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´╗┐Title: Guilt of the Brass Thieves
Author: Wirt, Mildred A. (Mildred Augustine), 1905-2002
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 "Guilt of the Brass Thieves" ***

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                              Guilt of the
                             Brass Thieves


                                  _By_
                            MILDRED A. WIRT

                              _Author of_
                    MILDRED A. WIRT MYSTERY STORIES
                       TRAILER STORIES FOR GIRLS

                             _Illustrated_

                        CUPPLES AND LEON COMPANY
                              _Publishers_
                                NEW YORK



                             _PENNY PARKER_
                            MYSTERY STORIES

              _Large 12 mo.       Cloth       Illustrated_


                         TALE OF THE WITCH DOLL
                        THE VANISHING HOUSEBOAT
                        DANGER AT THE DRAWBRIDGE
                         BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR
                       CLUE OF THE SILKEN LADDER
                            THE SECRET PACT
                       THE CLOCK STRIKES THIRTEEN
                            THE WISHING WELL
                         SABOTEURS ON THE RIVER
                         GHOST BEYOND THE GATE
                       HOOFBEATS ON THE TURNPIKE
                          VOICE FROM THE CAVE
                       GUILT OF THE BRASS THIEVES
                           SIGNAL IN THE DARK
                            WHISPERING WALLS
                              SWAMP ISLAND
                          THE CRY AT MIDNIGHT


                COPYRIGHT, 1945, BY CUPPLES AND LEON CO.

                       Guilt of the Brass Thieves

                          PRINTED IN U. S. A.

                               Dedicated
                                   to
                                ASA WIRT



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                            PAGE
  1 ADRIFT                                                            _1_
  2 THE BRASS LANTERN                                                _10_
  3 A "PROBLEM" BOY                                                  _18_
  4 THROUGH THE WINDOW                                               _28_
  5 UNWANTED ADVICE                                                  _36_
  6 SWEEPER JOE INFORMS                                              _43_
  7 NIGHT SHIFT WORKER                                               _52_
  8 OVERHEARD IN THE GATEHOUSE                                       _62_
  9 SALLY'S HELPER                                                   _70_
  10 OVERTURNED                                                      _79_
  11 A QUESTION OF RULES                                             _88_
  12 NIGHT PROWLER                                                   _95_
  13 THE STOLEN TROPHY                                              _108_
  14 TRAPPED                                                        _117_
  15 UNDER THE SAIL                                                 _124_
  16 SILK STOCKINGS                                                 _131_
  17 BASEMENT LOOT                                                  _141_
  18 OVER THE BALCONY                                               _150_
  19 FLIGHT                                                         _157_
  20 A DESPERATE PLIGHT                                             _165_
  21 RESCUE                                                         _172_
  22 CAPTAIN BARKER'S COURAGE                                       _179_
  23 FIRE!                                                          _187_
  24 DREDGING THE RIVER                                             _195_
  25 THE RACE                                                       _204_



                                CHAPTER
                                   1
                                _ADRIFT_


"This is the limit! The very limit!" Giving his leather suitcase an
impatient kick, Anthony Parker began to pace up and down the creaking old
dock.

His daughter Penny, who stood in the shadow of a shed out of the hot
afternoon sun, grinned at him with good humor and understanding.

"Oh, take it easy, Dad," she advised. "After all, this is a vacation and
we have two weeks before us. Isn't the river beautiful?"

"What's beautiful about it?" her father growled.

However, he turned to gaze at a zigzag group of sailboats tacking
gracefully along the far rippled shore. Not a quarter of a mile away, a
ferryboat churned the blue water to whip cream foam as it steamed
upstream.

"Are you certain this is the dock where we were to meet Mr. Gandiss?"
Penny asked after a moment. "It seems queer he would fail us, for it's
nearly five o'clock now. We've waited almost an hour."

Ceasing the restless pacing, Mr. Parker, publisher of the _Riverview
Star_, a daily newspaper, searched his pockets and found a crumpled
letter.

Reviewing it at a glance, he said: "Four o'clock was the hour Mr. Gandiss
promised to meet us at dock fourteen."

"This is number fourteen," Penny confirmed, pointing to the numbers
plainly visible on the shed. "Obviously something happened to Mr.
Gandiss. Perhaps he forgot."

"A nice thing!" muttered the publisher. "Here he invites us to spend two
weeks at his island home and then fails to meet us! Does he expect us to
swim to the island?"

Penny, a slim, blue-eyed girl with shoulder length bob which the wind
tossed about at will, wandered to the edge of the dock.

"That must be Shadow Island over there," she observed, indicating a dot
of green land which arched from the water like the curving back of a
turtle. "It must be nearly a mile away."

"The question is, how much longer are we to wait?" Mr. Parker glanced
again at his watch. "It's starting to cloud up, and may rain in another
half hour. Why not taxi into town? What's the name of this one-horse
dump, anyhow?"

"Our tickets read 'Tate's Beach.'"

"Well, Tate's Beach must do without us this summer," Mr. Parker snapped,
picking up his suitcase. "I've had my fill of this! We'll spend the night
in a hotel, then start for Riverview on the early morning train."

"Do you know Mr. Gandiss well?" Penny inquired, stalling for time.

"He advertises in the _Star_, and we played golf together occasionally
when he came to Riverview. I must have been crazy to accept an invitation
to come here!"

"Oh, we'll have a good time if only we can get to the island, Dad."

"I can't figure out exactly why Gandiss invited us," Mr. Parker added
thoughtfully. "He has something in mind besides entertainment, but what
it is, I haven't been able to guess."

"How about hiring a boat?" Penny suggested.

Her father debated, then shook his head. "No, if Gandiss doesn't think
enough of his guests to meet them, then he can do without us. Come on,
we're leaving!"

Never noted for an even temper or patience, the publisher strode down the
dock.

"Wait, Dad!" Penny called excitedly. "I think someone may be coming for
us now!"

A mahogany motorboat with glittering brasswork, approached at high speed
from the direction of Shadow Island. As Penny and her father hopefully
watched, it swerved toward their dock, and the motor was throttled.

"That's not Mr. Gandiss," the publisher said, observing a sandy-haired,
freckled youth at the steering wheel.

Nevertheless, suitcase in hand, he waited for the boat.

The craft came in smoothly, and the young man at the wheel leaped out and
made fast to a dock post.

"You're Anthony Parker!" he exclaimed, greeting Penny's father, and
bestowing an apologetic smile upon them both. "I'm Jack--Jack Gandiss."

"Harvey Gandiss' son?" Mr. Parker inquired, his annoyance melting.

"A chip off the old block," the boy grinned. "Hope I haven't kept you
waiting long."

"Well, we had just about given up," Mr. Parker admitted truthfully.

"I'm sure sorry, sir. I promised my father I would meet you sharp at
four. Fact is, I was out on the river with some friends, and didn't
realize how late it was. We were practicing for the trophy sailboat
race."

Penny's blue eyes sparkled with interest. An excellent swimmer, she too
enjoyed sailing and all water sports. However, she had never competed in
a race.

"Suppose we get along to the island," Mr. Parker interposed, glancing at
the sky. "I don't like the look of those clouds."

"Oh, it won't rain for hours," Jack said carelessly. "Those clouds are
moving slowly and we'll reach the island within ten minutes."

Helping Penny and Mr. Parker into the motorboat, he stowed the luggage
under the seat and then cast off. In a sweeping circle, the craft sped
past a canbuoy which marked a shoal, and out into the swift current.

Penny held tightly to her straw hat to keep it from being blown
downstream. A stiff breeze churned the waves which spanked hard against
the bow of the boat.

"My father was sorry he couldn't meet you himself!" Jack hurled at them
above the whistle of the wind. "He was held up at the airplane
factory--labor trouble or something of the sort."

Mr. Parker nodded, his good humor entirely restored. Settling comfortably
in the leather seat, he focused his gaze on distant Shadow Island.

"Good fishing around here?" he inquired.

"The best ever. You'll like it, sir."

Jack was nearly seventeen, with light hair and steel blue eyes. His white
trousers were none too well pressed and the sleeves of an old sweater
bore smears of grease. Steering the boat with finger-tip control, he
deliberately cut through the highest of the waves, treating his
passengers to a series of jolts.

Some distance away, a ferryboat, the _River Queen_, glided smoothly
along, its railings thronged with people. In the pilot house, a girl who
might have been sixteen, stood at the wheel.

"Look, Dad!" Penny exclaimed. "A girl is handling that big boat!"

"Sally Barker," Jack informed disparagingly. "She's the daughter of
Captain Barker who owns the _River Queen_. A brat if ever there was one!"

"She certainly has that ferryboat eating out of her hand," Mr. Parker
commented admiringly.

"Oh, she handles a boat well enough. Why shouldn't she? The captain
started teaching her about the river when she was only three years old.
He taught her all she knows about sailboat racing, too."

Jack's tone of voice left no doubt that he considered Sally Barker
completely beneath his notice. As the two boats drew fairly close
together, the girl in the pilot house waved, but he pretended not to see.

"You said something about a sailboat race when we were at the dock,"
Penny reminded him eagerly. "Is it an annual affair?"

Jack nodded, swerving to avoid a floating log. "Sally won the trophy last
year. Before that I held it. This year I am planning on winning it back."

"Oh, I see," Penny commented dryly.

"That's not why I dislike Sally," Jack said to correct any
misapprehension she might have gained. "It's just--well, she's so sure of
herself--so blamed stubborn. And it's an insult to Tate's Beach the way
she flaunts the trophy aboard that cheap old ferryboat!"

"How do you mean?" Mr. Parker inquired, his curiosity aroused.

Jack did not reply, for just then the engine coughed. The boat plowed on
a few feet, and the motor cut off again.

"Now what?" Jack exclaimed, alarmed.

Even as he spoke, the engine died completely.

"Sounds to me as if we're out of gas," observed Mr. Parker. "How is your
supply?"

A stricken look came upon Jack's wind-tanned face. "I forgot to fill the
tank before I left the island," he confessed ruefully. "My father told me
to be sure to do it, but I started off in such a hurry."

"Haven't you an extra can of fuel aboard?" Mr. Parker asked, trying to
hide his annoyance.

Jack shook his head, gazing gloomily toward the distant island. The
current had caught the boat and was carrying it downstream, away from the
Gandiss estate.

"Nothing to do then, but get out the oars. And it will be a long, hard
row."

"Oars?" Jack echoed weakly. "We haven't any aboard and no anchor either."

Mr. Parker was too disgusted to speak. A man who demanded efficiency and
responsibility in his own newspaper plant, he had no patience with those
negligent of their duties. Because he and Penny were to be guests of the
Gandiss family, he made an effort not to blame Jack for the mishap.

"I--I'm terribly sorry," the boy stammered. "But we shouldn't be stranded
here long. We'll soon be picked up."

Hopefully, Jack gazed toward the nearest shore. No small boats were
visible. The ferry, plying her regular passenger route, now was far
upstream.

Although the sun still shone brightly, clouds frequently blocked it from
view. Waves slapped higher against the drifting boat and the river took
on a dark cast.

Neither Penny nor her father spoke of the increasing certainty of rain.
However, they watched the shifting clouds uneasily. Soon there was no
more sun, and the river waters became inky black.

Presently the wind died completely and a dead calm held the boat. But not
for many minutes. Soon a ripple of breeze ruffled the water, and far
upstream a haze of rain blotted out the shoreline.

"Here it comes!" Mr. Parker said tersely, buttoning up his coat.

The next instant, wind and rain struck the little boat in full force.
Penny's hat was swept from her head and went sailing gaily down river.
Waves which broke higher and higher, spanked the boat, threatening to
overturn it when they struck broadside.

"If we just had an anchor--" Jack murmured but did not finish.

Above the fury of the storm could be heard the faint clatter of a
motorboat engine. Straining their eyes, they pierced the wall of rain to
see a small speedboat fighting its way upstream.

"A boat!" Penny cried. "Now we'll be picked up!"

Jack sprang to his feet, waving and shouting. Closer and closer
approached the boat, but there was no answering shout from those aboard.

Mr. Parker, Penny and Jack yelled in unison. They thought for a moment
that the occupants must have heard their cries and would come to the
rescue. But the craft did not change course.

Keeping steadily on, it passed the drifting motorboat well to starboard,
and disappeared into the curtain of rain.



                                CHAPTER
                                   2
                          _THE BRASS LANTERN_


The rain dashed into Penny's face and ran in rivulets down her neck. With
a change in the wind direction, the air had become suddenly cold.
Shivering, she huddled close to her father for warmth.

Veiled by rain, the shore no longer was visible. Far to the right, the
chug of a laboring motorboat was heard for an instant, then died away. It
was apparent to Penny that they were drifting downstream quite rapidly.

"Listen!" she cried a moment later.

From upriver had come three sharp blasts of a whistle.

"That's the _River Queen_," muttered Jack, tossing a lock of wet hair out
of his eyes. "We must be right in her path."

"Then maybe we'll be picked up!" Penny exclaimed hopefully.

Jack gave a snort of disgust. "I'd rather drown than accept help from
Sally Barker! Wouldn't she gloat!"

"Young man," interposed Mr. Parker with emphasis, "this is no time for
false pride. We're in a predicament and will welcome help from any
source."

"Yes, sir, I guess you're right," murmured Jack, completely squelched. "I
sure am sorry about getting you into this mess."

Gazing through the curtain of driving rain, Penny tried to glimpse the
_River Queen_. Suddenly she distinguished its high decks and was dismayed
to see that the ferry was bearing at full speed directly toward the
drifting motorboat.

Jack leaped to his feet, frantically waving his arms. Realizing the
danger of being run down, Mr. Parker likewise sprang up, shouting.

Straight on came the _River Queen_, her pilot seemingly unaware of the
little boat low in the water and directly in the path.

"They don't see us!" Jack shouted hoarsely. "We'll be run down!"

The ferryboat now was very close. Its dark hull loomed up. Expecting a
splintering crash, Penny struggled to her feet, preparing to jump
overboard. But instead, she heard a series of sharp whistle toots, and
the ferryboat swerved, missing them by a scant three yards.

"Wow! Was that close!" Jack muttered, collapsing weakly on the seat. Then
he straightened up again into alert attention, for the ferry had reduced
speed.

"Maybe we're going to be picked up!" he exclaimed.

The ferryboat indeed had maneuvered so that the current would swing the
drifting craft directly toward it.

Five minutes later, wet and bedraggled, the three stranded sailors
scrambled up a lowered ladder onto the _River Queen's_ slippery deck. A
few curious passengers who braved the rain, stared curiously at them as
they sought shelter.

"Well, if it isn't Jack Gandiss, and in trouble again!" boomed Captain
Barker, owner of the ferry. He was a short, stubby, red-faced man, with
twinkling blue eyes. "What happened this time? Engine conk out?"

"We ran out of gas," the boy admitted briefly. "Thanks for picking us
up."

"Better thank Sally here," replied the captain, giving orders for the
motorboat to be taken in tow. "It was her sharp eyes that picked you up
out o' the storm."

Penny turned to see a dark-haired girl of her own age standing in the
doorway of the pilot house. In oilskin hat and coat, one easily might
have mistaken her for a boy. Impatiently she brushed aside a strand of
wet hair which straggled from beneath the ugly headgear, and came out on
the rain-swept deck.

"Well, well, if it isn't Jack!" she chortled, enjoying the boy's
discomfiture. "Imagine an old tar like you running out of gas!"

"Never mind the cracks!" he retorted grimly. "Just go back to your
knitting!"

Turning her back upon Jack, Sally studied Penny with curious interest.

"Do I know you?" she inquired.

"My father and I are to be guests at the Gandiss home," Penny explained,
volunteering their names. "We were on our way to Shadow Island when we
ran out of gas."

"Let's not go into all the gory details here," Jack broke in. "We're
getting wet."

"You mean you _are_ all wet," corrected Sally, grinning.

"Sally, take our guests to the cabin," Captain Barker instructed with
high good humor. "I'll handle the wheel. We're late on our run now."

"How about dropping us off at the island?" Jack inquired. "If we had some
gasoline--"

"We'll take care of you on the return trip," the captain promised. "No
time now. We have a hundred passengers to unload at Osage."

Penny followed Sally along the wet deck to a companionway and down the
stairs to the private quarters of the captain and his daughter.

"Osage is a town across the river," Sally explained briefly. "Pop and I
make the run every hour. This is our last trip today, thank Jupiter!"

The cabin was warm and cozy, though cramped in space. Sally gave Mr.
Parker one of her father's warm sweaters to put on over his sodden
garments, offered Penny a complete change of outer clothing, and
deliberately ignored Jack's needs.

"You may return the duds later," she said, leading Penny to an adjoining
cabin where she could change her clothes. "How long do you folks expect
to stay at Shadow Island?"

"Two weeks probably." Penny wriggled out of the limp dress.

"Then we'll have time to get better acquainted. You'll be here for the
trophy race too!" Sally's dark eyes danced and she added in a very loud
voice: "You'll be around to see Jack get licked!"

"In a pig's eye!" called Jack through the thin partition of the cabin.
"Why, that old sailboat of yours is just a mess of wormwood!"

"It was fast enough to win the brass lantern trophy!" Sally challenged,
winking at Penny. In a whisper she explained: "I always get a kick out of
tormenting Jack! He's so cocky and sure of himself! It does him good to
be taken down a peg."

"Tell me about the race," urged Penny. "It sounds interesting--especially
your feud with Jack."

"Later," promised Sally carelessly. "Right now I want to get you
something warm to drink before we dock at Osage. Here, give me those wet
clothes. I'll dry them for you, and send them to Shadow Island tomorrow."

Rejoining Jack and Mr. Parker, the captain's daughter conducted the party
to a food bar in the passenger lounge.

"Hot Java," she instructed the counter man. "And what will you have to go
with it? Hamburgers or dogs? This is on the house."

"Make mine a dog with plenty of mustard," laughed Penny, enjoying the
girl's breezy slang.

"Nothing for me except coffee," said Jack stiffly. "I'll pay for it too."

Mr. Parker decided upon a hamburger. Food, especially the steaming hot
coffee, revived the drooping spirits of the trio. Even Jack thawed
slightly in his attitude toward Sally.

Sipping the brew from a thick China mug, Penny's gaze roved curiously
about the lounge. The room was poorly furnished, with an ancient red
carpet and wicker chairs. Passengers were absorbed with newspapers, their
fretful children, or the _River Queen's_ supply of ancient magazines.

The lounge however, was scrupulously clean, and every fixture had been
polished until it shone like gold. Sam Barker, whose father before him
had sailed a river boat, was an able, efficient captain, one of the best
and most respected on the waterfront.

Attached to an overhead beam near the food bar, swung an ancient brass
lantern. The body was hexagonal in shape, its panes of glass protected by
bars of metal. A two-part ornamental turret was covered with a hood from
which was attached the suspending ring.

"That lantern came from an old whaling boat nearly a century ago," Sally
explained. "For many years it was kept in the Country Club as a curio.
Then two seasons ago, it was offered as a trophy in the annual Hat Island
sailboat race held here."

"I won the lantern the first year," Jack contributed. He pointed to his
name and the date engraved on the trophy's base.

"The second year, I upset the apple cart by winning," Sally added with a
grin. "The race next week will decide who keeps the lantern permanently."

"Providing it isn't stolen first!" Jack cut in pointedly. "Sally, why
must you be so stubborn about hanging it here on the _River Queen?_ Every
Tom, Dick, and Harry rides this old tub."

"Don't call the _River Queen_ a tub," drawled Sally, her tone warning him
he had gone far enough. "And as for our passengers--"

"What I mean," Jack corrected hastily, "is that you can't vouch for the
honesty of every person who rides this ferry."

"I'm not in the least worried about the lantern being stolen," Sally
retorted. "I won it fairly enough, didn't I?"

"Yes."

"Then it's mine to display as I choose. The racing committee agreed to
that. The lantern is chained to a beam and is safe enough."

"I hope so," Jack said grimly. "I aim to win it back, and I don't want to
see it do a disappearing act before the day of the race."

"You won't," Sally returned shortly. "I accept full responsibility, so
let me do the worrying."

A signal bell tapped several times, a warning to the passengers that the
ferry was approaching shore. As those aboard began to gather up their
belongings, Sally buttoned her oilskin coat tightly about her.

"Excuse me for a minute," she said to Penny and Mr. Parker. "I've got to
help Pop. See you later."



                                CHAPTER
                                   3
                           _A "PROBLEM" BOY_


Penny, Jack and Mr. Parker reached the deck of the _River Queen_ in time
to see Sally leap nimbly across a wide space to the dock. There she
looped a great coil of rope expertly over the post and helped get the
gangplank down.

"Step lively!" she urged the passengers pleasantly, but in a voice crisp
with authority.

In a space of five minutes, she had helped an old man on crutches, found
a child who had become separated from his mother, and refused passage to
three young men who sought to make a return trip on the ferry.

"Sorry, this is the end of the line," she told them firmly. "Our last
trip today."

"Then how about a date?" one of the men teased.

Sally paid not the slightest heed. Raising the gangplank, she signalled
for the ferry to pull away.

"Sally always likes to put on a show!" Jack muttered disapprovingly. "To
watch her perform, one would think she were the captain!"

"Well, she impresses me as a most capable young lady," commented Mr.
Parker. "After all, we owe our rescue to her and Captain Barker."

Taking the hint, Jack offered no further disparaging remarks. Rain had
ceased to fall, but deep shadows blotted out the river shores. Watching
from the railing, Penny saw the island loom up, a dark, compact mass of
black.

"The ferry can't land there?" she inquired in surprise.

Jack shook his head. "Shoals," he explained briefly. "In the spring
during the flood season, the channel is fairly safe. Now--"

He broke off, and turned to stare toward the pilot house. The engines had
been stilled and the ferry was drifting in toward the island. Captain
Barker stood by his wheel, silent, watchful as a cat.

"By George!" Jack exclaimed admiringly. "The old boy intends to take her
in through the shoals. But it's a risky thing to do."

"It is necessary?" asked Mr. Parker, deeply concerned. "After all, we've
already caused the Barkers great inconvenience. Surely there is no need
for them to risk going aground just to put us off at the Island."

"Captain Barker could give us a little gasoline, but he gets a big kick
out of doing it this way," Jack muttered. "He and Sally both like to show
off. It wouldn't surprise me if the old boy oversteps himself this time.
We're running into shoal water."

Sally, evidently worried, stationed herself at the bow of the _River
Queen_, dropping a leadline over the side.

"Eight and a half feet!" she called. "Seven and three-quarters--"

"We'll never make it," Jack murmured. "We're going aground now!"

Even as he spoke, the ferryboat grated on the sandy river bottom.

Captain Barker seemed not in the least disturbed. "Let 'er have it!" he
shouted through the speaking tube. "Every ounce we've got!"

Rasping and groaning in its timbers, the stout little ferryboat ground
her way through the sand. For one terrifying moment it seemed that she
had wedged herself fast. But she shuddered and went over the bar into
deeper water.

Sally drew a long sigh of relief, and grinned at Jack. "I knew Pop could
make it," she chuckled, "but he sure had me scared for a minute."

"That was a remarkable demonstration of piloting," Mr. Parker declared.
"Are we in safe waters now?"

"Yes, the channel is deep all the way to our dock," Jack replied. "I
guess Captain Barker aims to dump us off at our front door."

Bells jingled again, the engines were cut, and the ferry drifted up to
Shadow Island wharf. While Mr. Parker and Penny were thanking Captain
Barker, Sally helped Jack and one of the sailors set loose the towed
motorboat. Their loud, argumentative voices could be heard from the
stern.

"Those kids scrap like a dog and a cat when they're together," chuckled
Captain Barker. "But I calculate they'll outgrow it when they're a little
older. At least, I hope so."

Saying a reluctant goodbye, Mr. Parker and Penny tramped ashore, and with
Jack, watched until the _River Queen_ had safely passed the shoal and was
well out in the main channel again.

Before they could pick up the luggage, an elderly, gray-haired man came
hurriedly down a flagstone walk from the brightly lighted house on the
knoll.

"Mr. Gandiss!" exclaimed Anthony Parker, grasping his outstretched hand.
"This is my daughter, Penelope. Or Penny, everyone calls her."

The owner of Shadow Island greeted the girl with more than casual
interest. But as he spoke, his puzzled gaze followed the _River Queen_
whose lights now could be seen far upstream.

"I may as well make a clean breast of it, Dad," Jack said before his
father could request an explanation. "We ran out of gas, and the _Queen_
picked us up."

"You ran out of gas? I distinctly recall warning you this afternoon that
the tank would need to be refilled."

"I forgot," Jack said, edging away. Before his father could reprimand him
further, he disappeared in the direction of the boathouse.

Mr. Gandiss, a stout, pleasant man, was distressed by his son's behavior.
As he led the way to the house, he apologized so profusely that Penny and
her father began to feel uncomfortable.

"Oh, boys will be boys," Mr. Parker declared, trying to put an end to the
discussion. "No harm was done."

"We enjoyed the adventure," added Penny sincerely. "It was a pleasure to
meet Captain Barker and his daughter."

Mr. Gandiss refused to abandon the subject.

"Jack worries me," he confessed ruefully. "He's sixteen now--almost
seventeen, but in some respects he has no responsibility. He's an only
child, and I am afraid my wife and I have spoiled him."

"Jack doesn't seem to get along with Sally Barker very well," Penny
remarked, smiling at the recollection.

"That's another thing," nodded the island owner. "Sally is a fine girl
and smart as a whip. Jack has the idea that because she isn't the product
of a finishing school, she is beneath notice. Sally likes to prick holes
in Jack's inflated ego, and then the war is on!"

"You have a fine son," Mr. Parker said warmly. "He'll outgrow all these
ideas."

"I hope so," sighed Mr. Gandiss. "I certainly do." His expression
conveyed the impression that he was not too confident.

The Gandiss home, surrounded by shrubs, was large and pretentious. At the
front there was a long, narrow terrace which caught the breeze and
commanded a view of the river for half a mile in either direction. There
were tennis courts at the rear, and a garden.

"I'm glad you folks will be here for the annual sailboat race," Mr.
Gandiss remarked, pausing to indicate the twinkling shore lights across
the water. "If it were daytime, you could see the entire course from
here. Jack is to race a new boat built especially for him."

"Sally Barker is his chief competitor?" inquired Penny.

"Yes, in skill they are about equally matched, I should say. They take
their feud very seriously."

In the open doorway stood Mrs. Gandiss, a silver-haired woman not yet in
her fifties. Cordially, she bade the newcomers welcome.

"What a dreadful time you must have had out on the river!" she said
sympathetically. "The storm came up so quickly. My husband would have met
you himself, but he was delayed at the factory."

A servant was sent for the luggage, and Effie, a maid, conducted Penny to
her room. The chamber was luxuriously furnished with a green tiled bath
adjoining. Pulling a silken cord to open the Venetian blinds, Penny saw
that the window overlooked the river. She breathed deeply of the damp,
rain-freshened air.

"Where do the Barkers live?" she asked Effie who was laying out
embroidered towels.

"Wherever it suits their fancy to drop anchor, Miss. Since I came here to
work, the only home they ever have had was aboard their ferryboat."

The luggage soon was brought up, and Effie unpacked, carefully hanging up
each garment. Penny inquired if she would have time for a hot bath.

"Oh, yes, Miss. The Gandiss' never dine until eight. I will draw your
tub. Pine scent or violet?"

Penny swallowed hard and nearly lost her composure. "Make it pine," she
managed, "and omit the needles!"

Exposure to rain and cold had stiffened her muscles and made her feel
thoroughly miserable. However, after fifteen minutes in a steaming bath,
she felt as fresh as ever. Her golden hair curled in ringlets tight to
her head, and when she came from the bathroom, she found a blue dinner
dress neatly pressed and laid on the bed.

"Two weeks of this life and I won't even be able to brush my own teeth,"
she thought. "No wonder Jack is such a spoiled darling."

Penny wondered what Mrs. Maud Weems would say if she were there. The
Parkers lived nearly a hundred miles away in a city called Riverview, and
Mrs. Weems, the housekeeper, had looked after Penny since the death of
her mother many years before.

Mr. Parker, known throughout the state, published a daily newspaper, the
_Star_, and his daughter frequently helped him by writing news or
offering unrequested advice.

In truth, neither she nor her father had been eager to spend a vacation
with members of the Gandiss family, feeling that they were practically
strangers. Jack, Penny feared, might prove a particular trial.

In the living room, a cheerful fire had been started in the grate. Mr.
and Mrs. Gandiss were chatting with Mr. Parker, trying their best to make
him feel at home.

An awkward break in the conversation was covered by announcement that
dinner was served. Jack's chair at the end of the table remained
conspicuously empty.

"Where is the boy?" Mr. Gandiss asked his wife in a disapproving tone.

"I'm sure I don't know," she sighed. "The last I saw him, he was down at
the dock."

A servant was sent to find Jack. After a long absence, he returned to say
that the boy was nowhere on the island, and that the motorboat was
missing.

"He's off somewhere again, and without permission," Mr. Gandiss said
irritably. "Probably to the Harpers'. You see what I mean, Mr. Parker? A
growing boy is a fearful problem."

Penny and her father avoided a discussion of such a personal subject. An
excellent dinner of six courses was served in perfect style, but while
the food was well cooked, no one really enjoyed the meal.

Coffee in tiny China cups was offered in Mr. Gandiss' study. His wife
excused herself to go to the kitchen for a moment and the two men were
left alone with Penny.

Unexpectedly, Mr. Gandiss said:

"Anthony, I suppose you wonder why I really invited you here."

"I am curious," Mr. Parker admitted, lighting a cigar. "Does your son
Jack have anything to do with it?"

"I need advice in dealing with the boy," Mr. Gandiss acknowledged. "It
occurred to me that association with a sensible girl like your daughter
might help to straighten him out."

"I wouldn't count on that," Penny interposed hastily. "As Dad can tell
you, I have a lot of most unsensible ideas of my own."

"Jack is a problem," Mr. Gandiss resumed, "but I have even more serious
ones. How are you two at solving a mystery?"

Mr. Parker winked at his daughter and paid her tribute. "Penny has built
up quite a reputation for herself as an amateur Sherlock Holmes. Running
down gangsters is her specialty."

"Dad, you egg!" Penny said indignantly.

Both men laughed. But Mr. Gandiss immediately became serious again.

"My problem is difficult," he declared, "and I believe you may be able to
help me, because I've heard a great deal about the manner in which you
have solved other mysteries."

"Only in the interests of gaining good stories for our newspaper, _The
Star_," Mr. Parker supplied.

"This probably would not net a story for your paper," the island owner
said. "In fact, we are particularly anxious to keep the facts from
getting into print. The truth is, strange things have occurred at my
airplane factory in Osage--"

Mr. Gandiss did not finish, for at that moment someone rapped loudly on
an outside screen door.



                                CHAPTER
                                   4
                           THROUGH THE WINDOW


"Now who can that be?" Mr. Gandiss remarked, startled by the knock on the
door. "I heard no motorboat approach the island."

He waited, and a moment later a servant entered to say that two
detectives, Jason Fellows and Stanley Williams, had arrived from the
factory and wished to report to him.

Penny and her father politely arose to withdraw, but Mr. Gandiss waved
them back into chairs.

"No, don't go," he said. "I want you to meet these men."

The two detectives, who had reached the island in a rented motorboat,
appeared in the doorway. Mr. Gandiss introduced them to Penny and her
father, and then inquired what had brought them to the house at so late
an hour.

"It's the same old story only more of it," Detective Williams said
tersely. "Another large supply of brass disappeared from the factory
yesterday."

"Any clues?"

"Not a one. Obviously the brass is being stolen by employes, but so far
the guilty persons have eluded all our traps."

"Have you calculated how much I am losing a year?" Mr. Gandiss asked
bitterly.

"At the present resale value of brass and copper, not less than $60,000 a
year," Mr. Fellows reported. "However, the thieves are becoming bolder
day by day, so your loss may run much higher."

"See here," Mr. Gandiss said, showing irritation. "I'm paying you fellows
a salary to catch those thieves, and I expect action! You say you have no
clues?"

"Several employes are under suspicion," Mr. Williams disclosed. "But we
haven't enough evidence to make any accusations or arrests."

"Then get some evidence!" Mr. Gandiss snapped. "This ring of petty
thieves must be broken up! If you can't produce results, I'll turn the
case over to another agency."

After the two detectives had gone, the island owner began to pace the
floor nervously.

"Now you know why I wanted you to come here, Mr. Parker," he said,
slumping down into a chair again. "My plant, which is making war
materials, is being systematically looted of valuable copper and brass.
The pieces smuggled out are small in size, but they count up to a
staggering total."

"Sabotage?" Mr. Parker inquired.

"I doubt it," the island owner replied, frowning. "While the thefts slow
up our war work, the delay is not serious. Materials disappear from the
stock rooms and from the floors where the girls work. I hold a theory
that the metal is being taken by employes who resell it for personal
gain."

"It looks like a simple case of theft," Mr. Parker declared. "I should
think your detectives would have no trouble running down the guilty
persons."

"That's what I thought at first," Mr. Gandiss answered grimly. "It
appeared as easy as A B C. But all ordinary methods of catching the
thieves have failed. Obviously, the thefts are well organized by someone
thoroughly familiar with the plant. It's getting on my nerves."

"Have you called in the police?"

"No, and I don't intend to. The matter must be handled quietly. That's
why I need your advice."

"But I'm no detective," Mr. Parker protested. "Why call on me?"

"Because you and your daughter have solved some pretty tangled cases."

"Only for the newspaper," Mr. Parker replied. "How many employes do you
have at the plant?"

"About 5000. And not a scrap of real evidence against any individual.
There seems to be a perfect system in accounting for all the stock, yet
somehow it gets away from the factory."

"Have you had employes searched as they leave the building?"

"No, we haven't dared resort to that," Mr. Gandiss answered. "You can't
search such a large number of workers. If we tried it, half the force
would quit."

"I'd be glad to help you, if I could," Mr. Parker offered.
"Unfortunately, I don't see how I can if professional detectives have
failed."

"Let me be the judge of that," said the island owner quickly. "Will you
and your daughter visit the factory with me in the morning?"

"We'd welcome the opportunity."

"Then we'll go into the records and all the details tomorrow," Mr.
Gandiss declared, well satisfied. "I know you'll be able to help me."

Penny and her father were tired, and shortly after ten o'clock went to
their rooms. Mr. Gandiss' problem interested them, though they felt that
he had greatly overrated their ability in believing they could contribute
to a solution of the mystery.

"I'm not certain I care to become involved," Mr. Parker confessed to
Penny, who in robe and slippers had tiptoed into his room to say
goodnight.

"But Dad, we can't decently refuse," Penny returned eagerly. "I think it
would be fun to try to catch those thieves!"

"Well, we'll see," yawned Mr. Parker. "Skip back to bed now."

Penny read a magazine for an hour, and then switched off the light on the
night table. Snuggling down under the silk coverlet, she slept soundly.

Sometime later, she found herself suddenly awake, though what had aroused
her she could not guess. The room remained dark, but the first glimmer of
dawn slanted through the Venetian blinds.

Penny rolled over and settled down for another snooze. Then she heard a
disturbing sound. The wooden blinds were rattling ever so slightly, yet
there was no breeze. Next her startled gaze focused upon a hand which had
been thrust through the window to stealthily push the blinds aside.

A leg appeared over the sill, and a dark figure stepped boldly into the
bedroom.

Terrified, Penny sat up so quickly that the bed springs creaked a loud
protest. Instantly the intruder turned his face toward her.

"Keep quiet!" he hissed.

With mingled relief and indignation, Penny recognized Jack. He tiptoed to
the bed.

"Now don't let out a yip," he cautioned. "I don't want Mom or my father
to hear."

"Well, of all the nerve!" Penny exclaimed indignantly. "Is this my room
or is it your private runway?"

"Don't go off the deep end. All the doors are locked and the servants
have orders not to let me in if I am late."

"It's nearly morning," said Penny, hiding a yawn. "Where in the world did
you go?"

"Town," Jack answered briefly.

Penny began to understand the cause of Mr. Gandiss' worry about his son.

"Now don't give me that 'holier than Thou' line," Jack said, anticipating
a lecture. "I'm not going to the dogs nearly as fast as the old man
believes. He's an old fossil."

"You shouldn't speak of your father that way," Penny replied. "After all,
hasn't he given you everything?"

"He tries to keep me tied to his apron strings." Jack sat down on the
bed, stretching luxuriously. "Mom isn't quite so unreasonable."

"Both of your parents seem like wonderful people to me."

"Maybe I know 'em better than you do," Jack grinned. "Oh, they're okay,
in their way. Don't get me wrong. But my father always is trying to shove
me around. If it hadn't been for your open window, I'd have had to sleep
out in the cold."

"And it would have served you right too! You went off without saying a
word to your parents, and worried them half to death. Now kindly remove
your carcass from this bed!"

"Oh, cut the lecture," Jack pleaded, getting up and yawning again. "Gosh,
I'm hungry. Let's find something to eat in the kitchen."

"Let's not," retorted Penny, giving him a shove. "Clear out of here, or
I'll heave the lamp at you!"

"Oh, all right, kitten," he said soothingly. "I'm going. Remember your
promise not to go wagging your tongue about what time I got in."

"I didn't promise a thing!"

"But you will," chuckled Jack confidently. "See you in the morning."

He tiptoed from the room, and Penny heard him stirring about in the
kitchen. The refrigerator door opened and closed several times. Then at
last all became quiet again.

"The conceited egg!" she thought irritably. "Now I'm so thoroughly
awakened, I can't possibly go back to sleep."

Tossing about for a few minutes, she finally arose and dressed. Deciding
to take an early morning walk about the island, she moved noiselessly
through the house to the kitchen.

There she paused to note the wreckage Jack had left in his wake. The
refrigerator door was wide open. As she closed it, she saw dishes of
salad, chicken, pickles and tomatoes in a depleted state. Jack had topped
off his feast with a quart of milk, and the bottle, together with, a pile
of chicken bones, cluttered the sink.

A step was heard in the dining room. Startled, Penny turned quickly
around, but it was too late to retreat.

The Gandiss' cook stood in the kitchen doorway, eyeing her with obvious
disapproval.



                                CHAPTER
                                   5
                            UNWANTED ADVICE


"Just having an early morning snack?" Mrs. Bevens, the cook, inquired.

"Why, no," stammered Penny. "That is--." Confronted with the empty milk
bottle, a chicken skeleton, and two empty food dishes, it seemed futile
to deny such incriminating evidence. Though tempted to speak of Jack, she
decided it would not be sporting of her.

"Young people have such healthy appetites," the cook sighed. "I had
counted on that chicken for luncheon. But never mind. I can send to the
mainland for something else."

Feeling like a criminal, Penny fled to her room.

"I could tar and feather Jack!" she thought furiously. "If he ever gets
up, I'll make him explain to the cook."

The breakfast bell rang at eight o'clock. When Penny joined the group
downstairs, she was surprised to see Jack in a fresh suit, looking little
the worse for having been out all night.

"What time did you get in, Jack?" his father inquired pointedly.

"Well, now I just don't remember," the boy answered, winking at Penny.

"_How_ did you get in, might be a better question. If I recollect
correctly, all of the doors were locked last night at midnight."

Penny, decidedly uncomfortable, would have confessed her part, had not
Jack sent her a warning glance. As everyone went in to breakfast, the
matter was allowed to rest.

Ravenously hungry, Penny ate two waffles and several pieces of bacon.
Observing the butler's amazed gaze upon her, she guessed that the cook
had told him of the chicken episode.

Breakfast over, she managed to get Jack into a corner.

"Listen," she said indignantly, "why don't you tell your parents exactly
what happened. Mrs. Bevens thinks I ate up all the chicken."

"Does she?" Jack chuckled. "That's rich! Don't you dare give me away!"

"You give me a pain!" Penny retorted, losing all patience. "If I weren't
a guest in your house, I think I might slug you!"

"Go ahead," Jack invited, unruffled. "You're a little spitfire just like
Sally! Oh, by the way, how about a trial run in the _Spindrift_?"

"Not the new sailboat?"

Jack nodded, his face animated. "She was delivered yesterday and is
smooth as silk. The mast may need to be stepped back a notch or so, but
otherwise she's perfect for the race. Want to sail with me?"

"I'd love to," Penny said, forgetting her resentment.

Hand in hand they ran down the path to the docks. _The Spindrift_, built
to Mr. Gandiss' specifications, at a cost of nearly two thousand dollars,
was a magnificent boat. Sixteen feet from bow to stern, its new coat of
white was satin smooth, and its metalwork gleamed in the morning sun.

"She's fast," Jack declared proudly. "Sally Barker hasn't a chance to win
that race!"

"Will she have a new boat?"

"No, the captain can't afford it. She'll have to sail _Cat's Paw_ again."
In all honesty, Jack added: "It's a good boat though. Captain Barker
built it himself."

Together they put up the snowy white mainsail, and Jack shoved off from
the dock. Heading upstream, the boy demonstrated how close to the wind
the _Spindrift_ would sail.

"She's good in a light breeze too," he declared. "No matter what sort of
weather we get for the race, I figure I'll win."

"There's an old saying that pride goeth before a fall," Penny reminded
him. "Also one about not counting your chickens."

"Poultry never interested me," Jack grinned, his eyes on the peak of the
mainsail. "I'll win that brass lantern trophy from Sally if it's the last
act of my life."

Penny, who had sailed a boat for several seasons in Riverview, hoped that
Jack would offer her the tiller. Oblivious to her hints, he kept the
_Spindrift_ heeling along so fast that water fairly boiled behind the
rudder. Jack was a good sailor and knew it.

Observing the _River Queen_ plying her usual course, the boy deliberately
steered to cross her path. As Penny well knew, by rules of navigation the
ferryboat was compelled to watch out for the smaller boat. With apparent
unconcern, Jack forced the _Queen_ to change courses.

As the boats passed fairly close to each other, Sally appeared at the
railing. A bandana handkerchief covered her hair and she wore slacks and
a white sweater. Watching the _Spindrift_ with concentration, she cupped
her hands and shouted:

"If you sail near Hat Island, better be careful, Jack! The river level is
dropping fast this morning. There's a shoal--"

"When I need advice from you, I'll ask for it!" Jack replied furiously,
turning his back to the ferry.

Sally waved derisively and disappeared into the pilot house.

"Why aren't you two nicer to each other?" Penny demanded suddenly. "It
seems to me you deliberately try to wave a red flag at her. For instance,
sailing across the _River Queen's_ bow--"

"Oh, I just intend to show Sally she can't push me around! Let's go
home."

Suddenly tiring of the sport, Jack let out the mainsail, and the boat
glided swiftly before the wind. Approaching a small island tangled with
bushes and vines, Penny noted that the water was growing shallow. She
called Jack's attention to the muddy bottom beneath them.

"Oh, it's deep enough through here," the boy responded carelessly. "I
make the passage every day."

"What island are we passing?"

"Hat. The water always is shoal here. Just sit tight and quit scowling at
me."

"I didn't know I was," Penny said, sinking back into the cushions.

The _Spindrift_ gently grazed bottom. Dismayed, Penny straightened up,
peering over the side. The boat was running hard into a mud bank.

"About! Bring her about, Jack!" she cried before she considered how he
might take the uninvited advice.

"The water is deep enough here," Jack answered stubbornly. "It's only a
tiny shoal. We'll sail through it easily."

Penny said nothing more, though her lips drew into a tight line.

Jack held to his course. For a moment it appeared that the boat would
glide over the shoal into deeper water. Then the next instant they were
hard aground. The sail began to flap.

"We're stuck like a turtle in a puddle," commented Penny, not without
satisfaction.

"We'll get off!" Jack cried, seizing a paddle from the bottom of the
boat.

He tried to shove away from the shoal, but the wind against the big sail
resisted his strength.

"You'll never get off that way," Penny said calmly. "Why not take down
the sail? We're hard aground now."

Jack glared, and looked as if he would like to heave the paddle at her.

"Okay," he growled.

Winds which came from the head of Hat Island were tricky. Before Jack
could lower the sail, the breeze, shifting slightly, struck the expanse
of canvas from directly aft.

"Look out, Jack!" Penny screamed a warning. "We're going to jibe!"

Jack ducked but not quickly enough. With great violence, the wind swung
the sail over to the opposite side of the boat, the boom striking him a
stunning blow on the back of the head.

Moaning with pain, he slumped into the bottom of the _Spindrift_.



                                CHAPTER
                                   6
                          SWEEPER JOE INFORMS


Alarmed for Jack, Penny scrambled over a seat to his side. He had been
struck a hard blow by the swinging boom and there was a tiny jagged cut
just behind his ear. A glance satisfied the girl that he was not
seriously injured and that she could do nothing for him at the moment.

Turning her attention to the sail which was showing an inclination to
slam over again, she quickly pulled it in and lowered it to the deck.

By then Jack had opened his eyes. His bewildered gaze rested upon her,
and he rubbed his head.

"You--" he mumbled, raising on an elbow.

Penny firmly pushed him back. "Lie still!" she commanded.

Seizing the paddle, she tried to shove the boat backwards off the mud
bank. Her best efforts would not move it an inch.

Slowly Jack raised himself to a sitting position. He rubbed his head.
Bewilderment changed to a look of comprehension.

"I'm okay now," he said huskily. "We're hard aground, aren't we?"

"Solid as a rock," agreed Penny, wiping perspiration from her forehead.
"Any ideas?"

"I'll get out and push."

"You're not strong enough. You took a nasty blow on the head."

Had not Jack looked so thoroughly miserable, Penny might have been
tempted to adopt an "I told you so" attitude. There had been no excuse
for running aground. Sally Barker had warned them about the shoal, and
Jack deliberately had disregarded her advice.

"I guess it was my fault," Jack mumbled, the words coming with
difficulty. "The water was deep enough here yesterday. I was so sure--"

His eyes, like those of an abused puppy, appealed to her for sympathy.
Suddenly, Penny's resentment vanished and she felt sorry for Jack.

"Never mind," she said kindly. "We'll get off somehow. If necessary, I
can swim to Shadow Island for help."

"It won't be necessary." Jack pulled off shoes and socks, and rolled up
his slacks above his knees. "I got us into this, and I'll get us out.
Just sit tight."

Despite Penny's protests, he swung over the side, into the shallow water.
Applying his shoulder to the _Spindrift's_ bow, he pushed with all his
strength. Penny dug into the mud with the paddle.

The boat groaned and clung fast to the shoal. Then inch by inch it began
to move backwards.

"We're off!" Penny cried jubilantly.

Jack pushed until the _Spindrift_ was safely away from the shoal. Wet and
plastered with mud, he scrambled aboard.

"No use putting up the sail," he said gloomily. "The centerboard is
damaged. When we went aground I should have pulled it up, but things
happened so fast I didn't think of it."

"Can't it be repaired?"

"Oh, sure, but it means hauling the boat out of water for several days.
And the race will be held in a week. I'll have no chance to practice."

"It's a bad break," Penny said sympathetically. "Perhaps the centerboard
isn't much damaged."

They paddled to the Shadow Island dock. There with the help of the
Gandiss chauffeur, Jack tied ropes under the bottom of the _Spindrift_
and by means of a hoist and crane, lifted the boat a few feet out of
water. A piece had been broken from the centerboard and the bottom was so
badly scratched that it would have to be repainted before the race.

"I call this wretched luck!" Jack fumed. "It will take days to repair and
repaint the _Spindrift_."

The accident had a subduing effect upon the boy, and the remainder of the
day he tried to make amends to Penny. They swam together and played three
sets of tennis. In each contest Penny won with ease.

"You're about the first girl who ever beat me at anything," Jack said
ruefully. "Guess that rap on the head did me no good."

"How about the sailboat race?" Penny tripped him. "Didn't Sally win the
lantern trophy?"

Grudgingly, Jack admitted that she had. "But the race was a fluke," he
added. "The wind was tricky and favored Sally's old tub. It won't happen
twice."

Annoyed by the youth's alibis, Penny turned and walked away.

At dinner that night, Mr. Gandiss suggested that Mr. Parker and his
daughter might like to visit his steel plant and airplane factory on the
mainland. Despite vigorous protests, Jack was taken along.

The buildings owned by Mr. Gandiss were situated across the river in the
town of Osage. Occupying many city blocks, the property included an
airplane testing ground, and was protected by a high guard fence
electrically charged.

"Every employee must pass inspection at the gate," Mr. Gandiss explained
as the taxi cab approached the entrance to the main factory. "We operate
on a twenty-four hour basis now, and even so can't keep abreast of
orders."

Lights blazed in the low rows of windows, and from the chimneys of the
steel plant, fire leaped high into the dark sky.

"Will we be able to see steel poured from the furnaces?" Penny asked
eagerly. "I've always wanted to watch it done."

"You may tour every building if your feet hold out," Mr. Gandiss
chuckled.

A squat, red-faced man with pouchy eyes, halted the taxi cab at the gate.

"No visitors allowed here at night," he began in a surly voice, and then
recognized the plant owner. His manner changed instantly. "Oh, it's you,
Mr. Gandiss! How are you this evening?"

"Very well, thank you, Clayton. I have some friends with me who wish to
see the plant."

"Drive right in," the gateman invited, swinging open the barrier.

The taxi rolled through the gate, and drew up in front of one of the
buildings. Inside, fluorescent lights gave the effect of daylight.
Overhead carriers were lifting newly blanked and formed airplane parts
from power presses, carrying them to sub-assembly lines.

"Raw materials, brought up-river by boats, enter one end of the
building," Mr. Gandiss explained proudly. "Miraculously they come out the
other end as finished airplanes ready for testing."

The plant had four main assembly lines along which the wings, fuselages,
engines, tail surfaces, pilot and bombardier floors were assembled, he
explained. In one room the party paused to watch row upon row of
fuselages being put together ready for transfer to the main assembly
line.

"You have a wonderful factory here, Mr. Gandiss," Penny's father praised,
much impressed. "It must be a job to keep tab on the personnel."

"Oh, everything has been reduced to a system. One department meshes into
another. But if production falls down in any one department, results
could be serious." Mr. Gandiss frowned and added: "Now take those petty
brass thefts. In a way it is a trivial matter, but the practice is
spreading."

"The disappearance of parts hasn't curtailed production to any extent?"

"Not as yet, but it has caused our stockrooms serious annoyance. Then the
loss on a yearly basis will become considerable. The guilty persons must
be caught, and the organizers broken up before it gets more serious."

Mr. Gandiss escorted the visitors into another large room where hundreds
of girls in slacks, their hair bound by nets, worked over machines with
concentrated attention.

"Our beginners start here," he explained. "Strangely, we lose more brass
and copper from this shift than anywhere else in the plant."

"How do you explain it?" Penny asked.

"The girls are new and we are convinced they are being misled by someone.
The entire situation has us baffled."

Few of the workers paid the visitors heed as they wandered along the rows
of machines. However, a slovenly, sharp-eyed man with a push broom,
watched them with deep interest. Known as Joe the Sweeper, though his
real name was Joseph Jakaboloski, he once had been a skilled mechanic.
Two of his fingers were missing, and he no longer did any useful work.

"See that man?" Mr. Gandiss said in an undertone. "Shortly after he
started working for us, two years ago, he had an accident that was
entirely his own fault. We immediately put him in an easy job and still
pay him his former salary. But he doesn't even sweep a room properly."

"Why not let him go?" Mr. Parker questioned.

Mr. Gandiss smiled and shook his head. "He was injured while working for
us, so we are responsible for looking after him. We would like to pension
him off. You see, he constantly stirs up trouble among the new employes."

Joe the Sweeper had been watching Mr. Gandiss with concentrated
attention, though too far away to hear what was said. With amusing haste,
he swept his way closer to the group. Finally he smirked and sidled up to
the factory owner.

"Can I see you alone fer a minute, Mr. Gandiss?" he asked, his voice a
whine.

"I am very busy," the factory owner discouraged him. "What is it you
want?"

Joe edged even closer, dropping his voice so that it was barely audible
above the clatter of the machinery.

"You been losin' copper and brass from your factory, ain't you?"

The direct approach startled Mr. Gandiss. He gazed at Joe keenly, then
nodded.

"Well, maybe I kin help you. What's it worth?"

Mr. Gandiss was careful not to show his dislike for the man. "If you are
able to provide information which will lead to the apprehension of the
thieves, I'll see that you get a substantial salary increase."

Joe blinked and grinned. "Last night I seen a girl in this room stick a
piece of brass into her shirt front. She carried it off with her."

"Who was the girl?"

"Dunno her name. A blond piece in blue slacks."

"I'm afraid your information is of no value," Mr. Gandiss said
impatiently. "Unless you know who she is--"

"She's a new gal that's only been workin' here a few nights," Joe
supplied hastily. "You'll give me that salary raise if I turn her in?"

"If your information proves correct."

Joe's eyes brightened with a crafty light and he jerked his head toward
the left.

"You can't see her from here," he muttered, "but you can get her name
easy enough. She's the gal that operates machine No. 567."



                                CHAPTER
                                   7
                          _NIGHT SHIFT WORKER_


"I detest a stool pigeon," said Mr. Gandiss after Joe the Sweeper had
slouched away. "However, his information may be valuable. I can't afford
not to investigate it."

Not wishing to attract comment from the other employes, the factory owner
made no attempt to see the girl under suspicion. Instead, he escorted the
party to his private office. Ringing a buzzer, he asked one of the
foremen to bring the operator of Machine 567 to him.

Presently she came in, a thin, wiry girl in ill-fitting blue slacks and
sweater. Her hair was bound beneath a dark net and she wore goggles. As
she faced Mr. Gandiss, she removed the latter. Everyone stared.

For the girl was Sally Barker.

"You sent for me, Mr. Gandiss?" Subdued and embarrassed, her eyes roved
from one person to another.

"Why, Sally," said the factory owner in astonishment. "I had no idea you
were working here on the night shift. When were you employed?"

"A week ago."

Perplexed, Mr. Gandiss stared at the girl's factory badge. There could be
no mistake. Plainly it bore the number 567.

"You like the work?" he asked after an awkward silence.

"Not very well," she confessed truthfully. "However, I can use the pay I
receive."

"During the daytime I believe you help your father aboard the _River
Queen_," Mr. Gandiss resumed, trying to be friendly. "Rather a strenuous
program. When do you sleep?"

"Oh, I get enough rest." Sally spoke indifferently, though her eyes were
red and she looked tired. "Pop didn't want me to take the job, but I have
a special use for the money."

"Pretty clothes, I suppose--or perhaps a new sailboat?"

"A college education."

Mr. Gandiss nodded approvingly, and then, recalling the serious charge
against the girl, became formal again. "You wonder why I sent for you?"

"I know my work hasn't been very good. I've tried, but I keep ruining
materials."

This gave Mr. Gandiss the opening he sought. "What do you do with the
discarded pieces?" he inquired.

"Why, I just throw them aside." The question plainly puzzled Sally.

"You may have heard that we are having a little trouble here at the
factory."

"What sort of trouble, Mr. Gandiss?"

"Small but valuable pieces of copper and brass seem to disappear with
alarming regularity. Most of the thefts have been attributed to workers
on the night shift."

Sally's blue eyes opened wide, but she returned Mr. Gandiss' steady gaze.
Her chin raised. "I've heard talk about it among the girls," she replied
briefly. "That's all I know."

"You have no idea who may be taking the materials?"

"Not the slightest, sir."

An awkward silence fell. Mr. Gandiss started to speak again, then changed
his mind.

"Was there anything else?" Sally asked stiffly.

"Nothing."

"Then may I return to my work?"

"Why, yes." It was Mr. Gandiss' turn to appear awkward and ill at ease.
"We hope you will enjoy your work here, Sally," he said, feeling that a
friendly word was necessary to end the interview. "If you should learn
anything that will lead to the arrest of the thieves, I hope you will
give us the information."

Sally inclined her head slightly in assent. With dignity, she walked from
the office.

No one spoke for several minutes after the girl had gone. Then Mr.
Gandiss drew a deep sigh.

"I had no idea Sally was working here," he said, frowning.

"Father, you shouldn't have accused her of stealing!" Jack burst out.

"My dear boy, I accused her of nothing."

"Well, Sally is proud. She took it that way. You don't really believe she
would stoop to such a thing?"

"I confess I don't know what to think. Joe the Sweeper may not be a
reliable informer."

"If he saw her hide brass in her clothing as he claims, why didn't he
report her last night?" Jack demanded. "Sally is no thief. I've known her
since she was a kid. I get mighty sore at her sometimes, she's so cocky.
But she never did a dishonest act in her life."

"I'm glad to hear you defend her, Jack," Mr. Gandiss said quietly.
"Certainly no action will be taken without far more conclusive evidence.
Now suppose you and Penny amuse yourselves for a few minutes. Mr. Parker
and I have a few business matters to discuss."

Thus dismissed, Penny and Jack wandered outside.

"Want to see the steel plant?" Jack asked indifferently. "They should be
pouring about this time."

At Penny's eager assent, he led her to another building, up a steep
flight of iron stairs to an inner balcony which overlooked the huge blast
furnaces. In the noisy, hot room, conversation was practically
impossible.

Gazing below, Penny saw a crew of men in front of one of the furnaces,
cleaning the tapping hole with a long rod.

In a moment a signal was given and the molten steel was poured into a
ladle capable of holding a hundred and fifty tons. An overhead crane,
operated by a skilled worker, lifted the huge container to the pouring
platform.

Next the molten mass was turned into rectangular ingots or molds.

"The steel will cool for about an hour before it is ready to be taken
from the mold," Jack shouted in Penny's ear.

Moving on, they saw other ingots already cooled, and in a stripping shed
observed cranes with huge tongs engage the lugs of the molds and lift
them from the ingots.

"Each one of those ingots weighs twenty thousand pounds," Jack said,
surprising Penny with his knowledge. "After stripping, they are placed in
gas-heated pit furnaces and brought to rolling temperature."

To see fiery ribbons of steel rolled from cherry red ingots was to Penny
the most fascinating process of all. She could have watched for hours,
but Jack, bored by the familiar sight, kept urging her on.

Leaving the steel plant, they returned to the main factory buildings, and
without thinking, sauntered toward the room where Sally worked. A
portable lunch cart had just supplied hot soup and sandwiches to the
employes. Sally sat eating at her machine. Seeing Jack, she quickly
looked away.

"Now she's really sore at me, and I can't blame her," Jack commented.
"Who is Joe the Sweeper anyhow? Riff-raff, I'll warrant."

Though somewhat amused by the boy's staunch defense of Sally, Penny was
inclined to agree in his second observation. Although she knew nothing of
the man who had turned informer, she had not liked the sly look of his
face.

Before the pair could approach Sally, the brief lunch period came to an
end. A whistle blew, sending the girls back to their machines.

"You'll have to step on it," a foreman told Sally. "You're behind in your
quota."

Her reply was inaudible, but as she adjusted her machine and started it
up, she began to work with nervous haste.

"This is no place for Sally," Jack said, obviously bothered. "She never
was cut out for factory work. And that foreman, Rogers, who is over her!
He's a regular slave driver!"

"I thought you didn't like Sally," Penny teased.

"I want to see her get a square deal, that's all," Jack replied, his face
flushing.

Joe the Sweeper sidled over to the couple. "What's the verdict?" he asked
in a confidential tone.

Jack pretended not to understand.

"Is the gal going to get fired?"

"I'm sure I don't know," Jack answered coldly. "Why does it mean so much
to you?"

"Why, it don't," the sweeper muttered. "She ain't no skin off my elbow."

Penny and Jack walked on through the workroom, aware that many pairs of
eyes followed them. Sally, bending over a grinding machine, looked up
self-consciously. She was grinding pieces of metal, measuring each with a
micrometer. There was a streak of grease across her cheek and she looked
very tired.

Suddenly as Sally threw the wheel in, there was a loud clattering noise.
The foreman came running. He threw the wheel back.

"What did I do?" Sally gasped, shaking from nervousness.

"You forgot to pull this lever." The foreman said curtly. "Ruined a piece
of work too! Now try to think what you're doing and get down to
business."

Penny and Jack moved away, not wishing to add to the girl's
embarrassment. But a few minutes later, in leaving the workroom, they
again passed close to Sally's machine. This time she did not see them
until they were almost beside her.

"How is it going, Sally?" Jack asked in a friendly way.

Sally raised her eyes, and in so doing forgot her work. As she
automatically placed the metal in line with the wheel, she held her
fingers there without thinking. Another instant and they would have been
mangled.

Horrified, Penny saw what was about to happen.

"Sally!" she cried. Acting instinctively, she reached and jerked the
girl's hand away from the swift turning machinery. The wheel had missed
Sally's fingers by a mere fraction of an inch.

The foreman came running again, obviously annoyed. Shutting off the
machine, he demanded to know what was wrong.

Sally leaned her head weakly on the table, trying to regain composure.
Her face was drained of color and she trembled as from a chill. "Thanks,"
she said brokenly to Penny. "I--I don't know what's the matter with me
tonight. I'm not coordinated right."

"Go take a walk," the foreman advised, not unkindly. "A nice long walk.
Get a drink or something. You'll be okay."

"I'll never learn," Sally said in a choked voice.

"Sure, you will. Everyone has to go through a beginner's stage. Get
yourself a drink. Then you'll feel better."

"Let me go with you," Penny said, taking Sally by the arm.

Without conversation, they made their way between the long rows of
machines to the locker room. There Sally sank down on a bench, burying
her face in her hands.

"I'm nervous and upset tonight," she excused herself. "I can't seem to
get the hang of machine work."

"Why not give it up? Do you really need the money so badly?"

"No," Sally admitted truthfully. "I've set my heart on a college
education, but Pop could raise the money somehow. It's just that he's had
financial troubles the past year, and I wanted to help out."

"Some persons aren't cut out to be factory workers," Penny resumed. "Do
you realize that you nearly lost several of your fingers tonight?"

"Yes," Sally agreed, her freckled face becoming deadly sober. "I'll
always be grateful to you. What Mr. Gandiss said in his office upset me.
I wasn't thinking of my work."

"I thought that might be it. Well, forget the entire matter if you can."

Sally nodded and getting up, drank at the fountain. "I'll have to go back
to work now," she said with an effort. "First, I'll get myself a clean
hanky."

With a key which she wore on a string about her neck, the girl opened her
locker. On the floor lay a leather jacket that had fallen from its hook.

As Sally picked it up, a heavy object slipped from one of the pockets,
thudding against the tin of the locker floor.

She stooped quickly to retrieve it, and then, embarrassed, tried to
shield the article from view. But she could not hide it from Penny who
stood directly behind. The object that had fallen from the jacket was a
small coupling of brass!



                                CHAPTER
                                   8
                      _OVERHEARD IN THE GATEHOUSE_


"Why, where did that come from?" Sally murmured as she fingered the piece
of metal. "I never put it in my locker."

Confused, she raised bewildered eyes to Penny. Just then the locker room
door opened and a forelady came in. Miss Grimley's keen gaze fastened
upon the brass coupling in Sally's hand. Awkwardly, the girl tried to
hide it in a fold of her slacks.

"What do you have?" the forelady asked, moving like a hawk toward the
girls.

"Why, nothing," Sally stammered.

"Isn't that a piece of brass?" Miss Grimley demanded. "Where did you get
it?"

"I found it in my locker."

"In your locker!"

"I don't know how it got there," Sally said quickly, reading suspicion in
the other's face. "I'm sure I never put it there."

Miss Grimley took the brass from her, inspecting it briefly.

"This looks very much like one of the parts that has been disappearing
from the stockroom," she said, her voice icy.

"But I've never been near the stockroom!" Sally cried. "In the few days
that I've been employed here, I've barely left my machine."

Penny tried to intercede in the girl's behalf.

"I'm sure Sally knew nothing about the article being in her locker," she
assured the forelady. "When she opened it a moment ago and lifted her
jacket, the piece of brass fell from a pocket."

"Someone must have put it there!" Sally added indignantly. "I'm certain I
never did."

"Have you given your locker key to anyone?"

"No."

"And have you always kept it locked?"

"Why, I think so."

"I am sorry," said Miss Grimley in a tone which implied exactly the
opposite, "but I will have to report this. You understand my position."

"Please--"

"I have no choice," Miss Grimley cut her short. "Come with me, please."

Penny started to accompany Sally, but the forelady by a gesture indicated
that she was not to come. The door closed behind them.

For ten minutes Penny waited, hoping that Sally would return. Finally she
wandered outside. Sally was not on the floor and another girl had taken
her place at the machine.

Seeing Joe the Sweeper cleaning a corridor, Penny asked him about Sally.

"No. 567?" the man inquired with a grin which showed a gap between his
front upper teeth. "You won't see her no more! She's in the employment
office now, and they're giving her the can!"

"You mean she's being discharged?"

"Sure. We don't want no thieves around here!"

"Sally Barker isn't a thief," Penny retorted loyally. "By the way, how
did you know why the girl was taken to the office?"

The question momentarily confused Joe. But his reply was glib enough.

"Oh, I have a way o' knowin' what goes on around here," he smirked. "I
figured that gal was light-fingered the day they hired her. It didn't
surprise me none that they found the stuff in her locker."

"And who told you that?" Penny pursued the subject.

"Why, you said so yourself--"

"Oh, no I didn't."

"It was the forelady," Joe corrected himself. "I seen the brass in her
hand when she came out of the locker room with that gal."

Disgusted, Penny turned her back and walked away in search of Jack. It
was none of her affair, she knew, but it seemed to her that Joe the
Sweeper had taken more than ordinary interest in Sally's downfall. His
statements, too, had been confused.

"I don't trust that fellow," she thought. "He's sly and mean."

Penny could not find Jack, and when she returned to Mr. Gandiss' office,
a secretary told her that the factory owner and her father expected to
meet her at the main gate.

Hastening there, Penny saw no sign of them. Nor was the gateman on duty.
However, hearing low voices inside the gatehouse, she stepped to the
doorway. No one was in view, but two men were talking in the inner
office.

"It worked slick as a whistle," she heard one of them say. "The girl was
caught with the stuff on her, and they fired her."

"Who was she?"

"A new employee named Sally Barker."

"Good enough, Joe. That ought to take the heat off the others for awhile
at least."

The name startled Penny who instantly wondered if one of the speakers
might be Sweeper Joe. Confirming her suspicion, the man came out of the
inner room a moment later. Seeing her, he stopped short and his jaw
dropped.

"What you doin' here?" he demanded gruffly.

"Waiting for Mr. Gandiss," Penny replied. "And you?"

Joe did not answer. Mumbling something, he pushed past her and went off
toward the main factory building.

"He's certainly acting as if he deliberately planned to get Sally into
trouble," she thought resentfully.

Clayton, the gateman, showed his face a moment later, and he too acted
self-conscious. As he checked a car through into the factory grounds, he
glanced sideways at Penny, obviously uneasy as to how much she might have
overheard.

"Been here long?" he inquired carelessly.

"No, I just came," Penny answered with pretended unconcern. "I'm waiting
for my father."

The men did not come immediately. However, as Penny loitered near the
gatehouse, she saw Sally Barker hurriedly leaving the factory building.

"Ain't you off early tonight?" the gateman asked as she approached.

"I'm off for good," Sally answered shortly. Her face was tear-stained and
she did not try to hide the fact that she had been crying.

"Fired?"

"That's right," Sally replied. "Unjustly too!"

"Shoo, you don't say!" the gateman exclaimed, sympathetically. "What did
they give you the can for?"

Sally, in no mood to provide details, went on without answering. Penny
ran to overtake her.

"I'll walk with you to the boundaries of the grounds," she said quickly.
"Tell me what happened."

"Just what you would expect," Sally shrugged. "They asked me a lot of
questions in the personnel office. I told the truth--that I knew nothing
about that putrid piece of brass that turned up in my locker! Then they
gave me a nice little lecture, and said they were sorry but my services
no longer were required. Branded as a thief!"

"Don't take it so hard, Sally," Penny said kindly. "Someone probably
planted the brass in your locker."

"Of course! But I can't prove it."

"Why not appeal to Mr. Gandiss? He likes you and--"

"No," Sally said firmly, kicking at a piece of gravel on the driveway,
"I'll ask no favors of Mr. Gandiss. He would have me reinstated, no
doubt, but it would be too humiliating."

"Do you know of anyone in the factory who dislikes you?"

Sally shook her head. "That's the funny part of it. I'm not acquainted
with anyone. I just started in."

"How about Joe the Sweeper?"

"Oh, him!" Sally was scornful. "He caught me in the hall the other day
and tried to get fresh. I slapped his face!"

"Then perhaps he was the one that got you into trouble."

"He's too stupid," Sally dismissed the subject.

"I'm not so sure of that," returned Penny thoughtfully.

The girls had reached the street and Sally's bus was in sight.

"What will you do now?" Penny asked hurriedly. "Get a job at another
factory?"

"I doubt it," Sally replied, fishing in her pocketbook for a bus token.
"I'll help Pop on the _River Queen_. If I do take another job it won't be
until after the sailboat races."

"I'd forgotten about that. When is the race?"

"The preliminary is in a few days--next Friday. The finals are a week
later."

"I hope you win," said Penny sincerely. "I'll certainly be on hand to
watch."

The bus pulled up at the curb. Swing-shift employes, arriving at the
factory for work, crowded past the two girls. Impulsively Sally turned
and squeezed Penny's hand.

"I like you," she said with deep feeling. "You've been kind. Will you
come to see me sometime while you're here?"

"Of course! I've not brought back those clothes I borrowed yet!"

"I'll look for you," Sally declared warmly. "I feel that you're a real
friend."

Squeezing Penny's hand again, she sprang aboard the bus and was lost in
the throng of passengers.



                                CHAPTER
                                   9
                            _SALLY'S HELPER_


Several days of inactivity followed for Penny at Shadow Island. For the
most part, Jack was friendly and tried to provide entertainment. However,
he was away much of the time, supervising the work of repairing and
getting the _Spindrift_ into condition for the coming trophy race.

Sally Barker's name seldom was mentioned in the Gandiss household, though
it was known that the girl intended to enter the competition regardless
of her disgrace at the factory. Once Penny asked Jack point-blank what he
thought of the entire matter.

"Just what I always did," he answered briefly. "Sally never took anything
from the factory. It wouldn't be in keeping with her character."

"Then why isn't she cleared?"

"Father did take the matter up with the personnel department, but he
doesn't want to go over the manager's head. The brass was found in her
locker and quite a few employes learned about it."

"The brass was planted!"

"Probably," agreed Jack. "But it's none of my affair. Sally wasn't a very
good factory worker and the personnel director thought he had to make an
example of someone--"

"So Sally became the goat! I call it unfair. Did the thefts cease after
she left?"

"They're worse than ever."

"Then obviously Sally had nothing to do with it!"

"Not just one person is involved. The brass is being taken by an
organized ring of employes."

"I suppose it's none of my affair, but in justice I think Sally should be
cleared. I don't know the girl well, but I like her."

"You may as well hear the whole story," Jack said uncomfortably. "Father
wrote her a letter, inviting her to come in for an interview. She paid no
attention."

"Perhaps she didn't get the letter."

"She got it all right. I met her on the street yesterday, and when I
tried to talk to her, she threatened to heave a can of varnish in my
face! Furthermore, she gave me to understand she intends to defeat me
soundly in the race tomorrow."

"I'll be there to watch," grinned Penny. "The contest should be
interesting."

While Jack was out on the river practicing for the approaching
competition, Penny accompanied her father to the mainland to mail letters
and make a few purchases Mrs. Gandiss had requested. In returning to the
waterfront, they wandered down a street within view of the Gandiss
factory.

Penny's attention was drawn to a man who came out of an alley at the rear
of the plant and stood staring at a tiny junk shop which was situated
directly opposite the Gandiss factory.

"There's Joe the Sweeper," she observed aloud. And then an instant later
added: "That's queer!"

"What is?" inquired her father.

"Why, that junk shop! I've been down this street several times, but I
never noticed it there before. I would have sworn that the building was
empty."

Mr. Parker gave her a quick, amused look. "It was until yesterday," he
informed.

"You seem to know all about it!" Penny suddenly became suspicious. "What
are you keeping from me?"

Mr. Parker did not reply, for he was watching the man who had emerged
from the alley. Joe seemed to debate for awhile, then crossed the street
and entered the junk shop.

"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Parker. "Our bait seems to be working."

"What are you talking about?" Penny demanded in exasperation. "Will you
kindly explain?"

"You recall Mr. Gandiss asked me to help him solve the mystery of those
brass thefts at the plant."

"Why, yes, but I didn't know you had begun to do anything about it."

"Our plan may not succeed. However, we're trying out a little idea of
mine."

"Does it have anything to do with that junk shop?"

"Yes, the place was opened yesterday by Heiney Growski."

Penny's blue eyes opened wide for she knew the man well. A prominent
detective in Riverview, he had won distinction by solving a number of
difficult cases.

"Heiney is an expert at make-up and impersonation," Mr. Parker added. "We
brought him here and installed him as the owner of the junk store across
the street. His instructions are to buy brass and copper at above the
prevailing market prices."

"You expect employes who may be pilfering metals to seek the highest
price obtainable!"

"That's our idea. It may not work."

"It should," Penny cried jubilantly. "Sweeper Joe went in there not three
minutes ago! I've suspected him from the first!"

"Aren't you jumping to pretty fast conclusions?"

"From what I heard him say to the gatekeeper Clayton, I'm sure he's mixed
up in some underhanded scheme."

"You're not certain of it, Penny. Joe has been carefully investigated. He
seems too stupid a fellow to have engineered such a clever, organized
method of pilfering."

"He never appeared stupid to me. Dad, let's drift over to the junk shop,
and learn what is happening."

"And give everything away? No, Heiney will report if anything of
consequence develops. In the meantime, we must show no interest in the
shop."

To Penny's disappointment, her father refused to remain longer in the
vicinity of the factory. Without glancing toward the junk shop, they
walked on to the riverfront. The motorboat they had expected to meet them
had not yet arrived. While Mr. Parker purchased a newspaper and sat down
on the dock to read, Penny sauntered along the shore.

A short distance away on a stretch of beach, a boat had been overturned.
Sally Barker, in blue overalls rolled to the knees, was painting it with
deft, sure strokes. Penny walked over to watch the work.

Glancing up, Sally smiled, but did not speak. A smudge of blue paint
stained her cheek. She had sanded the bottom of the _Cat's Paw_, and now
was slapping on a final coat of paint.

"Will it dry in time for the race tomorrow?" Penny inquired, making
conversation.

"The finish won't be hard, but that's the way I want it," Sally said,
dipping her brush. "It makes a faster racing bottom."

"Then you're all ready for competition?"

"The boat is ready." Sally hesitated, then added. "But I may not enter
the race after all."

"Not enter? Why?"

Having finished painting, Sally carefully cleaned her brush, and tightly
closed the paint and varnish cans. She wiped her hands on her faded
overalls.

"The boy who was racing with me served notice this morning that he had
changed his mind. I haven't asked anyone else, because I didn't want to
be turned down."

"But I should think anyone who likes to sail would be crazy for the
chance--" Penny began. Then as she met Sally's gaze, her voice trailed
off.

"You know what I mean," said Sally quietly.

"Not the factory episode?"

"Yes, word traveled around."

"Jack didn't tell?"

"I don't think so, but I don't know," Sally replied honestly. "Anyway,
everyone learned why I was discharged. Pop is furious."

"Your mother too, I suppose?"

"I have no mother. She died when I was ten. Since then, Pop and I have
lived aboard the _Queen_. Pop always taught me to speak my mind, never to
be afraid, and above all to be honest. To be accused of something one
didn't do and to be branded as a thief is the limit!"

Penny nodded sympathetically. "About the race," she said, reverting to
the previous subject, "you aren't really serious about not entering?"

"It means everything to me," Sally admitted soberly. "But I can't race
alone. The rules call for two persons in each boat."

"You need an expert sailor?"

"Not necessarily. Of course, the person would have to know how to handle
ropes and carry out orders. Also, not lose his head in an emergency. To
balance the _Cat's Paw_ right I need someone about my own weight."

"It has to be a boy?"

"Mercy, no! I would prefer a girl if I knew whom to ask." Sally suddenly
caught the drift of Penny's conversation, and a look of amazed delight
came upon her face. "Not you!" she exclaimed. "You don't mean you would
be willing--"

"If you want or could use me. I'm a long way from an expert, but I do
know a little about sailboats. We have one in Riverview. However, I never
competed in a race."

"I'd be tickled pink to have you!"

"Then it's settled."

"But what about the Gandiss family? You are their guest."

"That part is a bit awkward," Penny admitted. "But they are all good
sports. I'm sure no one will hold it against me."

"After I was discharged from the factory?"

"That really wasn't Mr. Gandiss' doing, Sally. The plant is so large he
scarcely knows what goes on in some departments. You were discharged by
the personnel manager."

"I realize that."

"Didn't Mr. Gandiss write you a letter asking you to come in for a
personal interview?"

"Yes, he did," Sally acknowledged reluctantly. "I was angry and I tore it
up."

"Then you shouldn't blame Mr. Gandiss."

"I'm not blaming him, Penny. I like Mr. Gandiss very much. In fact, I
like him so well I never could bear to accept favors from him."

"Not even to clear your name?"

Sally washed her hands at the river's edge, and rolled down the legs of
her overalls. "The person who put that brass in my locker hasn't been
caught?" she inquired softly.

"Not to my knowledge."

"Then all Mr. Gandiss could do would be to offer me another chance,"
Sally said bitterly. "I'll never work in the factory on that basis. If I
am cleared completely, then I am willing to go back."

"Mr. Gandiss is trying to solve the mystery of those thefts," Penny
declared. "I know that to be a fact. Have you any idea who the guilty
parties might be?"

Sally straightened up, digging at paint which had lodged beneath her
fingernails. She did not answer.

"You do have a clue!" Penny cried.

"Maybe." Sally smiled mysteriously.

"Tell me what it is."

"No, I intend to work by myself until I'm sure that I'm on the right
track. I've not even told Pop."

"Does it have anything to do with Sweeper Joe?"

Sally's expression became blank. "I don't know much about him," she
dismissed the subject. "My information concerns a certain house upriver.
But don't ask me to tell you more."

Hastily she gathered up paint cans and brush, turning to leave. "Are you
really serious about racing with me tomorrow?" she demanded.

"Of course!"

"Then you're elected first mate of the _Cat's Paw_! Meet me at the yacht
club dock at six in the morning for a trial workout. The preliminary race
is at two."

"I'll be there without fail."

"And bring a little luck with you," Sally added with a grin. "We may need
it to defeat the _Spindrift_."



                                CHAPTER
                                   10
                              _OVERTURNED_


When Penny reached the dock next morning she found that Sally had
preceded her by many hours. The varnished wood of the _Cat's Paw_ shone
in the sunlight. Below the waterline, the boat was as smooth and slippery
as glass.

"Isn't she beautiful?" Sally asked proudly, squeezing water from a sponge
she had been using. "The rigging has been overhauled, and Pop came
through at the last minute with a new jib sail. Every rope has been
changed too."

"It looks grand," Penny praised. "You must have worked like a galley
slave getting everything ready for the race."

"I have, but I want to win. This race means everything to me."

"Are you sure you want me to sail with you?" Penny asked dubiously.
"After all, I am not an expert. I might handicap you."

"Nonsense! There's no one I would rather have--that is, if you still want
to do it. Was Jack angry when you told him?"

Penny confessed that she had not spoken to any of the Gandiss family of
her intention to take part in the race. "But it will be all right," she
added. "Jack really isn't such a bad sport when you get to know him. I
only hope we win!"

"Oh, we'll come in among the leading five--that's certain," Sally said
carelessly. "This is only a preliminary race today. The five winning
boats will compete next week in the finals."

"If you lose today must you give up the trophy?"

"Not until after the final race." Sally laughed goodnaturedly. "But don't
put such ideas in my head. We can't lose! I'm grimly determined that Jack
mustn't beat me!"

"I do believe the race is a personal feud between you two! Why does it
mean so much to defeat him?"

Sally stepped nimbly aboard the scrubbed deck, stowing away the sponge
under one of the seats. "Jack and I always have been rivals," she
admitted. "We went to grade school together. He used to make fun of me
because I lived on a ferryboat."

"Jack was only a kid then."

"I know. But we always were in each other's hair. We competed in
everything--debates, literary competitions, sports. Jack usually defeated
me too. In sailing, due to Pop's coaching, I may have a slight edge over
him."

"Do you really dislike Jack?"

"Why, no." Sally's tone indicated she never had given the matter previous
thought. "If he weren't around to fight with, I suppose I'd miss him
terribly."

Penny sat down on the dock to lace up a pair of soft-soled tennis shoes.
By the time she had them on, Sally was ready to shove off for the trial
run.

"Suppose we take about an hour's work-out, and then rest until time for
the race," she suggested. "You'll quickly learn the tricks of this little
boat. She's a sweet sailer."

The _Cat's Paw_ had been tied to the dock with a stiff wind blowing
across it, and larger boats were berthed on either side. To get away
smoothly without endangering the other craft would be no easy task. As
the girls ran up the mainsail, a few loiterers gathered to watch the
departure.

"All set, mate?" grinned Sally. "Let's go."

With a speed that amazed Penny, she trimmed the main and jib sheets flat
amidships, placing the tiller a little to starboard.

"Haul up the centerboard!" she instructed.

Penny pulled up the board, feeling a trifle awkward and inadept.

Sally leaped out onto the dock, and casting off, held the boat's head
steady into the eye of the wind. With a tremendous shove which delighted
the spectators, she sent the _Cat's Paw_ straight aft, and made a flying
leap aboard.

With sails flat amidships, the boat shot straight backwards. As they
started to clear the stern of the boat that was to starboard, Sally let
the tiller move over to that side. The bow of the _Cat's Paw_ began to
swing to starboard.

Not until then, did Penny observe that the _Spindrift_ was tied up only a
few boat-lengths away. Jack, armed with several bottles of pop, came
hurriedly from the clubhouse. Noting Sally's spectacular departure, he
joined the throng at the railing.

"We'll give the crowd a real thrill," Sally muttered, keeping her voice
low so that it would not carry over the water. "If this trick works, it
should be good."

Even Penny was worried. The bow of the _Cat's Paw_ had swung rapidly to
starboard. But Sally, calm and cool, still hung on to the sheets.

"Put your tiller the other way!" Jack shouted from the dock. "Let your
sheet run!"

Enjoying the boy's excitement, Sally pretended to be deaf. Wind had
struck the sails, but the _Cat's Paw_ continued to sail backwards. A
crash seemed impossible to avert. Then at the last instant, the bow swung
clear of the neighboring boats.

Grinning triumphantly, Sally put the tiller to port and started the
sheets. They sailed briskly away.

"Beautifully done!" praised Penny. "Not one sailor in a hundred could
pull that off. It took nerve!"

"Pop taught me that trick. It's risky, of course. If the sails should
decide to take charge, or the tiller should fail to go to starboard, one
probably would collide with the other boats."

"You surprised Jack. He expected you to crash."

"We'll surprise him this afternoon too," Sally declared confidently,
steering out into mid-stream. "If this breeze holds, it's just what the
doctor ordered!"

For an hour the girls practiced maneuvers until Penny was thoroughly
adept at handling the ropes and carrying out orders. Although the rules
of the race did not allow them to sail the actual course, Sally pointed
it out.

"We start near the clubhouse," she explained. "Then, taking a triangular
route we sail past Hat Island to the first marker. After rounding it, we
keep on to the marker near the eastern river shore, and sail back to our
starting point."

Sally was in high spirits, for she declared that if the breeze held,
_Cat's Paw_ would perform at her best. Though no one knew exactly what
Jack's new boat, _Spindrift_ could do, observation had convinced most
sailing enthusiasts that it would be favored in a light breeze.

"I hope it blows a gale this afternoon!" Sally chuckled as they moored at
the dock. "Get some rest now, Penny, and meet me at the clubhouse about
one o'clock. The race starts sharp at two."

Penny did not see Jack when she returned to Shadow Island, so had no
chance to tell him of her plan to sail with Sally in the competition. Her
father, whom she took into her confidence, was not entirely in favor of
the decision.

"We are guests of Mr. and Mrs. Gandiss," he reproved mildly. "To sail
against Jack is a tactless thing to do. Though actually you may do him a
favor, for you'll likely be more of a handicap than a help in the race."

"That's what I figured," laughed Penny.

By chance, Mr. Gandiss overheard the conversation. Entering the living
room, he declared that Penny must not hesitate to enter the competition.

"After all, the race is supposed to be for fun," he said emphatically.
"Lately Jack and Sally have made it into a feud. I really think it would
do the boy good to be defeated soundly."

Long before the hour of the race, Penny was at the yacht club docks,
dressed in blue slacks, white polo shirt, and an added jacket for
protection from wind and blistering sun rays.

Rowboats, canoes and small sailing craft plied lazily up and down the
river, while motor yachts with flags flying, cruised past the clubhouse.
Out in the main channel where the race was to be held, the judges' boat
had been anchored. The shores were thronged with spectators, many of whom
had enjoyed picnic lunches on the grassy banks.

Penny walked along the dock searching for the _Cat's Paw_. She came first
to the _Spindrift_ which was just preparing to get underway. Jack and a
youth Penny did not know, were busy coiling ropes.

"Hi, Penny!" Jack greeted her, glancing up from his work. "You're going
to see a real race today! Will I take Sally Barker for a breeze!"

Just at that moment, Sally herself appeared from inside the clubhouse.
Seeing Penny, she waved and called: "Come on, mate, it's time we shove
off!"

Jack's jaw dropped and he gazed at the two girls accusingly.

"What is this?" he demanded. "Penny, you're not racing in Sally's boat?"

"Yes, I am."

"Well, if that isn't something!" Jack said no more, but his tone had made
it clear he considered Penny nothing short of a traitor.

The two boats presently sailed out from the protecting shores to join the
other fifteen-footers which had entered the race. With the breeze blowing
strong, the contestants tacked rapidly back and forth, jockeying for the
best positions at the start of the contest.

Tensely Sally glanced at her wristwatch. "Five minutes until two," she
observed. "The gun will go off any minute now."

Nineteen boats comprised the racing fleet, but in comparison to Jack and
Sally, many of the youthful captains were mere novices. Experts were
divided in opinion as to the winner, but nearly everyone agreed it would
be either Jack or Sally, with the odds slightly in favor of the latter.

"There goes the signal!" cried Sally.

The boats made a bunched start with _Cat's Paw_ and _Spindrift_ in the
best positions. In the sharp breeze, one of the craft carried away a
stay, and with a broken mast, dropped out of the race. The others headed
for the first marker.

At first Sally and Jack raced almost bow to bow, then gradually the
_Cat's Paw_ forged steadily ahead. Except for three or four boats, the
others began to fall farther and farther behind.

"We'll win!" Penny cried jubilantly.

"It's too soon to crow yet," Sally warned. "While it looks as if this
breeze will hold for the entire race, no one can tell. Anything might
happen."

Penny glanced back at Jack's boat a good six to eight lengths behind. The
boy deliberately turned his head, acting as if he did not see her.

The _Cat's Paw_ hugged the marker as it made the turn at Hat Island.
Rounding the body of land, the girls were annoyed to see a canoe with
three children paddling directly across their course.

"Now how did they get out here?" Sally murmured with a worried frown.
"They should know better!"

At first the children did not seem to realize that they were directly in
the path of the racing boats. But as they saw the fleet rounding Hat
Island in the wake of the _Cat's Paw_ and the _Spindrift_, they suddenly
became panic-stricken.

With frantic haste, they tried to get out of the way. In her confusion,
one of the girls dropped a paddle, and as it floated away, she made a
desperate lunge to recover it. Another of the occupants, heavy-set and
awkward, leaned far over the same side in an attempt to help her.

"They'll upset if they aren't careful!" Penny groaned. "Yes, there they
go!"

Even as she spoke, the canoe flipped over, tossing the three girls into
the water. Two of them grasped the overturned craft and held on. The
third, unable to swim, was too far away to reach the extended hand of her
terrified companions.

Making inarticulate, strangled sounds in her throat, she frantically
thrashed the water, trying desperately to save herself.



                                CHAPTER
                                   11
                         _A QUESTION OF RULES_


"Quick!" Sally cried, remaining at the tiller of the _Cat's Paw_. "The
life preserver!"

Finding one under the seat, Penny took careful aim and hurled it in a
high arc over the span of water. The throw was nearly perfect and the
life preserver plopped heavily on the surface not two feet from the
struggling girl. But she was too panic-stricken to reach out and grasp
it.

The river current carried the preserver downstream. Sally knew then that
to save the girl she must turn aside and abandon the race.

"Coming about!" she called sharply to warn Penny of the swinging boom.

Already beyond the girl, whose struggles were becoming weaker, they
turned and sailed directly toward her. Penny kicked off her shoes, and
before Sally could protest, dived over the gunwale.

A half dozen long strokes carried her directly behind the struggling
girl. Hooking a hand beneath her chin, she pulled her into a firm, safe
hold, then towed her to the _Cat's Paw_ where Sally helped them both
aboard.

Throughout the rescue, the other two children had clung to the overturned
canoe. Sally saw that they were in no danger, for a motorboat from shore
was plowing swiftly to the rescue. Standing by until the two were taken
safely aboard, she then glanced toward the fleet of racing boats.

Nearly all of them had passed the _Cat's Paw_ and were well on their way
toward the second marker. The _Spindrift_ led the field.

"We're out of the race," she said dismally.

"No! Don't give up!" Penny pleaded. "You still may have a chance. This
girl is all right. I'll look after her while you sail."

Sally remained unconvinced. "We couldn't possibly overtake Jack now."

"But we do have a chance to come in among the five leaders! Then you
would be able to race in the finals. You wouldn't lose the lantern
trophy."

Sparkle came into Sally's eyes again. Her lips drew into a tight,
determined line.

"All right, we'll keep on!" she decided. "But it will be nip and tuck to
win even fifth place. See what you can do for our passenger."

The girl who had been hauled aboard was not more than thirteen years old.
Although conscious, she had swallowed considerable water and was dazed
from the experience. As she began to stir, Penny knelt beside her.

"Lie still," she said soothingly. "We'll have you at the dock soon."

Stripping off her own jacket, Penny tucked it about the shivering child.

"We're balanced badly," Sally commented, her eyes on the line of boats
far ahead, "and overloaded too. It's foolish to try--"

"No, it isn't!" Penny said firmly. "We're sailing great guns, Sally! Look
at the water boiling behind our rudder."

Almost as if it were driven by a motor, the _Cat's Paw_ plowed through
the waves, leaving a trail of foam and bubbles in her wake. Despite the
handicap of an extra passenger, the boat was gaining on the contestants
ahead.

"If only the course were longer!" Sally murmured, straining against the
pull of the main sheet.

They rounded the second marker only a few feet behind a group of bunched
boats. One by one they passed them until only seven remained ahead. But
with the finish line close by, they could not seem to gain another inch.

"We can't make it," Sally said, turning to gaze at the shore with its
crowd of excited spectators. "We're bound to finish seventh or eighth,
out of the race."

"We're still footing faster than the other boats," Penny observed. "Don't
give up yet."

A moment later, the crack of a revolver sounding over the water, told the
girls that the _Spindrift_ had crossed the finish line in first place.

To add to Sally's difficulties, the rescued girl began to stir and rock
the boat. Each time she moved, the _Cat's Paw_ lost pace. Though they
passed the next two boats, they could not gain to any extent on the one
which seemed destined to finish in fifth place.

Sally had been right, Penny realized. Barring a miracle, the _Cat's Paw_
could not be among the winners. Although they were slowly gaining, the
finish line was too close for them to overcome the lead of the remaining
boats.

And then the miracle occurred. The _Elf_, directly ahead, seemed to
falter and to turn slightly aside. The _Cat's Paw_ seized the chance and
forged even.

"Go to it, Sally!" her skipper, Tom Evans, a freckled youth, called. "You
belong in the finals!"

Then the girls understood and were grateful. Deliberately, the boy had
slowed his boat so that Sally might be among the winners.

"It was a fine thing to do!" Sally whispered. "But how I hate to win in
such fashion!"

"Tom Evans knew he had no chance in the finals," Penny said. "As he said,
you belong there for you are one of the best sailors in the fleet."

Sally crossed the finish line in fifth place, then sailed on to the dock
by the clubhouse. As Penny leaped out to make the boat fast, willing
hands assisted with the bedraggled passenger. The child was taken to the
clubhouse for a change of clothes. Officials gathered about Penny and
Sally, congratulating them upon the race.

"I didn't really win," the latter said, paying tribute to Tom Evans. "The
_Elf_ deliberately turned aside to give me a chance to pass."

Nearby, Jack Gandiss who had won the race, stood unnoticed. After awhile
he walked over to the dock where Sally and Penny were collecting their
belongings.

"That was a nice rescue," he said diffidently. "Of course it cost you
second place, which was a pity."

Sally cocked an eyebrow. "_Second_ place?" she repeated. "Well, I like
that!"

"You never could have defeated the _Spindrift_."

"No? Well, if my memory serves me right, the _Cat's Paw_ was leading when
I had to turn aside. Not that I wasn't glad to do it."

"You may have been ahead, but I was coming up fast. I would have
overtaken you at the second marker or sooner."

"Children! Children!" interposed Penny as she neatly folded a sail and
slipped it into a snowy white cover. "Must you always claw at each
other?"

"Why, we aren't fighting," Sally denied with a grin.

"Heck, no!" Jack agreed. He started away, then turned and came back. "By
the way, Sally. How about the trophy?"

Sally did not understand what he meant.

"I won the race, so doesn't the brass lantern belong to me?" Jack pursued
the subject.

"Well, it will if you win the final next week."

"That's in the bag."

"Like fun it is!" Sally said indignantly. "Jack, I hate to crush those
delicate feelings of yours, but you're due for the worst defeat of your
life!"

The argument might have started anew, but Jack reverted to the matter of
the lantern trophy.

"I'm the winner now, and it should be turned over to me," he insisted.

Sally became annoyed. "That's not according to the rules of the
competition," she returned. "The regulations governing the race say that
the _final_ winner is entitled to keep the trophy. I was last year's
winner. The one this season hasn't yet been determined."

"It's not safe to keep the lantern aboard the _River Queen_."

"Don't be silly! There couldn't be a safer place! Pop and I chained the
trophy to a beam. It can't be removed without cutting the chain."

"Someone could take the trophy by unlocking the padlock."

"Oh, no, they couldn't," Sally grinned provokingly. "You see, I've
already lost the key. The only way that lantern can be removed is by
cutting the chain."

Jack was enraged. "You've lost the key?" he demanded. "If that isn't the
last straw!"

Hanson Brown, chairman of the racing committee, chanced to be passing,
and Jack impulsively hailed him. To the chagrin of the girls, he asked
for a ruling on the matter of the trophy's possession.

"Why, I don't recall that such a question ever came up before," the
official replied. "My judgment is that Miss Barker has a right to retain
the trophy until the final race."

"Ha!" chuckled Sally, enjoying Jack's discomfiture. "How do you like
that?"

Jack turned to leave. But he could not refrain from one parting shot.
"All right," he said, "you get to keep the trophy, but mind--if anything
should happen to it--you alone will be responsible!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   12
                            _NIGHT PROWLER_


When Penny, her father, and the Gandiss family returned late that
afternoon to Shadow Island, a strange motorboat was tied up at the dock.
On the veranda a man sat waiting. Although his face appeared familiar,
Penny did not recognize him.

Her father, however, spoke his name instantly. "Heiney Growski! Anything
to report?"

Penny remembered then that he was the detective who had been placed in
charge of the junk shop near the Gandiss factory.

The man arose, laying aside a newspaper he had been reading to pass the
time. "I've learned a little," he replied to Mr. Parker's question.
"Shall we talk here?"

"Go ahead," encouraged Mr. Gandiss carelessly. "This is my son, Jack, and
our guest, Penny Parker. They know of the situation at the factory, and
can be trusted not to talk."

Though seemingly reluctant to make a report in the presence of the two
youngsters, the detective nevertheless obeyed instructions.

"Since opening up the shop, I've been approached twice by a man from the
factory," he began.

"That sweeper, called Joe?" interposed Mr. Parker.

"Yes, the first time he merely came into the place, looked around a bit,
and finally asked me what I paid for brass."

"You didn't appear too interested?" Mr. Parker inquired.

"No, I gave him a price just a little above the market."

"How did it strike him?"

"He didn't have much to say, but I could tell he was interested."

"Did he offer you any brass?"

"No, he hinted he might be able to get me a considerable quantity of it
later on."

"Feeling you out."

"Yes, I figure he'll be back. That's why I came here for instructions. If
he shows up with the brass, shall I have him arrested?"

Mr. Parker waited for the factory owner to answer the question.

"Make a record of every transaction," Mr. Gandiss said. "Encourage the
man to talk, and he may reveal the names of others mixed up in the
thefts. But make no arrests until we have more information."

"Very good, sir," the detective returned. "Unless the man is very crafty,
I believe we may be able to trap him within a few weeks."

After Heiney had gone, Jack and Penny went down to the dock together to
retie the _Spindrift_. The wind had shifted, and with the water level
rising, the boat was bumping against its mooring post.

"By the way, Jack," said Penny as she unfastened one of the ropes to make
it shorter, "I forgot to congratulate you upon winning the race this
afternoon."

"Skip it," he replied grimly.

Penny glanced at him, wondering if her ears had deceived her.

"Why, I thought you were crazy-wild to win," she commented.

"Not that way." Jack kept his face averted as he tied a neat clove hitch.
"I guess I made myself look like a heel, didn't I?"

For the first time Penny really felt sorry for the boy. Resisting a
temptation to rub salt in his wounds, she said kindly:

"Well, I suppose you felt justified in asking for the trophy."

"I wish I hadn't done that, Penny. It's just that Sally gets me
sometimes. She's so blamed cocky!"

"And she feels the same way about you. On the whole, though, I wonder if
Sally has had a square deal?"

Jack straightened, staring at the _Spindrift_ which tugged impatiently at
her shortened ropes. Waves were beginning to lap over the dock boards.

"You mean about the factory?" he asked in a subdued voice.

Penny nodded.

"I never did think Sally was a thief," Jack said slowly. "Judging from
Heiney Growski's report, someone may have planted the brass in her
locker. Probably that fellow Joe, the Sweeper."

"Don't you feel she should be cleared?"

"How can we do anything without proof? This fellow Joe isn't convicted
yet. Besides, he's only one of a gang. Sally could be involved, though I
doubt it."

"You're not really convinced then?" Penny gazed at him curiously.

"Yes, I am," Jack answered after a slight hesitation. "Sally's innocent.
I know that."

"Then why don't we do something about it?"

"What? My father has employed the best detectives already."

"At least you could tell Sally how you feel about it."

Jack kicked at the dock post with the toe of his tennis shoe. "And have
her tear into me like a wild cat?" he countered. "You don't know Sally."

"Are you so sure that you do?" Penny asked. Turning she walked swiftly
away.

Jack came padding up the gravel path after her.

"Wait!" he commanded, grasping her by the arm. "So you think I've given
Sally a raw deal?"

"I have no opinion in the matter," Penny returned, deliberately aloof.

"If I could do anything to prove Sally innocent you know I'd jump at the
chance," Jack argued, trying to regain Penny's good graces.

"You really mean that?"

"Yes, I do."

"Then why don't you try to get a little evidence against this man Joe,
the Sweeper?" Penny proposed eagerly. "You visit the factory nearly every
day. Keep your eyes and ears open and see what you can learn."

"Everyone knows who I am," Jack argued. "There wouldn't be a chance--"
Meeting Penny's steady, appraising gaze, he broke off and finished: "Oh,
okay, I'll do what I can, but it's useless."

"Not if you have a plan."

Jack stared at Penny with sudden suspicion. "Say, what are you leading up
to anyhow?" he demanded. "Do _you_ have one?"

"Not exactly. It just occurred to me that by watching at the gate of the
factory when the employes leave, one might spot some of the men who are
carrying off brass in their clothing."

Jack gave an amused snort. "Oh, that's been done. Company detectives made
any number of checks."

"That's just the point," Penny argued. "They were factory employes,
probably known to some of the workers."

"I'm even more widely recognized," Jack said. "Besides, Clayton, our
gateman, has instructions to be on the watch for anyone who might try to
carry anything away. He's reported several persons. When they were
searched, nothing was found."

"Your gateman is entirely trustworthy?"

"Why not? He's an old employee."

Penny said no more, though she was thinking of the conversation overheard
while at the factory gatehouse. Even if Jack took no interest, she
decided she would try to do what she could herself. But there really
seemed no place to begin.

"If you get any good ideas, I'll be glad to help," Jack said as if
reading her thoughts. "Just to barge ahead without any plan, doesn't make
sense to me."

Penny knew that he was right. Much as she desired to help clear Sally,
she had no definite scheme in mind.

As the pair turned to leave the docks, they heard a shout from across the
water. The _Cat's Paw_, with canvas spread wide, was sailing before the
wind, directly toward the island. Sally, at the tiller, signaled that she
wanted to talk to them.

The boat came in like a house afire, but though the landing was fast, it
was skillful. Sally looped a rope around the dock post, but did not
bother to tie up.

"Penny," she said breathlessly. "I didn't get half a chance to thank you
this afternoon for helping me in the race."

"I didn't do anything," Penny laughed. "I merely went along for the
ride."

"That may be your story, but everyone who saw the race knows better. What
I really came here for is to ask you to spend the night with me aboard
the _River Queen_. We'll have a chance to get better acquainted."

The invitation caught Penny by surprise. Sally mistook her hesitation for
reluctance.

"Probably you don't feel you want to leave here," she said quickly. "It
was just one of those sudden ideas of mine."

"I want to come," Penny answered eagerly. "If Mr. and Mrs. Gandiss
wouldn't mind. Wait and I'll ask."

Darting to the house, she talked over the matter with her father and then
with her hostess. "By all means go," the latter urged. "I imagine you
will enjoy the experience. Jack can pick you up in the motorboat in the
morning."

Packing her pajamas and a few toilet articles into a tight roll, Penny
ran back to the dock. Jack and Sally were arguing about details of the
afternoon race, but they abandoned the battle as she hurried up.

"Jack, you're to pick me up tomorrow morning," she advised him as she
climbed aboard the _Cat's Paw_, "Don't forget."

The _River Queen_ already had been anchored for the night in a quiet cove
half a mile down river. With darkness approaching, lights were winking
all along the shore. Across the river, the Gandiss factory was a blaze of
white illumination. Farther downstream, the colored lights of an
amusement park with a high roller coaster, cut a bright pattern in the
sky.

Sally glanced for a moment toward the factory but made no mention of her
unpleasant experience there. "Pop and I stay alone at night on the
_Queen_," she explained as they approached the ferry. "Our crew is made
up of men who live in town, so usually they go home after the six o'clock
run."

Skillfully bringing the _Cat's Paw_ alongside the anchored _Queen_, she
shouted for her father to help Penny up the ladder. Making the smaller
craft secure for the night, she followed her to the deck.

"What's cooking, Pop?" she asked, sniffing the air.

"Catfish," the captain answered as he went aft. "Better get to the galley
and tend to it, or we may not have any supper."

The catfish, sizzling in butter, was on the verge of scorching. Sally
jerked the pan from the stove, and then with Penny's help, set a little
built-in table which swung down from the cabin wall, and prepared the
remainder of the meal.

Supper was not elaborate but Penny thought she had never tasted better
food. The catfish was crisp and brown, and there were French fried
potatoes and a salad to go with it. For dessert, Captain Barker brought a
huge watermelon from the refrigerator, and they split it three ways.

"It's fun living on a ferryboat!" Penny declared enthusiastically as she
and Sally washed the dishes. "I can't see why you ever would want to work
in a factory when you can live such a carefree life here."

The remark was carelessly made. Penny regretted it instantly for she saw
the smile leave Sally's face.

"I worked at the factory because I wanted to help make airplanes, and
because Pop can't afford to give me much money," she explained quietly.
"It was all a mistake. I realize that now."

"I'm sorry," Penny apologized, squeezing her hand. "I didn't mean to be
so stupid. As far as your discharge is concerned, you'll be cleared."

"How?"

"Mr. Gandiss has detectives working on the case."

"Detectives!" Sally gave a snort of disgust. "Why, everyone in the plant
knows who they are!"

After dishes were done, the girls went on deck. Protected from the night
breezes by warm lap rugs, they sat listening to the lallup of the waves
against the _River Queen_. Captain Barker's pipe kept the mosquitoes away
and he talked reminiscently of his days as a boy on the waterfront.

Presently, the blast of a motorboat engine cut the stillness of the
night. Sally, straightening in her chair, listened intently.

"There goes Jack again!" she observed, glancing at her father. "To the
Harpers', no doubt."

The light of the boat became visible and Sally followed it with her eyes
as it slowly chugged upstream.

"I was right!" she exclaimed a moment later.

Penny's curiosity was aroused, for she knew that Jack absented himself
from home nearly every night, and that his actions were a cause of worry
to his parents. "Who are the Harpers?" she inquired.

"Oh! they live across the river where you see those red and blue lights,"
Sally said, pointing beyond the railing. "The house stands on stilts over
the water, and is a meeting place for the scum of the city!"

"Sally!" her father reproved.

"Well, it's the truth! Ma Harper and her no-account husband, Claude, run
an outdoor dance pavilion, but their income is derived from other sources
too. Black market sales, for instance."

"Sally, your tongue is rattling like a chain!"

"Pop, you know very well the Harpers are trash."

"Nevertheless, don't make statements you can't prove."

Sally's outspoken remarks worried Penny because of their bearing upon Mr.
Gandiss' son. "You don't think Jack is mixed up with the Harpers in black
market dealings?" she asked.

"Oh, no!" Sally got up from the deck chair. "He goes there to have a good
time. And if you ask me, Jack ought to stop being a playboy grasshopper!"

Captain Barker knocked ashes from his pipe and put it deep in his jacket
pocket. "The shoe pinches," he told Penny with a wink. "Sally never
learned to dance. I hear tell there's a girl who goes to the Harper
shindigs that's an expert at jitter-bugging!"

"That has nothing to do with me!" Sally said furiously. "I'm going to
bed!"

Captain Barker arose heavily from his chair. "How about the day's
passenger receipts?" he asked. "Locked in the cabin safe?"

"Yes, we took in more than two hundred dollars today."

"That makes over five hundred in the safe," the captain said, frowning.
"You'll have to take it to the bank first thing in the morning, I don't
like to have so much cash aboard."

Going to the cabin they were to share, Sally and Penny undressed and
tumbled into the double-deck beds. The gentle motion of the boat and the
slap of waves on the _Queen's_ hull quickly lulled them to sleep.

How long Penny slumbered she did not know. But toward morning she awoke
in darkness to find Sally shaking her arm.

"What is it?" Penny mumbled drowsily. "Time to get up?"

"Sh!" Sally warned. "Don't make a sound!"

Penny sat up in the bunk. Her friend, she saw, had started to dress.

"I think someone is trying to get aboard!" Sally whispered. "Listen!"

Penny could hear no unusual sound, only the wash of the waves.

"I distinctly heard a boat grate against the _Queen_ only a moment ago,"
Sally pulled on her slacks and thrust her feet into soft-soled slippers
which would make no sound. "I'm going on deck to investigate!"

Penny was out of bed in a flash. "Wait!" she commanded. "I'm going with
you!"

Dressing with nervous haste, she tiptoed to the cabin door with Sally.
Stealing through the dark corridors to the companionway, they could hear
no unusual sound. But midway up the steps, Sally's keen ears heard
movement.

"Someone is in the lounge!" she whispered. "It may be Pop but I don't
think so! Come on, and we'll see."



                                CHAPTER
                                   13
                          _THE STOLEN TROPHY_


Hand in hand the two girls tiptoed to the entranceway of the lounge.
Distinctly they could hear someone moving about in the darkness, and the
sound came from the direction of a small cabin which the Barkers used as
an office room.

"Pop!" Sally called sharply. "Is that you?"

She was answered only by complete silence. Then a plank creaked. The
prowler was stealing stealthily toward the girls!

"Pop!" shouted Sally at the top of her lungs, groping to find a light
switch.

Before she could illuminate the room, a man brushed past the two girls.
Penny seized him by the coat. A sharp object pierced her finger. She was
thrust back against the wall so hard that it knocked the breath from her.
The man twisted, and jerking his coat free, dashed up the stairs.

"Pop!" Sally called again.

Captain Barker, armed with revolver and flashlight, came out of his
cabin. By this time, Sally had found and turned on the light switch.

"A prowler!" she cried. "He ran up on deck."

"Stay below!" ordered the captain. "I'll get him!"

Penny and Sally had no intention of missing any of the excitement. Close
at Captain Barker's heels, they darted up the companionway to the deck.
To the starboard, the trio heard a slight splash, then the sound of
steady dipping oars.

"Someone's getting away in a rowboat!" Sally cried.

Captain Barker ran to the railing. "Halt!" he shouted. "Halt or I'll
fire!"

The man, a mere shadow in the mist arising from the river, rowed faster.
Captain Barker fired two shots, purposely high. The man ducked down into
the boat, and a moment later switched on an outboard motor, which rapidly
carried him beyond view.

"Did you see who the fellow was, Sally?" the captain demanded wrathfully.

"No, it was too dark. Do you think he got away with the money in the
safe?"

Fearing the worst, the trio descended to an office room adjoining the
passenger lounge. A chair had been overturned there, but the door of the
safe remained locked.

"You girls must have surprised him before he had time to steal the
money," Captain Barker declared in relief. "No harm done, but this is the
first time in six years that anyone tried to sneak aboard the _Queen_.
We'll have to keep a better watch from now on."

As the girls turned to leave the cabin, Sally saw that Penny was looking
at the third finger of her right hand.

"Why, you're hurt!" she cried.

Penny's hand was smeared with blood which came from a tiny pin-prick
wound on the finger.

"It's nothing," she insisted.

Sally ran to a cabinet for gauze, iodine and cotton. "How did it happen?"
she asked.

"I tried to stop the prowler. As I grabbed his coat, something stuck my
finger. It must have been a pin."

The wound was superficial and did not pain Penny. Sally wrapped the
finger for her, and then after Captain Barker had said he would remain up
for awhile, they returned to bed.

Throughout the night there were no further disturbances. At dawn the
girls arose, feeling only a little tired as the result of their night's
adventure. They had time for a quick swim in the river before breakfast
and disgraced themselves by eating six pancakes each.

"The crew will be coming aboard soon," Sally said, glancing at her watch.
"I usually sweep out the lounge and straighten up a bit before we make
our first passenger run."

Penny, who had nothing to do until Jack could come to take her back to
the island, eagerly offered to help. Armed with brooms and dust rags, the
girls went below.

In the doorway, Penny paused, staring at the overhead beam.

"Why, Sally," she commented in astonishment. "What did you do with the
lantern trophy? Take it down?"

"No, it's still there."

Alarmed by Penny's question, Sally moved past her, gazing at the beam.
Where the brass lantern had hung, there now was only a neatly severed
chain.

"Why, it's gone!" she exclaimed in disbelief.

"Wasn't it here last night when we went to bed?"

"Of course."

"Then it was stolen last night!"

Dropping broom and dustpan, Sally brought a chair and inspected the
chain. Obviously it had been cut by sharp metal scissors.

"That prowler who came aboard last night must have done it!" she
exclaimed angrily. "Oh, what a mean, low trick!"

As the full realization of what the loss would mean came to her, Sally
sank down on the chair, a picture of dejection.

"I'm responsible for the trophy, Penny! I'll be expected to produce it
before the final race. Oh, what can we do?"

"Why do you suppose the thief took the lantern and nothing else?"

"Someone may have done it for pure spite. But I'm more inclined to think
the person came aboard to steal our money in the office safe. The lantern
hung here in a conspicuous place and he may have taken it on impulse."

Intending to notify Captain Barker of the loss, the girls started up the
companionway. Abruptly, Penny paused, her attention drawn to an object
lying on one of the steps. It was a circular badge with a picture and a
number on it. No name. Such identifications, she knew, were used by many
industrial plants.

"Where did this come from?" she murmured, picking it up.

The face on the badge was unfamiliar to her. The man had dark, bushy
hair, sunken eyes and prominent cheekbones.

Sally turned to examine the identification pin. "Why, this badge came
from the Gandiss factory!" she exclaimed, and studied the picture
intently.

"Did you ever see the man before?"

"I can't place him, Penny. Yet I know I have seen him somewhere."

"The man should be easy to trace from this picture and number. When I
caught hold of his clothing last night, I must have pulled off the pin.
That was how my finger was pricked."

As the girls examined the pin, they heard a commotion on deck and the
sound of voices. Before they could go up the steps to investigate, Jack
Gandiss came clattering down to the lounge.

"I came to take you back to the island, Penny," he informed. "Ready?"

Then his gaze fastened upon the beam where the brass lantern had hung.

"Say, what became of the trophy?" he demanded sharply. "You decided to
take it down after all?"

"It's gone," Sally said, misery in her voice. "Stolen!"

The two girls waited for the explosion, but strangely, Jack said nothing
for a moment.

"You warned me," Sally hastened on. "Oh, it's all my fault. It was
conceited and selfish of me to display the trophy here. I deserve
everything you're going to say."

Still Jack remained mute, staring at the beam.

"Go on--tell me what you're thinking," Sally challenged miserably.

"It's a tough break," Jack said without rancor.

"This will practically ruin the race," Sally accused herself. "I can't
replace the trophy for there's no other like it. An ordinary cup never
would seem the same."

"That's so," Jack gloomily agreed. "Well, if it's gone, it's gone, and
there's nothing more to be done."

The boy's calm acceptance of the calamity he had predicted, astonished
Penny and Sally. Was this the Jack they knew? With a perfect opportunity
to say, "I told you so," he had withheld blame.

Sally sank down on the lower step. "How will I face the racing
committee?" she murmured. "What will the other contestants say? They'll
feel like running me out of town."

"Maybe it won't be necessary to tell," Jack said slowly. "One of us is
almost certain to win the race next Friday."

"Yes, that's true, but--"

"If you win, the lantern would be yours for keeps. Should I win, no one
would need to know that you hadn't turned it over to me. You could make
some excuse at the time of the presentation."

Sally gazed at Jack with a new light in her eyes. "I'm truly sorry for
all the hateful things I've said to you in the past," she declared
earnestly. "You're a true blue friend."

"Maybe I'm sorry about some of the cracks I made too," he grinned,
extending his hand. "Shake?"

Sally sprang up and grasped the hand firmly, but her eyes were misty. She
hastened to correct any wrong impression Jack might have gained.

"I'm glad you made the offer you did," she said, "but I never would dream
of keeping the truth from the committee. I'll notify them today."

"Why be in such a hurry?" Penny asked. "The race is a week away. In that
time we may be able to find the trophy. After all, we have a good clue."

"What clue?" asked Jack.

Penny showed him the pin. As he gazed at the picture on the face of the
badge, a strange expression came into his eyes.

"You know the man?" Penny asked instantly.

"He works at our factory. But that's not where I've seen him."

"At the Harpers?" Sally asked.

"Yes," Jack admitted unwillingly. "I don't know his name, but he is a
friend of Ma Harper and her husband."

"And of that no-account Joe, the Sweeper?"

"I don't know about that." The questioning had made Jack uncomfortable.

"The man should be arrested!"

"We have no proof, Sally," Penny pointed out. "While we're satisfied in
our own minds that the man who took the lantern is the person who lost
the badge, we can't be certain."

"The badge may have been dropped by a passenger yesterday," Jack added.
"Let me find out this fellow's name first, and a few facts about him."

"I don't believe your friends, the Harpers, will tell you much," Sally
said stiffly. "They're the scum of the waterfront. How you can go
there--"

Penny, who saw that another storm was brewing, quickly intervened, saying
it was time she and Jack started for the island. Sally, taking the hint,
allowed the subject to drop.

But as she went on deck to see the pair off in Jack's motorboat, she
whispered to Penny:

"See me this afternoon, if you can. I have an idea I don't want Jack to
know about. If we work together, we may be able to trace the trophy."



                                CHAPTER
                                   14
                               _TRAPPED_


Jack had little to say about the theft as he and Penny returned to the
Gandiss home. However, after lunch he offered to go to his father's
factory to learn the identity of the employee who had lost the badge
aboard the _River Queen_.

"Want to come along?" he invited.

Ordinarily, Penny would have welcomed the opportunity, but remembering
that Sally had wished to see her, she regretfully turned down the
invitation.

"I'll ride across the river if you don't mind," she said. "I have an
errand in town."

By this time Penny was familiar with the daily route of the _River Queen_
and knew where it would dock to pick up and unload passengers. Sally, she
felt certain, would be aboard, expecting her.

They crossed the river in the motorboat, making an appointment to meet
again at four o'clock. After Jack had gone, Penny set off for the _River
Queen's_ dock where a sizable group of passengers awaited the ferry.

Soon the _Queen_ steamed in, her bell signaling a landing. Passengers
crowded the railing, eager to be the first off. A crewman stood at the
wheel, and Sally was nowhere to be seen.

As the boat brushed the dock, sailors leaped off to make fast to the dock
posts. Captain Barker, annoyed because the passengers were pushing,
bellowed impatient orders to his men: "All right, start that gangplank
forward! Lively! Are you going to sleep over it all day?"

Then, seeing Penny, he raised his hand in friendly greeting.

"Is Sally aboard?" she called to him.

"No, she went up the shore a ways--didn't say where," the captain
replied, waving his hand upriver. "Ought to be back here any minute."

Sally, however, did not appear, and the _Queen_ pulled away without her.
Penny loitered on the dock for twenty minutes. The sun was hot and with
nothing to do, time lay heavy upon her. It lacked a half hour before the
_River Queen_ would return, and fully two hours before she was due to
meet Jack. For lack of occupation, she walked upriver along the docks.

Buildings were few and far between. There were several fish houses, a
boat rental place and the half-deserted amusement park. The beach beyond
made easy walking, so Penny kept on. With quickening interest she saw
that she was approaching a two-story building which appeared to stand on
stilts over the water. Close by was a large, smoothly cemented area with
overhead lights.

"That's the Harper place!" Penny recognized it. "With the dance area
adjoining."

She moved on along the beach. Drawing closer to the building, she passed
a clump of bushes fringing the sand. The leaves stirred slightly though
there was no breeze. Penny failed to notice the movement.

But as she passed the bushes, a hand reached out and grasped her ankle.

Startled, Penny uttered a nervous cry.

"Be quiet, you goon!" a familiar voice bade.

It was Sally Barker crouched amid the foliage. Quickly she pulled Penny
with her behind the bushes.

"Sally, what are you doing here?" Penny demanded.

"Watching that house. I saw you a long way down the beach."

"Anything doing?"

"A boat is coming in now. That's why I didn't want you to be seen."

A rowboat with an outboard, rapidly approached the Harper pier. Already
it was making a wide sweep preparatory to a landing.

"Why, it's that fellow, Joe the Sweeper!" Penny exclaimed, peering out
from the hiding place. "Who is steering the boat?"

"Claude Harper," Sally revealed. "Ma Harper's husband."

"Wonder what Joe would be doing here?"

"That's what I'd like to know myself," Sally returned grimly. "Joe isn't
as stupid as he's given credit for being. He's crafty and mean, and being
mixed up with the Harpers is no recommendation."

While the girls watched, the boat landed. The two men tied up the craft,
and removing a burlap sack which apparently was filled with something
heavy, carried it into the two-story house.

"I wish we knew what they brought here," Penny said. "Why not try to find
out?"

"How?"

"Couldn't we sneak up to the house and peek in one of the windows?"

"We might be caught."

"True, but we'll learn nothing more here."

Debating a moment, the girls emerged from their hiding place. To reach
the house they were compelled to cross an open stretch of beach. However,
no one was to be seen outside the dwelling and their arrival appeared to
attract no notice of anyone inside.

"How about that window at the east side?" Penny suggested.

The one she pointed out was half screened by bushes and at a level which
would permit them to peer inside.

"Okay," agreed Sally, "but I'd hate to be caught at this business. The
Harpers hate me and they would be mighty unpleasant if they came upon us
snooping."

"What a harsh word!" chuckled Penny. "All this comes under the heading of
investigation! The only difference is that Mr. Gandiss' detectives are
paid and we aren't."

"If I could get the brass lantern back that would be pay enough for me,"
Sally returned.

Creeping to the window, the girls cautiously peeped into the house. The
panes were so dirty it was hard to see inside. But they were able to
distinguish three persons sitting at a living room table. Papers were
spread out before them, and they were adding figures. There was no sign
of the sack which had been carried into the house.

"Who are they?" Penny asked her companion.

"Joe the Sweeper, Ma Harper and her husband. Another woman is coming into
the room now. But she's only a stupid houseworker Ma hires by the week."

Sally moved backwards, intending to give Penny her place at the window.
Inadvertently, she stepped on a stick which broke in two with a snap.
Though the sound was not loud, it apparently was heard by those inside
the house.

For immediately Claude Harper shoved back his chair and started toward
the window.

"What was that?" the girls heard him mutter. "I thought I heard someone
outside."

"Quick! Crouch down or he'll see us!" Penny warned, pulling Sally to the
ground.

Claude Harper, a sallow-faced man in dirty leather jacket, appeared at
the window. To the alarm of the girls, he thrust up the sash. In plain
view, should he peer down over the ledge, they held their breath.

The man, however, gazed toward the boat docks. "I don't see anyone," he
reported to his companions. "I was sure I heard something--" he broke
off, ending sharply: "And I did too!"

"What is it, Claude?" his wife called.

"Anyone been here this afternoon?" he demanded.

"Nary a soul until you came."

"Take a look at those shoetracks in the sand!"

Hearing the words, Penny and Sally gazed behind them. From the bush on
the beach to the wall where they crouched, led a telltale trail.

"I'll go outside and look around!" Harper said to his wife. He slammed
down the window.

"We're sunk!" Sally moaned. "We can't run across the beach without being
seen, and we're certain to be caught here."

Keeping close to the wall, treading in firm earth which left no visible
shoemarks, the girls crept around the building corner. The slamming of a
door warned them that Claude Harper already was on their trail.

"Someone's been here by the window!" they heard him shout.

Frantically, the girls looked about for a place to hide. There was no
shrubbery nearby, only the waterfront. Penny's desperate gaze fastened
upon the rowboat tied up at the pier nearby. In the bottom lay an old
canvas sail.

"Quick! The boat!" she whispered to Sally.

"We'll be caught there sure!"

"It's even more certain if we stay here. Come on, it's our only chance."

Choosing the lesser of two evils, they tiptoed across the pier. Though
many of the boards were rotten and loose, their shoes fortunately made no
sound.

Scrambling down into the boat, the girls jerked the canvas sail over
them. Barely had they hidden themselves, than their hearts sank, for they
heard heavy footsteps approaching on the pier.



                                CHAPTER
                                   15
                            _UNDER THE SAIL_


That Claude Harper was searching for them, the girls did not doubt. But
though he knew someone had been peering in the window, they were hopeful
he had not actually seen them. Huddling beneath the sail in the bottom of
the boat, they nervously waited.

The man came farther out on the pier, the boards creaking beneath his
weight. At any instant the girls expected to have the sailcloth jerked
from their heads. However, Harper's attention was diverted as Sweeper Joe
came out of the house.

"Find anyone?" the factory worker asked.

"No, but tracks lead to the window. Someone's been spying."

"Kids probably."

"I don't know about that," Claude Harper returned gruffly. "I'd feel a
lot safer if we didn't have all that stuff in the basement. What's our
chances of getting rid of it tonight?"

"We can't do it. Tomorrow or next night maybe. Arrangements have got to
be made, and if we try to push things, we'll end up in a jam."

The voices faded away, though not entirely. Presently daring to peep from
beneath the canvas, Penny saw that the two men had seated themselves on
the rear steps of the house at the edge of the river and within plain
view of the tied-up boat.

"We're in a nice position now!" she whispered to Sally. "Suppose they sit
there until they decide to leave in this boat?"

"We'll be caught. We're the same as trapped now unless they go back into
the house."

The two men showed no inclination to leave. They talked earnestly
together, evidently making plans of some sort. Though the girls tried
hard to overhear, they could catch only an occasional word. After awhile,
Ma Harper, a wiry, ugly woman with stringy black hair, came outdoors to
join the men on the steps.

"It's getting late," she warned. "If you're goin' to tend to that job
today, you'll have to be gettin' across the river. Ain't you due to show
up for work at four o'clock, Joe?"

"That's right," the man yawned, getting up. "I'll be glad when I can
chuck the whole business and live without workin'."

Though Penny and Sally did not hear much of the conversation, it was
evident to them that the men were about ready to make use of the boat.

"We're sunk," Sally whispered fearfully. "Maybe we ought to climb out of
here and make a dash for it."

Penny offered a better idea. "Why not untie the rope, and let the boat
drift off?" she proposed. "The current is swift and should carry us
downstream fairly fast."

"Any other boat around that they can use to follow us in?"

"I don't see any." Penny raised the sail a little higher as she gazed
along the pier and nearby beach.

"All right, then do your stuff," Sally urged.

While she held the sail slightly above Penny's head so that no movement
would be discernible to those on the house steps, the latter reached her
hands from beneath the cloth and swiftly untied the rope. The boat began
to drift away. Covered by the sail, the girls lay motionless and flat on
the craft's bottom.

At first nothing happened. But as they began to hope that the men would
not notice the drifting boat, they heard an explosive shout.

"Look!" Claude Harper exclaimed. "Our boat!"

"Jumpin' fish hooks!" Sweeper Joe muttered. "How did that happen? I tied
'er secure."

"It looks like it," the other retorted sarcastically. "I can't afford to
lose that boat."

The girls could hear running footsteps on the pier and boardwalk near the
dance pavilion. Sally dared to peep from beneath the canvas again.

"They're after a motorboat!" she reported tensely. "Harper has one he
keeps locked in a boathouse."

"How close are we to the bend in the river?"

"About twenty yards."

The swift current was doing its best for the girls, swinging their boat
toward the bend. Once beyond it, they would be temporarily hidden from
the pier. But the current also was tending to carry them farther and
farther from shore.

"Do we dare row?" Penny asked nervously.

"Not yet. Harper is having trouble getting the engine of his boat
started," Sally reported. "We'll be safe for a minute or two. We're
getting closer to the bend."

To the nervous girls, the boat scarcely seemed to move. Then at last it
passed the bend and they were screened by willow trees and bushes.

"Now!" Sally signalled in a tense whisper.

Throwing off the sail, they seized oars and paddled with all their
strength.

"Quiet!" Sally warned as Penny's oar made a splash. "Sounds carry plainly
over the water."

The blast of a motorboat engine told them that Harper and his companion
had started in pursuit. Only a minute or two would be required for them
to round the bend.

Throwing caution to the winds, Sally and Penny dug in with their oars,
shooting their craft toward shore. The boat grated softly on the sand.
Instantly, the girls leaped out, splashing through ankle-deep water.

As Sally was about to start across the beach, Penny seized her hand.

"We mustn't leave a trail of footprints this time!" she warned.

Treading a log at the water's edge, Penny walked its length to firm
ground which took no visible shoe print. Sally followed her to a clump of
bushes where they crouched and waited.

Barely had they taken cover when the motorboat came into view, heading
for the little cove. There Claude Harper recaptured the runaway rowboat,
tying it to the stern of the other craft.

Suddenly Penny was dismayed as she realized that in their flight, a most
important detail had been overlooked.

"The oars!" she whispered. "They're wet!"

"Maybe the men won't see," Sally said hopefully. "We left them half
covered by the canvas."

Intent only upon returning to the pier, Claude Harper and his companion
failed to notice anything amiss. Apparently assuming the boat had been
carelessly tied and had drifted away under its own power, they were not
suspicious.

"That was a narrow squeak," Penny sighed in relief as the motorboat with
the other craft in tow finally disappeared around the bend. "The oars
will quickly dry in the sun, so I guess we're safe."

Now that they were well out of trouble, the adventure seemed fun. Penny
glanced at her wristwatch, observing that it was past four o'clock.

"Jack will be waiting for me," she said to Sally. "I'll have to hurry."

"We'll have plenty of time," Sally returned carelessly. "You usually can
count on Jack being half an hour late for appointments."

Walking swiftly along the deserted shore, the girls discussed what they
had overheard at the Harpers.

"We stirred up a big fuss and didn't learn too much," Penny said
regretfully. "All the same, it looks as if the Harpers and Sweeper Joe
are mixed up in this brass business together."

"They spoke of having something stored in the basement. That is what
interests me. Oh, Penny, if only we could go back there sometime when the
Harpers are gone and really investigate!"

"Maybe we can."

Sally shook her head. "Ma Harper almost never goes away from home. But
sometimes she has streams of visitors from Osage--mostly women. I've
often wondered why."

"Factory girls?"

"No, they're housewives and every type of person. I think Mrs. Harper
must be selling something to them, but I never could figure it out."

The _River Queen_ was at the far side of the river, so Sally, for lack of
occupation, walked on with Penny to the dock where she was to meet Jack.
Greatly to their surprise, he was there ahead of them, and evidently had
been waiting for some length of time.

Seeing the girls, he slowly arose to his feet.

"Well, Jack, what did you learn at the factory?" Penny asked eagerly.

"Why, not much of anything."

"You mean you weren't able to find out the name of the man who dropped
his badge aboard the _Queen_?" Penny asked incredulously.

"Of course you learned the name if you really tried," Sally added. "Every
single badge used at your factory would be recorded!"

Thus trapped, Jack said lamely: "Oh, I learned his name all right. Take
it easy, and I'll tell you."



                                CHAPTER
                                   16
                            _SILK STOCKINGS_


Puzzled by Jack's behavior and his evident reluctance to reveal what he
had learned, Penny and Sally sat down beside him on the dock. At their
urging he said:

"Well, I traced the number through our employment office. The badge was
issued to a worker named Adam Glowershick."

Neither of the girls ever had heard of the name, but Sally, upon studying
the picture again, was sure she recalled having seen him as a passenger
aboard the _River Queen_.

"He's a punch press operator," Jack added.

"And he's the man you thought you knew?" Penny asked curiously.

"Yes. As I told you, I've seen him at the Harpers." Jack acted ill at
ease.

The girls exchanged a quick glance. But they did not tell Jack of their
recent adventure.

"Well, why don't we have the fellow arrested?" Sally demanded after a
moment of silence. "I'm satisfied he stole the brass lantern. He probably
came aboard for money, and unable to get into the safe, took the trophy
for meanness."

"Or he may be mixed up with the gang of factory brass thieves," Penny
supplied.

"You can't prove a case against a man, because he might have dropped the
badge anytime he happened to be a passenger aboard the ferry," Jack said.
"It would do no good to have him booked on suspicion."

"Is he a friend of yours?" Sally asked significantly.

"Of course not!"

"Jack is right about it," Penny interposed hastily. "We need more
information before we ask police to make an arrest. Any other news,
Jack?"

"Nothing startling. But you know that detective your father brought here
from Riverview?"

"Heiney?"

"Yes, he reported today that Sweeper Joe contacted him again, offering to
sell a large quantity of brass. An appointment has been made for the
delivery Friday night. If it proves to be stolen brass, then he's trapped
himself."

"Can they prove it's the same brass?"

"Heiney numbers and records every piece he buys. He should be able to
establish a case."

Knowing that her father had intended to keep the junkman's activities a
secret, Penny was disturbed by Jack's talking in public. Evidently he had
gleaned this latest information from his father. She was even more
troubled by his attitude toward Adam Glowershick.

Presently saying goodbye to Sally, she and Jack returned to Shadow
Island. A strange boat was tied up in the berth usually occupied by the
_Spindrift_. Since the sailboat was nowhere along the dock, it was
evident that Mr. Gandiss, his wife, and Mr. Parker had gone for an outing
on the river.

"We seem to have a visitor," Penny remarked.

Jack said nothing, but intently studied the man who slouched near the
boathouse, hat pulled low to shade his eyes from the sun glare.

"Why, isn't that the same fellow whose picture was on the factory badge!"
Penny exclaimed. "Adam Glowershick!"

"Careful or he'll hear you," Jack warned, scowling. "I know this man.
He's here to see me."

Penny gazed again at the stranger who had dark bushy hair and prominent
cheekbones. "If that isn't Glowershick, it's his twin!" she thought, and
asked Jack if he had the factory badge with him.

"No, I haven't," he answered irritably. "Furthermore, I wish you would
cut out such wild speculation. He'll hear you."

Jack brought the boat in. Leaping ashore, he asked Penny to fasten the
ropes. "I'll be back in a minute," he flung at her as he strode off.

It took time to make the craft secure. When Penny glanced up from her
work, Jack and the stranger had disappeared behind the boathouse.

"Queer how fast Jack ducked out of here," she thought.

More than a little annoyed by the boy's behavior, Penny started up the
gravel path to the house. Midway there she heard footsteps, and turning,
saw Jack hastening after her.

"Penny--" he began diffidently.

She waited for him to go on.

"I hate to ask this," he said uncomfortably, "but how are you fixed for
money?"

"I have a little. Dad gave me a fairly large sum to spend when we came
here."

"Could you let me have twenty dollars? It would only be a loan for a few
days. I--I wouldn't ask it, only I need it badly."

"Dad only gave me twenty-five, Jack."

"I'll pay you back in just a few days, Penny. Honest I will."

"I'll help you out of your jam," Penny agreed unwillingly, "but something
tells me I shouldn't do it. Your parents--"

"Don't say anything to them about it," Jack pleaded. "My father gives me
a good allowance, and if he knew I had spent all of it ahead, he'd have a
fit."

Penny went to her room for the money, returning with four crisp five
dollar bills. She had planned to buy a new dress but now it must wait.

"Thanks," Jack said gratefully, fairly snatching the money from her hand.
"Oh, yes, another favor--please don't mention to my folks that anyone was
here today."

"Who is the man, Jack?"

"Oh, just a fellow I met." The boy started moving away. Penny, however,
pursued him down the path.

"Not so fast, Jack. Since I have a financial interest in your affairs
now, it's only fair that I ask a few questions. Did you meet this man at
the Harpers?"

"What if I did?"

"Now you're in debt to him and he's pressing you for money. You don't
want your parents to know."

"Something like that," Jack muttered, avoiding her steady gaze.

"I don't like being a party to anything I fail to understand. Jack, if
you expect me to keep quiet about this, you'll have to make a promise."

"What is it?"

"That you'll not go to the Harpers' again."

"Okay, I'll promise," Jack agreed promptly. "The truth is, I've had
enough of the place. Now, is the lecture concluded?"

"Quite finished," Penny replied.

With troubled eyes she watched Jack return to the boathouse and hand her
money to the bushy-haired stranger.

"Maybe that fellow isn't Glowershick," she thought, "but he certainly
looks like the picture. If Jack should be mixed up with those brass
thieves--"

Penny deliberately dismissed the idea from her mind. A guest of the
Gandiss' family, she could not permit herself to distrust Jack. He was
inclined to be wild, irresponsible and at times arrogant, yet she had
never questioned his basic character. Even though it disturbed her to
know that he had given money to the stranger, she refused to believe that
he was dishonest or that he would betray his father's trust.

If Penny hoped that Jack would offer a complete explanation for his
actions, she was disappointed. After the stranger had gone, he
deliberately avoided her. And that night at dinner, he had very little to
say.

When the meal was finished, Jack roved restlessly about the house, not
knowing what to do with himself. "I hope you're planning on staying home
tonight," his mother commented. "Lately, you've scarcely spent an evening
here."

"There's nothing to do on an island," Jack complained. "I thought I might
run in to town for an hour or so."

He met Penny's gaze and amended hastily: "On second thought, I guess I
won't. How about an exciting game of chess?"

The evening was dull, heightened only by Mr. Gandiss' discussion of the
latest difficulties at the factory. Another large quantity of brass had
disappeared, he revealed to Mr. Parker.

"Perhaps our detectives will solve the mystery eventually," he declared,
"but I'm beginning to lose heart. The firm has lost $60,000 already, and
the thieves become bolder each day. At the start, only a small ring
operated. Now I am convinced at least ten or fifteen employes may be in
on the scheme to defraud me."

"The brass must be smuggled past the gateman," Mr. Parker commented
thoughtfully.

"We have three of them," Mr. Gandiss replied. "Several persons have been
turned in, but nothing ever could be proved against any individual who
was searched."

Deeply interested in her father's remark, Penny kept thinking about Clark
Clayton, the night-shift gateman, and his apparent friendship with
Sweeper Joe. Late the next afternoon when she knew he would be on duty,
she purposely arrived at the factory just as a large group of employes
was leaving.

Though at his usual post, Clark Clayton did not appear especially alert.
As employes filed past him, he paid them no special heed. Several persons
who carried bulky packages were not even stopped for inspection.

"Why, a person could carry a ton of brass through that gate and he
wouldn't know the difference!" she thought.

Making no attempt to enter the grounds, Penny watched for a while. Then
she hailed a taxi cab, and told the driver to take her to the river.

They were nearing the docks when the man, glancing back over his
shoulder, said carelessly: "How would you like to buy some genuine silk
stockings?"

"How would I like to stake out a claim to part of the moon!" Penny
countered, scarcely knowing how to take the question.

"No, I'm serious," the cab driver went on, slowing the taxi to idling
pace. "I know a woman along the river who has a pretty fair stock of
genuine silk stockings. Beauties."

"Black market?" Penny asked with disapproval.

"Well, no, I wouldn't call it that," the man argued. "She had a supply of
these stockings and wants to get rid of them. Nothing wrong in that. Five
dollars a pair."

"Five dollars a pair!" Penny echoed, barely keeping her temper.

"If I took you there, she might let you have them for a dollar less."

Penny opened her lips to tell the black market "runner" what she thought
of a person who would engage in such illegal business. Then she closed
them again and did a little quick thinking. After all, it might be wise
to learn where the place was and then report to the police.

"Well, I don't know," she said, pretending to hesitate. "I'd like to have
a pair of silk stockings, but I haven't much money with me. Where is the
place?"

"Not far from here along the river. I'll drive you there, and if you make
a purchase, you needn't pay me any fare."

"All right, that's fair enough. Let's go," Penny agreed.

As they rattled along the street, she carefully memorized the cab's
number, and took mental notes on the driver's appearance, intending to
report him to police. No doubt he received a generous commission for
bringing customers to the establishment, she reasoned.

The cab had not gone far when it began to slacken pace. Peering out,
Penny was astonished to see that they were stopping in front of the
Harper house, overlooking the river.

"Is this the place?" she gasped, as the driver swung open the door. "I--I
don't believe I want to go in after all. I thought you were taking me to
a shop."

"You can't get silk stockings anywhere else in the county," the driver
said. "Not like the kind Ma Harper sells. Just go on in and tell her I
brought you. She'll treat you right."

Taking Penny by the elbow, he half pulled her from the cab and started
her toward the shabby, unpainted dwelling.



                                CHAPTER
                                   17
                            _BASEMENT LOOT_


While the cab driver waited, Penny crossed the sagging porch and rapped
on the door. Evidently the taxi's approach had been noted, for almost at
once Ma Harper appeared.

She was a tall, thin woman, sallow of face, and with a hard glint to her
eyes. Penny was not in the least deceived by the smile that was bestowed
upon her.

"Hello, deary," the woman greeted her, stepping aside for her to enter.
"Did Ernst bring you to buy something?"

"He spoke of silk stockings," Penny returned cautiously. "I'm not sure
that I'll care to purchase them."

"Oh, you will when you see them, deary," Ma Harper declared in a chirpy
tone. "Just come in and I'll show them to you."

"Aren't genuine silk stockings hard to get now?"

"I don't know of any place they can be bought except here. I was lucky to
lay in a good supply before the start of the war. Only one or two pairs
are left now, but I'll let you have them, deary."

"That's very kind of you," returned Penny with dry humor.

"The stockings cost me plenty," went on the woman, motioning for the girl
to seat herself on a sagging davenport. "I'll have to ask five dollars a
pair."

She eyed Penny speculatively to note how the figure struck her. Penny had
no intention of making a purchase at any price, but to keep the
conversation rolling, she pretended to be interested.

"Five dollars ain't much when you consider you can't get stockings like
these anywhere else," the woman added. "Just wait here, deary, and I'll
bring 'em out." She went quickly from the room.

Left alone, Penny gazed with curiosity at the crude furnishings. Curtains
hung at the windows, but they had not been washed in many months. The rug
also was soiled and threadbare. The main piece of furniture, a table,
stood in the center of the room.

Double doors opened out upon a balcony above the river. Wandering
outside, Penny could see the _River Queen_ plying its way far downstream.
Closer by, a small boat with an outboard approached.

Due to the glare of a late afternoon sun on the water, she could not at
first distinguish its two occupants. The boat, however, looked familiar.

"That's the same boat Sally and I escaped in yesterday!" she thought.
"And it's coming here!"

Nearer and nearer the craft approached, until Penny could see the men's
faces plainly. One was Sweeper Joe and the other, Clark Clayton, gateman
at the Gandiss factory.

"If they see me here, they're certain to be suspicious!" Penny thought in
panic. "They'll remember having seen me with Mr. Gandiss at the factory.
I'll skip while the skipping is good!"

She turned to find Ma Harper standing in the doorway. "Anything wrong,
deary?" the woman asked in a soft purr.

"Why, no," Penny stammered. "I--I was just admiring the river view."

"You were lookin' at that boat so funny-like I thought maybe you knew the
men. Sure there ain't nothing wrong?"

"Of course not!" Penny was growing decidedly uncomfortable. She tried to
slip through the doorway, but Ma Harper did not move aside.

"It's getting late," Penny said, glancing at her wrist watch. "Perhaps I
should come some other time to look at the stockings. Shall we say
tomorrow?"

"I have the hosiery right here, deary. Beauties, ain't they?"

Ma Harper spread one of the filmy stockings over her rough, callous hand.
The silk was fine and beautiful, unquestionably pre-war and of black
market origin.

"Yes, they are lovely," Penny said nervously. "But the truth is, I
haven't five dollars with me. I'll have to come back later."

Ma Harper's dark eyes snapped angrily.

"Then what you been takin' my time for?" she demanded. "Say--" she
accused with sudden suspicion, her gaze roving to the boat which now was
close to the pier, "--you seem in a mighty big hurry to get away from
here all at once!"

"Why, no, it's just that the taxi man is waiting, and it's getting late."

"What's your name anyhow?"

"Penny Parker."

"Where do you live?"

"I am a summer vacationist."

The answers only partially satisfied Ma Harper. Evidently she was afraid
that Penny might be an investigator, for she debated a moment. Then she
said: "You wait here until I talk to someone."

"But I really must be leaving."

"You wait here, I said!" Ma Harper snapped. "Maybe you're okay, but I
ain't takin' no chances on you getting me into trouble about these
stockings. Wait until I talk to Joe."

Leaving Penny on the balcony, she went out by way of the front living
room door. After it had closed, there was a sharp little click which made
the girl fear she had been locked in.

The truth was quickly ascertained. The door was locked. For an instant,
Penny was frightened, but she told herself she was not really a prisoner.
There were windows she could unfasten, and another door at the rear of
the house.

Intending to test it, she went quickly through the kitchen. Voices
reached her ears. Evidently Ma Harper and the two men were standing close
to the door, and although speaking in low tones she could hear most of
the conversation.

"The girl may be all right, but I think she was sent here to spy!" Ma
reported. "If we let her go, she may bring the police down on us!"

"And if you try to hold her here, you'll soon be in trouble!" one of the
men answered. Penny thought the voice was that of Clark Clayton. "You and
this petty stocking business of yours! We warned you to lay off it."

"Sure, blame me!" Ma's voice rose angrily. "The truth is, you're getting
scared of your own racket. I was sellin' stockings and makin' a good,
safe income until you come along and talked my husband into lettin' you
store your loot in our basement. Well, I've made up my mind! You're
gettin' the stuff out of here tonight, and you're not bringing any more
in!"

"Okay, okay," growled Sweeper Joe. "Just take it easy, and quit your
yippin'. We'll move the stuff as soon as it gets dark. Fact is, we've
made a deal with a guy that runs a junk shop near the factory. He's
offered us a good price. We had to play along slow and easy to be sure he
wasn't tied up with the cops."

"What about the girl?" Ma demanded. "If I let her go, she's apt to get me
into hot water about those stockings."

"That's your funeral," Joe the Sweeper retorted. "If you'd handled her
right, she wouldn't have become suspicious."

The discussion went on, in lower tones. Then Penny heard Ma say:

"Okay, that's the way we'll do it. I'll think up some story to convince
the girl. But that brass must be out of here tonight! Another thing, you
can't sell the lantern that simpleton, Adam Glowershick, stole from the
_River Queen_."

"Why not?" Sweeper Joe demanded. "There's good brass in it."

"You stupid lout!" Ma exclaimed, losing patience. "That lantern is known
to practically every person along the waterfront. Let it show up in a
pawnshop or second hand store, and the police would trace it straight to
us. You'll have to heave it into the river."

"Okay, maybe you're right," the factory worker admitted.

Penny had learned enough to feel certain that brass, stolen piecemeal
from the Gandiss factory, had been stored in the Harper basement. Even
more astonishing was the information that the trophy taken from the
_River Queen_ also was somewhere in the house.

"If the lantern is thrown into the river, no one ever be able to recover
it," she thought. "If only I could get it now and sneak away through a
window!"

Penny's pulse stepped up a pace, for she knew that to venture into the
basement was foolhardy. She listened again at the door. Ma and the men
still were talking, but how long they would continue to do so, she could
not guess.

"I'll risk it," she decided.

The basement door opened from an inside wall of the kitchen. Penny groped
her way down the steep, dark stairs but could find no light switch.

The cellar room was damp and dirty. As her eyes became accustomed to the
dim light which filtered in through two small windows, she saw a furnace
surrounded by buckets of ashes and boxes of papers and trash. A clothes
line was hung with stockings and silk underwear.

Penny poked into several of the boxes and barrels. All were empty. Then
her gaze focused upon another door, which apparently led into a fruit or
storage room. It was padlocked.

"The brass is locked in there!" she thought, her heart sinking. "The
lantern too! How stupid of me not to expect it."

Without tools, Penny could not hope to break into the locked room. There
was only one thing to do. She must get away from the house, and bring the
police!

Starting up the stairs, she stopped short. An outside door had slammed.
In the room above she heard footsteps, but no voices.

Frightened, Penny remained motionless on the basement stairs. She could
hear Ma Harper tramping about, evidently in search of her, for the woman
muttered angrily to herself.

"I don't dare stay here," the girl thought. "I'll have to make a dash for
it."

Penny reasoned that in reentering the house, Ma Harper probably had left
the front door unlocked. What had become of the two men she did not know,
but she would have to take a chance on their whereabouts.

Noiselessly, she crept up the stairs to the kitchen door, opening it a
tiny crack. Though she could not see Ma, footsteps told her that the
woman had stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the river.

"This will be as good a chance as I may get," she reasoned.

The door squeaked as she opened it wide enough to slip through. Unnerved
by the sound, Penny moved swiftly across the kitchen to the living room.

"So there you are!" cried Ma Harper from the balcony.

Penny threw caution to the winds. Darting across the room, she jerked at
the outside door. It opened, but on the porch, facing her, stood Sweeper
Joe and Clark Clayton!



                                CHAPTER
                                   18
                           _OVER THE BALCONY_


Panic-stricken, Penny's first thought was to try to dart past the men.
But she realized that to do so would be impossible. Warned by Ma Harper's
excited cries, they had moved into position to completely block her path.

"Stop that girl!" shouted Ma Harper, bearing down, upon her from the
direction of the river balcony. "She's from the police and sent here to
get evidence!"

Whirling around, Penny ran back toward the kitchen, with the woman in
pursuit. She did not waste time testing the rear door, for she already
knew it to be locked.

However, opening from the kitchen was another closed door which appeared
to give exit. With no time to debate, Penny jerked it open and darted
inside.

Instantly, she saw that she had made a serious mistake. She had entered a
small washroom and had trapped herself. And Ma Harper was practically
upon her.

Penny did the only possible thing. She slammed the door and turned the
key in the lock. For a moment at least, she was beyond reach.

"I've really trapped myself now!" she thought, recapturing her breath.
"What a mess! If I had used my head this wouldn't have happened."

Penny sat down on the edge of the bathtub to think. Already Ma Harper was
pounding and thumping on the flimsy wooden door panel. The door rattled
on its hinges.

"You open up or I'll break down the door!" the woman shouted furiously.
"You hear me?"

Penny did not answer. There was no escape from the washroom for it had no
window. The tub upon which she sat was ringed with dirt, evidently having
seen no use in many weeks. Above her head stretched a short clothesline
upon which hung a row of Ma Harper's stockings.

"You let me in!" Ma Harper shouted again. "If I ever lay hands on you,
you'll pay for this!"

The threat left Penny entirely unmoved. She had no intention of opening
the door, no matter what the woman might say or do.

Realizing that her tactics were gaining nothing, Ma tried another
approach.

"Please let me in," she coaxed in a falsely sweet voice. "We won't hurt
you. If you come out now, we'll let you go home just as you want to do."

Penny was not to be so easily taken in. She remained silent.

Ma Harper lost her temper completely then. She kicked at the door and
shouted for the two men.

"Joe! Clark! Come and help me get this brat out of here!"

Penny, certain that her moments of freedom were limited, heard the two
men approach. A heavy body heaved itself against the door, but still the
lock held.

"I don't want my door smashed," she heard Ma Harper whine. "Can't you get
a screwdriver and take off the hinges? There ain't no other key in the
house."

The reply of the men was inaudible, but Penny heard their retreating
footsteps. The door knob kept rattling, so she decided Ma Harper had been
left there to keep watch.

"This probably is my only chance to escape!" Penny reasoned. "I might
unlock the door and take a chance on overpowering Ma Harper. But she's a
strong woman!"

Her roving gaze fastened upon the line of drying stockings, and suddenly
she had an idea! Jerking one of the stockings down, she seized a thick
bar of soap from the dish above the bathtub, and crammed it deep into the
toe of the stocking.

"This will make a superb weapon!" she thought gleefully. "Almost as good
as a blackjack!"

Taking a firm grip on the stocking, Penny swung it several times to be
certain of its possibilities. Then she was ready.

Quickly she unlocked the door and stepped back.

For a moment nothing happened. Then Ma Harper pushed it open, just as she
had expected.

"Now I'll get you!" she screamed, springing at Penny.

Penny kept the stocking behind her back. "I hate to do this," she
thought, "but she's asking for it!"

As Ma reached out to seize her, she swung the stocking. The encased cake
of soap cut a neat arc through the air and clipped the woman sharply on
the head.

More startled than hurt, she stumbled backwards and collapsed into the
bathtub.

Pausing only long enough to see that Ma was not really injured, Penny
made a dash for safety. But her escape was cut off.

Sweeper Joe and Clayton the gateman were just entering the front door of
the living room, armed with tools to use in taking down the washroom
door.

Seeing Penny, they again blocked the exit. Desperate, she ran in the only
possible direction--to the balcony overlooking the river.

The docks were directly beneath the house, and waves lapped the posts of
the two-story porch. It was at least a fifteen-foot drop and the water
was shallow. But Penny had no time to calculate the risk.

Leaping to the railing of the balcony, she poised there an instant,
staring down at the rocks plainly visible in the still water.

Then, as Sweeper Joe reached out to grasp her by the shoulder, she
jumped.

She struck the water head foremost in a shallow dive which wrenched her
back but kept her from striking the river bottom. Brushing wet hair from
her eyes, she began to stroke. Her shoes were heavy as lead and impeded
her.

The force of Penny's dive had carried her many feet from shore into deep
water, and the river current swept her farther away from the docks.
Weighted down by the shoes, she knew she did not have sufficient strength
to swim to shore with them on.

Burying her face in the water, she doubled up, and groping down, untied
them, one at a time.

"Those were good shoes," she thought with regret as she kicked them off
and saw them settle into the river.

Penny struck out with smooth crawl strokes for the nearby pier. Her skirt
kept wrapping itself about her legs. Unwilling to discard it, she tucked
it high about her waist which made swimming much easier.

Reaching the pier, she was pulling herself out onto it, when Ma Harper
and the two men came running out of the house to intercept her.

"Oh! Oh!" thought Penny. "It's not going to be as easy as I assumed."

Joe ran out on the pier, while Ma and the other man separated, one
starting upstream and the other down. No matter which way she turned,
Penny saw that her escape would be cut off.

The river was wide, the current swift. Although an excellent swimmer, she
had no desire to attempt such a contest of endurance. But there seemed no
other way.

Deliberately pushing off from the pier, she swam directly away from
shore, After a dozen strokes she rolled over on her back for a moment to
see what was happening. Ma Harper had shouted to Joe, and the words
carried plainly over the water.

"Take after her in the boat! We don't dare let her get away now! She
knows too much!"

Penny had forgotten the motorboat tied up at the pier. Now as she saw Joe
and Clark Clayton run toward it, her heart sank.

Though the race seemed hopeless, she flopped over onto her face again,
and swam with all her strength. Going with the current, her feet churned
the water behind her.

Several times, the men tried without success to start the motorboat
engine. Penny grew hopeful. Then she heard the blast as the motor caught,
and knew that in just a minute the men would overtake her.

Frantically, she glanced about for help. Already late afternoon, there
were no fishing boats on the river. Save for Ma Harper, who stood ready
to seize her should she try to swim in to the beach, no other persons
were visible on either shore. The _River Queen_ apparently was at the far
end of her run, hidden beyond the bend.

A hundred yards away, in shallow water, lay a large patch of tall river
grass and cat-tails. Seeing it, Penny took new hope. The area was large
enough to offer a temporary refuge if she could reach it! Not only would
the dense mat of high grass protect her from view, but a boat would not
be able to follow.

Starting to swim again, she put everything she had into each stroke. It
would be pinch and go to reach the grass patch! Aware of her intention,
Sweeper Joe and Clark Clayton had changed course, hoping to intercept
her.



                                CHAPTER
                                   19
                                _FLIGHT_


The high water grass loomed up and Penny's feet struck a muddy bottom.
With the boat almost upon her, she plunged into the morass. The water
came to armpit level. Pushing aside the thick stalks which wrapped
themselves about her arms and body, she waded far into the patch before
she paused.

Hidden by the dense growth, she could not at first see the pursuing boat.
She knew, however, that it had halted at the edge of the patch, for the
motor had been cut off.

And after awhile she heard voices, low spoken, but nevertheless clear,
for the slightest sound carried over water.

"She's over there somewhere in the center of the patch!" one of the men
muttered. "I could tell where she went by the way the grass moved. Shall
we let her go?"

"No, we got to get her or she'll tell everything she knows to old man
Gandiss and the police!" the other answered.

With the motor shut off, the two men then took out paddles, and began to
force the boat through the jungle of grass. Observing that they were
coming straight toward her, Penny noiselessly waded on, taking every
precaution not to move the stalks unnecessarily. Noting the direction of
the wind, she went with it, hoping that any movement of the grass would
appear to be caused by the stiff breeze.

But she hoped in vain. For suddenly Joe the Sweeper shouted hoarsely:

"There she is! Over there!" He pointed with his paddle blade.

The men pushed the boat on, smashing the grass ahead of them. In despair,
Penny saw that wherever she went she was leaving a trail of trampled,
broken grass behind her.

No longer trying to prevent splashes, she waded in a wide half-circle.
Then quickly she back-tracked, this time making not a sound. Slipping
into the dense growth just beside the trail she had made, she
breathlessly waited.

The boat came into view. Taking a deep breath, Penny ducked under water.
Opening her eyes, she could see the blurred, dark bottom of the craft
moving slowly toward her, so close she could have reached out and touched
it.

Her breath began to grow short. The boat barely seemed to move. Penny's
lungs felt as if they were ready to burst, but still she remained under
water.

Then the men had passed, and she dared raise her head for an instant to
gulp in air. The boat reached the end of the trail through the grass that
Penny herself had made. There it halted, as Sweeper Joe and his
companion, realizing they had lost their quarry, debated their next move.

"She was here a minute ago!" Sweeper Joe growled. "I caught a glimpse of
her clothes, and saw the grass move. Where did she go?"

"She must have doubled back."

With difficulty the men turned the boat around and rowed toward Penny
again. When she dared wait no longer, she submerged again.

They passed her and she came up for air. A water snake slithered through
the grass, almost touching her hand.

Startled, Penny leaped backwards, making an ugly, loud splash in the
water. Slight as was the sound, it told the men where she hid. Turning in
the boat, they saw her through the grass, and bore toward her again.

By this time, Penny actually enjoyed the desperate game of hide and seek,
for so far, the advantage had been hers. She stood watching the boat
until it came very close.

Then she dived, coming up directly underneath the craft. Getting her
shoulder squarely under one side, she raised up, and with an ease that
surprised her, upset the boat.

The two men went sprawling into the water. Unable to swim, they made
animal noises and clutched desperately at the grass for support. But as
their feet found solid footing, they started furiously toward Penny.
Taking her time, and deliberately seeking deeper water, she waded away.

"That will hold them for a few minutes," she thought gleefully. "I'll get
out of this jungle now, and swim ashore."

One more the girl's hopes were rudely dashed. As she reached the edge of
the grass area, she was disconcerted to see another rowboat approaching
from the direction of the Harper place. With shadows deepening on the
water, she could not at first distinguish the man. Then she recognized
Claude Harper.

"He must have come home, and Ma sent him here to help capture me!" she
thought. "If I swim out now, I'll certainly be caught."

Crouching down so that her nose was just above the water, she waited.
Claude Harper rowed on, resting upon his oars when perhaps ten yards
away.

"Joe!" he called.

There was an answering shout from the center of the grass patch.

"That gal's somewhere close by!" Sweeper Joe shouted in warning. "She
upset our boat. Stay where you are, and see that she doesn't slip past
you!"

Thus warned, Claude Harper began to survey the grass patch intently. He
looked hard at the place where Penny stood. She was certain he had seen
her, but after a moment, he turned slightly, and his eyes roved on.

As she hesitated, not knowing what to do, Sweeper Joe and Clark Clayton,
who had bailed out their boat, came paddling out to meet Harper. Wet and
plastered with mud, they had lost one of the paddles.

"If you ain't sights!" Harper cackled upon seeing them. He slapped his
thigh in glee. "You look like a couple o' stupid mud turtles!"

"Fool!" rasped Sweeper Joe. "Don't you have sense enough to figure what
will happen if that girl gets away from us?"

"You ain't goin' back to no job at the Gandiss factory. Nor Clayton
neither!"

"It's a lot more serious than that!" Joe snapped. He guided the boat
alongside Harper's craft. "Why do you think I took that job in the first
place, and spent better than two years studyin' the Gandiss factory
layout? I lined up the employes we could get to go along with us, got
everything organized--and now this gal has to bust up the show just as
the profits begin to roll in!"

"Better pipe down," Harper warned curtly. "She can hear you, and so can
everyone else on the river."

"What's the difference?" Joe argued in disgust. "We're through. I'm
gettin' out of this town tonight!"

"Me with you," added Clark Clayton. "Ever since Gandiss put detectives on
the job, I figured the game was gettin' too dangerous."

Now it was Claude Harper who lost his temper. "Hold on," he said
warningly. "It's all right for you guys to blow town, but what about me
and the wife?"

"You can do what you please," Joe retorted.

"We got your brass cached in our basement. If the cops should find it
there, we'd take the rap."

"Get rid of it."

"That's a lot easier said than done. Besides, that brass is worth a tidy
sum o' money."

"Then why not sell it tonight?" Joe proposed suddenly. "If we can get it
to the junkman who has a place across from the factory, he'll pay us a
good price. We can complete the deal, and still get out of town before
midnight."

"That's okay for you," Harper argued, "but Ma and I own property here,
and we got a good business."

"It was your stupid wife's stocking business that got us into this jam!"
Clark Clayton snarled.

"I ain't talkin' about that. I mean our dance hall. We clean up about a
hundred bucks every Saturday night."

"You should have thought about that before you went in with us," Joe
retorted. "You knew the risks you were taking. Anyway, this mess was your
wife's making."

A silence fell, and then Clark Clayton said: "We ain't gettin' nowhere.
We got to decide what we're goin' to do, and we got to make sure that gal
don't get out o' this weed patch until we've arranged our escape."

In whispers, the men conferred. Though Penny strained her ears, she could
not catch a single word. However, a plan satisfactory to the three seemed
to have been formulated, for presently, the two boats separated.

Sweeper Joe and Clark Clayton paddled off, heading for the pier at the
Harpers'. The other man remained in his rowboat, unquestionably detailed
to keep watch of the grass patch and prevent the girl's escape.

To amuse himself, he began to call out to her, though he could not see
her or know where she was.

"You think you're a clever one!" he taunted. "But you jest wait! We'll
get you out o' there, and when we do, you ain't goin' to like it!"

Lest a movement of the grass or a splash betray her, Penny remained
perfectly still. Shadows deepened on the river for night was fast coming
on. Her muscles became stiff and cramped. The wind chilled her to the
very bone, and the water which at first had not seemed unbearably cold,
made her teeth chatter and dance. Each minute became an hour as the
torture increased.

"I'll have to do something," she thought desperately. "I can't endure
this much longer."



                                CHAPTER
                                   20
                          _A DESPERATE PLIGHT_


In the rowboat, Claude Harper slowly patrolled the area, keeping an alert
watch for the slightest movement amid the grass. Once as a crane arose
from the dense growth into the darkening sky, he focused a flashlight
beam on the spot.

"He's prepared to stay here half the night if necessary," Penny thought,
shivering.

She could think of no means of escape. When it became completely dark,
she might be able to swim away without being detected. But long exposure
in cold water had weakened her, and she was none too certain of her
ability to reach shore.

Her absence at the island surely must have been noticed by this time, she
reasoned. Why was not a boat sent in search of her?

"I hope they don't assume I am staying with Sally for the night," she
worried.

Penny's thoughts were momentarily distracted as she heard indistinct
voices from the direction of the Harper dock. Lights had been turned on
in the house and basement.

"Those men are getting rid of the stolen brass," she reasoned. "If they
try to sell it to Heiney, they still may be caught."

Presently the motorboat moved away from the Harper dock, its engine
laboring. The craft was sunk low in the water as if from a heavy load.

The boat did not turn down stream as Penny expected. Instead, it crossed
the river at right angles, stopping in mid-stream at the deepest part of
the channel. There the engine was cut off.

"Now what?" thought Penny.

Claude Harper likewise seemed puzzled by the action, for he turned to
stare, muttering to himself.

Though Penny could not see what the men were doing aboard the boat, she
heard a loud splash as something heavy was dropped overboard.

"The fools!" Claude Harper exclaimed. "The fools!"

Another splash and still another followed. Then the boat turned and came
toward the grass patch. Claude Harper hailed the men with an angry
exclamation.

"You idiots! After all the risk we've taken, you dump our profits in the
river!"

"Keep your shirt on!" Sweeper Joe retorted. "It was the only thing to do.
Glowershick just phoned from town."

"What'd he have to report?"

"Nothing good. You know that junk shop where we arranged to sell our
stuff? Where the owner offered us a higher price than any other place in
town?"

"Well?"

"He was a dick, planted there by old man Gandiss himself. They've already
got wind of who's in on the deal."

"Then if we try to sell the brass anywhere else, we'll be pinched."

"You're catching on, Harper."

"Have you dumped all the stuff in the river?"

"It will take two more trips at least. And there's the brass lantern to
get rid of," Joe added. "As soon as the job is done, Clark and me are
gettin' out of the city."

"What are Ma and me gonna do?" Harper whined. "We've got property here."

"That's up to you," Joe snapped. "If it wasn't for the gal you'd be safe
enough. Seen anything of her?"

"Nary a sign."

"She may have slipped away under water. The gal swims like an eel."

"I don't think she got away. I been watchin' like a hawk."

"She's sure to spill everything, and she's seen plenty," Joe muttered.
"Even though the cops don't find any evidence, they could make it plenty
tough for you and the missus."

"We got to leave town," Harper admitted. "After takin' all this risk and
bein' all set to cash in big, it's a dirty break. It ain't fair."

"Squawkin' won't do no good," Joe said shortly. "The question is, what
are we goin' to do about the gal?"

"We got to make sure she won't carry no tales until we're safely out of
town."

"Then we'll have to flush her out of this bird nest," Joe decided.
"There's a way we can do it."

The manner in which she was to be caught, soon became apparent to Penny.
Systematically, the men began to flatten all of the grass with their
paddles and oars. Foot by foot, she retreated. Their strategy was
discouragingly clear. The flattened grass no longer offered protection.
Soon it all would be level with the water, and she would have no screen.

So cold that her limbs were nearly paralyzed, Penny considered giving
herself up. In any case, the outcome would be the same. The only other
recourse was to scream for help, and hope that someone along the shore
would hear her and investigate.

With only the Harper house close by, the prospect that anyone would come
to her aid was practically nil.

Angered at not finding the girl, Harper and his companions swung their
paddles viciously. Penny retreated further, still reluctant to abandon
freedom.

Then far downstream, she saw the _River Queen_, recognizing it by the
pattern its lights made above the water. The ferry had finished its
passenger run, and now apparently was coming upstream to anchor for the
night.

As Penny watched the boat, she took new hope. If only she could signal
Captain Barker or Sally! Unless the ferry changed course, it was almost
certain to pass the grass patch. However, with the water shallow there,
it would give the area a wide berth.

"Even if I shouted for help, no one aboard would hear me," she reasoned.
"But I'll have to try something! I'm finished if I stay here."

Straight up the river came the _Queen_. Penny could see a man in the
lighted pilot house, but no one was visible on the decks. The ferry was
traveling at a rapid speed.

Penny decided to wait no longer. Creeping to the very edge of the grass,
she ducked under water, and started to swim. Her strength had gone even
more than she realized. Arms and legs were so stiff they barely could
press against the water as she stroked. A few feet and she was forced to
come to the surface.

"There she is!" shouted Sweeper Joe. Bringing the boat around, he started
directly for her.

Penny swam with all the power at her command, stroking deep and fast. Not
daring to look back, she could hear the dip of Sweeper Joe's oars.

Straight toward the deepest part of the channel, she propelled herself.
Her crawl strokes were jerky, but they carried her along. And she had
calculated well. Aided by the current, she would intercept the path of
the oncoming _River Queen_.

From the water, the ferryboat looked like an immense monster as it
steamed majestically up the river. Not wishing to attract attention to
himself or his companions, Joe shipped his oars and temporarily gave up
the chase. But he remained close by, watching alertly. Should the
ferryboat fail to see or pick up Penny, he would be after her upon the
instant.

Treading water, the girl shouted for help and waved an arm. Her voice was
weak even to her own ears, and could not possibly carry to the pilot
house of the _Queen_. Would her frantic signals be seen? The night was
dark, and she was not yet in the arc of the vessel's lights.

Penny swam a few more strokes, then treaded water again, and signaled
frantically. The _River Queen_ did not slacken speed.

"They haven't seen me!" she thought desperately. "It's useless."

Now a new danger presented itself. The _Queen_ had swerved slightly so
that Penny was directly in its path. Still she had not been seen. Looming
up in gigantic proportions above her, the ferry threatened to run her
down.



                                CHAPTER
                                   21
                                _RESCUE_


Fearful that she would be killed, Penny screamed and waved. Straight on
steamed the _River Queen_, so close now that she could see Sally Barker
on the starboard deck. But the girl was gazing away from her, toward
Sweeper Joe and the other drifting boat.

"Help! Help!" screamed Penny in one last desperate attempt to save
herself.

Her cry carried, for she saw Sally whirl around and stare intently at the
dark water ahead. Then she shouted an order to her father. There came a
clanging of bells, and the _Queen_ swerved to port, missing Penny by a
scant ten feet.

Great waves engulfed her, and she fought to keep above the surface. Her
strength was practically gone. She rolled over on her back, gasping for
breath.

Then she saw that the _Queen_ had greatly reduced speed and was turning
back on her course. A lifeboat also was being lowered.

"They're going to pick me up!" Penny thought, nearly overcome by relief.

The next minute Sally and a sailor were pulling her into the boat.

"Why, it's Penny! And she's half drowned!" she heard her friend exclaim.

Then she knew no more.

When she opened her eyes, Penny found herself in a warm, comfortable bed.
Sally stood beside her with a cup of steaming hot soup.

"You're coming around fine," she praised. "Drink this! Then you'll feel
better."

Penny pulled herself up on an elbow and took a swallow of the soup. It
was good and warmed her chilled body. She gulped the cupful down.

"Sally--"

"Better not try to talk too much now," Sally advised kindly. "How did you
get into the water?"

The question aroused Penny, bringing back a flood of memories. She
suddenly realized that she was in Sally's cabin on the _River Queen_ and
the ferry was moving.

"Where are we?" she asked.

"You're safe," Sally said soothingly. "You were swimming in the river. We
nearly ran you down. Lucky I saw you just in time and we picked you up."

"Yes, I know," Penny agreed. "But _where_ are we? Near the Harpers?"

"Oh, no, we passed their place long ago. We're far upriver."

Penny struggled up, swinging her feet out of the bunk. She saw then that
she was wearing a pair of Sally's pajamas, and that her own wet garments
hung over a chair.

"We must turn back!" she cried. "Tell Captain Barker, please! Oh, it's
vitally important, Sally!"

Sally was maddeningly deliberate.

"Now don't get excited, Penny," she advised. "Everything will be all
right."

Penny resisted as Sally tried to push her back into bed. "You don't
understand!" she protested. "Sweeper Joe, Claude Harper, and Clark
Clayton are expecting to make their get-away tonight. They're the ones
who have been stealing brass from the Gandiss factory. It's all cached in
the basement of the Harper house--or was unless they've dumped it."

"Penny, are you straight in your head? You know what you're saying?"

"I certainly do! I went there this afternoon. When I learned too much,
they tried to hold me prisoner. I escaped by the river--hid in the grass
patch. But they followed me there, and were about to get me, when the
_River Queen_ steamed by."

"I did see two small boats there. Just before you shouted I wondered what
they would be doing at this time of night."

"Sweeper Joe and Clark Clayton have been dumping the stolen brass! Unless
police stop them before they dispose of it all, not a scrap of evidence
will be left! All those men expect to leave town tonight!"

"Thank heavens, we have a ship-to-shore radio telephone!" Sally cried,
thoroughly aroused. "I'll have Pop call the police right away!"

She bolted out the cabin door.

Every muscle and joint in Penny's body ached, but there was no time to
think of her misery. Her own clothes could not be put on. Searching in
Sally's wardrobe, she found a sweater and a skirt, and undergarments she
needed. By the time her friend returned, she was dressed.

"Penny, you shouldn't have gotten up!" Sally protested quickly.

"I can't afford to miss the excitement," Penny grinned. "Hope you don't
mind lending me some of your clothes."

"Of course not, and if you must stay up, you'll need a pair of shoes."
Sally found a pair of sandals, which although too large, would serve.
After Penny had put them on, she said: "Let's go to the pilot house,
because I want you to tell Pop exactly what happened."

"Did you notify police?"

"Pop sent the message. It may take a little while, but police should be
at the Harpers' almost anytime now."

"Those men saw me taken aboard this boat," Penny worried. "I'm afraid
they'll get away before the police arrive."

The girls climbed to the pilot house where Captain Barker had just turned
the wheel over to a helmsman. All members of the crew remained aboard,
for with the _Queen_ late on her run, there had been no opportunity as
yet to put the men ashore.

"We may need all our hands tonight," Captain Barker predicted. "No
telling what may develop. I have one of those feelings."

"Now Pop!" reproved Sally. "The last time you made a remark like that, we
smashed a rudder. Remember?"

"Aye, I remember all too well," he rejoined grimly.

Urged by Sally, Penny related everything that had happened at the
Harpers', and told of her endurance contest in the grass patch.

"We'll head back that direction and see what's doing," Captain Barker
offered to satisfy her. "Maybe we'll catch sight of those rascals in
their boats."

Although the _Queen_ cruised slowly near the shoal area where Penny had
encountered adventure, there was no sign of any small boat. The ferry
crept dangerously close to the grass patch.

"Watch 'er like a cat!" Captain Barker warned the helmsman. "Cramp her!
Cramp her!"

When the man did not react speedily enough, he seized the wheel and
helped spin it hard down. The _Queen_ responded readily, moving into
deeper waters.

Satisfied that there were no small boats in the vicinity, Captain Barker,
headed upstream toward the Harpers'. Across the water, lights were to be
seen on both floors of the two-story river house, but so far as could be
discerned, no boats were tied up at the pier or docks.

"The place isn't deserted, that's certain," Penny declared, peering into
the wall of darkness. "How long should it take the police to get there?"

"If the radio message we sent was properly transmitted, they should be on
their way now," the captain replied.

Sally, impatient for action, was all for taking a crew and descending
upon the house and its occupants. Puffing thoughtfully at his pipe, her
father considered the proposal, but shook his head.

"We have no authority to make a search," he pointed out. "Any such action
would make us liable for court action. Just be patient and you'll see
fireworks."

Knowing that to stand by near the Harpers' pier would warn the house
occupants they were being watched, Captain Barker ordered the _Queen_ to
turn downriver toward the main freight and passenger docks.

An excursion boat, the _Florence_, passed them, her railings lined with
women and children who had enjoyed an all-day outing and were returning
home. The steamer tied up at the Ninth Street dock and began to disgorge
passengers.

Then it happened. Penny saw a sudden flash of flame which seemed to come
from the hold of the excursion ship. The next instant fire shot from the
portholes and began to spread.

Captain Barker gave a hoarse shout which sent a chill down her spine.

"The _Florence_!" he exclaimed huskily. "Her oil tanks must have
exploded! She'll go up like matchwood, and with all those women and
children aboard!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   22
                       _CAPTAIN BARKER'S COURAGE_


Never did a fire seem to spread so rapidly. In less than three minutes,
as those aboard the _River Queen_ watched in helpless horror, the
_Florence_ became a mass of flames from stem to stern. Terrified
passengers jammed the gangplank as they tried to crowd ashore. Some of
them leaped from the excursion boat's high railings to the dock below.

"Her mooring lines are ablaze!" Captain Barker shouted a moment later.

"And the freight sheds are catching afire," Penny added, observing a
telltale line of flame starting from the flimsy wooden buildings along
the wharf, directly back of the dock where the _Florence_ had moored.

The blazing sheds worried Captain Barker far less than the fact that the
mooring lines had caught fire. If the _Florence_ should be cut loose from
the dock, helpless women and children would be carried out onto the river
in a flaming inferno.

"Why don't the fire boats get here!" Sally murmured nervously. "Oh, this
is going to be a dreadful disaster if something isn't done to save those
helpless people!"

At the bridge leading to the pilot house, Captain Barker stood tensely
watching, his hand on the signal ropes.

"There go the mooring lines!" he shouted. "The current should bring her
this way!"

As the _Florence_ slowly drifted away from the blazing wharf, men and
women began to leap over the railings into the dark waters.

"Man the lifeboats!" Captain Barker ordered his crew tersely. "I'm going
to try to get a tow line on 'er!" He signaled the engine room, and the
_River Queen_ began to back rapidly toward the flaming excursion boat.

Penny and Sally ran to help launch the lifeboats. With the _River Queen_
desperately short handed, they would be needed to handle oars. A fireman,
an engineer, Captain Barker and a helmsman must remain at their posts,
which left only three sailors to pick up passengers.

Leaping into the first boat launched, the girls rowed into the path of
the blazing vessel. In its bright glow against the sky, they could see
panic-stricken passengers running about the decks. An increasing number
were leaping into the water, and many could not swim.

Ignoring the cries of those who had life belts or were swimming strongly,
they rapidly picked up survivors. To pull children aboard was a
comparatively easy task. But many of the women were heavy, and the
combined strength of the girls barely was sufficient to get them into the
boat without upsetting.

Finally the lifeboat was filled beyond capacity, and they turned to land
their cargo aboard the _Queen_. Only then did they see what Captain
Barker intended to do.

His men had succeeded in making a line fast to the _Florence's_ stern. By
this time the excursion boat was a flaming inferno, with only a few
passengers, the captain, and crew remaining aboard.

"Pop's going to tow the _Florence_ downstream away from the freight
sheds!" Sally cried. "Some of those buildings are filled with war
materials awaiting shipment--coal, oil and I don't know what all! If a
fire once gets going there, nothing will stop it!"

Working feverishly, the girls unloaded their passengers and went back for
more. Motorboats had set out from shore, and they too aided in the rescue
work. Some of the survivors were taken to land, and others were put
aboard the _Queen_.

Aided by a sailor they had picked up, the girls worked until they no
longer could see bobbing heads in the swirling waters.

"We've done all we can," Sally gasped, as they helped the last of the
passengers aboard the _Queen_. "The captain and most of his men will stay
on the _Florence_ as long as they are able."

Though exhausted by their work, the girls did what they could for those
aboard. Sally distributed all the blankets she could find, and Penny
helped a sailor revive two women who were unconscious from having
swallowed too much water.

Suddenly there came a loud report like the crack of a pistol.

The tow line to the _Florence_ had parted! Once more the excursion boat,
now a roaring furnace, was adrift in mid-stream.

In an instant it was apparent to Penny what would happen. The
cross-current was strong, and in a minute or two would carry the burning
vessel into the wharves and sheds. When the boat struck, flying sparks
would ignite the dry wood for a considerable distance, and soon the
entire waterfront would be ablaze.

Though outwardly calm, Captain Barker was beset as he appraised the
situation. It would not be possible to get another tow line onto the
_Florence_ for already her decks had become untenable for the crew. The
blazing vessel was drifting rapidly.

"We could ram her," he muttered. "She might be nosed out into the channel
again, and headed away from the freight docks."

"Wouldn't that be dangerous?" Sally asked anxiously. "We have at least
fifty passengers aboard. In this high wind, the _Queen_ would be almost
certain to catch fire."

"There's nothing else to do," Captain Barker decided grimly, signaling
the engine room. "The _Florence_ is drifting fast, and before the fire
boats can get here, half the waterfront will be ablaze. Have the
passengers wet down the decks and stand by with buckets!"

Penny and Sally worked feverishly carrying out orders. The deck hose was
attached, and buckets were brought from below and filled with water. All
survivors who were able to help, cooperated to the fullest extent,
helping wet down the decks and assisting women and children to the stern
of the ferryboat.

Captain Barker had given an order for the _Queen_ to move full speed
ahead.

In a moment the two boats made jarring contact. Penny was thrown from her
feet. Scrambling up, she saw that blazing timbers from the _Florence_ had
crashed directly onto the _River Queen's_ deck. Sparks were falling
everywhere. The ferryboat had caught fire in a dozen places.

Seizing a bucket of water, she doused out the flames nearest her. Heat
from the _Florence_ was intense, and many of the men who had volunteered
to help, began to retreat.

Penny and Sally stuck at their post, knowing that the lives of all
depended upon extinguishing the flames quickly. Crew members of the
_Florence_ worked beside them with quiet, determined efficiency.

In the midst of the excitement, the final boatload of picked-up survivors
had to be taken aboard. Captain Jamison, one of the last to leave the
_Florence_, collapsed as he reached the deck. Severely burned, he was
carried below to receive first-aid treatment.

Undaunted, Captain Barker shouted terse orders, goading the men to
greater activity when the flames showed signs of getting beyond control.
After the first contact with the Florence, only occasional sparks ignited
the _Queen's_ decks, but the heat was terrific. Women and children became
hysterical, fearful that the ferryboat would become a flaming torch.

"The worst is over now," Sally sighed as she and Penny refilled water
buckets. "Pop knows what he's doing. He's saved the waterfront."

"But this ferryboat?"

"It still may go up in smoke, but I don't think so," Sally replied
calmly. "Pop is heading so that the wind will carry the flames away from
us. He'll beach the _Florence_ on Horseshoe Shoal and let the wreck burn
to the water's edge."

For the next fifteen minutes, there was no lessening of worry aboard the
_River Queen_. The ferryboat clung grimly to the blazing excursion boat,
losing contact at times, then picking her up again, and pushing on toward
the shoal.

Fire fighting activities aboard the ferryboat became better organized;
the passengers, observing that Captain Barker knew what he was about,
became calm and easily managed. By the time fire boats arrived to spray
the _Florence_ with streams of pressured water, the situation was well in
hand.

Collapsing on the deck from sheer exhaustion, Penny and Sally gazed
toward the warehouses and docks on the opposite shore. Only one fire of
any size was visible there.

"The fire boats will quickly put it out," Sally said confidently. "But I
hate to think what would have happened if the wind and current had driven
the _Florence_ along those wharves."

Penny wiped her cheek and saw that her hand was covered with black soot.
Sally too was a sight. She had ripped the hem from her skirt, her hair
was an untidy mess, everything about her was pungent with smoke.

"Where were we when all this excitement started?" Penny asked presently.
"If my memory serves me correctly, we had sent out a police call for
Claude Harper and his pals to be arrested. It all seems vague in my mind,
as if it occurred a million years ago."

"Why, I had forgotten too!" Sally gasped. "I hope the police went there
and caught those men before they made a get-away."

Scrambling to their feet, the girls moved to the starboard side of the
_Queen_, which permitted a view of the Harper house far upriver. They
were startled and dismayed to see tongues of flame shooting from a
window.

"That place has caught on fire too!" Sally exclaimed, then corrected
herself. "But sparks from the _Florence_ never could have been carried so
far!"

"The house has been set afire on purpose!" Penny cried. "Oh, Sally, don't
you see? It's a trick to destroy all the evidence hidden there! The
Harpers intend to skip town tonight, and they're taking advantage of this
fire to make it appear that destruction of the house is accidental!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   23
                                _FIRE!_


Sick at heart, the two girls realized with the Harper house aflame, their
last chance of proving the guilt of the brass thieves might be gone. As
they stood at the railing of the _Queen_, gloomily watching the
spreading, creeping line of fire, a motorboat chugged up.

"Ahoy!" shouted a familiar voice. "Can you take aboard three more
survivors? They're the very last we can find on the river."

"It's Jack!" Penny cried, recognizing his voice though unable to see his
face in the dark. "After we get the passengers aboard, perhaps he'll take
us upriver to the Harpers!"

The girls ran to help with the new arrivals, but sailors already had
lifted them from the boat and carried them aboard the _Queen_.

"This is my last load," Jack called out. "Nearly everyone was saved.
Coast Guard boats are patrolling now, and if there are other survivors,
they'll be taken ashore."

"Jack!" Penny called down to him.

"That you, Penny?" he demanded in astonishment. "Why didn't you come back
to Shadow Island this afternoon? We've all been worried about you!"

"It's a long story, and there's no time to tell it now! Jack, will you
take us to the Harpers' in your motorboat?"

"Now?"

"Yes, the house is on fire."

Helping the girls into the boat, Jack turned to gaze upstream. "That's
strange!" he exclaimed. "How could sparks from the _Florence_ have
carried so far?"

"The answer is, they didn't," Penny said grimly. "The house was set afire
on purpose. Just get us to the pier as quickly as you can."

Somewhere along the shore a big city clock struck the hour of midnight.
The young people did not notice. As the boat raced over the water,
bouncing as it struck each high wave, they discussed what had happened
just prior to the outbreak of fire aboard the _Florence_.

"I know part of the stolen brass was dumped into the river by Sweeper
Joe," Penny revealed excitedly. "The remainder was locked in the basement
of the Harper house the last I knew. And I'm satisfied the brass lantern
taken from the _Queen_ by Adam Glowershick is among the loot. All the
thieves expect to skip town tonight. Probably they're gone by this time."

Beaching the boat some distance from the burning house, the three young
people ran up the slope. Firemen had not yet reached the scene, and the
few persons who had gathered, were watching the flames but making no
effort to battle them.

"It's a hopeless proposition," Jack commented. "This far from the city,
there's no water pressure. The house will burn to the ground."

"And all the evidence with it," Penny added gloomily. "What miserable
luck!"

No boats were tied up at the dock, nor was there any sign of the Harpers
or their friends in the crowd. Obviously, the entire party had fled.

"Isn't there some place where we can telephone the police?" Penny
suggested impatiently. "If they act quickly, these men still may be
caught. They can't be very far away."

"The nearest house is up the beach about an eighth of a mile," Jack
informed. "Maybe we can telephone from there."

"You two go," Sally said casually. "I want to stay here."

At the moment, Jack and Penny, intent only upon their mission, thought
nothing about the remark. Following the paved road which made walking
easy, they hastened as fast as they could.

"Jack," Penny said, puffing to keep pace with him. "There's something I
want to ask you."

"Shoot!"

"Why have you felt so friendly toward that crook, Glowershick?"

Jack's eyebrows jerked upward and he gave a snort of disgust. "Whatever
gave you that crazy idea?"

"Well, he came to the island, and you borrowed money from me to give
him--"

"So you recognized him that day?"

"Yes," Penny answered quietly. "You tried to hide his identity, so I said
nothing more. I kept thinking you would explain."

"I'm prepared to pay you what I owe, Penny."

"Oh, Jack, it's not the money. Don't you understand--"

"You think I've had a finger in lifting the brass lantern from the
_Queen_," Jack said stiffly.

"Gracious, no! But shouldn't you explain?"

Jack was silent for a moment. Then he said, "Thanks, Penny, for having a
little faith in me. I know I've been an awful sap."

"Suppose you tell me all about it."

"There's nothing to tell. I went to the Harpers a number of
times--attended their dances, and spent a lot of money. I got into debt
to that fellow Glowershick and he pressed me for it."

"There was nothing more to it?"

"Not a thing, except that I didn't want my folks to hear about it. That's
why I pretended I didn't know Glowershick. I was afraid you would tell
them. Don't you believe me?"

"Oh, I do, Jack. I'm so relieved. And the jitterbug girl at Harpers'--"

"Oh, _her_!" Jack said scornfully. "She was a stupid thing, and I don't
see how I stood her silly chatter. Most of the money I borrowed from
Glowershick was spent on her. As I've said, I was a complete chump."

Reaching a house some distance back from the river, they found the owner
at home, and were given permission to telephone the police. Jack was
promised by an inspector that all police cruisers would be ordered to
watch for the escaped brass thieves. Railroad terminals, bus depots and
all roads leading from the city would be guarded.

"Watch the riverfront too," Jack urged. "The men may have gone by boat to
Tate's Beach, intending to catch a train from there."

Satisfied they had done everything possible, Penny and Jack hastened back
to the Harpers'. The sky was tinted pink and flames now shot from the
roof of the house. A large crowd had gathered, and there was excited talk
and gesturing.

"Something's wrong!" Penny observed anxiously.

Pushing through the crowd, they sought vainly to find Sally.

A woman was talking excitedly, pointed toward the flaming building.

"I tell you, I saw a girl run in there only a few minutes ago!" she
insisted. "And she didn't come out! She must be in there now!"

The words shocked Penny and Jack as the same thought came to them. Could
it be that reckless Sally had ventured into the basement of the house,
hoping to recover the brass lantern or other evidence which would
incriminate the thieves?

"She acted funny when we left her here," Penny whispered in horror. "Oh,
Jack! If she's inside the building--"

Pushing through the crowd, she grasped the arm of the woman who was
talking. "Who was the girl? What was she wearing?" she demanded tensely.

"A blue sweater," the woman recalled. "Her hair was flying wild and her
face was streaked with dirt as if she'd already been in the fire. I
thought maybe she lived here."

"It was Sally," Penny murmured, her heart sinking to her shoe tops. "Why
hasn't someone brought her out?"

"No human being could get into that house now," declared a man who stood
close by. "The firemen aren't here yet. Anyway, we ain't sure there's
anyone inside."

"I saw the girl run in, I tell you!" the woman insisted.

To debate over such a vital matter infuriated Penny and Jack. Sally was
nowhere in the crowd and they were convinced she had entered the blazing
building. Flames were blowing from some of the lower windows and smoke
was dense. It was obvious that no man present was willing to risk his
life to ascertain if the girl were inside.

"She must have tried to reach the basement!" Penny cried. "Oh, Jack,
we've got to bring her out!"

Nodding grimly, Jack stripped off his coat. Throwing it over his head as
a shield, he darted into the burning building. Penny, close at his heels,
had no protection.

Inside the house, smoke was so black they could not see three feet ahead.
Choking, gasping for breath, they groped their way through the living
room to the kitchen. Penny jerked open the door leading into the cellar.

Flames roared into her face. The entire basement was an inferno of heat.
No human being could descend the stairs and return. If Sally were below,
she was beyond help.

Closing the door, Penny staggered backwards. Her head was spinning and
she could not get her breath.

"It's no use!" Jack shouted in her ear. "We've got to get out of here!
The walls or floor may collapse."

Clutching Penny's arm, he pulled her along. In the black smoke swirling
about them, they missed the kitchen door.

Frantically, they crept along a scorching hot wall, seeking to find an
exit.

Then Penny stumbled over an object on the floor and fell. As she tried to
get up, her hand touched something soft and yielding. A body lay sprawled
in a heap beside her on the floor.

"It's Sally!" she cried. "Oh, Jack, help me get her up!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   24
                          _DREDGING THE RIVER_


Sally moaned softly but did not stir as Penny tried to pull her to a
sitting position. The heat now was almost unbearably intense, with flying
brands dropping everywhere. But near the floor, the air was better, and
Penny drew it in by deep gulps.

Jack's groping hand encountered the sink. Soaking his coat with water
from one of the taps, he gave it to Penny to protect her head and
shoulders.

"Help me get Sally onto my back in a Fireman's carry," he gasped. "We can
make it."

The confidence in Jack's voice gave Penny new courage and strength. As he
knelt down on the floor, she dragged Sally onto his back. Holding the
inert body high on his shoulders, he staggered across the kitchen.

Penny guided him to the door. Flames had eaten into the living room, and
a small portion of the floor had fallen through. To reach the exit was
impossible.

"A window!" Jack directed.

Penny could see none, so dense was the smoke, but she remembered how the
room had been laid out, and pulled Jack to an outer wall. Her exploring
hand encountered a window sill, but she could not get the sash up.

In desperation, she kicked out the glass. A rush of cool, sweet air
struck her face. Filling her lungs, she turned to help Jack with his
burden. Before she could grasp him, he sagged slowly to the floor.

Thrusting her head through the broken window, Penny shouted for help.

Willing hands lifted her to safety, and two men climbed through the
window to bring out Jack and Sally. Both were carried some distance from
the blazing building to an automobile where they were revived.

However, Sally was in need of medical attention. Hair and eyebrows had
been singed half away, and more serious, her hands and arms were severely
burned. Jack and Penny rode with her to the hospital when the ambulance
finally came.

Not until hours later, after Captain Barker had been summoned, did Sally
know anyone. Heavily bandaged, with her father, Jack, and Penny at her
bedside, she opened her eyes and gave them a half-hearted grin.

"The _Florence_?" she whispered.

"Safely beached on a shoal," Captain Barker assured her tenderly.
"There's nothing to worry about. All the passengers have been taken to
hospitals or to their homes. A preliminary check has shown only one man
lost, an engineer who was trapped at his post when the explosion occurred
aboard the _Florence_."

"Pop, you were marvelous," Sally whispered. "You saved the waterfront."

"And nearly lost a daughter. Sally, why did you try to get into that
burning building?"

Sally drew a deep, tired sigh.

"Never mind," said Penny kindly. "We know why you went in--it was to find
the brass lantern."

Sally nodded. "When I got to the basement, flames were shooting up
everywhere," she recalled with a shudder. "I realized then that I
couldn't possibly find the lantern or anything else. I tried to get back,
but smoke was everywhere. That was the last I remembered."

"It was Jack who saved you," Penny said, but he cut in to insist that the
credit belonged to her rather than to him.

In the midst of a good-natured argument over the subject, a nurse came to
say that Penny and Jack both were wanted on the telephone.

"The police department calling," she explained.

They were down the hall in a flash to take the call. Captain Brown of the
city police force informed them they were wanted immediately at police
headquarters to identify Sweeper Joe, the Harpers, and Clark Clayton who
had been arrested at the railroad station. Adam Glowershick also had been
taken into custody.

At headquarters fifteen minutes later, the young people found Mr.
Gandiss, Penny's father, and Heiney Growski already there. Questioned by
police, the young people revealed everything they knew about the case.

"We can hold these men for a while," Chief Bailey promised Mr. Gandiss,
"but to make charges stick, we'll have to have more evidence."

Penny had told of the cache of brass in the Harper basement, and also of
seeing Sweeper Joe and Clark Clayton dump much of the loot in the river.
She was assured that the ruins of the house would be searched in the
morning and that a dredge would be assigned to try to locate the brass
which had been thrown overboard into the deepest part of the channel.

Heiney Growski produced records he had kept, showing a list of Gandiss
factory employes known to be implicated in the plot.

"Most of the persons involved are new employes who smuggled small pieces
of brass out of the factory and turned them over to Sweeper Joe for pin
money," he revealed. "The leaders are Joe, Clayton, and Glowershick. With
them behind bars, the ring will dissolve."

"There's one thing I want to know," Penny declared feelingly. "Who
planted the brass in Sally's locker while she was working at the
factory?"

No one could answer the question at the moment, but the following day,
after police had repeatedly questioned the prisoners, the entire story
became known. Sweeper Joe, the real instigator of the plot, had slipped
into the locker room himself, and had placed the incriminating piece of
evidence in Sally's locker, using a master key. He had disliked her
because several times she had resented his attempts to become friendly.

Although police had obtained signed confessions, tangible evidence also
was needed, for as Chief Bailey pointed out to Mr. Gandiss, the men might
repudiate their statements when they appeared in court. Accordingly,
police squads were sent to the Harpers' to search the ashes for evidence,
and also to the river to supervise dredging operations.

Throughout the day, between trips to the hospital to see Sally, Jack and
Penny watched the dredge boat make its trips back and forth over the area
where the loot had been dropped.

"I hope I wasn't mistaken in the location," Penny remarked anxiously as
the vessel made repeated excursions without success. "After all, the
night was dark, and I had no way of taking accurate bearings."

Across the river and barely visible, the blackened, smoking skeleton of
the _Florence_ lay stranded on a sandbar. Throughout the night, a
fireboat had steadily pumped water into the burning vessel, but even so,
fires had not been entirely extinguished.

Morning papers had carried the encouraging information that there was
only one known casualty as a result of the disaster. That many lives had
not been lost was credited entirely to the courageous action of Captain
Barker.

Becoming weary of watching the monotonous dredging operations, Jack and
Penny joined a throng of curious bystanders at the Harper property.
Police had taken complete charge and were raking the smoldering ruins.

"Find anything?" Jack asked a policeman he knew.

The man pointed to a small heap of charred metal which had been taken
from the basement. There were many pieces of brass, but the missing
lantern was not to be found in the pile.

However, from a member of the arson squad, they learned that enough
evidence had been found to prove conclusively that the fire had been
started with gasoline.

"Ma Harper spilled the whole story," one of the policemen related. "She
and her husband were fairly straight until they became mixed up with
Sweeper Joe, who has a police record of long standing. Ma had a black
market business in silk stockings that didn't amount to much. So far as
we've been able to learn, she and a taxi driver whom we've caught, were
the only ones involved. Her husband and the other men considered the
stocking racket small potatoes for them."

After talking with the policemen for awhile, the young people wandered
down to the river's edge to see how dredging operations progressed.

"They're hauling something out of the water now!" Jack exclaimed. "By
George! It looks like brass to me!"

Finding a boat tied up at the dock, they borrowed it and rowed rapidly
out to the dredge. There they saw that some of the metal which Sweeper
Joe had dumped, had indeed been recovered.

Prodding in the muddy pile in the bottom of the dredge net, Penny uttered
a little scream of joy. "The brass lantern is here, Jack! What wonderful
luck!"

Seizing the slime-covered object, she washed it in the river. "Let's take
it straight to Sally at the hospital!" she urged.

Because the lantern would be important evidence in the case against
Glowershick, police aboard the dredge were unwilling for it to be
removed. However, the young people carried the news to Sally.

"Oh, I'm so glad the lantern has been recovered!" she cried happily.
"Jack, you'll win it in the race Friday."

Jack and Penny exchanged a quick, stricken glance. Temporarily, they had
forgotten the race and all it meant to Sally. With her hands bandaged
from painful burns, she never would be able to compete.

"We'll postpone the race," Jack said gruffly. "It would be no competition
if we held it without you."

"Nonsense," replied Sally. "It will be weeks before I can use my hands
well, so it would be stupid to postpone the race that long. Fortunately,
the doctor says I may leave the hospital tomorrow, and I'll not be
scarred."

"If you can't race, I won't either," declared Jack stubbornly.

"Jack, you must!" Agitated, Sally raised herself on an elbow. "I'd feel
dreadful if you didn't compete. The race has meant everything to you."

"Not any more. Winning doesn't seem important now. I'll not sail in the
race unless the _Cat's Paw_ is entered, and that's final!"

"Oh, Jack, you're such an old mule!" Sally tossed her head impatiently on
the pillow. Then she grinned. "If my _Cat_ is in the race, you'll sail?"

"Sure," he agreed, suspecting no trick.

Sally laughed gleefully. "Then it's settled! Penny will represent me in
the race!"

"I'll do what?" demanded Penny.

"You'll skipper the boat in my stead!"

"But I lack experience."

"You'll win the trophy easily," chuckled Sally. "Why, the _Cat's Paw_ is
by far the fastest boat on the river."

"Says who?" demanded Jack, but without his old fire.

"But I couldn't race alone," said Penny, decidedly worried. "Sally, would
you be able to ride along as adviser and captain bold?"

"I certainly would jump at the chance if the doctor would give
permission. Oh, Penny, if only he would!"

"The race isn't until Friday," Jack said encouragingly. "You can make it,
Sally."

The girl pulled herself to a sitting posture, staring at her bandaged
hands.

"Yes, I can," she agreed with quiet finality. "Why, I feel better
already. Even if I have to be carried to the dock in a wheel chair, I'll
be in that race!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   25
                               _THE RACE_


A mid-afternoon sun beat down upon the wharves as a group of sailboats
tacked slowly toward the starting line for the annual Hat Island trophy
race. The shores were lined with spectators, and from the clubhouse where
a band played, music carried over the water.

At the tiller of the _Cat's Paw_, Penny, in white blouse and slacks, hair
bound tightly to keep it from blowing, sat nervous and tense. Sally,
lounging on a cushion in the bow, seemed thoroughly relaxed. Though her
arms remained in bandages, otherwise she had completely recovered from
her unpleasant experience.

"Isn't the wind dying?" Penny asked anxiously. "Oh, Sally, I was hoping
we'd have a good stiff breeze for the race! Handicapped as we are--"

"We're not handicapped," Sally corrected. "Of course, I can't handle the
ropes or do much to help, but we have a wonderful boat that will prove
more than a match for Jack's _Spindrift_."

"You're only saying that to give me confidence."

"No, I'm not," Sally denied, turning to study the group of racing boats.
"We'll win the trophy! Just wait and see."

"If we do, it will be because of your brain and my brawn," Penny
chuckled. "I'll admit I'm scared silly. I never was in an important race
before."

Conversation ceased, for the boats now were bunching close to the
starting line, maneuvering for position. Jack drifted by in the
_Spindrift_, raising his hand in friendly greeting. As he passed, he
actually glanced anxiously toward Sally, as if worried lest the girl
overtax herself.

"I hope he doesn't try to throw the race just to be gallant," Penny
thought. "But I don't believe he will, for then the victory would be a
hollow one."

The change apparent in Jack so amazed Penny that she had to pinch herself
to realize it was true. Since the night of the fire, he had visited Sally
every day. In a brief span of hours, he had grown from a selfish,
arrogant youth into a steady, dependable man. And it now was evident to
everyone that he liked Sally in more than a friendly way.

"Better come about now, Penny," Sally broke in upon her thoughts. "Head
for the starting line. The signal should be given any minute now."

The boats started in a close, tight group. Jack was over the line first,
but with _Cat's Paw_ directly behind.

In the first leg of the race, the two boats kept fairly even, with the
others lagging. As the initial marker was rounded, there was a noticeable
fall-off in the wind.

"It's going to be a drifting race," Sally confirmed, raising troubled
eyes to the wrinkled sail. "We're barely drawing now and Jack's boat has
the edge in a calm."

The _Spindrift_ skimmed merrily along, now in the lead by many yards.
Though Penny held the tiller delicately, taking advantage of every breath
of wind, the distance between the two boats rapidly increased.

"We're out of it," she sighed. "We can't hope to overtake Jack now."

Sally nodded gloomily. Shading her eyes against the glare of the sun, she
gazed across the river, studying the triangular course. Far off-shore,
well beyond the line the _Spindrift_ and their own boat was taking, the
surface of the water appeared rippled. Ahead of them there was only a
smooth surface.

"Penny," she said quietly. "I believe there's more breeze out there."

Penny nodded and headed the _Cat's Paw_ on the longer course out into the
river. To many spectators ashore it appeared that the girls deliberately
had abandoned the race, but aboard the _River Queen_, Captain Barker
grinned proudly at his guests, Mr. Parker, and Mr. and Mrs. Gandiss.

"Those gals are using their heads!" he praised. "Well, Mr. Gandiss, it
looks as if the Barkers will keep the trophy another year!"

"The race isn't over yet," Mr. Gandiss rumbled goodnaturedly.

Aboard the _Cat's Paw_, Penny and Sally were none too jubilant. Although
sails curved with wind and they were footing much faster than the other
boats, the course they had chosen would force them to sail a much longer
distance. Could they cross the finish line ahead of the _Spindrift_?

"Shouldn't we turn now?" Penny asked impatiently. "Jack's so much closer
than we."

"Not yet," Sally said calmly. "We must make it in one long tack. He will
be forced to make several. That's our only chance. If we misjudge the
distance, we're sunk."

Tensely, they watched the moving line of boats close along shore. The
_Spindrift_ seemed almost at the finish line, though her sails barely
were drawing and she moved through the water at a snail's pace.

Again Penny glanced anxiously at her companion.

"Now!" Sally gave the signal.

Instantly Penny swung the _Cat's Paw_ onto the homeward tack. Every inch
of her sails drawing, she swept toward the finish line.

"We're so much farther away than the _Spindrift_," Penny groaned,
crouching low so that her body would not deflect the wind. "Oh, Sally,
will we make it?"

"Can't tell yet. It will be nip and tuck. But if we can keep this
breeze--"

The wind held, and the _Cat's Paw_, sailing to windward of the finish
line, moved along faster and faster. On the other hand, the _Spindrift_
was forced to make several short tacks, losing distance each time. The
boats drew even.

Suddenly Sally relaxed, and slumped down on the cushions.

"Just hold the old girl steady on her course," she grinned. "That brass
lantern is the same as ours!"

"Then we'll win?"

"We can't lose now unless some disaster should overtake us."

Even as Sally spoke, boat whistles began to toot. Sailing experts nodded
their heads in a pleased way, for it was a race to their liking.

A minute later, sweeping in like a house afire, the _Cat's Paw_ crossed
the finish line well in advance of the _Spindrift_. Jack's boat placed
second with other craft far behind.

Friendly hands assisted the girls ashore where they were spirited away to
the clubhouse for rest and refreshments. As everyone crowded about to
congratulate them upon victory, Jack joined the throng.

"It was a dandy race," he said with sincerity. "I tried hard to win, but
you outsmarted me."

"Why, Jack!" teased Sally. "Imagine admitting a thing like that!"

"Now don't try to rub it in," he pleaded. "I know I've been an awful
heel. You probably won't believe me, but I'm sorry about the way I
acted--"

"For goodness sakes, don't apologize," Sally cut him short. "I enjoyed
every one of those squabbles we had. I hope we have a lot more of them."

"We probably will," Jack warned, "because I expect to be underfoot quite
a bit of the time."

Later in the afternoon, the brass lantern which had been turned over to
the club by the police, was formally presented to Sally. She was warned
however, that the trophy would have to be returned later for use in court
as evidence against Adam Glowershick.

The nicest surprise of all was yet to come. Captain Barker was requested
by a committee chairman to kindly step forward into full view of the
spectators.

"Now what's this?" he rumbled, edging away.

But he could not escape. Speaking into a loudspeaker, the committee
chairman informed the captain and delighted spectators, that in
appreciation of what he had done to save the waterfront, a thousand
dollar purse had been raised. Mr. Gandiss, whose factory certainly would
have faced destruction had wharves caught fire, had contributed half the
sum himself.

"Why, beaching the _Florence_ was nothing," the captain protested, deeply
embarrassed. "I can repair the damage done to the _Queen_ with less than
a hundred dollars."

"The money is yours, and you must keep it," he was told. "You must have a
use for it."

"I have that," Captain Barker admitted, winking at his daughter. "There's
a certain young lady of my acquaintance who has been hankerin' to go away
to college."

"Oh, Pop." Sally's eyes danced. "How wonderful! I know where I want to go
too!"

"So you've been studying the school catalogues?" her father teased.

Sally shook her head. Reaching for Penny's hand, she drew her close.

"I don't need a catalogue," she laughed. "I only know I'm scheduled for
the same place Penny selects! She's been my good luck star, and I'll set
my future course by her!"



                          Transcriber's Notes


--Replaced the list of books in the series by the complete list, as in
  the final book, "The Cry at Midnight".

--Silently corrected a handful of palpable typos.





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