart, thought that Barbara had been most
unwise in her hinted accusation of Harry Townsend. For Bab’s sake she
thought it best for everyone to forget what had happened. It was a fault
in Ruth’s nature that she loved only pleasant things, and would often
give up, even when she knew she was right, in order not to make trouble.

The next morning a Barbara of heavy eyes and white cheeks joined the
players on the tennis court.

Plainly Harry had confided what had happened to Gladys, for she did not
speak to Bab as she came up to her, but tossed her head and bit her
lips. Gladys said nothing, however, for Harry had made her promise she
would not breathe what he had told her.

As for Mr. Townsend, he treated Barbara with cold politeness. But
Barbara was beginning to have her eyes opened. “If I am right about
him,” she thought to herself, “then I shall have to be very careful. I
believe he is more clever than any of us dream!”

It was Hugh whose manner was most constrained. He could not forgive the
scene of the night before, in which he had been forced to take an
unwilling part. Not until Ruth called him over to her, and gave him a
lecture, did he beg Bab’s pardon, and ask that they all forget the
experience of the night before.

“Come on!” he called, cheerily, to the group of tennis players. “It’s do
or die to-day—the last test day for us. It will show us who is to
represent our crowd at the tournament. The girl and the fellow who can
beat all the rest of us stand a good chance of winning the silver cup.
Mrs. Cartwright says she has been closely following the game of the star
players and she thinks we have them beaten to a finish. Come on, Ruth,
let’s show ’em that we’re out for blood!”

Swish! Barbara’s ball flew over the net and curved toward the ground at
Hugh’s left. Not too swiftly for that young gentleman; while Ruth’s
heart gave a jump of apprehension, Hugh made a left-hand swing with his
racquet and sent the ball whizzing back.

“Fifteen!” Ralph called out, in a bored tone. He had failed in his
return.

The battle raged all morning.

Grace and Donald Cartwright, Gladys and Mr. Townsend were soon out of
the running. When they had finished they sank gratefully on the ground,
to watch the others play.

The field was thus left to Barbara and Ralph, to Ruth and Hugh. The sets
stood even, and two more games would decide.

A small crowd of visitors stood around the court. Mrs. Cartwright,
having finished her own game, came over to look on. Miss Sallie was
trying to be impartial, but she was really deeply interested in Ruth’s
success. Mrs. Erwin, Mrs. Post, the governor, all their friends, were
lined up to behold the battle.

A subdued discussion of the lost emeralds had been going on at the
Casino all morning. After a thorough search of every inch of Mrs.
Erwin’s house and grounds, there was still no sign of the jewels; but
Governor Post and Mrs. Erwin had made every effort to have the scandal
of the necklace hushed up. They had seen the Newport detectives, and had
telegraphed to New York for two experts to be sent down to handle the
case. In the meantime they had been advised not to talk.

Now the only upright person, who could have given them any information
had, for just a little while, forgotten all about it. Whatever Barbara
did she did with her whole heart. Today she played tennis.

“Ralph,” Hugh called, “remember, now, it’s two straight games to finish
the way we stand!”

There was no more conversation. Even the watchers held their breath. The
referee sat on the ground, rapidly calling out the
score—“forty—thirty—deuce!”

“Is this game to go on forever?” Miss Sallie inquired, plaintively. “My
girls will be wholly worn out.”

“Advantage in!” shouted the referee.

Ralph sprang forward for his ball; his foot slipped. Barbara, who had
been expecting him to return it, was not ready.

“Game!”

Ruth and Hugh shook hands with each other. But Hugh called over: “Say,
Ralph, was this game all right? You turned your ankle, didn’t you?”

“Surely I did,” said Ralph. “I was an idiot, but it is your game just
the same. I’ll make it up next time, Barbara—see if I don’t!”

“My dear Ruth,” said Miss Sallie, “I cannot permit it. You will be
exhausted.”

“Here, Barbara,” said Mollie, “do try to get your breath, and let me fix
up your hair.”

“No prinking!” Ralph called out. “This is business, ladies!”

The good old Casino courts never saw a finer tennis battle. Ralph and
Bab played as though they had forgotten their talk in the woods that day
when they had tea at Mrs. Duffy’s. Ruth and Hugh were foeman worthy of
their best steel.

The game stood forty-all, and it was Bab’s serve. Bab’s serves were what
made her tennis remarkable. They were as swift and straight and true as
a boy’s.

Hugh stood ready waiting. Barbara caught a look in Ruth’s face, on the
other side of the net. Her big blue eyes, frank and clear as a baby’s,
were glowing with interest, with hope, with ambition! Like a flash the
thought of all Ruth had done for them came into Bab’s mind. Did it
weaken the force of her drive? Or was it because her mind was
distracted? The ball fell just inside the net on her own side.

“Try again, partner mine!” shouted Ralph, “show ’em what you’re made
of!”

This time Barbara was plainly nervous. She felt that nearly all the
friends around them wanted Ruth to win. They would be delighted, of
course, with her success and kind to her, but open-hearted and
open-handed Ruth was the favorite with them all; at least, Bab thought
so.

With returning courage, Bab hit her last ball a hard blow. It rose high
in the air! Hugh sprang on his tiptoes to receive it and gave a mighty
shout. The ball had fallen outside the line.

Ralph and Barbara were the first to congratulate the victors. Barbara
cleared the net with a bound, forgetting both her age and her audience.

“There, Ruth, you and Hugh are the best players that ever happened!”
Barbara spoke with a glowing face. Then she turned to Ralph: “I lost the
game for you,” she said. “I am so sorry.”

“Oh, no, you didn’t, my lady,” said Ralph. “I lost the game before this
one, so we’re even.”

An admiring circle had formed around Ruth and Hugh.

“Your father will be delighted, I know, child,” said Miss Sallie.

“I haven’t won the cup yet, Auntie,” protested Ruth.

“But you must, child,” said Mrs. Cartwright, smiling. “I am betting on
you and Hugh in the tournament, and you mustn’t make me lose my box of
candy.”

“Barbara,” said Ralph, shyly, as they walked off toward home a little
later, “I don’t like to ask you, but did you mean to miss those last
serves?”

Barbara shook her head. “No,” she said, “I don’t think I meant to. I
don’t know. But they were the best players, weren’t they, Ralph?”

“Certainly,” Ralph answered.



CHAPTER XV—RUTH IN DANGER


Hugh, looking much embarrassed, came up early next morning to see Ruth.

“I have an invitation to deliver to you, Ruth, but I am rather ashamed
to do it, for I am afraid you will be angry. Mother told me to come over
and ask Miss Stuart and yourself and the girls—except Barbara—to come
out with us for the day on the yacht.”

“Why, Hugh Post!” cried Ruth. “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s like this,” Hugh said, desperately; “mother told me to
explain to you exactly how things stand, so you will not think her rude.
You see, mother is visiting Mrs. Erwin, and of course Mrs. Erwin,
Gladys, and her devoted Harry Townsend have to go along on the yacht
with us. Well, Gladys told mother that neither she nor Mr. Townsend
could go if Barbara went. Gladys would not tell mother why, and, as you
told me to keep that scene in the conservatory a secret, I didn’t know
what it was wisest for me to do.”

“Thank you,” Ruth answered; “but tell your mother that none of us can
accept.”

“O Ruth!” exclaimed Hugh. “I am fearfully disappointed, and mother I
know will be angry.”

“I am afraid I don’t care, Hugh,” was Ruth’s reply. “I don’t like your
mother’s inviting any of us, if she had to leave Bab out.”

As Hugh turned to leave the front porch, where he had found Ruth alone,
she called after him: “Wait a minute, please. I don’t know what to tell
Aunt Sallie. Your mother will be sure to speak to her of her invitation,
and Auntie will think I should have let her refuse for herself. Oh, I
know!”

Ruth’s face cleared. “I will go tell Aunt Sallie that she and Grace and
Mollie are asked. I’ll stay with my dear Bab,” she finished a little
defiantly. “If I am also left out of the party, no one will think
anything of it.”

“Oh, I say, Ruth,” Hugh urged, “please come.”

“Sorry,” she said, shaking her head decidedly.

“I expect you’re right,” Hugh replied.

Miss Sallie, Mollie and Grace accepted Mrs. Post’s invitation with
pleasure. As Mrs. Post’s yacht was small, they did not think it strange
that the other two girls were left out.

How angry Mollie would have been, had she guessed the truth. Not a step
would she have gone. As it was, she begged Barbara to go in her place.

But Bab was too clever. She understood what had happened, and was glad
to be left out of the party. She put her arm around Ruth’s waist,
whispering coaxingly: “Do go along with the others, old story-teller.
You know you were asked.”

Ruth shook her head decidedly. “Not on your life,” she slangily
retorted. Fortunately, Miss Sallie did not hear her.

“What shall we do this afternoon, Bab?” inquired Ruth after luncheon.
“Suppose you and I go for a long walk?”

“Don’t think I am a lazy good-for-nothing, Ruth,” Barbara begged, “but I
have a little headache, and I must write to mother. Mollie and I have
been neglecting her shamefully of late. I haven’t even written her about
the wonderful ball.”

“Are you going to tell her what happened, Bab?” Ruth inquired.

“I suppose so,” sighed Bab. She was half inclined to discuss the
unfortunate affair with Ruth, but changed her mind.

“Well, Bab,” Ruth declared, “I shall go for the walk ‘all by my
lonesomes.’ I’ll be back in time for dinner. The others are to dine on
the yacht, so we need not look for them until bedtime. I think I’ll take
the cliff walk, for the sea is so splendid to-day.”

Left alone, Barbara got out her writing materials and sat down by the
window, but she did not begin to write.

“I wonder,” she asked herself, “why we have been mixed up in burglaries
ever since Ruth began talking about our trip to Newport? First, our poor
little twenty-dollar gold-pieces disappear; then we have that dreadful
robber at New Haven. Now Mrs. Post’s emerald necklace is stolen! It
could not all have been Mr. Townsend!” Barbara sat with her hands
clenched.

“If it is true,” she went on, “and I saw the necklace disappear with my
own eyes, then we have another Raffles to deal with. Mr. Raffles, the
second! I believe I am the only person that suspects him. Well, Mr.
Harry Townsend!” Barbara’s red lips tightened, “you are successful now,
but we shall see whose wits are better, yours or mine!”

Barbara’s face turned a deep crimson. “I understood. He wanted to
suggest I was the thief. Only he didn’t dare to accuse me openly the
other night. I won’t tell mother,” Barbara at last decided. “I’ll just
watch—and wait!”

Barbara wrote her mother a long, happy letter, without a hint of the
troubles she began to feel closing in on her. Then she straightened her
own and Mollie’s bureau drawers and arranged their clothes in the two
closets. Still Ruth did not come.

Twice Barbara went into her room. It was half past five—six—Mrs. Ewing’s
early dinner was served at half after six.

“Mrs. Ewing,” Barbara said, knocking timidly at her door. “Have you seen
anything of Ruth? She has been gone such a long time that I am worried
about her.”

But Mrs. Ewing knew nothing of her.

“I believe I’ll go to meet her,” said Barbara, “and hurry her along. She
must be on her way home.” Ralph was on the yacht with Hugh, or Barbara
would have asked him to accompany her.

For the first half mile along the cliff walk Barbara strolled slowly,
expecting every moment to see Ruth hurrying along. As the walk dipped
down into hollows and rose again in the high places, it was difficult to
see any distance ahead.

The walk was entirely deserted, and Bab’s heart commenced to beat faster
as the darkness began to gather.

“I suppose,” thought Barbara, “Ruth has gone somewhere to make a visit,
and has stayed late without thinking. She’s probably at home, now,
waiting for me, so I’ll get the scolding from Mrs. Ewing for being late
to dinner. I believe I’ll go on back home.” Barbara actually turned and
started in the opposite direction.

Something within her seemed to call: “Bab! Bab!” The voice was so urgent
she was frightened. “Ruth needs you,” it seemed to say.

Bab began calling aloud, “Ruth! Ruth!” Her voice sounded high and shrill
in her own ears; but only the echo answered her, and the noise of the
waves pounding against the shore. She could see the distant lights in
the houses along the way, but Barbara dared not stop to ask for help
while that inner voice urged her on.

Barbara was running, now, along the narrow, difficult path. “O Ruth,
dear Ruth!” she cried. “Why don’t you answer me? Are you anywhere,
needing me?” She heard a low sound and stopped. Nothing but her own
imagination! There were always queer noises along the cliff shore, where
the water swirled into little eddies and gurgled out again.

Barbara waited. She heard nothing more, so she plunged on. Suddenly she
drew back with a gasp of horror. Part of the cliff walk had disappeared!
Where a bridge of stone had spanned a narrow chasm there was a terrible,
yawning hole. Jutting out their vicious arms were rocks, rocks, forming
a sheer drop of seventy feet to the beach below.

Involuntarily, Barbara had flung herself down on her hands and knees to
keep from falling over into the abyss.

“Ruth couldn’t have,” she thought. “No, no!” But hark! Was that again
the low moaning sound of the waters? Barbara lay flat on the rocks,
stretching her head over the embankment. There, in a cleft between two
great rocks, fifteen feet below her, a dark object hung!

“Ruth! Ruth!” Bab called, her voice coming from her throat in a hoarse
cry. Again she heard the faint moan. This time she knew the sound. It
was Ruth! What could she do? Run for help? Any second, Bab realized,
Ruth’s strength might fail, and she would let go her grasp. Barbara
could not bear to think of the horrible end.

As far as she could see, Ruth’s feet rested on a narrow ledge of rock,
while she clung with her hands to a cliff that jutted out overhead.
“Ruth! Ruth!” Barbara called again, but this time her voice was clear
and strong. “It is Bab! Do you understand? Hold on a little longer. I am
coming.”

Swiftly a prayer came into Barbara’s mind: “Lord, show me the way.” Yet
even while she prayed she acted. “Help, help!” Bab called out.

[Illustration: Barbara Lay Flat on the Rocks.]

She tore off the long woolen shawl which she had wrapped round her when
she came out to seek Ruth. With hands that seemed to gain a superhuman
strength Bab tore it into three, four strips. She dared not make the
strips narrower for fear they would not hold. Then she took off her
skirt of light wool and wrenched it into broad bands. How, Barbara never
knew. She felt that the power was given her.

Growing out from a rock between Bab and the moaning figure on the cliff
below was a small tree, its roots deeply imbedded in the hard soil. Ruth
had evidently reached out to grasp this tree as the cliff bridge gave
way beneath her feet; but, missing it, her feet had touched a ledge of
rock and she had flung out her arms and clasped the stone above her. How
much longer would her failing strength serve her?

Bab again lay down and measured the length of her queer rope. She found
that by reaching the tree she could tie the rope to it and it would then
be long enough to extend to Ruth. Removing her shoes, Barbara slowly,
and with infinite caution, crawled down the jagged rocks, clinging with
her hands and toes. Finally she arrived at the tree, and fastened her
rope securely around it, only to find it dangled just above Ruth’s head.
Yet what was the use? If Ruth for an instant let go the rock to which
she clung her feet would slip from the ledge, and Bab’s poor woolen
strings could never hold her.

But Barbara understood this. She was face to face with the great moment
of her life, and, though she was only a simple country girl, neither her
brains nor her strength failed her.

Did she stop at the tree after the rope was tied? No! Still clinging,
sliding, her hands bruised and bleeding, Barbara was making her way to
where Ruth hung. Bab had said truly that she could climb. Never had a
girl a better opportunity to prove her boast! There were moments when
she believed she could not go on. Then the thought of Ruth renewed her
courage.

Just above Ruth’s head, on the left side of her, was a great boulder
with a curved, smooth surface. It was to this rock Bab made her way. She
was so close to Ruth now that she could lean over and touch her.
“Courage, dear,” she whispered, and she thought she saw Ruth’s pale lips
smile. She had not fainted; for this, Barbara was grateful.

When Barbara was a little girl her mother had been ashamed of her tomboy
ways; but she had given in, with a gentle sigh, when Bab grew and
flourished by playing boys’ games, by learning various boyish arts;
among them was the knack of tying a sailor knot.

Edging closer and closer to Ruth she managed to reach out and catch hold
of the rope she had fastened to the tree. With one hand on her own rock,
with the other she drew the cord about Ruth, fastening it firmly under
her arms. The rope was not strong enough to draw Ruth up to safety, but
it would steady her should her hands give way.

Somehow, in some way, Barbara must get further help.

Now that her first duty was over, she began to call loudly: “Help,
help!” Her shouts roused Ruth, who joined feebly in the cry. No sound
answered them. Only the seagulls swept over them, uttering their hoarse
call.

Barbara felt her own strength going. She tried to crawl up the slippery
rock again, but her power was gone. She, too, felt herself—slipping,
slipping! With one wild cry she caught at her rock, and all was still!



CHAPTER XVI—HELP ARRIVES


Mr. Cartwright was dining alone on his Japanese veranda, as his wife was
with the yachting party, and was not expected to dinner.

Jones, the butler, came in softly, placing the soup in front of his
master. As he put down the plate his hand shook. Surely he heard a cry!

At the same moment Mr. Cartwright started up. “Jones, what was that?”
They both stood still. There was no further sound.

“Must ’ave been children playing, sir,” suggested Jones, and Mr.
Cartwright continued his dinner.

“Help, help!” The sound came from afar off, loud and shrill. This time
there was no mistake.

“Coming!” Mr. Cartwright shouted. “Coming!” As he ran across the lawn,
closely followed by Jones, he snatched a heavy coil of rope left by the
workmen who had been swinging hammocks and arranging for Mrs.
Cartwright’s outdoor bazaar.

“Call again, if you can,” Mr. Cartwright yelled. Faintly, a voice seemed
to come up out of the earth. “Help, help! Oh, please!”

Mr. Cartwright caught the direction of the voice, and ran along the
cliffs. In a moment he espied the fallen bridge and guessed what had
happened; then he and Jones saw the two girls in their perilous
position.

Leaning over, he called: “Can you hear me?”

Bab answered, “Yes.”

“Then keep still,” shouted Mr. Cartwright, “and I’ll have you up here in
a moment.”

Quickly he knotted the rope around Jones’s waist; then, some yards
farther on, he tied it round his own. “Go back,” he said to his butler,
“and lie down.” Jones was large and heavy; Mr. Cartwright was a tall
man, thin, but strong.

Slowly he lowered himself to the tree where Bab had tied her poor rope,
and flung an improvised lasso over to Bab. “Not me,” said Barbara,
forgetting her grammar. “Ruth first.”

“Can she climb with the help of the rope?” asked their rescuer.

Ruth had not spoken, but she opened her eyes, gave a shudder and
fainted.

Like a flash Bab had thrown the lasso over her shoulders, and Ruth hung
swaying in the air! Fortunately her feet were still on the ledge of the
rock. Mr. Cartwright caught his rope round the tree, at the same time
calling to Jones, “Throw me another coil!” He then clambered down and
half carried, half dragged the fainting Ruth to the top of the cliff.

Once above, he dropped his burden, and again flung the lasso over the
edge of the rocks to Barbara, who, crawling and being pulled by turns,
came up in safety. When she had reached the top, and stood by the side
of the fainting Ruth, Bab’s courage deserted her, and she burst into
tears.

“Get the young ladies to the house at once,” ordered Mr. Cartwright, far
more frightened than he had been while playing rescuer.

How fared the yachting party? They did not have a good day. Hugh was in
a bad humor because Ruth had not come; Ralph missed Barbara, and, try as
they might to avoid it, the conversation would drift back to the lost
emeralds.

“I shall never understand it,” said Mrs. Erwin to Aunt Sallie, in
subdued tones. “The detectives say they have made a thorough search of
my servants’ quarters, have watched their movements ever since the night
of the theft, and they can find none of them of whom they are even
suspicious. They do say”—this time Mrs. Erwin dropped her voice to a
whisper, for the woman who was with Mrs. Post at the time of the robbery
was approaching them—“they say that the burglar was probably—one of the
guests!”

This woman, who had worn a gold-colored brocade, was an American, who
had married a Frenchman, but her husband was supposed to have been dead
several years. She had come to Newport, this season, with letters of
introduction, and was already very popular.

“Do you know,” she inquired, “where Miss Le Baron and Mr. Townsend are?
No one has seen them recently.”

“Oh,” laughed Mrs. Erwin, “we leave those two young people alone. I
believe they have an affair of their own. Have you known Mr. Townsend
before this meeting?”

“Oh, no,” replied the woman, in a curious tone; “at least, I have met
him once or twice. I can’t say I know him.”

“Ladies,” Governor Post said, coming up to them, “I believe I will cheat
you of part of your sail today. There are ugly clouds gathering, and I
think it better to put into harbor. We can go ashore, or not, as we feel
inclined.”

As the yacht neared the shore, Miss Sallie grew restless. It was the
first time since the beginning of their trip that she had been separated
from any of her girls. As soon as dinner was over she begged Governor
Post to put herself, Grace and Mollie ashore. Immediately the rest of
the party agreed to disembark with her.

Ralph and the two girls followed Aunt Sallie home. For once, she hurried
on before them, urged by a kind of foreboding.

She found Mrs. Ewing, white and frightened, walking up and down in front
of her gate. Mr. Ewing and the maids had left the house, half an hour
before, to search for the lost girls.

Thoughtlessly Mrs. Ewing rushed up to Miss Stuart. “Have Ruth and
Barbara joined you?” she asked.

“Why, no,” replied the two girls in amazement. Ralph stared in surprise;
but Miss Sallie spoke firmly. “Tell me, at once, what has happened.” In
the midst of real danger Miss Stuart was a different woman, as Mr.
Stuart well knew when he allowed her to chaperon the automobile girls.

Mrs. Ewing had nothing to tell. All she knew was that the girls had gone
out for a long walk, and, at eight o’clock, had not come back.

“Come with me, Ralph,” Miss Sallie demanded. Grace and Mollie followed
them.

“Don’t be frightened, Mollie,” Grace begged, trying to talk cheerfully,
though she was trembling violently. “Rely upon Ruth and Bab to get
safely out of a scrape.”

Just as they reached the end of the street that turned into the cliff
walk, Miss Sallie espied a servant of the Cartwrights running in their
direction. “Stop him!” she commanded Ralph.

“Sure, mum, I am to tell you,” the gardener’s boy said, “the young
ladies was not killed.”

“Not killed!” the girls cried, in horror. Ralph took hold of Mollie’s
hand.

“That is what I was to say, mum,” said the boy, evidently much excited.
“They is not much hurt and will be home soon.”

“Take me to them, at once,” ordered Miss Sallie, asking no further
questions. The gardener’s boy led the way.

When the party arrived, Mrs. Cartwright, still in her yachting suit, ran
out to meet them. Ruth came to the door, walking a little stiffly.
Barbara followed her, and straightway begged Mollie not to cry.

“It’s all over, silly little Mollie,” she whispered, “and neither Ruth
nor I am hurt. We are just a little scratched, and very dirty, and we
want to go to bed.”

“Mr. Cartwright has already had the doctor in to see us, Auntie,” said
Ruth. “He is in the drawing room now. We have no broken bones or
strains, though my shoulders ache rather badly.”

Mollie and Grace were both crying, just because there was nothing, now,
for them to cry about.

Miss Sallie made Ruth sit down again, as her niece was almost too weak
to stand. After listening in silence to Ruth’s story, Aunt Sallie held
out her hand to Mr. Cartwright. “My brother and I can never thank you,
and I shall not attempt it. Ruth means all our world.” Then she turned
to Barbara, and gathered her in her arms. “My child,” she said, “you are
the bravest girl I ever knew.” Miss Stuart choked, and could say no
more.

“Do you remember, Bab,” asked Mollie, when Barbara was safe in her own
bed, “how once you said you would one day repay Ruth and Mr. Stuart for
their kindness to us? Well, I think, and I know they will think, that
you have kept your promise. Yes; I’m going to let her go to sleep, Miss
Sallie,” Mollie called back, in answer to Miss Stuart’s remonstrance.

Ruth and Barbara were utterly worn out, and had been put into warm baths
and rubbed down with alcohol. “I am not even going to give two such
sensible girls doses of aromatic spirits of ammonia,” declared the
doctor, who had driven over from Mrs. Cartwright’s with them and had
seen the girls safely in bed. “They will be all right in a day or two,”
he assured Miss Sallie, “as soon as they get over the nervous shock.”

It took six telegrams to Mr. Stuart and Mrs. Thurston to persuade them
the girls were unhurt and able to remain in Newport.



CHAPTER XVII—THE FORTUNE-TELLERS


“My dears,” said Mrs. Cartwright, two days after the accident, coming
into the sitting-room, where Ruth and Bab were idling, “I suppose you
know that you are the heroines of Newport. No one is talking about
anything but your accident. You have almost put the jewel robbery out of
our minds. How do you feel this morning?”

“Oh, as fit as anything,” smiled Ruth, though she still looked a little
pale. “I have just written a long letter to father, to assure him that I
shall be well enough to play in the tournament next week.”

“That is fine,” declared Mrs. Cartwright. “And you, Bab?”

“There never was much the matter with me,” Bab answered.

“Then you are just the girls I am looking for,” said Mrs. Cartwright,
clapping her hands. “You know, I asked you, Bab, to play gypsy
fortune-teller at my bazaar; now I want to ask Ruth to join you.
Everyone thinks you are both laid up from your accident, and no one will
suspect who you are. The plans for the bazaar are going splendidly. I
think I shall make lots of money for my poor sailors. I shall have it as
simple and attractive as I can—a real country fair, with booths and
lemonade stands. I am going to give these jaded Newport people a taste
of the simple life. Do say you will help me.”

Both girls shook their heads. “We do not know how to tell fortunes,”
they protested.

“Oh, it’s only fun,” argued Mrs. Cartwright. “You can make up any
foolishness you like as you go along. I’ll show you how to run the
cards, as they call it. Has either of you ever seen anyone do it?”

Bab confessed she had watched “Granny Ann.” Suddenly she left her chair,
and came hobbling over to Mrs. Cartwright, saying, in Granny Ann’s own
high-pitched, whining voice: “Lovely lady, would you know the future,
grave or gay, cross my hand with a silver piece and list to what I say.”

Gravely, Mrs. Cartwright extracted a dollar from her silver purse, and
made the gypsy sign on Bab’s outstretched hand. Barbara immediately told
her such a nonsensical fortune, in a perfectly grave voice, that she and
Ruth both screamed with laughter.

“You’ll do, Bab,” said Mrs. Cartwright. “Won’t you join her, Ruth?”

“Well,” said Ruth, “I never desert Mrs. Micawber these days, or, to put
it plainly, Miss Bab Thurston. So I’m game.”

“Thursday, then, remember, and this is Tuesday,” said Mrs. Cartwright.
“I am the busiest woman in Newport, so I must run away now. You should
see my house and lawn. They are full of workmen. The fair is to begin
promptly at four, and will last until midnight. We shall have dancing on
the lawn, but I want you girls and a few friends to come into the house
after supper. When you finish playing fortune-tellers you can slip up to
my room and dress. Nobody must guess, when you come down, that you have
not just arrived. Now, I positively must be off. Tell Mollie and Grace I
am depending on them to act as waitresses. Gladys isn’t willing to help.
She wants all her time for Harry Townsend.”

“Ruth,” said Aunt Sallie, the afternoon of the bazaar, “I really cannot
permit you to go anywhere, looking as you do, even if you are wearing a
disguise. You are too horrible!”

“Come and see Barbara,” Grace called from the next room. “I am sure she
must look worse. Why,” she asked, laughing, “do you and Ruth want to
disguise yourselves as such dreadful-looking gypsies. You might just as
easily have arranged to look like young and charming ones.”

“Oh, no,” said Bab. “We want to look like the real thing, not like stage
gypsies.” Barbara had arranged to appear as much like “Granny Ann” as
she possibly could. A red and yellow handkerchief was bound around her
head almost to her eyebrows, her face was stained to a deep brown, with
lines and heavy seams drawn over it; even her hands were made up to look
old and weather beaten.

“Remember, you have never seen nor heard of these extraordinary
fortune-tellers before,” warned Ruth. “And don’t forget, Barbara and
Ruth are at home at Mrs. Ewing’s, but they may feel well enough to come
to the fair in the evening.” Ruth caught Bab’s arm, and together they
made a low curtsey.

“Beautiful ones,” Ruth went on, pointing to Miss Sallie, who was looking
handsome in a gown of pale gray crêpe, with a violet hat and sunshade,
and to Mollie and Grace, who were dressed like Swiss peasant girls,
“your fortunes I would like to tell before you go to the Fair. Easy it
is for my wise eyes to perceive that you will be the belles and beauties
of the entertainment. Now, farewell!”

The “gypsies” were to drive over early to Mrs. Cartwright’s in a closed
carriage. Ralph was to take Miss Sallie, Grace and Mollie in the motor
car later on.

“Granny Ann” and “old Meg” slipped inside the gypsy tent before any of
the guests had arrived at the bazaar. They had gazed in wonder at Mrs.
Cartwright’s beautiful lawn, changed to look like a country fair. It was
hung with bunting and flags, and had small tables and chairs under the
trees; also a May-pole strung with long streamers of different colored
ribbons. Mrs. Cartwright had planned a May-pole dance as one of the
chief features of the afternoon, and Mollie and Grace were both to take
part.

For the gypsies, life was a serious matter. The tent was divided by a
red curtain; on a low wooden table burned a round iron pot filled with
charcoal and curious odorous herbs; a pack of dirty cards lay near it.
“The cards must be dirty,” argued Ruth, “or no one would believe we were
the real thing in gypsies.” Two rough stools stood by the table, and the
only daylight shone through the tent flap. On the other side of the
curtain, Mrs. Cartwright had been kinder to her gypsies. Here were a
wicker couch and big chairs, where they could rest and talk; also a
table for refreshments, “for,” laughed Mrs. Cartwright, as she left the
tent to welcome her first guests, “I have always heard that gypsies are
a particularly hungry race of people.”

Mrs. Cartwright’s fair was a huge success. The most fashionable “set” in
Newport were present, entering into the spirit of the occasion with
great zest.

Gladys and Harry Townsend were seen everywhere together; but to-day
there was often a third person with them, the Countess Bertouche, the
woman of the gold-colored brocade, but lately introduced in Newport
society.

“I believe Gladys is engaged to Harry Townsend,” whispered Grace to
Mollie, when she had observed Harry bending over Miss Le Baron and
talking to her in a more devoted manner than usual.

“Well,” retorted pretty Mollie, with a toss of her head, “I am sure I do
not envy either one of them.”

All afternoon the gypsy tent had been flooded with visitors. Barbara and
Ruth had the time of their lives. No one recognized the two automobile
girls in the aged crones who mumbled and told strange fortunes in hoarse
tones.

It was growing late, and the gypsy tent was for the time deserted. Ruth
was resting on the couch in the back of the tent, while Bab sat near
her, talking over their experiences of the afternoon.

Suddenly the tent flap opened, and Grace and Mollie rushed in. Before
either of them spoke, they turned and fastened the flap down again
securely, so no one could enter without their knowing it.

“What’s the matter?” asked Ruth and Bab at once, for it was plain to see
their visitors were greatly excited.

Grace and Mollie started talking together. “Mrs. Cartwright’s diamond
butterfly——” then they both stopped. “Are you sure no one can hear?
Mollie, you tell,” finished Grace.

“The butterfly has gone, vanished right off Mrs. Cartwright’s frock,
this afternoon, while she was talking to her visitors. You know, she
changed the ornament she wore in her hair into a brooch. She showed it
to me early this afternoon, when I first came, and now—it is gone! I
tell you, girls, there’s a thief among these Newport people. I think it,
and so does Mrs. Cartwright, and ever so many others. Promise you’ll
never tell,” went on Mollie, “but there are two detectives here watching
all the guests! I’d like to find the thief myself. I’d know Mrs.
Cartwright’s butterfly anywhere.”

There were noises at the tent door.

Barbara heard Gladys’s high, querulous voice, saying, coquettishly: “I
don’t want my fortune told, Harry. I would much rather you told it to me
any way.” But Mr. Townsend insisted.

“Fly, girls—do, please! They are coming in!” said Barbara. “No; you
can’t get out, but you must stay perfectly still behind this curtain,
and not breathe a single word.”

It was almost entirely dark in the gypsy tent, the only light coming
from the burning pot of fire on the table. Barbara stooped low, when she
opened the door to allow Harry, Gladys and the Countess Bertouche to
come in.

“It groweth late,” Bab began, croakingly. “Evil may come. No good
fortunes fall between dusk and darkness. Beware!”

Gladys shuddered. “Let’s not go in,” she urged.

But Harry Townsend only laughed. “Don’t let the old hag frighten you,”
he retorted, lightly. “Here,” he turned to the gypsy and spoke in a
voice no one of the girls had ever heard him use, “here, you old
swindler, speak out! What kind of fate do you read for me in the stars?”

Barbara picked up the pack of dirty cards, and began to shuffle them
slowly. An idea was revolving in her head. Dared she do it? But Barbara
was a girl who was not easily daunted.

[Illustration: Harry Townsend’s Face Grew Livid.]

After a minute of silence she shook her head. “What I see I dare not
reveal,” she whined. “All black, dark, dark mystery!”

“Oh, stuff!” jeered Mr. Townsend. “Don’t try that dodge on me. Tell what
you know.”

Barbara flung down the cards and blew three puffs into the smouldering
pot of fire. Ashes and tiny flames shot up from it. She started back,
then pointing a finger, she hissed: “Something is moving toward you,
curving and coiling and twisting round you. Mercy!” she cried. “It is a
green snake, and its fangs have struck into your soul!”

Harry Townsend’s face grew livid. In a moment the look of youth vanished
from his face, his lips turned blue, and his eyes narrowed to two fine
points.

The Countess Bertouche came forward. “Harry,” she said, “come away. You
forget yourself. Don’t listen to such nonsense.”

“Harry!” thought Gladys to herself, angrily. “She certainly presumes on
a short acquaintance! Harry, indeed!”

But Barbara had not finished.

“Stay!” she said, holding up a warning finger. “Another messenger
appears. It is a beautiful, bright thing, sparkling and darting toward
you. Why,” she added, quickly, “it is lighting on your coat. It has
flown inside—a beautiful butterfly, born of summer time and flowers.
Or”—this time Barbara leaned over and whispered in his ear—“or it may be
made of diamonds and come from a jeweler’s shop.”

For an instant, Harry Townsend’s hand flew to his vest pocket. He rose,
saying quietly to his companions: “Come away from here. Did you ever see
such a stupid old fraud? A snake and a butterfly—a curious fortune
indeed!”



CHAPTER XVIII—A WORD TO THE WISE


Barbara’s suspicion was now a certainty. Another person might not have
been much wiser from Harry Townsend’s behavior during the telling of his
fortune. But Barbara’s eyes were keen. The thief the detectives were
seeking, the “Raffles” who was bowing and smiling his way through
Newport society was none other than “Harry Townsend.” How to prove it?
That was another matter.

“Bab,” said the other girls, appearing on her side of the tent, “what a
string of nonsense you did put off on poor Harry Townsend. What on earth
made you tell him about a butterfly and a snake? I suppose you had
butterfly on the brain, since we had just told you of the robbery.”

“That is true,” assented Bab.

“Ruth!” Barbara turned to her quickly. “I am tired of my job. I want to
quit this fortune-telling business at once. Let’s desert and go up to
Mrs. Cartwright’s room and change our clothes. Do hurry!” she urged, a
little impatiently.

“Oh, all right, Bab,” Ruth agreed. She stared at Barbara curiously. What
had come over her friend? Harry Townsend always seemed to have such a
strange effect upon her.

Barbara was thinking. How could she find the detectives, to tell them of
her suspicions, while Harry Townsend still had in his pocket the jewel
he had stolen?

“I want to ask you something, Mollie,” Bab announced, as the girls
started for the house. “You’ll excuse a family secret, won’t you?” she
asked of Grace and Ruth. “Mollie,” Bab whispered, “don’t speak out loud.
Do you think you can discover who the two detectives are, and let me
know as soon as I come downstairs? Don’t ask questions, please; only, I
must know.”

Mollie shut her lips close together. “Yes, I’ll find out for you,” she
promised.

Half an hour later, as the guests were being served with supper under
the trees, Ruth and Barbara made their appearance.

“We just couldn’t keep away any longer,” they explained to their
friends. “Oh, yes, we are feeling perfectly well again.”

Barbara called Mrs. Cartwright aside for a minute. “Is it true,” she
asked, “that your diamond butterfly has disappeared?”

Mrs. Cartwright’s face clouded. “Yes,” she replied. “It has gone within
the last hour or so. I had it fastened here on my dress with a long pin.
If it was stolen by a guest, which I am coming to believe, then it was
not such a difficult theft. I have been leaning over, laughing and
talking, and any light-fingered—woman—or man—could easily have taken it
out of my dress.”

Mrs. Cartwright shivered and turned pale, as she looked at the gay
parties of people out on her lawn. “Isn’t it dreadful,” she said,
plaintively, “to think that there may be a thief right over there among
all my friends! But run along, now, child, and enjoy yourself. You and
Ruth were the success of the afternoon. Everyone has asked me where I
found my clever gypsies.”

Barbara wandered off alone. Before she had gone more than a few steps,
Ralph Ewing joined her. “Please don’t come with me, Ralph,” she begged.
“I want to find Mollie.”

“Well, why should that prevent my coming along, too?” Ralph asked. “I’d
like to find Mollie myself. She hasn’t paid the slightest attention to
me all afternoon.”

“I don’t want to be horrid, Ralph,” Barbara protested, nervously, “but
please let me find her by myself.”

“Oh, certainly,” assented Ralph, walking quickly away.

Over by one of the lemonade stands that had been deserted at supper time
Bab found Mollie.

“Bab,” she said, pulling her sister to one side, “do you see that tall,
blond man, with the little, curly mustache? He is one of the detectives.
I can’t find out where the other one is.”

A little later Ralph Ewing, who was still strolling around by himself,
felt his face flush, partly with wounded pride, partly with anger.
Barbara was not talking to Mollie. She was standing some distance off
from the other guests, having an earnest conversation with a man whom
Ralph knew to be a stranger in Newport.

Ralph was too proud to linger near them, since Bab had said so plainly
she wanted none of his society. If he could have heard what she was
saying he would have been even more horrified.

“Yes,” Barbara promised, “if you will come somewhere near us, when we
are all together, this evening, I will give you a signal to show you the
man I mean. His name is Townsend. He looks very young, is slender and is
of medium height. Suppose, when you see us, I bow my head slowly in the
direction of the man I mean? If you understand me, you can return my
bow. Can you search him before he leaves the grounds?”

“No, miss.” The detective shook his head. “It would be impossible. He
hasn’t the jewel on him now. If he’s the man we think he is, he is too
smooth for that. He must have a confederate. If we search him here, and
find no proof of his guilt, he will know all about us and our
suspicions. Can’t you see, then, he would just clear out and leave us
here to whistle for our pains?”

“Yes, I see,” said Bab.

“Thank you, miss, for telling us,” the detective continued. “I must say
that emerald story sounds like the real thing. You’ve only guessed about
the butterfly theft; but I think you’ve guessed right. Now we must go
easy. If there is a Raffles, here in Newport, he is out for more
plunder. He’ll make another bold attempt, and that will be our chance.”

“Well, I must go on back now to my friends,” murmured Barbara, uneasily.
It seemed strange to be taken into confidence by the detective, as
though she were in the same line of business. “I suppose you and the
other detective can manage, now, to secure the thief. I would rather not
have anything more to do with the matter.” Barbara gave a little shiver
of repulsion.

“Oh, now, young lady,” protested the detective, “you mustn’t go back on
us, just as the game commences. To catch a society thief we must have
help from the inside. The best detective in the service can’t get on
without it.”

“Where have you been, Bab?” inquired Miss Sallie, anxiously, when
Barbara joined her friends a few minutes later. “I was beginning to get
uneasy about you. Mrs. Cartwright wants us to come into the house for an
informal dance. Do you feel well enough to go? I don’t think you look
very well, child.”

Harry Townsend and Gladys came up at this minute. Harry had promised to
take Miss Stuart indoors to watch the dancing. There was a curious,
restless look in the man’s eyes, but his manners were as charming as
ever.

This was Barbara’s chance. She lagged behind the others, and bowed her
head slowly in the direction of Miss Sallie’s escort. A strange, blond
man, with a curly light mustache, standing some distance off, returned
her bow.

All evening Ralph did not come near Barbara. He devoted himself to
Grace, who was wise enough to guess that Bab and Ralph must have had a
quarrel. But Barbara did not understand. Not having realized that Ralph
had felt snubbed when she dismissed him a little while before, she
supposed he had grown tired of her.

To tell the truth, Barbara was dull. All the merry, sparkling fun had
gone out of her for this one evening. Whether she danced, or talked or
rested quietly, she saw Harry Townsend’s face as it had looked at her
for a single minute in the gypsy tent. “I am not a coward,” thought
Barbara, “but I shall have to be careful if he discovers I was the gypsy
who told his fortune this afternoon.”

Barbara was right.

Harry Townsend knew there was just one person in Newport who suspected
him of being a thief; this person must be put out of the way. The fine
Raffles preferred not to use violence, but at any cost he must win.

Harry Townsend had not recognized Bab in the gypsy tent, which served,
for the time, to avert his suspicions from her. He believed she had only
arrived, when he met her with Miss Stuart late in the evening. Then who
was the gypsy? Either Barbara had seen her, some time in the afternoon,
and told her the story of the necklace, or there was some one else who
believed he had had a part in the robberies. He must find out.

“Gladys,” Harry Townsend said, “don’t let us dance all evening. I have
not had any kind of chance to talk to you alone. Come out on the veranda
with me, won’t you?”

Gladys and Harry seated themselves on the front porch, whence they could
look through an open window at the dancers.

“Do you know Mrs. Cartwright very intimately, Gladys?” inquired Mr.
Townsend.

“Oh, no,” returned Gladys, pettishly. If Harry Townsend had brought her
out on the veranda to talk about Mrs. Cartwright, then she might as well
have stayed indoors. “Why do you ask?”

Harry Townsend frowned, then put his hands before his eyes. Gladys was
so silly. She had served to introduce him to her friends at Newport.
Now, if he could only make her useful in other ways!

“Are you angry?” Gladys asked after a moment, “What is it that you want
to know about Mrs. Cartwright?”

“Oh, I don’t want to know anything about Mrs. Cartwright at all, Gladys.
I am sorry I spoke of it, if the subject offends you. But I did feel a
little curious to know where she got hold of the gypsies she had in the
tent this afternoon. I thought you would be interested.”

“I am interested, Harry,” declared Gladys. She was only a spoiled child,
and could not help showing it. “But I am not a favorite of Mrs.
Cartwright’s. It’s my delightful cousins that she adores—Mollie and Bab.
I can ask one of them to inquire.”

“Oh, no,” drawled Harry, “it is not of enough importance for that.”

For the next half hour Harry devoted himself to the whims of Gladys. He
could see Barbara through the window, looking pale and tired. This gave
all the more reason for believing that she had not recovered from the
shock of her experience on the cliffs.

The cleverest man will sometimes make a false move. Harry Townsend was
tired of Gladys, weary of her whims and foolishness. Besides, she had
served his purpose; he was almost through with her.

“Shall we take a walk, Gladys?” he asked.

As they walked down the path toward the cliff, this up-to-date Raffles,
whose fingers were more agile than a magician’s, pressed Gladys’s hand
for a moment. At the same instant, he slipped her jeweled bracelet into
his pocket. “I don’t want the bauble,” he said to himself, “but she
might as well be punished for not doing what I ask her.”

At the same moment a blond man stepped out from among the bushes and
asked Harry for a light for his cigarette.

Miss Stuart and her girls were saying good-night to Mrs. Cartwright.
Hugh Post and Ralph were to escort them home. As Barbara came down the
steps with her wraps on, some one touched her on the arm.

“Miss,” the detective whispered, “I know the man you pointed out to me;
but I have got to see you again. Tell me how we can manage it.”

“Oh,” said Barbara, hopelessly, “I don’t know. Miss Sallie will be so
angry!”

“You can’t quit us now,” the detective urged. “Why not come out in the
morning, before any of your folks are up.”

“Yes,” agreed Barbara, quickly. She didn’t have time to refuse. Miss
Sallie was coming toward her, and looked in surprise at Barbara’s
strange companion. “Come on, child,” she said, “it is time you and Ruth
were both in bed.”

“Down the street, two turnings to the right,” Barbara heard a voice
behind her whisper, as she turned away.

Gladys was crying, as she made her way to Miss Stuart for comfort. “Miss
Stuart,” she said, “I have lost my pearl bracelet. Mother told me it was
too handsome for me to wear. Now she’ll be angry with me. I didn’t think
it mattered if I wore it this one time. It was large, I suppose, and it
slipped off my hand somewhere.”

“Never mind, Gladys,” advised Harry Townsend, coming up to her. “If it
is stolen, the thief is sure to be caught.”

“Why do you stare at us so, Barbara?” demanded Gladys, angrily. “I am
sure you look all eyes.”

“I beg your pardon,” murmured Barbara.



CHAPTER XIX—“EYEOLOGY”


All night long Bab tossed and tumbled in her bed. Should she keep her
appointment with the detective? About daylight she fell asleep and
wakened with her mind fully made up. Whatever the danger, she was in for
it now. A clever thief was abroad in Newport; circumstances had led to
her discovering him; well, she would do what she could to bring him to
bay.

At six o’clock Barbara slipped quietly out of bed, without awaking
Mollie, and stole noiselessly through the deserted halls of Mrs. Ewing’s
great house. Not even the servants were about.

At the appointed place she found waiting for her two detectives instead
of one.

“We’re wise to the thief,” said the larger, blond man, to whom Barbara
had talked yesterday. “I never had my eyes off of him last night, after
you pointed him out to me. I saw him slip a bracelet from a young lady’s
arm out in the garden, just as coolly as you’d shake hands with a
person. But it was no time to make a row then. I never let him know that
I saw him. The fellow would have had a thousand excuses to make. I could
see he was on pretty intimate terms with the young lady.”

“The truth is, miss,” interrupted the other detective, whom Bab saw for
the first time this morning, “we think you have given us the clue to a
pretty clever customer. We’ve been looking for him before. He’s known to
the service as ‘The Boy Raffles.’ We tried to catch him two years ago
when he played this same game at Saratoga. But he got off to Europe
without our ever finding the goods on him. So you see, this time we’ve
got to nail him. My partner and I,” the wiry little dark man pointed to
the big blond one, “have been talking matters over and we believe this
here ‘Raffles’ has got what we detectives call a ‘confed’ with him—some
one who receives the stolen goods. So that’s why we want to ask your
help. Have you any idea of anyone who could be playing the game along
with him? We think he is giving the jewels to some one to keep in hiding
for him. The gems have not been sent out of town, and we have made a
thorough search of Mrs. Erwin’s house, where Townsend is staying. There
is nothing there.”

“Could the young lady I saw him in the garden with last night be a
partner of his?” asked the blond detective.

“Oh, my goodness, no!” cried Barbara, in horror. “She is my cousin,
Gladys Le Baron.”

“Now, that’s just it, miss. You can see we need some one like you, who’s
on the inside, to keep us off the wrong track. Can you suggest anyone
else?”

Barbara was silent. Then she shook her head. “I don’t know of anyone
now,” she said. “You’ll have to give me time to think and watch.”

“All right, miss, and thank you. You can write a note to this address if
you have anything to communicate.” One of the men handed her a card with
the number of a Newport boarding house on it. “My name is Burton,” said
the big man, “and my assistant is Rowley. We both came up from the New
York office, and we’re at your service, miss.”

On the way home Barbara tried to make up her mind whether she ought to
tell Miss Sallie what she was doing.

“I don’t think it best to tell her now,” she concluded. “She would only
be worried and frightened to death. What is the good? Miss Sallie would
be sure to think that girls did not hunt for jewel thieves in her day.
And she’d probably think they ought not to hunt for them in my day,”
Barbara confessed to herself, honestly. “I’ll just wait a while, and see
how things develop. Now I am in this detective business, I might as well
confess to myself that it is very interesting.”

Barbara walked slowly. “I wish Ruth would find out how things are
going,” she thought to herself. “She is so shrewd and she already
guesses I have something on my mind. But Ruth was so positive I was
wrong about Harry Townsend, at Mrs. Erwin’s ball, that she would
probably think I was wrong again. So the female detective will pursue
her lonely way for a little while longer—and then, I just must tell some
one,” Bab ended.

Miss Sallie and the girls were coming down-stairs to breakfast, when Bab
entered at the front door. Miss Stuart was plainly displeased with
Barbara’s explanation. “I couldn’t sleep very well, Miss Sallie,” said
Barbara, “and I went out for a walk.” “That is partly true,” she
reflected, “but half truths are not far from story-telling.”

“Well, I must ask you, Bab,” said Miss Sallie, in firm tones, “not to
leave the house again in the morning, unless some one is with you. I was
most uneasy.”

“Didn’t Mollie give you the note I left on the bureau to explain where I
had gone?” inquired Bab.

“Mollie did not see the note until we were almost ready to come
downstairs. Naturally, we did not understand your absence.”

“I am so sorry, Miss Sallie,” cried Bab. “I never will do it again.”

Barbara was beginning to understand Miss Sallie better since Ruth’s
accident. She knew that her cold exterior hid a very warm heart.

As for Miss Sallie, she finally smiled on Bab and gave her a forgiving
kiss. “I could forgive Bab anything,” she thought to herself, “after her
wonderful heroism in saving Ruth. I suppose I have to expect a girl of
so much spirit to do erratic things sometimes.”

Ralph kept his eyes lowered when he said good morning and hardly spoke
during breakfast.

“Ralph is out of sorts,” his mother complained, “but, man-like, he won’t
tell what is the matter with him.”

“Perhaps you are tired from the party last night, Ralph?” suggested
Mollie. Then Ralph laughed a mirthless laugh. “No, I am not tired,
Mollie,” he replied.

Yet all through breakfast he did not once speak to Bab.

“Remember,” said Grace, “that our crowd and just a few other people are
invited over to Mrs. Cartwright’s to-night. She is going to have a porch
party, and we are to play the famous game ‘eyeology’ that she was
talking of to Gladys the other day. Do you know what she means?”

Nobody at the table had ever heard of it.

“I begged Donald to tell me,” Grace added, “but he declares he is as
much in the dark about it as the rest of us, and Mrs. Cartwright simply
says, ‘wait and see!’”

“I suppose,” said Miss Sallie, “that you children never intend to rest
again. I should think that Mrs. Cartwright would be perfectly used up
from so much entertaining.”

“O Aunt Sallie,” pleaded Grace, “we shall rest well enough when we are
back in sleepy old Kingsbridge. There is too much doing in Newport. And,
you know, we’ve only about a week longer to stay. What a wonderful time
we have had!”

“Let’s see what we have ahead of us,” pondered Mollie. “The only
especially big things we know about are the tennis tourney and the ball
after it. Then Miss Ruth Stuart and Mr. Hugh Post are to win a silver
cup, in order to spread more luster upon the reputation of the
automobile girls at Newport. Bab helped pull Ruth out of an abyss! The
two girls held up a burglar! Ruth is a famous tennis champion! Only you
and I are no good, Grace. What can we do for our country?” finished
Mollie.

“Nothing at all, dear!” laughed Miss Sallie, and the rest of the party.
“Much as I admire these two clever lassies, I am very glad to have my
other two girls of a more peaceful and quiet variety, or my hair would
certainly turn whiter than it is now, if that were possible.” Miss
Stuart touched her snow-white hair, which was very handsome with her
delicate skin and bright color.

“Now I insist,” she said, “that you girls have a quiet day if you are
going out again this evening.”

“May I have a row on the bay with Ralph?” asked Barbara. “Have you
forgotten, Ralph, that you invited me several days ago?”

“I am sorry, Barbara,” Ralph answered, quietly, “but I had forgotten it.
If you will excuse me, I have something else on hand for today that I
must attend to. Perhaps you will go with me some other time,” he
proposed, without any enthusiasm.

“All right, Ralph,” Bab nodded. “Of course, I do not mind. We did not
have a real engagement, anyway.” “He won’t let me make up with him,” Bab
thought. “I wonder why he is so angry?”

At five o’clock Barbara came down on the veranda, dressed for the
evening. She spied Ralph walking alone down the garden path, which was
arched with trellises of crimson and pink rambler roses. There were
several seats along the walk, and it had formed a favorite retreat for
the girls ever since they had arrived at Mrs. Ewing’s home.

Perhaps another girl than Barbara would not have tried again to make
friends with Ralph, after his refusal to take her boating in the
morning; but Bab was so open-hearted and sincere that she could not bear
a misunderstanding. She was fond of Ralph, he had been kind to her, and
his manner toward her had changed so suddenly that she felt she must
have done something to wound him. Bab did offend people, sometimes, with
her quick speeches and thoughtlessness, but she was always ready to say
she was wrong and to make amends.

“Ralph!” she called. “Ralph!” The boy was obliged to stop and turn
round, as Barbara was hurrying after him.

“I want to talk to you, please,” she said, coaxingly. “You are not too
angry with me to let me speak to you, are you?”

“I have not said I was angry with you, Miss Thurston,” replied Ralph.

“Now, Ralph!” Barbara put her hand lightly on his sleeve. “You know you
don’t call me Miss Thurston. We decided weeks ago it was silly for us to
call each other Miss and Mister when we were such intimate friends. I
want you to do me a favor. Will you take me over to Mrs. Cartwright’s
to-night? Donald and his guest, ‘the freshman,’ are coming for Grace and
Mollie. Ruth, of course, is going over with Hugh, and I could go with
them, but I want to talk to you. I can’t say what I have to say to you
now, because already the girls are calling me. Please say you will take
me.”

Barbara’s eyes were so pretty and pleading that Ralph felt his anger
already melting. Yet Ralph’s feeling toward Barbara was not only anger.
It was a much more serious thing, a growing sense of distrust. But he
answered: “Of course, Bab, I shall be delighted to take you.”

Barbara and Ralph let the rest of their friends start ahead of them.
They wanted to have their walk alone.

Miss Sallie had pleaded fatigue, and remained at home. “Besides,
children,” she explained, “I am much too old to take any further
interest in games, ‘eyeology,’ or any other ‘ology.’”

Ralph and Barbara walked in silence down the street for several minutes.
Then Bab spoke. “Tell me, Ralph, what is the matter? If you were angry
with a man you would tell him what the trouble was, if he asked you. It
is not fair not to be open with me because I am a girl. If you think you
are being more polite to me by not telling me why you are angry, then I
don’t agree with you. I think you are acting a whole lot worse.”

Ralph continued to go on in moody silence.

“All right, then, Ralph,” said Barbara; “I can’t ask you any more
questions, or beg your pardon, when I don’t know what I have done to
offend you. Only I am sorry.”

“Oh, it isn’t that you have offended me, Bab,” Ralph burst out. “Do you
suppose I would act like such a bear if you had just thrown me down, or
some little thing like that, when we have been such jolly good friends
before? I didn’t like your sending me off yesterday, when you went to
look for Mollie, because—because——”

“Go on, Ralph,” insisted Barbara.

“Very well, then, Bab; I was angry and hurt because, if you did join
Mollie, you couldn’t have stayed with her a minute. I saw you, just
afterwards, holding a long conversation with a strange man.”

“Well, Ralph,” argued Bab, “was that such a dreadful offense? I am sure
I should not have been angry with you, if you had talked to any number
of strange women.” Bab’s eyes were twinkling. She had made up her mind
that she wanted a confidant. Here was Ralph, the best one she could
have.

“That’s not all,” Ralph continued, “I did not mean to be an
eavesdropper, but I was standing just behind you and I could not help
overhearing that strange man make an appointment to meet you this
morning. Say, Bab,” Ralph turned toward her, all his anger gone, “don’t
do things like meeting that man this morning without telling. It’s not
nice, and I’ve thought you the nicest, most straightforward girl I ever
knew. If there is anything between you and that fellow, why should it be
a secret? A girl can’t afford to have secrets, except with other girls.”

“But I want to have a secret with _you_, Ralph,” rejoined Barbara. “Now
listen, while I tell you everything. I have never talked to you about
the scene in the conservatory, the night of Mrs. Erwin’s ball, though I
did appreciate what you did to help me out when I made that strange
request of Harry Townsend. I was not crazy. I saw Harry Townsend steal
Mrs. Post’s emerald necklace. Ralph,” Barbara’s voice was now so low
that he had to bend over to hear her, “Harry Townsend is not what the
people here think him. He is a professional thief, and a dangerous one.”

“Whew!” whistled Ralph. “What did you say?”

Then Barbara told him the story of the three thefts, from the beginning,
and her own part in discovering them. “The detectives are on the lookout
now, Ralph,” she added, “but they want me to keep a watch from the
inside.”

“Well, you are a clever one, Bab!” declared Ralph. “Look here, I am glad
you told me this. I appreciate it a whole lot, and I will not mention it
to anyone until you tell me I may. But, remember one thing. I shall be
on the watch, too, and it’s Miss Barbara Thurston I’ll be watching. That
Townsend is a dangerous rogue. I’ve known there was something crooked
about him from the first. Oh, it’s easy to say that, now, after what you
have told me. I am not pretending I knew his special game. Only I knew
he was not our sort. He is a whole lot older than he pretends to be, for
one thing.”

“Ralph,” sighed Barbara, “do you think there is any way I could warn
Gladys against Harry Townsend?”

Ralph shook his head. “Not any way that I know of. She would just snub
you hard, if you tried. Even if you dared to tell her the truth she
would go right off and tell that Townsend fellow. She’s been pretty
hateful to you, Bab. I don’t see why you should care.”

“Oh, but I do care,” retorted Bab. “She has been horrid and stuck up,
but she hasn’t done Mollie and me any real harm, and she is my cousin.
Her father is my mother’s brother. Uncle Ralph has never been very fond
of us, nor has he come to see us very much, but he looks after mother’s
money. I don’t suppose,” wound up Barbara, thoughtfully, “he would do us
any wrong. I shouldn’t like Gladys to get into trouble.”

“What has kept you children so long?” asked Grace, as Ralph and Barbara
appeared on Mrs. Cartwright’s veranda. Then she squeezed Bab’s hand and
whispered, so no one else could hear, “Made it up, Bab?” Barbara nodded,
“yes.”

Mrs. Cartwright was heard speaking. “Sit down, everyone, over there
where Jones has placed the chairs for us. Professor Cartwright,” she
bowed to show she meant herself, “will now explain to his pupils, or his
guests, the principles of the science of ‘eyeology.’ Human character is
expressed in the human eye—our love, our hate, our ambitions,
everything. But can we read the characters of people about us as we look
into their eyes? No! Why not? Because the rest of the face confuses our
attention. Instead of the steadfast beacon of the eye, we see the nose,
the mouth, the hair, all the other features, and so we fail to
understand the story the eye would tell us if it were alone. To-night I
intend to instruct you in the proper understanding of ‘eyeology.’”

Mrs. Cartwright changed to her usual manner of speaking. “Don’t you
think it would be amusing to make a test? Here Ruth,” laughed the
hostess, “be my first pupil. Go into the drawing-room and wait there
until I send for you. I want to find out how many of your friends you
will know, when you see only their eyes.”



CHAPTER XX—RUTH WAKES UP!


A curious sight met Ruth’s gaze when she was invited to return to the
veranda.

“Goodness!” she laughed. “It is just as well I am not afraid of ghosts.
I’ve come upon a whole army of them all at once!”

Mrs. Cartwright had the porch darkened, except for a single row of
bright lights. Her visitors stood with their backs against the wall, a
sheet drawn up on a level with their eyes. Another white cloth covered
their heads, drawn down so low over their foreheads that even the
eyebrows were concealed. By standing on books and stools the eyes were
all on a level.

“No giggling,” said Mrs. Cartwright severely to the ghostly set in front
of her, “or Ruth can guess who you are by the tones of your voices.”

Ruth looked confused. No signs of her friends remained, save a long row
of shining eyes, black, blue, brown and gray, even the color being hard
to distinguish in the artificial light.

“Now, mademoiselle,” said Mrs. Cartwright, still speaking in the voice
of a professor, “behold before you an opportunity to prove your skill in
the remarkable science of ‘eyeology.’ I have a piece of paper and a
pencil in my hand. As you gaze into each pair of eyes, you are to reveal
that person’s identity. I will write the names down as you tell them to
me. When you have gone through the whole list, the curtain shall be
lifted. Then we shall discover how many of your friends you know by the
character of their eyes. After Ruth has finished, anyone else who wishes
may try his or her skill.”

“My dear Mrs. Cartwright,” said Ruth, laughing and peering in front of
her, “I tell you, right now, that I shall not guess a single name
correctly. To tell the truth, I never saw any of these eyes before. It’s
horrid to have them all staring and blinking at me. I am frightened at
them all! Besides, I can’t see. May I have a candle and hold it up in
front of each person as I pass along?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Cartwright; “only kindly keep at a safe distance. We
don’t want to burn up any of our ghosts.”

Ruth started down the line. She had the privilege of staring as long and
as hard as she liked into each pair of eyes.

The company was strangely silent. They were really interested in the
idea, and knew that any talking would spoil the whole experiment.

“I’ve mixed the babies up, Ruth,” said Mrs. Cartwright, “so you needn’t
think you can guess anyone by his choice of a next-door neighbor. No
social preferences have been allowed in this game.”

Ruth tried the first pair of eyes. She looked at them intently. Then she
turned round to Mrs. Cartwright. “I am sure I never saw those eyes
before. You have introduced some stranger since I left the porch.”

“There is not a person here whom you do not know well,” Mrs. Cartwright
assured her. “Don’t try to slip out of your task.”

Ruth kept staring. The eyes in front of her drooped, and soft, curling
lashes for an instant swept over them. A little wistful look lay in the
depths of them, when the lids lifted. “Why, it’s Molliekins! How absurd
of me not to know her! I was about to guess Ralph!”

Mistress Ruth must have guessed wrongly next time, for there was a burst
of laughter, afterwards, that made the white sheets shake.

“Be quiet,” warned Mrs. Cartwright sternly.

So Ruth passed on down the line. There were about twenty people in the
game, but Ruth knew all of them very well. Sometimes her guesses were
right, sometimes they were wrong. Once or twice she had to confess
herself beaten, and “gave up” with a shake of her head at Mrs.
Cartwright.

Ruth had nearly finished her task. Only a few more pairs of eyes
remained to be investigated.

“Well, I am nearly through,” she said gayly. “If anyone thinks I have
had an easy time of it, he has only to take my place and try the next
turn. No more mistakes now, for Ruth Stuart! Who is my next victim?”
Ruth held her candle above her head and looked up.

Gleaming at her through the darkness lit by the flare from her
candle-light was a pair of eyes that were strangely familiar.

Ruth stared at them. They belonged to none of the friends she knew—yet,
somewhere, she had seen them before.

Ruth looked and looked. The eyes shifted and narrowed. Ruth still held
her candle aloft; but she had forgotten where she was. Where had she
seen those eyes before?

“Look straight ahead of you,” said Mrs. Cartwright to the gleaming eyes,
“how can Ruth guess when your eyes are closed?” But again the eyes
shifted.

“I am going to find out to whom those eyes belong, if I stay here all
night,” said Ruth, speaking to herself.

The eyes glinted, narrowed and shone like two fine points of steel.

“Oh!” said Ruth. She staggered a little and the candle shook in her
hand. “I thought I knew those eyes, but I don’t. I must be mistaken. I
beg your pardon, Mrs. Cartwright,” said Ruth, “but I am tired. I don’t
think I can go on. Will some one take my place?”

Ruth’s expression was so peculiar that Mrs. Cartwright came up to her.
“You foolish child!” she said, putting her hand on Ruth’s shoulder, “I
believe this game is making you nervous. Who is it sitting there with
the eyes that Ruth remembers, yet will not reveal to us?” she called.

“Harry Townsend, Harry Townsend!” the people sitting closest to him
answered.

“Harry,” said Mrs. Cartwright, “you come and take Ruth’s place. Let’s
see if you are a better ‘eyeologist’ than she is.”

Before Harry Townsend had slipped out from under his strange covering,
Ruth turned to Mrs. Cartwright. “Excuse me for a minute,” she begged.
“My labors as an optician have used me up. I will be back in a little
while.”

Barbara crept from under the sheet, and, without speaking to anyone, ran
after Ruth, who was on her way upstairs to Mrs. Cartwright’s boudoir.

“Ruth, dear, what on earth has happened to you? Are you sick?” asked
Barbara.

“Oh, I am worse than sick, Bab!” muttered Ruth, with a shudder. “Don’t
ask me to talk until we get upstairs.”

The girls closed the dressing-room door.

“I must be wrong, Bab, yet I don’t believe I am. I saw to-night the same
eyes that glared at us from behind a black mask the time of that
horrible burglary at New Haven, when, for a little while, I thought you
were killed. I have never said much about it. I wanted to forget and I
wanted everyone else to forget it, but those eyes have followed me
everywhere since. To-night——”

Bab took Ruth’s hand.

“Oh, Bab,” groaned Ruth, “what does it mean? I saw those eyes again
to-night and they were Harry Townsend’s. I wanted to scream right out:
‘Burglar! robber!’ But I could not make a scene. I came upstairs, hardly
knowing how I reached here.”

One of the maids knocked at the door. “Do the young ladies wish
anything? Mrs. Cartwright sent me up to inquire,” she said.

“Nothing at all. Tell her we are all right, and will be down in a few
minutes.”

“Ruth,” said Barbara, “I want to tell you something. If I do, can you
pretend that nothing has happened, and be perfectly composed for the
rest of the evening? Now don’t say ‘yes’ unless you feel sure.”

Ruth looked straight at Barbara, “Yes; tell me what it is,” she urged.
“I am beginning to guess.”

“The eyes you saw to-night were Harry Townsend’s, and he is a burglar
and a thief. I did not know he was the robber at New Haven; I have only
suspected it. Now I feel sure, and you recognized him to-night. He is a
more dangerous character than I had thought, and he must not know that
you suspect him.”

“He shall know nothing from me,” said Ruth, coolly. Her color had come
back, now that she knew the truth. “It was only the shock that unnerved
me. Why haven’t you told me before, Bab?”

“I was afraid you’d ask me that, Ruth, dear, and I want to explain. You
see, I have believed Harry Townsend a thief ever since I saw him, with
my own eyes, take the necklace from Mrs. Post’s neck at Mrs. Erwin’s
ball; but you were positive I was wrong, and asked me not to talk about
it. So I didn’t know what to do. I have only watched and waited.
To-night I told Ralph what I knew.”

Barbara then explained to Ruth the whole story, and the part the
detectives had asked her to play in Townsend’s apprehension. “What shall
I do, Ruth?” she ended.

“Come on downstairs, Bab,” said Ruth. “Some one may suspect us if we
don’t. Do, Bab. We are going on to play the game, just as you have been
playing it by yourself. We will say nothing, but we will do some hard
thinking; and, when the time comes, we shall act! To tell you the truth,
if you will never betray me to Aunt Sallie, I think playing detective
beats nearly any fun I know.”

“Eyeology” was no longer amusing the guests when the two girls came
downstairs; indeed, the company had scattered and was talking in
separate groups. Ruth and Bab joined Mollie and Grace, who were standing
near Mrs. Post and their new acquaintance, the Countess Bertouche.

“Girls,” asked Mrs. Post, “would you like to join the Countess Bertouche
and myself Saturday afternoon? We are going to explore old Newport; the
old town is well worth seeing. The countess tells me this is her first
visit to Newport, so, before she goes back to Paris, I want her to see
that we have a little of the dignity that age gives.

“Why,” and Mrs. Post turned smilingly to the little group, “Newport
boasts even a haunted house! It is not occupied, and I have the
privilege of showing you over it. A story has been written about the old
mansion. Here a young woman lived who loved an officer in Rochambeau’s
fleet, when the gallant French sailor came over to these shores. But the
sailor loved and sailed away, never to return. So the lady pined and
died; but her presence still haunts the old house. You can feel her
approaching you by a sudden perfume of mignonette. After we see all the
sights of the town, we shall go to the old house at about dusk, so that
we may have a better chance to discover the ‘spirit lady.’”

Mollie and Grace accepted Mrs. Post’s invitation with enthusiasm.
Barbara and Ruth had to decline regretfully.

“You see, Mrs. Post,” Barbara explained, “Ruth and Hugh have to practice
their tennis, every hour they can manage, until the tournament on
Monday. Ruth has become a little out of practice since her accident, and
must work hard at her game for the next few days. Ralph and I have
promised to help by furnishing the opposition.”

“You’ll excuse Mollie and me from playing audience, won’t you, Ruth?”
asked Grace. “We are going home so soon after the tournament is over
that we can’t resist Mrs. Post’s invitation.”

“Barbara,” said Ruth, coming into Bab’s room, just as that young woman
was about to step into bed, “can you imagine anyone whom Harry Townsend
can be using as a confederate?”

“Sh-sh!” warned Bab. “Here comes Mollie. Don’t say anything. I haven’t
the faintest idea.”



CHAPTER XXI—THE CAPTURE OF THE BUTTERFLY


Harry Townsend was not aware of the chain of suspicion that was
tightening around him; but he was too clever not to use every
precaution. Once or twice he had come across the small, dark detective
who was making investigations in Mrs. Erwin’s house—the large, blond
man, named Burton, had kept in the background—but knowing that the
servants had been under suspicion, he supposed that the search was being
made on their account. He knew of no act of his own that could possibly
implicate him in the robberies. He came and went among Mrs. Erwin’s
guests, and was on a friendly footing with their most fashionable
friends at Newport. He had seen no one else during his visit, as the
whole world was privileged to know.

The only act that the detective, Rowley, was able to report to his
superior was that Mr. Townsend mailed his own letters. In Mrs. Erwin’s
household it was the custom of her guests to place all their mail in a
bag, which the butler sent to the postoffice at regular hours; but Mr.
Townsend preferred to mail his own letters. This act occasioned no
comment. Other guests, writing important business letters, had done the
same thing.

“And Townsend has mailed only letters,” continued Rowley in making his
report. “Not a single package, even of the smallest size, has gone out
through the postoffice. The jewels are still in Newport.”

Mr. Townsend had already begun to discuss with his hostess the
possibility of his soon having to leave her charming home. “I have
presumed on your hospitality too long,” he said to Mrs. Erwin, several
times. “When the famous Casino ball is over I must be getting back to
New York.”

To Gladys he explained: “My dear Gladys, my holiday time must end some
day. I shall be able to see you often when you go back to Kingsbridge. I
am going into a broker’s office as soon as I get back to New York. I
have been loafing around in Europe for the last two years, but I have
decided that, even if a fellow has money enough to make him fairly
comfortable, work is the thing for the true American!”

To-day Harry Townsend walked to the post-office alone. He carried three
letters. One of them was to a steamship company engaging passage to
Naples for “John Brown.” The steamer was due to sail the following
Wednesday. The other two letters had New York addresses. When they
arrived at their first destination, they were to be remailed to other
addresses. A tall, blond man, who happened to be lounging in the
postoffice at the time Mr. Townsend entered it, observed that the young
gentleman was anxious to know when the letters would be delivered in the
city.

The letters posted, Townsend walked over to the Casino courts, where Bab
and Ruth were playing tennis. He had promised Gladys to join her there.
He still had some investigations he desired to make. But he walked
slowly. Clever fingers must be directed by a clever brain, whether their
work be good or evil. No matter how well he knew he could depend on his
wonderful fingers to do their share of the work, the “boy Raffles”
always thought out carefully the plan of his theft before he tried to
execute it.

On Monday night, at the Casino tournament ball, he planned to make his
final theft. This accomplished, he could leave Newport feeling he had
reaped a rich harvest, even in the summer season, when harvests are not
supposed to be gathered.

Harry Townsend, alias half a dozen other names, had seen the jewel he
most coveted for his final effort. It was a diamond tiara belonging to
one of the richest and most prominent women in Newport. His schemes were
carefully laid. He was waiting for Monday night.

At about three o’clock, on this same Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Post and
the Countess Bertouche stopped in a small automobile for Grace and
Mollie. They had no one with them except the chauffeur.

It took them some time to drive through the old town of Newport. The
ladies descended at the old Trinity church, to investigate it, and the
girls were much interested in the ancient jail. There, they were told,
was once kept a woman prisoner who complained because she had no lock on
her door.

Mollie and Grace were not ardent sightseers. It was really the thought
of the haunted house that had brought them on their pilgrimage. But Mrs.
Post and the countess insisted on poking their way down the Long Wharf,
with its rows of sailors’ houses and junk shops. Both girls were
dreadfully bored, and secretly longed to be on the tennis courts with
Bab and Ruth. Yet the thought of the haunted house buoyed them up.

Mrs. Post was a collector. If you have ever traveled with one, you will
understand that it means hours and hours of looking through dirt and
trash in order to run across one treasure that a collector regards as
“an antique.”

Even when Mrs. Post was through with her search she decided that it was
not yet sufficiently late for them to visit the haunted house. “I told
the caretaker not to meet us there until a quarter of seven. We shall
want only a few minutes to go through the old place; but, of course, we
must see it under conditions as romantic as possible.” Mrs. Post then
ordered the chauffeur to take them for a drive before driving them to
the haunted house.

Mollie and Grace were unusually quiet, so they noticed that the Countess
Bertouche had little to say during the afternoon. She seemed tired and
nervous. When Mrs. Post asked her questions about her life abroad, after
she married, the countess replied in as few words as possible.

At exactly the appointed time the automobile delivered its passengers
before the door of the house they sought. It was an old, gray,
Revolutionary mansion, three stories high, with a sloping roof and small
windows with diamond-latticed panes. It was quite dark when the girls
entered the ghostly mansion, following Mrs. Post and the countess, who
were led by a one-eyed old caretaker carrying a smoky lamp. There was
just enough daylight shining through the windows to see one’s way about,
but the corners of the vast old house were full of terrifying shadows.

“Let us not stay too long, Mrs. Post,” urged the countess. “I am not
fond of ghosts, and I am tired.” But Mrs. Post was the kind of
sight-seer who goes on to the end, no matter who lags behind. She led
the party up the winding steps, peering into each room as they went
along. The house was kept furnished with a few rickety pieces of old
furniture.

When they reached the second floor, the caretaker announced that the
middle bedroom was the sleeping apartment of the haunted lady. The
little party searched it curiously. There was no sign of the ghostly
inhabitant; no perfume of mignonette.

“I don’t see anything unusual about this room,” said the countess,
suppressing a sigh, “except that it has the most comfortable chair in
the house. I shall sit here and rest while you take the two girls over
the other part of the building.”

The three left her. The woman dropped into a chair, and a worn, nervous
look crossed her face.

As Mollie ascended the attic stairs behind Grace she called out, “If you
will excuse me, Mrs. Post, I shall go down and join the countess.”

An imp of mischief had entered Mollie. Wrapped up in her handkerchief,
carefully concealed in her purse bag, was a handful of mignonette, which
she had gathered from Mrs. Ewing’s garden only that morning. Mollie
meant to impersonate the “spirit lady.” Suddenly she had decided that
the countess was the best one upon whom she could try her joke.

Creeping down the stairs as quietly as a mouse, Mollie stole into the
back room, adjoining the one where the countess sat. Had she looked in,
she would hardly have played her naughty trick. The woman who sat there
was a very different person from the gay society lady they had been
meeting everywhere in the last few weeks. This woman looked weary and
frightened. But Mollie was thinking only of mischief.

Silently she took the mignonette out of her bag and crushed it in her
hand. There was a sudden fragrance all about her. Then she slipped her
hand slyly through the open doorway and dropped her bunch of mignonette
into the room where the countess was sitting. There was no response. The
countess had not detected the odor of the flowers and Mollie was deeply
disappointed.

Faintly, however, the countess began to be aware of the fragrance of a
subtle perfume; but she was thinking too deeply of other things to be
conscious of what it was. Besides, the growing darkness was making her
nervous.

Mollie gave up in despair. Her effort with the mignonette had plainly
proved a failure. The countess refused to be frightened by the
suggestion of the ghost.

“Countess!” said Mollie, appearing suddenly in the open doorway. She
certainly expected no result from this simple action; but the countess,
who thought she was entirely alone, was dreadfully startled. She rose,
with a short scream of surprise, and started forward. Her foot catching
in a worn old rug, she stumbled. Mollie was by her side in a second,
trying to help her to rise.

“I am so sorry to have frightened you!” the child said penitently. “Wait
a minute, you have dropped something.” Mollie picked up a square chamois
skin bag. In her excitement and embarrassment she caught hold of the
wrong end of it. Out of it tumbled a purse, and—Mollie saw it as plainly
as could be, though it was nearly dark in the room—Mrs. Cartwright’s
diamond butterfly!

“Child!” said the countess, angrily. “See what your nonsense has done!
This is the bag that I wear under my dress to carry my money and jewels.
It is always securely fastened. I suppose, falling as I did, I must have
broken the catch.” She picked up the things quickly and thrust them into
her bag. It was so dark in the room she supposed Mollie had not seen
them. Then, holding the bag tightly in her hand, she went on downstairs,
Mollie after her, and joined Grace and Mrs. Post, who had preceded them
to the automobile.

“Well, did anyone see the ghost?” asked Mrs. Post. “You, Mollie, my
child, look as if you had seen something.”

“Oh, no,” denied Mollie; “but I am afraid I frightened the countess. I
threw some mignonette in the room, trying to make her think I was the
ghost, but she didn’t notice it. Then, when I spoke to her to tell her
it was time to come downstairs, she was dreadfully startled.”

Mrs. Post ordered the chauffeur to drive home first, as she and the
countess had a dinner engagement; the two girls being later taken to
Mrs. Ewing’s.

The two women had barely left the car before Mollie put her lips near
Grace’s ear and whispered: “Grace Carter, the Countess Bertouche has
stolen Mrs. Cartwright’s butterfly! I saw it with my own eyes. She
dropped it out of a bag on the floor, when she fell down.”

“Goose!” smiled Grace. “What are you talking about? Don’t you suppose a
countess may have a jeweled butterfly of her own?”

“Not like that one,” retorted Mollie, firmly. “I would know it among a
thousand. You needn’t believe me, but it’s as true as that my name is
Mollie Thurston. I am going to tell Ruth and Bab, as soon as I get home.
I know they will believe me.”

“I do believe you, only I am so dumfounded I can’t take it in,” said
Grace.

“What on earth is the matter with you, Mollie?” asked Bab of her sister,
as soon as they had finished dinner. “You look awfully excited.”

“Bab,” whispered Mollie, “call Ruth and Grace right away. Don’t let
anyone else come. Let’s go down to the end of the garden. I have
something I must tell you, this minute!”

Grace had already found Ruth, and the two came hurrying along. “No,
Ralph,” ordered Grace, “you can’t come. This is strictly a girl’s
party.”

“Bab,” began Mollie, “you will believe me, won’t you? I do know what I
am talking about. This afternoon I saw the Countess Bertouche with Mrs.
Cartwright’s diamond butterfly. She dropped it, right before my eyes,
out of the same kind of bag that Miss Sallie uses to keep her jewelry
in. What can it mean?”

“Ruth!” gasped Bab. “Bab!” uttered Ruth.

The two girls looked at each other in silence. Then Bab exclaimed: “It
took my Mollie to make the discovery, after all!”

“What are you talking about, Barbara Thurston? What discovery have I
made?” demanded Mollie.

“Ruth, do you think I had better tell the girls?” asked Bab.

Ruth nodded, and Barbara related the principal facts of the jewel
robbery. She also told the girls that she and Ruth suspected that Harry
Townsend had been the robber who frightened them at New Haven. “You
remember,” Bab continued, “he was a guest at the hotel the same night we
were, and left early the next morning. If he had one of the rooms under
us, he could have climbed down the fire escape and into his own room
before anyone could discover him.”

But Bab kept to herself that she and Ruth were expecting another
burglary, and that she, Bab, was to play a part in bringing the thief to
bay. Mollie and Grace would both be terribly frightened at the thought,
but it was just as well that they knew enough not to be surprised at
what was to follow.

Barbara went upstairs and wrote a note to the address in Newport that
the detectives had given to her. It told the story just recited by
Mollie.

“Ralph,” requested Barbara, sauntering slowly through the hall, “will
you mail this at once with your own hands? Little Mollie has done the
deed, after all. She has found the woman who receives Harry Townsend’s
stolen goods!”

Ralph took the letter with an exclamation of surprise and hurried off to
the post.



CHAPTER XXII—THE TENNIS TOURNAMENT


The girls were dressing for the tennis tournament. The games were to
begin at noon, and continue until six o’clock. Three hours later the
annual tennis ball took place at the Casino.

“You know, Ruth,” said Bab, fixing a pin in her friend’s collar, as they
stood before the mirror, “that the really most important thing in our
whole stay at Newport is your winning the silver cup in the tournament
to-day.”

“Oh!” cried Ruth. “Don’t be quite so energetic, Bab. You jabbed that pin
right into my neck. I believe I am going to win. I can’t imagine a good
soldier going into battle with the idea that he is going to be beaten.
Why, an idea like that would take all the fight out of a man, or a girl
either, for that matter. No, Hugh and I are going to do everything we
possibly can to come out winners. But, if we do, Bab, Hugh and I will
think we owe it to you and Ralph. You have been such trumps about
keeping us up to the mark with your fine playing.”

“Nonsense, Ruth!” retorted Bab, decidedly. “All Ralph and I ask this
afternoon is a chance to do some shouting for the winners. What time is
the tourney on for the ‘eighteen-year-olds’?”

“Just after lunch; about two o’clock, I believe. Bab, are you nervous
about to-night?” Ruth asked. “Do you think there is going to be a scene
at the ball? The detectives will be watching Mr. Townsend closely. They
suspect that he means to make another big attempt, don’t they?”

“I really don’t know, Ruth,” Barbara answered. “I had a short note from
Mr. Burton this morning. I meant to show it to you, but I did not have a
chance. It simply said: ‘Thanks. The game is ours. Keep a sharp
lookout!’ But I want to forget the whole burglary business to-day.
Tennis is the only really important thing. Hurrah for Miss Ruth Stuart,
the famous girl champion!” cried Barbara, then suddenly sobered down.
The two girls had been in the wildest spirits all day. Indeed, Miss
Sallie had sent them into the same room to dress, in order to get rid of
them.

“What is the matter, Bab?” said Ruth, turning round to look into her
friend’s face.

“I’ve a confession to make to you. In my heart of hearts, way down
underneath, I am kind of sneakingly sorry for Harry Townsend. I know he
is a rogue and everything that’s wicked. When I think of him in that way
I am not sorry for him a bit. Then the thought comes of the man who has
been around with us for weeks, playing tennis with us and going to our
parties, and I can’t quite take it in.”

“I know just what you mean, Bab,” replied Ruth, reflectively. “Don’t you
think it must be the same idea as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Everyone has
a good and a bad side. We can’t help being sorry for the good part of a
person, when the evil gets ahead of it. But, then, you and I have never
really liked even the good side of Harry Townsend much. So I wonder why
we both feel sorry.”

“It’s the woman in us, I suppose,” sighed Bab.

“Ruth, come in here and let me see how you look,” called Miss Sallie.
She had sent up to New York for a special tennis costume for Ruth. The
suit was a light-weight white serge skirt with an embroidered blouse of
handkerchief linen, and the only color was Ruth’s pale blue necktie and
the snood on her hair, which was carefully braided and securely fastened
to the back of her head.

Gowns were an important part of tournament days; indeed, the New York
Horse Show seldom shows more elaborate dressing than does the annual
tennis tournament at the Newport Casino.

Mollie and Barbara were the proud owners of two new gowns made by their
mother for this special occasion. Bab’s frock was a simple yellow
dimity, and she wore a big white hat with a wreath of yellow roses round
it.

“You’re a baby blue, Mollie, aren’t you?” asked Grace standing and
admiring her little friend. Grace had on a lingerie frock of lavender
muslin and lace, and a big hat trimmed in lavender plumes.

“Well,” said Mollie, making her a low bow, “lucky am I to be dressed in
blue, if it means I may sit near so lovely a person as you. Fortunately,
lavender and blue make a pretty color combination.”

Miss Stuart had a box for the tennis tournament.

When she and the girls entered it, they found it nearly filled with
roses. There were no cards except a single one inscribed: “For the
Automobile Girls,” for Miss Sallie was as much an automobile girl as any
of the others. The girls selected the bunches of flowers that seemed
most suited to their costumes. Miss Sallie and Grace immediately decided
on the white roses, Mollie chose the pink ones, looking in her pale blue
dress and hat like a little Dresden shepherdess.

In some one’s garden a yellow rose bush of the old-fashioned kind must
have bloomed for Bab. “Why!” uttered Miss Sallie, holding up Bab’s
flowers, from which streamed a long yellow satin bow, “I have not seen
these little yellow garden roses since I was a girl. See how they open
out their hearts to everyone! Is that like you, Bab? Be careful how you
hold them,” teased Miss Sallie; “they have a few thorns underneath, and
must be gently handled.”

Ruth half suspected Hugh had been the anonymous giver of the flowers, as
soon as she discovered her own bunch. They formed a big ball of pale
blue hydrangeas, tied with Ruth’s especial shade of blue ribbon.

“See!” said Ruth, laughing, and holding them up for the other girls to
admire. “Hugh was not discouraged by the fact that blue flowers are so
hard to find. I wouldn’t have dreamed that hydrangeas could look so
lovely, except on the bush.”

Ruth sat in the front of the box, waiting for her name to be called for
her tennis match. She was one of the most popular visitors in Newport;
nearly everyone who passed her box stopped to wish good luck to her and
to Hugh.

“I have seen a good many sights, in my day,” said Miss Sallie, gazing
around through her lorgnette, “but never one more beautiful than this.”

The grass of the wide lawns was so perfectly trimmed that it looked like
a carpet of moss. Over the green there swept a crowd of laughing, happy
people, the women in frocks of every delicate color. Even the sober note
that men’s clothes generally make in a gay throng was missing to-day,
for the boys, young and old, wore white flannels and light shirts that
rivaled the dresses of the girls in the brightness of their hues.

Tier upon tier of seats rose up around the tennis courts; before the
first game was called every one was filled.

“Give me my smelling salts, Grace,” said Miss Sallie, when Ruth and Hugh
were called out to commence their game. “I shall not look at them until
the set is over.”

“O Miss Sallie!” declared Ralph, who had quietly slipped into Ruth’s
place next Barbara. “I am ashamed of you for not having more courage. I
am certain they will win. We shall have two silver cups in this box in
the next hour or so.”

Over the heads of the great crowd Barbara could see the Countess
Bertouche. She was standing near Mr. and Mrs. Erwin’s box, in which sat
Governor and Mrs. Post, Gladys and Harry Townsend.

For the first time in her acquaintance with them, Barbara saw Harry
Townsend leave his seat and walk across the lawn with the countess.
Evidently she had made some request of him. Not far off Barbara could
also see a tall, blond man, with a curly, light mustache, who followed
the pair with his eyes and then moved nonchalantly in their direction.

But Harry Townsend was back with his friends in a minute. He had only
taken the countess to her place, so that she need not be alone in the
crowd.

Ruth and Hugh were easy winners. They had no such tennis battle as they
fought the day they earned the right to represent their crowd over the
heads of Ralph and Barbara.

“Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!” shouted the crowd.

Ruth and Hugh were standing near each other in front of the judges’
stand, where the prizes were awarded.

With a low bow, Mr. Cartwright presented Ruth with a beautiful silver
cup and to Hugh another of the same kind. On the outside of each cup was
engraved a design of two racquets crossing each other, with the word
“champion” below.

Barbara and Ruth had given up all their interest and thought to the
tennis match during the day; but Ruth having won her cup, both girls’
minds turned to the jewel robbery.

Except for the note Bab had received in the morning, she had had no sign
nor signal from the two detectives. The Countess Bertouche, apparently
as calm and undisturbed as any of the other guests, had been an
interested watcher of the tournament.

The girls were late in arriving at the ball. Miss Stuart had insisted on
their resting an hour after dinner, and the affair was in full swing
when they entered the beautiful Casino ballroom.

“You’re just in time for the barn dance, all of you,” called Mrs.
Cartwright. “We are going to be informal for the next half hour, at
least. Come, Ruth, I insist on you and Hugh leading off. You are our
special tennis champions. Wasn’t it hard luck that I didn’t win, when my
husband was a judge?”

“Miss Thurston,” said Harry Townsend, turning suddenly to Barbara,
“won’t you dance with me?”

Barbara’s hands turned cold as ice and her cheeks suddenly flamed. She
hated to dance with a man whom she knew to be of the character of Harry
Townsend. Yet how could she refuse?

He looked at her coolly, and Bab saw a mocking smile curl the corners of
his lips. But he was as smooth and courteous as usual.

“He is the prince of actors,” thought Bab. “I was a goose to let him see
how I felt. I will show him that I know how to act as well as he does,
when I am forced to it.”

Barbara accepted the invitation quietly. They took their places with the
two long rows of dancers extending down the whole length of the great
ballroom.

The barn dance, with its merry, unconventional movement, its swinging
music and grace, was generally the greatest joy to Bab. But tonight, in
spite of her pretense at acting, her feet lagged. She dared not look
into the face of her partner. He was as gay and debonair as usual.

When the dance was over, Townsend asked Bab to walk out on the lawn with
him.

As Ruth saw Harry and Barbara walk out at the door, she turned suddenly
to the stranger with whom she was talking. “Will you,” she said to him,
“tell Ralph Ewing I would like to speak to him at once? I want to tell
him something that is very important. Please forgive my asking you, but
I must see him. I will wait right here until you find him.” It was
five—ten minutes, before Ralph was found.

Harry Townsend meant to discover what Barbara Thurston knew. She was a
young girl, still at school. He was a man approaching thirty, with a
record behind him of nearly ten years of successful villainy.

Would Barbara betray herself? Would she “give the game away?”

“Miss Thurston,” began Harry Townsend, politely, “as I shall be going
away from Newport very soon, I want to have a talk with you. I must
confess, that, since the night of Mrs. Erwin’s ball, I have been very
angry with you. No high-minded man could endure the suggestion you made
against my honor, when you asked Hugh Post to search me, so soon after
his mother’s jewels had disappeared. But time has passed, and I do not
now feel so wounded. Before I go away, would you mind telling me why you
made such an accusation against me?”

“Mr. Townsend,” said Barbara, biting her lips, but keeping cool and
collected, “is it necessary for you to ask me why I made such an
accusation? If it is, then, I beg your pardon. The jewels were not in
your possession, certainly, when the search was made. I own I was most
unwise.”

“Then you withdraw the accusation?” Townsend was puzzled. He had
expected Barbara to defy him, to insist he had stolen the jewels, that
she had seen him in the act of doing it. He was wise enough to know
that, if he could once make her angry, she would betray what she knew.
He had still to discover who the gypsy was that had so strangely
revealed to him her knowledge of his crimes.

Barbara’s heart was beating like a sledgehammer.

There was a slight movement in the nearby shrubbery. Harry Townsend
wheeled like a flash. Barbara turned at the same instant. It was only a
stranger who had wandered across the lawn and mistaken the path, but
Barbara knew that his presence there meant eternal vigilance.

“O Mr. Townsend,” she said, “the music is commencing. I would rather
return to the ballroom. I have an engagement for this dance.”

Harry Townsend realized he must manage to entice Barbara to a more
secluded part of the Casino grounds before he could have a satisfactory
talk with her.

“No,” he said, “we will not go back yet, I want to talk to you. We must
understand each other better, before the night is over. Come!” He spoke
in a voice as cold and hard as ice and took Barbara by the wrist.

Barbara could not jerk away or call for help. She decided it was best to
follow him.

“You are not running away, are you, Miss Thurston?” It was Ralph’s voice
calling. “I am sure Mr. Townsend will excuse you, as you have a previous
engagement with me.”

“Oh, certainly,” said Harry Townsend, pleasantly, “sorry as I am to lose
Miss Thurston’s society.” As Barbara and Ralph walked away, he bit his
lips savagely. Then he decided to follow the tall man he had seen moving
about in the shrubbery. It might be that the man suspected something.
But Townsend found him ten minutes later in the smoking-room, quietly
moving around among the men.

“Bab,” Ruth had a chance to whisper to her later in the evening, “is it
all right with you? I was desperately frightened when I saw you
disappear outside with Harry Townsend. Have you noticed something?”

“What?” said Bab, gazing searchingly about her.

“Only,” Ruth answered, “that the Countess Bertouche is not here this
evening.”

Both realized that the first card in the game had been played.



CHAPTER XXIII—BROUGHT TO BAY


One other person had noticed, with even greater interest than had Ruth
and Bab, that the Countess Bertouche had failed to appear at the ball.
That person was the jewel thief, Harry Townsend. He was filled with a
silent rage. How dared she fail him this night of all others?

All the fellow’s plans were carefully laid. The woman with the jewels he
coveted sat in the ballroom; large and slow witted, she would not be
quick either to discover her loss or to raise an alarm. And Harry
Townsend was on friendly terms with her. Once she decided to leave the
brightly lighted halls for the darkness of the grounds outside, lifting
the tiara would be an easy matter. But Townsend never kept the jewels he
stole in his possession ten minutes after their theft. How was he to get
rid of them to-night?

It was after midnight. Many of the guests had withdrawn to the veranda;
the lawns were filled with people walking about. Now Harry Townsend
stood back of a row of lights that cast a deep shadow. He was talking to
some acquaintances. The women were elegantly gowned, and one of them
wore a beautiful diamond tiara.

Bab was standing alone in the door of the girls’ dressing-room. Miss
Sallie had called her in, after supper, to smooth her hair. The other
girls had been with her, but they had returned to join the dancers. Bab
was resting and thinking. Mollie and Grace knew nothing of what she and
Ruth had on their minds. The younger girls knew that Harry Townsend and
the Countess Bertouche were suspected as thieves, but they did not know
that the detectives were on the alert, and that the arrest might come
to-night.

Barbara was wondering if she ought to tell Gladys Le Baron what she
knew. After all, Gladys was her cousin; and, as she had told Ralph, the
other day, Bab felt that there ought to be a certain loyalty among
people of the same blood, even when they were not fond of one another.

To-night Gladys Le Baron had been more conspicuous with Harry Townsend
than ever before. Not only was she seen with him constantly, but she
wore an air of conscious pride, as if to say, “See what a prize I have
won!”

Gladys had passed Bab two or three times during the evening, but had
pretended not to see her. Now she was coming in at the dressing-room
door.

“Gladys,” said Bab, timidly.

Gladys turned to her haughtily. “I would rather,” she said, “that you
did not speak to me. We cannot have much to say to each other. Harry
Townsend told me”—Gladys spoke so passionately and with such deep anger
in her tones that Barbara stared at her aghast—“of the accusation you
made against him. He made me promise not to speak of it, but I will
speak of it to you. I want you to know that I shall never forgive you as
long as I live, and that I shall get even with you some day. You are
jealous and envious of me because we have more money, and because Harry
Townsend likes me. I want you never to talk to me.”

“O Gladys!” said Barbara. She was angry and hurt, but she was more
frightened by the real feeling her cousin showed. Did she care for Mr.
Townsend so much? Gladys was nearly eighteen, and Bab knew that ever
since she was a girl of fourteen she had been brought up to think she
was a young lady.

“Gladys,” said Bab, firmly, “listen to me! Be quiet. I cannot tell you
what I wish to say in this ballroom, to-night, among all these people,
but I have something to tell you that you simply must know. Do you
understand? Come to my house in the morning, and don’t fail.” Barbara’s
tones were so new and commanding that Gladys could only stare at her in
silent amazement.

“Yes,” she said, meekly; “I will come.”

Bab’s eyes were burning, and her cheeks stung with the shame of the
scene between herself and Gladys. In order to be alone in the fresh air,
she slipped out of the dressing-room door which opened into a side yard.
This yard had a double hedge of althea bushes which led into the back
part of the Casino grounds. At the same instant that Bab left the
dressing-room door, a man passed her on the other side of the hedge. He
was going into the back part of the garden.

The show grounds of the Casino were in a central court. In the rear,
back of the kitchens, was a long arbor covered with heavy grapevines.
The man Bab followed slipped into this arbor.

When Barbara glanced into it a second later—she dared not move quickly,
for fear of making a noise—there was no human figure in sight. “He has
gone on down through the arbor and slipped over the fence,” she thought
to herself.

She was feeling her way along, trying to keep in the center path. The
night was dark, and there were few stars overhead.

Suddenly, Bab gave a little shriek of terror and started back. Crouching
in the darkness was a man. His back was turned to Barbara, and, if the
darkness was not deceiving her, he was digging in the earth.

But Barbara’s shriek roused him. “You, again!” he cried. He leaped at
her, and, before she could call for help, his hand covered her mouth,
and her head was pressed back.

“Don’t make a noise,” another voice said quietly. “My instructions were
not to make a scene.”

Townsend felt his own arms seized and drawn down to his sides. The big,
blond man, who had interrupted his tête-à-tête with Barbara earlier in
the evening, was again by his side. A smaller, dark man stood near him.

“Well, we have got you this time with the goods on you, or pretty close
to you,” said the smaller detective, striking a match and looking down
at his feet. Just near where they stood, only partially concealed by the
dirt, which had been hastily dug up, something brilliant flashed and
sparkled.

“Did you think, Mr. Townsend,” laughed Detective Burton quietly, “that
you were the only clever person in Newport? These jewels you have just
stolen are hardly worth the risk you ran. You might get about
twenty-five dollars for the lot. I suppose you didn’t know, since it has
become the fashion to have a jewel thief in Newport, it has also become
the fashion to wear paste jewels.” The man held the tiara in his hand.
“But I will restore them to the rightful owner,” he said. “Mrs. Oliver
informed me they were gone, two minutes after you slipped them out of
her hair.”

Townsend had not spoken. “Don’t,” he now said, with a shudder, “put
those handcuffs on my hands. I will go quietly. I see the game is
up—thanks to you!” He turned to Barbara with a snarl. But Ruth and Ralph
were standing close by her side.

Barbara was much shaken and frightened by her encounter, but she tried
to summon a little of her old spirit. “You do me too much honor, Mr.
Townsend,” she answered quietly.

“Where is the Countess Bertouche?” asked Townsend stolidly.

“She is ready to leave Newport with you to-night. Only we persuaded her
to get ready a little earlier; indeed, we called upon her this
afternoon, while she was at the tournament, and were waiting for her
when she got back. She had two or three little trinkets in her
possession, which she was holding for you, that we wished to return to
their rightful owners. The lady will be able to travel as soon as you
are. We think it best not to have any excitement in Newport. By the
way,” went on the detective—the three young people were listening
breathlessly—“the lady is not such a cool customer as you are. She
confessed that she was not a countess, but a poor newspaper woman out of
a job, whom you enticed down here to help you. She explained that you
had been mailing letters of instruction to her by sending them on to New
York and having them remailed to her here. A poor business it has been
for both of you, I am thinking.”

“Ruth,” said Barbara, quickly, “it’s too awful! Let us go back to Miss
Sallie!”



CHAPTER XXIV—GOOD-BYE TO NEWPORT


Early next morning Ruth and Barbara made full confession to Miss Sallie.
Mollie and Grace were not surprised, for they had been told enough of
the circumstances to expect the outcome. But imagine Miss Sallie!

“You mean to tell me, Ruth and Bab,” she gasped, dropping limply into
the nearest chair, “that Harry Townsend is the jewel thief, the Newport
Raffles? Why, you girls have walked with him, talked with him, played
tennis with him! And Barbara has suspected him all the time! My
heavens!” she wailed, in despair. “Did it never dawn on you, Barbara,
that you might have been killed?”

Miss Stuart was overcome. “Ruth Stuart, my own niece, do you mean to
tell me that you lately discovered that ‘this Townsend’ was the thief
who tried to rob us in New Haven? Why was I not told at once? But then,
I am grateful I was not. And you, Mollie, fourteen-year-old Mollie, you
found out this wretch’s accomplice, and discovered Mrs. Cartwright’s
stolen butterfly! I never would have thought it of you!”

“But I didn’t mean to, Miss Sallie. It was all an accident. I am awfully
sorry for that poor woman,” answered Mollie.

“Nonsense, child!” said Miss Sallie. “I am grateful enough that such
dangerous people are out of the way.”

The girls were standing in a circle round her. “Come to my arms,” she
demanded of Grace. “Thank heavens, child, you have not turned detective,
and can be relied on to keep me company!”

“But it was just as much Grace’s fault as it was mine that I discovered
the butterfly,” argued Mollie, who could not see that Miss Sallie was
joking. “She was with me when I found it out.” Everyone joined in the
laugh at Mollie’s expense.

“Some one to see you in the library, miss,” announced Susan, the parlor
maid. “She says she’d like to see you alone, first, and she’d rather not
give her name.”

“Then you are not to go one step, Barbara Thurston,” said Miss Stuart in
the voice the girls knew had to be obeyed. “There is no telling who it
is waiting for you, nor what her intentions may be toward you. You’d go
if you thought you’d be murdered the next minute. I never saw a girl
like you. I will go myself,” announced Miss Sallie.

“Oh, no,” said the girls, all pulling together at her skirts.

Miss Sallie had to pause. “If you think, young ladies,” she said,
calmly, “that, because I have not unearthed a jewel robber, nor attacked
a burglar in the dark, I am therefore more of a coward than a parcel of
silly girls, you are vastly mistaken. Let go of me!” Miss Sallie marched
majestically forward.

“Susan, _I_ will go down.”

“Oh, no’m,” pleaded Susan, giggling. She had no idea what all the fuss
was about, but she knew it was most unnecessary. “Please’m, let me
whisper to you. It’s only that Miss Gladys Le Baron, but I promised not
to give her name. I am sure she means no harm, miss. She looks like she
was worried and had been crying a bit, ma’am.”

“It is all right, Barbara,” said Miss Sallie. “From what Susan tells me
you may go downstairs alone.”

Bab had not the faintest idea who could be waiting for her. In all the
excitement, she had entirely forgotten that she had told Gladys Le Baron
to come to see her this morning without fail. As soon as she opened the
library door, she remembered. “Good morning,” she said, coldly.

But Gladys flung her arms about her neck and burst into a torrent of
tears. “I know it all, all!” she said. “Mrs. Post and Mrs. Erwin called
me into their rooms last night, and told me everything. I had expected
Harry Townsend to take me home from the ball, and, when he didn’t put in
his appearance, I was so angry and behaved so badly Mrs. Post said I had
to be told at once. Mrs. Erwin wanted to wait until morning. O Bab, I
didn’t sleep a wink last night!”

“I am sorry,” said Bab, but she didn’t really show a great deal of
feeling.

“Bab,” Gladys went on, “I simply can’t believe it! And to think you knew
it almost all the time! Mrs. Post says I have to believe it, now,
because the whole story is out. She says she was completely deceived,
too, and can understand why I thought Townsend was a gentleman. Father
seemed to think he was all right. He told us all about his being an
orphan, and who his rich relations were. Mrs. Erwin is so good. She just
says she is sorry for me, and hasn’t uttered a word of blame. Only
think, I brought that dreadful wretch to her house, and I am responsible
for all the trouble! O Barbara, I can never face it!” Gladys wiped her
eyes again with her handkerchief, which was already wet with her tears.

“I want to go home to mother to-day, but Mrs. Erwin says I have to stay
with her a little while longer. She says that, if I rush right off now,
if I disappear the very same day Harry Townsend and that woman leave,
people will believe there is more between us than there really is. There
wasn’t anything exactly serious, though I did like him. I am sure I
shall never hold up my head again.”

“I wanted to warn you sooner, Gladys; believe me, I did,” answered
Barbara; “but I knew you wouldn’t listen to me, and would not believe a
word I said.”

“I know, Barbara,” said Gladys, humbly. “I have been a horrid stuck-up
goose. I know, now, if you hadn’t seen him steal the necklace at Mrs.
Erwin’s, we might never have found out who the thief was. Then I don’t
know what dreadful thing might have happened to me, if I had gone on
seeing him and never understood his true nature. Do you think he could
have stolen my bracelet?”

“I know he did,” Bab answered.

“The horrid, hateful thing!” cried Gladys, with a fresh burst of tears.
“Barbara, I want to ask you a favor. Will you beg Ruth to let me go back
to Kingsbridge in the automobile with you? I suppose I ask you because I
have been more hateful to you than to anyone else. I know if you will
forgive me the other girls will. Ruth will do anything you ask her.”

“But I can’t ask Ruth such a favor as that, Gladys,” argued Barbara.
“There wouldn’t be room in the car, for one thing.”

“Oh, I could sit on the little seat and I would be as nice and give as
little trouble as I possibly could, if you will only ask her. I somehow
feel that if you girls will stick by me, now, other people will not
think so badly of me. They will know I have been a goose, and have been
dreadfully deceived by Harry Townsend, but they’ll understand that I
never meant any wrong, and am not really bad. You see, Bab, you and
Mollie are my cousins. Everyone is sure to find out you helped to expose
the awful villain; so, if I am seen with you now, it will show that you
take my part, and that you knew I had only been deceived.”

“Don’t you think it is a good deal to ask of me, Gladys?” said Barbara,
speaking very slowly. She was thinking of every snub, every cruel thrust
Gladys had given her since they were children.

Gladys did not answer at first. Then she shook her head, and rose to go.
“Yes, Barbara,” she said; “I know I don’t deserve a bit of kindness at
your hands. I have been perfectly hateful to you, always. Good-bye.”

“Oh, stay, Gladys,” begged Bab, penitent in an instant. “I didn’t mean
that. Of course we will all stand by you. Indeed, I shall ask Ruth if
you may go back in the automobile with us, and I am sure, if Miss Stuart
thinks there is room enough, Ruth will be delighted to have you. She is
always the dearest, most generous girl in the world,” said Bab, her face
glowing with the enthusiasm she always felt in speaking of Ruth.

“Now,” she continued, “do come on upstairs and take off your hat. You
must stay to lunch with us. Oh, no; you needn’t be afraid of Miss
Stuart. She won’t be unkind to you; she’s a perfect dear! She’ll just be
awfully sorry for you, when you tell her how badly you feel. Come on,
Gladys.” Bab took hold of her hand.

“Won’t you call Ruth down first?” urged Gladys. “I feel too much ashamed
to go right on up there among all of you.”

Ruth and Bab, between them, persuaded Gladys to go to their rooms. To
their surprise, Mistress Mollie was the one to be appeased. She was not
so ready to kiss and make up as Bab had been, yet even Mollie’s “hard”
little heart softened when she saw what a changed and chastened Gladys
the girls brought upstairs with them.

“You’ll see I am going to be different,” Gladys said to Bab, “and if
ever there’s a chance for me to prove how I appreciate your being so
kind to me now, I shall do it. Of course, I don’t expect you to have
much faith in me yet.”

“Miss Barbara Thurston is requested to spend her last day in Newport as
the guest of honor of Governor and Mrs. Post on board their yacht, the
‘Penguin,’ which is at this instant awaiting her answer outside in
Narragansett Bay,” said Ruth, with a flourish of a letter she held in
her hand and a low bow to Barbara.

“Goose!” shot Barbara at Ruth. “But are we all invited for a sail? How
jolly!”

“I am no goose, madam,” retorted Ruth. “I mean what I say. Read this.”

She handed Barbara a letter which Miss Stuart had received from Mrs.
Post only a few minutes before, and which read:

  My Dear Miss Stuart,

  We want, in some quiet fashion, to show our appreciation of, and
  thanks to, the little girl who so patiently and cleverly kept her own
  counsel, and so materially aided in the discovery of the jewel thief.
  I feel that I did not do her justice. Governor Post and I both believe
  that it is to her wit and courage that I owe the return of my emerald
  necklace. I have talked matters over with Hugh, and, with your
  consent, I should like to give a luncheon, in her honor, on board the
  yacht at one o’clock to-morrow. We will spend the afternoon sailing in
  the bay. Only our intimate friends will be invited and we feel that no
  party could be complete, at Newport, without the presence of “The
  Automobile Girls.”

                                                     Faithfully yours,
                                                       Katherine Post.


“What larks!” cried Barbara, blushing with pleasure. “Has Miss Sallie
said we could go?”

“Certainly she has,” rejoined Ruth. “I told Hugh so at once.”

        Columbia, the gem of the ocean,
        The home of the brave and the free,
        The shrine of each patriot’s devotion——

The young people were in the bow of the yacht when the music commenced.
“Why, Hugh,” Bab whispered to him in an undertone, “have we a band on
board? How perfectly delightful!”

“Young Miss America,” Hugh answered, “you needn’t think, for one minute,
that this party on the ‘Penguin’ is going to enjoy any ordinary
entertainment to-day. The band is not half. Just you wait, and see all
the remarkable things that are to take place on this blessed boat
excursion.”

Earlier in the day, when Ruth and Grace first came aboard, they passed
through the salon on their way to the upper deck. Grace caught hold of
Ruth’s sleeve and drew her back to whisper to her: “Has it ever occurred
to you that Harry Townsend might have stolen your fifty dollars that
disappeared after we spent our first day on the yacht? I have been
thinking that he must have been dreadfully hard up, or he never would
have tried the robbery at New Haven, or have stolen such a small sum
from you afterwards.”

“Yes, I have thought about it,” said Ruth, shaking her head, with a
forlorn gesture. “Isn’t it too dreadful? Let’s forget all about him
to-day.”

The luncheon was announced promptly at one.

“‘The Automobile Girls,’ including Miss Sallie, will kindly stay on deck
until they are summoned,” called Mrs. Post, sweeping on ahead, followed
by her other guests.

Miss Sallie and the girls waited in some excitement. The sun was shining
gayly on the deck of the little ship, which sailed through the water
like a white bird. All the flags were flying in Barbara’s honor, as the
governor explained, when she came on board.

Suddenly Hugh’s smiling face appeared at the open door. “Come in, now,”
he requested.

Miss Sallie and the girls marched into the long salon dining-room, while
the band played “Liberty Bell.”

In the center of the luncheon table, raised on a moss-covered stand, was
a miniature automobile. In it sat five dolls wearing automobile veils of
different colors and long dust coats. Two of the dolls were blondes, the
other two were brunettes. But the stateliest and handsomest doll of the
lot had soft, white hair and reclined against a violet cushion. A pale
blue flag flew over the car. It bore the inscription: “The Automobile
Girls—Long May They Flourish!”

At either end of the table stood Hugh’s and Ruth’s silver cups, won at
the tennis tournament.

As Miss Sallie and the four girls took their places, Hugh raised one
cup, his mother the other. “We will drink from these loving cups,” he
said, “to the health of our guests of honor, ‘The Automobile Girls.’” He
then passed the cups, filled with a fruit punch, around the table.

At the close of the luncheon, Hugh again rose to his feet.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced, “I am going to make a speech.”

“Don’t do it, Hugh,” laughed Ralph.

“All right, Ralph,” said Hugh; “I won’t. Barbara,” Hugh leaned over to
attract her attention, and Barbara turned a rosy red, “here’s a souvenir
of Newport for you. I guess it’s a gift from us all.” He motioned to his
friends around the table and handed to Bab a small green velvet box.
“For the girl who is always on the watch,” he ended.

Barbara’s eyes were full of tears. They came partly from embarrassment,
but most of all from pleasure. Inside the velvet case was a tiny gold
watch, set in a circle of small emeralds.

But Mollie was calling Bab to look at her gift. Mrs. Cartwright, who sat
next her favorite of the girls, had pinned a little, pearl butterfly in
the lace yoke of Mollie’s gown. Ruth and Grace were each rejoicing in
their gifts, silver pins representing tennis racquets, their souvenirs
of the luncheon and their month’s stay in Newport.

“It has been just too lovely!” said Mollie to Mrs. Post, as she bade her
good-night. “Yes, we start for home the first thing in the morning. In a
few days there will be no more ‘Automobile Girls,’” she ended with a
sigh.

“Oh,” said Ruth, laughing and coming up beside her, “who knows? You
never can tell! Good-bye, everyone,” she said, taking hold of Bab’s
hand. “We have had the time of our lives, just as we hoped we would.
Till we meet again,” she finished with a smile.

The four girls ran down the gangplank and rejoined Miss Sallie.

As many of our readers will guess, the return to Kingsbridge did not
bring an end to the adventures of the natural and charming girls in
their automobile. Further adventures and a host of new things remain to
be told, but these must be deferred for narration in the next volume,
which will be entitled, “The Automobile Girls in the Berkshires; or, The
Ghost of Lost Man’s Trail.”


                               [The End]

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By VICTOR G. DURHAM

    THE SUBMARINE BOYS ON DUTY;
      Or, Life on a Diving Torpedo Boat.
    THE SUBMARINE BOYS’ TRIAL TRIP;
      Or, “Making Good” as Young Experts.
    THE SUBMARINE BOYS AND THE MIDDIES;
      Or, The Prize Detail at Annapolis.
    THE SUBMARINE BOYS AND THE SPIES;
      Or, Dodging the Sharks of the Deep.
    THE SUBMARINE BOYS’ LIGHTNING CRUISE;
      Or, The Young Kings of the Deep.
    THE SUBMARINE BOYS FOR THE FLAG;
      Or, Deeding Their Lives to Uncle Sam.
    THE SUBMARINE BOYS AND THE SMUGGLERS;
      Or, Breaking Up the New Jersey Customs Frauds.


Grace Harlowe Overseas Series

    GRACE HARLOWE OVERSEAS.
    GRACE HARLOWE WITH THE RED CROSS IN FRANCE.
    GRACE HARLOWE WITH THE MARINES AT CHATEAU THIERRY.
    GRACE HARLOWE WITH THE AMERICAN ARMY IN THE ARGONNE.


The College Girls Series

By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A.M.

    GRACE HARLOWE’S FIRST YEAR AT OVERTON COLLEGE.
    GRACE HARLOWE’S SECOND YEAR AT OVERTON COLLEGE.
    GRACE HARLOWE’S THIRD YEAR AT OVERTON COLLEGE.
    GRACE HARLOWE’S FOURTH YEAR AT OVERTON COLLEGE.
    GRACE HARLOWE’S RETURN TO OVERTON CAMPUS.
    GRACE HARLOWE’S PROBLEM.
    GRACE HARLOWE’S GOLDEN SUMMER.

All these books are bound in Cloth and will be sent post-paid on receipt
of only $1.00 each.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Pony Rider Boys Series

By FRANK GEE PATCHIN

These tales may be aptly described the best books for boys and girls.

    1 THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN THE ROCKIES;
      Or, The Secret of the Lost Claim.
    2 THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN TEXAS;
      Or, The Veiled Riddle of the Plains.
    3 THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN MONTANA;
      Or, The Mystery of the Old Custer Trail.
    4 THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN THE OZARKS;
      Or, The Secret of Ruby Mountain.
    5 THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN THE ALKALI;
      Or, Finding a Key to the Desert Maze.
    6 THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN NEW MEXICO;
      Or, The End of the Silver Trail.
    7 THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN THE GRAND CANYON;
      Or, The Mystery of Bright Angel Gulch.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


The Boys of Steel Series

By JAMES R. MEARS

Each book presents a vivid picture of this great industry. Each story is
full of adventure and fascination.

    1 THE IRON BOYS IN THE MINES;
      Or, Starting at the Bottom of the Shaft.
    2 THE IRON BOYS AS FOREMEN;
      Or, Heading the Diamond Drill Shift.
    3 THE IRON BOYS ON THE ORE BOATS;
      Or, Roughing It on the Great Lakes.
    4 THE IRON BOYS IN THE STEEL MILLS;
      Or, Beginning Anew in the Cinder Pits.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


The Madge Morton Books

By AMY D. V. CHALMERS

    1 MADGE MORTON—CAPTAIN OF THE MERRY MAID.
    2 MADGE MORTON’S SECRET.
    3 MADGE MORTON’S TRUST.
    4 MADGE MORTON’S VICTORY.


Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00

                   *       *       *       *       *

West Point Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

The principal characters in these narratives are manly, young Americans
whose doings will inspire all boy readers.

    1 DICK PRESCOTT’S FIRST YEAR AT WEST POINT; Or,
      Two Chums in the Cadet Gray.
    2 DICK PRESCOTT’S SECOND YEAR AT WEST POINT; Or,
      Finding the Glory of the Soldier’s Life.
    3 DICK PRESCOTT’S THIRD YEAR AT WEST POINT; Or,
      Standing Firm for Flag and Honor.
    4 DICK PRESCOTT’S FOURTH YEAR AT WEST POINT; Or,
      Ready to Drop the Gray for Shoulder Straps.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


Annapolis Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

The Spirit of the new Navy is delightfully and truthfully depicted in
these volumes.

    1 DAVE DARRIN’S FIRST YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS; Or, Two
      Plebe Midshipmen at the U. S. Naval Academy.
    2 DAVE DARRIN’S SECOND YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS; Or,
      Two Midshipmen as Naval Academy “Youngsters.”
    3 DAVE DARRIN’S THIRD YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS; Or, Leaders
      of the Second Class Midshipmen.
    4 DAVE DARRIN’S FOURTH YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS; Or,
      Headed for Graduation and the Big Cruise.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


The Young Engineers Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

The heroes of these stories are known to readers of the High School Boys
Series. In this new series Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton prove worthy of
all the traditions of Dick & Co.

    1 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN COLORADO; Or, At Railroad
      Building in Earnest.
    2 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN ARIZONA; Or, Laying Tracks
      on the “Man-Killer” Quicksand.
    3 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN NEVADA; Or, Seeking Fortune
      on the Turn of a Pick.
    4 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN MEXICO; Or, Fighting the
      Mine Swindlers.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00

                   *       *       *       *       *

Boys of the Army Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

These books breathe the life and spirit of the United States Army of
to-day, and the life, just as it is, is described by a master pen.

    1 UNCLE SAM’S BOYS IN THE RANKS; Or, Two Recruits
      in the United States Army.
    2 UNCLE SAM’S BOYS ON FIELD DUTY; Or, Winning
      Corporal’s Chevrons.
    3 UNCLE SAM’S BOYS AS SERGEANTS; Or, Handling
      Their First Real Commands.
    4 UNCLE SAM’S BOYS IN THE PHILIPPINES; Or, Following
      the Flag Against the Moros.
    6 UNCLE SAM’S BOYS AS LIEUTENANTS; Or, Serving
      Old Glory as Line Officers.
    7 UNCLE SAM’S BOYS WITH PERSHING; Or, Dick Prescott
      at Grips with the Boche.
    8 UNCLE SAM’S BOYS SMASH THE GERMANS; Or, Winding
      Up the Great War.


Dave Darrin Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

    1 DAVE DARRIN AT VERA CRUZ;
      Or, Fighting With the U. S. Navy in Mexico.
    2 DAVE DARRIN ON MEDITERRANEAN SERVICE.
    3 DAVE DARRIN’S SOUTH AMERICAN CRUISE.
    4 DAVE DARRIN ON THE ASIATIC STATION.
    5 DAVE DARRIN AND THE GERMAN SUBMARINES.
    6 DAVE DARRIN AFTER THE MINE LAYERS;
      Or, Hitting the Enemy a Hard Naval Blow.


The Meadow-Brook Girls Series

By JANET ALDRIDGE

    1 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS UNDER CANVAS.
    2 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ACROSS COUNTRY.
    3 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS AFLOAT.
    4 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS IN THE HILLS.
    5 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS BY THE SEA.
    6 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ON THE TENNIS COURTS.

All these books are bound in Cloth and will be sent post-paid on receipt
of only $1.00 each.

                   *       *       *       *       *

High School Boys Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

In this series of bright, crisp books a new note has been struck.

Boys of every age under sixty will be interested in these fascinating
volumes.

    1 THE HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMEN; Or, Dick & Co.’s First
      Year Pranks and Sports.
    2 THE HIGH SCHOOL PITCHER; Or, Dick & Co. on the
      Gridley Diamond.
    3 THE HIGH SCHOOL LEFT END; Or, Dick & Co. Grilling on
      the Football Gridiron.
    4 THE HIGH SCHOOL CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM; Or, Dick &
      Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard.


Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


Grammar School Boys Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

This series of stories, based on the actual doings of grammar school
boys, comes near to the heart of the average American boy.

    1 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS OF GRIDLEY;
      Or, Dick & Co. Start Things Moving.
    2 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS SNOWBOUND;
      Or, Dick & Co. at Winter Sports.
    3 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS IN THE WOODS;
      Or, Dick & Co. Trail Fun and Knowledge.
    4 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS IN SUMMER ATHLETICS;
      Or, Dick & Co. Make Their Fame Secure.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


High School Boys’ Vacation Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

“Give us more Dick Prescott books!”

This has been the burden of the cry from young readers of the country
over. Almost numberless letters have been received by the publishers,
making this eager demand; for Dick Prescott, Dave Darrin, Tom Reade, and
the other members of Dick & Co. are the most popular high school boys in
the land. Boys will alternately thrill and chuckle when reading these
splendid narratives.

    1 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ CANOE CLUB; Or, Dick & Co.‘s
      Rivals on Lake Pleasant.
    2 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS IN SUMMER CAMP; Or, The
      Dick Prescott Six Training for the Gridley Eleven.
    3 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ FISHING TRIP; Or, Dick & Co.
      in the Wilderness.
    4 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ TRAINING HIKE; Or, Dick &
      Co. Making Themselves “Hard as Nails.”

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00

                   *       *       *       *       *

The Circus Boys Series

By EDGAR B. P. DARLINGTON

Mr. Darlington’s books breathe forth every phase of an intensely
interesting and exciting life.

    1 THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE FLYING RINGS; Or, Making
      the Start in the Sawdust Life.
    2 THE CIRCUS BOYS ACROSS THE CONTINENT; Or, Winning
      New Laurels on the Tanbark.
    3 THE CIRCUS BOYS IN DIXIE LAND; Or, Winning the
      Plaudits of the Sunny South.
    4 THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE MISSISSIPPI; Or, Afloat with
      the Big Show on the Big River.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


The High School Girls Series

By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A.M.

These breezy stories of the American High School Girl take the reader
fairly by storm.

    1 GRACE HARLOWE’S PLEBE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL;
      Or, The Merry Doings of the Oakdale Freshman Girls.
    2 GRACE HARLOWE’S SOPHOMORE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL;
      Or, The Record of the Girl Chums in Work and Athletics.
    3 GRACE HARLOWE’S JUNIOR YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL;
      Or, Fast Friends in the Sororities.
    4 GRACE HARLOWE’S SENIOR YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL;
      Or, The Parting of the Ways.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00


The Automobile Girls Series

By LAURA DENT CRANE

No girl’s library—no family book-case can be considered at all complete
unless it contains these sparkling twentieth-century books.

    1 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT NEWPORT;
      Or, Watching the Summer Parade.
    2 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS IN THE BERKSHIRES;
      Or, The Ghost of Lost Man’s Trail.
    3 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS ALONG THE HUDSON;
      Or, Fighting Fire in Sleepy Hollow.
    4 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT CHICAGO;
      Or, Winning Out Against Heavy Odds.
    5 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT PALM BEACH;
      Or, Proving Their Mettle Under Southern Skies.
    6 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT WASHINGTON;
      Or, Checkmating the Plots of Foreign Spies.

Cloth, Illustrated—Price, per Volume, $1.00





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