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´╗┐Title: Madge Morton's Trust
Author: Chalmers, Amy D. V.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Madge Morton's Trust" ***

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[Illustration: The "Sea Gull" and the "Merry Maid" Began their Voyage.

Madge Morton's Trust


    Author of Madge Morton, Captain of the Merry Maid; Madge
    Morton's Secret, Madge Morton's Victory.




  CHAPTER.                                                  PAGE.

        I. A LATE ARRIVAL                                      7

       II. THE DOCTOR'S SUGGESTION                            17

      III. DAVID FINDS A FRIEND                               27

       IV. THE SEARCH                                         40

        V. PULLING UP ANCHOR FOR NEW SCENES                   52

       VI. WANDERLUST                                         60

      VII. THE RESCUE                                         72

     VIII. THE MOTOR BOAT DISASTER                            84


        X. A GHOST STORY                                     104

       XI. THE FEAST OF MONDAMIN                             112

      XII. A BOY'S TEMPTATION                                124

     XIII. ELEANOR GETS INTO MISCHIEF                        137

      XIV. "CONFUSION WORSE CONFOUNDED"                      149

       XV. THE BLACK HOLE                                    158

      XVI. THE BETTER MAN                                    169

     XVII. THE BIRTH OF SUSPICION                            181

    XVIII. DAVID'S MYSTERIOUS ERRAND                         191

      XIX. GHOSTS OF THE PAST                                200

       XX. THE FANCY DRESS PARTY                             213

      XXI. THE INTERRUPTION                                  221

     XXII. MADGE MORTON'S TRUST                              232

    XXIII. THE LITTLE CAPTAIN'S STORY                        241

     XXIV. "GOOD LUCK TO THE BRIDE"                          248

Madge Morton's Trust



It was a particularly hot day in early July. A girl came out on the back
porch of an old-fashioned New England house and dropped into a hammock.
She looked tired, but her big black eyes were eager with interest.

She held a fat letter in her hand which contained many pages. At the top
of the letter was a pen-and-ink drawing of a miniature houseboat with
five girls running about on the deck, their hair blowing, their skirts
awry. One of them held a broom in her hand; she was the domestic
Eleanor! Another waved a frying pan; Miss Jenny Ann Jones, Chief Cook
and Chaperon! The third girl was drying her long, blonde hair in the
sun; Miss Lillian Seldon, the beauty of the houseboat party!

The girl in the hammock recognized herself: she was feeding a
weird-looking animal on four legs with a spoon. And standing among the
others, apparently talking as fast as she possibly could, and doing no
work of any kind, was a young woman whom the artist had carefully
labeled "Madge."

Phyllis Alden laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks. She could
not recall having laughed in two months, and she was sure she would keep
on giggling as long as she read her letter.

"Miss Alden"--a woman in the uniform of a professional nurse appeared at
the door--"your mother says do you know where the twins are? She is
restless about them. I promised her I would come to you. I am sorry to
disturb you; I know you are tired."

"Not a bit of it, Miss Brazier," insisted Phil stoutly. "Those dreadful
babies! I had forgotten I had not seen them in the last half hour. Of
course, they are in mischief. I will look for them right away."

Phil thrust her precious letter into her blouse. It was four o'clock in
the afternoon and her letter from her chum had arrived in the morning
post. These were busy days for Phyllis Alden. Early in May she had been
called home from school by the illness of her mother. Since that time
the care of her father's house and looking after the irrepressible twins
had been Phyllis's work. Her mother was better now, on the sure road to
convalescence, and Phil had begun to confess to herself that she was

At one side of the house there was a rain-barrel. It was strictly
forbidden territory, so Phil knew at once where to look for the twins.
Hanging over the edge of the barrel were two fat little girls with tight
black curls. They were bent double and were fishing for queer, bobbing
things that floated on the surface of the rainwater. A firm hand caught
Daisy by one leg. Dot, terrified by her big sister's sudden appearance,
tumbled into the barrel with a gasp and a splash.

Phil felt half-vexed; still, she was obliged to laugh at the little
ones, they looked so utterly roguish.

"Frog in the middle, can't get out," she teased the small girl in the
center of the barrel. Then she fished Dot out and started with both
little maids for the house to make them presentable before dinner.
Phyllis knew that they must both be washed and dressed before she would
have another chance to peep at her precious letter. Still, it comforted
her to think how amused her Madge would be by her funny little
four-year-old twin sisters and their mischievous ways.

It was just before dinner time when Phyllis firmly locked her bedroom
door and took her precious letter from her blouse. She would read it
now, or die in the effort. It began:


    "I am not writing you from 'Forest House,' but from no other
    place than the famous old city of Boston, Massachusetts. I came
    here the other day because I believed I would find news of my
    father, but I was disappointed and am going back home in a few

    "But I don't want to write about myself; I want to write about
    you, dear old Phil! I am so glad your mother is better. When she
    is quite well, can't you come to visit Nellie and me at 'Forest
    House'? We have missed you so. The Commencement exercises at
    Miss Tolliver's were no fun at all this year. When Miss Matilda
    got up and announced that Miss Phyllis Alden had been called
    home before the final spring examination because of the illness
    of her mother, and would, therefore, be passed on to the senior
    class of her preparatory school on account of her high standing
    in her classes, I cheered for all I was worth, and so did every
    one else.

    "Ah, Phil, dear, it has been ages since last I saw you! I would
    give all my curls, and my hair really makes a long braid
    nowadays, if I could only see you. How I wish we could spend the
    rest of this summer on our beautiful houseboat! The poor little
    'Merry Maid'! How lonely she must be without us. Tom Curtis and
    Jack Bolling wrote and asked me to let them tow us up the
    Rappahannock River this summer. They are going on a motor trip.
    But, alas and alack! we haven't any money to pay our expenses,
    so I fear there will be no houseboat party this summer. It's
    dreadfully sad, but, more than anything else, I regret not
    seeing you, Phil. With my dearest love. Write soon. Your devoted


Phyllis finished her letter with a warm feeling around her heart but a
sigh on her lips. No "Merry Maid" this summer! Well, Phyllis had not
expected it, yet it seemed cruel to think of the four girls and Miss
Jones being separated for another year from their "Ship of Dreams,"
where they had spent two wonderful holidays.

The story of how Madge Morton, Phyllis Alden, Lillian Seldon and Eleanor
Butler came into possession of a houseboat is fully set forth in the
first volume of this series, entitled "MADGE MORTON, CAPTAIN OF THE
'MERRY MAID.'" The happy summer spent by the four young women on board
the "Merry Maid," chaperoned by Miss Jenny Ann Jones, one of the
teachers in the boarding school which they attended, was one long to be

While anchored in a quiet bit of water, a part of the great Chesapeake
Bay, they made many friends, chief among whom were Mrs. Curtis, a
wealthy widow, and her son Tom. Mrs. Curtis's instant liking for Madge,
her subsequent offer to adopt her, and the remarkable manner in which
Madge and Phyllis were instrumental in discovering their friend's own
daughter, who had been lost at sea years before, in a poor fisher girl
whom they rescued from her cruel foster father, formed a lively

"MADGE MORTON'S SECRET" told of the girls' second sojourn on their
houseboat, which was anchored near Old Point Comfort. There the girls
saw much of the social life of the Army and Navy, and it was while there
that Madge incurred the enmity of a young woman named Flora Harris, who
made the little captain's life very unpleasant for a time.

The mysterious cutting of the "Merry Maid's" cable on a stormy night,
the voyaging of the little boat out into the bay, and the island shore
to which she drifted in the gray dawn, and how, after living the life of
young Crusoes for many weeks, they were rescued and returned to their
sorrowing friends, made absorbing reading for those interested in
following the fortunes of Madge Morton.

But to go back to the subject of Phyllis Alden: She and her father, Dr.
Alden, were firm friends. Every evening since her mother's illness they
had taken a walk together after the twins were safely tucked in bed. It
was a pleasure to which they both looked forward all day. To-night they
were late in getting away from the house, and, as they strolled along
through the quiet streets, Phyllis was unusually silent. She had told
her father of Madge's letter, but she had not mentioned her invitation
to visit Madge and Nellie at their home in Virginia. Phil did not think
she could be spared from home and did not wish to worry her father. Yet
all the time that Phil was so silent Dr. Alden was wondering where he
could send Phyllis to spend a well-earned holiday. He did not have much
money to spare, but his beloved daughter must somehow be given a rest.

Phyllis and her father were almost home again when the girl thought she
heard some one running behind them. She turned with apprehensive
suddenness. The night was dark and the streets were narrow; only at the
corners the electric lamps made bright, open spaces. Under one of these
lights Phyllis looked back fearfully. She could barely discern a figure.
It was walking close to the fence and seemed to be carrying something.
Phil could not discover what it was, and Dr. Alden, who was slightly
deaf, heard nothing.

Suddenly a watchdog set up a furious barking and rushed out into the
street. Phil felt more secure. If any one were lurking in the shadow
with the thought of attacking her father, the dog would surely come to
their rescue. Yet now she could hear six feet pattering after them
instead of two. The dog must have been won over by their enemy.

"Father"--Phil put her hand nervously on her father's arm; she was not
herself to-night; she was tired and full of unexpressed longings for her
friends--"wait!" Phil ended her sentence abruptly. Some one distinctly
called her name, "Phil!" it echoed down the empty street.

Dr. Alden and his daughter both turned. Yet it was impossible to see any
great distance beyond them. They were in the light, while the shadows
down the sidewalk were densely black. Some one was coming toward them,
though it was difficult to know if it were a man or a woman.

Straight into Phil's arms whirled a breathless girl, her hat on one
side, her curly hair tumbling down and her eyes as bright as the
fireflies that flickered through the dark streets. The girl carried a
heavy suit case, and a large dog walked protectingly at her side.

It was Madge Morton. She had arrived alone and unannounced in the city
of Hartford at a perfectly incredible hour of the night!

Dr. Alden was overcome with surprise. He had heard Phil give a cry of
rapture, saw a suit case drop to the ground, then two girls meet in a
joyful embrace.

"I might have known you would come when I needed you most, Madge," cried
Phil rapturously. Phil was not really surprised by her chum's
appearance. She knew that the most astonishing things in the world were
just the things that Madge Morton would do as though they were the most

"Is your mother better?" whispered Madge. "For goodness' sake, Phil,
dear girl, let me tell your father who I am and how I happened to appear
at this unearthly hour." Madge put her hand into the doctor's. "Please
forgive me, Dr. Alden," she began. "I wrote Phil I was in Boston and
about to start for home. I was on the way to the depot to buy my ticket
when suddenly I remembered that I wasn't so far from dear Phil. I have
been wanting to see her so dreadfully. So I just telegraphed Uncle and
Aunt that I was going to stop over in Hartford a few hours.

"Of course, we had a wreck on the train, so here I am, only six hours
late. When I came in at the station to-night I just inquired what car I
should take to bring me to your address. And wasn't it funny? I saw you
and Phil cross the street at the corner, so I jumped off the car and
ran after you. I thought this old dog was going to eat me up, but the
dear old fellow has adopted me instead."

Madge patted the strange dog affectionately with her left hand. Phil had
never let go of her right one.

"I hope you will forgive my dropping in on you like this. I am ashamed
of myself, but I just had to have a look at Phil."

"You've dropped from heaven! You are an angel unawares, Madge Morton,"
vowed practical Phil Alden in devout tones. "I was never so glad to see
anybody in my life. Now, if you leave me to-morrow, I shall surely die."

Madge laughed happily. How good it seemed to be with dear old Phil once
more. Dr. Alden picked up her suit case and looked at her with earnest,
kindly eyes.

"Daughter," he said kindly, "I am almost as pleased to see you as Phil
is. Come home with us. You must be worn out from your journey."

For the first time Madge realized that she was a little tired and that
she had been a little frightened at arriving alone in a strange city at
night. But then she was with Phil.



Madge fitted marvelously into Dr. Alden's troubled household. She read
to Mrs. Alden when the nurse was away, cheered her with funny stories
and really helped her to grow well and strong.

As for the twins, Dot and Daisy, they were never absent from the little
captain's side, except when Phil positively commanded it. Madge used to
take long walks with one of them clinging to either side of her skirt.
Where she found her patience when they tumbled down, lagged behind and
begged for more fairy tales every minute was a marvel. But Madge had
been shocked at her beloved Phil's careworn appearance and came
gallantly to her rescue. She might have little consideration for
strangers, she could do wonders for the people she loved and one long
look into her friend's tired face made her resolve to do her best for

The next morning after Madge's unceremonious arrival Dr. Alden wrote a
letter to Mr. and Mrs. Butler, asking them to allow Madge to make
Phyllis a visit. Madge also wrote a note, but it was not in the nature
of a request. Instead, she dashed off the following letter to her
Virginia relatives:


    "Don't worry about me. I am at Phil's and having the best kind
    of a time. I am going to stay with her for a few days, as she
    needs me. Do I hear any dissenting voices? I hope not! Tell
    Nellie we miss her terribly. With lots of love to all of you.
    Don't bother to write. I'll take the will for the deed.


"There," declared Madge as she skipped up the steps after handing her
letter to the postman, "that will stifle all Virginia objections. Now, I
am going to enjoy myself while I am with dear Phil."

In the days that followed Madge's declaration she helped Phil keep house
with a will. Dr. Alden used to call her "The Second Daughter," and Madge
derived untold pleasure from the drives she took with him over the
country roads to see his patients.

One afternoon, however, as they jogged along toward the home of a
patient who lived several miles from town, Madge was unusually silent.
Though the air was sweet with the perfume of honeysuckle, and their road
ran through a particularly beautiful bit of country, she was dreamy and

From time to time Dr. Alden gazed at her humorously. His
fellow-passenger was in a deep reverie and had forgotten his presence.

"Thinking of your houseboat, eh, Madge?" he inquired.

"Yes, Doctor Man," answered Madge quickly, "of the houseboat and Phil."
She sat very straight in the buggy, and, drawing her level brows into a
frown, said slowly: "I was saying over to myself that when five nice,
capable young women wish a very special thing very much they ought to be
able to obtain it. You see, we wish to spend the beginning of the summer
on the houseboat. It would be splendid for Phil. But we haven't the
money, so I am trying to find out how to get it."

The physician's eyes twinkled. "That is not a new occupation, Madge.
Most of us spend our time in trying to get hold of that same mighty
dollar. But we have to work for it as well as to think about it. I
wonder if you girls wish the holiday on your boat badly enough to work
for it? If only I could give you the money!"

Madge looked earnestly at the doctor, then said slowly: "That's just it.
Of course, we are willing to work for the money. But I must find out
what we can do in a hurry. You see, we need the money at once."

After they reached their destination, the doctor stayed a long while at
his call on his country patient, and Madge, left alone in the buggy, had
plenty of time to devise a thousand schemes for acquiring riches and to
dismiss them all as impracticable. The physician had driven his old
horse inside the trim yard of his patient, and the road lay near the big
front porch door. The little garden was as pretty and tidy as the
pictures in Kate Greenaway books. It grew tall hollyhocks, neatly cut
hedges, and a riot of old rose bushes. Madge might well have spent her
time in gazing at it, as it was a typical New England garden on a small
scale. But it seemed too tiny and conventional to the little captain,
whose inner vision conjured up the sight of the great, oak-shaded lawn
at "Forest House." Just then she had more practical problems to occupy
her attention. She let the reins fall loosely on the horse's neck, for
he was in the habit of standing without being hitched. To-day old Prince
grew tired with waiting and began to nibble at the short grass. Madge,
lost in her daydreams, paid no heed to him. The horse moved on. Ahead
there was a particularly delicious bunch of tall, feathery grass, which
had been allowed to grow unaccountably high. It was a rare shrub, but
the old horse was not aware of it. The wheel of the buggy that held the
heedless driver passed over the high porch step. The girl inside felt
herself let gently down on the ground and a high, black canopy covered
her. Then, at last, Madge became alive to the situation.

But it was too late! Old Prince was frightened. The noise of the
overturned buggy had upset his nerves. He began to run--not very fast,
but fast enough so that Madge found herself being dragged along the
ground over the smooth grass lawn. She couldn't crawl out from under the
buggy and she certainly did not wish to remain under it. She raised her
voice in one long cry of terror.

A boy had been working back of the house. He was in his shirt sleeves
and had an old, torn, straw hat pulled down over his eyes. An ugly scowl
was the only attention he had paid to the doctor and Madge as they drove
into the yard. His face was flushed, not so much from the sun as from
the anger that was raging within him. It was hard enough to work like a
slave for a cranky old maid, without being constantly "pecked at." David
believed that he hated every one in the world. Yet at Madge's shrill cry
for help he dropped his rake and ran toward the front lawn. He saw the
overturned buggy, heard the noise that came from underneath it, but he
could see no sign of Madge. Dr. Alden had also dashed from the house
onto the front porch. He was followed by a woman of about sixty years.
Her hair was parted in the middle and she wore little bunches of
corkscrew curls over each ear, in the fashion of half a century ago.
"Oh, my! Oh, my!" she cried, wringing her hands. "How can I bear it? how
can I bear it?" One might have supposed that she were frightened over

Dr. Alden started in pursuit of the horse. But at his approach old
Prince quickened his pace. "Stand still!" a peremptory voice called to
him sharply. "Stop crying out!" the same voice ordered Madge.

Dr. Alden gazed in bewilderment at the speaker. Madge at the same
instant realized that she must be frightening the horse with the noise
she was making.

The boy with the torn hat advanced quietly toward the horse, showing no
special interest in him. He called gently to the animal, holding out a
bunch of grass. Prince was only frightened at the strange turn his
affairs had taken. He now stopped for a minute. Immediately a firm hand
seized his head.

Dr. Alden made a move toward his buggy. "Unhitch the horse," commanded
the boy.

Once the horse was free from the buggy Dr. Alden and the young man
lifted it on one side. Out crawled Madge, a most inglorious figure. She
was covered with dust, her face grimy. Her hair had tumbled down and
hung in a loose bunch of curls over her shoulders.

"I am not a bit hurt, Doctor," she announced bravely, as soon as she got
her breath. "It was all my fault. I let old Prince get away from me. I
am so afraid I have broken the buggy."

"What a nice girl!" thought David. "She isn't a bit fussy. I wonder how
she will take the old lady?"

While the physician assured Madge that his vehicle was not injured in
the least, and that he would not have minded its being smashed into bits
so long as she was unhurt, a woman walked across the yard and glared
angrily at Madge.

"Young woman," she said in a thin, high voice, "look--look at what you
and that wretched horse have done."

Madge blinked some of the dirt from her eyes, then tried to twist her
hair back into some kind of order. "I am sorry," she answered in
bewilderment. "But what have we done?"

David swallowed a malicious grin of satisfaction.

The woman fairly gasped at Madge's question. "You've torn up my lawn,
trampled down my prize rose-bush, and--and--please take the young woman
away, doctor. My nerves won't endure anything more after the night I
have spent. I am sure I would never dare trust my life to any one who
goes about turning over buggies and ruining people's gardens."

Trust her life? Of what was the woman talking? Madge thought she could
not have heard aright.

"Never mind your lawn, Miss Betsey," answered Dr. Alden severely. "Be
grateful that the child isn't hurt. Thank you, David." The doctor began
fumbling in his pocket for his money.

Madge saw her rescuer's face turn scarlet. He was a manly looking fellow
of perhaps eighteen.

With a muttered, "I'm not a beggar," he turned and walked away from

After exchanging a little further conversation with Miss Betsey, the
doctor and Madge drove away. Outside the yard Madge began to laugh. She
could still see the old maid wringing her hands and gazing in anguish at
her cherished garden.

"Scat!" grumbled Madge.

The doctor smiled. "Miss Betsey is a bit of an old cat, child. But I
don't wish you to be prejudiced against her, poor old soul."

"Oh, I wasn't thinking of her being like a cat, Doctor Man," apologized
Madge. "I am very fond of cats. I was thinking of Miss Betsey in 'David
Copperfield.' Don't you remember how she used to rush out and cry
'Scat!' all the time at the donkeys that she feared were going to ruin
her lawn? Old Prince and I were the 'donkeys' this afternoon. Who is
that boy named David? He is very good looking, isn't he?"

"David? Oh, he is a poor boy who works around Miss Taylor's place--a
distant cousin of hers, I believe. His mother was a gentlewoman, but she
married a man who turned out badly and her family disowned her. This
youngster has a bad disposition and Miss Betsey says he is not faithful
to his work. He steals off every now and then and hides for hours up in
a loft. No one knows what he is doing up there."

"Well, I don't think I would like to work for Miss Betsey," returned
Madge thoughtfully. "Somehow I feel sorry for this David." She
remembered the boy's quick flush of resentment at the doctor's offer of
money. She wished that she had been able to thank him herself for his
share in her rescue.

"I am sorry you think you would not like to work for Miss Betsey,"
returned the doctor unexpectedly, "because I had a suggestion to make
to you and Phil. But after to-day I am afraid it will be of no use. Miss
Taylor is a rich old maid patient of mine. I have looked after her since
Phyllis was a little girl. She has no relatives and no interest in life
except in her little estate, which has been in her family for several
generations. She makes herself ill by imagining that she has a variety
of diseases. All she needs is fresh air and young companionship. I
wonder if there is any way that she can manage to get it?"

Madge felt a shiver creep up and down her spine. She had a premonition
of what Dr. Alden was going to propose to her and to Phil. Surely they
could not be expected to Jonah their pretty houseboat by taking aboard
such a fellow-passenger as this dreadful old maid! How could they ever
have any fun with her on board? Instead of calling their pretty craft
the "Merry Maid," she would have to be re-christened "Old Maid," Madge
thought resentfully.

Dr. Alden did not return to the subject of Miss Betsey during the long
ride home. He was too wise for that. Nevertheless, he had given Madge
something to think about.



"It's all right, Phyllis! Tom Curtis is a dear. David is to go with us."
Madge breathed a sigh of satisfaction over the success of her scheme.

Phyllis Alden laughed. She was buttoning the twins into clean pinafores.
"I am not surprised. I knew Tom would find a place for David if you
asked him to do so. Tom Curtis is quite likely to do Madge Morton's

Madge flushed. "Don't be a goose, please, Phil," she begged. "You know
that as long as we are to take Miss Betsey Taylor on board our
houseboat, in order to be able to pay the expenses of our trip this
summer," Madge made a wry face, "that we ought not to leave poor David
high and dry without any work to do. I was awfully sorry for the boy
when he came here the other day and heard what Miss Betsey thought of
doing. He turned quite white, and when I asked him if he was sorry to be
thrown out of work, he said 'Yes,' and then he wouldn't talk any more."

Phyllis looked serious. "I hope it will turn out for the best, but it is
asking a good deal of Tom to take this strange boy way down to Virginia
with him. David hasn't a good reputation. Miss Taylor employs him only
because he is a distant cousin of hers. No one else will have anything
to do with him, he is so surly and unfriendly. He was turned out of the
district school, and----"

Madge pretended to put her fingers in her ears. "Don't tell me any more
mean things about that poor fellow, please, dear," she pleaded. "I
suppose it is because I have never heard a good word about him that I,
being an obstinate person, don't think he can be as bad as he is
painted. I am a black sheep myself, sometimes, when my horrid temper
gets the better of me, and I know how dreadful it is not to be trusted."

"You a black sheep! O Madge! how absurd you are," protested Phil.

But Madge was in earnest and would not be interrupted. "Tom really did
need some one on his motor boat, Phil. He wrote me that he meant to hire
some one to come along with him. Tom wishes to run his own engine, but
he doesn't yearn for the task of cleaning it or to do the very hard
work. Of course, that is all right. He has plenty of money and can do as
he chooses. But it's different with David."

"How many boys will Tom have on his motor boat while he has us in tow?"
inquired Phil. She realized that Madge had been seized with one of her
sudden fits of enthusiasm over Miss Betsey Taylor's "hired boy" and that
there was no sense in opposing her. The little captain would find out
later whether her enthusiasm had been right or wrong.

"Four or five," answered Madge absently. "Do stand still, Daisy Alden,
while I tie your sunbonnet, or I'll eat you alive!" she scolded kissing
one of the twin babies on her fat pink cheek. "Come on, Phil. Hold tight
to Dot. If we are going to drive out to Miss Betsey Taylor's to see
whether she still desires to pay us sixty dollars a month for food,
lodging and the pleasure of our delightful society aboard our precious
houseboat, we had better start at once."

Phil, Madge and the twins waved good-bye to Mrs. Alden, who was well
enough now to be about her house, as they piled themselves into the
physician's old buggy, which he had left for their use during the day.

The doctor's suggestion looked as though it were going to come true. At
first Madge and Phil protested that they simply couldn't bear to take a
fussy old maid on their houseboat excursion. But then, if they did not
take Miss Betsey, there wouldn't be any excursion. The girls were
between Scylla and Charybdis, like the ill-fated Ulysses on his journey
back from Troy. Scylla, Miss Betsey, went with them, or Charybdis, the
houseboat party, would have to decline Tom Curtis's offer to tow them up
the Rappahannock River. So the girls decided to choose "Miss Scylla," as
they nicknamed poor Miss Betsey.

As for Miss Betsey Taylor, she had been even more horrified than the two
houseboat girls when the doctor made the proposal to her. How was she to
cure her nerves by trusting herself to a party of gay young people with
a twenty-six-year-old chaperon as the only balance to the party. Absurd!
Miss Betsey wrung her hands at the very idea. But after a while the
allurement of the plan began to stir even her conventional old soul. The
thought of being borne gently along a beautiful river dividing the
Virginia shores wrought enchantment. There was something else that
influenced Miss Betsey. Years before she had had a "near romance." A
young Virginia officer had come to New York and had met Miss Betsey at
the home of a friend. During one winter he saw her many times, and
although he was too poor to speak of marriage, Miss Betsey was entitled
to believe that he had cared for her. One day Miss Betsey had an
argument with her admirer. It was a foolish argument, but the Virginia
officer believed that Miss Betsey had insulted him. He went away and
never saw her again. Afterward she learned that he had returned to his
ruined estate in Virginia.

It was a poor shadow of a romance, but Miss Betsey had never had
another. In late years she had begun to think of her past. It _did_ add
a flavor of romance to her trip in the houseboat to imagine that she
might have been a happy matron, living on one of the old places that she
would see in Virginia, instead of being Miss Betsey Taylor of Hartford,
who had never ventured farther than New York City in the sixty years of
her maiden life. To tell the truth, Miss Betsey was as enthusiastic over
the prospect of a trip in a houseboat as were the members of the "Merry
Maid's" crew.

When the two girls and the children drove into Miss Betsey's yard David
helped Madge, Phil and the twins out of the doctor's buggy, looking more
surly and impossible than ever. A secret bitterness was surging in him.
Miss Betsey had promised to give him steady work at "Chestnut Cottage"
all summer. Now she was going away on a trip with a lot of silly girls.
Once again he was to be balked in the cherished desire of his life. In
his bitterness of heart he pretended he had never seen Madge before.

"I would like to talk to you, David, after we have seen Miss Taylor,"
said Madge in a friendly fashion to the scowling youth. "I won't take up
much of your time."

David walked away without making any reply, which angered the girl, and
as she walked into the house she began to feel rather sorry that she had
tried to play Good Samaritan to such a churlish fellow.

To-day Miss Betsey really wished to make a good impression on Madge and
Phil. She was as anxious that they should like her as the girls were to
please the queer old lady. Miss Betsey was waiting for her guests in her
prim, old-fashioned parlor. The dim light from the closed green blinds
was grateful after the brilliant sunshine of the warm July day. On a
little, spindle-legged mahogany table were tall glasses of fruit
lemonade and a plate of assorted cakes.

Miss Betsey surveyed Madge Morton with keen, curious eyes. She already
knew Phil. But before she trusted her life to these girls she wished to
take their measure. Madge's appearance as she emerged from under the
overturned buggy had not been prepossessing. To-day Miss Betsey would be
able to judge her better. As she scrutinized the little captain she was
not altogether pleased with Madge's looks. She preferred Phil's dark,
serious face. There was too much ardor, too much warm, bright color
about Madge in her deep-toned auburn hair and the healthy scarlet of her
lips. Madge breathed a kind of radiant impulse toward a fullness of life
that was opposed to Miss Betsey Taylor's theory of existence. Still, she
could find no objection to the young girl's manner. Madge was so shy and
deprecating that Phil could hardly help laughing at her. What would Miss
Betsey think later on, when the little captain had one of her attacks of
high spirits?

Miss Taylor asked so many questions about the houseboat that Phil was
kept busy answering her. Madge spoke only in monosyllables, her
attention being devoted to the twins. The cake and lemonade having been
disposed of, these two tiny persons kept wriggling about the drawing
room in momentary peril of upsetting the tables and chairs.

"Miss Taylor," broke in Madge suddenly, in her usual, unexpected
fashion, "if you don't mind, I think I will take the little girls out
into your back garden. I wish to speak to your boy, David. I have asked
our friend, Tom Curtis, to take David to help him with his motor boat
during our trip. I hope you don't mind?"

Miss Betsey caught her breath. She was startled by the suddenness of
Madge's suggestion, as she was to be many times during her acquaintance
with that young woman. Then Miss Betsey looked dubious. "Take David
with us?" she faltered. "I don't advise it. It was good of you, child,
to think of it, and it would be a wonderful opportunity for the boy. But
I am obliged to tell you that David is not trustworthy. He spends too
many hours alone, and refuses to tell anybody what he is doing. Make him
confide in you, or else do not take him away with us. I'll try to find
something for the boy to do nearer home."

Madge thought she caught a gleam in Miss Betsey's eyes that revealed a
goodly amount of curiosity about David's secret occupations, as much as
it did interest in his welfare. She made up her mind that she would not
pry into poor David's secrets simply because she had a chance to offer
him the opportunity to make his living during the summer.

Holding Dot by one hand and Daisy by the other, Madge appeared at the
half-open barn-door, her eyes shining with friendliness.

David was working fiercely. He hated the cleaning of the barn, so he
chose to-day to do it as an outlet for his foolish feeling of injury.

"David," exclaimed Madge, "I must call you that, as I don't know your
other name, I would like to speak to you." There was no hint of
patronage in Madge's manner. She was too well-bred a young woman either
to feel or to show it. She really felt no difference between herself
and David, except that the boy had never had the opportunities that had
been hers.

But David never turned around to answer her. "Speak ahead," he answered
roughly. "I'm not deaf. I can hear what you've got to say to me in here
all right."

Madge colored angrily. A sound temper had never been her strong point.
She had almost forgotten how angry she could be in the two peaceful
weeks she had spent with Phil. The hot blood surged to her cheeks at
David's rude behavior. The boy had gone on raking the hay into one
corner of the barn.

"I certainly shall not speak to you if you can't treat me courteously,"
she answered coldly. She took the little girls by the hands and walked
quietly away from the barn. The babies protested. Their black eyes were
wide with interest at the sight of "the big boy." They wished to stay
and talk to him.

David put his hand to his throat when Madge was out of sight. He felt as
though he were choking, and he knew it was from shame at his own uncivil
behavior to the girl who had treated him in such a friendly, gentle
fashion. David Brewster was a queer combination. He was enough of a
gentleman to know he had treated Madge discourteously, but he did not
know how to apologize to her. He glanced around the yard.

Madge had taken the twins and was seated with them under a big apple
tree in the back yard. She was making them daisy and clover chains, and
she seemed completely to have forgotten the rude boy.

David walked up behind the tree. If Madge saw or heard him, she gave no
sign. She was putting a tiny wreath of daisies on Daisy Alden's head and
crowning Dot with a wreath of clover.

"Miss," said a boy's embarrassed voice, "I know I was rude to you out in
the barn. I am sorry. I was worried about something and it put me in a
bad temper. Do you feel that you would be willing to speak to me now?"
he asked humbly.

Madge's face cleared. Yet she hesitated. She was beginning to fear that
she would be unwise to mention Tom's proposition to David. She knew that
Tom Curtis, with his frank, open nature, would have little use for an
ugly-tempered, surly youth on board his motor boat. Had she any right to
burden Tom with a disagreeable helper?

But David seemed so miserable, so shy and awkward, that Madge's heart
softened. Again she felt sorry for the boy, as she had done at her
first meeting with him. Whether for good or evil, she made up her mind
that David should accompany them on their houseboat excursion.

"Sit down, won't you, David?" she asked gently.

David sat down shyly, with his torn hat between the knees of his patched
trousers while Madge explained the situation to him. She told him that
she and Phil felt sorry that they were making him lose his place by
taking Miss Betsey away. She said that Tom Curtis needed some one to
help him with his motor boat, and that he was willing to take David with
him if he would be faithful and do the work that Tom required of him.
"Mr. Curtis will give you five dollars a week and your expenses if you
would care to make the trip with us," concluded Madge.

She was silent for a second. Her eyes were on the pretty twin babies,
who were chasing golden-brown butterflies on the grass just in front of
them, and screaming joyously at their own lack of success.

"Didn't you hear me, David?" inquired Madge a trifle impatiently.

The boy's face was working. His eyes were brimming with tears. He was
bitterly ashamed of them and tried to rub them off with his rough
coatsleeve. Then he said in a low voice:

"You mean that you got your friend to consent to take a fellow he knew
nothing about on a motor boat trip way down in Virginia, and just for
the little work that I can do on his boat? I can't understand it. You
see, I've never been twenty miles out of Hartford, and nobody thinks I
am much good around here. I know you have done this for me just because
you didn't want me to lose my job with Miss Betsey. I could see you were
sorry for me the other night, when I couldn't help showing that I cared.
Gee-whiz! I wonder how I will ever be able to pay you back?"

Madge laughed. She could see that David had forgotten her and was
thinking and talking aloud.

"You've paid me back already," she declared, smiling. "Didn't you help
pull me out from under the buggy the other day? You may have saved my
life. If old Prince had really tried to run away I might have been
killed. Please don't be grateful to me. You aren't obliged to be
grateful to any one, though, if you must, why, you can thank Tom Curtis.
It is his motor boat that is to tow our houseboat and take us on our new
adventures. He is a splendid fellow and I know you will like him. I am
sure you will get along nicely with him."

"I'll do the best I can to be worth my keep. You won't be sorry you
told your friend Mr. Curtis to take me along," he said huskily.

"It may not be easy for you all the time," added Madge, feeling that she
ought to give David some good advice. "There will be four or five young
men on board the motor boat, and they may all ask you to wait on them.
But I must not preach. I am dreadfully afraid I shall never be able to
get on with your cousin, Miss Taylor. You must tell me how to manage
her; because, if she and I were to quarrel, it would spoil the whole
houseboat trip. I have a very bad temper. I must go back to the house
now. Phil and Miss Betsey will wonder what has become of me. But where
are those children?" Madge sprang to her feet. The twins had been before
her eyes only a few seconds before. Now they had completely disappeared!

David ran toward the barn. Madge searched the yard frantically. The
children had not returned to the house.



"Where can they be, David?" asked Madge anxiously. "Do you suppose they
have run away?"

"Nothing can possibly have happened to the children in such a few
moments. We will find them. They are probably hiding somewhere to tease

But though he made a systematic hunt about the yard, he did not find

"Dot! Daisy!" called Madge, "it's time to go home. If you'll only come
here, I will tell you the nicest fairy story you ever heard."

Madge did not go into the house at once to tell Phil and Miss Betsey of
the disappearance of the children. She would surely discover them and it
was not worth while to worry Phil. But although she argued within
herself that nothing serious could have happened to the babies, she had
a premonition of disaster. Only a moment before they had been chasing
butterflies. It would seem as though a wicked hobgoblin had come up out
of the ground and carried them off.

Next to Miss Taylor's back yard there was another field enclosed by a
low stone wall. It would have been easy work for Dot and Daisy to crawl
over it, and Madge knew their propensity for getting into mischief.
David and Madge clambered hastily over the wall into the field. It was
an open one, covered with low, waving grass, where the presence of even
little four-year-old girls could be seen at a glance.

The conviction that the children had been mysteriously kidnapped began
to grow upon Madge. Yet Miss Betsey Taylor's home was a quarter of a
mile distant from any other house, and neither David nor Madge had seen
any sign of a tramp. The little captain made up her mind that she _must_
tell Phil. It was no longer fair to keep her chum in the dark. Phil must
assist in the search for her sisters.

"Don't be frightened," consoled David, interpreting the look of fear in
Madge's eyes. "I promise to find the children for you."

Madge went into the house with slow, dragging steps. She tried to hide
her fright, but her face betrayed her. She was utterly wretched. She had
come, uninvited, to visit her best friend, and Phil's father and mother
had treated her as though she were another grown-up daughter. Now, as a
reward, she had lost their beloved babies. For, if Madge had not been
talking with David, Dot and Daisy would never have run away from her and

Phyllis sprang to her feet when she caught sight of Madge. She had been
wondering why her chum had not come in. One look at Madge's white face
was enough to convince her that something serious had happened.

"Don't worry so, Madge," comforted Phil, when the girl had stammered out
her story, "I'll find those children. Nobody has run off with them.
Don't you know that getting themselves lost and frightening people
nearly out of their wits is the thing that Dot and Daisy love best in
the world?"

Phyllis and Madge ran out of the parlor together, followed more slowly
by Miss Betsey, who was not at all sure that she relished so much
excitement. Phyllis Alden did not realize how thoroughly Madge and David
had looked for the lost babies before her friend had brought the news to
her. If she had, Phil would have been more alarmed.

David determined to discover the missing children before Madge returned
to the yard. But where else should he seek for them? With a swift
feeling of horror, the boy thought of one more possible place. If his
surmise should prove true! Poor Madge! David thought of her with a
sudden flood of sympathy. Instinctively he realized, after his short
acquaintance with her, that she was the type of person who would never
recover from such a sorrow as the loss of these children would be.

While David thought he ran. He hoped to make his investigation before
Madge and Phil could come into the yard.

Several rods back of the barn in Miss Taylor's back garden there was a
disused well which had been closed for several years. A few days before
Miss Betsey had sent for a man to have this well reopened. The man had
not finished his work. He had gone away, leaving the well open with only
a plank across it.

But David was not allowed to inspect the place undiscovered. Madge and
Phyllis were not long in finding him. "Look in the barn, won't you?"
David called back to the girls. "The children may be hiding under the

Phyllis slipped inside the barn door. But Madge had ransacked the barn
too thoroughly to believe that there was a chance of finding the babies
there. Besides, she had seen David Brewster's face. He was pale through
his sunburn, so she left the barn to Phil and followed at his heels.

"You've an idea what has happened to the children. Please tell me what
you think," she pleaded.

The boy shook his head resolutely. "Don't ask questions, I've no time to
talk," he answered rudely. Yet David did not mean to be unkind. He only
knew that he could not face the look in Madge's eyes should his
suspicion prove true. Besides, there was no time to waste. Already they
must have waited too long to save the children if the little ones had
fallen down the old well.

Instantly David knew. The plank that had lain across the well had fallen
over on one side. The children must have stepped on this plank and gone
down. David dropped flat on his stomach and peered over into the hole.
"Look out!" he cried sharply to Madge, she was so near him.

Madge felt herself reel. The air turned black about her and the earth
seemed slanting at her feet, miles and miles away. A feeling of deathly
nausea crept over her. Then she pulled herself together. There might yet
be hope, and there was surely work to be done. She dropped on the ground
beside David.

As they knelt side by side on the edge of the well they heard a little,
weak, moaning cry, and straining their eyes distinguished faintly the
tops of two curly heads. Madge uttered a cry of relief. As nearly as she
could judge, the babies were standing upright in the well with their
arms about each other. They were nearly dead with fright and
suffocation, but the wonderful instinct of self-preservation had made
them continue to keep on their feet. There was not more than a foot of
water in the bottom of the well, and Madge believed that the fall had
not seriously hurt them.

"Dot! Daisy!" called Madge, trying to speak in natural tones.

Daisy turned a pair of big black eyes to the little light that shone
above her. Hanging over the edge of the well she spied her Madge and
stretched both tiny arms upward.

"You tumbled into a big hole, didn't you, dears?" soothed Madge
cheerfully, although she was trembling. "Stand up just a moment longer,
won't you, darlings? Madge is right here and she will not go away. We
will have you out of that dark place in a minute."

David had disappeared after his first glance at the children. Madge felt
absolutely sure that he would be able to get the babies out of the well
within the next few moments. She did not know how and she didn't think.
It was her part to keep up the children's courage. Somehow she knew that
this strange boy, of whom everybody spoke ill, would justify the curious
confidence she had placed in him from their first meeting.

When David returned he brought with him Phil, Miss Betsey, and Jane, the
cook. He carried a small clothes basket in his hand with handles at
either end and a great coil of heavy rope.

Turning to Madge he said, "One of us must go down in the well. Shall I
go, or will it be better for me to draw up the basket? I am the

For answer Madge took hold of the rope. "Let me go," she begged.

"It is my place," demurred Phyllis, with a white face.

"Phil!" Madge's eyes said all she could not speak. It was her fault that
Dot and Daisy had fallen into the well. Could she not be allowed to risk
herself to save them?

Phyllis stepped back. During this brief exchange of words David had not
been idle. He had knotted his rope securely about Madge's waist.

Over the side of the old well he had seen many loose bricks and open
places. With him above to steady her, a plucky girl could manage to
climb down the side of the well with small danger to herself.

Madge slipped the rope around one arm. If she fell, she might, with
David's assistance, be able to drop down sailor fashion.

She dared not glance down as she began the descent, finding open spaces
for her feet and hands along the brick wall. "Steady, steady!" she
could hear David's voice cheering her, as foot by foot he let out more
of his rope.

David had not trusted to his own strength alone. The rope he guided was
in Phil's hands and also those of Jane, the cook.

When Madge was within two feet of the bottom of the well she jumped and
gathered little Dot, who had toppled over, in her arms. Daisy was still
standing, although she tottered and clung to her rescuer's skirts.

"Let down the basket quickly!" cried Madge. Like a flash the basket
swung down. The little captain made haste to lift poor Dot into it. The
basket had a rope tied on the handle at each end. Madge could see that
David had replaced a heavy plank across the mouth of the well, and that
he sat astride it, so as to be able to draw up the basket without
striking it against the sides of the well.

Madge took little Daisy in her arms and cuddled her head on her
shoulder, so she should not see what was taking place. "Shut your eyes,
baby," she pleaded. "We'll soon be out of this dark old place."

Daisy did not answer. The wreath of daisies with which Madge had crowned
her little head still hung loosely down among her black curls.

It seemed ages before Dot was safely landed on the ground and gathered
in Phil's arms. During that time Madge had never ceased comforting
Daisy. But when the basket descended for the second time Daisy refused
to get into it. She was too frightened. She clung desperately to Madge
and would not unloosen her fat arms from about the girl's neck.

What was to be done? The little captain was afraid to put Daisy in the
basket while the little girl fought and struggled. She would probably
fling herself out in her fright and be badly hurt. It was almost a
miracle the way in which the two babies managed to fall straight down in
the well without striking against the sides.

"Can't you coax her, Phil?" asked Madge in desperation. "She is
determined not to go into the basket."

But all Phyllis's efforts to persuade her baby sister to return to terra
firma via the basket route proved unavailing. Daisy kicked and screamed
at the slightest attempt on Madge's part to put her into the basket.

"If you will bring a ladder and lower it into the well I believe I can
climb up with Daisy on my back," proposed Madge faintly. The strain was
beginning to tell upon her.

"I'll have one down in ten seconds," called David cheerily.

He was back to the edge of the well almost instantly with a long ladder
that he had spied leaning against a fruit tree. He cautiously lowered
it to the waiting girl.

Madge tested it to see that it was firm, then, setting Daisy down, she
bent almost double.

"Climb on Madge's back, dear. Daisy must be very brave. Then we'll go
up, up, up the ladder to Sister Dot. Put your arms around Madge's neck
as tightly as ever you can," directed the little captain.

The novelty of the situation appealed to Daisy and she fastened her fat
little arms about poor Madge's neck in a suffocating clasp. Slowly but
surely, in spite of the hampering embrace, Madge climbed steadily to the
top, to be met by the firm, reassuring grasp of David's strong hands.

Phil lifted the clinging Daisy from Madge's tired back. The little
captain staggered and would have fallen but for David, whose hand on her
elbow quickly steadied her.

Then the boy of whom Miss Betsey entertained such unpleasant suspicions,
the "ne'er-do-weel" of the community, took charge of the situation with
a dignity that surprised even Madge, who believed in him.

"I think it will be best for me to notify Dr. Alden of what has
happened. I will telephone him, then drive over and bring him back. It
will be better not to let Mrs. Alden know that the children fell into
the well. Dr. Alden can look them over. As your mother is recovering
from a long illness, she must not be worried or frightened. What do you
think of my plan, Miss Alden?"

Phyllis quite approved of the suggestion. She looked at David almost
wonderingly. Was this resolute, self-contained young man the surly,
unapproachable boy she had always disliked to encounter when calling
upon Miss Betsey? She awoke to a tardy realization that whatever faults
David Brewster possessed, they were merely on the surface, and that at
heart he was a good man and true. And although David never knew it, on
that day he made another friend whose friendship was destined to prove
as faithful as that of Madge Morton.

That night as the two chums, wrapped in their kimonos, were having a
comfortable little session together before going to bed, Phyllis said
thoughtfully, "Do you know, Madge, I think David Brewster is splendid. I
am afraid I have misjudged him."

"Phil," said Madge with conviction, "David is a man, and I am sure he is
good and true at heart, no matter how gruff he may seem on the surface.
I asked Tom to take him with us on the trip, and now that he has
consented to go, I feel as though I were responsible for him. I know
Miss Betsey believes him to be sneaking and undependable. So far,
however, I have seen nothing about him that looks suspicious, and I do
not believe him to be a sneak. I trust David now, and I am going to keep
on trusting him."



A motor boat ploughed restlessly about near the broad mouth of the
Rappahannock River. It flew a red and white pennant, with the initials
of the owner, "T. C.," emblazoned on it. The name of the boat, "Sea
Gull," was painted near the stern. It was a trim little craft with a
fair-sized cabin amidships and was capable of making eight knots an hour
at its highest speed.

"Toot, toot, toot, chug, chug, chug!" the whistle blew and the engine
thumped. The captain stood with his hand on the wheel, gazing restlessly
out over the water.

"I wonder what can have happened?" muttered Tom Curtis impatiently.
"Here it is, as plain as the nose on your face: the 'Merry Maid' with
four houseboat girls, a chaperon and one other passenger, will join the
'Sea Gull' at the entrance to the Rappahannock River on the southern
side of the Virginia shore near Shingray Point, on August first, at ten
A.M." Tom looked up from the paper he was reading. "We have the time and
the place all right, haven't we, fellows? But where are the girls?"

"Cheer up, old man!" Jack Bolling clapped Tom on the shoulder. "A
houseboat is not the fastest vessel afloat. Who knows what kind of tug
the girls have had to hire to get them here? And a woman is never on
time, anyhow."

"We'll be in luck if the houseboat gets here by to-night, Curtis,"
argued Harry Sears, another member of the motor boat crew of five
youths. "Do slow down; there is no use ploughing around these waters. We
had better stay close to the meeting place. It's after twelve o'clock;
can't we have a little feed?"

"Here, Brewster, stir around and get out the lunch hamper," ordered
George Robinson. "We must all have something to sustain us while we wait
for the girls."

David Brewster's face colored at the other's tone of command, but he
went quietly to work to obey.

"David," interposed Tom Curtis, "come put your hand on this engine for
me, won't you? I will dig in the larder if Robinson is too tired. I know
where the stores are kept better than you other chaps do, anyhow."

"Tom Curtis is a splendid fellow," thought David gratefully. "Miss
Morton was right. He doesn't treat one like a dog, just because he has
plenty of money."

David Brewster and Tom Curtis had traveled down from New York to
Virginia together. Their fellow motor boat passengers they had picked up
at different points along the way. David had come to understand Tom
Curtis pretty well during their trip--better than Tom did David. But
then, Tom Curtis was a fine, frank young man with nothing to hide or to
be ashamed of. David had many things which he did not wish the public to

The houseboat party had arranged to join one another in Richmond. From
there they were to go by rail to a point up the Chesapeake Bay, where
the "Merry Maid" had been kept in winter quarters since the houseboat
trip of the fall before. A tug was to escort the houseboat to the mouth
of the Rappahannock River, where they were to meet Tom and his motor

Phyllis Alden had accompanied Madge to "Forest House," so the two girls
and Eleanor were not far from Richmond. Miss Jenny Ann Jones and Lillian
had come from Baltimore together. But Miss Betsey Taylor took her life
in her own hands and traveled alone. She carried only the expenses of
her railroad trip in her purse. But in a bag, which she wore securely
fastened under her skirt, Miss Betsey had brought a sum of money large
enough to last her during the entire houseboat trip, for when a maiden
lady leaves her home to trust herself to a frisky party of young
people, she should be prepared for any emergency. Miss Betsey also bore
in her bag a number of pieces of old family jewelry, which she wore on
state occasions.

       *       *       *       *       *

When luncheon time passed and there was still no sign of the "Merry
Maid," Tom Curtis could bear the suspense of waiting no longer.

"Something has happened, or the girls would have been here before this,"
he declared positively. "Bolling, I am going to leave you and Sears to
wait here in the rowboat. I am going to look down the coast."

"All right, old man," agreed the other boys. They did not share Tom's
uneasiness. Indeed, as the "Sea Gull" headed down the coast, the three
men on board her heard Harry Sears shouting an improvised verse:

    "Where, oh, where, is the 'Merry Maid'?
     What wind or wave has her delayed?
     Our hearts are breaking, our launch is quaking,
     Fear and despair are us overtaking,
     Where, oh, where----"

The rest of this remarkable effusion was lost to their ears as they
glided along.

"It is rather strange that we haven't picked them up yet, isn't it?"

David Brewster said nothing. He was always a silent youth. With Tom's
telescope in his hand he stood eagerly scanning the line of the coast as
the motor launch ran along near the shore.

"Ho, there!" he cried. "What's that? Look over there!"

Tom shut off speed and hurriedly seized the spy-glass.

There, apparently peacefully resting on the bosom of the water, was an
odd craft, gleaming white in the afternoon sun. Tom Curtis at once
recognized the "Merry Maid."

No one on board the houseboat noticed the approach of Tom's motor launch
until he blew the automatic whistle. Then, with one accord, the four
girls rushed to one side of the boat. They made frantic signals, then
all began to talk at the same time.

"What's up? Where's your tug?" demanded Tom. "Here you are, as peaceful
as clams, while we have been scouring the coast for you."

"Don't scold, Tom," laughed Madge, "and don't refer to us as clams. We
are stuck in the mud. Our wretched little tug brought us too near the
shore, piled us up here and then went away two hours ago for help. We
were so afraid you would go on without us. What can we do?"

While the girls talked Tom, Jack and David had been quietly at work.
They had secured the houseboat to the launch by means of their towing
ropes. Tom put on all speed. His motor launch tugged and strained
forward. The "Merry Maid" did not move. She was a fairly heavy craft,
with her large cabin and broad beam. Miss Betsey Taylor and Miss Jenny
Ann joined the crowd of anxious watchers on the houseboat deck. Instead
of gliding up a peaceful river, gazing at fruitful orchards and lovely
old Virginia homesteads through the oncoming twilight, the houseboat
crew would have to remain ignominiously on a sand bank until a larger
boat came along to pull her off.

Tom tried again. Once more the "Sea Gull" went bravely forward--the
length of her towing rope.

The girls were almost in tears. Suddenly Madge laughed. Eleanor and
Lillian looked at her reproachfully.

"I don't see anything to laugh at," expostulated Eleanor.

"I don't either, Nellie," agreed Madge. "We ought to cry, we are such
geese. Tom! David!" she cried. "You have never pulled up our anchor. Of
course we can't get off the sand bank. We forgot to tell you that the
captain on the little tug anchored us here to keep us from drifting
away. I am so sorry."

In a little while Tom Curtis's motor launch, followed by the "Merry
Maid," entered the Rappahannock from the Chesapeake Bay. It was Tom's
intention to tow the houseboat along several of the Virginia rivers
during their vacation. It looked as though they might have a peaceful
excursion with nothing to mar its serenity. But there were five boys and
four girls aboard the boats, besides the two older women.

The voyagers did not journey far the first day. It was about sundown
when they came along shore near a wonderful peach orchard and it was
here that they decided to spend the night. The crew of the "Merry Maid"
entertained the crew of the "Sea Gull" at dinner, the young folks
spending the evening together. As Tom was about to bid Madge good night
she said almost timidly, "Thank you so much, Tom, for being so good to
David. I hope he hasn't disappointed you?"

"Oh, he is all right," replied Tom. "He is a queer fellow, though; never
has much to say. He has asked me to let him have an hour or so to
himself every day that we are on shore. Of course, it is only fair for
him to have the time, but why does he wish to go off by himself?"

"I don't know." Madge shook her head disapprovingly. Then she adroitly
changed the subject, but she could not help hoping that David would not
incur the displeasure of the boys by his mysterious ways. It looked as
though the boy she had determined to trust was to prove very



"Miss Jenny Ann, I don't think I can endure her," declared Madge

It was late afternoon. The houseboat was gliding serenely along the
river bank. Several yards ahead of her puffed the motor launch. Harry
Sears and George Robinson were in the kitchen of the houseboat, helping
Lillian and Eleanor wash the dinner dishes. Phil sat comfortably in the
motor launch, having her usual argument with Jack Bolling. Tom Curtis
was steering his launch, with a cloud over his usually bright face.
David Brewster was looking after the engine. He was silent and sullen.
But unless he was at work this was his ordinary expression.

"You can see for yourself, Miss Jenny Ann," continued Madge, her lips
trembling with vexation, "that nothing I can do pleases Miss Betsey. I
am just as polite to her as I know how to be, but she just hates me.
According to what she says, everything that goes wrong is my fault. I
have a great mind to leave the houseboat and let you and the other girls
take the trip. It isn't much fun for the rest of the party to have Miss
Betsey and me quarrel all the time. It is unpleasant for everyone, isn't

Miss Jenny Ann did not answer. Madge caught hold of her impulsively.

"Do scold or preach, whichever you like, Jenny Ann," she pleaded, "but
please answer me. It is not polite to be so silent."

"What is it now?" Miss Jenny Ann inquired teasingly.

The little captain's face sobered. "It isn't a little thing this time,
like my putting the sheet on Miss Betsey's bed wrong side up. It's very
important. Miss Betsey says," whispered Madge in Miss Jenny Ann's ear,
although they were standing some distance away from any one else, "that
nearly every day for the past week some of her money has disappeared out
of her wretched old money bag. Not very much at a time. First she
noticed that three dollars had gone, then five, and now it's ten. She
seems to think that I ought to know how it happens. She doesn't want to
worry you about it. Of course, I know she is mistaken," cried Madge
indignantly. "She just does not know how much money she had. There
hasn't been a single person on this boat this whole week except our

Miss Jenny Ann looked serious. "Does Miss Taylor suspect any one?" she
asked carelessly, not glancing at Madge.

Madge's cheeks reddened. "Miss Betsey says she does not suspect any one,
but she spoke darkly of poor David Brewster. She says he never took
anything that she knows of when he was on her farm, but that his father
was almost a tramp. He came up to New England from goodness-knows-where,
and every now and then he disappears and is gone for months at a time.
Miss Taylor believes that when Tom ties up our boats in the afternoons,
and David goes off and leaves everybody, it is his vagabond blood
showing in him. Isn't it cruel to make the poor fellow responsible for
his father's sins? I am going to stand up for him through thick and
thin. Coming, Miss Betsey," answered Madge cheerfully, in response to a
call from the tyrannical old spinster.

Miss Jenny Ann remained by herself a few moments longer. She wondered
why Miss Taylor required more attention from poor Madge than she did
from any of the other girls. It was certain that she liked her least.
But Miss Jenny Ann shrewdly suspected that prim Miss Betsey thought that
their impetuous captain needed discipline and had set herself to
administer it to her. About David Brewster Miss Jenny Ann was more
worried. She did not like the lad. No one did. He was the discordant
element in their whole party. Lillian and Eleanor fought shy of him.
Phyllis was kind to him but had little to say to him, and the boys in
the motor launch, except Tom, treated him with a kind of scornful
coolness. The boy was neither a gentleman nor a servant. It was small
wonder that generous-hearted Madge championed him. Miss Jenny Ann
understood, from Madge's allusion to David's father, one reason why
Madge was kind to the boy.

Miss Jenny Ann Jones and Miss Betsey Taylor shared one of the houseboat
staterooms. The four girls, to their great joy, bunked together in the

It was exactly a half hour before Miss Betsey would let Madge come out
on deck again. She wished her money carefully counted and a new place
discovered for concealing it. Madge was strangely patient, for she had
had a long talk with Dr. Alden before she left Hartford. He had told her
that she would have a good deal to bear from Miss Betsey. Yet, if she
wished to give the pleasure of the houseboat trip to her friends and to
herself, she must remember the tiresome old adage, "What is worth having
is worth paying for." So far Madge had paid with little grumbling.

This afternoon, as she reappeared on deck, her red lips were pouting and
her cheeks were a deeper color. Her resentment against Miss Betsey was
at its height.

No one noticed the little captain standing alone on deck. Usually she
would have thought nothing of it, but this evening she was tired and
cross. It did not seem fair for her to have to take all the trouble with
their houseboat boarder on her shoulders. She could hear Lillian,
Nellie, Harry Sears and George Robinson singing on the upper deck of the
little houseboat. Phyllis was talking busily to Jack Bolling and did not
even glance over toward Madge from her seat on the launch. Madge knew
that Tom was angry because she had not joined him in the motor boat
earlier in the afternoon, when the boats had put in to the shore. She
had not been able to go on account of Miss Betsey, but she certainly had
no intention of explaining anything to Tom. He could think what he

The two boats were in the habit of landing several times during a day's
cruise. Ordinarily they went ashore just before sunset, and the boys and
girls had their dinner together in some sequestered place. They then
spent the night with the houseboat and motor boat at anchor. But this
evening it was so lovely, gliding along the face of the river, with its
hills on one side and meadows and orchards on the other, that Miss
Jenny Ann requested Tom not to land until just about bed-time.

Madge stood looking at the sunset for a few minutes. There was nothing
to do and no one wished to talk to her. She would go to bed. A little
later she tumbled into her bed and shed a few tears, she was so sorry
for herself. She did not waken until the other three girls came in for
the night at about ten o'clock.

"Is there anything the matter, Madge?" whispered Phil before she crept
into the berth above her chum. "We missed you dreadfully."

Madge gave Phyllis a repentant kiss. She knew that she had been absurd.
But now that Phyllis had awakened her, she could not go back to sleep
again. It was a hot August night, with a moon almost in the full. Not a
breath of air was stirring along the river. The moonlight shone through
the little cabin window, flooding the room with its radiance. Madge felt
that if she could only get a breath of air, she might be able to go to
sleep. Just now she was suffocating. Yet the other girls were breathing
gently. She slipped softly into her clothes, put on a long light coat,
tucked her hair under a boy's cap and stole silently out on the
houseboat deck. All was solemn and still. She was the only person awake
on either of the two boats. An almost tropical heat made the moon look
red and ominous. Madge was oppressed by its mysterious reflection on
the water. The shore seemed peaceful, deserted. She went noiselessly
down the gang plank. She walked up and down the bank, keeping the boats
in sight. However, the shore was not quiet. The ceaseless hum of the
August insects set her nerves on edge.

"Katy did, Katy did," the noise was insistent. To Madge's ears the name
was transposed. "David did, David did," it rang. Yet she did not really
believe that David had stolen Miss Betsey Taylor's money. If not David,
who else? Surely the money could never be found in the new hiding place
where she and Miss Taylor had stored it that afternoon. It was quite
secure from thievish fingers.

It was lonely along the river bank. The sudden hooting of an owl sent
her flying toward the houseboat. She waited a second before going
aboard. The "Water Witch" was floating peacefully on the water, tied to
the rail of the "Merry Maid!"

All at once the passionate love which Madge felt for the water, that she
believed to be an inheritance, woke in her. It was wrong and reckless in
her, yet the desire to be alone out there on the river was
uncontrollable. She went swiftly to their little rowboat, and without
making a single unnecessary sound she rowed straight out into the
moonlight that streamed across the water.

No one heard her or saw her leave the shelter of the two boats. Only
David, who was also awake, thought for an instant that he caught the
splash of a pair of oars skimming past the motor launch. He supposed it
to be some idle oarsman who lived along the river, and he never glanced
out of his cabin window.

Madge rowed for more than an hour in the golden moonlight, meeting no
one. A cool breeze sprang up. Her restlessness, impatience and suspicion
passed away. She felt that she would like to move on forever up this
silent river, near her well-loved Virginia shores. It never dawned upon
her how far she had gone, or that she might be missed, or that the river
would be dark when the moon went down. Neither did she consider that she
was not familiar with the spot where the houseboat and motor boat were
anchored. Tom had chosen the landing place for the night after she had
gone into her stateroom.

For a long time Madge rowed on, regardless of time. She was dreaming of
her own father. To-night she felt that she would find him. The night
seemed trying to convey to her the message, "He lives."

It was nearly one o'clock when the moon went down. Madge felt, rather
than saw, the darkness on the water. She was so oblivious to time that
she believed for a few minutes that the moon had only gone behind a
cloud. At last she realized that it was now time for her to turn back.
She had been rowing in the middle of the river, where the water was
deep, and she was unfamiliar with the line of the shore. Yet she knew
that here and there along either bank of the river there were shoals and
shallow places where rocks jutted out of the water. Once or twice Tom
steered them past places in the river where there were falls and swift
eddies in the current. Now she awoke to the fact that she was in danger.
She could go down the river in the center of the stream as she had come
up. But in the black darkness she could not pull in close to the river
bank without nearing perilous places. Yet, unless she kept near the
shore, how could she ever spy either the houseboat or the motor launch?

Madge rowed slowly and cautiously along. She tried to keep at a safe
distance from the land while she strained her eyes for a glimmer of
light that might come from either one of their boats. She was growing
tired, for she was beginning to feel the effects of her long row. Her
arms and back ached. All at once she became stupidly sleepy. She
wondered dimly what on earth Miss Jenny Ann and the girls would do if
they discovered that she had disappeared. What would Miss Betsey Taylor
think of her now, when she learned that she, Madge Morton, had gone out
on the river alone at night without a word to any one?

Madge sleepily pulled on her oars. She wished that she had persuaded
Phil to come out on the water with her. Now the loneliness of the
deserted river began to oppress her. She could have fallen over in the
boat from sheer exhaustion. Through the darkness she suddenly saw a
flickering light. Thank goodness, she was home at last! The light came
from the left bank of the river, where their boats were moored. Madge
rowed joyfully toward it. A little further in she saw that the light was
on land. She had seen only its reflection in the water.

After another half hour's steady pulling Madge believed that she must
have passed by their boats. Surely she could not have gone so far up the
river as she had rowed down. She turned her boat and began to retrace
her way, then drew in a few yards nearer the shore. Danger or no danger,
she must not pass the houseboat by again. She wondered if she would have
to stay out on the water until the dawn came to show her the way home.
She would have to cease rowing and let the boat drift. She was too
tired to keep on. She was growing so drowsy. All at once the "Water
Witch" trembled violently. It gave a forward leap in the dark and went
downward. Madge was thrown roughly forward. But she kept a firm grasp on
her oars. She could not see, yet she knew exactly what had happened. Her
boat had gone over some falls in the river. There was nothing for her to
do but to try to stay in her boat. The "Water Witch" might overturn, or
else right herself, at the end of her downward plunge.

The little skiff did neither. At the end of the falls she was caught in
a swift whirlpool. Crouched in the boat, with her teeth clenched and her
eyes watching the white spray that she could see even in the darkness,
Madge felt her boat rotate like a wheel. She had never let go her oars.
Now she braced herself with all her strength and gave one forward, final
pull. The "Water Witch" leaped ahead. It was safely out of the eddy and
in the current. But Madge's oar struck against a rock. It snapped in two
and the lower half went floating with the stream. There was a grating
sound, then she felt her boat ground between two rocks and stick fast.

Ahead the river seemed to gurgle and splash alarmingly. There might be
other falls and whirlpools in her course. Madge had sense enough to
know when she was beaten. If she pushed out from the rocks, where her
boat was caught, with her single oar, she might find herself in far
worse danger. She was grateful that the "Water Witch" had run aground.

Madge lay down in the bottom of her boat. She would wait until the
daylight came and see what was best to be done. She did not mean to go
to sleep, for she realized her peril. She idly watched a single star
that shone through the clouds, then her heavy eyelids closed and she
fell asleep to the sound of the water beating against the side of her



When Madge opened her eyes the sun was shining into them. It was already
broad daylight. Her boat was no longer held fast between rocks. In the
night it had made its own way out and had floated toward the land. It
was now only a few yards from the shore. With her one oar Madge pushed
herself gently toward land.

Hills rose up along the river bank. The farmhouses lay farther back, she
supposed. Certainly she had not the faintest idea where she was. The
hills were thickly covered with scrub oaks and pines. She had not landed
in a friendly spot. It was far more deserted than any place that she had
ever noticed along the Rappahannock. At least, so she thought in the
gray dawn of the August morning. Yet she knew that there were plenty of
kind people who would be glad to help her if she could get over the
hills to their homes.

From the appearance of Madge's clothes she might easily have been
mistaken for a tramp. Her long coat was wet to her ankles and her shoes
and stockings were muddy. She had long since lost her little cap and
her hair was rough and tumbled from her night's sleep in the boat, while
her face was white and haggard. Instead of following the line of the
river, where she was sure to find some life stirring in another hour or
so, Madge foolishly pushed up over the hill. She did not find a path, so
she might have guessed that she was off the beaten track. She must have
walked up the hill for half a mile when she saw a sight that at last
gave her hope. An old, broken-down horse was tethered to a tree, eating
grass. Surely he was a sign-post to some human habitation farther on.

Madge spied a cornfield to the left of her, though some distance off.
She knew that the Virginia farmers cultivated the low hills for their
crops, and that she was near some house. She sniffed the fresh morning
air. A delicious odor wafted toward her, the smell of boiling coffee,
which came from the thickest part of the hillside, away to the right of
the cornfield.

Madge made straight for it. She had to push aside branches and
underbrush, and the place was farther off than she supposed, but she
found it at last. Seated on the ground before a small fire was an old
woman, the oldest the little captain had ever seen. She was
weather-beaten and brown, withered like a crumpled autumn leaf. She was
roasting something in the fire and muttering to herself. A little
farther on a man was drinking coffee from a quart cup. They were
rough-looking people to come across in the woods. But Madge knew that in
the harvest season many tramps and gypsies traveled about through
Virginia, living on the crops of the fruitful land. They were usually
harmless people, so she felt no fear of the strangers. They had no tent,
but a few logs with branches over them formed a sort of hiding place.

"Please," began Madge timidly, "will you tell me where I am?"

The man sprang up and rushed toward her with a big stick in his hand. He
seemed not so angry as frightened. The little captain's appearance
disarmed his suspicions. He dropped his stick to the ground. The strange
girl was a gypsy or tramp herself.

"Will you give me some coffee?" asked Madge pleadingly. She was
beginning to feel weak and faint.

With the instant hospitality of the road the man passed Madge his own
quart can. She took it, shuddering a little, but she was too thirsty to
hesitate. She held the cup to her lips and drank. Then she went over and
dropped down on the ground by the side of the old woman, who, although
her eyes were fastened on the girl, had never ceased to mutter to
herself. Madge began telling the story of her night's adventure.

"I haven't any money with me," she declared as she finished her story,
"but if the man will get an oar and take me down the river to my
friends, I will pay him whatever he thinks is right. I dragged my
rowboat up on the shore not very far from here. I must return to my
friends at once."

The old woman looked at the man questioningly. Madge's eyes were also on
him. It did not dawn on her that the fellow could have any reason for
refusing her simple request.

The man shook his head doggedly. "I can't row," he announced.

"Oh, that does not matter," replied Madge. "If you will get me an oar
and come with me, I can do the rowing. I am rested now."

The man grunted unintelligibly, then went on with his breakfast. He paid
no further attention to Madge. The old woman continued her curious

"Won't you try to find me an oar?" asked Madge again.

The man shook his head. His face darkened with anger.

"Then I might as well leave you," declared Madge haughtily. "If you are
so unaccommodating, I will look for some one else." She struggled
wearily to her feet to continue her search. Her body still ached with
the fatigue.

"Don't be rough with her," the old crone spoke from behind Madge.

The young girl felt her arms roughly seized and drawn back. She was
forced to the ground. She struggled at first, but she was powerless. The
man took a small rope and bound her feet together so that she could not
move them. The ropes were not tight. The fellow did not wish to hurt
her, but merely to prevent her getting away.

"You can't leave this place by day, Miss," he announced quietly. "I
can't have anybody following you back here and running me down. When
night comes I'll let you go."

Madge bit her lips. Night! Once more she must wander alone in the
darkness in a vain search for her lost friends. What would they think if
a day, as well as a night, passed with no sign of her?

Her big blue eyes were dark with grief and protest. "Please let me go,"
she entreated. "I promise, on my honor, that I will never show any one
your hiding place, or say that I have seen you. I must get back to my
friends, they will be so frightened." She was shaking with terror and
anger, but she struggled to keep back her tears. Surely the man must
relent and let her go back to the houseboat.

He turned away without paying the least attention to her demands.
Creeping under the pile of underbrush, he lay so still that no one would
have dreamed that a human being was concealed there.

It came over poor Madge, at first dully, then with complete conviction,
that the man whom she had come upon in the woods was a fugitive from
justice--an outlaw hiding from the police.

Madge flung herself down in the warm, soft grass. For the first time in
the seventeen years of her life she cried without any one to care for or
comfort her. Until to-day Eleanor, her uncle or aunt, or one of her
chums--some one--had always been near at hand to soothe her grief. Madge
knew that her own recklessness had got her into this predicament. She
had deserved some of the punishment. But she thought, as a great many
other people do, that she was being judged more severely than her fault

"Here, child," a voice said not unkindly, "bathe your face and eyes.
There's no use crying. We don't mean you no harm. Only you have got to
wait here."

Madge sat up; the old woman, who looked like an aged gypsy, was handing
her a dirty basin filled with a small supply of river water. The woman
evidently went about and got what was necessary for the existence of the
man and herself. At other times she kept guard over his hiding place.

Madge bathed her tired eyes and face. She was glad to have the use of
her hands. She even managed to smile gratefully when the woman offered
her a piece of cornbread and an ear of roasted corn.

She resolved to summon all of her courage and endurance to her aid. She
would not plead or argue again. She would wait patiently until the long
day had passed. Perhaps Tom or David or one of the other boys would see
her skiff on the beach and come to her aid.

The morning went by. No one spoke or moved. Only once the man crawled
out from under the brush for food and water. Then he stole back again.

Madge grew more tired with every hour. It was hard to have to sit still
so long in one place, so she lay down on the grass. She did not go to
sleep, but was drowsy from the heat and fatigue.

The old woman came over to where she lay and stood looking at her sadly.
Her pretty white face, with its crown of sun-kissed hair, gleaming with
red and gold lights, her brilliantly red lips, brought back to this
ugly, time-worn crone the memory of her own youth. Madge always caused
other women to think of their own youth, she was so radiant, so full of
faith and enthusiasm. It was partly because of this that Miss Betsey
Taylor disliked her. Her own springtime had been prim and narrow. She
had wasted the years that Madge was living so abundantly, and
unconsciously Miss Betsey envied Madge.

The little captain saw the old gypsy's little, beady eyes fixed on her.
She tried to sit up, but found herself too tired to do so. The woman
dropped down near her and lifted her up. She had a pack of dirty cards
in her hand. "Want your fortune told, honey?" she asked. "Then cross my
palm with gold." The crone looked narrowly at the single gold seal ring
that Madge wore. It had been a gift to her from her three houseboat

Madge shook her head. "No, thank you," she answered politely, then
listened for the sound of approaching footsteps. She looked up toward
the crest of the hill. "'From whence cometh my strength'," she thought
to herself. But she could not see or hear any one. The little spot where
she was held a prisoner was surrounded with heavy shrubbery and walled
in with ancient trees that had grown on the Virginia hillside for

The woman ran the cards through her withered hands. "Better let me tell
your fortune; never mind the gold." She shook her head and muttered so
mysteriously that Madge's cheeks flushed.

"I see, I see," the gypsy crooned, "many hearts in your fortune, but as
yet few diamonds. And here, there, everywhere there is mystery. You are
always seeking something. I can't tell whether it is a person, or
whether you are only looking for happiness. But you are very restless."
For a long time after this the old woman said nothing more. She sighed
and mumbled to herself. Two or three times she went over her pack of
cards. Madge watched her in fascination.

"Now I see a light-haired and a dark-haired man. They will come together
when you are older. One of them will bring diamonds and the other
spades. Neither are for you, not at first, not at first. I see water all
about you and a fortune in the sea. But be careful, child, be careful.
Go slow and----"

Madge was no longer interested. "There is always a dark man and a light
one in everyone's fortune," she thought wearily. "What a silly old
woman, and what utter nonsense she is talking! Oh, if you would only let
me go away from this place?" she begged aloud.

[Illustration: David Came to Her Rescue.]

At some distance off there was an unmistakable sound of people coming
through the woods. Madge's heart leaped within her. She gave one glad
cry, when the gypsy woman clapped both hands over her mouth. Madge
fought the woman off. She cried out again. The man crept from his hiding
place, half dragging, half pulling Madge behind a thick cluster of
trees, keeping his coarse, heavy hand over her mouth.

Madge heard Phyllis Alden's and David Brewster's voices, yet she could
not call out to them for aid.

She saw some one pull aside the low branch of a tree, then David's face
appeared, discolored with anger as he caught sight of her. Before the
man who had seized her could strike at the boy David had grasped him by
both shoulders and hurled him to the ground.

Whipping out his knife David cut the cords that bound Madge and raising
her to her feet, placed one arm protectingly around her. Her captor had
also risen and stood glowering at David without offering to attack him.
The boy's rage was so terrifying that even this hardened lawbreaker
quailed before it.

"We didn't mean any harm," mumbled the old woman. "You know us, boy. You
know we wouldn't hurt the young lady. You won't say you saw us, will

But ignoring her question David turned to help Madge back to her



It was Miss Betsey Taylor who had first discovered Madge's absence. Just
before daylight she awakened with the feeling that some one had stolen
into her stateroom, for she was dreaming of her lost money. Miss Betsey
sat straight up in bed and looked about her small cabin. There was no
one to be seen.

"Miss Betsey," called Miss Jenny Ann from the berth above, "what is the
matter?" Nor would Miss Jones go back to sleep until she had explored
the houseboat thoroughly.

As she stole into the next cabin where the girls slept she noticed that
Madge was not in her bed. She must have heard the same noise that had
disturbed Miss Betsey, and gone to investigate the cause. But Miss Jenny
Ann could not ascertain the cause of the noise nor did she find Madge on
the decks. She aroused Phil and they sought for her together. Then
Eleanor and Lillian joined them, and Miss Betsey, a prey to curiosity,
came forth to find out what all the commotion was about.

It took a very brief space of time to examine the entire houseboat. The
girls held the lanterns and scurried about, calling "Madge!" It seemed
incredible that she did not answer.

Tom was the first of the boys on the motor launch to be disturbed by the
unusual sounds from the "Merry Maid." His first thought was fire. With a
cry to the other boys on the "Sea Gull" he rushed to the houseboat. But
the appearance of the five young men, who had come to join in the search
for the lost Madge, merely added to the confusion. They tumbled over one
another, and as they were half asleep, most of them did not know what or
whom they were looking for.

"Come on, Brewster," commanded Tom Curtis, "it is absurd to think that
Miss Morton can be anywhere near and not have heard us. It may be she
became restless and went for a little walk on the shore; let us look

David and Tom crept along the river bank, their eyes turned to the
ground. They detected Madge's footprints leading away from the launch
and then returning to the houseboat. The revelation only added to the

There was one thought in the minds of the seekers. Could Madge have
walked in her sleep and fallen over into the water? The river was
shallow along the bank, but she might have been borne by the current out
into the stream. It did not seem a very probable idea. But then, no one
had any possible explanation to offer for the little captain's vanishing
into the night like this. No one had yet seen that the rowboat, too, was

It was an hour after the first alarm, and daylight was beginning to
dawn, when Phyllis Alden heard a noise from Miss Betsey's stateroom. She
went in, to find the old lady seated on her trunk wringing her hands.
She had been awake so long that she was tired and querulous. Her
corkscrew curls were carefully arranged and she was fully dressed. Her
head was bobbing with indignation. "I am perfectly willing to confess
that I am worried about that child," she announced to Phyllis. "But I
knew, as soon as I set my eyes upon her, that wherever Madge Morton went
there was sure to be some kind of excitement. It may not be her fault,
but----" Miss Betsey paused dramatically. "And your father, Phyllis
Alden, was a great goose, and I an even greater one, to trust myself on
this ridiculous houseboat excursion. A rest cure! Good for my nerves to
be among young people!" Miss Betsey fairly snorted. "I shall be a happy
woman when I am safe in my own home again!"

Phyllis hurried into the galley and came back with a glass of milk for
the exhausted old lady. "Come, take a walk around the boat with me,
Miss Betsey," she invited comfortingly. "We can't do anything more to
find Madge until the morning comes."

Phil was always a consolation to persons in trouble, she was so quiet
and steadfast. She wrapped Miss Betsey in a light woolen shawl and
together they walked up and down the little houseboat deck. Phyllis kept
her eyes fixed on the shore. Madge had surely gone out for a walk and
something had detained her. Her loyal friend would not confess even to
herself the uneasiness she really felt.

Miss Betsey and Phil stood for a quiet minute in the stern of the "Merry
Maid," watching the morning break in a splendor of yellow and rose
across the eastern sky. Not far away Miss Jenny Ann was talking to
several of the boys, with her arms about Eleanor and Lillian.

Miss Betsey Taylor glanced down at the mirroring gold and rose of the
water under her feet.

"My gracious, sakes alive, it has gone!" she exclaimed, pointing a
trembling finger toward the river.

"What has gone, Miss Betsey?" inquired Phil. "Don't tell us that
anything else besides Madge has vanished."

"But it has," Miss Betsey Taylor insisted. "Where is that little rowboat
that you girls call the 'Water Witch,' that is always hitched to the
stern of this houseboat? I saw it last night just before I went to bed.
Wherever that child has gone the boat has gone with her."

Everyone crowded around Miss Betsey and Phyllis. Tom and David returned
from their search on the shore. "I am sure I don't know what it all
means," declared Miss Jenny Ann in distracted tones.

"Don't worry so, Miss Jenny Ann," protested Phil. "It only means that
runaway Madge went out for a row by herself on the river last night
after we went to bed." And Phil's voice was not so assured. "Something
must have happened to keep her from getting back home. We shall just
have to look along the river until we find her."

Tom was already aboard his motor launch. It took only a few moments to
get his engine ready for service. "Come on, Sears and Robinson," he
cried, "you can help me by being on the lookout for Miss Morton while I
run the boat. I'll go from one end of the Rappahannock to the other
unless I find her sooner."

"Let me go with you, Tom, please do," pleaded Eleanor, looking very wan
and white in the morning light. "It's too dreadful to wait here on the
houseboat with nothing to do."

Tom nodded his consent. He was too busy to waste time in conversation.
So Harry Sears helped Lillian and Eleanor to the cabin of the "Sea

Tom put on full speed, heading his launch up the river. He had been the
captain of his own boat for several years. To-day he was unusually
excited. The speed limit of his boat was eight knots an hour. Tom tested
his motor engine to the extent of its power as he dashed up the river,
the water churning and foaming under him.

Eleanor, Lillian, Harry and George looked vainly up and down the shore
for a sign of Madge. Tom was going so fast they could see nothing.

"Do, please, go a little slower, Tom," begged Eleanor. "We shall never
find Madge at the rate you are traveling."

It was morning on the river. The river craft were moving up and down.
Steamboats carrying freight and heavy barges loaded with coal made it
necessary for Tom to steer carefully.

The "Sea Gull" slowed down. Every now and then Tom would put in
alongside another boat to inquire if a girl in a rowboat had been seen.
No one gave any news of Madge.

After gliding up the Rappahannock for ten miles, and finding no trace of
the lost girl, Tom decided she must have rowed down stream instead of
up. So the "Sea Gull" turned and went down the river.

The launch's engine was not in the best of humors. It may not have liked
being roused so early in the morning, and David Brewster was not by to
tend it under Tom's careful directions. Every now and then the gasoline
engine would emit a strange, whirring noise. Harry Sears, who was
watching the engine, heard it lose a beat in its regular rhythmical
throb. "See here, Tom," he called suddenly, "something is wrong with
this machinery. I can't tell what it is."

Harry had spoken just in time. The motor launch stopped stock still in
the middle of the river. Tom flew to his beloved engine. "Don't worry,"
he urged cheerfully, "I'll have her started again in a few seconds."

Tom kept doing mysterious things to the disgruntled engine. The two boys
and Lillian watched him in fascinated silence. Eleanor was not
interested. They were only a few miles from the houseboat, and she
wondered if Madge could possibly have returned home.

Eleanor stepped out of the little cabin of the launch toward the fore
part of the boat. Drifting down toward them, directly ahead and in their
straight course, was a line of great coal barges, three or four of them
joined together, with a colored man seated on a pile of coal, idly
smoking and paying little heed to where his barges were going. It was
the place of the smaller boats to get out of his way. The barges could
only float with the current.

But the "Sea Gull" was stock still and there was no way to move her.

"Tom!" Eleanor cried quietly, although her face was as white as her
white gown, "if we don't get out of the way those coal barges will sink
us in a few minutes. You will have to hurry to save the 'Sea Gull'."

Tom sprang up from his work at the engine. Eleanor was right. Yet his
motor engine was hopelessly crippled. He could not make it move.

"Get to work with the paddle, Robinson, and paddle for the shore for
dear life," he commanded, seizing the other oar himself. Tom was a
magnificently built fellow, with broad shoulders and muscles as hard as
iron. He never worked harder in his life than he did for the next few
minutes. The girls and Harry Sears watched Tom and George Robinson in
anxious silence. The coal barges were creeping so near that the "Sea
Gull" was in the shadow they cast.

The two boys had to turn the launch half way around with their paddles
before her nose pointed to the land. The man on the coal barge was
shouting hoarse commands when the side of the first barge passed within
six inches of the stern of Tom's launch.

Tom wiped the perspiration from his face. "I think I had better take the
girls to land," he decided. "Then we can find out what is best to be

"Your automobile boat's busted, ain't it?" inquired a friendly voice as
the entire party, except Tom, piled out of the launch to the land.

A colored boy of about eighteen was standing on the river bank grinning
at them. He held a piece of juicy watermelon in his hand.

Eleanor and Lillian eyed it hungrily. They suddenly remembered that they
had had no breakfast.

"The young ladies had better come up to my ole missus's place?" the boy
invited hospitably. "They look kind of petered out. I spect it will take
some time to fix up your boat."

The entire company of young people looked up beyond the sloping river
bank to the farm country back of it. There, on the crest of a small
hill, was a beautiful old Virginia homestead, painted white, with green
shutters and a broad, comfortable porch in front of it. It looked like
home to Eleanor. "Yes; suppose we go up there to rest, Lillian," pleaded
Eleanor. "If Tom can't get his engine mended, we can row back to the
houseboat in a little while."

David Brewster and Phyllis Alden had not waited quietly on the "Merry
Maid" while Tom and his launch party went out in search of Madge.

Five minutes after the "Sea Gull" moved away David left the houseboat
and went on shore.

"Where are you going, David?" called Phyllis after him.

"I am going to look for Miss Morton along the river bank," he answered
in a surly fashion. "Anybody ought to know that if an accident happened
to her rowboat, the boat would have drifted in to the land."

"I am going along with David Brewster, Miss Jenny Ann," announced Phil.
"It's mean to leave you and Miss Betsey alone, but I simply can't stay

David's face grew dark and sullen. "I won't have a girl poking along
with me," he muttered.

"You will have me," returned Phyllis cheerfully. "I won't be in your
way. I can keep up with you."

At first David did not pay the least attention to Phyllis, who kept
steadily at his heels. Phyllis could not but wonder what was the matter
with this fellow, who was so strange and taciturn until something
stirred him to action.

Only once, when Phil stumbled along a steep incline, David looked back.
"You had better go home, Miss Alden," he remarked more gently. "I'll
find Miss Morton and bring her to you." And Phil, as Madge had been at
another time, was comforted by the boy's assurance.

"I am not tired," she answered, just as gently, "I would rather go on."

At one o'clock David made Phyllis sit down. He disappeared for a few
minutes, but came back with his hands full of peaches and grapes. He had
some milk in a rusty tin cup that he always carried.

"Did some one give this to you?" asked Phil gratefully.

David shook his head. "Stole it," he answered briefly. Phil, who could
see that David was torn with impatience for them to resume their march,
ate the fruit and drank the milk without protest.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon, when David spied the "Water
Witch," drawn up on the river bank out of the reach of the water. Some
unknown force must have led him to Madge's hiding place in the woods.

Afterward he made no explanation either to Phyllis or Madge of his
unexpected acquaintance with the man who had kept Madge a prisoner, and
neither girl asked him any questions.

David managed to get the "Water Witch" out into the river with the
single oar, and a party of young people in another skiff, seeing their
plight, brought them safely home to the houseboat.



"I should dearly love it," declared Eleanor.

"I think it would be a great lark," agreed Lillian.

"Are you sure you would like it, Miss Betsey?" asked Phyllis and Miss
Jenny Ann in the same breath.

"I certainly should," Miss Betsey asserted positively.

Madge was unusually silent. She had been in such deep disgrace since her
escapade, both with Miss Taylor and Miss Jenny Ann, that she felt she
had no right to express her opinion in regard to any possible plan. But
her eyes were dancing under her long lashes, which she kept discreetly

Miss Taylor had just suggested that, in view of the fact that Tom Curtis
was obliged to take his motor launch to the nearest large town to have
it repaired, and their excursion up the river must cease for a time, the
houseboat party desert the river bank and spend ten days or more farther

George Robinson had offered to go back with Tom. David Brewster
expected to do as he was ordered, but Harry Sears and Jack Bolling
positively refused to give up their holiday. And there was no room for
them on the houseboat.

Eleanor and Lillian had come back from the old farmhouse, where they had
spent the day before, filled with enthusiasm. Mr. and Mrs. Preston were
the most delightful people they had ever met. Their house was filled
with the loveliest old mahogany and silver, and they had no visitors and
no family. Eleanor was sure that, if she begged her prettiest, Mrs.
Preston could be persuaded to take them all in her home until Tom came
back with his motor launch.

"You see, Jenny Ann," entreated Eleanor, with her hands clasped
together, "every year Mr. Preston has the most wonderful entertainment.
He told us all about it. In August he gives what he calls 'The Feast of
the Corn.' All the country people for miles around come to it. He asked
me to bring every member of our party over for it at the end of the
week. It's just like Hiawatha's feast. Do let's ask them to take us in,
if only for a little while."

Miss Betsey Taylor's New England imagination was fired. The house that
Eleanor described was just such a Virginia home as she had dreamed of in
her earlier days. She must see it. Also, Lillian had related the story
of a wonderful sulphur well not many miles from the Preston estate.
Miss Betsey was sure that sulphur water would be good for her nerves.

Two days later the entire party stood out on the deck of the "Merry
Maid" to see Tom and George Robinson start off with their broken-down
motor launch before the rest of the party moved over to wait for them at
the Preston farm.

"I am so sorry, Tom," apologized Madge, with her eyes full of remorse.
"It is really my fault that you will have to miss this part of our
holiday. I wish I could go back with the boat instead of you. Can't you
send David and stay here with us?"

Tom shook his head. He was ashamed of his previous grumbling. "Of course
not. It wasn't your fault. The engine would have broken down just the
same if I hadn't been searching the river for you. But I must see to its
being mended myself, and Robinson is a brick to go along with me. I
shall have no use for Brewster. Perhaps, after all, we may be able to
get back in time for the Indian feast. Good-bye, Madge."

A few minutes after the launch was seen moving back down the river,
being ignominiously towed by an old horse, the same gay craft that had
proudly advanced up the stream only a few days before with the "Merry
Maid" in her wake.

The houseboat party waved Tom and George a sad farewell, and then
promptly forgot almost all about them in the excitement of moving their
clothes and a few other possessions up to the farm, Eleanor having
persuaded the Prestons to take them for a few days as boarders.

Mrs. Preston drove down in her own phaeton to take Miss Betsey and Miss
Jenny Ann home with her. A farm hand came with a wagon for the trunks.
But the young people decided to walk. The Preston house was only two
miles away from the houseboat landing. Sam, the colored boy, who had
been Lillian's and Eleanor's original guide to the farm, had been
engaged to show them the way.

The houseboat party formed a gay procession. None of the four girls wore
hats. Lillian and Eleanor, who took some care of their complexions,
carried pink and blue parasols to match their linen gowns, but Madge and
Phil bared their heads to the sun, as did Harry Sears, Jack Bolling and

Sam lugged a lunch basket, which Mrs. Preston had sent down to the
party; and David, who kept in the rear, carried a dress suit case that
had accidentally been left behind.

Most of the road ran past meadows and orchards, with few houses in
sight. The ripening fruits made the air heavy with their summer
sweetness. David was shy and silent, as usual, but the others were in
gay humor.

Beyond a broken-down rail fence Phil espied a tree laden with luscious
peaches. Farther on, past the orchard, she could just catch the outline
of a house.

"Let's get some fruit, Jack?" Phil suggested to Bolling, who was walking
with her. They both climbed over the fence.

"Wait a minute, everybody," Phil called. "Wouldn't you like to go up to
the old house back there to ask for some water. I am nearly dead, I am
so thirsty."

"Don't go in that thar place," Sam entreated, turning around suddenly,
his brown face ashen, "and don't eat them peaches. The house is a ha'nt
and them peaches is hoodooed."

Eleanor and Madge burst into peals of laughter. The other young people,
who were not Southerners, smiled and stared.

"What is a hoodoo, Sam?" Harry Sears, whose home was in Boston, inquired

Sam scratched his head. "I can't splain it," he announced. "But you'll
know a hoodoo all right if it gets hold of you. That young lady and
man'll sure have bad luck if they eat them peaches. Nobody'll touch 'em
around here."

"A hoodoo is a kind of wicked charm, like the evil eye, Harry," Madge
explained, her eyes twinkling. "All we Southerners believe in it, don't
we, Sam? Go and warn Miss Alden and Mr. Bolling, David. They must not
bring bad luck on themselves without knowing it." Madge had not meant to
order David Brewster to do what she wished; she merely requested him to
take her message, as she would any one of the other boys.

David looked stolidly ahead and made Madge no answer. He was in a black
humor. He had reasons of his own for not wishing to stay near the place
where he had discovered Madge. He had hoped that Tom would take him down
the river in the motor launch, but Tom had believed that he was doing
David a favor by allowing him to remain with the others to enjoy the
holiday on the farm.

"Don't you hear Miss Morton, Brewster?" shouted Harry Sears angrily.
"She told you to tell Miss Alden something." Harry Sears was always
particularly disagreeable with David. To-day his anger seemed justified.

A wave of crimson swept over David's brown face. He looked as though he
would have liked to leap on Harry Sears and throw him into the dust.
Only the presence of the girls and Madge's quick action deterred him.

"Never mind anybody telling Phil and Jack," she added quietly. "It's too
late to save them now. Besides, I want a peep at Sam's 'ha'nted house'
and a drink of water from the ghost's well. So follow me, good people,
if you are not afraid."

Phyllis and Jack Bolling led the way to the haunted house, as the place
had been their discovery. The old house had been a beautiful one in its
day. It was built of shingles that had mellowed to the beautiful shade
of gray that only time can give. The front door hung loosely on its
hinges. Spider-webs obscured the windows, with their narrow diamond
panes of broken glass. Rank weeds grew everywhere and poison ivy hung in
long branches from the ancient trees. To the left, where the old garden
had once been, there was a glory of scarlet poppies and cornflowers
growing amid the weeds. Their triumphant beauty had repeated itself year
after year here in this neglected spot with no one to marvel at it.
Madge, Eleanor and Lillian gathered great bunches of the red and blue
flowers. Phyllis and Jack discovered the well, with its crystal cold
water. Harry Sears prowled about near the old house, with Sam at his
heels. The boy was frightened, but too faithful to desert his party.
David kept at some distance from the others.

"Don't you think this a good place to eat the luncheon Mrs. Preston has
given us?" Harry called out, poised on the broken steps that led up to
the tumbled-down front porch. "The well is here to supply us with water
and I'm jolly hungry."

The houseboat travelers formed a circle on the grass just in front of
the old house. Sam spread out the luncheon. It was a warm day, the
clouds hung low in the sky and the garden was humming with honey-full

There was nothing mysterious about the place that Sam described as
"ha'nted," except that it was entirely deserted.

Harry Sears reached out for a sandwich. "Tell us why this old house is
supposed to be inhabited by ghosts, Sam," he ordered.



"It all happened such a long time ago I can't zactly call to mind the
whole story," confessed Sam. "But they was two brothers that owned this
here old place. They was in the war and fought side by side. Then they
lived here together, peaceful, for a long time. One of them was married
and the other wasn't, but it didn't seem to make no difference. All of a
sudden they fell out, and after a while one of the brothers died,
mysterious like. The live man went away from here and he hasn't been
heard of since. But they do say," Sam shivered and looked fearfully at
the dilapidated mansion, "that the murdered man still walks around this
here place at night. People even claim to see him in the daytime.
Sometimes he is by himself, and then again he brings a lady-ghost with
him, but there ain't nobody ever lived in this here house since them two
brothers fell out," Sam concluded, mightily pleased with the gruesome
impression that his tale had made on his hearers.

"I should think not," agreed Lillian Seldon hastily. "I don't like ghost

"I am sorry, Lillian, because I know a perfectly stunning one that is as
true as history," declared Harry Sears. "If we had time, and Lillian
didn't mind, I was going to tell it to you while we rested."

Madge put her arm around Lillian. "Do tell it, Harry," she begged. "I'll
protect Lillian from the 'ghosties.'"

The other young people clamored for the ghost story.

Harry looked serious. "My story isn't a joke," he announced. "It hasn't
a beginning or much of an end, like ordinary ghost stories, but it is
true. The people to whom the ghost appeared are great friends of my
mother and father. Somehow this deserted place here makes me think of
the one down on Cape Cod. That house was also uninhabited for years and
years, and no one knew exactly why, except that there were rumors that
the place was haunted. One day a Mr. Peabody, of Boston, an old friend
of ours, went down to Cape Cod to look for a home for the summer. The
ghost house was what he wanted, so he rented it and left orders for it
to be fixed up. He didn't know about the ghosts, though, and he wondered
why the real estate agent let him have the place so cheaply. Mr. Peabody
was a bachelor, so he asked two friends, Captain Smith and his wife, to
occupy the house with him for the summer."

"Oh, trot out your ghosts, Harry. We are getting impatient," interposed
Jack Bolling.

"The first day that Mrs. Smith was alone in the house," continued Harry,
"she was in the sitting room with the door open when a fragile old lady
passed right through the hall. She disappeared into space. That very
same night, just at midnight, when Mr. Peabody, Captain Smith and his
wife were in the library, they heard the fall of a heavy body upstairs
on the second floor. Captain Smith and Mr. Peabody rushed up the steps
just in time to see an old man, leading a young girl by the hand, enter
a room where the door was locked. When they got the door unfastened
there was no one in the room."

"Harry, don't go on with that horrible tale," entreated Lillian, looking
timidly up at the dusty windows of the old house, under whose shadow
they had taken refuge. The sun was no longer shining brightly, but the
shade was grateful to the little circle of listeners on the grass.

"Don't be such a goose, Lillian," protested Phil. "What have Harry's
Massachusetts ghosts to do with us way down here in 'ole Virginny'?"

Lillian gave a shriek. The entire company sprang to their feet,
scattering sandwiches, cakes and pickles on the grass. Inside the empty
house there had been a distinct noise. Something had fallen heavily to
the floor.

At the same instant David, who had been apart from the others, appeared
around the corner of the house.

"Whew, I am glad it was you who made that racket, Brewster!" declared
Jack Bolling, grinning rather foolishly.

The young people looked at one another with relieved expressions.

"I'm so grateful it isn't night time," sighed Eleanor.

"I didn't make any noise," declared David, seeming rather confused. No
one paid any attention to his reply. They were again clustered about
Harry Sears, begging him to go on with his ghost story.

"Things went from bad to worse in the house I was telling you about,"
continued Harry. "Every night, at the same hour, the same noise was
heard and the old man and the girl reappeared. Why, once Mr. Peabody was
sitting in his garden, just as we are doing here"--Harry glanced across
the old garden. Was it a branch that stirred behind the tangle of
evergreen bushes? The day was very still--"and he saw the same old man
walk by him and enter his house through a closed side door. After
awhile Mrs. Smith became ill from the strain and she sent for a
physician who had been living in the neighborhood a long time. The
doctor did not wish to come to see Mrs. Smith just at first. When he did
he related his own experience in the same house years before. He had
just moved into the neighborhood, as a young physician, when one night,
at about midnight, he was aroused by some one ringing his bell. An old
man asked the doctor to come with him at once, as a young girl, his
grand-daughter, was dangerously ill. Dr. Block went with the old
gentleman. He found the young girl, dying with consumption, in a room on
the second floor of a house. An old lady was with her, but the doctor
saw no one else. He wrote a prescription, put it on the mantel-piece and
said he would come back in the morning."

Harry stopped talking. A distant roll of thunder interrupted him.

"Do hurry, Harry; we must be off!" exclaimed Jack Bolling.

"The next morning the doctor went back to the same house. It was closed
and boarded up, and the caretaker told the physician that no one had
lived in the house for many years. The doctor was indignant, so the
caretaker opened the door and let Dr. Block into the house, so he could
see for himself that it was empty. The hall was covered with dust, but
a single pair of footprints could be seen going from the hall door to
the bedroom on the second floor. The old man had left no tracks. The
physician entered the room, which was empty. There was no old man, no
old woman, no sick girl, not even a bed, but"--Harry made a dramatic
pause--"the doctor walked over to the mantel-piece and there lay the
prescription that he had written the night before!"

"Oh, my! Oh, my!" exclaimed Lillian. She was on her feet, pointing with
trembling fingers toward a window of the old house which was back of the
rest of the party. "I am sure I saw a face at that window," she cried.
"No one will believe me, but I did, I did! It was a girl's face, too,
very white and thin. Please take me away from here."

Madge slipped her arms about the frightened Lillian. For an instant she
almost believed that she, too, had seen the specter that must have been
born of Lillian's overwrought imagination as a result of the ghost
stories she had just heard.

Madge and Lillian led the way down the tangled path from the haunted
house. They were some distance from the others when the little captain
discovered that David was following them. She had not looked at him, not
spoken to him since he had so rudely refused her simple request.

Now she walked on, with her head in the air. Lillian did not like David,
but now she was almost sorry for the boy: she knew the weight of Madge's
displeasure. "David Brewster wants to speak to you, Madge, dear," she
whispered in her friend's ear.

Madge made no answer, nor glanced behind her.

"Miss Morton!"--David's face was very white; he was bitterly ashamed--"I
am sorry, beastly sorry, I was so rude to you this morning. I was angry,
not with you, but about something else. I don't seem to know how to
control my temper. Perhaps it is because I am not a gentleman. I would
do anything I knew how to serve you." David was not looking at Madge,
but on the ground in front of him.

Madge's expression cleared as though by magic. "Never mind, David," she
said impulsively. "Let's not think anything more about it. I lose my
temper quite as often as any one else. And don't say it is because you
are not a gentleman; you _are_ a gentleman, if you wish to be."

The other young people came hurrying on. The clouds were now heavy
overhead and the thunder seemed ominously near. The lightning began to
streak in forked flames across the summer sky.

"I think everybody had better run for the farm," suggested Phyllis. "Sam
says it is only a short distance away."

No one cared to linger any longer in the deserted grounds. The story of
the tragic old house, oddly mixed as it was with Harry Sears's ghostly
tale and Lillian's fancied apparition of a girl's white face at the
window, did not leave a pleasant recollection of the morning spent near
Sam's "ha'nted house."



"Minnehaha, Laughing Water, otherwise known as Madge Morton, you are the
loveliest person I ever saw," announced Phyllis Alden, while Eleanor and
Lillian gazed at Madge in her Indian costume with equally admiring eyes.

"See, here is the description of Minnehaha. Doesn't it sound like
Madge?" Phil went on, reading from a volume of Longfellow:

    "'Wayward as the Minnehaha,
      With her moods of shade and sunshine,
      Eyes that smiled and frowned alternate,
      Feet as rapid as the river,
      Tresses flowing like the water,
      And as musical a laughter.'"

Phyllis paused and Madge swept her a low curtsey. "Thank you, Phil," she
said, her blue eyes suddenly misty at her chum's compliment.

It was the day of the great corn feast on the Preston estate, and Madge
had been selected to appear in the costume of Minnehaha and to read to
the guests certain parts of Hiawatha that referred to the Indian legend
of the corn.

All the young people were to appear in the guise of Indians. Phyllis,
with her olive skin, black eyes and hair, made a striking Pocahontas.

Phil looked more like an Indian maiden than Madge, but Madge had more
dramatic skill. Lillian, with her hair as yellow as the corn, was the
paleface princess stolen by the Indians in her babyhood. Eleanor wore an
Indian costume, also, but she represented no especial character.

Much against his will David Brewster impersonated Hiawatha. He hated it.
He did not wish to come to the entertainment at all, much less in the
conspicuous position of the hero of the evening. But Mr. Preston had
taken a deep fancy to David. He seemed not to mind the boy's queer,
moody ways, and he had a great respect for his practical judgment. Mr.
Preston had asked David to remain in his service when the houseboat
party disbanded, but David, for reasons that he would not tell, had
refused. The boy did not think he could decline to impersonate Hiawatha
when Mr. Preston considered that he had paid him a compliment in asking
him. In spite of his embarrassment David Brewster was a good
representation of a young Indian brave, with his swarthy skin, his dark
eyes that flashed fire when his anger was aroused, and his vigorous,
muscular body, made lean and hard by his work in the open fields.

In the middle of the Preston estate, between the orchards and the
cornfields, a huge platform had been erected with a small stage at one
end. The place was decorated with sheaves of wheat, oats and barley,
with great stacks of green and yellowing corn standing in the four
corners. The platform was filled with chairs and hung with lanterns,
some of them made from hollowed-out gourds and pumpkins, to carry out
the harvest idea. After the reading of Hiawatha the platform was to be
cleared and the young people were to have a dance.

The invitations to the feast read for six o'clock. At seven a dozen open
wood fires were roasting the green ears of corn for more than a hundred
guests. The long tables under the trees in the yard were laden with
every kind of delicious food.

But Madge wished the feast was over and her poem read. Her knees were
knocking together when she rose to read before so many people.

The August moon was in the full. It was a golden night. In a semi-circle
behind her crowded her friends from the houseboat party. They formed an
Indian tableau in the background, and David stood near her at the front
of the stage.

    "And in rapture Hiawatha
    Cried aloud, 'It is Mondamin!'"

read Madge, with a shy glance at the young Hiawatha standing beside her.

At this moment there crept up on the platform an old woman, so old that
the audience stared at one another in amazement. They believed that the
strange visitor was a part of the performance. David and Madge knew
better. David's face turned white as chalk, but Madge's voice never
faltered as she went on with the reading:

    "'Yes, the friend of man, Mondamin!
      Then he called to old Nokomis'."

The old woman's presence was explained to at least those of the audience
who were familiar with the story of Hiawatha. The ancient gypsy woman
who had appeared on the stage among the young people so unexpectedly was
"old Nokomis," Hiawatha's grandmother, one of the principal characters
in Longfellow's poem.

The moment that Madge finished her recitation David Brewster
disappeared. But the old gypsy went about among the Prestons' guests,
keeping their attention engaged by telling their fortunes.

The gypsy woman was not the only mysterious visitor at the famous corn
feast. Madge and Lillian were dancing with two young country boys when
two Indian braves unexpectedly appeared in the midst of the guests. They
had on extremely handsome Indian costumes and their faces were
completely covered with Indian masks. They spoke in strange, guttural
voices, so that no one could guess who they were.

Madge and Lillian tried in vain to escape them. Wherever the girls went
the Indian chiefs followed them.

As the evening progressed Madge grew very tired. The apparition of the
old woman, whom she had seen before on the day when she was held a
prisoner in the woods, had made her nervous. She longed to ask Phil if
she also recalled the face of the old woman.

"Miss Jenny Ann," Madge kept a tight hold on Phil's hand, "Phyllis and I
are a little tired. We are going away by ourselves to rest. You and Miss
Betsey won't be frightened about us?" Madge gave her chaperon a
repentant hug and Miss Jenny Ann smiled at her. The little captain had
promised never to wander off again without saying where she was going.

The fires where the corn had been roasted were still burning dimly. The
girls made a circuit of the fires and went over into another nearby
field, where a haystack formed a good hiding place. There they dropped
down on the ground and Madge, who was more easily tired than Phil, laid
her head in her chum's lap.

No matter how much Phyllis and Madge enjoyed parties and people, they
were never happier than when they could stroll off to have a quiet talk
with each other. The two girls were splendid associates. Phil had the
calm sweetness, poise and good sense that impetuous Madge often lacked,
while Madge had the fire and ardor that Phyllis needed to give her

"I wish Tom and George Robinson were here at the farm to-night, Phil!"
exclaimed Madge, after a short pause, giving a little sigh.

Phyllis looked at her chum closely. The moonlight shone full in Madge's
wistful blue eyes. Phil patted her hand by way of sympathy.

"You see, Phil, it is like this," went on Madge. "I feel sorry about
Tom, because I was really responsible for making him break his engine
and spoiling a part of his holiday. If I had not run away by myself in
the moonlight, Tom might have been here with us. It seems to me that I
am having a perfectly lovely time, while poor Tom is being punished for
my fault. It isn't fair."

"Sh-sh!" Phyllis put her fingers gently over her friend's lips. Some one
was stealing quietly past them on the other side of the haystack. He
disappeared in the darkness, a little way off, and the girls supposed
that he was one of the Prestons' guests escaping from the crowd.

A few minutes later Phil exclaimed: "Madge, is that one of the fires
from the corn roast over there? I did not think that there was any corn
roasted so near to Mr. Preston's barn."

Madge glanced idly across the field. The girls were at one side of the
group of buildings where Mr. Preston kept his live stock. She saw a tiny
jet of flame, apparently running along near the ground. Both watchers
stared at it silently. A larger flame crawled up the outside wall of the
barn, then smoke began to pour out through the cracks.

The two girls sprang to their feet. "One of the barns has caught fire!"
cried Phil. "I'll find Mr. Preston. You give the alarm to the men about
the place." Phil ran toward the festival grounds.

As Madge turned she heard a slight sound behind her. Some one was coming
toward her, moving cautiously over the grass. She slipped to one side
of the haystack so that she could see who it was. "Why, David Brewster!"
she cried, "what are you doing way off here? Quick! hurry! Phil and I
think Mr. Preston's barn is afire!"

David set his teeth in rage as he sped across the field with Madge close
at his heels. He had taken off his Indian costume, but his face was
still stained and painted in Indian fashion, so that it gave him a wild,
unnatural appearance. Instead of stopping at the barn David, without a
word of explanation, ran on to the Preston house.

Madge found a crowd of men already gathered about the burning barn. Mr.
Preston had formed a bucket brigade and a dozen men were passing buckets
from the well to the fire. Half a dozen of the more valorous men, three
of them farm-hands, were fighting their way into the barn, leading,
driving, or coaxing out the terrified horses and cattle.

Mr. Preston stood at the barn door, giving commands to the workers.

By this time the hay in the loft had caught and the whole barn was a
seething mass of fire. Mrs. Preston stood near the scene, with Madge and
Phil on either side of her. David Brewster suddenly joined them. No one
noticed his peculiar expression.

"Let the barn go, men!" shouted Mr. Preston. "Quick, out of it! It will
fall in a minute. We have saved the other buildings, and we must let
this go."

"Oh, my poor Fanny!" wailed Mrs. Preston, as though she were talking of
a human being. Fanny was a beloved old horse that had belonged to Mrs.
Preston for twelve years. She had driven her in her phaeton nearly every
day in all this time and loved the old horse almost as a member of the

Madge felt sure that Mr. Preston could not know that Fanny was still in
the burning barn. The little captain broke away from her friends and
made a rush toward the smoke and flames. Mr. Preston was within a few
feet of the partially consumed building. From the inside of the barn
came a groan of anguish and terror that was human in its appeal. Mr.
Preston covered his face with his hands. "Don't try it, men," he
commanded authoritatively; "the old mare can't be saved. It is useless
to try to go into the barn now."

Madge could no longer endure the piteous sounds. She made a headlong
plunge toward the barn door. She could not see her way inside, but the
noise that the horse was making would guide her, she thought.

Just at the threshold of the barn she felt herself shoved aside and
hurled several feet out of harm's way. She fell backward on the ground
and lay still. It was David who had flung her from the reach of the
fire's scorching heat and plunged into the barn in her stead.

The crowd watched the brave young man in horrified silence. Seconds that
seemed ages passed. The front of the barn collapsed. Madge felt Mr.
Preston seize her and drag her away with him, but not before she and all
the watchers had caught sight of David. He stood in the far corner of
the barn with his coat thrown over the terrified horse's head. His face
was almost unrecognizable through the smoke, but the ringing tones of
his voice urging the old horse forward could be heard above the
crackling wood.

"Hurrah!" shouted Mr. Preston hoarsely. He almost trampled over Madge,
who was sitting on the ground staring wildly at David. Then she saw Mr.
Preston and a half dozen other men pick David up on their shoulders and
bear him away from the crowd, while two of the farm-hands took charge of
old Fanny.

David's burns, though not serious, were painful. His hands and arms were
severely blistered. But the excitement occasioned by the fire had hardly
passed when it was discovered that during the fire some one had entered
the Preston house and had stolen a quantity of old family silver. Miss
Betsey Taylor's money bag, which she had carefully concealed under the
day pillow on her four-post mahogany bed, had also disappeared.

There would probably never be any way to discover how or when the thief
entered the house. There had been more than a hundred visitors about the
place, and the house had been open for hours. During the fire every one
of the servants had rushed into the yard.

There was also another disturbing fact to be considered. Either before
or after the fire the old gypsy woman, who had unexpectedly appeared to
take the character part of old Nokomis in the Hiawatha recitation, had
completely vanished; also, the two men disguised as Indian braves had

The Prestons and their guests discussed all these pertinent features of
the affair until long after midnight. Miss Betsey wept and mourned over
the loss of her money bag, and dolefully repeated that she wished she
had never, never heard of a houseboat. The four girls and Miss Jenny Ann
became thoroughly disgusted with the disgruntled spinster's selfish
bewailing of her own loss, when the Prestons, who had met with a much
heavier loss, were heroically making light of their misfortune.

Madge also had a private grievance, one that was quite her own. David
had behaved roughly, almost brutally, toward her when she had tried to
dash into the burning barn. She decided that she did not in the least
like David, and that she was not at all grateful to him for literally
hurling her out of harm's way.

As for David himself, he had slipped away from the men who had borne him
in triumph on their shoulders and, in spite of the pain of his burns,
was striding across the fields in the direction of the woods with angry
eyes and sternly set mouth.



In the days that followed David kept more than ever to himself. He
occupied a small room alone, and for hours at a time he would stay
inside it, with his door locked against intruders. Few sounds ever came
forth to show what the lad was doing. His hands and arms were bandaged
almost to the elbows, but he had use of his fingers and his face was

Madge had forced herself to thank David, both for his rescue of her and
of the old horse, which she had intended to save. But David had not had
the courtesy to apologize to her for having thrown her aside so roughly.
He wished to, but the poor fellow did not know what to say to her, nor
how to say it.

The girls had all offered to read to David, or to entertain him in any
way he desired, while he was suffering from his burns. But the boy had
refused their offers so flatly that no one of them felt any wish to be
agreeable to him again.

The young people spent a great part of their holiday on the Preston farm
in riding horseback by daylight and by moonlight, and in exploring the
old salt and sulphur springs and mines in the neighborhood. Word had
come from Tom Curtis and George Robinson that the accident to the engine
of the motor launch had been more serious than they had at first
supposed. The boys would be compelled to remain away some time longer.
Mrs. Curtis wished to see Tom on business, so he had gone on to New York
for a few days.

Since the corn roast, the burning of his barn and the burglarizing of
his house Mr. Preston had been quietly endeavoring to discover the
evil-doers. He had notified the county sheriff and the latter had set
his men to work on the case, but so far there were no clues. Mr. Preston
believed that the same person who had set fire to the barn had committed
the robbery. The barn, must have been burned in order to keep the
attention of the family and guests centered on the outside disaster
while the thief was exploring the house.

Madge did not like to mention to Mr. Preston that David Brewster might
be able to give him some information about the burglary; for Madge
remembered having seen David run toward the house at about the time the
fire was started. He did not come back for some minutes afterward. Yet,
as David did not speak of his presence in the house to Mr. Preston or
to any one else, she did not feel that it was her place to speak of it.
David might have some reason for his silence which he would explain
later on.

Miss Betsey Taylor was now more than ever convinced that the same thief
who had robbed her of various small sums on the houseboat had but
completed his work. How the robber had pursued her to Mr. Preston's home
she did not explain. But she certainly cast aside with scorn Madge's
suggestion that no one had stolen from her while she was aboard the
"Merry Maid." She had only miscounted her money, as many a woman has
done before, Madge had contended. Miss Betsey had been fearful that the
little captain might be right before the final disappearance of her
money bag. But now she regretted, far more than her money, the loss of
the few family jewels that she had inherited from her thrifty New
England grandmothers.

David Brewster stood at his little back window, watching Madge, Phyllis,
Lillian, Eleanor, Harry Sears and Jack Bolling mount their horses for a
long afternoon's ride over to some old sulphur springs a few miles from
the Preston estate. The party was to eat supper at the springs and to
ride home before bed time. Mrs. Preston, Miss Jenny Ann and Miss Betsey
Taylor were already driving out of the yard in Mrs. Preston's old
phaeton. They were to be the advance guard of the riding party, as no
one except their hostess knew the route they should take.

Mrs. Preston had invited David to drive with her, as he was not able to
use his injured hands sufficiently to guide a riding horse, but David
had refused. The party were to be away for some time. Mr. Preston would
be out on the farm, looking after his harvesting. David Brewster had
other plans for the afternoon.

Once the others were fairly out of the yard the boy found an old slouch
hat in his shabby suit case. He pulled it well down over his face. Then
he got into an old coat that he had been ashamed to wear before the new
friends, but it served his present purpose. Inside his coat pocket David
thrust a small, flat object that, in some form, always accompanied him
whenever there was a possible chance of his being alone for any length
of time.

Then David left the farm. He said good-bye to no one. To one of the
maids who saw him leaving he merely explained that he was going for a
walk. He did not ask for food to take with him. His one idea was to be
off as soon as possible.

The boy was not entirely certain of the route that he must travel. He
knew of but one way to go, and it stretched over many miles. It might
mean delay and difficulty. David was not as strong as he had been before
the shock and injury of the fire. Still, the thing must be done. It was
not the physical effort that worried David.

The trip seemed interminable. The lad had to travel along the road that
led back to the houseboat, and from there to follow the line of the
river bank to a well-remembered spot. David swung along as rapidly as
possible. His greatest desire was to make his journey and to return to
the farm before the riding party got home. He might then have an
explanation to make. What could he say if anybody demanded to know where
he had been? His silence would create suspicion. But then, David had
kept his own counsel before to-day.

It was well into the afternoon before the boy reached his destination.
Slowly and cautiously, making as little noise as possible, he climbed a
hill that rose before him. The crest of the hill was heavily wooded and
a high pile of sticks and branches formed a clever hiding place. But
there was no human being in sight, no old woman, no man, no sign of a
fire except a few ashes that had been carefully scattered over the

When the youth reached the top he stood still and looked cautiously
about him. He could hear the rush of the river below the hill and the
rustle of the wind in the trees. He crouched low and put his ear to the
ground, like an Indian, then rose and, with a frown, went to the brush
heap and crawled under it. Presently he came out, holding in his hand a
small red handkerchief which was knotted and tied together. David's face
was very stern. It seemed that something which he had feared had come
true; yet the lad turned and went down the hill again, whistling and
kicking at the underbrush and shrubbery as he walked, as though he were
trying to make as much noise as possible. Ten minutes later David came
back up the hill by another route as quietly as some creature of the
woods in hiding from a foe. Behind a tree the boy lay down flat. He took
out of his pocket the small package that he had brought with him from
the farm and, holding it before him, seemed to lose himself completely
in earnest contemplation of it.

After a while some one else drew near the same place, walking even more
stealthily than had the boy. David did not stir nor turn his head. He
was hidden by the trees. An old woman crept to the pile of underbrush.
She crawled under it and stayed for some time. When she came out she had
forgotten to be silent; she was mumbling and muttering to herself.

"Granny," David touched the gypsy woman on the shoulder.

"Is it you, boy?" she asked, riveting her small black eyes on him. "How
came you to Virginia? We thought that you were many hundreds of miles
away. It's a pity!" She shook her head. "Fate is too strong for us all,"
she muttered to herself.

"I am sure I am as sorry as you are that I am here," David interrupted
her passionately. "But perhaps you are right, and it is fate. I came to
Virginia because I had work to do here. Where is _he_?"

"I don't know. I ain't seen him but once since," answered the woman.

David laughed rather drearily. "Don't try to fool me. You've got to tell
me the truth before I go away from here. You might as well do it first
as last."

The old woman looked furtively and anxiously at the heap of dead
branches. "I _am_ telling you the truth," she asserted.

"Where is he, Granny?" continued David. "I've got to find him."

"You _ain't_ got to find him," protested the old woman. "You can't give
him away, and it won't do no good. Ain't you his----" She stopped
short. "You can't make him change now; it is too late."

"I don't want to talk; I've got to get back," returned David quietly.
"If you don't tell me where he is, I'll give the alarm and have the
country scoured for him."

The old woman whispered something in David's ear. "I am not sure he is
there, but I think that's the place. I know we can trust you, boy, for
all your high and mighty ways."

"You had better get away from here, Granny," answered David. "You are
too old for this sort of life, and some day you will get into trouble."

The gypsy's hand moved patiently. "It's the only kind of life I have
been used to for many, many years. I don't mind, so long as he keeps on
getting off."

David strode down the hill. It was just before sunset. He was beginning
to doubt his being able to make his way back to the Preston place before
the picnic party came home. He could not walk so fast as he had come,
for he was tired and disheartened.

After a few miles' journey along the river bank he came to a bend where
he could see, farther ahead, the "Merry Maid," the poor little
houseboat, looking as deserted and lonely as David felt. Her decks were
cleared and her cabins locked until the return of the houseboat party.
She was being taken care of by a colored boy who lived not far away.

David felt a sudden rush of longing. The houseboat was filled with happy
memories of the girls. He was tired out and exhausted. He must rest
somewhere. The boy climbed aboard the houseboat. But he did not rest. He
walked feverishly up and down the deck.

An overwhelming impulse never to return to the Preston farm swept over
David. The love of wandering was in his blood. To-day he did not feel
fit to associate with the girls and boys who made up the two boat
parties. He ought never to have come with them. His lowly birth and lack
of training were against him. David knew that trouble, and perhaps
disgrace, might be in store for him if he went back to Mr. Preston's and
faced what was probably going to happen.

The poor boy wrestled with temptation. Mr. and Mrs. Preston had been
good to him. Miss Betsey meant to be kind, in spite of her fussiness,
and she had evidently told his new acquaintances nothing to his
discredit. Tom Curtis and Madge Morton trusted him. Yet could he face
the suspicion which he felt sure would fall upon him?

The sun was going down and the river was a flaming pathway of gold when
David turned his back on the houseboat and started for Mr. Preston's
home. His steps grew heavier and heavier as he walked. He was stiff,
sore and weary. The bandages were nearly off his hands and the flesh
smarted and burned from the exposure to the air. David was also
ravenously hungry. Against his heart the things wrapped in the old red
handkerchief cut like sharp tools.

Night and the stars came. David was still far from home. He decided that
it might be best for him to struggle on no farther. It would be easier
to explain in the morning that he had gone out for a walk and lost his
way; than to face his friends to-night with any explanation of his trip.

David remembered that the house that the colored boy, Sam, had described
as "ha'nted" lay midway between the houseboat and the farm. He could
sleep out on its old porch.

David filled his hat with Sam's "hoodoo" peaches. He sat on the veranda
steps as he ate them, thinking idly of Sam's story of the old place and
getting it oddly mixed with what he had heard of Harry Sears's ghost
story. David was not superstitious. He did not believe that he could be
afraid of ghosts. He had other live troubles to worry him, which seemed
far worse. Still, he hoped that if ghosts did walk at midnight about
this forlorn old spot that they would choose any other night than this.

It was a soft, warm summer evening with a waning moon. David rolled his
coat up under his head for a pillow and lay down in one corner of the

He did not go to sleep at once; he was too tired and his bed was too
hard. How long he slept he did not know. He was awakened by a sound so
indescribably soft and vague that it might have been only a breath of
wind stirring. But David felt his hands grow icy cold and his breath
come in gasps. He was conscious of something uncanny near him. Something
warm touched him. He could have screamed with terror. But it was only a
thin, black cat, the color of the night shadows.

The boy sat up. He was wide awake. He was not dreaming. Stealing up the
path to the house was a wraith; tall, thin, emaciated, with hair
absolutely white and thin, and skeleton-like hands; it was the semblance
of an old man. He was not human; he made no noise, he did not seem to
walk, he floated along. There was something dreadfully sad in the
ghost's appearance. Yet he was not alone. He led some one by the hand, a
young girl, who was more ghost-like than he was. Her hair was floating
out from her tiny, gnome-like face. She was thinner and more pathetic
than the old man. She had no expression in her face and she, too, made
no sound.

The awestruck boy did not stir. The midnight visitants to the empty
house did not notice him. They came up to the porch. They mounted the
steps and, without touching the fallen front door, passed silently into
the deserted mansion.

David did not know how long he waited, spellbound, after this
apparition. But no sound came forth from the house; no one reappeared.
The black cat rubbed against him the second time. Even the cat must have
been dumb, for she made no noise, did not even purr.

David Brewster was not a coward. If you had asked him in the broad
daylight if he were afraid of ghosts he would have been too disgusted at
the idea even to answer you. But to-night he could not reason, could not
think. As soon as he could get his breath he ran with all his speed down
through the yard of the "ha'nted house," over the fence and into the
road, and then for the rest of the distance to the Preston house. He
forgot his fatigue, forgot that he might have to answer difficult
questions once he got home. David wanted to be with real, live people
after his night of fears.

The boy found no lights in the Preston house. The front door was closed
and the back one barred for the night. Evidently the excursionists had
come back late and, believing him to be in bed, had not wished to
disturb him.

David prowled around the house. He hated to wake anybody up to let him
in. He knew that Miss Betsey would be frightened into hysterics by the
sudden ringing of a bell. The boy found a pantry window unlocked.
Opening it, he crawled into the house. He got up to his bedroom without
anybody coming out to see who it was that had entered the house at such
a mysterious hour. It was not until early the next morning that David
learned that he need not have been so careful, as there was no one in
the Preston house except himself and some of the servants.



Mrs. Preston, Miss Jenny Ann and Miss Betsey, in the old phaeton,
plodded on ahead of the young people to show them the route to the old
sulphur springs. They passed by a number of beautiful Virginia farms and
old homesteads along the shady roads. Miss Betsey was deeply interested
in the history of the neighborhood, and in the old families that had
lived in this vicinity since the close of the Civil War. Mrs. Preston
liked nothing better than to relate that history to her New England

To tell the truth, Miss Betsey Taylor was far more clever than any one
might have supposed. She remembered very well that the friend of her
youth, Mr. John Randolph, had come from somewhere near Culpepper,
Virginia. Nor was she by any means unwilling to know what had become of
him after he had disappeared from her horizon. But Miss Taylor did not
intend to ask her hostess any direct questions if she could be persuaded
to relate the story of this John Randolph in the natural course of her
conversation. It may be that Miss Betsey had even been influenced in
her desire to spend some time on the Preston estate by this same thirst
for information in regard to the friend who had certainly lived not far
from this very neighborhood.

"Whose place is that over there?" inquired Miss Jenny Ann unexpectedly,
pointing to an old brick house overgrown with ivy.

Mrs. Preston flicked her horse. "It belongs to the Grinsteads. They are
descendants of the Randolphs, who used to live in these parts."

Miss Betsey's eyelids never quivered. "The Randolphs?" she inquired
casually. "What Randolphs?"

"James and John were the heads of the family in my day, but they have
both---- Dear me! are the young people following us? We must hurry
along," returned Mrs. Preston absently.

Miss Jenny Ann looked out of the phaeton. She reported that she could
see Madge and Phil, who were riding side by side, leading the horseback

Miss Betsey's side curls bobbed impatiently, but she decided to ask no
more questions of her hostess just at present.

Behind Madge and Phil, Lillian and Jack Bolling were riding companions,
and Eleanor and Harry Sears brought up the rear. The four front riders
kept close together, but every now and then Harry and Eleanor would lag
behind until they were almost out of sight of the other riders.

Madge did not like Harry Sears. He was not always straightforward, and
he was not kind to those who were less fortunate than himself. It may be
that the little captain's dislike was due to the fact that Harry was
always particularly rude to David and never failed to try to make the
boy feel his inferior position. She did not believe, as Harry did, that
because he was well off and well-born he had the privilege of being
impolite to poorer and less aristocratic people. So Madge could not
imagine how Eleanor could like Harry Sears. She did not know that Harry
showed only his best side to Eleanor.

"I do wish Nellie would keep up with us, Phil!" she exclaimed a little
impatiently. "I am afraid she and Harry may get lost if they keep on
loitering; they don't know which roads to take." Phil looked back
anxiously over the road. At some distance down the lane Harry and
Eleanor were riding slowly, deep in conversation.

"I think I will ride back and ask Nellie to hurry," proposed Madge,
turning her horse and cantering back to her cousin.

"Hurry along, Eleanor," she said rather crossly. "It is ever so much
nicer for us to keep together."

Eleanor laughed. "Don't worry about me, Madge. I am not going to fall
off my horse and we can catch up with you at any time we wish. I don't
wish to ride fast. Harry and I are talking and I like to look at the
scenery along the road."

Madge's face flushed. Eleanor was generally easy to influence, but once
she made up her mind to a thing she was quietly stubborn and unyielding.

"All right, Nellie," Madge shrugged her shoulders eloquently, "but if
you and Harry are lost, don't expect us to come back to hunt for you.
Mrs. Preston particularly asked us to keep her in sight, as the roads
about here are confusing. I am sure I beg your pardon for intruding."
Madge touched her horse with the tip of her riding whip and cantered
back to Phil's side, her cheeks scarlet, her eyes snapping. Hereafter
Eleanor could go her own way. Madge had heard Harry Sears chuckle
derisively as she turned away and it made her very angry.

Eleanor gazed after Madge's horse a little regretfully; not that she
intended doing what her cousin had asked of her, but she was sorry that
Madge had become so cross over nothing.

[Illustration: "Hurry Along, Eleanor," Called Madge.]

[Blank Page]

"I tell you, Miss Eleanor," Harry Sears continued when Madge was out of
hearing, "I don't trust that fellow Brewster. I know we are going to
have trouble with him before this holiday is over. I want to warn you,
because I know you don't like the fellow either. Tom Curtis won't hear a
word against him. But I know Brewster is up to some mischief when he
goes off for hours and stays by himself. I have pretty well made up my
mind to follow him some day to find out what he does."

Eleanor shook her gentle, brown head. "I don't think I would spy on him,
Harry," she protested. "I don't like David, because he is so rough and
rude, but I don't think he is positively bad."

"Oh, it wouldn't be spying," argued Harry. "If I think the fellow is
going to get us in trouble, I believe it is my duty to keep a close
watch on him."

"He'll be awfully angry," sighed Eleanor.

Harry made no answer, but merely smiled contemptuously.

Eleanor's horse was ambling down a road that was cut along the foot of a
tall hill. On the other side there was a steep declivity that dropped
nearly twenty feet to the ground. A low rail fence separated the
embankment from the road, which was rough and narrow.

All of a sudden Eleanor's horse began to shy off to one side of the
road. The more Eleanor pulled on her left rein, the more her horse moved
toward the right; and on the right side of the road was the precipice.

One of her horse's forefeet went down beneath the level of the road.
Eleanor tried to rein in, but she felt herself sliding backward over the
right side of her horse.

"Harry!" she cried desperately. Harry Sears turned in amazement. He was
not in time. Eleanor rolled off her horse. In falling she struck her
back on the rail fence. But the fence saved her life. She tumbled
forward toward the road, instead of rolling down the steep embankment.

Harry was off his horse in a moment. Eleanor was huddled on the ground,
her face white with pain. She had fallen off her horse, though the
animal had not tried to run away. It had stumbled back into the road and
stood waiting to know what had happened.

"Your saddle girth broke, Eleanor," explained Harry. "Are you much

"No-o-o," replied Eleanor bravely, with her lips trembling. "I believe I
have bruised my shoulder, but it isn't very bad."

Harry had Eleanor on her feet, but he could see that she was suffering
intensely. He did not know what to do. The rest of the riding party was
well out of sight. He did not like to leave Eleanor alone while he
galloped after them; yet he did not believe that she would be able to
ride on.

"Can you fix my saddle girth, Harry?" questioned Eleanor. "We shall be
left behind sure enough, and Miss Jenny Ann will be angry with me."

It took Harry quite ten minutes to mend Eleanor's saddle girth. She sat
limply on the grass, hoping that the pain in her shoulder would pass. It
did not, but she managed, with Harry's help, to get back on her horse.

Harry started off at a brisk canter, a little uneasy. He and Eleanor
were entirely unfamiliar with the country through which they were
traveling. There were roads that intersected each other every few miles.
These were not marked with sign-posts and Harry had no idea in what
direction lay the old sulphur springs.

But Nellie was not following him. He reined up and rode back to her.
"What's the matter now?" he asked impatiently.

"I am so sorry, Harry," apologized Eleanor. "I think I can ride, but I
can't go fast; it hurts my shoulder so dreadfully." Eleanor's soft brown
eyes were filled with tears, which she tried in vain to keep from
falling. Her pretty, light-brown hair, which she had braided and tied
up with a black velvet ribbon, hung in a long plait down her back.

Slowly, keeping the horses in a walk, Harry and Eleanor continued their
journey. Harry hoped that some one would ride back to see what had
delayed them. Eleanor knew that no one would. Madge would think that
they had purposely tarried. She would say so to the others, and no one
would seriously miss them until after the arrival at the picnic grounds.

But Eleanor and her companion conquered another mile of the way, when
they came to what Harry had feared, two roads that crossed their path
like two sides of a triangle, each leading in a totally different

Both riders reined up. Harry found a spring and Eleanor felt refreshed
after drinking and bathing her face in the cold water. But which road
should they take? They had both given up all hope of rejoining the rest
of the party on their way to the springs; all the two now dreamed of was
ultimately to arrive there. After careful consideration Harry and
Eleanor chose the wrong road.

The old sulphur springs had been a fashionable summer resort in Virginia
twenty-five years before. It still had its famous sulphur well and a
dozen or more brick cottages in various stages of dilapidation. The big
hotel had been burned down and no one had attempted to rebuild it.

It had been Miss Betsey Taylor's special desire to drink the waters of
the famous sulphur well. She had heard of it as a cure for all the ills
of the flesh.

When the riding party dismounted from their horses Madge and Phil espied
Miss Betsey peering down the old well. Madge had visited sulphur wells
before. "Want a drink, Miss Betsey?" she inquired innocently, coming up
to the old lady. She decided to revenge herself on Miss Betsey for the
excellent daily advice that the maiden lady bestowed upon her.

Miss Betsey looked pleased. "Certainly. I intend to drink the sulphur
water all day, and to have some of it put up in bottles to take back
home with me. I can't say that I exactly like the odor." Miss Betsey's
aquiline nose was slightly tilted.

"Here you are," interrupted Madge, passing Miss Betsey a glass of the
sulphur water.

Miss Betsey took one swallow and gave a hurried gasp. "Take it away,
child," she urged faintly. "It is the most horrible thing I ever tasted
in my life." The old maid's eyes almost twinkled. "I think, my dear,
that I will cure my nerves in a pleasanter way," she decided.

Miss Jenny Ann hurried over to them. "What has become of Nellie, Madge?"
she questioned immediately.

The little captain shook her head. "She will be along soon. She and
Harry Sears were loitering a little behind the rest of us."

But Eleanor and Harry did not arrive. An hour passed, then Miss Jenny
Ann and the girls began to feel uneasy. It was growing late. The time
had long since come for supper. Finally Jack Bolling suggested that he
ride back to see what had become of the wanderers. In the meantime the
supper was spread out on the grass. No one ate much. The whole party
kept gazing up the road. It was nearly dark when Jack Bolling
returned--alone. He had galloped back over the way they had come for
three miles without seeing a sign of either Eleanor or Harry.



"I can't go any farther, Harry," said Eleanor despairingly.

Harry Sears reached her just in time. Eleanor fell forward on her
horse's neck. She had fainted with the pain in her shoulder, which had
increased with every step her horse had taken.

Harry laid Eleanor on the ground under a tree. Then he stood staring at
her pallid face. He had not the faintest idea what he should do. He knew
of no spring nearby where he could get water. Girls were an awful
nuisance, anyway; something was always happening to them. Harry was
sorry that he had ever ridden with Eleanor. It was stupid of him to have
let the rest of the party get so far ahead of them.

Still, poor Nellie did not open her eyes. Harry hitched both of the
horses to a fence rail and then came back to gaze at Eleanor until she
came to herself.

When Eleanor opened her eyes it was to see Harry's frown, partly of
impatience and partly from worry. She tried to sit up, but the pain made
her ill and she lay back on the ground. She realized that she must have
sprained her shoulder when she fell from her horse. She had been wrong
in believing it to be only bruised.

"What shall we do, Eleanor?" asked Harry gloomily. "You can't ride any
more and I can't leave you here by yourself. This road seems to be cut
through a wilderness. We have not passed a house in miles!"

"You can help me over into that woods, Harry," she said faintly. "I'll
lie down under the trees and wait--the sulphur springs can't be very far
from here--then you ride on and find the others. Madge will drive back
in Mrs. Preston's phaeton for me," smiled Eleanor, though her lips were
almost colorless with pain. "Please don't forget where you leave me,

Harry Sears's face cleared. Eleanor's idea was the only possible one,
and she was a brave girl to be willing to be left alone. "Don't you
fear," he comforted her, as he led her deeper into the thick grove of
trees. "I'll tie my handkerchief to the tree nearest the road. Besides,
your horse will be hitched near here. When you hear us driving along the
road, in about ten or fifteen minutes, just you sing out."

Eleanor was grateful when Harry left her, and she could give way to her
real feelings. She was on a bed of moss and Harry had rolled up his
coat for a pillow to put under her head. But the pain in her shoulder
was excruciating. She could not get into any position where it seemed to
hurt less. Each time she moved a twinge caught her and she would have
liked to scream aloud. But Eleanor did not scream; she waited patiently,
though now and then the tears would rise in her eyes of their own accord
and trickle down her white cheeks. Madge was such a long time in coming
to find her. However, Harry did not know his way to the sulphur well. It
might take him some time to find it. How late it was getting! The sun
was low in the west.

After taking a last look at the spot where Eleanor lay, at her horse
hitched to a fence rail, at his own white handkerchief, which fluttered
from a low branch of a tree near the road, Harry rode furiously off. He
would surely find their friends in a few moments. But Harry continued to
ride in exactly the wrong direction. Every yard he covered took him
farther away from the sulphur springs. While he was galloping on his
wild-goose chase the party at the springs decided to return to the
Preston farm. They were too uneasy about Harry and Eleanor to have a
good time, and they concluded that they would either overtake the lost
couple on the way home or else find that the two young people had given
up and returned to the farm.

The three girls gave their horses free rein and cantered home with all
speed. Yet it was dark when they arrived. No word had been heard of
Eleanor or Harry. It was a cloudy evening and the sun had disappeared
quickly. Without waiting, except to give the alarm to Mr. Preston, the
entire riding party set out again. Madge thought that she would have
liked to ask David to help them, but there was no time to spare. The
riders met Mrs. Preston, Miss Jenny Ann and Miss Betsey, who had set out
for home in the phaeton. The three older women also refused to go back
to Prestons, until Eleanor and her companion were discovered.

In the meantime Harry Sears had finally reached the decision that he was
not on the right road to the sulphur well. At the end of a five-mile
gallop he turned his horse and cantered back. He passed Eleanor's horse,
tugging impatiently at the reins that bound her; he saw his own white
handkerchief tied on the tree; but he could not see or hear Eleanor. He
would have liked to stop to find out that all was well with her, but he
dreaded to let Eleanor know that he had spent all this time and was
still without assistance. At the crossroads, where the young man had
made his original mistake in the roads, he at last turned down the lane
that led to the sulphur springs. But by this time his friends were well
on their way home to the Preston farm.

Eleanor's horse had grown weary of remaining standing. It was past her
supper time and she wished her measure of oats. The horse tossed her
head restlessly, walked forward a few steps and then backward, tugging
and straining at her bridle. In his excitement and hurry to be off,
Harry had not tied the horse very securely. He had no other hitching
rope than her bridle. The mare gave one final jerk and shake of her head
and was free. Quite innocent of the mischief her desertion would cause,
she trotted back to her own stable at the Prestons.

At nine o'clock in the evening rain began to fall. The night was pitch
dark, except for an occasional jagged flash of lightning. When Madge, in
advance of all the others, passed along only a few rods from the very
spot where Harry had left Eleanor the latter must have heard nothing,
for she made not the faintest outcry.

It was almost midnight before Eleanor's friends discovered that Harry
was not with her. Not finding any of the party at the sulphur springs,
Sears had lost his head completely. Instead of returning to poor Eleanor
he went on to the Preston farm, hoping stupidly that Nellie had in some
way been rescued and that he would find her there. The journey back home
was a long, weary one. His horse was completely fagged out and had gone
lame in one foot. Harry was terrified at the emptiness of the Preston
farm; only one or two servants were about; the others had gone with Mr.
Preston to look for Eleanor. There were no horses left on the place. So,
on foot, Harry set out again, only to have Eleanor's riderless horse
pass by him in the night. He hardly saw the animal in his excitement. He
did not dream that it was the horse he had hitched to mark Eleanor's
resting place, but plodded on, tired and dispirited.

Harry finally ran across Madge, Phyllis and Jack. He told them his story
as best he could. Foot by foot the young people retraced their way over
the same road, looking for the fluttering signal of Harry's white
handkerchief and the waiting horse.

The horse, of course, had run off, and at first it seemed impossible to
find the handkerchief. Madge was desperate. It was her fault that poor
Nellie was alone at midnight in the rain with her injured shoulder. If
only Madge had begged Eleanor to ride on faster, she knew that Eleanor
would have consented. It was only because she had commanded it that her
cousin had been so obstinate.

The other members of the Preston household were almost as miserable as
Madge. Even Miss Betsey Taylor could not be persuaded to return to her
bed. She forgot all about her health and her nerves, and was intent only
on finding Eleanor, who was her favorite of the four girls.

The rain was still pouring in heavy, unrelenting streams, and everyone
was soaked to the skin.

"My poor Nellie!" cried Madge. She and Phil were leading their tired
horses along the road. "I shall never forgive Harry Sears for leaving
her by herself and chasing all over the country for help. What an idiot
he is!"

"Sh-sh!" Phil comforted her, although she herself was quietly crying. It
was so dark that no one could see the girls' tears. "Don't blame Harry.
He did what he thought was best at the time, although it seems silly to
us now."

It was Harry, though, who at last found his rain-soaked handkerchief
tied to the branch of a tree. He had held a dark lantern up by every
bush or tree that he passed in the neighborhood where he believed he had
left poor Eleanor.

"I've found the place, I've found the place!" he cried triumphantly.
"Just a minute, Eleanor, and we will come to you!" He ran toward the
spot where he remembered to have left Eleanor. Madge hurried after him,
Phyllis keeping tight hold of her hand.

Harry's cry had thrilled all the searchers. Jack and Lillian came next
to hunt, with Mr. Preston close behind them. They stood together under
the tree where Eleanor had lain. The dark lanterns lit up their haggard
faces. Eleanor was not there!

"You have made a mistake in the place, Sears," declared Jack.

Harry reached down and picked up his own coat. "No, this is my coat," he

Madge dropped to the ground, shaking with sobs. She had found Eleanor's
little, soft felt riding hat.

"Children," urged Mr. Preston, "don't be so alarmed. It is very natural
that, when we took so long to find the poor child, she got up and
wandered off somewhere to get out of the rain. I will rouse the
neighborhood and we men will search the woods and fields. We will
inquire at all the farmhouses in the vicinity. Why, we are sure to find
Eleanor. You girls must run along home and wait until morning. I can't
have you all ill on my hands with pneumonia."

Miss Jenny Ann, Mrs. Preston and Miss Betsey were crawling out of the
phaeton when Mr. Preston led three of the girls back to "I can't go
home, Jenny Ann," insisted Madge. "It was my fault that Nellie is lost.
Uncle and Aunt will never forgive me."

It was in vain that Miss Jenny Ann pleaded, argued and commanded the
little captain to return with the other women to the Preston farm. She
simply would not go. So Phyllis stayed behind with her for company.

Just before daylight one of the farmers who lived near the woods where
Eleanor was supposed to have been left took the two girls home with him.
Eleanor had not then been found.



Hours and hours had gone by, and Eleanor had lain quite still. Sometimes
she was conscious, but oftener she was not. The pain in her shoulder,
the exhaustion from the long waiting, had made her delirious. When the
rain began it seemed at first to refresh her, she was so hot and
feverish. Later rheumatic twinges began to dart through her injured
shoulder; her whole body was racked with pain. She seemed to be in some
horrible nightmare. She forgot what had happened to her. She no longer
realized that she was waiting for her friends to come to her rescue; she
only believed that, if she could in some way get back to her own home,
"Forest House," the agony and terror would cease.

In her delirium Eleanor managed to get up from the wet ground. She never
knew how or when, but she remembered groping her way cautiously through
the dark forest. The hundreds of trees seemed like a great army of
terrible men and women waving angry arms at the frightened girl. Now and
then she would bump into one of the trees. Eleanor would then step back
and apologize; she thought that she had collided with a human being.

At times Eleanor was dimly conscious that she could hear the sound of
her own voice. She was singing in high, sweet tones a song of her

    "When the long day's work is over,
      When the light begins to fade,
    Watching, waiting in the gloaming,
      Weary, faint and half afraid,
    Then from out the deep'ning twilight,
      Clear and sweet a voice shall come,
    Softly through the silence falling--
      Child, thy Father calls, 'Come home.'"

There was something in the familiar words that comforted Eleanor. She
would soon find her mother and father and Madge. But step by step
Eleanor went farther away from civilization and deeper into the woods.
At last she came out of the woods altogether to a more forbidding part
of the country. A group of small hills rose up at the edge of the
woodlands. They seemed to poor Eleanor's distorted imagination to be a
collection of strange houses.

A yawning hole gaped in the side of one of the hills. Years before a
company of promoters had believed that rich coal deposits could be
found in these Virginia hills. A coal mine had been dug in the side of
this solitary hillock. But the coal yield had not been rich enough.
Later on the company had abandoned it and the old coal mine was disused
and almost forgotten. A strange freak of destiny led Eleanor to the

She felt, rather than saw, the opening. The rain had ceased, but the
night was still dark. Eleanor believed that she had found the door of
her own home at "Forest House." Why was it so dark in the hall? Had no
one lighted the lamps? Surely, she heard some one cry out her name!

"Mother! Father!" she called. "Madge!" She put out one hand--the other
was useless--and stepped into the black hole. It was all so dark and
horrible. Eleanor took a few steps forward; a suffocating odor of coal
gas greeted her; she stumbled and fell face downward. Eleanor was
literally buried alive. She had wandered into a place that the world had
forgotten, and she was too ill to make any effort to save herself.

So it was that Eleanor Butler heard no sound and saw no sign of the
desperate search that was being made for her. But if Eleanor were
unconscious, there was some one else who knew that the woods and all the
nearby fields and countryside were being investigated, inch by inch, by
a party of determined seekers. The man believed that the search was
being made for him. For several days he had been in hiding on the edge
of the woods, not far from the old coal mine into which Eleanor had
stumbled. He had his own reasons for hiding, although he believed that
until to-night no crime had been fixed on him.

While Eleanor was groping her way out of the woods this man was crouched
in the branches of a heavily wooded tree. He had spent all his life in
the open, and knew that a party of men searching through a forest on a
dark night would not spy him out so long as the darkness covered him.
But he knew that at dawn he must find a better hiding place.

Just before daylight the woods were silent once more. The fugitive
understood that the searching parties had gone home to rest and to get
reinforcements in order to begin a more thorough hunt at dawn.

The greater part of the night the man had spent in trying to decide
where he should conceal himself before the daylight. He knew of but one
possible hiding place that was safe. He had tracked through the country
for miles to hide his treasures in the old coal mine, although he had
believed that he was absolutely free from suspicion. Who had betrayed
him? Not the old gypsy woman. The man did not consider her. But there
was--_the boy_!

As soon as the woods were free from the hunting parties the man slipped
down from his tree. It was a poor place of refuge, but he would crawl
into the disused coal mine, for the day at least, to guard his life and
his stolen property. He crept cautiously along. As soon as he could get
word to the gypsy woman they would both try to get away from the
neighborhood. Things were getting too hot for them both. And again,
there was _the boy_!

There was some one else afoot in the woods. The man could hear a
cat-like tread. Nearer stole the other prowler. There was another sound,
a faint call, which the man answered. An instant later the old gypsy
woman appeared. "I have been searching for you, lad. The boy says he has
got to see you."

It was hardly dawn, but a faint light had appeared in the sky that was
not daylight but its herald. A pause hung over the world that always
comes just before its awakening.

The man and woman hesitated just a moment at the opening of the old
mine. It was dreadful to shut themselves away from the daylight. The man
went in first, the old woman close behind him. But a few feet from the
entrance he staggered back; he had struck his foot against something.
The man's first thought was that some one had crept into the mine to
steal his treasure. A few seconds later he became more accustomed to the
dim light and saw the still figure of Eleanor.

The man and the woman stared at the girl as though they had seen an
apparition. She was so deathly pale it was not strange that they thought
at first that she was not alive.

Both the man and the woman kept close to the ground, so as not to inhale
the odor of the coal gas. The old gypsy took Eleanor's limp, white hand.
"She is alive," she whispered to the man.

The man nodded. He realized at once that the woods were being searched,
not for him, but for this lost girl. He could not imagine how the girl
had wandered into this dreadful place of concealment. But she was
certainly innocent of any wrong or suspicion of him. Yet, if she stayed
in the coal mine with them all day, she might die.

There has hardly ever been born into this world any human creature who
is wholly wicked. The man in the mine with Eleanor was not a cruel
fellow. He had one strange, wicked theory, that the world owed him a
living and he would rather steal than work for it.

Unexpectedly Eleanor opened her eyes. She did not cry out with terror.
She was no longer delirious. She smiled at the man and at the old woman
in a puzzled, friendly fashion. "It is so dark and dreadful in here!
Won't you take, me out?" she pleaded.

Fortunately Eleanor had fallen near enough to the entrance of the mine
to get the fresh air from the outside. She struggled to sit up, but the
pain in her shoulder again overcame her.

"How did you get in here?" the man asked Eleanor suspiciously.

"I don't know," she answered, beginning to cry gently. "Please take me

The man realized that whatever was to be done for Eleanor must be done
at once. Every minute that passed made it the more dangerous for him to
return to the forest. Later on, when the woods were full of people, he
would not dare leave the mine. He knew that even now he was risking his
own freedom if he carried the girl out from the safe shelter that
concealed them.

The man lifted Eleanor in his arms as gently as he could. She cried out
when he first touched her; then she set her teeth and bore stoically the
pain of being moved.

"You can trust me," her rescuer said kindly. "I can't take you to your
friends, but I will take you to a place where they can find you. Now
you must promise me that you will never say that you have ever seen me
or the old woman, and that you will never mention the old coal mine."

Eleanor promised and the fugitive seemed impressed with her sincerity.

The man carried her about a quarter of a mile into the woods. Then he
laid her down in the grass and hurried away. Eleanor watched him with
grateful eyes. She did not wonder why the man and the old woman had come
to the mysterious hole in the earth, nor why they wished her to keep
their hiding place a secret; she was not troubled about it. She was
still in great pain, but her fever had gone and she was no longer
delirious. She remembered the events of the day before up to the time
when she started to wander in the woods. Now Eleanor waited, content and
full of faith. The day had come, with its wonderful promise. She knew
that she would soon be found. She would bear the pain as well as she
could until then.

"Nellie! Nellie!" It was Madge's voice calling to her from afar off. The
tones sounded queer and strained, but Eleanor felt sure they were those
of her cousin. She could not be mistaken, as she had been last night.
She must have been dreaming when some one seemed to summon her from the
mouth of the cave. Eleanor did not realize that she had but caught an
echo of some one crying to her through the heart of the forest.

Eleanor was weak and faint, but she summoned her strength. "Madge! here
I am!" she cried. Her voice was too feeble to carry far.

Neither Madge nor any of her companions caught the answering sound.
David Brewster, Jack Bolling, Phil and Lillian were with her. Harry
Sears had given out at daylight and had gone back to the Preston farm.

Again they were wandering away from the spot where Nellie waited so

"Nellie! Nellie!" Madge called once more, her voice breaking.

Poor Eleanor realized that Madge's voice was farther off than it had
been when she first called.

Eleanor made an heroic effort. She raised herself to a sitting position.
"Madge! Phil! Oh, come to me!" she cried. Then Eleanor fainted.

It was a limp, white figure that Madge, running ahead of all the others,
found stretched out on the grass. Her companions soon caught up with

"Nellie is dead!" cried Lillian, bursting into tears and sinking down
beside her friend on the grass.

"Oh, no," assured Phil, "Nellie has only fainted." She turned quietly
to David and Jack. "Go back, please, and tell Mr. Preston and some of
the other men to bring a cot on which to carry Eleanor. She is only worn
out and exhausted with exposure and pain. She will be all right soon.
Don't look so heartbroken Madge."

Madge had not taken her eyes from her cousin's pale, haggard face. She
could not believe that she was really looking at Eleanor. Could this
poor, white, exhausted little creature be her Nellie? Why, it was only
the afternoon before when Madge had last seen Eleanor laughing and
talking to Harry Sears. And now----!

A few minutes later the men came with the cot and Eleanor was carried to
the Preston home. Everybody, except David, followed her in triumph.

For David Brewster did not go back home with the others; he wished to
find out about an old coal mine which he had been told was in this
vicinity. He did not, of course, dream of Eleanor's connection with the
place, but he had his own reasons for wishing to discover it.

An hour later the man and the old gypsy woman were startled by another
visitor. David crept into the opening in the side of the hill. When he
left, the man and woman in the mine had promised the lad to leave the
countryside as soon as possible. They had also agreed to return to
David the silver and the greater part of the money stolen from the
Preston house on the night of the corn roast. It remained for David to
see that the stolen goods were returned to the house without suspicion
falling on any one. David believed that he could save the evil-doers
from disgrace and detection. But how was he to save himself?



"Eleanor, dear, do you know who the two Indian Chiefs were who appeared
so mysteriously at our 'Feast of Mondamin'? They followed Lillian and me
about all evening and wouldn't take off their masks."

Eleanor was propped up in a big, four-post mahogany bed with half a
dozen pillows under her lame shoulder. One arm and shoulder were tightly
bandaged. Eleanor had had a serious time since her accident. For
rheumatism, caused by her exposure to the rain, had set in in the
strained shoulder. She was now much better, though still feeling a good
deal used up, and she found it very difficult to move.

Eleanor turned her head and smiled languidly at the excited Madge.

"Of course I don't know who the Indians were. Dear me, I had forgotten
all about them. I suppose they must have been Mrs. Preston's and Miss
Betsey's burglars. Has any one caught them?" Eleanor was getting

"I should say not," giggled Madge cheerfully. "Those Indian braves were
no other persons than our highly respected friends, Mr. Tom Curtis and
Mr. George Robinson! The sillies came all the way here just to be
present at the corn roast, and then rushed off without telling us who
they were. Tom was awfully cross because I never mentioned their
appearance at the feast in any of my first letters. But I forgot all
about them, there has been so much else going on. Only in my last letter
I just happened to say that Mr. Preston had never been able to find out
anything about his burglars, and that the two men dressed as Indians,
whom Mr. Preston had always suspected, had disappeared."

Eleanor laughed. "Of course Tom had to 'fess up' after that, didn't he?
Tom would so hate to do anything that might arouse suspicion. I think
Tom Curtis is the most honorable boy I ever knew. Don't you?" asked

"Of course I do," answered Madge emphatically. "By the way, Tom and
George will be back in a short time now with the motor launch. As soon
as you are well enough we shall probably start off again, though our
holiday time is almost over. You and I have distinguished ourselves by
getting lost on this houseboat trip, haven't we, Nellie, dear? Only it
is the old story. It was my fault that I got into trouble, while yours
was only an accident, you poor thing!" Madge patted Eleanor's hand

The bedroom door now opened to admit Phyllis and Lillian. Phil carried a
large dish of ginger cookies, hot from the oven, and Lillian a platter
heaped with a pile of snowy popcorn. Both girls planted themselves on
the side of Eleanor's bed.

"Phil, I thought you and Lillian promised to go walking with Harry Sears
and Jack Bolling," protested Madge. "I was to take care of Nellie this
afternoon while Miss Jenny Ann and Miss Betsey drove with Mrs. Preston
to look at the 'ha'nted house' we have talked so much about."

Lillian shook her golden head calmly. "Did not want to go walking," she
remarked calmly. "Phil and I broke our engagements. We decided that we
would much rather stay with you and Nellie." She smiled and gave Eleanor
a hug. "Cook is going to send up a big pitcher of lemonade in a few
minutes. Who wouldn't rather stay at home than go walking with two
tiresome boys on an afternoon like this?"

"You girls are terribly good and unselfish about me," exclaimed Eleanor.
"It's worth being ill, and having a sprained shoulder, and being rescued
by an old gypsy woman and a strange looking man to----" Eleanor stopped
short. Her face flushed painfully and her eyes filled with tears. "Oh!"
she exclaimed, "I'm so sorry I have broken my word. I promised not to
tell. Please, please, don't anybody ask me any questions, for I can't
answer them even to please you girls."

Lillian looked mystified and extremely curious. Phyllis and Madge gazed
at each other blankly. Neither of them spoke, but they were both
concerned with the same question. Could it be possible that Nellie had
also run across the old gypsy woman and the man who had held Madge a
prisoner until Phil and David had rescued her? But then, Eleanor had
been found several miles from the spot where the two old people were in
hiding when Madge ran across them.

The little captain made up her mind to one thing; she would not trouble
Eleanor with questions. But she would ask David if he thought his
mysterious acquaintances were still in the neighborhood. Neither she nor
Phil had ever spoken of them, though they had never ceased to wonder at
David's knowing such peculiar people.

"Is David Brewster going for a walk with Jack and Harry?" inquired Madge

Lillian shook her head. "Of course not," she replied. "David is going
off on his usual secret mission. He goes on one every single

"It doesn't concern any one but him, does it?"

Lillian shrugged her shoulders. "I am certainly not in the least
interested," she answered disdainfully. "I think he is the rudest person
I ever met."

Unfortunately, there were other members of the boat party who were much
concerned with David's peculiar behavior. Harry Sears and Jack Bolling
were rather bored with their stay on the Preston farm since Eleanor's
accident. The girls devoted all their time to nursing Eleanor; they
could rarely be persuaded to take a walk or a drive, or to stir up a
lark of any kind. Neither Harry nor Jack, who were from the city, felt
the least interest in the farm work. David spent every morning in the
fields with Mr. Preston. So Harry and Jack, having nothing else to think
about, began to worry and pry into David's actions. It was strange that
the boy went away every afternoon and never told any one where he was
going, nor spoke afterward of what he had done or where he had been!

Jack Bolling did not really care a great deal about Brewster's affairs,
but Harry Sears was a regular "Paul Pry." He had made up his mind to
find out what Brewster was "after" on these afternoons when he
"sneaked" off and hid himself.

Just before Jack and Harry started on their walk David Brewster came out
on the side porch of the Preston house with his coat pockets bulging
with flat, hard packages. He had his hat pulled down over his eyes, and
was hurrying off without looking either to the right or left, when Harry
Sears called out: "Where are you off to, Brewster? If you are going for
a walk, Bolling and I would like to go with you. We are looking for
something to do."

David turned red. It was unexpected friendliness for Harry Sears to
suggest coming for a walk with him. Harry usually never noticed David at
all, except to order him about at every possible opportunity.

But David was resolute. He particularly needed to be alone on this
afternoon. Besides his usual occupation, he must make up his mind how he
could go about restoring to the Prestons and Miss Taylor their stolen

"I'm off on personal business, Mr. Sears," he returned politely. "I
can't let any one else come along."

"Well, you are a nice, sociable person, Brewster," sneered Harry. "Sorry
to have intruded. I might have known better."

David swung out of the yard without answering. It never occurred to him
to glance back to see what Sears and Bolling were doing.

"Let's go after the fellow, Bolling," proposed Harry. "We have nothing
else to do this afternoon. It would be rather good fun to find out what
knavery the chap is up to and to show him off before the girls. I
actually believe that Madge Morton and Phyllis Alden like the common
fellow. Maybe they think Brewster is a kind of hero; he is so silent,
dark and sullen, like the hero chap in a weepy sort of play."

Jack Bolling hesitated. "I don't think it is square of us to spy on
Brewster, no matter what he is doing," he argued.

"I _do_," returned Harry briefly. "If he isn't up to something he has no
business doing, what harm is there in our chancing to run across
him--quite by accident, of course? If he is up to some deviltry, it is
our business to find it out."

David had turned a corner in the road and had jumped over a low stone
fence into a field when the other two young men started after him.

Harry soon espied David, and he and Jack tramped after him cautiously,
always keeping at a safe distance.

But David Brewster was wholly unaware that he was being followed. He
hurried from one field to another until he came to a meadow that had
been left uncultivated for a number of years. It was uneven, running
into little hills and valleys, with big rocks jutting out of the earth.
One of these rocks formed a complete screen. David walked straight
toward this spot as though he were accustomed to going to it. He lay
down on the grass under the rock. On his way to his retreat he had made
up his mind how he should try to return the stolen goods to the rightful
owners, so there was nothing to keep him from his regular occupation.
David pulled out of his pocket one of the small, flat objects that he
carried and almost completely concealed it with his body as he leaned
over it.

A few minutes later Harry Sears crept up on tip-toe from the back of the
rock. Jack Bolling was considerably farther off. He meant to give David
some warning of his presence before he approached him.

Harry Sears lay down flat on top of the rock. He made a sudden dive
toward David, grabbing at the object that David held in his hand.

"What have you there?" he demanded. "Out with it! You've got to tell
what you do every afternoon, hiding off by yourself."

David Brewster sprang to his feet, his face white with passion. He
thrust the object that Harry coveted back into his pocket.

"Get up from there!" he shouted hoarsely. "What do you mean by spying on
me like this? What business is it of yours how I spend my time? I am
answerable to Tom Curtis, not to you. Here is your friend, Mr. Bolling,
sneaking behind you on the same errand; and I suppose you both think you
are gentlemen," he sneered.

"Oh, come, Brewster," interrupted Jack Bolling apologetically, "I
suppose Harry and I were overdoing things a bit to come over here after
you. But there is no use getting so all-fired angry. If you are not up
to mischief, why do you care if we do happen to come up with you?"

"Because I care to keep my own business to myself," answered David.

"Look here, you fellow, don't be impertinent," broke in Harry Sears
coolly, as though David had scarcely the right to speak to him.

David felt a blind, hot rage sweep over him. The boy was no longer
master of himself. Some day, when he learned to control this white heat
of passion, it was to make him a great power for good in the world. Now
his rage was the master.

"Take care!" he called suddenly to Harry. He swung himself up on the
rock opposite Harry, forcing his opponent into an open place in the
field. Then David let loose a swinging blow with his closed fist.

Harry and David were evenly matched fighters. Harry was taller and
older, and had been trained as a boxer in school and college gymnasiums;
but David was a firmly built fellow, of medium height, with muscles as
hard as iron from his work in the open. In addition, David was furiously

Harry parried the first blow with his left arm, then made a lunge at

"Here, you fellows, cut that out!" commanded Jack Bolling. "You are
almost men. Don't scrap like a couple of schoolboys. You know the women
in our party will be disgusted with you."

Neither Harry nor David paid the least attention to Jack's excellent
advice. Both fighters had their blood up. Harry's face was crimson and
David's white. Few blows were struck, because David made a headlong rush
at his opponent and the combatants wrestled back and forth, each boy
trying to force the other on the ground. It was by sheer force of
determination that David won. David got one hand loose and struck Harry
over the eye. Harry went down with a sudden crash. His head struck the
earth with a whack that temporarily put him out of the fight.

But David kept his knee on Harry's chest. He made no effort to get up.
His face was still working with anger.

"Say, get off of Sears, Brewster, can't you?" growled Jack Bolling. "You
see he is down and out and you've won the fight. Don't you know that the
rules of the game won't let you hit a man when he is down?"

David straightened up and stood upright. "Thank you, Bolling," he said
curtly. "I wasn't a sport and I am glad you reminded me of it. I was too
angry with Sears to want to quit the fight."

Harry was sitting upon the ground, looking greatly chagrined. He had a
bruise over one eye and the place was rapidly swelling.

"I expect I ought to apologize to you, Sears, for not having let you
alone when you were down," remarked David proudly. "But in the future
you will kindly leave my private affairs alone."

David made off across the fields. He hoped to be able to get back to the
Preston house before Miss Betsey Taylor returned from her ride to the
haunted house. He was lucky enough to find Miss Betsey still out. As
David passed through the hall he was glad to find her bedroom door open.
He had just time enough to slip into her room and thrust a red cotton
handkerchief, which was tied up in a curious knot, under Miss Betsey's
pillow, when he thought he heard some one about to enter the room.

David hurried out into the hall just as Madge and Phyllis passed by.
Both girls nodded to David in a friendly fashion, though Madge's
expressive face was alive with the question: "What is David Brewster
doing in Miss Betsey's room?"



Miss Betsey Taylor had a very successful drive to the "ha'nted house."
She returned home with the secret curiosity of years partly satisfied.
Not that Miss Betsey saw the "ghosts walk," or that anything in the
least unusual took place at the "ha'nted house"; it was simply that Mrs.
Preston at last unveiled to Miss Betsey Taylor all she knew of the
history of the particular "John Randolph" in whom Miss Betsey had once
been interested.

It happened that Miss Jenny Ann, Miss Betsey and Mrs. Preston, in
driving up the road to the "ha'nted house," had met an old colored mammy
coming toward them, carrying a basket on her arm and talking to herself.

She raised up one hand dramatically when she caught sight of the three
women. "Stay where you is. Don't come no farder," she warned. "The house
you is drawing nigher to is a house of 'ha'nts.' Ghosties walk here in
the day and sleep here in the night. It am mighty onlucky to bother a

"Why, Mammy Ellen," protested Mrs. Preston, smiling kindly at the old
woman, "you don't tell me that you believe in ghosts? I thought you had
too much sense."

"Child," argued the old woman, "they is some as _says_ they is ghosts in
this here house of Cain and Abel; but they is one that _knows_ they is
ghosts here." She shook her head. "I hev seen 'em. Jest you let sleepin'
ghosts lie."

"We are not going to disturb them, Mammy Ellen," promised Mrs. Preston.
"We are just going to drive about the old place, so that my friends, who
are from the North, can see what this old, deserted estate looks like."

"That old woman once belonged to the family of John Randolph, Miss
Betsey. Do you recall your speaking of him to me a few days ago?"
inquired Mrs. Preston as the old colored woman marched solemnly away.

"Yes, I remember," answered Miss Betsey vaguely. "I believe I knew this
same John Randolph when I was a girl."

"Then I am sorry to tell you his story, because it is a sad one," sighed
Mrs. Preston. "My husband and I often talk of him. We feel, somehow,
that we ought to have done something. John Randolph came back here
suddenly, after spending a year or so in New York, after the close of
the war. He married three or four years afterward a girl from the next
county. She wasn't much of a wife; the poor thing was ill and never
liked the country. She persuaded John to sell out his share in the
estate to his brother James. You remember, it was the Grinstead place I
showed to you on our drive to the sulphur well the other day. Well, John
and his wife settled in Richmond and John tried to practise law. He
wasn't much of a success. I reckon poor John did not know much but
farming. He and his wife had one child, a girl. She married and died,
leaving a baby for her father and mother to look after. A few years ago
John's wife died, too, and the old man came back here to the old place.
He didn't have any money, and I expect he didn't have any other home to
go to." Mrs. Preston paused. She had driven around the haunted house,
but her visitors were more interested in her story than they were in the
sight of the deserted mansion.

"Then, I suppose, poor John died," added Miss Betsey sadly, her face
clouding with memories; the John Randolph she had known had been so full
of youth and enthusiasm.

Mrs. Preston flapped her reins. "I reckon so," she sighed. "You see,
John Randolph did not have any real claim on the Grinsteads. They were
his brother James's wife's people, and I suppose they were not very good
to him; or it may be the old man was just sensitive. Anyway, John
Randolph went away from the Grinstead place about six months ago. No
word has been heard of him, so I suppose he is dead."

Miss Betsey surreptitiously wiped away a few tears for her dead romance.
They were not very bitter tears. Of course, her old lover, John
Randolph, was only a memory. But it was sad to hear that he had had such
an unfortunate life; he might better have been less "touchy" and not
have left _her_ so abruptly. Miss Betsey's tears passed unnoticed. Miss
Jenny Ann was also depressed by the story, and as for kind Mrs. Preston,
she sighed deeply every five or ten minutes during the ride home.

But Miss Betsey was so quiet and unlike herself all the evening that
Madge, Phyllis and Lillian decided that she must feel ill. The girls
would never have believed, even if they had been told, that Miss Betsey,
who was on the shady side of sixty, could possibly have been sorrowing
over a lover whom she had not seen in nearly forty years. But girls do
not know that the minds of older people travel backward, and that an old
maid is a "girl" at heart to the longest day she lives.

Miss Taylor went up to her own room early.

Madge and Phyllis were undressing to jump into bed, when a knock on
their door startled them.

"Girls!" a voice cried in trembling tones.

"It's poor Miss Betsey!" exclaimed Phil. "I'll wager she is ill or
something, she has been acting so queerly all evening." Phil ran to open
their door.

"Take me in, children," whispered Miss Betsey, shaking her head. "Sh-sh!
Don't make a noise; something so strange has happened. I couldn't wait
until morning to tell you."

Miss Betsey dropped into a chair by the window. She was minus her side
curls and she had her still jet-black hair screwed up into a tight knot
at the back of her head. But in honor of her present frivolous life as
one of the houseboat girls she wore a bright red flannelette dressing

Madge looked at Miss Betsey, then choked and began to cough violently to
conceal her laughter.

"Don't make that noise, Madge; laugh out-right if you think I am funny,"
whispered Miss Betsey, instead of giving the little captain the lecture
she deserved. "I don't want any one to know I am in here with you. I've
got something so strange to show you."

Miss Betsey slipped her hand into the capacious pocket of her dressing
gown. She drew out a bright red cotton handkerchief, knotted and tied
together into a dirty ball.

"What on earth have you there, Miss Betsey?" asked Phil. "I should be
afraid to touch such a dreadful looking handkerchief."

Miss Betsey fingered it gingerly. She seemed to be trying to open it.

Madge picked up a pair of curling tongs and caught the handkerchief by
one end. "Do let me throw it out of the window for you, Miss Betsey!"
she urged.

Miss Betsey gave a little shriek of protest. But Madge and Phil were
staring in Miss Betsey's lap, their eyes wide with amazement. Into the
old lady's lap had fallen, from the dirty cotton handkerchief, all her
stolen jewelry.

"Where did it come from, Miss Betsey?" demanded Phil.

"From under my pillow," answered Miss Betsey.

"Then the thief must have put it back!" exclaimed Madge impetuously.

Miss Betsey nodded emphatically. "Yes, of course he did. But who and why
and how? My money has not been returned. Why should the burglar take
pity on me and return me my poor little jewelry? It is of some value.
And now Mr. Preston will have a much easier time in tracing the thief,
with this handkerchief as a clue to go on. I can't help suspecting one
of the servants, for, girls," Miss Betsey lowered her voice solemnly, "I
was in my own room all the morning. I made my bed, as it has been my
custom to do every day of my life, and when I made my bed there was
certainly no red cotton pocket handkerchief with my jewelry in it under
my pillow. I have been out this afternoon, but you children have been up
on this floor with Eleanor. Now think. Did you hear anything or see any
one enter my room at any time?"

Madge and Phyllis stood still, thinking deeply. Suddenly Madge's cheeks
flamed. "David!" exclaimed Phil Alden involuntarily at the same moment.

"David?" Miss Betsey's face was a study. She turned almost as red as
Madge. "You don't mean that you girls saw David Brewster enter my room
this afternoon? No, no, children, it couldn't be! The boy has a bad
disposition, I know. He is surly and cross. But then the lad has had no
training of any kind. He has had everything against him. He seemed to be
quite honest when he lived with me. But, but----" Miss Betsey hesitated.
"Of course, David will tell me why he came into my room this afternoon.
He probably went there on an errand."

Phyllis Alden shook her head regretfully. She said nothing.

"You don't suspect David, do you, Phil?" questioned Madge.

"I don't know what to think," remarked Phil judicially. "Of course, I
don't really suspect David. No one has the right to suspect him without
any real proof. But it does seem queer to me that Miss Betsey lost her
money first on the houseboat and then here. What is your honest

To save her life, Madge could not but think of David's mysterious trip
to the Preston house while the barn was burning on the night of the
robbery. Still, she did not answer Phyllis.

"Tell us what you think, Madge," insisted Miss Betsey. "Why, I was
beginning to feel proud of the boy, his manners have improved so much
since he came on this trip. And I have been saying to myself that if I
had believed in the boy and tried to help him, as you have done, perhaps
he might have been less surly years ago. Some day I may tell you
children more of the lad's history."

"Miss Betsey," Madge's voice was very grave, "to tell you the truth, I
don't know what to think. I know that there are some things that point
toward David's being a thief. But, just the same, I don't believe he is
one. You know I have always been sorry for David, Miss Betsey, ever
since he pulled me out from under Dr. Alden's buggy, when I was trying
to spoil your lawn, as the donkeys did Miss Betsey Trotter's in 'David
Copperfield.' And somehow"--she paused reflectively--"I believe in him
still. I _know_ that David Brewster wouldn't steal! It may be my
intuition that makes me say this; I have no real reason for thinking it.
I trust David, trust him fully. I am sure that he is absolutely honest."

Miss Betsey patted Madge's auburn head almost affectionately. She felt
nearly fond of her for her loyalty toward David. "We won't, any of us,
speak of suspecting any one, children," she concluded. "You are not to
mention having seen David Brewster come out of my room. I would not have
suspicion rest on the boy wrongfully for a great deal; it might ruin his
whole future life. But we must be very careful; say nothing and watch!
There are sure to be other developments that will point toward the real
thief. If we do see or hear anything else that seems suspicious, then we
owe it to Mr. and Mrs. Preston to take them into our confidence. We must
remember that their property was stolen as well as mine, and that they
have taken us into their household and treated us as members of their
own family. Much as I may wish it," Miss Betsey lowered her voice
solemnly, "I feel that we have no right to shield David if he is at
fault. But"--Miss Taylor's voice was even more serious--"it would be a
far more wicked thing for us to accuse the boy if he is guiltless."

Miss Betsey rose to go. In spite of her funny, old maid appearance and
her usually severe manner toward Madge, that young woman flung her arms
around the spinster's neck and hugged her warmly. "You are perfectly
splendid, Miss Betsey," she whispered. As Miss Betsey tip-toed
cautiously out of the room, Madge blew a kiss toward her retreating
back. "You can just lecture me, after this, as much as you like. And I
promise, I promise"--Madge hesitated--"I promise not to like it a bit
better than I do now," she ended truthfully.

Then Madge turned to Phil, her rock of refuge. "Phyllis Alden, if David
Brewster stole from Miss Betsey or Mrs. Preston, I don't care what
excuse he has, I shall never forgive him, or myself for bringing him on
this boat trip. Oh, dear me! I wish dear old Tom were here! I would ask
Tom to ask David to clear things up. I suppose if I try to talk to David
Brewster, he will bite my head off."

"Come to bed this minute, Madge, and don't talk to anybody about
anything until you know more," commanded Phil stolidly. And Madge



Poor David Brewster was facing a more difficult problem than he ever had
had to conquer in his life. He must manage to get over to the old coal
mine, bring back the Preston silver and as much of Miss Betsey's money
as he could force the thief to leave behind him, without being noticed
or suspected of any unusual design. The jewels that David had already
returned to Miss Betsey had been in charge of the old gypsy woman; David
had found them on his first visit to her. But to carry back a quantity
of old family silver, some of it in fairly large pieces, was not so
simple a task. Yet David had one thing in his favor: Harry Sears and
Jack Bolling had both left the Preston farm. After Harry's encounter
with David, and the latter's frank account of his own part in the fight,
Harry had not cared to linger at the farm. He knew that some day Madge
and Phyllis Alden would find out why David had been tempted to fight.
Harry Sears had no desire to recount his own unsuccessful attempt to act
the part of "Paul Pry," so Harry and Jack had gone on to join Tom Curtis
and George Robinson, and the four boys were to come on to the houseboat
party in a few days.

David Brewster knew that whatever he had to do must be done quickly. So
he borrowed a horse and cart from Mr. Preston a day or so after Miss
Betsey's midnight talk with Madge and Phyllis. He did not explain what
he wished with the horse. However, his host asked no questions, for Mr.
Preston had entire faith in the boy.

Madge happened to be in the yard as David drove out from the stable. She
waved her hand to David in a friendly fashion, feeling secretly ashamed
of having even discussed the question of his possible guilt.

David was too worried and unhappy to respond to Madge's greeting
pleasantly, but he acknowledged her salutation with a curt nod of his
head. He had lately been more silent and reserved than ever in his
manner, because, in his heart, he longed so deeply to know some one in
whom he could confide. Yet he was afraid to trust even Madge.

"Going driving all alone, David?" questioned Madge.

"Yes," answered David harshly. Yet he was thinking at the same moment
that if he only could confide in her, Madge was just the kind of a girl
to help a fellow out of a scrape and to stand shoulder to shoulder with
him if he got into a difficulty.

Madge hesitated. She wanted so much to be friendly with David. She
thought that perhaps if he talked with her alone, he might explain a
number of things about himself that she wanted to understand, not from
curiosity but in a real spirit of friendliness. Yet she could not make
up her mind to make this request of David. If he had been like Tom, or
any one of the other motor launch boys, she would not have hesitated for
an instant.

"Stop a minute, please, David," she said, looking earnestly at the boy,
"I have a favor to ask of you." She knew that David had some mysterious
occupation that took him away from the farm every afternoon, and that he
would brook no interference. "If you are going to drive alone and I
won't be in the way, won't you take me with you?"

David Brewster colored to the roots of his dark hair. Never in his whole
life had a nice girl approached him in the friendly way that Madge had
just done. Yet he knew he must refuse her request, though David would
have dearly loved to have Madge drive with him. He simply must return
the stolen goods to Mr. Preston's house to-day, or else run the risk of
never restoring them to their rightful owners. He would not dare to ask
Mr. Preston to lend him a horse again soon, and Tom might return any day
with his launch.

Madge realized before David answered her that he meant to refuse to take
her with him. She felt furiously angry, more with herself than with the

"I am sorry," muttered David, when he at last found his voice. "I've got
to attend to some business this afternoon and I've got to attend to it
alone, or I would like very much to have you come along with me."

"Oh, never mind, then," answered Madge coldly, turning away from David,
who took a step toward her retreating figure, then, with a muttered
exclamation, sprang into the cart and drove off.

As for Madge, she decided never to speak to David again; he was

About five o'clock on the same afternoon Madge, Phyllis, Lillian and
Miss Betsey were out on the lawn eating watermelon. Eleanor stood at her
front window gazing down wistfully at her friends. Miss Jenny Ann was
reading to amuse her, but it was really more fun to look down at the
girls. Nellie was getting dreadfully tired of being confined to one
room, and yet she did not feel well enough to go downstairs.

David Brewster drove back into the yard. Inside his cart Madge noticed
a square, wooden box, which she had not seen when David left the farm.
Without saying a word to any one, the boy lifted the box and carried it
into the house. A little later he came out on the lawn to where Miss
Betsey and the girls were sitting and approached Madge rather

"Miss Morton," David's voice was unusually gentle, "don't you think I
might carry your cousin, Miss Butler, downstairs? I saw her at the
window as I drove into the yard. She looks lonely. Perhaps she would
like to be down here."

Madge blew a kiss up to Eleanor. She, too, had caught her cousin's
wistful expression. The little captain's heart melted toward David. "I
don't know," she answered doubtfully. "I'll go upstairs and ask Miss
Jenny Ann what she thinks."

"I'd be awfully careful," urged David. "I know I could carry Miss Butler
without hurting her shoulder. We could bring a steamer chair out here on
the lawn for her when I get her down."

Madge hurried away. A few seconds later David saw her at the open window
waving her hand and nodding her head energetically. "Yes; do come up,"
she called. "Eleanor is _so_ anxious to have you carry her down into the
yard, and Miss Jenny Ann is willing that you should try."

The girls busied themselves with arranging Nellie's chair in the
shadiest spot on the lawn, under a great horse-chestnut tree, and piling
the chair with sofa cushions and a pale pink shawl, and in cutting the
"heart" out of the choicest watermelon to bestow on the invalid and her

David bore Nellie as comfortably as though she were a baby. She had her
well arm about his neck and the other, the bandaged one, rested
comfortably in her lap. David's face had completely lost its sullen
look. He was actually smiling at Eleanor as she apologized for being "so

Then he sat down on the ground in the midst of the bevy of laughing
girls. Lillian passed him his piece of watermelon in her prettiest
fashion. David accepted it as gracefully as Tom Curtis might have done.
When the watermelon feast was over David helped the three girls to clear
away the dishes. When he came back he dropped down at Miss Betsey's side
and began to wind her ball of yarn.

"I wish you would knit me some gloves this winter, Cousin Betsey," he
begged boyishly.

The old lady patted him affectionately. When, before, had the boy ever
called her "Cousin Betsey"? He had seemed always to try to ignore their
relationship. "The lad isn't so bad-looking after all," Miss Taylor
thought to herself. "He is handsome when he is happy." David had on a
soft, faded, blue shirt, with a turned-down collar that showed the fine,
muscular lines of his throat. He had a strong, clear-cut face, and his
brown eyes were large and expressive. When he laughed his whole face
changed. He looked actually happy.

Then Miss Betsey realized all of a sudden how seldom she had ever seen
the boy even smile before. Perhaps, after all, Dr. Alden's prescription
for Miss Betsey Taylor was precisely what she needed. Sunshine and the
company of young people had really given her something to think about
besides her own nerves.

"Mr. Brewster," Eleanor's voice was still a little weak from her
illness, "where were you the night I was lost? Madge said you did not
join the searching party until early next morning. I believe if you had
been with the others, you might have found me sooner, you were so clever
about finding Madge."

David's face changed suddenly. The old, sullen look crept over it. Then,
as he glanced straight into Eleanor's clear eyes, his expression

"I was sorry I wasn't along with the others," he answered kindly. "But
I forgot to tell you something. I had an experience of my own that
night. I went for a long walk. On my way back I decided to take a nap on
the porch of the 'ha'nted house.' What do you think happened?" David
lowered his voice to a whisper.

"You saw the ghosts?" shivered Lillian.

David nodded his head solemnly. "I suppose you'll think I am quite mad,"
he insisted. "I think I am myself when I recall the story in broad
daylight. But, as sure as I am sitting here, I saw two ghosts walk up
the path and pass into the empty house. They were those of an old man
and a young girl. They flitted along like shadows."

"You were dreaming, boy," insisted Miss Betsey.

David shook his head. "I don't think so," he argued. "I was as wide
awake as I am now. I got up and made a blind rush for home as soon as
the spooks went by me."

"Girls! Miss Betsey!" called Mrs. Preston from the veranda, "it is time
to come into the house to get ready for tea."

As the watermelon party scrambled to their feet Madge waved one hand
dramatically. "Pause, kind friends," she commanded. "Who among us has
the courage to find out whether David Brewster's 'spooks' are real? I
have always longed to spend a night in a haunted house. Now, here's our

"I'm with you," answered David. "I'll go."

"So will I," announced Phil.

Miss Jenny Ann, who was in for most larks, hesitated. "Of course, I
don't believe in ghosts, children; there are no such things," she
declared. "Still, I shouldn't like to meet them at night."

Before the laughter at Miss Jenny Ann had ceased reinforcement for
Madge's ghost party arrived from an unexpected quarter. Miss Betsey
Taylor offered her services as chaperon, and suggested that the "spook
investigation" take place the very next night.



It was nearly ten o'clock the following evening when four excited
adventurers set out from the Preston house. They carried dark lanterns,
while practical Phil had a package of lunch stored away out of sight.
She had an idea that sitting up all night in a forlorn, dirty old house
was not going to be half as much sport as enthusiastic Madge

The little captain was not the only enthusiast in the ghost party, which
was composed of herself, Phil, David and Miss Betsey. Miss Betsey Taylor
had cast from her the sobriety of years. She was as eager and as
interested in their midnight excursion as any young girl could have
been. Not that the pursuit of ghosts had been a secret passion of Miss
Betsey's. It was only that, at the age of sixty, she was at last
beginning to understand how it felt to be young, and she was as ready
for adventure as any other one of the party of young folks.

Indeed, she was far more eager than Lillian Seldon, who could not be
persuaded even to contemplate the thought of approaching the "ha'nted
house." Lillian insisted that it was her duty to stay at home with
Eleanor and Miss Jenny Ann.

No one had been told of the proposed trip except Mr. and Mrs. Preston.
The ghost party had no intention of allowing practical jokers in the
neighborhood to get up "fake spooks" for their entertainment. They were
seriously determined to find out why the ancient house was supposed to
be inhabited by spirits from another world, and whether David Brewster
had seen real ghosts during his visit to the house or only creatures of
his own imagination.

Miss Betsey clung tightly to David's arm as they made their way along
the dark road. The old lady wore a pale gray dress, with a soft real
lace collar around her neck. Recently the houseboat girls had persuaded
her to leave off her false side curls and to wave her hair a little over
her ears. No change of costume could make Miss Betsey a beauty, but she
was improved, and she did look a little less like an old maid. To-night
Miss Betsey had concealed her dress with a long, black macintosh cape,
which completely enveloped her. With her tall, spare form and her lean,
square shoulders Miss Betsey looked like a grenadier. On her head she
had tied, with a long gray veil, one of Jack Bolling's soft felt hats.

"Madge, if you keep on prattling such gruesome tales I shall turn back
and leave you to your fate," expostulated Phil, as she urged Madge along
behind David and their chaperon. "I know nothing will happen to-night,
except that we will all be dead tired and wish we were safe at home in
our little beds. Good gracious, what was that?" Phil gave Madge's arm a
sudden pinch. "That" was an old woman hobbling along the road in the
opposite direction from the four adventurers.

"Scat!" cried Miss Betsey nervously as the woman came face to face with

David laughed and took off his hat in the dark. The old woman had picked
up her skirts and started to scurry off as fast as she could. But as she
caught sight of Miss Betsey's face in the light of the lantern that
David carried the old mammy paused. She was the "Mammy Ellen" to whom
Mrs. Preston had talked on the day of the drive to the "ha'nted house."

"Land sakes alive, chillun, how you scairt me!" grumbled the old woman.
"When you done said 'Scat!' I thought certain you'd seen a black cat,
and it jest nacherally means bad luck. Ain't you the lady I seen with
Mrs. Preston?" inquired Mammy Ellen of Miss Betsey, with the marvelous
memory that colored people have for faces.

Miss Betsey nodded. "I wish you would come to see me in the morning,
Mammy," suggested Miss Betsey. "Long years ago I used to know Mr. John
Randolph, and Mrs. Preston tells me you were a member of his family. We
can't stop to-night. We are going--on up the road," concluded Miss
Taylor vaguely.

Even in the darkness Madge and Phyllis could see the whites of Mammy
Ellen's eyes grow larger. "You ain't a-goin' near the house of 'ha'nts,'
is you? If you do, you'll sure meet trouble, one of you, I ain't a
saying which. But ef you disturb a dead ghost, he am just as apt to put
his ice cold fingers on you, and you ain't no more good after that. You
am sure enough done for."

"Why not, Auntie?" inquired Madge, her blue eyes dancing. Meeting this
aged colored woman with her mysterious tale of ghost signs and warnings
was the best possible beginning for their lark.

"Child, ef a ghost's cold fingers teches you, your heart grows stone
cold. There ain't nobody that loves you and you don't love nobody ever
after. Don't you go near that old house, chilluns. It ain't no place for
the likes of you," pleaded Mammy Ellen. "I tell you there am more buried
there than youall knows. That old house am a grave for the young and the
old. Mind what I say. It sure am."

"Why do you think we are going to the 'ghost house,' Mammy?" queried
David, laughing.

The old colored woman shook her head slowly. "It ain't caze I think
youall's going to the old place that I warn ye; it am only caze I's so
afeerd you might. I know there ain't nobody, in their right good senses
as would want their wits scairt clean out of 'em."

"But we don't believe in ghosts, Mammy," argued Madge.

Mammy Ellen peered into Madge's bright face. "Go 'long, child," she
said. "You don't believe in ghosts caze you ain't seen 'em, jest as ye
don't believe in most of the things you's got to find out."

Mammy Ellen bowed courteously to Miss Betsey and the young people as she
walked away from them.

"I do wish we hadn't met that old colored woman, Madge," whispered Phil.
"She makes me feel as though we were intruding on ghosts when we go
prying about their haunts at night."

Every leaf of every tree, every rustling blade of grass, every stirring
breath of the night wind took on a more sinister character as the four
ghost-investigators slipped up the tangled, overgrown path to the house
of mystery.

"We must put out all our lanterns but one," ordered David. "If any one
happens to be walking along the road, we don't wish them to see us
prowling about this place. Besides, we don't want to frighten the

The three women put out the light of their lanterns. David kept his
light, walking in front, with Miss Betsey next and Madge and Phyllis
bringing up the rear. The women clutched at one another's skirts as they
went around and around the dark old house, tumbling over crumbling
bricks and tangled vines. They thought it best to look thoroughly around
the outside of the house for loiterers, whether ghostly or real, before
exploring the inside.

"'Chickamy, chickamy, crainey crow, went to the well to wash her toe!
When she came back her chickens were all gone.' What time is it, old
Witch?" murmured Madge, giving Phil's skirt a wicked pull. Phil fell
back, almost upsetting Miss Betsey, who clutched feverishly at David's

"What on earth happened to you, child?" she asked tremulously.

"It was that good-for-nothing Madge's fault," laughed Phyllis.

No one of the party took the first part of their ghost hunt seriously,
but when David reported that the hour was growing late, and that it was
now time for them to enter the old house, a different feeling stole over
each one of them--a kind of curious foreboding of evil, or unhappiness,
or some unexplainable mystery.

"Let's give up and go back, Madge," proposed Phyllis. "The old house is
so musty, dark and horrible that it is sure to have rats in it, if
nothing worse. I feel that it would be better for all of us not to go
in. Suppose we should see something queer? What could we do?"

"Phyllis Alden, the very idea of your suggesting that we turn
'quitters'!" expostulated Madge. "Do you suppose we could face Miss
Jenny Ann and the girls if we retreat before we even know there is an
enemy? Come on, Miss Betsey; you and I will go on ahead. Let Phil come
with David if she likes."

Madge danced up the old, tumbled-down veranda steps, guided by the rays
of her lantern. Each one of the women had relit her lantern to enter the
deserted house. Once inside they might put them out again. But who could
tell what they might stumble against in a house that was supposed never
to have been entered in nearly forty years?

Madge pushed at the front door, which hung by a broken hinge, and drew
Miss Betsey in after her. "Oh, dear me, isn't it awful?" she whispered.

Not one of the ghost party had spoken in an ordinary voice since the
start of their adventure. Somehow their errand, the darkness of the
night and their own feelings made whispered tones seem more appropriate.

The four explorers gazed silently at the sight that Madge described as
"awful." They had expected to find the "ha'nted house" empty of
furniture. Yet in the broad hall there was an open fireplace. On either
side of it were great oak arm-chairs. Spider webs hung in beautiful
silver festoons from the mantel, with their many-legged spinners caught
in their mesh. Gray mice, lean and terrified, scuttled across the dusty
floor. A bat flapped blindly overhead.

Miss Betsey caught Madge by the hand. "I can almost see dead people
sitting in those dusty chairs," she murmured. "Let us go on upstairs. I
wish this thing were over."

The railing had fallen away from the steps, that were covered not only
with dust but with a kind of slippery mould, as many winters' rain had
fallen down upon them from the holes in the roof. David crawled up
first, pulling Madge, Phyllis and Miss Betsey after him. They groped
their way to the front bedroom.

"I won't go in there; I shall wait here in the hall," Phil said
pettishly. "I can't help thinking of Harry Sears's story about the sick
girl in that old house on Cape Cod."

David shoved at the closed door. It was fastened tight. Had the room
been locked against intruders for nearly half a century? But ghosts do
not hesitate at closed doors. David pushed harder than he knew. The lock
on the old door gave way. It fell forward, striking the floor with a
terrific crash.

Phyllis screamed with horror, then turned rigid. Not one of the others
made a single sound, except that Madge's lantern dropped to the floor at
her feet and her light went out.

An old man rose slowly from the side of a tumbled bed. He was so thin,
so white, so ethereal that he could not be human. But the four pair of
frightened eyes strained past the ghostly old man to a thin wraith that
lay on the bed. It was a girl, frail, white and wasted, staring not at
the intruders before the fallen door, but at an object that she seemed
to see afar off.

Madge's voice caught in her throat. Her knees trembled and she swayed
helplessly toward Phil. If only she and Phil could have run from the
sight before them! But they stood stupidly still, unable to move. There
was absolutely not a ray of light in the ghostly bedroom, save that
which came from the reflection of the dark lanterns in the hall. David
had jumped back when the door fell before him. But Miss Betsey's tall,
thin figure, in her queer, military coat, cast a long black shadow
across the old room. Why did not some one speak? Ghosts can not talk
and the onlookers were dumb with fear and amazement.

Then the ghost laughed drearily. "You have found me out," it said
mournfully. "I have no place, even in this house of darkness. I can not
see your faces. But I wonder why you wish to disturb an old man's last

For answer, Madge burst into tears. She was nervous and overwrought, and
to find that "the ghost" was a real person was more than she could bear.

"We didn't know there was any one living in the house," she faltered.
"We are strangers in this neighborhood. The people about here told us
that this old place was haunted, and we came to-night to see if ghosts
were real."

"Come in and bring your lights," invited the old gentleman. "There are
many kinds of ghosts, child. I will tell you who I am."

The four visitors crowded into the musty room. Phyllis and Madge had
their eyes fixed on the girl's figure in the bed. She did not return
their look, although the muscles of her face were twitching

Miss Betsey Taylor was behaving very curiously. She held her dark
lantern up so that its light fell full on the white face of the old man
whom they had so rudely disturbed.

"Bless my soul!" she murmured out loud, "it _can't_ be!"

"My name is John Randolph," explained the old gentleman, with a fine
stateliness. "My grandchild and I have been living in this deserted
house because we had no other home in the world."

"I knew it!" announced Miss Betsey. "Isn't it just like John Randolph!
Would rather bury himself alive than let his friends take care of him.
Southern pride!" sniffed Miss Betsey. "I call it Southern foolishness."

"Madam," answered Mr. Randolph coldly, "I have no friends. I can not see
that I have done wrong to any one by hiding away in this old place, that
was once the property of my friends. If people have thought of me as a
ghost, and I have tried to encourage them in the idea, well, lives that
are finished and have no place in the world are but ghosts of the
unhappy past."

"Nonsense!" said Miss Betsey vigorously, her black eyes snapping,
though she felt a curious lump in her throat. "You were always a
sentimentalist, John Randolph. But you can't live on memories. You
still are obliged to eat and to breathe God's fresh air. How do you
do it?"

If the broken old man wondered why Miss Betsey Taylor took such an
interest in his affairs, he was too courteous to show it.

"An old colored woman, 'Mammy Ellen,' who was a girl in our family when
I was a young man, has not forgotten us. She brings us each day such
food as she can procure. As for air"--the old man hesitated--"we do not
go out in the daytime. I prefer that the people of the neighborhood
should think of me as dead. But at night my little grand-daughter and I
walk about over the old place."

Madge, Phil and David gasped involuntarily. They had been silent and
amazed listeners to the dialogue between the two old people. Now the
thought of a girl younger than themselves being shut up all day in this
dreadful house, and only being allowed to go out-of-doors at night was
too dreadful to contemplate.

"Oh, but surely you can't keep your little grand-daughter shut away from
the daylight!" exclaimed impetuous Madge, her face alive with sympathy
as she gazed at the thin little form on the bed.

"Daylight and darkness are as one to my little girl," the old gentleman
answered quietly, "she is blind."

Madge shivered. Phil went over to the bed and patted the girl's hand
softly. But they both longed, with all their hearts, to get away from
this house of tragedy. It was strange that Miss Betsey did not offer to
go and leave the old man and child to their privacy.

Miss Betsey's black eyes were no longer snapping; they were wet with

"I am coming to take you both away from this place in the morning, John
Randolph. If you won't come for your own sake, you must come for the
child's. So like a man not to know that that poor baby needs to _feel_
all the more sunlight because she can't _see_ it! And she may even be
able to see it some day with proper care." Miss Betsey bent over the
child so caressingly that she looked more like a funny old angel in her
strange, long cape and her ridiculous hat than a selfish, cross-grained
old maid.

"I do not understand your kindness, Madam," returned the old gentleman
with courteous curiosity.

"Because I am your friend," answered Miss Betsey curtly. "I'm Betsey
Taylor, whom you used to know a great many years ago. You have forgotten
me because you have had many interests in your life that have crowded me
out. But I--I have remembered," concluded Miss Betsey abruptly. "Good
night." She swung her dark lantern and, looking more than ever like a
grenadier, led the little procession out.



"Mrs. Preston says we may have a dance before we go back to the
houseboat, Eleanor," announced Lillian. The two girls were out under the
big grape arbor filling a basket with great bunches of red and purple
grapes. "And Madge suggests that we have a surprise dance for the boys
the night they get back with the motor launch."

Eleanor laughed happily. "What a perfectly delightful idea! Isn't Mrs.
Preston a dear? We must have been a lot of trouble to her."

Lillian shook her head thoughtfully. "I don't think so," she answered.
"At least, I believe Mrs. Preston has liked the trouble. She says that
we have made her feel younger and jollier than she ever expected to feel
again in her life. She says that she is awfully fond of each one of us,
and that Mr. Preston has never cared as much for a boy since his own son
died, many years ago, as he does for David Brewster."

"Lillian," Eleanor's tones were serious, "I think that we ought to
change our opinions of David. Somehow, he seems so much nicer recently,
since the other boys went away. He is awfully quiet and sad, but I
don't believe he is hateful and sullen, as we thought him at first. Poor

Lillian did not reply at once. A sympathetic expression crossed her
delicate, high-bred face. "I suppose, Nellie, dear, it must be hard for
David to be with fellows who have everything in the world, like the
motor launch boys--money and family and friends--when David has

"Madge declares that David will some day be a great man," rejoined
Eleanor. "There he is now over there under the trees with Madge, Phil
and little blind Alice. Isn't she a quaint child? She says she loves
Madge best of all of us, because she can feel the color in Madge's red
hair and cheeks. Miss Betsey is almost jealous of our little captain."

Lillian finished eating a bunch of catawba grapes. "Miss Betsey wants to
take that blind child back to Hartford with her. She says that if Alice
sees specialists in New York her sight may be restored. And her
grandfather has consented to let her go, though I don't see how the old
man can bear to give her up. Mr. and Mrs. Preston have asked him to live
here with them, but he says he will go into a Confederate home for old
Southern soldiers as soon as Alice leaves. Let's go over under the trees
with Madge and Phil. We can eat our grapes and talk about the party."

Madge waved a yellow telegram frantically as Nellie and Lillian came
toward them. "Tom and the boys will be back with the motor launch the
day after to-morrow," she announced. "And that darling, Mrs. Preston,
says we can have our dance on that very night, and it's to be a fancy
dress party if we like, because she has stores and stores of lovely
old-fashioned clothes up in her attic and she won't mind our dressing up
in them. So we must drive round the neighborhood this afternoon and
deliver our invitations and decide what characters we are to represent
and----" Madge gasped for breath, while Phil fanned her violently with a
large palm-leaf fan.

"Come right on upstairs to the attic with me," ordered Madge, as soon as
she could speak again. "We have no time to waste. We can look at the
dresses and then see what characters we wish to represent. David, you
can come, too," invited Madge graciously. "You can carry Alice up the

David lifted the blind girl to his shoulder and trotted obediently after
the girls. He no longer minded Madge's occasionally imperious manner,
for he knew she was unconscious of it.

On top of all the other clothes in Mrs. Preston's cedar chest was a
black velvet gown, made with a long train and a V-shaped neck. Phyllis
laid it regretfully aside. "This is perfectly elegant," she sighed, "but
it isn't appropriate for any of us to wear."

Lillian Seldon received the rejected costume with outstretched arms. For
some time she had cherished the belief that she bore a faint resemblance
to the beautiful but ill-fated "Mary, Queen of Scots." Lillian had come
across a picture of the lovely Mary Stuart in an illustrated "Book of
Queens" in Miss Tolliver's school, and had borne the book to her bedroom
and carefully locked her door. There she had gazed thoughtfully at the
picture and then at her own reflection in the glass. Of course, it would
never do for her to mention it, not even to one of the beloved houseboat
girls, but it did appear to Lillian that her own blonde hair grew in a
low point on her forehead in much the same fashion as Mary Stuart's.
Also, she had a similar line to her aristocratic, aquiline nose, and her
chin was almost as delicately pointed. Assuredly Lillian was not vain.
She did not think for a moment that she was beautiful, like Mary Queen
of Scots, still she thought that she bore a faint resemblance to the
ill-fated Queen.

In the velvet gown lay Lillian's opportunity to impersonate the lovely
Mary, but she blushed as she smoothed it softly. "I wonder if I might
not wear this dress to the party?" she suggested meekly.

Madge shook her head critically. "It is much too old for you, dear," she

"But I have always wanted to wear a black velvet gown so much, Madge, I
mean to buy one as soon as I am really grown-up," she pleaded, "and I
could come to our dance as 'Mary, Queen of Scots.'"

The three girls surveyed pretty, blonde Lillian thoughtfully. Then three
heads nodded approvingly.

"Here is a costume for Nellie. It looks like her, doesn't it, girls?"
exclaimed Phyllis, picking up a soft, white silk gown with a Greek
border of silver braid a little tarnished by time. "Isn't it just too
sweet for anything?"

"It is a love of a frock," sighed Eleanor rapturously, "but I don't
think it suggests any special character."

Madge frowned thoughtfully. "Oh, it doesn't make so much difference
about representing a particular character, Nellie. You can go as a lady
of King Arthur's time. I imagine the women wore just such gowns in the
days of beauty and chivalry."

"All right," said Eleanor obediently. "There is a 'King Arthur's
Knights' in the library. I'll get it and read up on the doings of the
King and his subjects. Perhaps I'll find a character that will just suit
me. I'm too dark to ever think of impersonating Elaine."

"I can't represent a great historical character," declared Madge,
peering into the trunk--"who ever heard of a heroine with red hair and a
turned-up nose?--but I am going to wear this dress." Madge held up a
flowered silk of softest, palest blue, with great pale-pink roses
trailing over it. It was made with a long, pointed blouse, and had
little paniers over the hips. Madge slipped the gown on over her frock.
The dress had a little bag of the same silk hanging at its side and in
it a dainty lace handkerchief, sweet with a far-off fragrance of

David and the three girls gazed admiringly at Madge.

"Miss Dolly Varden!" exclaimed Phil. "It is just the kind of costume
that Dickens makes Dolly Varden wear in 'Barnaby Rudge.' Only Miss Jenny
Ann must make you a poke bonnet. But what about poor me? I am such a
dreadfully unromantic-looking person. I am not a tall, stately maiden
like our rare, pale Lillian, nor a witch like Madge, nor a dainty little
maid like Nellie. I am just plain Phil!" Phyllis sighed, half in jest
and half in earnest.

"I know what character I want you to represent, Phyllis, darling,"
cried Madge. "There is no costume here that is very appropriate for it,
but I know how to make a helmet and shield out of silver paper and
cardboard. And I am sure we could get up the rest of the costume."

"Whom do you mean, Madge?" inquired Phil.

"Guess. My character is a wonderfully brave girl, who sacrificed her
life to save her King and her country. Just lately she has been declared
a saint by her church."

David glanced up from the floor, where he was amusing little Alice.
"Joan of Arc, you mean, don't you?" he asked.

"Of course I do, David. How did you guess it? I don't say that Phil
looks just like the pictures of Joan of Arc, but she is like her. She
would do anything in the world that she thought was right, even if she
lost her life in doing it," declared her friend admiringly. "Now, Mr.
David Brewster, having arranged the costumes of four important members
of the Preston household, what character will you represent?"

"My own humble self," announced David firmly. "Please don't ask me to
'dress up.' I felt like a perfect chump the night I had to rig myself up
as 'Hiawatha.' I rushed up to the house and got the crazy clothes off,
even before I--before I----" David stopped, then continued nervously:
"Remember, the other fellows won't have time to get themselves into
fancy costumes, so please let me off. I'll clear out, now, and let you
girls fix up your costumes."

To save her life, Madge could not help looking curiously at David. It
was the usual hour in the afternoon when the young man disappeared.
When, late that afternoon, the lad came home he had lost his cheerful
mood of the morning. He was sullen and downcast. David had made up his
mind that his best chance to restore the stolen property to Miss Betsey
Taylor and Mrs. Preston was on the night of the fancy dress ball. The
upstairs part of the house would then probably be empty, and no one
would think of him or notice him. At any rate, he dared not wait longer.
As soon as Tom and the other boys returned, the houseboat party would
start off up the river again in tow of the "Sea Gull," and his
opportunity would be lost.



All afternoon, just before the night of the fancy dress ball, the four
girls took turns watching at the front windows of the Preston house for
the belated boys. In spite of Tom's telegram, plainly stating the day of
their arrival, the motor launch boys had not put in an appearance. Soon
after luncheon David went down to the river bank to watch for them. At
six o'clock he came back to say that he had waited as long as possible
and had seen no sign of the "Sea Gull." It looked as though the boys had
been delayed.

The girls were in despair. Here they had planned a wonderful surprise
party for the boys, and their guests of honor were not going to be
present. The young people from the nearby country houses had been
invited to the dance, to begin at eight o'clock that evening, so it was
quite impossible to put it off.

At half-past eight the old Virginia homestead, where belles and beaux
had made merry many long years before, was gay with the voices of the
invited guests. But the dancing had not yet begun. Each time the old
door-bell rang the four girls hoped it meant the return of the four

Under the great curved stairway the orchestra of colored musicians was
tuning up. Sam, the colored boy, who had first introduced two of the
houseboat girls to Mrs. Preston, was the leader of the band of six
instruments. If you have never heard old-time colored people play dance
music, you can hardly imagine how delightful it is. To-night Sam's
orchestra was composed of six instruments, a bass violin, which he
played himself, two banjos, two guitars and a tambourine.

In the long parlors that were to be used for the dancing Mr. and Mrs.
Preston stood, shaking hands with their guests. Just back of them sat
Miss Betsey in her best black silk dress, and dear Miss Jenny Ann in a
white silk gown, looking as young as any one of her girls. Between them
was little Alice. On the other side of Miss Betsey a stately old
gentleman smiled indulgently on the young people. Mr. John Randolph
could no longer have been mistaken for a ghost. A few days of cheerful
conversation with his old friends, good food and sunshine had revived
him wonderfully. Mrs. Preston explained to her friends that Mr. Randolph
had been living alone and, accompanied by his grand-daughter, had lately
come to make them a visit.

The four girls walked about the great room, receiving their visitors,
talking to them, trying to entertain them, doing everything in their
power to delay the dancing, in the vain hope that their friends would
still appear.

In answer to a nod from Mrs. Preston, Madge and Phil hurried to her
side. "It is time to begin the dance, dears," reminded Mrs. Preston. "I
am sorry that your friends have not arrived, but we can't disappoint our
other guests on their account. Tell Sam to begin with an old-fashioned
Virginia reel. It is the way we begin our dances down here in the

Madge slipped out in the back hall. She noticed David standing alone
near the front door. He seemed shy and ill at ease. He did not know how
to dance, and it was hard to pretend to be cheerful when he had such a
load on his mind.

A loud ring at the front-door bell and a knock on the door startled
David. He went forward to open it, but a witch of a girl in a pale blue
flowered silk, her blue eyes dancing under her poke bonnet, flitted by
him. "Please let me open the door, David," she entreated. "I feel just
sure Tom and the other boys have come at last."

Tom Curtis stared blankly. Who was this lovely apparition that had
opened the old farmhouse door for him? Was he dreaming, or had he and
his friends strayed into the wrong house? There were the sounds of music
and strange boys and girls were about everywhere. Tom took off his hat.
With a familiar gesture he ran his fingers through his curly light hair,
making it stand on end. "Who is it, and where am I?" he asked feebly,
pretending to be overcome with emotion, like the hero in a romantic

"Come into the house, Tom Curtis, this minute, and don't be a goose! You
know perfectly well I am Madge. Only to-night I am appearing in the
character of Miss Dolly Varden. We were giving you boys a surprise
party, but we were afraid you would not get here in time for it. Hello,
everybody!" Madge shook hands first with Tom, and then with the other
three boys. She then took Tom by one hand and her cousin, Jack Bolling,
by the other. With Harry Sears and George Robinson following her, she
escorted them proudly across the room to Mr. and Mrs. Preston. Lillian,
Phil and Eleanor hurried to join them, tendering the belated guests an
enthusiastic welcome.

"Here the young men are, at the last minute, Mrs. Preston," exclaimed
Madge triumphantly. "Now our dance can really begin."

Tom leaned over to whisper in Miss Dolly Varden's ear, "You'll dance
with me, won't you, Madge, for old time's sake?"

Madge nodded happily. "I have waited for you," she answered. "I felt
perfectly sure you wouldn't disappoint us."

Jack Bolling asked Phyllis to dance with him, Harry Sears and Lillian
were partners and Eleanor and George Robinson.

"Get your places for the Virginia reel!" Sam shouted.

Mr. and Mrs. Preston stood, each one of them at the head of a long line.
Miss Jenny Ann came next, with her partner, a man from the next farm.
The four girls were hurrying off with the motor launch boys when Madge
stopped suddenly. Old Mr. John Randolph smiled at her. It was hard not
to smile at Madge when she was happy.

The little captain whispered something in the old man's ear. "Do,
please," she urged, "it will be such fun."

Mr. Randolph rose and bowed low to Miss Betsey Taylor, with his right
hand over his heart in the manner of half a century ago. "Miss Betsey,
will you do me the honor to dance this reel with me?" he asked, almost
with a twinkle in his eye.

"My gracious, sakes alive!" exclaimed Miss Betsey nervously. "I haven't
danced in half a lifetime. I am sure my bones are much too stiff."
Nevertheless, frivolous Miss Betsey allowed her old admirer to lead her
to her place in the line.

    "The Camels are coming, Ho, ho, ho, ho!
     The Camels are coming from Baltimo',"

piped up Sam's orchestra, and jolly Mr. and Mrs. Preston swept down the
long line of the dancers with the energy of boy and girl.

David Brewster watched the scene for a minute from the open doorway. He
tried to still the feeling of jealousy that swept over him; but he could
not help but have a sore feeling in his heart. The girls, who had been
so friendly with him in the last few days, had forgotten his very
existence, now that the other boys had returned. Also, not one of the
motor boys had stopped to speak to him as they passed him in the hall.
Poor David!

Well, it was just as well that he had been forgotten for to-night, at
least, for he had work to do. Now was the appointed time for the return
of Miss Betsey's money and Mrs. Preston's silver. The servants were busy
downstairs; the guests were dancing. He would try to accomplish his

[Illustration: David was Kneeling Before the Open Box.]

David slipped quietly up the steps and went into his own small room. The
Preston house was divided by a long hall, with four large bedrooms on
either side. David's room was on the same floor, but at the back of the
house. He dragged a big wooden box out from under his bed and silently
went to work to open it. He had already got together the tools that were
necessary for the purpose. The box lid came off and on top of a pile of
silver was Miss Betsey's money bag. It contained all the money that
David had been able to persuade the thief to leave behind him.

David emptied his own pockets of every cent he had earned from Tom
Curtis during the summer, and postponed the dearest ambition of his life
as he did it. Then he crept out into the hall--like a thief, he thought
bitterly. The hall was deserted--not even a servant in sight. It was the
work of a moment for David to slip into Miss Betsey's bedroom and place
her money bag under her pillow.

But to return the silver to the Prestons was a far more difficult
matter. The burglar, on the night of the fire, had swept the old
mahogany sideboard clean. He had taken away dozens of solid silver
knives, forks, spoons and some large, old-fashioned goblets. It was
impossible for David to return the silver to its rightful place in the
dining room. He gathered up a load in his arms and ran to the front
bedroom, where Mr. and Mrs. Preston slept. His cheeks were flaming from
shame and nervousness. He hated, with all the hatred of a passionate,
honest nature, the task he was engaged in, but he knew of no other way
to do what he believed to be right.

David made his first trip with the silver in safety. But there were
still a few pieces remaining in the box. He could hear the music and the
merry laughter downstairs. In a few seconds his task would be
accomplished. He would bear in silence whatever came afterward.

The lad was kneeling on the floor before the open box. He had just
reached down to gather the last handful of silver. His door was partly
open; in his hurry David neglected to close it.

"Hello, old chap! How are you?" a cheerful voice called out. Tom
Curtis's frank, friendly face appeared at the now open door. "I did not
have a chance to speak to you downstairs when I first came in, but Madge
sent me up here for her fan, and I thought I'd take a peep in here to
see if you could be found. What have you got there?" Tom stared with
open curiosity at David's box of silver; then he looked puzzled and

David had sprung to his feet with a muttered exclamation of anger.

Neither boy spoke for a moment. Some one was coming up the steps.
"Couldn't you find my fan, Tom? It is almost time for our dance,"
called Madge. "Why, here you are gossiping with David." Madge was now at
the open door. She, too, stared at the open box of silver. Then her face
turned white. "O David! what does it mean?" she pleaded. "I simply can't
believe my own eyes."



David would make no reply to either Madge's or Tom's questionings. He
was sullen, angry and silent. After a while his two friends gave up in
despair. But Madge and Tom decided that it would be better not to tell
their dreadful secret to any one until the party was over. They did not
wish to spoil the evening for the others.

The two friends went back among the dancers and Madge danced the rest of
the evening as though nothing had happened. Yet all the time she felt
sick at heart. She had trusted David and looked on him as her friend,
while he had done her many kindnesses and she was grateful for them. In
spite of the evidence of her own eyes she told herself that she still
trusted him.

For the rest of the long evening David Brewster never left his own
chamber, where Tom had found him. He did not even trouble to take the
rest of the silver in to Mrs. Preston. He just sat, staring miserably in
front of him, looking old and haggard. The worst had happened. He had
been found with the stolen goods in his possession and he had
absolutely no explanation to make to his friends.

It was after one o'clock in the morning when the last guest had departed
from the Preston home.

"Dolly Varden looks tired," said Mrs. Preston kindly to Madge, who was
lingering near her. "You had better run upstairs to bed, my dear."

"O Mrs. Preston!" cried Madge brokenly, "something
strange--has--happened. Won't--you--make--David explain--it to--you?"
Then she threw her arms about the good woman's neck and began sobbing

"What's the matter, little girl?" asked Mr. Preston in alarm. He had
come upon the scene just in time to witness Madge's outburst of grief.

But all Madge would say was: "Ask David. Make him explain. He isn't
guilty; I know he isn't. He didn't steal the silver and Miss Betsey's
money; I am sure he didn't."

While Madge was sobbing forth her defense of David, Ned, the old butler,
came hurrying in with an excited, "Won't you please come into your bed
room, sah; de silver am all back again."

Mr. Preston hurried after Ned. Sure enough, there was the silver, spread
out on the sidetable. David was nowhere to be seen, however, and Mr.
Preston decided not to ask the boy any questions that night concerning
the mysterious fashion in which the lost silver had suddenly been
returned. Neither would he discuss the situation with any member of the
household, and for this Madge was secretly very thankful.

David did not come down to breakfast with the family. Soon after Mr.
Preston went upstairs to his room. The household was strangely divided
in its feeling. Jack Bolling, Harry Sears and George Robinson were all
against David. Tom was silent and depressed. Miss Betsey Taylor had not
closed her eyes all night, and was extremely cross. She hated to admit
it, but her own judgment told her that David was a thief. Though Phil
was bitterly sorry and would have done anything in the world she could
to help David out of the scrape, she was forced to agree with Miss

The young people openly discussed the question of David's guilt. Only
Madge was absolutely silent. She would give no opinion one way or the
other. But poor David found an unexpected champion in Eleanor. She did
not believe that David had taken the money and silver. If he had, he
must have meant it for a joke, or he had had some other good reason.
Nellie felt perfectly sure he would explain later on.

The entire party was out on the veranda that led from the dining room
when Mr. Preston came back from his interview with David. Mr. Preston's
face was very grave, and sterner than any one of his young guests had
ever seen it. "The boy refuses to give me any explanation of his strange
behavior," announced Mr. Preston to his wife in a voice that they could
all hear. "He begs only that I let him leave the house at once. He says
that the silver is all safe, and that he will pay Miss Betsey back the
rest of her money as soon as he is able to earn it."

"What answer did you make to him, William?" asked Mrs. Preston
nervously. Her kind face was clouded with sympathy and regret.

"I told David that he most certainly should not leave us," returned Mr.
Preston severely. "I insisted that he come among us, as he has before,
and remain here until Mr. Curtis wishes to take his friends away. He
will then do what he thinks wisest with the boy. But David shall _not_
escape the penalty of his own act. I have no desire to punish him by
law. He has returned the stolen property, so I presume that he has had a
change of heart; but his refusal to explain why he committed the theft,
or to say that he is sorry for his deed, makes it hard for me to have
patience with him. He is very trying."

The gloomy morning went by slowly. The motor launch boys took Phil,
Lillian and Eleanor down the river bank. Madge would not go. The young
people wished to see that the houseboat was set in order for sailing,
and Tom suggested that they eat their luncheon aboard the "Sea Gull."
Only Madge guessed that generous-hearted Tom Curtis wished to spare
David the embarrassment of meeting his former friends so soon after his

David came down to Mrs. Preston's luncheon table. His face looked as
though it were cut from marble; only his black eyes burned brilliantly,
and his mouth was drawn in a fine, hard line. He bowed quietly as he
entered the room, but spoke to no one during the meal. Miss Betsey
talked to him kindly, and asked him to come to her room some time during
the afternoon.

David shook his head firmly. "It wouldn't do any good, Miss Taylor," he
said in a firm tone. "I am willing to let you do anything to me that you
like, but I have absolutely nothing to say."

After leaving the dining room, David hurried toward his retreat in the
woods. Madge had gone upstairs and was watching the lad from her open
window. As she saw him disappear down the road she ran quietly after

David had the start of her and he strode on so rapidly that it was
difficult to catch up with him. Then, too, Madge did not wish David to
see her until they were both well away from the Preston house.

But once the boy had vaulted the fence into the field, Madge called
after him softly: "David, please stop a minute, won't you? I only wish
to speak to you."

David marched straight on. If he heard Madge, he did not turn his head.
She climbed the fence into the field after him and ran on. "David, don't
you hear me?" she panted, for David was walking faster than ever.

She was now so near to David that she knew there was no possibility of
his not knowing that she had called to him. When he did not turn his
head or show any sign of answering her, she stopped still in the center
of the field, with an involuntary exclamation of hurt surprise. Then she
turned her back on the boy and began to slowly retrace her steps toward

David had heard every sound that Madge made, even to her last little
admission of defeat. As she moved away from him he stopped still. He
then swung himself around and gazed wistfully after her retreating form.
"If she asked me the truth, I think I would have to tell it to her," he
murmured to himself. "I don't dare trust myself. It is better that she
should think me the rude boor that I am. But I am not a thief; I wish I
could tell her that, at least."

Madge's eyes were full of tears as she stumbled back across the fields.
She was hurt, angry and disappointed. Somehow, in spite of everything,
she had believed that David could explain his mysterious possession of
the stolen property. She would not try again to tell him that she still
had faith in him, she thought resentfully.

The field was full of loose rocks and stones, but Madge was apparently
oblivious to this. Suddenly a stone rolled under her foot, giving her
ankle an unexpected wrench. With a little cry of pain she sank down on
the ground to get her breath. In an instant David Brewster was at her

"I am afraid you have hurt yourself," he said humbly.

"No," she returned coldly. "I wrenched my ankle for a second; it is all
right now."

"Do let me help you home," offered David miserably.

Madge shook her head. "No, thank you; I wouldn't trouble you for
worlds," she protested icily.

"But you wouldn't trouble me; I should dearly love to do it," replied
David so honestly that the little captain's heart softened though her
severe manner never changed. "See here, Miss Morton," David burst out
impetuously, "if you won't let me take you home, do let me help you to
that old tree over there. You can't stay here in the broiling sun; it
will give you a dreadful headache. I know you don't want to speak to me,
and I will go right away again."

"I _did_ want to speak to you very much, David," returned Madge gently;
"only you would not let me."

"I know," answered David. "I did hear you call to me. I am not going to
lie to you, too. I didn't answer because I didn't dare."

Madge put her hand on David's arm and let him assist her across the
field to the tree. Her ankle was really well enough by this time for her
to have walked alone, but Madge was not quite ready to walk alone.

David sat down abruptly beside his companion under the shadow of a
mammoth tulip tree, staring moodily in front of him.

Madge said nothing. A minute, two minutes of silence passed.

"I don't believe you stole the things, David," she avowed simply.

David's eyes dropped and his face twitched. "How can you fail to believe
that I stole them?" he questioned doggedly. "I had them in my
possession. You know that."

Madge turned her sweet, honest face full on the boy. "I don't know why I
think so, David, but I do. I trust you, and I _know_ you are honest. Do
you dare to look me squarely in the face and say: 'Madge Morton, you are
mistaken. I _did_ steal Miss Betsey's money and Mr. Preston's silver'?
If you will say this, I promise never to betray you and I will never
trouble you with questions again. But if you don't, David Brewster, I am
going to work until I come to the bottom of this mystery."

David Brewster covered his face with his hands. "I can't say it, Madge,"
he faltered; "it is too much to ask of me."

The little captain's face broke into happy smiles. "Never mind, David,"
she comforted him, "I believe I understand."



David Brewster rose to his feet.

"If your ankle is all right now," he suggested hurriedly, "I had better

"Why?" asked Madge innocently.

"I have some work to do," returned David.

"The same work that you do every afternoon?"

David bowed his head. "Yes," he replied. "See here, Miss Morton, there
isn't any reason why I shouldn't tell you what I do when off by myself
every afternoon. I don't want you to think that I am always up to some
dishonest kind of business." David flushed hotly. "I am only studying
when I hide off here in the woods. You see, I have always had to work
awfully hard; I never have had much time for schooling. But I don't want
the other fellows to get too far ahead of me, for I am going to college
some day, even if I am a grown man, when my chance comes."

"Good for _you_, David!" cried Madge, clapping her hands softly. "Of
course you will go to college if you have set your mind upon going. I
don't believe you are the kind of boy that gives up. You'll do most
anything you want to do some day."

David's face flushed under Madge's enthusiasm. "Oh, no, I won't," he
answered miserably. "There are some things a fellow can't live down."

"You mean this theft?" inquired Madge.

"Yes," nodded the boy. "Everyone believes me to be a common thief."

"But you didn't steal the things. I believe I know who took them,"
hazarded Madge; "that man and the old woman who were hiding in the

Madge saw at a glance that her guess was true. David gazed at her
helplessly. Then he shook his head. "Those people must have been far
away from this neighborhood when the things were taken," he replied.

"Oh, no, they weren't," retorted Madge. "The old woman was at the farm
the night of the fire, dressed up as 'Old Nokomis.' I wondered, at the
time, if she was not up to some kind of mischief. Then, later on, when
Nellie was lost, she saw the same man and woman. I believe they changed
their hiding place for fear they might be suspected of the theft, and
that we would send the sheriff to look for them."

"But why should I try to shield _them_, Miss Morton?" asked David
obstinately, "and how could I have the stolen goods if other people
took them?"

It was Madge's turn to flush and be silent. "Don't make me tell you why
I think you are trying to shield them, David, by taking the shame on
yourself," she pleaded. "You see, I believe I have guessed what those
people are to you."

"You can't have guessed," protested David hoarsely. "You don't know
anything of me or my people."

"Girls are good at guessing," explained Madge apologetically. "You see,
Miss Betsey told us that your father wasn't a very good kind of man, and
that he sometimes went away from home and wandered around the country
for a long time. And, and----" Madge hesitated. "At first when you spoke
to the man and old woman, I was just surprised at your knowing such
curious people. Then I began to think. The man looked something like
you, David. So I have just worked it out in my own mind that the man
took the things, and that you made him let you return them to Miss
Betsey and Mrs. Preston, and that you are willing to take the blame on
yourself because--because----" Madge hesitated again and looked down.
"Because the man is your father!" she said gently. "Am I right, David?
Please tell me."

David's face turned red, then white, then red again. "You think that
thief is my father, because I look like him, and because I am willing to
bear the burden of his guilt?" David was not conscious that he had at
last confessed to Madge that the man she suspected was the actual

"He is not my father," continued David passionately. "My father is good
for nothing; he comes of bad people, and he has dragged my mother down
with him. But he is not a thief! The man who stole the money from Miss
Betsey and the silver from the Prestons is my first cousin. He is a
great deal older than I am. His father was my father's eldest brother.
Hal used to live with us when I was a little boy, and I was fond of him
then. But he got too bad, even for us to stand, and he has since been
tramping around the country, stealing, or living any way that he could.
He would not give me back the things until I promised to take the blame
if anybody was suspected. He threatened to implicate me in the robbery
if I told any one, so I thought the best thing to do was to return the
things and let him go."

Madge's face was burning and her hands quite cold. "I am sure I beg your
pardon, David, with all my heart," she said humbly. "I know that you
never can forgive me for insulting your father. I ought not to have
tried to find out your secret. Once, long ago, a girl told my friends a
story about my father. She said that he had been disgraced when he was a
captain in the Navy, and had been dismissed from the service. It wasn't
true," faltered Madge, "but most people believed it. I had to try
awfully hard to forgive that girl when, later on, she asked me to pardon
her. So I don't even ask you to forgive me, David," she insisted
mournfully; "only you will believe me when I say that I am awfully sorry
for my mistake."

David was staring at her intently. "Forgive you," he replied. "Of course
I won't--because there is nothing to forgive. You have been the best
friend I ever had. To think that, even when you thought my father was a
thief and a tramp, you were still willing to believe in me and to be my
friend! You are simply great! Some day I am going to do something
splendid that will make you feel glad to know David Brewster." David
shook Madge's hand warmly, his eyes clear and untroubled for the first
time in their acquaintance. This girl had thought the worst of his
family and still had trusted him. No one with a faithful friend need
ever be discouraged.

Madge and David walked slowly back to the Preston house, across the
August fields. It was late afternoon. The boy and girl had talked
together for a long time under the old tree. They had confided to each
other many of their hopes and ambitions. They were not to see each other
alone again for a long time. But neither one of them was to forget that
summer afternoon.

At the front gate Madge turned and faced David squarely. Her charming
face wore an expression of stubborn determination.

"David Brewster, I have not promised your cousin to keep his secret, or
to let you be suspected of his crime. I am going to tell Mr. and Mrs.
Preston and Miss Betsey that you did not steal their property, and that
just as soon as I get inside the house."

David shook his head resolutely. "I thought I could trust you, Madge."

"You can," urged Madge. "Only, please, don't be so stubborn. It can't
hurt your cousin for me to tell what he has done. Mr. Preston and Miss
Betsey have never seen him and they will both promise never to try to
punish him for the theft. They have their things back, so they are not
hurt, except by----"

"By what?" asked David unsuspiciously.

"By their lack of faith in you, David," answered Madge convincingly. "It
hurts awfully to be deceived in people. Miss Betsey cried all night, and
Mr. Preston ate hardly any breakfast or luncheon, they have been so
unhappy over you."

The little captain thought she saw signs of relenting in David's face.
"Do let me tell," she pleaded. "I really can't bear it, if you don't,"
she ended in characteristic Madge-fashion.

David smiled and nodded.

Without waiting to give him a chance to change his mind she ran into the
house and up the front steps. The three girls and the motor launch boys
had returned and were wondering what had become of her. Madge swept them
all before her into the Preston library. Then, summoning her host and
hostess, Miss Betsey and Miss Jenny Ann, Madge told David's story.
Perhaps she made him a hero in explaining how he was willing to take his
cousin's crime on his own shoulders, rather than have Miss Betsey and
Mrs. Preston lose their property, but at least, after she had finished,
there was no one present who did not have a feeling of admiration for
David, who had tried to do his duty even at the expense of his good



"Do you think it is very funny, Tom?" inquired Phil. She and Madge,
Lillian, Eleanor and the four motor launch boys were on the deck of the
"Sea Gull." They were gliding down the Rappahannock toward the great
Chesapeake Bay. Moving gracefully behind the motor boat was the familiar
form of the "Merry Maid." A group of older people sat out on her deck,
gazing along the sun-lit shores of the river. The cruise of the
houseboat was almost over.

Tom Curtis hesitated at Phil's question. "I ought not to say it is
funny," he returned, "but I really think it is."

"Don't any of you dare to let Miss Betsey know you think so," warned

Eleanor looked aggrieved. "I am sure I don't know what there is funny
about it," she protested. "I think it is lovely. Only it wasn't nice in
Miss Betsey not to let us be her bridesmaids." Eleanor gazed across the
little space of water to where Mr. and Mrs. John Randolph sat together
on the deck of the "Merry Maid" with the blind child, Alice.

Madge laughed softly. "Miss Betsey said she felt enough like a fool,
being married at her age, without having a lot of young girls standing
around to laugh at her. But John Randolph wouldn't let her take care of
him unless she did marry him, and she had no idea of separating him from
his grandchild," concluded Madge.

"What a lot of things have happened this summer," remarked Lillian. "Who
would have thought that we should leave David Brewster in Virginia! Mr.
Preston says that if David will work for him he will help him go to

"David is a bully fellow!" declared Tom. "I don't think we understood
him just at first."

"Yes, and Tom Curtis is another," teased Madge; "only he won't blow his
own horn, unless it is his fog-horn. Tom offered to pay David's expenses
at college if he would come home with us, but David said he thought it
would be better for him to earn his own way."

Miss Jenny Ann waved frantically from the deck of the houseboat.

"Tie up along shore, Tom; it is growing late. Remember, this is our last
supper party together this summer," she called out.

It was the first week in September. The evening had grown unexpectedly
cool when Tom ran the two boats up by the river bank. In the morning
they were to put into shore at a nearby town, and the little company of
friends would disband to travel to their homes in various parts of the
country. So for to-night they had planned to have a wonderful feast on
land, and to make it their good-bye memory of their summer cruise.

Tom had selected a line of open shore, with a grove of chestnut trees
just back of it.

Each member of the party went on land, bearing boxes, lunch-hampers and
baskets of fruit. Tom staggered under a particularly large box that was
very tall and round, as though it contained a new Easter bonnet with
feathers standing straight up on it.

Madge and Phil marched behind him, urging him to be careful every foot
of the way.

"Girls!" cried Miss Betsey excitedly, coming up beside them with her
bonnet over one ear and her long cape flying out behind her, "I have a
confession to make to you; I had better out with it before I forget it.
You remember those small sums of money that I vowed I had lost when we
were first aboard the houseboat?"

Both girls nodded, though their faces clouded at the recollection.

"Well, they were not stolen at all," announced Miss Betsey shamefacedly.
"I am an old woman, children, in spite of my present performances. I had
tucked that money away in the little table drawer in my cabin on the
houseboat; I suppose I meant to use it for something, and then forgot
it. I have a short memory for some things and a long one for others,"
Miss Betsey's eyes twinkled as her husband came up to join her.

Harry Sears and George Robinson made a huge campfire near the spot where
the voyagers had chosen to have their supper. Miss Jenny Ann got out the
big coffee pot. The rest of the party started in to spread the feast on
a big damask table cloth that Miss Betsey had arranged on the grass.

"Madge, you and Tom Curtis go off to some place to find water for the
lemonade," ordered Miss Betsey. Madge and Tom each seized a large tin
bucket. Not far off they could see a funny little log house that must
belong to one of the river men, it was set so close to the river. They
would find water there.

"I have something important to tell you, Madge," said Tom. He began
searching diligently in his coat pocket for something, pulled out half a
dozen letters, his knife and pocket-book, then with a blank look he
exclaimed, "Jiminy! I hope I haven't lost it. Mother will never forgive
me if I have."

"Lost what?" demanded Madge.

"Why, Mother sent you a present, and I have forgotten to give it to
you. Now I am afraid I have lost it somewhere."

"Tom Curtis, put down that wretched bucket and hunt for it until you
find it," insisted Madge. "What's that sticking out on the front pocket
of your coat?"

Tom smiled in a relieved fashion as he handed Madge a box about four
inches square. "It's Mother and it's a beauty," he announced.

Madge opened the box to find an exquisite miniature of her friend, Mrs.
Curtis. It was painted on ivory and was about the size of a locket.
Around it were exquisite pearls, and it hung on a slender gold chain.

The little captain's eyes filled with tears as she looked at it. "I
would rather have it than anything in the world," she murmured. In the
lining of the box Madge found a note, written on a card: "For my Madge,"
it read, "whom I shall never cease to wish to have for my daughter."

"I have something to tell you, too," added Tom. "My sister, Madeleine,
is going to be married."

Madge nearly dropped her gift in her excitement. "Married! Madeleine!
What do you mean? Whom is she going to marry? Why didn't you tell me
before?" she demanded, all in one breath. "Do hurry and tell me."

Tom laughed. "You'll never guess. She is going to marry the Judge
Hilliard who rescued you and Phil the night that that wretched Mike
Muldoon put you out of his sailboat. Judge Hilliard has always been a
friend of ours, you know. At first Madeleine was just grateful to him
for what he did for her. Afterward"--Tom colored--"I suppose she fell in
love with him. I am not quite sure as to what it means to 'fall in
love.' But Madeleine isn't going to be married for a year. Then she
wants the four houseboat girls to be her bridesmaids."

Madge clasped her hands in rapture. "Won't it be fun!" she exclaimed.
"But do hurry on, Tom, or we shall never get the water for the

They were almost back with their other friends when Tom had finished his
mother's message: "When Madeleine is married, Mother means to ask you
again to be her adopted daughter, Madge," continued Tom; "and you know
how much I want you."

Madge shook her auburn head, her face pale with emotion. "It is too soon
to talk about it, Tom," she answered. "You see, when I finish school I
am going first to hunt for my father."

"Madge and Tom, do hurry here this minute!" scolded Phil from her seat
on the grass. "The lemonade is all ready, except pouring on the water,
and we are waiting supper for you."

The two boat parties were in a great circle about the big table cloth,
with Mr. and Mrs. John Randolph at the head as the guests of honor of
the feast.

It was growing dark, but the bushes and trees nearby were strung with
lanterns borrowed from the two boats. The feast was almost over when
Madge whispered something in Tom's ear and Phil nodded emphatically.

Tom slipped away, to return bearing the big box which he had carried so
tenderly up from the houseboat.

Between them Madge and Phil lifted out a mammoth wedding cake and placed
it, with a flourish, in the center of the feast. "You wouldn't have a
wedding supper at Mrs. Preston's, Miss Betsey--Mrs. Randolph, I mean,"
announced Madge, "so we have made you have it here." Madge handed her a
knife, saying, "You must cut your own wedding cake."

"I can't cut it," protested Mrs. Randolph; "it is too lovely." On top of
the cake was an exquisite frosted ship, made to represent the houseboat.
Six tiny dolls danced about it, Phil, Lillian, Eleanor, Madge, Miss
Jenny Ann and Miss Betsey! On it was written in icing: "Good luck to the

It was too dark to see the bride's radiant old face as she cut into her
wedding cake, but her hand trembled.

A minute later Eleanor gave a little cry of surprise. In biting her cake
she had come across a small gold ring.

"Eleanor will be married first, but I shall be the richest," announced
Lillian, as she held up a bright silver dime. "Who will be the old

Nobody spoke, but Madge produced a small, bent thimble. "I am going to
be the old maid, of course. Haven't I always said so?" she inquired.

"_Not_ if I know it!" whispered Tom into Madge's unheeding ears.

"Come on, children, to the boats," ordered Miss Jenny Ann, a little
later. "Night has come on. We must say good-bye. We won't have any
farewells, even in the morning. They are too dismal. But pleasant dreams
on the houseboat and the motor launch. And may we meet again!"

Miss Jennie Ann's wish was prophetic. There were other happy times in
store for the four girls and their teacher on board their beloved "Ship
of Dreams," the "Merry Maid." What happened to them during a summer at
Cape May and how Madge kept her vow to find her father are fully set
forth in "MADGE MORTON'S VICTORY," the record of another summer
vacation spent at the seashore which no friend of the little captain and
her chums Lillian, Phyllis and Eleanor, not to mention Miss Jenny Ann
Jones, can afford to miss reading.




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Transcriber's Note:

    Page  14 Yet is was impossible to _changed to_
            Yet it was impossible to

    Page  26 Phillis was a little girl _changed to_
             Phyllis was a little girl

    Page  63 as she re-appeared on deck _changed to_
             as she reappeared on deck

    Page 137 fullstop removed after chapter heading

    Page 234 David found an unexpected champon _changed to_
             David found an unexpected champion

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