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Title: Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure
Author: McKechnie, Jean Lyttleton
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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FALCON BOOKS


_Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure_

When the Allens--Philip, Jimmy, Penny and Marjorie--opened their
Michigan Lodge as a summer hotel, they decided to track down the rumor
of buried treasure. Other people, however, had the same idea, and
before the Allens could solve the baffling clues they discovered, they
found themselves in real danger. How they found the treasure, and how
Penny and Philip found romance with it, make an exciting and romantic
adventure everyone will enjoy.


_Other Falcon Books for Girls_:

  PENNY ALLEN AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE
  PATTY AND JO, DETECTIVES
  JEAN CRAIG GROWS UP
  JEAN CRAIG IN NEW YORK
  JEAN CRAIG FINDS ROMANCE
  JEAN CRAIG, NURSE
  JEAN CRAIG, GRADUATE NURSE
  CHAMPION’S CHOICE



[Illustration: “It looks like the note in the bottle!”]



  _Penny Allen_

  AND THE

  Mystery of the Hidden Treasure

  BY JEAN MCKECHNIE

  [Illustration]

  THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY
  CLEVELAND AND NEW YORK



  Falcon Books
  _are published by_ THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY
  2231 WEST 110 STREET • CLEVELAND 2 • OHIO


  W1

  COPYRIGHT 1950 BY THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY

  MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



_Contents_


   1. A New Adventure             9

   2. An Anonymous Letter        23

   3. The Abandoned Well         40

   4. A Night Prowler            53

   5. Another Threat             68

   6. Clues in a Bottle          85

   7. The Map                    98

   8. Peter Is Worried          109

   9. Camping Out               121

  10. Jimmy to the Rescue       133

  11. The Missing Fragment      151

  12. Setting the Trap          166

  13. Philip Traps a Thief      179

  14. Forgotten Treasure        197

  15. Happy Ending              216



_Penny Allen_

AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HIDDEN TREASURE



CHAPTER 1

A NEW ADVENTURE


A warm June breeze was blowing in from Lake Superior. It caught a
strand of Penny Allen’s blonde hair and blew it across her dark blue
eyes.

Penny was out in the clearing behind the Lodge hanging blankets on
the line. “Help,” she called to her brother, Philip, who was working
nearby. “Help, I can’t see what I’m doing, and my arms are full of
blankets.”

Philip, his clear, blue-gray eyes sparkling with laughter, hurried to
the rescue. He extricated Penny from the mound of blankets she was
carrying and helped her hang them on the line.

As they worked together, fighting the capricious breeze that threatened
every minute to blow the blankets away, Penny said excitedly:

“I can’t believe it, Phil. We’re practically ready to open the Lodge
for guests!”

“Well, not quite,” Philip said soberly. He was twenty, a year older
than Penny, and usually wore a rather serious air. This was partly due
to his responsibilities as the head of the Allen family.

Their Uncle John Allen had died suddenly a year ago leaving the four
orphans, Penny, Philip, Jimmy and Marjorie, to shift for themselves. He
had left the Lodge to Philip and a beautiful yacht, the _Penny Allen_,
to Penny.

Recently, Philip had decided to turn his inheritance into a business
venture. The lovely house, situated in the Michigan woods near Lake
Superior, would make an ideal summer hotel. Ever since the first of
June they had all been busy helping to get it ready for many of their
old friends who planned to spend the summer there.

“Don’t look so serious, Phil,” Penny cried. “We _are_ just about ready.”

Philip’s eyes, under their straight, dark eyebrows, were thoughtful.
“We’re not even organized yet, Penny,” he said. “The winter just seemed
to go like lightning.” A quick smile dispelled his seriousness. “I
guess we spent too much of the holidays enjoying the winter sports.”

“Pooh,” Penny said impulsively. “We were all together and we had fun.
We deserved that.”

Orphans since thirteen-year-old Marjorie, the youngest, had been a
baby, the Allens had hardly known one another, for they had all gone
to different schools and summer camps. But in spite of that, they had
managed to maintain a merry and cheerful household.

And now they were all bound and determined to make a success of their
summer hotel. “We’ve got plenty of time to get organized in,” Penny
argued. She pushed her light brown hair out of her eyes with one hand
and tucked the last clothespin in place with the other. “Here come
Marjorie and Jimmy. You can organize us all right now.”

“Hi,” Jimmy called, striding toward them. He was the darkest member of
the family, contrasting sharply with Marjorie.

She was very fair, with light golden hair and light-blue eyes. Her
slight figure and small delicate hands gave her an almost elfin grace
to which was added a delightfully mischievous quality. “She looks
delicate,” Jimmy often said. “But the kid’s as tough as nails.”

Jimmy’s current aim in life was to reach at least six feet before he
stopped growing. Almost daily the slender, seventeen-year-old boy
insisted that Philip stand back to back with him in order to determine
whether or not he had finally become the tallest member of the family.

Judging by the quantities of food he packed away, Penny felt sure that
he would never stop growing. Moreover, it seemed to her that he was
quite tall enough now. What he needed to do was to gain a little weight.

“A summer here, spent mostly outdoors,” she said to Philip, “will do
both Marjorie and Jimmy a world of good. I hope they each gain a few
pounds before they go back to school.”

Marjorie, who had been trailing behind Jimmy, called out then: “Now
that the blankets are airing, Penny, can’t we go through the stuff in
the storage room?” She broke into a run and arrived by the clothesline
almost out of breath. “I can’t wait to see what’s in those old trunks.”

“Probably nothing but junk,” Jimmy said. “You know what Uncle John
always called this place.”

When they had first come to the Michigan house early in the fall they
had expected to find a shack because their Uncle John had always
referred to it as the “Michigan Shack.” But in spite of its name, it
had turned out to be a very pretentious log structure evidently built
for just such a purpose as they were planning to put it to now.

Allen Lodge was imposing with its wide front and its two-story porches.
The spacious living room was two stories high with the bedrooms opening
off a balcony which extended around three sides of the room. The large
dining room, kitchen and pantry, were on the Lake side. There were
great fireplaces in many of the rooms and Philip said that it must
have been planned as a summer hotel or a hunting lodge because the
arrangement was ideal for large numbers of people.

The interior, with its lovely hand-hewn rafters and paneled walls was
a delight to the eye, and even better, it was easy to take care of.
Allen Lodge suggested nothing but comfort. No one knew of its secret
room except the Allens and their newly made friend.

They had heard when they first came here that the house was haunted,
but it had not taken them long to discover that the ghost was only
Adra Prentice, a very nice girl whom they had discovered hiding in
the secret room. Adra, who was eighteen years old, had “haunted”
the Allen’s house when she had run away from her kidnappers. Their
adventures and the way they solved the mystery is told in _Penny Allen
and the Mystery of the Haunted House_. The four Allens were now ready
for a new adventure and they felt that their own house was the best
place to find it.

“Those old trunks aren’t filled with junk,” Marjorie was saying to
Jimmy. “Penny and I looked into one of them and it’s positively
overflowing with fascinating old dresses that would be wonderful if we
give a masquerade. And there’s an old jewelry box--”

“Filled to the brim,” Penny finished, smiling, “with costume jewelry
not worth a cent.”

“See?” Jimmy demanded, grinning at Marjorie. “Junk.” He turned to Phil.
“Pat asked me to plant some beans in his garden behind the cabin the
Donahues are going to occupy. If you don’t need me, I’ll go do it now.”

“Go ahead,” Phil said. “It won’t take long.”

Pat Ryan, who had been Uncle John’s guide and the caretaker of the
Lodge, had just married Ann Mary. He and his new wife had voluntarily
taken over the responsibility of helping the Allens. Philip and Penny
realized they would be lost without the Ryans in this undertaking. As
Philip said, “They’ve completely spoiled us. I wouldn’t think of doing
anything without first consulting Pat. He seems to know everything
about everything and as luck would have it, we know next to nothing
about anything. Fate must have brought us together, or better yet,
Uncle John must have had us in mind when he first got Pat to work for
him.”

Penny agreed wholeheartedly with Phil.

“Pat’s orders,” she told Jimmy before he started off to plant beans,
“must always be obeyed.” She pointed gaily to the blankets that were
swaying and billowing in the sunny June breeze. “See what I’ve done
with our household chattels! To think I might have gone through life
only knowing about readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic if Ann Mary hadn’t
taken me in hand and shown me how to run a house.”

“Don’t feel so cocky, Sis,” said Jimmy, an impish grin on his face.
“You probably have lots more to learn. All I can say is, you’d better
hurry up and acquire the missing knowledge before Peter gets here.”

Penny blushed at the mention of Peter Wyland’s name. Even though he
was an old friend and the Allens had known him for years, he had just
recently shown his preference for Penny’s company and Penny was still
not used to being teased about it.

Phil shrewdly guessed that Penny had been in love with Peter ever since
last winter. That was when they had discovered that Peter was a secret
service man in the employ of Mr. Prentice. Phil had not talked to Penny
about Peter even when he noticed that she seemed to get letters from
Wyland quite regularly. Philip’s mind these days was much preoccupied
with thoughts of Adra Prentice. He seemed unable to get her out of his
mind, and he found that no matter what he was doing, his thoughts would
always go back to Adra.

Both Phil and Penny knew that Jimmy and Marjorie would never stop
teasing them about their feelings, so, contrary to their usual method
of discussing everything among themselves, they had not said anything
about this. Nevertheless, it seemed to be more or less understood, and
although Penny couldn’t help blushing, she pretended to ignore Jimmy’s
teasing remark.

“Get along with you,” Phil said to his younger brother. “If you don’t
plant those beans soon they’ll sprout in your pocket.”

Jimmy departed, laughing. “Come on, lazy-bones,” he called over his
shoulder to Marjorie. “I’ll let you help me for a change. Even _you_
can’t botch up a job as simple as planting beans.”

“Thank you, no,” Marjorie said with dignity. “I weeded all day
yesterday while you were fishing.” Marjorie had not missed Penny’s
blush, and couldn’t resist a chance for teasing her older sister. “Why
are your cheeks so pink, Penny?” she asked carelessly.

“She’s getting sunburned,” Phil said, quickly coming to Penny’s rescue.
“If you spent more time looking in the mirror, Marjorie, you’d see that
your own nose is as red as a beet.”

Just then an old Ford drew up in front of the house. Pat Ryan got out,
followed by the new summer help. Theresa, who was Pat’s sister and
lived in the nearby village, had a smile on her broad Irish face. The
Allens loved her Irish brogue and her tremendous bulk. Marjorie said
she was worth her weight in gold.

“It’s glad I am to be here working for the Allens,” she said.

Penny welcomed her and said, “It’s we who are glad you could come,
Theresa, and the rest of you too. We’d never be able to swing this
experiment if it weren’t for the Ryans and you, and we think you’re
bricks to do this on a co-operative basis, because right now we don’t
know if we’ll make a profit, or lose money.”

“Don’t you go worrying about a little thing like that,” answered
Theresa, and with a wink at Pat she added, “Anybody that finds out
about Ann Mary’s cooking will gladly pay double the fee you’re
charging, if Pat isn’t going to be too jealous to let anybody else
taste that good food.”

“Okay with me,” said Pat good-naturedly. “Providing I get my share.”

Slowly following behind Theresa were two people the Allens had never
met. Penny and Phil shook their hands as Theresa introduced them.

“This is Mr. and Mrs. Mal Donahue, Ann Mary’s cousins. Mrs. Donahue
was Kathleen Doherty and we always call her Kitty. It’s a cinch your
help will all be getting along fine together since we’re all Irish and
all related. Seems as though all the Irish are related to each other,
doesn’t it?”

This brought forth gales of laughter from Jimmy who had interrupted his
work in the garden to greet the new arrivals.

“I hope you like your cabin,” he said to the Donahues. “All of our
vegetables are growing right in your back yard, so whenever you get
hungry all you have to do is reach out the window and pick some pole
beans.”

They smiled at him while Philip said, “We hope you will be happy with
us, Mal and Kitty.”

Mal Donahue cleared his throat. “We’d like the job, sir, uh--er,” and
he hesitated. “We were--ahem--curious, you see. We heard the house was
haunted last winter, and some people say there’s hidden treasure around
here. We hope it’s just a plain ordinary house. Kitty and I don’t like
surprises.” This speech was made with some effort and once again Jimmy
couldn’t control his amusement.

He laughed and slapped Mal on the back. “If there’s any treasure, old
man, you and I will find it together.” This seemed to reassure Mal.

When Philip and Penny walked toward the Lodge later, she said, “I think
we are lucky, Phil, to get these young folks. I like their looks, don’t
you?”

“I certainly do,” Philip agreed. “And Pat and Ann Mary will need all
the extra help they can get. If things work out the way we hope they
will, we’ll have to hire more people from the village.”

Penny nodded. “I’m very pleased with Kitty. She looks like a dear, and
she’ll make a nice appearance waiting on the table.” She sighed. “It’s
too bad anyone as attractive as Ann Mary must stay in the kitchen most
of the time.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Phil said with a laugh. “I’m sure all our
guests will want to go back and tell her how good her food is and
they’ll get to know her that way. Besides,” he went on, “she won’t stay
in the kitchen all the time. Even if she’s supposed to do nothing but
cook, you know Ann Mary will pitch in and help the others whenever she
has any spare time.”

“That’s true,” Penny said thoughtfully. “And I’m beginning to see
what you mean about our getting organized. We really should all work
according to some sort of schedule so we won’t be getting in each
other’s way.”

“Exactly,” Philip said. “We must have a serious meeting this evening
and assign definite tasks to each one of us.”

“Right after dinner,” Penny agreed. “Now, before we go back to work in
the house, let’s read the mail the postman left on the porch a while
ago. I--I,” she confided, “I’m sort of hoping I’ll hear from Peter
Wyland. He’s not sure he can take a vacation from his job until the end
of summer.”

“Cheer up, Sis,” Phil said encouragingly. “Maybe there’ll be a letter
from him saying he can come sooner.”

They hurried up the steps to the porch where a stack of letters was
waiting for them.



CHAPTER 2

AN ANONYMOUS LETTER


The first letter Penny opened was from the Curtises saying that they
would arrive in about a week, the first weekend in July.

“That is,” Mrs. Curtis wrote, “if it won’t be rushing you too much,
Penny dear.”

Mr. and Mrs. Curtis, whom the Allens fondly called Grandma and Grandpa
Curtis, had been old friends of Uncle John’s. Their daughter Mary and
their son Charles were the same age as Penny and Philip and they had
spent many summers together in camps. They were to be the first guests
at Allen Lodge and were planning to stay the entire summer.

When Mr. Curtis had heard about the ideal fishing his family had
difficulty restraining him from coming up before the Lodge was really
open for business.

“The Curtises are always doing something to help us,” brightly
asserted Penny as she finished the letter out on the big front porch.

She and Philip looked out on the lawn, a wide, trimmed space in front
of the house, its grass thick, its masses of shrubbery and groups of
beautiful trees stately, and its flowers just beginning to bloom.
Truly, summer had come to the shores of Lake Superior, and Phil
surveyed the property with great pride.

Watching the expression on his face, Penny said, “Uncle John certainly
had good taste, Phil. You have every reason to be proud of your
inheritance.”

“I know it,” Phil said. “But don’t forget to give credit where it is
due. Jimmy and I have done a good job of lawn-mowing and tree-trimming,
if I do say so myself.” He stretched his long arms. “That kind of work
is a real muscle builder.”

“I’ll bet it is,” Penny said. “And it’s grand to know that I’ll have
plenty of flowers for the dining room tables and for every bedroom
in the Lodge. Pat takes very good care of the cutting flowers in
his old-fashioned garden. If you and Jimmy take as good care of the
flowering shrubs, the Lodge will be a bower of blossoms inside and out
all summer.”

Marjorie and Jimmy came out on the porch then with their hands full of
more mail that Pat had brought back when he went into town for Theresa
and the Donahues.

“‘Lo,” said Jimmy. “Help us sort this out. Gobs came in today after the
postman left.”

Jimmy sat down in one of the large, old-fashioned wicker chairs and
Marjorie drew up a little footstool in front of him.

“Go ahead,” said Philip, “We’ll trust you and Marjorie to sort it all
out and hand it over, won’t we, Penny?”

“Only too glad to have you do it,” replied Penny, slumping down in her
chair and pretending to relax. “Only don’t take too long, if anything
looks interesting,” she added.

Jimmy’s answer to that was to toss a flat letter into her lap, and to
follow that closely with another slimmer one, carefully twirled by its
corner to insure its falling at the proper distance.

“Oh, don’t, Jimmy,” protested Marjorie, over whose head the missives
were hurled.

“That will keep her quiet, Marge,” Jimmy announced. But Penny was
already quiet, not even hearing Jimmy’s last remark.

“You have the biggest pile, Phil,” Marjorie stated in a few moments.

The pile in front of Phil was falling over with letters, papers,
advertisements and catalogues. The process of dividing the mail was
soon completed and silence reigned except for giggles from Marjorie as
she read a long letter from her best friend, Judy Powell. Penny, deeply
engrossed in one of hers, gave a slight exclamation once, and Philip
whistled as he laid aside a long envelope. But no one stopped to ask
questions.

Penny looked at the absorbed group as she finished her last letter and
smiled. Marjorie stopped reading her letters and looked off into space.

“Read me some of Judy’s letter, Marjorie,” said Penny.

Marjorie turned with a smile to say that it was such a good letter and
so funny--“Judy wants to know by telegram when they can come.”

“She shall, Marjorie,” Philip answered immediately. “I’m thinking of
getting a special telegram blank printed.”

Marjorie looked at Phil to see if he really meant such an idiotic
thing; but as Phil only winked at her, she merely said, “Crazy!” and
turned to Judy’s letter:

  “Dearest Marjorie:

  I think it’s simply tops that we can be together this summer.
  I was so afraid my parents would insist on sending me to camp
  again. Not that I don’t like camp, but I know it’s going to be so
  much more exciting to do things together, like exploring in the
  woods. Will we be allowed to go through the woods by ourselves?
  Are there secret cabins, or wonderful hiding places? Can we sleep
  out at night? I’ll bet it’s wonderful swimming in Lake Superior!
  Oh, couldn’t you telegraph and let me know right away when we
  can come? I have so many questions to ask, I don’t know where to
  begin.

  My brother Alf says he would rather come to Michigan than go on
  the canoe trip in Canada. He says he always has fun with Jimmy.
  Maybe the boys will let us help them build something or do some
  of the things with them. Alf says they’ll never take us fishing
  because girls talk too much, but maybe we can convince them that
  we know how to keep quiet.

  I’m so excited that at last we are going to see the Lodge, and
  all the Allens and especially you, that’s all I can write about.

  Do Charles Curtis and Peter Wyland both still like Penny? Does
  Penny like either one of them? Maybe I should be minding my own
  business, but I guess I am just bubbling over with questions.
  Cincinnati is hot as it always is in the summer and we can’t
  wait until we get to Michigan. Quick, quick, quick, send me a
  telegram. It will be the first one I ever received.

  At present I just live in a bathing suit and we spend almost all
  day at the pool. I’m glad school is out. Alf says I’m a nuisance
  and a question box, and by now, you probably think the same. I
  can’t wait until I see you,

                                 Forever yours,
                                     Judy.”

When Marjorie had finished reading Judy’s letter out loud, Jimmy
chuckled. “She’s a riot, that Powell kid.”

Penny was already scribbling a message on the back of an envelope.
“Here,” she said to Jimmy, “go in to the phone in the office and send
this telegram to Judy right away. There’s no reason why the Powells
shouldn’t come the first weekend in July when we expect the Curtises.”

“Hooray!” Marjorie shouted as Jimmy went in to send the telegram. At
that moment Kitty Donahue came out on the porch.

“Hi,” Marjorie greeted her. “When do we eat in this Lodge?”

Kitty came nearer. “I just wanted to ask Miss Penny about that. We’ve a
big fish baking and I wondered if you would be ready to eat in half an
hour.”

“Hooray, food!” shouted Marjorie. “We’re always ready to eat, Kitty.
Are we going to have a conference tonight to assign various duties,
Penny?”

“Yes, we are,” Penny answered. “Kitty, did you ever help in a summer
hotel, or anything like that?”

“Yes, _ma’am_! And Mal helped the chef at one of the lake resorts right
near here. That is what made Ann Mary think about sending for us.”

Philip had turned to look at Kathleen while she talked. “That is very
fortunate for us, Mrs. Donahue,” he said. “We’re going to have a family
confab tonight to decide what each of us should do and we’d like all
of you to come and help us make decisions.”

“Yes, sir,” Kitty said. “We’ll not need much more help, only some
people from around the village to wait on table if there is a very
large crowd over weekends, or for some special occasions.” With that
bit of advice, Kitty went back into the house.

Jimmy came out on the porch then and said to Marjorie: “I told the
operator to sign your name to the telegram. I thought Judy would get a
kick out of that.”

“Thanks,” Marjorie said, smiling. “Sometimes you can be nice, Jimmy.”

He ignored her and started gathering up his mail. “By the way,” he said
to Penny and Phil, “my old schoolmate, Brook, is coming that weekend,
too, if it’s all right with you.”

“Fine,” Penny and Phil said together.

Jimmy grinned. “Brook wrote that he is going to bring all of his old
clothes. He says he’ll bring one decent suit, but he hopes he’ll not
have to put it on. I’m right with him there! I think Judy Powell has
the right idea about living in a bathing suit all summer. Say, Alf
Powell, Brook and I will certainly have some wonderful fun this summer.
Maybe we can put up a shack for us to sleep in.” He went on, pacing up
and down excitedly, “Or part of that old barn. It would be fun if we
could be by ourselves.”

“Calm down, Jimmy,” Phil said. “I don’t think Alf’s or Brook’s parents
will think their sons ought to be sleeping in a shack if they are
paying good money for rooms, do you?”

Jimmy ran his hands through his short, dark hair. “Naw, I guess not.
But we could bunk out there sometimes, couldn’t we?”

“Of course,” Penny told him. “It wouldn’t be much fun if you didn’t
rough it every now and then.” She went on seriously. “I’m counting on
you, Jimmy, to keep an eye on any kids who may come with their parents.
You and Marjorie must help to keep them amused, too. It will be rather
like running a summer camp, with you two as junior counselors. You’ll
have to supervise games and sports, and maybe, Jimmy, give some of them
swimming lessons.”

“Ha!” Jimmy narrowed his eyes. “The plot thickens. Looks like I’m going
to have to work. But don’t worry, Penny. Brook, Alf and I will keep
the small fry busy.”

“Grand,” Penny said approvingly. “You’ve taken a load off my mind,
Jimmy. Everyone has simply got to help me as much as possible if we’re
going to see to it that our guests are kept amused.”

She glanced at Marjorie. “And that means you, too, imp. Don’t you dare
spend all your time with your chum, Judy.”

“I won’t,” Marjorie promised. “Not unless Jimmy spends all his time
with Alf and Brook.”

Philip glanced at his wrist watch. “Any objections to you two getting
washed up before dinner?” But he looked at Jimmy as he spoke.

“Not a one,” returned Jimmy with a wide grin. “I wonder why Phil looked
at me,” he continued, still grinning.

“Because, you’re practically just past the stage when getting you
washed behind the ears was quite a family problem,” said Marjorie.

“Look who’s talking,” called Jimmy as he disappeared into the house.

After they had all consumed the delicious baked fish which Pat had
caught that very day and Ann Mary had fixed in a delectable fashion,
all the Allens met around the council table. This was the big table in
the living room and here they were soon joined by the Ryans, Theresa
and the Donahues.

Philip then outlined a plan which they all discussed and finally the
duties were assigned to everyone’s satisfaction. Pat was to continue
what he had always done and be a general overseer of the entire Lodge.
He would make arrangements for fishing parties, get boats and guides
and order lunches to be packed. He would lock up every night and do
many other things.

Ann Mary was in complete charge of the kitchen and Mal and Kitty were
to be her assistants. Kitty would serve and Mal also had some outdoor
duties. Theresa was to do the cleaning, and Mal and Kitty were going to
pitch in and help with that too.

Marjorie had offered to wait on table and help with the cooking, but
Philip told her that the family would have their hands full with the
entertaining of their guests. However, all the Allens planned to help
out every place, all of the time, whenever they were free from their
other assigned duties. Jimmy had lettered a large sign and hung it on
a temporary billboard. It read:

  MEETING OF
  THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
  OF
  ALLEN LODGE

Marjorie now pointed to the sign and said, “I feel pretty important
being a director. Is that why I can get out of cooking and serving?”

At this remark Phil guffawed and Jimmy and Penny joined him, much to
Marjorie’s chagrin.

“Don’t you kid yourself,” Jimmy said, “Even if Phil says you’ll have
your hands full entertaining guests, you know you’ll have them twice as
full, because I’m sure we’ll all have to help each other when our Lodge
is running full force.”

Philip, it was decided, was to be the official treasurer. He would keep
the books and have full charge of all receipts and disbursements.

“That,” Jimmy loftily explained to Marjorie, “means money coming in
and money going out.” Marjorie sniffed. “Keep your definitions of such
simple words to yourself.”

“Let’s be serious,” Phil said. “All hotels and inns have a rule that
unless their guests deposit their valuables with them for safekeeping,
the management is not responsible. Isn’t that right, Mr. Donahue?”

Mal nodded.

“Well then,” Phil went on, “I think we ought to keep our guests’ money
and jewelry in the safe in the secret room. And in order to safeguard
the secret, we ought to make it a rule that none of the guests is
allowed in the secret room.”

“Right,” Jimmy agreed heartily. “If we let everyone run in and out of
there it won’t be a secret very long. I vote that for the rest of the
summer, only Pat is allowed to--”

“Phil _and_ Pat,” Penny interrupted. “Phil has to go in and out to the
safe because he’s the treasurer.”

“That’s right,” Pat agreed. “I’ll act as his substitute. Phil may not
be available at times when we receive money which should be put right
in the safe or when we need to take some out to pay bills. I’ll only go
into the secret room during such emergencies.”

“Okay, thanks, Pat,” said Phil. “Then, as of now, it’s a rule that only
you and I press the button that opens the secret door. Said rule to
remain in effect until the end of the season.”

Everyone agreed, and then it was decided that Penny was to be the
hostess and the housekeeper. Ann Mary was going to help make out the
shopping lists, while Penny did the actual shopping. Marjorie was to be
the assistant hostess as well as the secretary. Luckily she had learned
how to use a typewriter and would really be a big help when it came to
writing letters. Jimmy was the director of all sports, and even though
that sounded like an easy job, Penny assured him it would be more than
a full-time one.

Penny, Ann Mary and Kitty decided it would be wise to make out menus
for a week in advance. “That means,” Penny said, “that right after
breakfast tomorrow morning we had better plan the first week’s menu.
An awful lot of guests are arriving the first weekend in July.”

She sighed wearily. “I guess everything has been taken care of except
the laundry. We’ll all have our hands full after this week, so I don’t
see what we can possibly do about that.”

“Got any ideas, Ann Mary?” Philip asked.

Ann Mary thought for a minute. “There’s a new laundry-mat in the
village--just opened the other day. If we could find someone who would
come out twice a week, bring in the soiled linen, wash it in one of the
automatic machines, and bring it back damp dry, Kitty, Theresa and I
could handle the ironing.”

“A swell idea,” Pat said. “I’ll ask around in the village when I go in
tomorrow. Anyone, even a mere man,” he added with a chuckle, “can run
one of those spin-dry slot machines. All we need to do is find someone
with a car who’ll tote the stuff back and forth for a fair price.”

“I guess that takes care of everything,” Penny said. “Has anybody
thought of anything else?”

Jimmy thought it would be a good idea to buy a sailboat, but that
suggestion was promptly vetoed. “We are going to try and make money
before we spend it, young man,” said Philip. “But if you and Alf and
Brook Sanders want to fix up one out of what we have, that’s all right
with me.”

“Watch us!” retorted Jimmy and immediately suggested that a few canoes
wouldn’t cost much. But once again Phil put a damper on his ideas.

At this point Jimmy wanted to know what kind of a suggestion he could
make that would not be vetoed, and Penny and Phil both chimed in at
once with, “Let’s call it a day.”

“But, before the meeting breaks up,” Philip said soberly, “I want to
make an announcement. I don’t think it’s really important, but I think
you should all hear it.”

He drew from his pocket the long envelope he had laid aside earlier
when they had been out on the porch reading their mail. “I got an
anonymous letter today,” he said, “and at first I thought I wouldn’t
bother you with it. Writers of anonymous letters are usually either
cowards or cranks. However,” he continued, “after thinking it over,
I’ve decided I have no right to keep from you the fact that we have
been threatened.”

“Threatened?” Penny repeated. “But, Phil, who--?”

For answer, Phil opened the envelope and took out a long sheet of dirty
paper which he laid on the council table.

Everyone crowded around him to read the ugly scribbled words:

  MR. PHILIP ALLEN: IF YOU
  KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU
  AND YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS,
  GET OUT OF THE LODGE AS FAST
  AS YOU CAN. I MEAN BUSINESS!



CHAPTER 3

THE ABANDONED WELL


Ann Mary was the first to speak. “Well, I never,” she gasped. “Who
could have written such an evil thing, Pat?”

Pat shook his head. “A crank, of course.”

“That’s what I think,” Phil agreed. “Someone who read the newspaper
stories about Adra Prentice’s kidnaping. Anonymous letters from people
who aren’t quite right mentally generally follow any kind of publicity.”

“But,” Marjorie objected, “all of that happened last year.”

“It makes no difference,” Jimmy told her. “People use newspapers for
lots of things besides keeping up with the news. They wrap china in
newspapers, line shelves and drawers with ’em, for instance. Whoever
wrote that dopey letter may have come across an account of Adra’s
kidnaping just the other day.”

Penny nodded. “Let’s tear the ugly thing up and throw it away. Whoever
wrote it probably won’t ever bother us again.”

“Right.” Jimmy tore the dirty sheet of paper to shreds and tossed them
into the fireplace. Phil set a match to them and they all watched the
scraps burn away to ashes.

“Well, that’s that,” Penny said. “As if anyone could scare us Allens
away from the Lodge!”

Then the meeting did break up, and four very tired, but not at all
frightened Allens, went upstairs to bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Jimmy’s first job was to overhaul the old bus and the
Bronc. The Bronc was an old station wagon that had seen better days.
It had served the Allens well, but right now it sputtered and rattled
and wheezed. The Bus was a small truck and was used for a multitude
of things. It hauled wood from the woods to the woodbin, it carted
supplies from the town to the Lodge and Philip planned to use it for
taking people on camping trips during the summer. Jimmy’s favorite
pastime was tinkering with cars, and he seemed to know the intricate
mechanics of the two old vehicles better than any trained mechanic.

While Jimmy was tinkering with the motors, Phil and Mal combed the
nearby woods for timber. Some of it would be cut up into logs which
would blaze merrily in the huge fireplaces on cool evenings. The rest
of it, Phil planned to give Jimmy for his shack. Jimmy had picked a
spot on the lake shore where he and the other boys could build a fire
if they wanted. He also planned to build a little dock and rent a few
rowboats. This was to be the bachelor’s retreat. The site was in a bit
of a bay with some large rocks along the shore line that would make the
dock construction simpler. Among the trees a little way back, there was
a fairly open place where the shack could stand. When Phil and Mal had
gathered quite a pile of wood, they called Jimmy down to view the spot.

“Now, all you have to do, Jimmy, is to go to it,” said Philip.

“I can’t wait until the other boys arrive to get started,” he answered.
“I’m going to start preparing the logs and lay the floor. Won’t this be
ideal?”

In the meantime, Marjorie began her secretarial duties by sorting mail
and answering as many of the letters as she could, while Penny went
into the village to shop in order to stock up on staples and to make
arrangements for her weekly orders.

One afternoon Jimmy, Phil and Mal decided to have a look at the long
old shed in the back yard which they thought might be fixed up to house
the cars of their summer guests. The old shed had been there all the
time, of course, but somehow they had kept putting off the time when
they would examine it. There had been so many things to do when they
first came, they had not even opened all the rooms in the house until
they had decided to turn it into a summer hotel.

Now the guest rooms must be cleaned and aired. Penny and Marjorie were
busy from morning to night helping Theresa and Ann Mary dust and make
beds.

“This is so boring,” Marjorie complained. “The only room I’m interested
in is the old storage room, Penny. When are we ever going to go through
those old trunks?”

“We’ve had a look at the contents of one of them,” Penny pointed
out patiently. “And we found that it contained nothing but some very
old-fashioned clothes and a few worthless, though pretty trinkets. Wait
till we have more time, honey. Then you may rummage around in there to
your heart’s content.”

“I can’t understand your lack of curiosity,” Marjorie moaned. “I can’t
sleep nights thinking about what might be in the trunk we didn’t open.”

Penny laughed. “I guess we’ve had too much indoor work for one day.
Let’s join the boys down at the shed.”

“Goody, goody,” Marjorie cried, flinging down her dust cloth. “There’s
bound to be something more exciting than cobwebs out there.”

At last they were hurrying down the concrete walk, past the Donahues’
small cabin behind the Lodge. They caught up with Mal and the boys on
the old graveled drive, overgrown with weeds. This drive led among
bushes and trees and looked like an old horse trail, but it was wide
enough for a car to travel over it with care.

Jimmy took one good look at all the weeds and said, “I don’t think
this is such a good idea, especially since I know I’ll be elected a
committee of one to cut down all these weeds.”

“Why, how did you guess it, young man! You are getting keen,” laughed
Penny. “But this really does look like a big job, and I’m sure Phil and
Mal will lend a hand, too.” Jimmy looked relieved at this suggestion
and here they were at the shed.

“Pat says that even your Uncle John never made use of this shed for
anything, and that it must have been a sort of stable back in the old
days,” explained Mal. “See, one of the side walls is pretty badly
broken up, but the roof has been patched and the framework seems
strong. There are a pile of boards and some poles behind this shed.
Looks as though somebody once had the idea of repairing it. That wood
back there is well seasoned and with the help of the repair man from
the village we could get it fixed up this week.”

Penny took hold of one of the supports, to which a few boards were
clinging loosely.

“Be careful how you lean against that,” Philip cautioned her. “That’s
the broken wall and we don’t want you to fall through it.”

But just as he finished saying it Penny gasped and slipped out of
sight. For a minute the others stood there with their mouths open, then
Phil and Jimmy quickly went into action. Mal poked his hand through
the wall where Penny seemed to have disappeared and Marjorie called,
“Penny, Penny, answer--are you hurt?”

Phil and Jimmy ran to the outside of the broken wall but there was
nothing there but the old pile of lumber Mal had mentioned. They called
Penny, and then there was a muffled sound that seemed to come from the
very wall itself.

Phil climbed right up on top of the pile of lumber and reached over as
far as he could toward the wall when he noticed a sunken place between
the wall and the lumber. It looked like an old well and it was partly
covered. He called to Penny and this time he heard her answer. As
quickly as they could, they all started to move enough of the lumber so
that they could get closer to the old well. Now they were sure Penny
had fallen into it, and Marjorie ran back to the house as fast as her
feet could carry her to get a strong rope and more help.

It seemed like hours, but it was only a few minutes before Phil and
Jimmy were able to lean over the well and start calling down to Penny.

She answered them this time and they heard her say quite clearly: “What
happened?”

“Whew!” Jimmy gasped, clutching his forehead with relief. “You fell
down an old well.”

“Are you all right, Penny?” Philip asked anxiously.

“I guess so,” Penny called back. “But it’s so dark I can’t see
anything.”

“Don’t worry,” Phil said in a reassuring voice. “We’ll have you out in
no time.”

Marjorie arrived then with Pat who had brought along a long rope.
Marjorie was very near to tears.

“Don’t let Penny know you’re frightened,” Phil cautioned her. “Keep
calling down to her in a cheerful voice to keep her courage up.”

Pat tied a big loop on the end of the rope, then Mal lowered it into
the well, and Phil called down instructions to Penny. Finally the rope
reached her, and she put the looped end around her waist and held on to
it as tightly as she could with both hands, while the men pulled her
up. When, after what seemed an interminably long time, Penny’s head
appeared, Marjorie burst into tears.

Tenderly they lifted Penny out, and she immediately assured everyone
that aside from being bruised and shaky, she didn’t think she had any
broken bones or other injuries. Ann Mary and Theresa and Kathleen had
arrived on the scene with water and bandages, all of which were scorned
by Penny who said,

“I did a foolish thing and I deserved what I got, but now that I know
I’m all right you can all just forget about me. If you keep on making
such a fuss I’ll feel like an idiot.”

Of course they all ignored her pleadings and made her sit right down
for a few minutes while Ann Mary wiped her face with a cloth dipped in
cold water. Then she examined Penny carefully to make sure that she
could move her arms and legs without pain. The only real damage seemed
to be to her appearance which was quite ludicrous. Now that they knew
she was safe they had a good laugh about it. Penny’s face and hands and
hair were covered with cobwebs, her dress was ripped and her shoes were
sopping wet. When Phil asked her if there was any water in the well
she said she thought she had stood in water and, of course, her wet
shoes showed that she had. Then everybody went back to the house, and
Penny took a hot bath which Ann Mary said would serve to relieve some
of the aches and pains she was bound to develop later from such a fall.

Phil and Jimmy were all set to go back and examine the well to see if
it was still in good working condition, and if they could find the
water source and perhaps get the well into good order. When they saw
Penny looking her fresh, well-groomed self again, they went back,
accompanied by Pat and Mal.

“It beats me,” Pat said. “I never knew there was a well of any kind on
this property.”

“I’ve heard rumors,” Mal said. “There’s always been a lot of talk in
the village about buried treasure in the bottom of an old dried-up well
around here.”

“I know,” Pat said, “and from time to time when the house was empty,
people who had no business trespassing, came here and tried to find
that well. Had a lot of trouble with prowlers,” he told Phil. “Your
Uncle John did. But nobody ever found a well.” He stopped and stared
at the hole. “Well, now, here it is. And now I wouldn’t be surprised
at anything. I’ve lived around here all my life and never believed
there was a well here. I think we should caution everybody to try and
keep this a secret so we won’t have any prowlers coming around, and we
should get busy and try to dig up that old well to see if there really
is any treasure there.”

“My gosh!” said Jimmy. “Do you really think there’s treasure there?
What kind of treasure is it supposed to be, Pat? Were there ever
pirates around here? Won’t Alf and Brook nearly die with excitement
when they hear about this!”

Phil smiled. “I’m afraid we can’t let you say anything to them, or
anybody else, until we investigate this thoroughly and see if there
is any foundation to the rumor. I agree with Pat, since we don’t need
the well for water, I think we should dig it up at once and solve this
mystery of buried treasure.”

Jimmy was all for going right back for picks and shovels, so Phil let
him go. Phil’s curiosity was aroused and he could understand Jimmy’s
enthusiasm. But Phil felt quite sure that they were not on the trail of
buried treasure.

“The Lodge was supposed to be haunted,” he said to Mal, “and we proved
it wasn’t. Now we’re about to prove that there’s nothing of any value
at the bottom of this old well.”

Jimmy came running back then with both hands full of an assortment of
picks, shovels and garden spades. They found that it was exceedingly
slow work since they first had to move the pile of old lumber and
debris that surrounded the old well. When they finally started digging
they found the stones that formed the well were impossible to move. Pat
guessed that the old well had been there a hundred years or longer.
Jimmy suggested that they use dynamite.

After two hours of concentrated labor Phil commented, “I don’t think
even buried treasure is worth all this effort.”

But Jimmy, who was obviously in high spirits over this adventure,
contradicted Phil with, “Of course it’s worth it, Phil, you wait and
see what we find.”

Pat shrugged. “I’m not thinking you should set your heart on finding
anything, my lad, because there probably won’t be any treasure here,
any more than the house was haunted last year.”

“Don’t say that, Pat,” countered Jimmy, “I’m not used to working like
this without any compensation.”

“Not much,” said Phil. “But all kidding aside, Jimmy, I think Pat is
right. However, we’re going to finish this job, if for no other reason
than to keep anybody else from falling into it. The rope we lowered to
Penny went down about thirty feet and I would guess that we have dug
around the outside of this old well about ten feet deep. Is that right,
Pat?”

Pat nodded. “Yes, that’s about right, and I think if we get out here
bright and early tomorrow morning, maybe we can finish the job before
night.”

Very reluctantly, Jimmy joined the rest as they returned to the house
to tell Penny and Marjorie of their progress.



CHAPTER 4

A NIGHT PROWLER


That evening they all decided to have a picnic style supper in front of
the fireplace in the living room.

“I’m beginning to feel my bruises,” Penny said cheerfully. “But I’m not
going to let a few aches and pains bother me. I was very lucky to get
off without broken bones or sprains.”

“You certainly were,” Jimmy said. “And let me tell you, Sis, I thought
I’d go nuts until we finally heard your voice.”

“Me, too,” Marjorie chimed in. “Gosh, Penny, it was just about the most
awful few minutes of my life!”

“Well, let’s not talk about it any more,” Penny said. “The subject I
want to discuss is the bottom of the well. I can’t really--”

“Gee,” Jimmy interrupted, “wouldn’t it be neat if we get to the bottom
of the well and find pieces of gold. We’ll be on easy street the rest
of our lives.” He added, more to himself than the others, “The first
thing I’ll do is get a sailboat. I’ve found out already that I don’t
know enough about naval architecture to build one.”

“Ha, you don’t get on easy street that easily,” said Penny. “Besides, I
don’t remember feeling anything beneath my feet but slime, and if all
you want is a sailboat, you’d better work for it!”

“I like that!” exclaimed Jimmy. “And what do you call digging away at
that well? If that isn’t work, I’d like to know what you’d call it.”

“Oh, it’s work all right,” Penny said with a laugh. “But I think it’s
work without any purpose.”

“So do I, in a way,” Phil said. “But the kids will never be happy until
we get to the bottom and prove that there isn’t any treasure buried
there.”

“You just wait until tomorrow,” Marjorie said stubbornly. “When we
come running up to you, Penny, with our hands dripping with pieces of
eight, then you and Phil will eat those words.” She raised her voice.
“I know there’s something valuable hidden around here, and I, for one,
am never going to give up until I’ve gone over every inch of the place
with a fine-tooth comb!”

“You don’t have to shout about it,” Jimmy said. “If there is something
valuable around here, let’s not encourage every Tom, Dick and Harry in
the village to come out and try to find it first. Although,” he went on
in a more sympathetic tone of voice, “I know how you feel, Marjorie.
When Alf and Brook get here, and we haven’t found any gold by then,
they’ll want to dig up the whole place, too.”

“Dig, if you must,” Penny said, “but spare Pat’s flower beds. I--” She
stopped suddenly, her finger to her lips. “Sh-h.” She touched Phil’s
arm lightly and pointed to the window, whispering, “Someone’s out there
and I’m afraid he’s heard every word we said.”

They all stared silently out through the vine-covered lattice that
partially screened the court from view. The moon was shining brightly,
and then from the shrubbery a shadow moved and melted into a little
clump of low spruces. In another second they saw the figure of a man
slip around the corner of the wing to disappear again in the shadows of
another trellis.

It was a warm evening, and all of the doors and windows were wide open.
The man might try to get into the house. Penny started to rise.

But Phil, with his hand on her arm, shook his head and whispered: “All
of you stay right here. I don’t want him to know that we’ve seen him.”
Swiftly he tiptoed across the room to take his pistol from the cabinet.

Penny remembered with relief that Phil always kept his gun loaded. Just
then she saw Mal run into the court. He had obviously seen the prowler
from the kitchen window. Before Penny could shout a warning, the man
darted from the shadows and flung himself on Mal’s back, one arm around
his throat.

At almost the same moment Phil leaped through the window and fired his
gun into the air. As the shot rang out, Penny closed her eyes. Opening
them immediately, she saw Phil running out of the court, with Mal close
at his heels, in pursuit of the prowler. Jimmy was just about to jump
through the window to join in the chase, but Penny held him back.

“Stay here with us, Jimmy,” she said. “Phil and Mal can cope with that
eavesdropper.”

Marjorie, who had for once been speechless, found her voice then. “Oh,
yes, Jimmy,” she begged. “Stay here with us. He might come back, and we
haven’t got a gun.”

Jimmy looked disappointed, but he knew he could help Phil best by
staying with the girls. “Ah, that guy isn’t going to come back,” he
said. He stared gloomily out of the window as Pat ran across the court
to join the others.

By this time, Kitty and Ann Mary had appeared, wide-eyed and
frightened. “Oh, oh,” Kitty cried. “I just know my Mal is going to get
shot.”

Another shot rang out. Penny’s heart sank. Had the prowler fired the
second shot? Somehow she managed to disguise her fears and said in a
reassuring voice to Kitty:

“Don’t worry, dear. Phil and Pat know how to handle their guns.”

“They sure do,” Ann Mary said bravely although Penny could see that
she was almost as terrified as her cousin. “My Pat won’t let anything
happen to your Mal.”

Theresa came in from the hall then, rubbing her eyes bewilderedly. “I
was asleep,” she said. “Did I hear a shot or did I dream it?”

She looked so confused that everyone laughed, and the tension was
eased. “You heard two shots,” Jimmy told her. “I guess the first one
woke you up.”

While he was explaining what had happened, they heard footsteps on the
graveled walk, and in another moment, they could see Phil, Pat and Mal
slowly approaching the house. Everyone ran out to meet them.

“He got away,” Phil said ruefully.

“Shouldn’t we notify the police?” Penny asked.

Phil shrugged. “Probably only a tramp. I fired in the air to frighten
him when he jumped on Mal.”

“But you fired a second time,” Marjorie said excitedly. “We were
terrified for fear one of you had been hurt.”

“That’s right,” Jimmy said. “Say, Phil, how about giving us a play by
play description of what happened. I missed all the fun, remember?”

Phil frowned. “We want to look around some more. We just came back to
be sure the rest of you were okay.”

“We’re perfectly all right,” Penny said. “Go ahead with your search.”
She smiled. “As long as Jimmy stays with us we’re perfectly safe.”

“I want to know what happened,” Jimmy complained. “Give, Phil.”

“Well,” Phil said patiently, “from the minute that man disappeared into
the shrubbery, he slipped from one tree to another like an Indian, then
doubled around toward the lake.”

“It certainly sounds as though he knows his way around here,” Marjorie
put in.

Phil nodded. “Pat fired the second shot when we saw him trying to get
away in one of our boats. Although Pat fired into the air, it scared
the living daylights out of him, I guess. He jumped from the boat
and made for the woods below us.” Phil grinned. “I’ll bet he’s still
running. He may think we’re mighty poor shots, but at least he knows
we’re armed. I doubt if he ever comes back on our property again.”

“But who could it have been?” Penny asked. “A tramp wouldn’t know his
way around our grounds.”

“If anyone should ask me,” Pat said, “I’d say it was one of those crazy
villagers after the so-called buried treasure. I’ll bet the news is
all over town already that we found the old well near the shed.”

“But,” Jimmy objected. “Nobody could have heard about it so soon.”

“A lot of people could have,” Mal pointed out. “There were several
delivery boys out here during the excitement when Miss Penny fell into
the well.”

Ann Mary nodded. “We were all so worried about Penny we didn’t pay
any attention to them. When Marjorie came running into the kitchen to
tell us about the accident, I dashed out of the house so fast I almost
knocked down one boy who biked out here with some groceries.”

Pat shook his head gravely. “That rumor about buried treasure is going
to cause us a lot of trouble. We don’t want the place cluttered up with
night prowlers this summer.”

“Let’s go have a look at the shed,” Jimmy said eagerly. “Maybe the guy
was down there snooping around and sneaked up to the house to make sure
we were all inside.”

“All right,” Phil said. “But you have to stay with the girls.”

“Oh, no, he doesn’t,” Marjorie said pertly. “The girls are going, too.”

“We can’t all leave,” Penny said wisely. “After all, he might have been
a burglar. We would be playing right into his hands if we left the
house deserted with all the doors and windows open.” She glanced around
at the shadows with a little shiver. “Suppose he doubled back and is
watching us right now, waiting to see what we’ll do?”

Marjorie moved a little closer to Penny. “Oh, isn’t it thrilling?” she
cried. “I wouldn’t be at all afraid to stay here and guard the house if
I had a gun.”

“Not much you wouldn’t,” Jimmy jeered.

“I for one,” Kitty said, “have no intention of going down to that shed.
I’m going into the house and Mal is going with me and we’re going to
lock ourselves in.”

“Fine,” Jimmy said. “That solves the problem. Phil can leave his gun
with Mal just in case.”

“Okay,” Mal agreed and stuck Phil’s little pistol into his pocket.
After the Donahues had gone into the house the others headed for the
shed.

Jimmy had brought a flashlight with him, and when they got inside the
shed he flashed it all around. Just as they were about to leave, he
shouted, “Look!” and pointed to a spot near the broken wall where Penny
had fallen through earlier that day.

The floor of the shed had been opened and plainly showing in the earth
under it was a footprint. “Someone has been here since we left,” Jimmy
cried excitedly. “That footprint was made by a man wearing a shoe with
a rubber sole. And we were all wearing sneakers.”

“You’re right,” Phil said soberly. “But the man who made that footprint
might not have been our prowler. It could have been left by one of the
delivery boys whose curiosity was aroused when he heard about Penny’s
accident.”

Penny nodded. “One of them might have biked back out while we were
having supper just to have a look. Kids are like that.”

“But,” Jimmy argued, “they don’t have such big feet.”

“Oh, yes, they do,” Marjorie said with a giggle. “Take a look at what’s
on the end of your own ankles.”

“Maybe the prowler was just a curious kid,” Penny said suddenly. “Have
you thought of that, Phil?”

Philip thought for a minute. “He had awfully broad shoulders, and I
don’t think a kid would have jumped on Mal.” He shrugged. “But I really
think whoever it was won’t come back.” He put the floor boards back in
place. “If he does, he won’t do any digging for buried treasure at this
spot. Jimmy, go and get the old Bus and park it right here.”

Jimmy grinned with delight. “Right. And if our curious friend comes
back to search, he’ll have to move the Bus. And, unless he’s a Samson
he’ll have to start her up, and, when this thing starts running, he’ll
realize that he’s set off the loudest fire alarm in Michigan.” He ran
off to get the Bus.

“If we don’t find any treasure when we dig up the well,” Marjorie said,
“let’s dig under the floor here.”

“Definitely no,” Phil told her firmly. “We’ll dig up the well and let
it be known far and wide that we found nothing. That should put a stop
to all the silly rumors.”

Pat nodded approvingly. “And night prowlers.”

When they returned to the house they found that Kitty and Mal had
sandwiches and a large pot of hot cocoa waiting for them.

“I think you men should take turns keeping watch tonight,” Kitty said
nervously. “And please, can’t we sleep in the house tonight instead of
in the cabin?”

“Of course, you can,” Phil said. “And perhaps it isn’t a bad idea for
us to take turns keeping an eye on the place.” He smiled reassuringly.
“For the rest of tonight anyway.”

“I’ll take one shift,” Marjorie said, suppressing a yawn. “I won’t
sleep a wink anyway.”

But she did, the minute her head touched the pillow, and when she awoke
in the morning was very disappointed to hear that the night had been
uneventful.

“At least I didn’t miss anything,” she said as they hurriedly ate
breakfast on the sunny porch. “Now, to find the buried treasure!”

But the whole day proved to be a tremendous disappointment. They
finally dug all the way down to the bottom of the well and found
absolutely nothing but mud. And the source of the spring had evidently
gone dry.

“All that labor for nothing,” Pat said in a very disgruntled voice. “A
wasted day.”

Everyone had pitched in and helped at various intervals, although Jimmy
and Marjorie were the only ones who never gave up hope of finding gold
pieces deep in the mud.

Wearily the men filled up the huge hole, and the rest of the week was
spent in what Ann Mary called “fruitful labor.” The shed was converted
into quite a presentable garage, and at last even Phil admitted that
they were practically ready to open the Lodge for business. They were
all so busy with final preparations they dismissed the night prowler
from their minds.

Only Jimmy and Marjorie remained convinced that there was treasure
buried on the grounds.

“What about the laundry situation?” Phil asked Penny the night before
the first guests were expected. “Have you been able to cope with that?”

“I certainly have,” Penny told him proudly. “Several days ago a very
pleasant-looking man who looks strong enough to carry any amount of
damp linen, drove out to ask for the job. He’d heard in the village
that we wanted someone to tote a huge bundle into the laundry-mat twice
a week, and came right out without even waiting to telephone for an
appointment with me.”

Phil looked puzzled. “I sort of took it for granted that you’d give the
job to a woman.”

“I planned to,” Penny said, “in spite of what Pat said about anybody
being able to work those automatic machines. But there just aren’t any
women in the village who drive their own cars and who are free to help
us out.”

“I suppose not,” Phil said.

“This man, a Mr. Taggart,” Penny went on, “recently moved to town for
the summer and needs work badly. He offered to handle our laundry for
us at a flat rate of only fifteen dollars a week.”

Phil whistled. “Say, that _is_ cheap!” He added teasingly: “Maybe he’ll
take the first batch in and never come back!”

Penny laughed. “He’s already taken in one big bundle of sheets and
pillow cases and, according to Ann Mary, brought them back snowy white.
She’s terribly pleased. I had no idea we could get anyone to do it so
cheaply. When the place is filled with guests he’ll probably demand
more money, but let’s not object. Kitty says the laundry problem in all
summer hotels is usually the hardest one to solve.”

Phil nodded. “If the place really fills up, we’ll not only have to
raise Taggart’s pay, but we’ll have to get some people from the village
to come out by the day and do the ironing.”

“I’ve thought of that,” Penny said. “The same girls who are going to
help wait on the tables when we really get going are going to do some
ironing between meals.”

“You think of everything,” Phil said approvingly. “I’m proud of you,
Sis.”

Penny sighed. “You shouldn’t be. I couldn’t do a thing without the
advice of Ann Mary and Theresa and Kitty. And, frankly, Phil, I’m
getting cold feet at the last minute. What if the whole project is a
flop?”

“It won’t be,” Phil said reassuringly. “You’re just tired and getting
a case of stage fright.” He tucked her hand through his arm and led
her toward the stairs. “After a good night’s sleep you’ll be your old
irrepressible self again. Full of vim, vigor and vitality!”



CHAPTER 5

ANOTHER THREAT


Rat-tat-tat on the door.

“Who can that be?” Penny demanded. “We’ve simply got to get these clean
curtains up before the first guests arrive.”

Phil, who was helping her, said from the top of the stepladder,
“Probably your laundry man, Mr. Taggart. Ann Mary or Marjorie can take
care of it.” He climbed down the ladder. “Now what?”

“Draperies,” Penny said. “I’ve already put in the pin hooks so it won’t
take long.”

Rat-tat-tat again.

“Oh, dear,” she moaned. “Marjorie and Ann Mary are probably out in back
and can’t hear. Everyone else is in the village. That’s someone at the
front door so it couldn’t be Mr. Taggart. He always parks his car by
the Donahues’ cabin. I’d better run down and see who’s knocking.”

Phil moved his ladder to the window where the draperies were to be
hung. “Wait a minute,” he said. “Just hand me up those things and then
go.” He stared out of the window as he climbed up. “Say, that must be
your laundry man’s car out there by the Donahues’ cabin now. Pretty
classy, isn’t it?”

“It certainly is,” Penny agreed hurriedly. She gave him the draperies
and ran down the stairs from the balcony. At the bottom she stopped.
Someone was rummaging around in the storeroom in the back of the house.

“Marjorie,” she called, rather crossly. “What are you doing in there?
This is no time to explore! And didn’t you hear someone knocking on the
front door?” She hurried down the hall muttering to herself: “With all
I have to do, it seems to me that child could at least stop looking for
hidden treasure long enough to answer the front door!”

But, when she opened the door, Penny’s good nature was immediately
restored. For there stood Judy and Alf Powell with Mr. and Mrs. Powell
right behind them.

Their first guests had arrived!

Penny tried to hug everyone at once as she talked excitedly:

“Why, Alf! You’ve grown like a beanstalk. Jimmy will be comparing
measurements with you in no time. And Judy, you haven’t changed a bit.
My, won’t you and Marjorie have a million things to talk about. You
can’t imagine, Mr. and Mrs. Powell, how pleased we were that you could
come. This isn’t going to be like a resort at all. We’re going to be
surrounded by all our old friends. Isn’t this fine! Come right in. How
did you get here? Have you a car to put away?” Penny peered around but
could not see a car any place.

“No, Penny,” said Mr. Powell. “We decided to take a plane. Alf, as you
probably know, has flown a few times, but Judy had never been up.”

“We flew to the closest airport,” Mrs. Powell added, “and took a bus
from there to the village. We left our luggage in the village and
walked out. It’s such a beautiful day. You won’t mind sending your
truck down for our bags, will you? A nice man in the village told us
you had one.”

“Of course not,” said Marjorie, who suddenly appeared behind Penny in
the hall. “I’d drive it myself if only my mean old brothers and sister
would let me!” She laughed mischievously.

“Imp!” Penny cried, pushing her straight into Judy’s arms.

As the two girls hugged each other ecstatically, Mrs. Powell said to
Penny, “This is certainly a lovely spot. Even your description didn’t
do it justice. I know we’re all going to have a wonderful summer.”

“We saw the lake as we flew over,” Mr. Powell said enthusiastically,
“and it looks large enough to hold a mighty lot of fish.”

“There’s enough fish there to feed an army,” chimed in Jimmy as he came
running in from the driveway where he had parked the Bronc. “Alf and I
are going to catch our share.”

Phil came down the stairs from the balcony and greeted everyone
cordially. “You couldn’t have arrived at a better time,” he told his
guests. “If Marjorie had had to wait one more hour for Judy, she would
have worn a path from the back door to the front. Ever since dawn she’s
been watching for your car.”

“And yet,” Penny said with a laugh, “when they did arrive, she didn’t
hear them knocking on the door.”

“I was busy,” Marjorie informed her sister airily. “Out in the
Donahues’ cabin helping Ann Mary get their laundry together for Mr.
Taggart.”

Penny said nothing, but she made a mental note to scold Marjorie later
in private. Marjorie had not been helping Ann Mary; Penny had heard her
rummaging in the old storage room!

“There’s something a lot better than fish around here,” Jimmy was
saying in an undertone to Alf.

“I’ll say there is,” Marjorie told Judy.

Penny smiled. She could see that the four of them were already scheming
and laying plans to dig up the entire place in search of buried
treasure.

“I guess I’ll forget about Marjorie’s little white lie,” Penny decided.
“She didn’t mean any harm, and I know she’s been dying to poke around
in those old trunks for ages.”

Jimmy took Alf to his room and Marjorie took Judy to hers. Philip and
Penny escorted Mr. and Mrs. Powell to the big airy room which had been
reserved for them.

“Oh, Judy, isn’t it wo-o-o-onderful that you are here,” Marjorie said
with a sigh of happiness. “We haven’t got everything quite arranged
yet, so maybe, just for tonight, you and I can share a room. We’ll
stay up late and talk, and raid the icebox. We have the most wonderful
things to eat in it.”

At this point they had to hug each other and dance a little jig in the
ecstatic joy of the occasion. Then their tongues began to catch up with
all there was to tell each other.

As soon as Mal had brought the Powell’s luggage in from town and
Judy had changed into her blue jeans, she and Marjorie were all over
the place. They were like a couple of hummingbirds, here, there and
everywhere. They took a dip in the lake, a shower in the boathouse, and
afterwards, thoroughly content and full of excess spirits, they dressed
for the best dinner that Judy had ever tasted. Marjorie’s eyes snapped
and her round face was all smiles as she animatedly told the Powells
and Alf what she and Judy had seen and done.

Then Alf and Jimmy related how they had spent the day first exploring
a little in the woods, then making plans for a camping trip that they
were to make later in the summer, and finally adding a little to the
construction of the shack. They were mighty anxious to complete the
bachelors’ retreat as fast as they could, and this was the only reason
why they accepted an offer of help from Marjorie and Judy.

“I don’t suppose,” Alf said, giving Jimmy a nudge, “that they’ll really
be any help. But we’ll let them sweep up wood shavings and sort nails.”

“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” Judy said briskly. “I’m going to put
up a wall all by myself or I won’t go near your silly old place.”

The boys hooted and ran off to their headquarters.

But not much work was accomplished the next day as more guests arrived.
Brook Sanders was greeted with hilarious shouts of joy by Jimmy and Alf
when Phil brought him in from the village in the station wagon. Poor
Brook was not even given a chance to go to his room. But his parents
were sure he preferred going down to see the shack with the boys. He
came back with a glowing description of the woods, the lake, the picnic
grounds, the shack and everything else he had seen.

“Gee, Dad,” he said excitedly, “I wish you’d buy the place next door.
Jimmy says it’s for sale.”

Mr. Sanders laughed. “I can see you are all enthused, Brook. But why
buy a place as long as we stand in with the Allens? This suits me.”

“Me too,” said Brook. “Let’s do this every summer.”

“Anybody want any fudge?” asked Marjorie and Judy. “We’ve just made
some.”

“I never say no to fudge,” said Brook picking out the biggest piece
before Alf or Jimmy could get it.

“You’d better leave at least one piece for me,” Alf said.

“There’s plenty more in the kitchen,” said Judy, “and we’re bringing in
a big pitcher of lemonade, too.”

Alf went into the kitchen with Judy to carry out the lemonade and
Marjorie brought in another dish of fudge.

“Nut fudge,” gloated Alf.

“Nuts to the nutty,” quoted Marjorie from one of her brother’s favorite
expressions, as she passed him the dish.

Jimmy, Alf and Brook spent the afternoon out in the motorboat, to get
away from the girls and to make their plans. A great deal had happened
to all of the boys since they had last seen each other and they had a
lot of catching up to do.

The next day the Curtises arrived, their car loaded with baggage, and
Mary said there was more coming by express. Now it was Penny’s and
Philip’s turn to get all excited and to catch up on old times with Mary
and Charles.

Charles greeted Penny in his old devoted manner, and immediately asked
if Peter Wyland, his chief competitor, had arrived yet or if he was
going to have her to himself this summer. He made it very clear that
even if Peter came, he was planning to absorb all of Penny’s spare
time. Penny was cordial but elusive and all the more attractive.
Charles did not enjoy at all her enthusiasm over the different members
of his party. He felt that the kiss with which Penny greeted Mary
should have been planted on his cheek instead and he said so.

Mary and Phil, on the other hand, acted like the two old chums that
they were. They both laughed heartily when Charles tried to kiss Penny
and she slipped hastily behind Phil.

“I can see,” Mary said, “that we’re going to have a grand summer
watching those two fight.”

Phil chuckled. “We’re delighted you all wanted to spend the summer with
us.”

“That’s right,” Penny said, making a face at Charles. “Even you, silly.
I wouldn’t have considered the summer complete unless the Curtises were
here.”

“I know we’re going to have the time of our lives,” Mary said
enthusiastically.

“I hope so,” Penny said. “We’ve made all kinds of plans. We’ll hike
through the woods to the nearby places of interest, and have picnics
and all sorts of evening parties.”

“And,” Phil added to Charles, “fish and hunt.”

“The yacht,” Penny went on, “is in fine shape. We can go on overnight
trips on the lake. Oh,” she finished, “I’m just full of plans.”

“Are you going to let me help you play hostess?” Charles asked.

“I certainly am,” Penny told him briskly. “And for pity’s sake, start
right in with all that baggage. I’m sure Mal will be floored when he
sees it!”

But all Charles could really get to carry up was one small bag, since
Mal, Pat, Jimmy and the other two boys made quick work of getting the
car unloaded. Penny suspected the rush act was put on because they were
all anxious to drive the beautiful, shiny Cadillac into the shed.

For the next few days the Lodge was a beehive of activity. There was
much conversation and laughter and a great deal of coming and going
about the grounds. There were beach parties, hikes and picnics and an
impromptu evening party with everybody joining wholeheartedly in all
the games that were suggested.

Jimmy arranged a “snipe hunt.” Phil was the only other person besides
Jimmy who knew there were no snipe around there. Everybody started out
at twilight with flashlights and paper bags to hunt for the elusive
snipe. And when they all came back, empty-handed, one by one, Jimmy
greeted them with a big stuffed bird in his hands. Brook said it was an
old logger’s trick, and everybody in New England knew about it, but he
couldn’t understand how he and all these other people would fall for
it. Nevertheless, they had all enjoyed their tramp through the woods
and the snack that awaited them when they returned.

There was little rest for the Allens now. Penny would slip away when
everybody was being entertained to make out orders and menus. She also
found that she would have to make arrangements for some of the village
people to come in and help with the cleaning as well as the ironing and
serving when more guests arrived.

Things were really getting down to quite a businesslike basis, however,
and Penny was pleased with the routine they seemed to have fallen into
partly by plan and partly by accident. They had planned to try and get
all of their actual work done in the morning, but the first few days
it had not worked out that way since most of the guests were up bright
and early. But after a few days, when the novelty of the Lodge had worn
off, and their guests had become quite settled, most of them slept
later, and this gave the Allens time for their work.

Penny and Phil both had a disappointment in common when Peter Wyland
and Adra wrote that they would not be able to come to the Lodge until
the first week in August. Adra Prentice was spending some time with her
father, whom she had hardly seen all winter. And since Mr. Prentice
could not come to the Lodge at all as he had originally planned, Adra
had decided to spend July with him and then come to the Lodge for
August. Peter, of course, was in Mr. Prentice’s employ, and so he could
not come for the same reason. However, they both wrote in their letters
to Phil and Penny that they would be there in August and Peter hinted
that he might be able to come a week earlier.

“It’s a good thing we haven’t much time to miss anyone these days,”
Phil said and Penny smiled.

“Yes, keeping busy is a wonderful antidote for some things,” she said.

The next few weeks were indeed busy ones. Some friends of Mary Curtis
arrived and a few friends of Charles dropped in for the weekends.
Marjorie and Judy were constantly on the lookout for new romances among
the young folks, and just as they were certain that one was developing,
something would happen which would prove that they were wrong.

“Anyway,” Marjorie said to Judy, “there are two romances we can be
absolutely sure of. Phil is in love with Adra, and Penny is mad about
Peter.”

“And,” Judy chimed in, “Adra is in love with Phil and Peter is wild
about Penny. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all engaged before
the end of the summer.”

“Neither would I,” Marjorie said, her blue eyes twinkling. “Phil and
Penny can hardly wait for the arrival of Adra and Peter.”

They had been helping Theresa by emptying all of the scrap baskets
from the various rooms in the Lodge into the big wire mesh one in the
clearing. Later, when the wind died down, Pat would set a match to the
papers.

Right now the wind was blowing so hard that it lifted a crumpled ball
of paper from Judy’s hand and blew it smack against Marjorie’s face.

“Fate,” Marjorie said with a giggle, “obviously meant for me to read
this before it got burned.”

Assuming an exaggeratedly serious air, she smoothed out the paper on
her knee. Then she gave a little gasp. “Oh, Judy,” she cried. “It’s
another anonymous letter. Remember? I told you about the one Phil got?
This one was sent to Penny, and I’ll bet she crumpled it up and threw
it away without saying anything to anybody.”

Judy nodded. “Penny’s like that. She wouldn’t pay any attention to a
letter she got unless it was signed. What does this one say?”

“Th-this one,” Marjorie stammered, after reading it quickly,
“fr-frightens me.” And she read the crudely printed words out loud:

  MISS ALLEN: YOUR FALL THE OTHER
  DAY WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT. I
  PURPOSELY WEAKENED THOSE
  BOARDS IN THE SHED SO THAT THE
  FIRST ONE OF YOU WHO LEANED
  ON THEM WOULD CRASH INTO
  THE WELL. IF YOU DON’T CLEAR
  OUT OF THE LODGE SOON, EXPECT
  WORSE “ACCIDENTS.” I WARNED
  YOU THAT I MEAN BUSINESS.

Judy sniffed. “Well, it doesn’t frighten me. From the way you described
Penny’s accident, I’m sure it didn’t happen because someone had
tampered with the wall of the shed. Even if he had weakened the boards,
how could he be sure someone was going to lean on them?”

“You’re right,” Marjorie admitted, completely over her nervousness.
“Penny herself said she was foolish to touch that broken wall.”

She crumpled the letter and tossed it into the mesh basket. “A crazy
person who heard about Penny’s fall wrote that silly letter. Come on.
Let’s bring the empty baskets back to Theresa and forget the whole
thing.”

But deep down inside, Marjorie was thinking about the footprint Jimmy
had discovered in the dirt under the shed floor. Had it been left there
before Penny’s accident, or after it?

“After it,” she finally decided. “The floor boards were all in place
the first time we inspected the shed. The man who came snooping around
that night must have left that footprint. He probably meant to sneak
back and cover up the hole he made in the floor, but got frightened
away for good when Phil and Pat fired those shots in the air.”



CHAPTER 6

CLUES IN A BOTTLE


All during the hot July days that followed Judy and Marjorie did indeed
live in bathing suits. Mrs. Powell and Penny tried to make them dress
up for dinner, but they compromised by changing into clean shirts and
blue jeans.

“Aren’t we ever going to do anything about the treasure that’s supposed
to be buried around here?” Judy asked one day. They had been in
swimming and were now lying in the sun on the shore of the lake.

“I suppose we should do something about it,” Marjorie said lazily. “But
it’s been so hot I hate the thought of digging. Helping Pat hoe up his
potatoes was about all I could stand.”

“I’ve still got some blisters,” Judy said with a grin.

Marjorie raised herself on one elbow and squinted up toward the Lodge.
“Penny and Phil don’t think there’s any treasure buried around here any
more than there was a ghost haunting the place.”

“I know _they_ don’t,” Judy said. “But Jimmy, Alf and Brook do. They’ve
been acting very mysteriously ever since we got here. They sneak off
early in the morning with shovels and things, and I’m sure they don’t
spend all their time fixing up their shack.”

“I know,” Marjorie said thoughtfully. “And it would be simply awful if
the boys found the treasure, not us.” She scrambled to her feet. “We’ve
got to find it first. Let’s get out of these wet bathing suits before
we do anything else. While we’re changing into dungarees we can decide
where the best place to start digging is.”

Ten minutes later the girls left the Lodge by the back door and, armed
with shovels, went down to the clearing.

“Oh, golly,” Marjorie moaned. “I thought this would be a swell place to
dig because there’s no grass on the ground here. But just look. There’s
the wash hanging out on the line to dry. Mr. Taggart must have just
brought it back from the laundry-mat.”

“Just our luck,” Judy complained. “We’d better not dig anywhere near
it. We’d be sure to raise clouds of dust. It hasn’t rained in ages.”

“I tell you what let’s do instead,” Marjorie suggested. “Let’s go help
the boys with their shack. They promised to let us work on it, too.
Once it’s finished maybe they’ll go off on that camping trip with Pat.
Then we’ll have the whole place to ourselves.”

“That’s right,” Judy agreed. “If they caught us digging, they’d be
sure to make fun of us. They pretend that we’re silly to believe that
there’s treasure buried around here, but I happen to know that they
believe in it too.”

When they arrived at the shack, the girls’ offer of help was promptly
turned down.

“_Help!_” Alf hooted. “Judy, you don’t know which end of a hammer is
the head.”

“Neither does Marjorie,” added Jimmy with a teasing grin. “Scram, you
two. We men have work to do.”

“But you promised,” Marjorie reminded him crossly.

Jimmy waved her away. “Later, child, later. Right now we’re too busy
to teach you the rudiments of carpentry.”

So Judy and Marjorie wandered forlornly off and returned to the
clearing where they had left their shovels. After that they spent a few
hours every day aimlessly digging here and there for buried treasure.
But it was tiresome work and since they knew the holes had to be filled
up, they never dug very deep or very long at any one spot.

“This is hopeless,” Judy said one day toward the end of July. “What
we ought to look for are clues. Maps and things pirates may have left
around which will tell us exactly where to dig.”

“I don’t think there were ever any pirates around here,” Marjorie said
dubiously. “Didn’t they always stick pretty close to the seacoasts?”

“I guess you’re right,” Judy said disconsolately. “But whoever buried
the treasure should have left some clues or directions.”

“Not necessarily,” Marjorie pointed out practically. “He might have
buried it in a hurry and then the Indians or somebody might have killed
him right afterwards.”

“I give up.” Judy flung her shovel on the ground. “The boys can find
the treasure first for all I care. My hands are so sore I couldn’t
paddle a canoe. So let’s go swimming.”

“All right,” Marjorie agreed. “I do want you to have fun while you’re
our guest, Judy,” she added worriedly.

“Oh, I am,” Judy assured her with a quick smile. “It was my idea to dig
for the treasure, not yours. But let’s forget about it for awhile.”

“Let’s,” Marjorie agreed. “Besides, I haven’t been much of a help to
Penny lately. I’m supposed to be assistant hostess, you know, and help
her entertain the guests.”

“Well, I’m a guest,” Judy said with a giggle. “And you’ve entertained
me royally.”

From then on Marjorie spent more time helping Penny and Ann Mary and
Theresa.

By the first of August the boys had made great progress with the shack.
Mal, Pat and Phil helped out whenever they could and some of the guests
pitched in occasionally. The walls and the roof were now up, the doors
and windows were in place and the boys had even spent two nights
sleeping there on cots. They were now putting in the finishing touches,
and true to their promise they had let Marjorie and Judy help.

Marjorie, in her enthusiasm over being allowed to put up a shower wall
all by herself, had banged her finger with the hammer and the boys
had suggested that she and Judy take some time off to recuperate. So
Marjorie and Judy were looking for shells down on the beach.

“Oh, golly,” Judy said in disgust after awhile, “all the nice ones seem
to get as far under the rocks as they can.”

“They certainly do,” Marjorie agreed. “But let’s keep looking. We might
find some really valuable ones which we could sell to collectors for a
lot of money.”

For the next few minutes they were very busy pushing and shoving at the
rocks, upturning some and giving up others that were too heavy to budge.

Finally they came across one huge stone that seemed to be imbedded in
the sand. Marjorie knew that even with Judy’s help she couldn’t move
it, and she was just about to crawl by it when she saw something.

“Judy,” she cried excitedly. “Come here, quickly. Doesn’t it look as
though someone had been digging around this rock a little while ago?”

Judy scrambled to her feet and joined Marjorie. “You’re right,” she
said. “Some one _has_ been digging here. I’ll bet whoever it was buried
something under that rock.” She flopped down on her knees beside
Marjorie and together the girls began to dig frantically with their
fingers.

And then Marjorie’s sharp eyes caught a glimpse of something that
glittered in the sunlight. “Diamonds,” she gasped. “Judy, help me.
Let’s see if we can’t inch the rock up a little so we can see better.
Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was real honest-to-goodness
treasure buried here?”

Judy, tugging at the heavy rock, could only pant, “There. Now we’ve got
it!”

They both fell to digging with renewed vigor, and in another second
Marjorie could see that the glittering object was only a dark green
glass bottle.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” she moaned disappointedly. “And I thought we
were at last going to find the buried treasure.” Crossly she yanked the
bottle out of the warm sand and raised her arm to toss it into the lake.

“Wait a minute!” cried Judy, grabbing her arm just in time. “There’s
something in that bottle, Marjorie. When you held it up in the sunlight
I could see right through the dark green glass.”

Marjorie held the bottle up again and stared at it. “You’re right,
Judy,” she said. “It looks like a piece of paper. Oh, golly, maybe it’s
a map which’ll tell us exactly where the treasure is buried!”

As she talked, Marjorie was prying out the cork with a piece of broken
shell.

“Hurry, hurry,” Judy cried impatiently, hopping up and down. “Now
you’ve got it out at last. Turn it upside down and shake it, Marjorie.
Oh, oh, it _is_ a piece of paper!”

The piece of paper was battered and torn, and it had been crumpled into
a small ball. Carefully Marjorie smoothed it out, and together they
tried to read the smudged words.

After half an hour of intensive studying they were able to figure
out that the scrap was a fragment of a message, and the message had
something to do with “the Log Cabin” and “a well that.”

“Oh, Judy,” Marjorie gasped. “The well must be the one we dug up. If
we could only find the other fragment, I’ll bet the two together would
tell us where the treasure is buried!”

“Who do you suppose wrote the message?” Judy asked wonderingly. “And
how did it get torn? And how did one half get into this bottle?”

“I can guess what happened,” Marjorie said, her imagination completely
running away with her. “Two men knew about the buried treasure near the
old well. They wrote down just where they were supposed to dig. Then
they got into a fight when they talked about how they were going to
divide the loot. In the tussle, one man got off with one half, and the
other put his half in this bottle and buried it here for safekeeping.”

Judy stared at her in admiration. “You’re wonderful, Marjorie,” she
said. “That’s just what happened. Now all we have to do is find the
other half.”

Marjorie’s elfin blue eyes were bright with suppressed laughter.
“_All?_” she demanded sarcastically. “The other half of the message
could be anywhere in the world.” She stared thoughtfully down at the
scrap. “The two letters ‘tr’ might be part of the word ‘trunk.’ What do
you think, Judy?”

“I think you’re absolutely right,” Judy said emphatically. “Aren’t
there some old trunks in the storeroom that you haven’t opened yet? Oh,
Marjorie, do you suppose there’s another clue in one of them?”

“Let’s look anyway,” Marjorie said. “Tuesday when I was helping Ann
Mary get the soiled linen ready for Mr. Taggart to take into town, I
asked her if you and I couldn’t go through those old trunks some rainy
day. And she said we could. She laughed at me and said, ‘You won’t find
any treasure there. If you’re smart you’ll search for rare shells down
by the lake.’ That’s how I got the idea of trying to find some which
rich collectors might buy from us.”

“Well,” Judy said, “we didn’t find any worth bringing back to the
Lodge. Let’s don’t waste any more time looking for rare shells. Let’s
go show this clue to the boys.”

Marjorie hesitated. “Okay, but I’ll bet they just make fun of us. Jimmy
won’t even consider that it just might be a clue.”

“But,” Judy objected, “he’s bound to realize that the message had
something to do with the well and the Lodge. Let’s go.”

Marjorie carefully tucked the torn paper into the pocket of her blue
jeans. Then they raced back to the Lodge.

Out in the shed the girls found that Jimmy, Alf and Brook had finished
closing in the shower. They banged on the door and Jimmy called out in
a dramatic voice:

“Who invades our privacy? This is the bachelors’ retreat and we want
no women around here!” Marjorie heard him add in a loud whisper: “And
especially not dimwit girls!”

She yelled at the top of her lungs: “Oh, come on out, Jimmy. Quit being
so mean to us. We have something important to show you.”

But Jimmy was adamant. “_You_ quit banging on the door, dopes. We’ll
open it when we’re ready and not a minute before.”

Marjorie turned to Judy. “Try Alf. He’s your brother.”

“Alf Powell,” Judy screamed. “You’ll be sorry if you don’t come right
out. What we have is something really yummy!” She added quietly to
Marjorie, “That’ll get him!”

“Yummy,” they heard both Alf and Brook repeat, and then from Jimmy as
he opened the door and stuck his head out:

“Why didn’t you say you had food in the first place?”

“Look,” said Marjorie, showing him the piece of paper. “Judy and I
found this in a bottle buried in the sand under a big rock on the
beach. We think it’s part of a message that has something to do with
the buried treasure.”

“Oh, you dopey kids,” Jimmy said in a very condescending tone of voice.
“Your imagination works overtime. It’s fantastic,” he said over his
shoulder to Alf and Brook, “what they can think up in their spare time.”

But Jimmy took the paper from Marjorie, and gave it a contemptuous
glance. “What a mess,” he said. “You know perfectly well you rigged
this up yourselves, but you can’t fool me.”

“We didn’t, honest,” Marjorie said, tossing her blonde head. “But if
that’s the way you feel about it, give it back to me. Furthermore,
if we find any more clues you’ll be the last person in the world we
consult.”

Jimmy tossed it to her with a grin. “Run along, kids. We haven’t time
for your monkey business. We’re going for a swim, and then we’re going
to get the Bronc ready for our camping trip.” He slammed the door in
Marjorie’s face. “Scram. Later, if we men haven’t anything better to
do, you can try to fool us with your phony clues.”

“See?” Marjorie bitterly asked Judy. “That’s a brother for you! If we
do find anything in the storage room, let’s not tell a soul!”



CHAPTER 7

THE MAP


Marjorie and Judy entered the Lodge by the back door and found Mr.
Taggart in the kitchen with a big bundle of clean laundry.

“Hello, girls,” he said pleasantly. “Find any buried treasure yet?”

“No,” Judy replied, “but down on the beach we--”

Marjorie nudged her and said quickly, “We found a lot of absolutely
worthless shells.” She grinned at Ann Mary who came into the kitchen
then with a bag of soiled linen. “You and your rare specimens! I’ll bet
you sent us off on that wild goose chase just to get us out of your
hair.”

Ann Mary laughed. “Maybe I did.” She turned to Mr. Taggart. “I really
sent them down to the lake to keep them from digging up the whole
place. Pat and Mal worked hard on the vegetable garden behind the
cabin, and I’m not going to have the kids ruin it in their search for
something which they know perfectly well isn’t there.”

“That’s right,” the laundry man said with a grin. “A carrot in the hand
is worth a diamond in the bush.” He picked up the bag and started for
the door.

“Wait a minute, please,” Ann Mary said. “There’s more upstairs. Sit
down and make yourself comfortable while I gather up the bed linen.”

“Do you want me to do it for you, Ann Mary?” Marjorie asked, hoping the
answer would be no.

“Thank you, no,” Ann Mary said emphatically. “The last time you counted
the sheets you counted one of them twice.”

Marjorie giggled, and the girls followed Ann Mary out into the hall. As
she hurried up the stairs to the balcony, Judy said:

“I wish you’d show me the secret room sometime, Marjorie. I think
you’re mean to keep it a secret from me, your very best friend.”

“Why, of course, I’ll show it to you,” Marjorie cried impulsively. “And
there’s no time like the present.” She led the way into the alcove and
said, “See those bookshelves? Now watch, while I press this button.”

Open-mouthed with amazement, Judy watched as the shelves moved aside,
revealing a short flight of stairs that led down into a little room.

“Why, that’s the most marvelous contraption I ever saw,” she said
enviously. “I wish we had something like it at home.”

“We can’t go in,” Marjorie said. “It’s a law we passed at a meeting of
the Allen Lodge Board of Directors. Only Phil and Pat can go in. As
a matter of fact,” she added thoughtfully, “I guess I shouldn’t have
showed you how the door works without first asking their permission.”

“I won’t tell a soul,” Judy promised. “But why all the secrecy?”

“Well,” Marjorie explained, “we keep all the guests’ valuables and all
the money in that little old wall safe in there.” She stopped suddenly.
“Oh, gosh, I guess that was Ann Mary who just went by the alcove. She
must have heard us talking in here and now she’ll guess that I showed
you the secret room.”

“Will she tell Phil and Penny?” Judy asked worriedly. “And will they
bawl you out? Oh, I hope not. It was all my fault! Curiosity killed the
cat,” she finished lamely.

“You mean,” Marjorie said as she closed the door, “let the cat out of
the bag!” She grinned. “No, Ann Mary won’t tell. If she thinks I did
let the cat out of the bag, she’ll bawl me out herself. But she’s no
tattle-tale, and neither is Pat. They’re both grand people. And so are
the Donahues.”

“Everyone at the Lodge is swell,” Judy agreed, and added cautiously:
“Since we’re probably already in Dutch, don’t you think maybe we’d
better ask Penny’s permission before we go through those old trunks in
the storeroom? I know Ann Mary said we could, but after all, Penny is
the housekeeper, isn’t she?”

Marjorie nodded. “We’ll get her permission right now.” She glanced at
her wristwatch. “She’s probably out on the porch having tea with your
parents and Mr. and Mrs. Curtis. And I guess Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, too.”

“I tell you what let’s do,” Judy said. “Let’s put on a fashion show.
Didn’t you say that the trunk you’ve already opened is full of
old-fashioned dresses and costume jewelry?”

“What a wonderful idea!” Marjorie raced ahead of Judy down the spacious
hall to the porch.

Penny, looking very lovely in a pale yellow afternoon frock, looked up
from the tea table with a smile. “Having fun, girls?” she asked. “I
don’t have to ask you if you’re hungry. Help yourselves to sandwiches
and cookies.”

“We’re not hungry for once, Penny,” Marjorie told her with a laugh. “We
came out to ask you if it’s all right if we put on a fashion show for
you while you’re having tea. The boys have deserted us, and Judy and I
want to dress up and parade around in some of the old costumes in the
storage room.”

“Go right ahead,” Penny said. “That’s the best idea you’ve had all
summer, Marjorie.” She turned to Mary Curtis who was sitting on the
other side of the table. “Don’t you think so, too, Mary?”

Mary nodded. “Anything to keep those two out of mischief.”

Marjorie and Judy hurried away to the storage room. “My, why haven’t
we poked around in here before?” Judy asked Marjorie. “What’s in all
those boxes and trunks anyway?”

“I only know what’s in the trunk we already opened,” Marjorie told
her. “These are the old, old trunks.” She pointed to two little trunks
standing side by side. “After the fashion show we’ll go through them
carefully for clues. The other boxes all contain things of ours that
we’ve put away so we wouldn’t clutter up the house with things we
didn’t need.”

Half an hour later the girls appeared on the porch and marched sedately
up and down, hoping they were behaving like professional models.

It was all Penny could do to keep from laughing. To her they looked as
stiff as wooden puppets in a Punch and Judy show.

“What period are you representing?” Brook’s mother asked, suppressing a
smile. “Jane Austen?”

Marjorie relaxed enough to shrug. “We haven’t the faintest idea, Mrs.
Sanders. Let’s pretend that the audience has to guess.”

“All right,” Mrs. Sanders agreed. “I’ll stick to _Pride and Prejudice_.”

“I’d say that the black velvet was of the nineties, after the big
sleeves and hideous bustles had gone out,” Mrs. Powell said.

Mrs. Curtis thought it was of a later period. She laughed and said,
“Wouldn’t it be funny if those bustles came back in again. I’m afraid
they wouldn’t look quite as cute on us as they do on those two young
ladies!”

Mary told them she thought the blue satin dress was meant to be worn
with hoops and was probably from a period dating near the Civil War.

“Let’s go see if we can find the hoop,” Marjorie said, taking Judy by
the hand and heading back to the storeroom.

They had had enough of dressing up by this time, and they got back
into their blue jeans and proceeded to turn the contents of the trunks
inside out. They felt every part of the inside of the trunks for
hidden places, they shook all the clothes carefully and examined them
minutely, but all to no avail.

“Maybe all of the costume jewelry in that box isn’t set with imitation
stones,” Judy said without much hope.

“But it is,” Marjorie said. “Do you want to look at it?” She
impatiently yanked off the lid and the old velvet lining fell away.
Then they both saw it--an old map, pasted inside the cover!

Marjorie was so surprised she sat right down on the storage room floor.
“Oh, my goodness,” she finally got out, “to think, if it hadn’t been
for you, we might not have even opened the jewelry box. I never would
have thought of looking here because I examined it so carefully when
Phil and Penny first opened this trunk.”

But Judy wasn’t listening. She had hurried to a window with the lid
and was examining the map carefully. “Marjorie,” she groaned, “this is
positively the worst thing that ever happened to us!”

Marjorie scrambled to her feet and hurried to peer over Judy’s
shoulder. In another minute she, too, was groaning. “There’s no doubt
about it,” she mumbled sadly. “This map tells exactly where the
treasure is buried. And where it is buried is right under the potato
hills in Pat’s garden!”

“That’s the way it looks to me,” Judy said mournfully. “He won’t dig up
those potatoes until the fall. The vines have hardly begun to blossom.”
Very near to tears she added, “And--and you’ll find the treasure after
I’ve gone back to school!”

Just then Penny appeared at the door. “What on earth is the matter
with you two?” she asked. “I could hear your moans and groans from the
balcony.”

“We’ve found the map that shows exactly where the treasure is buried,”
Marjorie wailed. “B-but Pat won’t let us dig it up.”

Penny’s blue eyes were dark with surprise. “Don’t be silly, Marjorie,”
she said. “Of course, Pat will let you dig it up.”

Marjorie hurried across the room to show Penny the map. “See,” she said
pointing. “The big X is behind the Donahues’ cabin on the west side.
Judy and I know what’s planted there. We got blisters on our hands the
day we helped Pat and Mal hoe up those potato hills!”

Penny glanced at the map and then she laughed. “You silly girls! Don’t
you know that this is a joke the boys played on you?” She went back
into the hall and called up the stairs:

“Jimmy, come down here right away, please.”

Jimmy took the stairs two at a time. “What’s up?” he demanded. “The
house on fire?”

For answer Penny handed him the jewelry box lid. “Didn’t you paste that
map there to play a joke on the girls?”

Jimmy stared at the map in amazement. “Honestly, Penny,” he said
soberly. “I never saw the darn thing before.”

“How about Alf and Brook?” Penny asked sternly. “A joke’s a joke,
but this one might have caused serious trouble. If someone not as
thoughtful as Marjorie had found it and followed directions he would
have ruined Pat’s potatoes.”

“I know,” Jimmy said, still staring at the map. “But neither Alf nor
Brook did it, Penny. They’ve never been inside the storage room, so
they couldn’t possibly have planted this map in the cover of the
costume jewelry box.”

“Well then,” Penny said firmly. “The person who did, did it purposely
to annoy us.”

“I don’t know how you can be so sure of that,” Marjorie objected. “_I_
think someone put it in the lid long before Pat and Mal planted the
garden.”

Penny gave her a fond pat. “I hate to disillusion you, honey, but the
map was pasted in the lid quite recently. Last week when I opened the
box to show Mary the costume jewelry the old velvet lining fell out.
And there wasn’t any map there then.”

Marjorie sighed with disappointment. “Oh, dear,” she began, “then I
suppose the same mean person put that scrap of paper in the bot--”

But she never finished what she had planned to say. For just then Phil
called out excitedly from the porch:

“Penny, _Penny! Peter’s here!_”



CHAPTER 8

PETER IS WORRIED


Peter had arrived several days earlier than he had planned! For a
moment Penny stood stock still on the threshold of the old storage room.

She was too thrilled to move, but she was very glad that she was
wearing her most becoming afternoon frock. Peter said that pale yellow
brought out the golden lights in her hair and turned her eyes to
violets. Or was it forget-me-nots?

Marjorie’s giggle set her in motion. “Wake up, Penny,” Marjorie said
with a laugh. “This is no time to dream.”

Her cheeks burning, Penny hurried down the hall. Peter Wyland was just
getting out of his car when she appeared on the porch.

Penny’s heart beat a little faster as she greeted him cordially
and tried to look as casual as possible. Peter squeezed her hand
lingeringly and looked as though he were going to kiss her right in
front of all the people.

“You’re looking wonderful,” Penny said.

“So are you!” Peter’s eyes admired her smooth skin which the summer sun
had turned to a golden tan. Neither of them could think of another word
to say, and yet they had so much to say to each other!

Philip came to the rescue with a cheery grin. “Hi, fella,” he greeted
Peter, shaking his hand as though it were a pump handle. “Good to see
you again.”

Charles came running down the front steps to greet Peter
enthusiastically, too. Penny thought:

“Good old Charles. He can be nice when he wants to. If it weren’t for
Peter, I think I could like Charles a lot.” She glanced shyly at Peter.
“Oh, he _does_ love me. I can tell!” Penny was in a whirl.

The first thing Philip wanted to know was when Adra Prentice was coming.

“You’re in luck, boy,” Peter said, clapping him on the shoulder. “She’s
arriving in a couple of hours by plane. Her dad--my boss--is planning
to spend a week here toward the end of the month.”

Phil’s gray-blue eyes lighted up with anticipation. This would be the
most exciting day of the whole summer for Penny and Phil.

“I’ll carry your bags up to your room,” he said to Peter. “No, I don’t
need any help. I know Penny is dying to show you all over the Lodge and
the grounds.”

Marjorie watched them stroll off together arm in arm. She was glad
Peter was here and that Adra was coming soon, but she did so want to
be alone with Penny for a few minutes sometime that day. “We’ve got to
show her the clue we found in the bottle down on the beach,” she said
to Judy. “Maybe the map is a phony, but I’m sure the scrap of paper in
my pocket means something.”

“I am, too,” Judy agreed. “And I’m not so sure that the map is a phony.
It looked so old and weather-beaten. Somebody might have found it just
the other day and put it in the jewelry box lid for safekeeping.”

Marjorie stared at her thoughtfully. “Who do you suppose this somebody
is who is lurking around here, and writing anonymous letters? It must
be the same person, but how did he get into the storage room without
being seen?”

Judy shrugged. “Don’t ask me. Let’s talk it all over with Penny the
first chance we get. Then she can discuss it with Peter. He’s sort of
an amateur detective, isn’t he?”

Marjorie nodded. “Heaven knows when we’ll be able to say more than two
words to Penny.”

Adra arrived just before dinner, and once again there was excitement
and tumult. Jimmy and Marjorie greeted the lovely, fragile-looking girl
with shouts of welcome. Penny hugged her affectionately, but Philip
could only hold her hand in his and stare down at her wordlessly.

But the expression on his handsome face told Adra more than anything he
could have said.

Penny’s duties as hostess and housekeeper kept her busy until late in
the evening. At last, when she was alone in the office planning the
next day’s program, Marjorie and Judy could stand it no longer. They
burst into the room, and Marjorie blurted:

“We’ve been trying to see you alone all evening, Sis. But, golly,
you’re busy as triplets.” She stuck her hand in her pocket and pulled
out the worn scrap of paper. “Judy and I found this in a bottle buried
under a big rock down on the beach.”

Penny frowned tiredly. “Oh, Marjorie, not another one of your clues!”

Marjorie bit her lip. “I know you think we’re silly to keep looking
for buried treasure, Penny. But this is part of a message and it has
something to do with the Log Cabin and a well.”

Penny laid the scrap on her desk and tried to read it. The girls showed
her what they had been able to decipher.

“Oh, dear,” Penny said. “I’m too tired now to think about clues. I’m
sorry, girls. Go on to bed now. It’s late. Leave this with me, and
the first chance I get in the morning, I’ll show it to Peter. He’s
the detective of our group, and if anyone can figure what this is all
about, it’s he.”

After the girls had gone up to their rooms, Penny added to herself:
“I’m glad Peter arrived today for more reasons than one. Something
mysterious _is_ going on. Who was our prowler? Who wrote those
anonymous letters? Who put the map in the lid of the old jewelry box?
And what sense does this scrap of paper make?”

The next morning, right after breakfast, she was asking Peter the same
questions. He listened attentively as she filled in all the details.

When she had finished, he said very seriously: “I don’t like any part
of this, Penny, especially the letter that threatened you. Frankly,
I wish you had turned it over to the police. Even if there were only
latent fingerprints on it, they could have sent it to the FBI in
Washington. Those experts don’t miss a thing, and if the man is a
criminal, his fingerprints will be in their files.”

“But,” Penny objected, “if he _is_ a criminal, he would have been smart
enough to wear gloves.”

“That’s true,” Peter admitted. “But there are other ways of discovering
who wrote those letters. For one thing, although he undoubtedly did his
best to disguise his handwriting, he couldn’t completely. No one can.
We all develop certain characteristics when we first learn to write,
and those characteristics stay with us forever.”

“My,” Penny said admiringly. “You _are_ a detective, Peter.”

Peter grinned, and then sobered. “Not really, Penny. And I wish you’d
let me notify the police now. Someone is obviously very interested in
making you Allens clear out of here. I don’t know why, but I can guess.”

“So can I,” Penny said, twirling a strand of her light brown hair
around her finger. “Maybe Jimmy and Marjorie are right after all. Maybe
there _is_ buried treasure around here.”

Peter stared down at the note on the desk. They had managed to make out
the following words:

  t the Log cabin
  t week in August
      asure again
        near the
        r a well that
        dry.

“The first word in the third line,” Penny said, “could be the last part
of the word ‘treasure.’ And the well could be the one we dug up. But
our mysterious Mr. X isn’t as smart as he should be. We went clear to
the bottom of that old well, Peter, and there just isn’t any buried
treasure there.”

Peter nodded. “The man first tried to frighten you, and now he’s being
as annoying as he dares.”

“Do you know what I think?” Penny asked. “I think there is something
valuable hidden around here which we don’t know anything about. But Mr.
X does. He wants us to keep on thinking it’s buried somewhere on the
grounds so we’ll keep on digging instead of searching elsewhere for it.”

“You’re not only very pretty, Penny,” Peter said, smiling. “But you’re
very intelligent. I think you’ve reasoned it out correctly. The map and
this fragment of paper are red herrings; not clues. Will you let me
turn them over to the police? Just the paper our Mr. X used may be a
clue which would lead to the discovery of his identity in a very short
time.”

“Oh, no, Peter,” Penny cried impulsively. “Let’s not turn the mystery
over to the police now. Let’s first try to solve it ourselves.
Besides,” she added shrewdly, “when they hear about the night prowler
who attacked Mal, they may want to put guards around the Lodge. And
that, Peter Wyland, would make some of the guests nervous. It might
ruin our whole business venture.”

“I can refuse you nothing, Penny Allen,” he said, grinning. “But I
think we ought to consult with Phil and Adra before we make a final
decision. Let’s call them in, and hash the whole thing out all over
again.”

But an hour later, after a serious discussion, Penny won. They would
not notify the police unless they received another threatening letter.

“I still don’t like it,” Peter grumbled. “The idea of that coward
threatening Penny.”

Penny blushed. Peter was being very protective about her and she
couldn’t help liking it. “But he didn’t really threaten me,” she
pointed out. “He couldn’t possibly have known I was going to touch the
rotten supports in the shed wall. If you ask me, he heard about the
accident and simply took advantage of it. A few hours after I tumbled
down the well, everyone in the village knew about it.”

“That’s another thing,” Peter said stubbornly. “If we notify the police
they’ll know who is a stranger in town and keep an eye on him.”

Penny laughed. “Then they’d have to have a thousand eyes, Peter. The
place is swarming with summer people.”

Peter threw up his hands in mock despair. “Oh, all right,” he said. “I
give in. Let’s forget about it for awhile. How about a swim, Penny? Or
are you too busy?”

“Well,” Penny began, “I--”

“Skip it, Sis,” Phil interrupted. “Pleasure comes before business,
since your main duty is to see that your guests are happy.”

The meeting broke up then, and everyone hurried off to change into
bathing suits. Down on dock they found Marjorie and Judy sitting on the
edge, dangling their feet in the water.

Jimmy, Alf and Brook were busy completing preparations for their
camping trip which was to start the next day. The boys were fixing two
of the canoes to take along on the Bronc. They were planning to do
some fishing in the rivers they camped by, and were going to be fully
prepared to take advantage of anything else they might find.

That evening they had an old-fashioned square dance out on the front
porch. There was a fiddler in the town who had come back with Mal, and
the guests as well as the Allens had a lively time. Kitty and Ann Mary
served delicious cold lemonade with homemade cookies.

Philip reached for his fourth cooky and said to Adra, “I’m sure I’d get
too fat to move if I ate all the good things Ann Mary is always making.
Can you make cookies like this, Adra?”

She laughed and said, “No, Phil, I can’t make anything as good as Ann
Mary does, but I’m sure I could learn, if I was offered an incentive.”

“Would I be incentive enough?” asked Phil.

“You would, indeed!” said Adra promptly. “But I’m afraid we couldn’t
live on just cookies.”

Phil laughed and said, “That might be fun for a little while. I’m sure
Marjorie and Jimmy would think so. They can eat at least two dozen at a
time without even trying. I’m so glad you’re going to be here for the
rest of the summer, Adra, we have so much to talk about. I want to tell
you of my plans for the winter. I’m going to try to take a job where I
can be near you.”

“Oh, Phil, that will be wonderful,” cried Adra. “I can’t think of
anything I would like better. You know Peter and I have become very
good friends since he has been working for my father, and he told me he
would like to find something so that he could be closer to Penny. Does
Penny know how much he likes her?”

“I think she does, Adra, because, you see, she likes Peter just as
much.” Phil and Adra looked very happy as they strolled off hand in
hand.

Penny, watching them, said to Peter, “I’m glad our mysterious Mr. X
isn’t spoiling their fun. I wish you’d forget about the mystery, too,
Peter, just for the evening,” she added wistfully.

He grinned cheerfully. “When I look at you, Penny, I can’t even
remember my own name.”

But Penny knew that, underneath his flattering banter, Peter was
worried. She almost wished that she hadn’t told him anything about the
mystery.



CHAPTER 9

CAMPING OUT


The next day everybody came out to wish bon voyage to Pat and the boys
who were leaving on their camping trip for a week. All hands helped
them get their paraphernalia aboard the station wagon.

Pat was the last one to get in with the big box of fishing tackle in
his left hand and a huge picnic hamper packed with good food in his
right hand. Ann Mary had seen to it that they would eat well the first
day they started out. For the rest of the week they had the back of the
Bronc well stocked with canned foods which they expected to supplement
with the fish they caught.

They were all in the best of spirits. This was to be a real adventure.
Pat was taking them into the woods to a fishing camp where Jimmy’s
Uncle John Allen used to go every summer. Alf Powell and Jimmy were
the chief mechanics in case anything went wrong with the car, and Brook
and Pat were to be the cooks.

Marjorie and Judy had their noses slightly out of joint because they
had been hoping right up until the last minute before the boys left,
that perhaps they too would be allowed to go along. But the boys would
not even hear of it, and Penny thought it would not be a good idea,
either.

“Never mind,” Judy said in a consoling whisper to Marjorie. “Maybe
we’ll find the buried treasure while they’re gone.”

Just then Ann Mary came running out with an armful of freshly ironed
shirts for the boys.

“Mr. Taggart brought these,” she panted, “early this morning. I told
him he had to get them here before you left. Theresa just finished
ironing them.”

“Thanks,” Jimmy said, “but they needn’t have been ironed. For the next
week we aren’t going to care how we look.”

“Lucky dogs,” Marjorie said in an aside to Judy. “Do you know what
Penny said to me last night? She said, ‘From now on you and I ought to
change before dinner into something besides blue jeans.’”

“I guess she’s right,” Judy said reluctantly. “Mother has had the same
idea all along.”

But in spite of how they felt, the girls recovered from their sulks
long enough to wave cheery goodbyes to the boys.

“Have fun,” they shouted.

“Be careful,” called Penny.

And so at last, Jimmy, Alf and Brook were off on their great adventure.

After driving all day, Pat and the boys pulled into a little grove of
pines, deep in the woods near a beautiful, rock-strewn river. They
made camp and got out their mosquito repellent. Pat had told them the
black flies in this part of the woods were really vicious so they had
come well prepared for such an emergency. Jimmy and Alf got into their
high boots and waded into the river to fish. The results of this little
expedition were not quite as good as they expected, but the few small
fish they caught were very sweet when cooked.

They were up bright and early the next morning, but that day brought no
better results as far as fishing was concerned. Pat suggested that they
move camp deeper into the woods, near a little lake where he thought
the fishing would be much better. Jimmy seconded the suggestion and in
no time at all they were on their way again. This time they made camp
near the tip of the little lake and early the next morning they watched
the mist rise from the lake and listened to the birds singing in chorus.

This spot was so beautiful that Brook and Alf said they would like to
spend the rest of the week here, even if they didn’t catch a single
fish.

“I knew you’d like it,” answered Pat. “Mr. Allen always wanted to stay
here awhile,” he said to Jimmy.

“And no wonder,” said Jimmy, “I can’t wait until we get out there in
our canoe.”

The boys were all skillful with the paddle, and as they skimmed along
the lake widened, then narrowed till it was not much more than a
stream. Finally they reached the other end and drew the canoe into a
small bay. Pat led them to a small log hut hidden in the nearby trees.
Here there was a curious storehouse for food and extra equipment. It
was built of small pine logs and was raised high on a few posts. Pat
explained that this was to keep the food from getting damp, and that
if it were properly fastened no climbing bear could help himself to the
food.

The little bay where they had left their canoe was the outlet for a
stream in which Pat said there was wonderful fishing. Pat said they
would have to go upstream a way against some rapids to get to the
really good fishing spot. He also told them that there was a waterfall
nearby and the safest thing would be for all of them to do all of their
exploring, fishing, hunting, or anything else they decided to do, in
groups. Pat cautioned them about the strong current in the stream, too.

“Come on,” said Jimmy. “Let’s do some fishing now and go up those
rapids tomorrow.”

They caught a beautiful trout and a bass for their supper and
considered that a perfect end to a successful and happy day. They
decided to spend the night in the small log campers’ hut.

The next day’s plan was changed when morning came. The woods about the
camp were explored and found to be fairly open. It was full of birds,
squirrels, chipmunks and other small animals. Brook almost caught a
flying squirrel and claimed that he saw a wild cat. There were beavers
building in a small stream that wandered through the pines and widened
not far from the lake. A graceful deer took flight as Pat, who was
in the lead, approached. This caused considerable excitement and all
chatter ceased as they stole on in the hope of surprising another deer
or a bear.

They climbed trees, investigated nests and Jimmy kept looking for bees.
The boys wanted to know why, and he replied that the bees would lead
them to a “honey tree,” and there they might find a bear.

“Go to it, Jimmy,” cried Alf. “I bet we take the honey first.”

They finally did see a bear, a black one of moderate size. It ambled
off before them from the water’s edge. None of them had the heart to
shoot it or anything else they saw. They were having such a wonderful
time just investigating.

Around the campfire that night they sang and told stories and when it
began to turn very chilly they turned in. They were awakened early in
the morning by the bird chorus. Alf said it was not so hard to get
up here as at home, in school time! They took the canoe up the rocky
stream with its dashing waters and strong current. By noon they had
reached the highest point from which these rapids started. It was quiet
at noon and the sun was hot. The perspiring boys sat around in their
bathing shorts and ate a cold lunch. Then they got down to the real
business of fishing. Jimmy drew in a handsome black bass, and then the
competition became keen. Brook caught a beautiful brook trout, and it
was a jolly group of boys that sat near the shore to clean their fish
in the late afternoon when they had returned to the hut.

Jimmy had started the fire and then joined the rest, picking up the
first fish at hand, a fine trout. “Who caught this?” he asked.

“I’ll have you know that I’m the guy,” grinned Pat, looking up from the
bass he was cleaning and waving his knife in the air. “It’s worth-while
fishing where there’s something to catch!”

“Isn’t this a walleyed perch, Jimmy?” asked Brook.

“I guess so.” Jimmy had started in vigorously to clean the trout and
now raised a loud voice in the ditty of “Ham and Eggs.” The others
joined in, making the shore ring with the sound. The fact that supper
was to consist mainly of fish made no difference. With young appetites
and overflowing energy they managed to consume all of the day’s catch.

The next day Jimmy and Alf wanted to take things easy and do some
swimming and lounging, but Brook wanted to do some more exploring. They
finally decided to spend the day near the hut, and Brook made a mental
note to do some exploring on his own when he could. While they were all
in swimming, he paddled off alone, down the main stream. He had gone
only a little distance before he was concealed from view by trees and a
curving shore. He entered the main stream, which was quite wide as far
as the fork.

There the division of waters left the wider stream to the right. But
that to Brook’s left offered the prettier outlook. It stretched almost
straight before him to some distance and descended in a little rapids.
These looked easy, he thought, and though there were rocks, the water
looked shallow enough for a good swimmer not to be troubled with any
difficulty about reaching shore or a rock in case the canoe upset.

A little peninsula, dotted with green trees and bushes, jutted out from
the left shore. Brook thought he caught a glimpse of someone moving
there and started into the left fork of the stream.

“After all,” he reflected, “as the crow flies I’m only a couple of
miles from camp. Maybe Jimmy and Alf have been out exploring and are
over there on the point.”

Then he saw something that made him paddle faster than ever. He could
hear the sound of dashing waters further on but he was too excited to
pay any attention to it. What he had glimpsed looked like a human body,
sprawling half in and half out of the bushes of a cove on the point.

Brook nosed his canoe into the cove, beached it, and climbed up the
gentle incline. Then he saw that what had attracted his attention was
only an old tattered coat. It was rain-shriveled and had obviously been
flung over a rock to dry. But from the stream it had looked like the
torso of a human body.

“Well,” Brook sighed with relief. “Thank goodness no one was hurt or
killed.”

He went into the brush, past a few spruces, and found a small clearing.
In the mud here were footprints which had obviously been made very
recently. It had rained the night before, clearing just before dawn.
Sometime between then and now someone had walked across the clearing
and into the brush. And back again into the woods on the other side of
the clearing, Brook reflected as he studied the footprints.

Whoever it was might have hung his coat on the rock to dry if he had
been caught in the early morning rainstorm.

“Probably a tramp,” he decided and went back to the coat. He lifted it
rather gingerly, and then, because he could not resist the temptation,
turned its pockets inside out. To his surprise, he found in the last
pocket a letter. It looked as though it had been soaked by the rain and
had been dried again by the sun which had been shining upon the coat
and rock all morning.

The address upon the torn envelope was blurred, and Brook’s curiosity
was hindered by the fact that it was almost lunch time and it might be
well to hurry back. Sticking the letter into the waterproof zippered
pocket of his bathing trunks, he hurried to his canoe, pushed out and
entered the stream again.

As Brook got back into the middle of the stream he suddenly discovered
that no paddling was necessary to make his canoe go! The descent which
looked so gradual drew canoe and the water itself down rapidly. The
current was much stronger than one would have thought! Brook used his
paddle skillfully. He was enjoying this exhilarating experience. It was
great!

But when he tried to skim around a few rocks to the point, he almost
upset the canoe and only by a quick push from a rock did he avoid
being thrown out. But the canoe righted and Brook sped on, past the
peninsula, around into a wider channel, for which Brook was at first
glad. There was more space between rocks.

But the current was stronger, his control over the canoe was getting
a little out of hand. Brook was just beginning to realize that he had
had no business coming off by himself, when he heard the sound of the
falls. His face grew pale, but he set his lips. The current drew the
canoe out into a wider part of the river, and when Brook looked ahead
for a minute he could see a white spray dashing high over a pile of
obstructing rocks. It did not seem so bad off to the right, and Brook
tried to edge over in that direction.

But what he saw ahead of him made him sick. It was still some distance
away, but the water was boiling over at a little curve and fell
somewhere below--he could not tell where!



CHAPTER 10

JIMMY TO THE RESCUE


Back at camp, shortly after Brook paddled off by himself, Jimmy and Alf
decided that they had had enough swimming for one day.

“Race you to shore,” Jimmy yelled, flailing the water in a fast crawl.
Alf was slightly ahead of him, but Jimmy soon passed him and was the
first to throw himself on the beach, crowing breathlessly, “Beat you!”

“By a mere inch,” Alf said, flopping down beside him. “Where’s Brook?”

Jimmy shrugged. “Probably back in the hut helping Pat prepare a feast
for our lunch. That guy’s always hungry.”

“So am I,” Alf said. “It’s your Michigan air. But I don’t think Brook
is with Pat. I saw him drag one of the canoes into the water just
before our race. I was too busy trying to keep up with you to see what
he did after that.”

“What difference does it make?” Jimmy demanded. “Let’s go exploring by
canoe ourselves. We can dry off in the sun just in time for lunch.”
He pointed. “I want to investigate that fork of the first stream over
there.”

“I want to eat,” Alf said. “I’m starving. But if you must satisfy your
curiosity before I satisfy my hunger, I suppose you must.”

“I can’t let you eat now anyway,” Jimmy said with a grin. “If I did
there wouldn’t be anything left for Brook when he shows up.”

“I’ll say there wouldn’t,” Alf agreed, tightening the belt on his
trunks. “I could catch a fish right now with my bare hands and eat it
while it’s still alive.”

“You just had breakfast,” Jimmy said. “Come on!”

Alf lazily shaded his eyes with his hand and squinted up at the sky.
“About four hours ago by the sun,” he said stubbornly.

Jimmy yanked him to his feet and called out to Pat: “We’re going
canoeing. Back in time for lunch.”

“Okay,” came Pat’s voice from inside the cabin.

“You bet we’ll be back for lunch,” Alf said as he and Jimmy glided out
upon the lake. “What’s the coil of rope doing in the canoe?”

“I brought it along so we could climb a bee tree if we found one,”
laughed Jimmy. “Anyhow it belongs to Pat. I think it’s some of
Theresa’s clothesline.”

The boys turned into the stream, and when they came to the forking of
the water, they entered the narrower stream toward its right shore,
where the waters seemed quieter. While Alf paddled, Jimmy made a loop
of the rope and tossed it toward a stout little spruce.

“This comes in handy,” said Jimmy, as the rope caught and Alf paddled
in close to the shore. “This current is certainly strong,” he added
soberly. “And I imagine if we got caught in the center we’d be headed
for the falls.”

“Are there falls near here?” Alf asked.

“I think so. Don’t you hear them?”

Alf agreed and they discussed Jimmy’s plan of either drawing the canoe
ashore and footing it down, or easing the canoe along the right shore.
But there was a tangle of underbrush along the bank and the footing
was uneasy. They decided to risk it because they had the rope to throw
out to some tree so they could keep out of the current. They kept very
close to the shore and before they reached the peninsula, they beached
the canoe in a curve that was almost a pool and hastened, over sticks
and brush and stones, to see what lay farther down.

“Well, we were smart to land, Jimmy,” said Alf, as they stood looking
at the stream where it flowed beyond the little peninsula. “But it
certainly is pretty. We’ll have to watch our step getting down where
we can see the falls. Doesn’t she foam where she is going over? Do you
imagine the falls are high?”

“Can’t tell, Alf,” Jimmy said. “Looks like quite a ravine down ahead;
but this whole region isn’t very high and it probably dams up into some
other little lake. Come on.”

“Wait till I go back after the rope, Jim,” said Alf. “We may need it,
if we climb down by the falls.”

Alf picked his way back the short distance to the canoe and brought the
rope. They followed the curving shore toward the left, where the waters
that swept past the point went wildly on in the wider channel to fall
over--somewhere.

Jimmy, with the rope over his shoulder, stood still; Alf thought it
might be better to strike through the trees and avoid the rocks on the
edge. Jimmy surveyed the water at his feet, the scattered rocks washed
by the current, and looked upstream just in time to see Brook’s face as
Brook saw the falls ahead.

“Alf!” Jimmy yelled, horrified. “Look there! It’s Brook!”

Only a moment did Jimmy stare. He slipped the loop already made over
his head and tightened it about his waist. Alf needed no directions.
What they had to do must be done quickly. They both started running to
a point that would bring them nearer to Brook’s course.

“Brook--Brook!” they kept shouting. “This way!”

Brook did not hear them, but just at that moment his pale face turned
toward the boys and he saw them.

“This way! This way!” cried Jimmy, beckoning. If Brook could only get
out of that awful central current--but maybe it was all current!

“He can’t come this way! I’ve got to throw him an end of the rope.” As
Jimmy spoke he was busy tying a stone on the end of the rope to weight
it. What a risk it was! Jimmy was wading out to a great rock, in a
shallow where the shore curved. This was no game. He must not miss.

Alf waded after Jimmy to help him hold on to the rope. There was still
a good chance, if they were successful, to rescue Brook. It was some
distance to the falls, but now the canoe Brook was in seemed to be
coming faster.

Now. Jimmy threw, and Jimmy had not played ball for nothing. Brook did
not catch the rope, but weighted by the stone it fell into the canoe
and Brook grasped it before it could slip back. Now his paddle was
whirling out of sight. Brook was standing up in the canoe, with the
rope tied around him, ready to jump.

Alf braced himself, and Jimmy held the rope tightly just in front of
where it was around him and drew it taut as Brook leaped. The rope drew
in easily at first. Then came the tug against the current. Jimmy leaned
against the rock to brace himself.

It was all over in a few anxious moments. Brook had bruised himself
among the rocks, but he swam, crept upon a rock, leaped to another,
found himself in quieter waters and was helped to his feet by two
fast-breathing boys who could scarcely speak.

“How--did you get here?” gasped Brook as they helped him ashore.

“That’s the question we would like to ask you,” answered Jimmy after
a brief silence during which they examined Brook to see if he had any
broken bones.

“I’ll tell you about it,” Brook said shamefacedly. “I--I’m awfully
sorry, Jimmy. I hope the canoe will come through all right, but I don’t
see how it can. I’ll make it good, Jimmy, I promise you.”

“We’ll see about that later,” returned Jimmy. “The point is, are you
all right?”

“I--guess so,” Brook said sheepishly. “Got some bruised shins, I think.
It didn’t do me any good.”

“I’ll say not!” Jimmy grinned a little and took Brook’s arms, working
them up and down, one after another. “Swallow any water?”

“Lots.” Brook was glad of that grin and he sheepishly grinned back.
“My arms are all right, only sore. I’ll be black and blue from that
rock I hit first. But I guess I deserve it.”

“Sure you do,” Jimmy said with a chuckle. “And to think I thought you
were at the hut with Pat. Gosh, are we ever lucky! I guess none of us
listened too carefully when Pat told us to be sure not to go off by
ourselves. We’re guilty of the same thing you are, Brook,” he admitted.
“Well, this has been a lesson we’ll never forget and I would say we’ve
gotten off pretty cheaply if it just cost us the canoe. Let’s get back
to Pat right away and tell him we’re all right.”

Alf and Jimmy helped Brook, who was white and wretched after his narrow
escape, and when they got to their canoe they made rapidly for camp.

“Go limp, Brook,” said Jimmy, “and tell us all about it.”

Brook grinned, and said he was “limp all right,” and briefly told
how he had tried to explore the little rapids that looked so easy,
completely forgetting that there were falls in the vicinity. He also
related the incident of the coat and pulled out a wet wad from his
pocket.

“I was going to dry this,” said he, “and see if I couldn’t read a
little of it. Maybe I might as well throw it away.”

“Maybe we can dry it yet,” suggested Alf, interested. “Perhaps it’s a
map to a treasure.”

“Perhaps it isn’t,” laughed Jimmy, but he caught Brook’s hand as he was
about to toss the letter overboard. “Wait. It’s still pretty flat in
the envelope. We’ll dry it out and see. How long were you there when
you found this?”

“Oh, about ten minutes or so.”

“Well, that ten minutes saved your life, kid,” Jimmy grinned. “Alf and
I must have left right after you did and passed you. I wonder if you
would have made it over the falls if we hadn’t come along. I’d like to
go down later and see what it looks like over the brink!”

“So would I, Jimmy,” Brook said.

Jimmy snorted. “You’re going to lie around this afternoon, Brook, after
we fix you up.”

Back at camp they found that Pat was just beginning to get worried.
He had kept their lunch warm for them and looked rather cross as they
beached the canoe. Then he caught a glimpse of Brook’s white face.

“Well, out with it,” Pat said, frowning. “What happened to you, lad?
You look like a drowned rat.”

“I’m worse than that,” Brook said ruefully. “I’m battered and bruised,
too.”

As they all explained what had happened, interrupting each other
constantly, Pat carefully examined Brook to make sure he was not badly
hurt. “Just a strained ligament,” he said, smiling reassuringly. “We’ll
have that shoulder strapped up in no time.”

He went into the hut for his first aid kit, and soon Brook was eating
as hungrily as the other boys. But after lunch he didn’t argue when Pat
said:

“Now, lad, you’re to take it easy the rest of the day.”

The next morning Brook reported that outside of a few bruises, he felt
fine. Then they all went back to see the falls.

“They’re pretty,” Brook said, musingly, “and rocky, but not very high
after all.”

A deep pool lay below, and there was the canoe, bobbing around
aimlessly near the edge of the pool. It had a big gash in its side,
but was not beyond repair, Jimmy reported. He towed it up on the shore
with the aid of the trusty rope and a hook they made with some wire.

“Maybe I could have swum out,” Brook ventured, “but I’m certainly glad
I didn’t have to try it. And most of all, Pat, I’m glad you didn’t make
much of my disobedience of your order. Believe me, it won’t happen
again.”

“I know,” said Pat. “Forget it--it merely was a bit more excitement on
a very pleasant trip.”

After their return from the falls, Brook remembered the dilapidated
letter and got it out. Everyone gathered round him and they all tried
to read it. It was badly torn, obviously a good part of it was missing
and what little was left was hardly discernible. They managed to make
out the words _buried_ and _shed_.

Suddenly Jimmy’s face lighted up. “Say, do you remember last week, the
day we finished the shower, Marjorie showed me a scrap of paper she
said she and Judy had found in a bottle on the beach?”

Alf nodded. “So what? They didn’t find it in any old bottle. They
manufactured the whole story just to kid us.”

“That’s what I thought,” Jimmy said, rather shamefacedly. “But now I
think differently. This piece looks as though it had been torn from the
scrap they found.”

“Holy cow!” Brook stared at him. “And the girls couldn’t have followed
us and planted this part of it in the pocket of that old coat.”

“Of course not,” Jimmy said, grinning, “although if either of them
could drive a car I wouldn’t have put it past them. Besides, you said
the footprints you saw leading to and from the coat were made by a
man’s shoes.”

Jimmy stopped suddenly. “Footprints,” he repeated. “Say, Brook, can we
get to the place where you found the coat by walking?”

“Sure,” Brook said. “It would take twice as long as it would in a
canoe, but,” he added ruefully, “it would be twice as safe.”

“Then let’s go,” Jimmy yelled. “I want to have a look at the footprints
you found in the clearing.” He turned to Pat. “Okay if we go?”

Pat nodded. “As long as you all stick together this time.”

As they hurried through the brush with Brook in the lead, Jimmy
explained. “A few days before you came, Alf,” he said, “we had a lot
of excitement. I told you how Penny fell down into the old well, but
I didn’t tell you that somebody came snooping around the place that
night.”

Alf stared at him. “You certainly didn’t. What’s the idea of keeping
secrets from one?”

Jimmy grinned. “The truth of the matter is that I forgot all about it.
First we figured it was a tramp, and then when we realized that he must
know his way around our property pretty well, we decided it must have
been one of those dopey villagers who think there’s buried treasure on
the place.”

Brook stopped to turn around and glare at Jimmy. “What do you mean
‘dopey’? If you don’t believe in that buried treasure, why did you
lure us into helping you dig up every spot that didn’t have something
growing on it?”

Jimmy’s dark eyes twinkled with laughter. “_I_ believe in the treasure
all right, but I wouldn’t be dopey enough to trespass on other
people’s property at night trying to find it. You can get a bullet
through your head very neatly that way.”

“Oh, I see what you mean,” Brook said, completely mollified. He started
off again at a fast trot. “Was your night prowler a dopey villager?”

“We still don’t know,” Jimmy admitted. “He’s never come back.”

“How do you know he hasn’t?” Alf demanded.

Jimmy groaned, clutching his dark hair in mock dismay. “Will you guys
puh-leeze let me try to explain to you why I want to look at the
footprints in the clearing? Of course we don’t know for sure,” he
said sourly to Alf, “that our snoopy friend didn’t come back. We only
watched out for him that first night. But with all the people who are
at the Lodge now I feel certain one of us would have heard a night
prowler.”

“I’m not at all sure of that,” Alf said stubbornly. “We all sleep like
logs. After a day with a slave driver like you I can barely keep my
eyes open long enough to get undressed and topple into bed.”

“Shut up, Alf,” Brook said over his shoulder. “Let the slavedriver
tell us why we’re taking this long trek through the thickest part of
the woods.”

“Footprints,” Jimmy said in exasperation. “After Phil and Pat fired a
couple of shots in the air, the prowler scrammed. Then we went down to
have a look at the shed. And sure enough, somebody had been there since
we had left. Right near the spot where Penny fell through the rotten
wall, some floor boards had been ripped up and there was a footprint in
the dirt staring us in the face.”

“That guy _was_ dopey,” Alf muttered. “If he had to go around leaving
footprints all over the place, why didn’t he at least put the floor
boards back so you wouldn’t find them?”

Jimmy shrugged. “I figure he sneaked out from the village to dig around
near where we found the well. But just as he got started he realized
that we might not yet have gone to bed. In that case one of us might
have seen the flashlight he must have been using. So he slipped up to
the house to have a look-see. And then Penny saw him.” He chuckled.
“After that he didn’t have time to think about covering up his traces.”

Brook stopped again and mopped his brow. “I’m beginning to see that
there’s a method in your madness. If the footprints I saw in the
clearing match the one you discovered under the shed floor, then we’ll
know that the same man left the old coat out on the point.”

“Your reasoning, my dear Watson,” Jimmy said, grinning, “is excellent.
I will elucidate further. The same man is the owner of the scrap you
found in the pocket of said old coat. And since said note contained the
two words ‘buried’ and ‘shed’ my guess is that the rumor about buried
treasure is more truth than poetry!”

“What are we waiting for?” Brook demanded.

“You,” Jimmy returned. “‘Lead on, Macduff.’”

After that they saved their breath and hurried silently through the mud
and underbrush until at last they emerged into a little clearing.

“This is it,” Brook said. “Get out your magnifying glass, Sherlock.”

Jimmy sank down on his knees and examined the footprints carefully.
“Rubber heels,” he mumbled triumphantly, “and made by the same
manufacturer! See that crescent with a circle around it? It’s a
trademark.”

“Golly!” Alf and Brook yelled in one voice.

Jimmy stood up. “There’s only one hitch in the whole deal. I’m sure now
that there’s something buried under the old shed, but Phil will never
let us dig for it as long as we need the shed for a garage.”

“Holy cow,” Alf groaned. “Then that means you’ll find a barrel of gold
after we’ve gone back to school.”

“Just our luck,” Brook said disconsolately. “I’m never around when
there’s any excitement!”

Jimmy threw back his head and howled with laughter. “About an hour
ago,” he reminded Brook, “you were the very center of excitement. Cheer
up,” he added. “Maybe when we get back and find that the fragment you
found fits the one the girls found, we’ll be able to read something
that’ll convince Phil and Penny we should do something about the ground
under the shed.”

“Maybe,” Alf said without much hope. “But let’s not stick around here
any longer.”

“Let’s not,” Jimmy agreed. “I vote we go back to camp and tell Pat what
we have discovered. He pooh-poohs the idea of buried treasure as much
as Phil and Penny do, but when he hears that the footprints match,
maybe he’ll take the whole business more seriously.”

“_I_ think,” Brook said, “that we ought to convince him at least that
we should go home right away. I’d rather dig for gold than fish,
wouldn’t you?”

Jimmy arched his dark eyebrows with surprise. “And you were the guy who
was complaining a while ago that I’m a slavedriver!”

Back at camp Pat listened soberly when Jimmy told him that the man who
had left his footprint under the shed floor had left other footprints
recently in the clearing on the peninsula.

“Are you sure, lad?” Pat demanded.

Jimmy nodded. “It’s too much of a coincidence to think that someone
else with the same rubber heels had something to do with this piece of
paper which looks like it was torn from the one Marjorie found.”

“You’re right,” Pat said. “Let’s head for home at once!”



CHAPTER 11

THE MISSING FRAGMENT


Shortly after the boys left in the station wagon for their camping
trip, Marjorie said to Judy: “Let’s look at that map again. Penny could
be wrong. Maybe it does show exactly where treasure is buried.”

“Let’s,” Judy agreed. “And maybe we held it upside down or something.
Maybe the big red cross doesn’t mark the spot where Pat planted his
potatoes.”

They raced into the Lodge and down the hall to the storage room. During
the excitement of Peter’s arrival they had left the map, still pasted
in the lid of the jewelry box, on one of the old trunks. Again they
took it over to the window and studied it thoughtfully.

“Let’s see,” Judy said after awhile. “When you’re facing north, west is
on your left isn’t it?”

Marjorie nodded. “So there’s no point in looking at this darn thing
any longer. If it isn’t a phony, the treasure is buried under the
potato hills.”

“I give up,” Judy said with a sigh. “We may as well go down to the
beach and try to find some rare shells. I suppose that’s the only
buried treasure I’ll have the luck to find.”

During the next few days they filled a bucket with shells which they
hoped were collectors’ items, but which Phil and Peter told them were
worthless.

“That is the worst about being a girl!” Judy Powell said in a moment of
disgust. “The boys will come back with wonderful stories about how many
fish they caught and the rapids they ran--and everything!” Judy’s ideas
of what the boys were doing ran out.

Marjorie and Judy were sitting in their favorite spot on the pier,
dangling their feet in the water. They wore their bathing suits and
had just watched the cruiser take off with a group of the younger
guests, exclusive of themselves. They had not wanted to go since Mal
had promised to take them on a picnic in the woods. Just at this moment
they were in the old familiar throes of not knowing what to do next.

“Let them rave,” said Marjorie. “We’ve things to tell the boys, too.”

“They wouldn’t think that _we_ do anything,” said Judy rather crossly.

“Maybe we could think up something different,” said Marjorie, a little
worried. “Aren’t you having a good time, Judy?”

“My, yes! I didn’t mean that,” Judy said quickly. “I was just thinking
what a grand time they must be having. I’d like to shoot rapids.”

“Come up again next summer and we’ll get Pat and Mal to take us on a
canoeing trip.”

“You probably couldn’t get my mother to say yes.” Judy laughed. “Let’s
go back to the house and see if we’re missing anything.” Just as they
started back toward the Lodge they heard the loud honking of a car on
the drive.

“Oh,” cried Judy, “I’ll bet the boys have come home. I wonder what made
them come back before the week was out.”

“Something awful must have happened to one of them,” Marjorie gasped as
they began to run as fast as they could.

Sure enough, the station wagon was parked in front of the Lodge and the
boys were tumbling out of it.

“They certainly don’t look as though anything awful had happened to
them,” Judy panted.

“Hi, everybody,” Jimmy was shouting to the crowd that had gathered on
the porch. When the girls reached the steps they heard him say quietly
to Penny and Phil:

“Say, how about calling a meeting of the Board of Directors right away?”

“We can’t, Jimmy,” Penny said. “Everyone is busy.”

“Well, then,” he said. “A meeting of the Allens in the office. I’ve got
something in my pocket which I think the rest of the family ought to
know about as soon as possible.”

Penny could tell from the sober expression on Jimmy’s tanned face that
this was not a joke. She beckoned to Phil and Marjorie and led the way
into the office.

“On second thought,” Jimmy said as he followed her, “let’s get Peter in
on this. I’d like to hear his opinion of the whole thing. Besides,” he
added in a low teasing voice, “he’s practically family anyway.”

Penny’s cheeks flamed. “Jimmy,” she said, mildly scolding, “you never
can be serious for more than five minutes at a time.”

“I’m pretty darn serious now,” Jimmy said. When they had all gathered
around the desk, he closed the door and produced the scrap of paper
which Brook had found in the old coat.

After one swift glance, Penny said, “Why, Peter, the handwriting looks
just like the one on the fragment Marjorie found. Where on earth did
you find it, Jimmy?”

Jimmy explained and Penny frowned as she listened. “Brook had no
business taking that envelope out of a coat he found,” she said.

Peter chuckled. “Maybe he didn’t have any right to take it, Penny, but
in my opinion it was put where it was so that no boy could resist the
temptation.”

Penny thought for a minute. Again she read the blurred words, more
carefully this time.

  We’ll meet a
  the las
  and look for the tre
  I’m sure it’s buried
  old shed nea
  has long run

Then she pulled out of her desk drawer the fragment Marjorie had found
in the green bottle. The two pieces fit together as perfectly as a
jigsaw puzzle. Now they could all read the complete page:

  We’ll meet at the Log cabin
  the last week in August
  and look for the treasure again.
  I’m sure it’s buried near the
  old shed near a well that
  has long run dry.

“Oh, oh,” Jimmy moaned. “That means more digging. I guess we didn’t dig
deep enough.”

“But what about the map?” Marjorie demanded. “It showed that treasure
was buried behind the Donahues’ cabin.”

“None of it makes any sense,” Peter said calmly. “And you kids may
as well accept the fact right now that the map and the two fragments
aren’t clues. They’re obviously red herrings, deliberately planted to
keep us busy looking for buried treasure.”

“I don’t get it,” Jimmy said frankly.

“It’s this way,” Phil explained. “Peter, Penny and I figure that there
_is_ something valuable hidden around here. Somebody who obviously
isn’t honest knows where it is. He wants to keep us from finding it.”

“Oh golly,” Marjorie broke in, “wait until I tell Judy about this.
We’ll spend the rest of the summer going over the whole place with a
fine-tooth comb.”

“Oh, no, you won’t,” Penny said, laughing. “I have a better idea, and
one that won’t drive our guests out of their minds.”

Peter stared at her in amazement. “Have you been keeping secrets from
me?” he asked, pretending that his feelings were hurt.

“Oh, no,” Penny told him hastily. “The idea just came to me this
minute. Actually, the words, ‘last week in August’ gave it to me.”
Her cheeks flushed with excitement, she went on. “One morning last
week when I was out in the kitchen discussing menus with Ann Mary, she
suggested that we give a masquerade party. There are plenty of grand
costumes in the old trunks for all of the ladies, and you men can rig
up outfits from old curtains and stuff in our boxes.”

“A swell idea,” Jimmy said. “But what’s it got to do with finding
hidden treasure?”

Penny smiled at him patiently. “If you’d only let me finish! Ann Mary
and I decided that the last Friday in August would be a good time for
the party. Most of the guests will be leaving early in September, so it
would be sort of a last fling.”

Jimmy began to sing, “After the ball is o-ver. After the guests have
gone.”

“Stop interrupting,” Marjorie said, glaring at him. “Let Penny finish.”

“Well,” Penny went on, “we planned the party just for ourselves and our
guests. But now I think we should issue a blanket invitation to all the
merchants in town. It will be our way of expressing our appreciation
of the way they cooperated with us all summer. Now,” she finished, “you
can all guess the rest.”

“Not me,” Marjorie said, rapidly blinking her blue eyes.

Jimmy clutched his dark hair wildly. “I follow you as closely as though
you’d had a million-mile head start.”

Peter was staring at Penny with frank admiration. “You _are_ smart,”
he said. “Don’t you see?” he asked Jimmy and Marjorie. “Our Mr. X, or
our Messrs. X, for there may be more than one, will certainly be among
those present at the masquerade. With everyone coming masked and in
costume, he wouldn’t miss the chance. He’ll come out sure that he can
get whatever he’s after and depart before the unmasking.”

“Holy cow,” Jimmy exploded. “Penny _is_ smart. Instead of our wearing
ourselves out looking for hidden treasure, he’ll lead us right to it.”

Marjorie gave her sister an impulsive hug. “It’s the grandest idea
anyone ever invented,” she cried.

“And,” Jimmy put in, suddenly remembering the main reason why they had
persuaded Pat to cut the camping trip short, “I’m pretty sure there’s
only one Mr. X.”

“Don’t be a dope,” Marjorie said. “I’m sure there are two. One of them
put the bottle where he was sure Judy and I would find it while we were
looking for shells. And the other put the coat where you boys couldn’t
miss it.”

Jimmy shrugged. “Maybe so, but the same Mr. X who left his footprint
under the floor of the shed planted the coat.”

“Yipes,” Peter moaned. “What’s all this about a footprint under the
shed? I thought it was a garage filled with cars.”

“It is now,” Penny explained with a chuckle. “Before we converted it,
someone ripped up part of the floor and left a footprint in the dirt.”

“That’s right,” Jimmy said. “And he also left footprints in a clearing
back where Brook found the coat. Footprints,” he finished triumphantly,
“with rubber heels made by the same manufacturer.”

“Why, Jimmy Allen,” Marjorie gasped admiringly, “you’re so smart you
ought to get a job with the FBI.”

But Penny laughed. “Now all the red herrings fit together like the
pieces of this paper. Don’t you see, Jimmy? Mr. X deliberately left
that footprint in the shed in plain view so I might believe that he had
had something to do with my accident. Right, Peter?”

“Right,” Peter said. “As soon as Mr. X heard you had fallen down the
well, he wrote the letter which you received the next day. Then that
evening he sneaked out to plant evidence which he hoped would back up
his threat.”

“Oh, gosh,” Jimmy said disconsolately. “We’re right back where we
started. But at least we can be pretty sure that there’s only one Mr.
X.”

“We can’t be sure of anything,” Phil said soberly. “Except that whoever
it is really does mean business. The very fact that one of them jumped
on Mal that night when we chased him away proves that. An ordinary
night prowler would have tried to sneak away without being seen.”

“Well,” Marjorie said cheerfully, “we mean business now, too. And we’re
sure to catch him the night of the masquerade when he comes here to get
the treasure.”

“Wa--ait a minute,” Phil said cautiously. “What’s to prevent Mr. X
from getting by with his scheme? We can’t be everywhere at once in a
place as big as this, especially when so many people will be milling
around.”

“And,” Peter added, “how will we know whom to keep an eye on?” He
smiled at Penny. “You planned, of course, to have police detectives
here in costume, too.”

“No, I didn’t,” Penny admitted. “I thought it would be more fun if we
set a trap and caught Mr. or Messrs. X ourselves.”

“What sort of a trap?” Phil asked, frowning.

“I don’t know exactly,” Penny admitted. “But I think it ought to have
something to do with the secret room. For one thing, Ann Mary and I
planned that just before the unmasking we might spring it on our guests
as a surprise. None of them except Adra has any idea where it is.”

Marjorie felt very uncomfortable at that moment. She opened her
mouth to confess that she had showed it to Judy, but decided against
interrupting Penny until she had finished.

“When we open the door,” Penny went on, “those who want to go down
into the room will have to take turns, because it’s too small to hold
them all at the same time. I thought that if anyone had been acting
suspiciously before that, we might be able to lure him down alone and
then we could quickly press the button and lock him in.” She added,
turning to Peter, “Then you can call in the police.”

He shook his head worriedly. “_You_ are not going to be the one to lure
him down into the room alone.”

“Of course not,” Jimmy said quickly. “_I_ will.”

“No, you won’t,” Phil told him emphatically. “The man may be armed and
I’m the only one who has a pistol license. I’ll go down with him and
one of you can close the door. If he’s really been acting suspiciously,
I’ll suggest that he unmask. If he’s the man we want, he’ll refuse.
Then I’ll produce my gun and keep him there while I knock on the door.
That will be the signal that our scheme worked.”

“I don’t like the idea of your being locked down there with him,” Penny
objected.

“It’s the only answer,” Phil insisted. “Once he has any idea that
we suspect him, he may make a wild dash for safety, and that would
frighten some of our guests very badly. Besides, he might escape. With
all those people wandering in and out of the Lodge, I wouldn’t dare use
my gun.” He turned to Peter. “What do you think of the plan?”

“It’s okay except for one thing,” Peter said. “What if Mr. X doesn’t do
anything to make us suspect him? Up until the unmasking we won’t have
any way of knowing whether he is one of the village merchants or not.
And by that time he will certainly have disappeared.”

“Oh, he’s bound to do something to make him stand out from the others,”
Marjorie put in. “And he’ll probably be very careless because he won’t
have any idea that we plan to catch him in a trap.”

“That’s true,” Peter admitted.

“Sometimes,” Jimmy said with a teasing grin, “the gal makes sense.”

Phil stood up. “If we’re all agreed, I may as well go down to the
village now and spread the word about the party.”

“And I,” said Penny, rising, too, “had better go through the stuff in
the storage room and see what we have. I thought it might be fun to
decorate the secret room so it’ll look good and scary.”

“I’ll help,” Marjorie said. “I know where there’s one of those old
paper skeletons that we used to hang up on Hallowe’en.” She slipped her
arm through Penny’s. “Oh, isn’t it going to be fun? Even if we don’t
catch Mr. X, the masquerade will be the best event of the whole summer.”

“I hope so,” Penny said. “And I hope we do catch him. Even if he’s just
a crank and isn’t after anything valuable, he’s annoyed us enough. It’s
time we put a stop to it.”

She glanced back over her shoulder at Peter who was still sitting at
the desk.

“Oh, dear,” she thought reading the anxious expression on his face.
“He still thinks we ought to get help from the police.” She shivered
involuntarily. “Maybe before the party is over we’ll be sorry we didn’t
follow his advice.”



CHAPTER 12

SETTING THE TRAP


The next two weeks were busy ones for everyone connected with the
Lodge. From morning to night there was a terrific amount of hustling
and bustling around the house, inside and out. Everyone was loaning
something or borrowing something to wear at the last big party of the
season.

Brook, Alf and Jimmy, all amateur but experienced electricians,
extended wires from the house to the trees so that the lawn would be
bright with lanterns.

“Just in case there’s no moon,” Phil said.

“If it rains, I’ll die,” Marjorie said nervously.

She and Judy were helping the boys, and Judy insisted upon knowing what
each one planned to wear.

“We’re all going as cowboys,” Jimmy called down from the fork of a tall
tree.

“How original of you,” Marjorie said sarcastically. “And it shows how
lazy you are too. All you have to do is stuff the legs of your jeans
in boots, tie bandannas around your necks, and borrow toy guns and
holsters from kids in the village.”

“So what?” Alf demanded. “With masks on nobody will recognize us, not
even you two.”

“We wouldn’t even try,” Judy informed him airily. “There’ll probably
be so many cowboys here that night it would be like trying to find a
needle in a haystack.”

“I hope Mr. X wears something more original,” Marjorie said without
thinking.

“Who?” Judy demanded.

“Er--nobody,” Marjorie said hastily. The Allens, at Peter’s suggestion,
had decided not to share their secret with any of the other guests.

“If too many people know that we’re planning to set a trap,” he had
said, “it won’t be long before Mr. X knows too.”

To change the subject Marjorie said to Brook: “Phil and Penny wrote to
New York and they heard today that I can get into that small boarding
school I told you about. It’s up on the Hudson. Golly, I hate to think
of going away from here.”

“I know how you feel,” Brook said sympathetically. “But just the same
I’m glad you’re going to a school that isn’t very far from mine. When
we have dances, you’ll come as my guest, won’t you?”

Marjorie blushed. She _did_ like Brook, and it would be fun to go to
school dances with him, but she wished he hadn’t asked her when Jimmy
was around. Jimmy thought it was fun to tease Judy Powell, but Marjorie
knew that he thought girls were a nuisance. He also thought that boys
who asked girls to parties were dopes. She waited tensely for the
caustic remark she knew was coming.

To her surprise, Jimmy said nothing. He climbed down from the fork of
the tree and gave her a look which said plainer than words:

“Watch your step, stupid. You almost let the cat out of the bag.”

And then Marjorie realized to her dismay that all of the others were
staring at her curiously. Every one of them had heard her blurt out:
“I hope Mr. X wears something more original.” They were overcome with
curiosity but they were all too polite to ask any more questions.

Hastily Marjorie said, “Aren’t you all starving? I’ll go ask Ann Mary
if I can’t fix some lemonade and raid the cooky jar.”

She was off without waiting for their replies, but Judy raced after
her. Marjorie’s heart sank. As soon as they were out of earshot of the
boys, Judy’s curiosity would get the better of her good manners. She
would demand an explanation of Marjorie’s unfortunate remark.

Then Marjorie had an idea. “You know,” she said casually, “I’ll bet a
lot of people come to the party disguised as the ghost who’s supposed
to haunt the Lodge. I think of him as Mr. X and he wears a long gray
beard. It would be hard to see through that disguise. I mean, a long
flowing white robe, a wig and a mask with a long gray beard.”

Judy looked disappointed but Marjorie knew that her curiosity was
satisfied. “It would be a perfect disguise,” Judy said. “And much more
original than a cowboy outfit.”

Back in the Lodge they found all the other guests busy making final
decisions about their costumes. The ladies had all enjoyed going
through the trunks, spending one entire day rummaging, to the great
delight of the younger fry. Some of the people had gone into town
to get extra things for their costumes from the local stores. They
reported that the townspeople, too, were all excited about the party
and that a great many of them were planning to come.

At last it was the day of the big event, and to Marjorie’s delight the
sun shone brightly in an almost cloudless sky.

Penny had decided to wear the old wedding dress from the trunk. It
was beautiful even though it had yellowed with age. Adra was wearing
a green silk dress with matching slippers from the same old trunk.
Penny and Marjorie helped each other fix their costumes, and Marjorie
suggested to Penny that she should wear the veil that went with the
dress and thus really look like a bride.

“Because, Sis,” Marjorie said unashamedly, “you _are_ going to be a
bride pretty soon. You might as well start getting used to the idea.”

Penny’s cheeks flamed. Then she suddenly threw her arms around
Marjorie. “Oh, honey, if only I could be _sure_. There’s no sense in my
trying to hide from you that I love Peter. But how can I be sure that
he loves me?”

Marjorie sniffed. “Penny, you idiot! It’s written all over his face
whenever he looks at you. And when you’re not around he mopes, except
when he’s shooting daggers with his eyes at Charles Curtis.”

Penny couldn’t help smiling. Then she frowned. “But that doesn’t mean
I’ll be a bride very soon. Peter may love me, but neither of us has
enough money to start in housekeeping. Maybe,” she added wistfully,
“that’s why Peter doesn’t tell me now that he loves me.”

“Pooh.” Marjorie snorted. “You can live on love. Besides, we must have
made a lot of money on the Lodge this summer.”

“Not really,” Penny told her. “We had to hire an awful lot of help,
you know. And this whole month the laundry has been so huge we had to
pay Mr. Taggart twice as much as he estimated in the beginning. It had
to be taken into the village four times a week.” She sighed. “And the
girls we originally hired to come out only to wait on the tables and
help with the ironing had to work full time.”

“Never mind,” Marjorie said consolingly. “It’s been fun.”

Penny brightened. “Oh, I don’t mean that we didn’t make any money.
There’s enough to see you and Jimmy through school. But Phil and I want
you to go to college. Both of you.”

“We won’t go,” Marjorie said stanchly. “Not if it means you can’t marry
Peter when he asks you to. After the experience we’ve had this summer
we can both get jobs.” She pirouetted around the room. “Don’t you think
I’d make somebody a wonderful secretary?”

“Wonderful.” Penny giggled. “But not a very dignified one. No, honey,”
she went on seriously, “don’t you worry your pretty head about getting
a job just yet. Things will work out somehow. I know they will.”

To herself she added, “If Peter asks me to marry him, I’ll say yes.
_Together_ we can work things out.”

“I tell you what let’s do,” Marjorie cried. “Let’s have dress rehearsal
right now. Here, in your room. Just us and Judy ’cause she’s going
to be my twin. And Ann Mary so she can give our costumes a final
inspection.” She danced away.

In a short while they were all crowding into Penny’s room, laughing and
making fun of each other.

Marjorie and Judy were dressed alike in little Swiss peasant girl
costumes. Jimmy made a very handsome cowboy and Philip was a
swashbuckling pirate. A banquet was to be served at midnight after
the unmasking, and since this was the event of the summer, Ann Mary
had included all her specialties in the menu. She stayed at the
dress rehearsal only long enough to assure them that they all looked
wonderful, then hurried away.

In spite of last-minute preparations, the Allens and Peter made time
for a final conference in the office.

“Let’s try to have as much fun as possible,” Peter said, “but we
mustn’t forget for one minute that we’re all detectives.”

“That’s right,” Phil agreed. “If any one of us notices a guest acting
suspiciously, he or she must report at once to the others. There’ll be
over a hundred people here tonight, so we’ve all got to be on our toes.
Every minute,” he added soberly.

Jimmy nodded. “Every minute until the unmasking anyway. Which means
between the hours of ten and midnight. Not many people will arrive
before ten even though we invited them to come at nine-thirty.”

Penny was sketching a floor plan of the Lodge on a large sheet of
paper. “Whatever Mr. X is after,” she said, “it obviously isn’t
buried on the grounds. If it were, he wouldn’t have planted those red
herrings. Therefore, it’s probably in the house. If it’s upstairs, all
we have to do is make sure that nobody but our house guests and help
goes up without our knowing it. We all know what costumes they’ll be
wearing so that’s easy. But it will be Peter and Marjorie’s job to keep
an eye on the back stairs; Jimmy and I, the front.”

Everyone nodded, and Penny went on. “If it’s downstairs, Mr. X will
know that he hasn’t got a prayer of searching for it, unless it’s in
the office or the storage room, and I’ve locked those doors securely,
so he can’t slip in and out unnoticed. The other downstairs rooms will
be filled with people all the time, including the kitchen. The logical
time for him to try to find whatever he plans to steal will be when
everyone is gathered in one room.”

She smiled up at Peter. “In order to be sure we catch Mr. X in our
trap, I have carefully dropped hints throughout the village that at
eleven-thirty on the dot we’re going to show our guests the secret
room. Don’t you think he’ll choose that time, when everyone’s attention
will be concentrated on one spot, to do something which will attract
our attention?”

“I certainly do,” Peter said. “He’ll be the one guest at that moment
who won’t crowd into the alcove to see how the secret door works.
Unless,” he added thoughtfully, “whatever he happens to be after is in
the secret room itself.”

“I thought of that,” Penny said. “And since he can’t possibly know
how the secret doors works, he’ll wait until after that part of the
evening’s entertainment is over. Then he’ll try to sneak back and go
down into the room while we’re unmasking.” She chuckled. “In that case,
he’ll walk right into our trap. After the last guest has left, Phil can
stay behind and hide in the alcove. If Mr. X sneaks back and goes down
into the room, all Phil has to do is fasten the door from the outside,
once Mr. X is safely down the stairs. Then we can call the police, for
obviously no honest person would go into the secret room without our
permission.”

“I object,” Jimmy said. “According to that scheme, we’ll catch Mr. X,
but we still won’t know what he was trying to steal.”

“I agree with Jimmy,” Phil said. “So instead of hiding in the alcove
after the guests have all seen the secret room, I’ll hide down in the
room itself. Behind the black draperies you’ve hung on the walls. If
he sneaks back, I’ll stay there until _after_ he’s got whatever he’s
trying to get. Then at the point of my gun I’ll make him turn it over
to me and--”

Penny interrupted with a frown: “I still don’t like the idea of your
being down in the room alone with someone who may be a dangerous
criminal, Phil.”

“Oh, Penny,” Marjorie cried impulsively, “Phil can take care of
himself. Besides, Mr. X won’t have any idea that he’s hiding behind the
black curtains. Also,” she added, “what Mr. X wants may not be in the
secret room after all.”

“That’s true,” Penny admitted reluctantly.

“Then the scheme is this,” Peter said, summing it up. “If you and
Marjorie see a stranger sneak upstairs before the unmasking, you’re to
report at once to Phil, Jimmy and me. We’ll follow him and catch him in
the act. If no one does anything suspicious, Phil will remain in the
secret room after the guests have seen it. Pat, who will open the door,
will close it when everyone has left the alcove. Then we’ll all go into
the big room for the unmasking and wait until Phil signals that he has
caught a rat in his trap. You can do that, Phil,” he finished, “as we
already agreed, by banging on the door.”

And so the final arrangements were made. But Penny, as she hurried
upstairs with Marjorie to dress for the occasion, knew that Peter was
worried. He didn’t like the idea of Phil being locked in the secret
room with Mr. X any more than she did.

“But,” she realized suddenly, “Phil won’t be _locked_ in after all.
Even though we may deliberately play into Mr. X’s hands by showing him
how to get into the secret room, he won’t know where the spring is that
closes the door on the other side.”

And, as Marjorie pointed out while they helped each other with their
costumes: “The whole thing may be a flop. We don’t know for sure that
there is anything valuable hidden in the Lodge, or that Mr. X will be
among those present tonight.”



CHAPTER 13

PHILIP TRAPS A THIEF


Peter Wyland knew that Penny would be coming down the back way when she
was ready, instead of down the stairs from the balcony. When he was in
his costume he waited at the foot of the back stairs. The large room at
the bottom of the steps was dimly lit.

Presently Penny, a sweet vision, appeared at the top of the steps.
She gathered her draperies for the descent, unconscious of anyone’s
presence. The veil, which Marjorie had persuaded her to wear, floated
behind her, caught back from her face by pins and a white rose.

When she was halfway down, Peter stepped into the light. “Penny,” he
said in a low voice, “you look lovely. I should have been waiting here
with a minister!”

Peter was beside the surprised Penny in a moment, leading her down the
few remaining steps to the room where he tenderly put his arms around
her and kissed her. “I can’t wait any longer, Penny, to tell you how I
love you!” Peter’s voice was a little nervous. What he had intended to
say deserted him. “Will you--will you wear a dress like this for me,
soon?”

Penny, who had not had a chance to utter a word, and whose breath was
taken away by the surprise of having Peter kiss her, merely said,
“Oh,--why, Peter,” as he led her to a little sofa in the corner of the
room.

“Sit here with me just a minute, Penny. I’ve been waiting to ask you
for so long, only I’ve never known whether you were just being kind
and sweet to me because you’re that way with everyone, or whether you
could like me well enough to marry me. I saw that there was Charles
Curtis--but if you were engaged to him, I figured Phil would tip me
off. I am sort of a coward where you are concerned, Penny. Don’t tell
me that you like Charley best! Do you love me a little?”

Peter’s voice was low and eager. He held one of Penny’s hands tightly
in his.

Penny was not the sort to keep the man she loved in a state of
uncertainty. “Did you know you’ve loved me all summer, Peter? I wish
you’d told me sooner, because you see, I’ve been in love with you,
too.” It was all right at last. “I knew last year that I loved you
Peter, but I couldn’t very well let you know it!” Penny’s hand was
almost crushed as Peter’s face lit up with joy. He swept her into his
arms again for another kiss, and Penny said, “I could stay here and
forget all about my duties to my guests, but we mustn’t forget about
Mr. X. And I’ll have to go upstairs again, Peter. See how you have
mussed this veil.”

“Not beyond repair, I hope,” he said, smiling. “Penny, before you go,
say you’ll marry me this fall, as soon as the guests leave?”

“Silly man! You take my breath away,” Penny laughed. “But it is
wonderful that you are silly about me, Peter. I can’t think straight
right this minute, but we’ll talk about it later. Marjorie and Jimmy
are going to school in September. Phil is going to New York to work
for Mr. Prentice and to go to school nights. He wants to be near
Adra. Mercy--I’m all mixed up. There will be so much to see to. Could
you--could we have our honeymoon right here?”

“I can’t think of a more wonderful spot,” Peter said. “Our life is
going to be all honeymoon from now on. As long as I know we love each
other that’s enough to make me walk on air the rest of the evening.
What a pity we can’t be by ourselves. I’ll be thinking of you every
single minute, darling.”

Peter waited until Penny went back to her room to repair damages. It
took her but a few minutes and when she made her appearance in the
living room, she was immediately surrounded and admired by everyone.

With the keen eye of an experienced hostess, she glanced around to see
that everyone was being entertained in some fashion. She recognized
most of the guests regardless of their masks, and she noted that there
was quite an assembly of townspeople whom she could not recognize
because of their disguises. Mr. and Mrs. Curtis were dressed as George
and Martha Washington and they looked very distinguished. They were
talking to Marjorie just now and saying something that made her laugh.
There was Charles Curtis dancing with a lovely girl who had spent
several weekends at the Lodge and had come back for the masquerade.
When he danced by Penny he stopped for a minute and said, “I’ll wager
that this is our fair hostess. Shall I telephone the parson? It’s hard
to resist such a bride!”

“You are incorrigible, Charles,” Penny reported.

“And you look radiant tonight, Penny.” And off he danced with his
partner. It was hard for Penny to get her mind on anything else except
Peter. Dear, eager, wonderful Peter. But she had many things to do. The
tables in the dining room had to be checked, and then she had to return
and take part in the party. She looked around at the guests once more
trying to place some of those who did not look familiar. There was one
masquerader in particular who caught her eye. He was dressed as the
bearded ghost that was supposed to wander about the Lodge, but aside
from the long beard and white wig he seemed to be quite young, vigorous
and active. He was too heavy for Alf who had once said something about
dressing up as a graybeard. He was with Adra a good deal of the time
but mingled with the rest and danced well.

All the guests had arrived and the party was in full swing. It was
nearly time for Philip to announce that he was going to show everybody
the secret room. Peter came into the room just a few minutes before
this and slipping an arm around Penny, he said, “Congratulate me, Phil,
I’m going to be your brother-in-law.”

Philip stared a moment, then put a hand on Peter’s shoulder and told
him there was no one to whom he’d rather hand over Penny. “Good work,
Peter,” he said. “Congratulations. Even if she is my sister, I must say
you’re getting a wonderful girl.”

“Nobody knows that better than I,” Peter said humbly.

“Stop it, you two,” Penny cried. “I’ll get a head too big for my
shoulders if you keep it up. By the way, do either of you recognize
that man over there disguised as Graybeard?”

“I think that’s Mr. Sanders. He said something about wearing such a
costume when Alf gave up the idea,” said Peter.

“No, it isn’t Mr. Sanders,” Penny said. “But there’s something very
familiar about him. I’m sure I know him but I can’t quite put my finger
on who he is.”

“Has he done anything suspicious?” Phil asked.

“Not a thing,” Penny admitted. Then she laughed. “But he has been
paying quite a lot of attention to Adra. You’d better watch out, Phil.”

Phil frowned. “I’ll be glad when this evening is over. I’ve hardly had
a chance to speak to Adra since breakfast. And--and, well I guess you
two know how I feel about her.”

“We do,” Penny told him, smiling. “But the question is, does she?” She
gave him a fond pat on the cheek. “Faint heart never won fair lady,
Phil.”

“That’s right,” Peter said, grinning. “Once you get used to the idea,
Phil, proposing to the girl you love isn’t so difficult.”

“I suppose not,” Phil said dubiously, “but if I rush matters I might
ruin my chances with Adra.”

Marjorie joined them then. “Nobody’s done anything suspicious at all,”
she complained. “The whole scheme is a flop.”

“The evening isn’t over yet,” Penny reminded her. She tucked her hand
in the crook of Peter’s arm, blushing. “We’re going to announce our
engagement at the banquet. And if Phil takes my advice, he’ll propose
to Adra before the party is over.” She smiled at Marjorie. “Isn’t that
enough excitement for you?”

“Oh, oh,” Marjorie cried, hugging Penny. “I’m so glad. Wait until I
tell Judy.” She was off, completely forgetting to congratulate the
bridegroom-to-be.

A short while after that Penny went upstairs with Adra and told her
that she and Peter were engaged.

“I’m so happy for you both,” Adra said, rather wistfully.

Penny said nothing, but she guessed that when Phil did propose, the
answer would be yes. She hurried downstairs again for, from the
balcony, she could see that the guests were already crowding into the
alcove.

Most of the younger men, as Marjorie had predicted, were dressed as
cowboys, complete with bandannas, chaps and guns in their holsters.
Penny had not been able to pick out Brook and Alf, but she knew that
Jimmy was the tallest cowboy of them all.

He was waiting for her at the foot of the stairs. “Everybody’s
all set,” he told her. “Pat’s pressing the button that moves the
bookshelves now.” When Adra came down from the balcony he added, “Let’s
wait out here. It’ll only add to the confusion if we, who have already
seen the secret room, join the crowd in the alcove.”

“All right,” Adra said, sitting on the bottom step. “I’m exhausted. Mr.
Graybeard is a wonderful dancer, but he never wants to stop for a rest.”

“Who is that guy anyway?” Jimmy asked. “He looks familiar, but I can’t
place him.”

“Neither can I,” Penny said. “But then I can’t place a lot of the
people here.” She pointed to two cowboys who were standing just outside
the alcove. “For instance, are those two guests Alf and Brook? I
wouldn’t know.”

And then Penny saw something that made her turn and race up the stairs.
The guns that those two cowboys were slipping from their holsters were
not toy pistols. Even at that distance she could see that they were
small, but deadly-looking automatics.

In the meantime, Philip, in the alcove, was making his little speech to
the assembled guests.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said and waited a moment for attention.

“There is one little feature of Allen Lodge that has not been on
exhibit, a place we call the secret room.” Philip paused again, for
effect this time, and a murmur of interest ran around the room.

“When we first moved into this Lodge we found it accidentally and
we decided to surprise you with it tonight. This room has a curious
entrance and when I open the door you will see the little wall safe
that has held your money and jewelry. We are sorry to say there is no
other treasure down there. Believe me, when we heard of the rumors
about buried treasure, we turned the place upside down to see if we
could find it, without success.”

Philip deliberately assumed a very disappointed look on his face and
the guests all laughed. Then he went on, “But maybe the Allens didn’t
look in the right places, and possibly Mr. Graybeard, the ghost I see
here tonight, may find some treasure for us. Masks and costumes are
appropriate to our mysterious visit to a mysterious room. Look for
treasure! We will have to go down in groups since it is a small room.
The people immediately surrounding me can come down first and perhaps
Mr. Graybeard will lend atmosphere by posing near the safe.”

“I’d be delighted,” Mr. Graybeard said.

Philip glanced at him, thinking: “His voice is familiar, but I’m sure
he isn’t any of the merchants in the village we deal with.” Aloud he
continued his speech:

“When we come back up from the secret room we’ll unmask and go into
the big dining room for the banquet. I hope you have all been keeping
a list of the people whom you think you have recognized. As you know,
we’re going to gather up your lists as you enter the dining room.
During the banquet, prizes will be awarded to the guests who have
guessed the largest number of people correctly.”

After the applause that followed Philip’s speech, Pat pressed the
button that moved the bookshelves aside. From then on Philip was kept
busy leading one little party after another down into the secret room.

Mr. Graybeard went with the first group and added to the ghostly
atmosphere by posing near the safe. Behind him the paper skeleton
dangled precariously from the ceiling.

When the last guest had inspected the little room and had gone back up
the stairs to the alcove, Philip said to Graybeard, “Thanks for helping
us out. You make a swell ghost. Who are you anyway?”

“Never mind,” said a cold, crisp voice. “Turn around and come down the
steps with your hands up.”

With one swift gesture, Philip released the spring that closed the
secret door. Then he turned to face the gun Graybeard was pointing at
him.

Philip was caught in his own trap, but at least the man and his pistol
could neither harm nor frighten the people on the other side of the
door.

Philip came slowly down the steps. “So you’re our mysterious Mr. X,” he
said coolly.

“Call me anything you like,” Graybeard said, taking Philip’s own pistol
from his pocket. “Now open that safe.”

Philip shrugged. “Anything to oblige.” he said.

“And don’t try to pull any tricks,” Graybeard warned him. “Upstairs,
two men I hired for the occasion are at this very moment relieving your
guests of their excess jewelry and cash.”

So it was a planned robbery! And Graybeard’s henchmen had probably come
disguised as cowboys, carrying real pistols in their holsters!

For a moment, Phil was paralyzed with worry about the girls. Penny and
Marjorie were so impulsive! Would they submit quietly to a holdup? And
Adra?

He felt sure that the older women, although they would be frightened
at the sight of guns, would do nothing which might arouse the anger of
armed criminals. But the girls!

The voice behind the mask repeated menacingly, “_Open that safe!_”

Philip quickly obeyed. There was nothing else to do. Peter had been
right all along: They should have called on the police for help.

Philip twirled the dial and opened the door of the safe. “Help
yourself,” he said curtly.

“I am very much engaged in watching you,” replied the man. Philip had
no choice. He emptied the safe and handed its contents to the masked
burglar.

There was a good sum of money, the payments of the guests for the
week. It was mostly in checks and a great deal of the jewelry had
been removed from the safe for the occasion. Philip was thanking his
lucky stars that they didn’t keep too much cash, valuable articles or
important papers. Philip tried to get a good look at the man’s face
under his beard, but it and the mask over his nose and eyes completely
hid his features.

Could this really be the mysterious Mr. X? No, Philip decided.
Graybeard was nothing but a common ordinary burglar. And yet there was
something familiar about him.

The man tucked the money into his pocket, then looked contemptuously at
the bit of jewelry but put it into another pocket. Philip listened to
hurrying footsteps overhead and could see that Graybeard was perturbed
by them. But there was no catching this man off guard. He held the gun
close to Philip every minute. He again ordered Philip to put his hands
into the air, while he felt around the inside of the safe. Philip could
not help but think what a curious picture this man with his long gray
beard made, as he searched through the empty safe with one hand and
kept his pistol pointed at Philip with the other. What on earth was he
searching for?

Then Philip heard a little click, and suddenly a drawer on two little
steel rods dropped down from inside the top of the safe.

“Missed that part of it, didn’t you?” Graybeard sneered. “Empty that
drawer and hand me the stuff.”

Philip was so surprised he stood there with his mouth open for a full
minute, then with great interest he looked at this drawer that he
had never seen before. It was wide and shallow and full of papers.
Evidently a little hidden spring had released the rods that held the
drawer in place. Could this be the place where the rumored treasure was
supposed to be hidden? Philip mentally kicked himself for not having
thought of such a possibility before. Much good it would do them now.
Idiot that he had been not to have taken ordinary precautions that
night. What fools they had all been not to follow Peter’s advice!

No wonder Mr. X Graybeard had planted red herrings guaranteed to keep
Jimmy and Marjorie searching everywhere for hidden treasure except in
their own safe.

“Quit stalling,” Graybeard growled, poking Philip with his gun. “Come
on, hand over that stuff and make it snappy. The boys upstairs must be
about ready to go.”

Philip took from the drawer two packages of old papers that looked like
receipted bills, and a large, bulging Manila envelope. This Graybeard
snatched from Phil’s hand and pocketed it with a satisfied air. He
glanced at the old papers and said, “You can throw those away. What
I want is bound to be in this envelope.” He went on in a patronizing
voice, “Thanks, sonny boy. If you hadn’t played right into my hands,
I might have had to use some ‘soup’ to blow the lock off that safe.
Messy stuff, ‘soup,’ and noisy. When I heard you were going to throw
this ball and show your guests the secret room, I decided to let one
of you dopey Allens open it for me.” He patted the pocket into which
he had stuffed the old Manila envelope. “What I have here is much more
valuable than all the money and jewels the men I hired have taken from
your guests. They can keep whatever they collected as their pay.”

“Just what is in that old envelope?” Phil asked, stalling for time. The
man, in the boasting, triumphant mood he was now in, might be caught
momentarily off guard.

Graybeard chuckled evilly. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“I certainly would,” Philip said and added shrewdly, “I should think
you’d like to _know_ too. After all, it may be stuffed with nothing but
more old receipted bills.”

The man, struck by this thought, glared at Philip through his mask.
“Never thought of that,” he muttered and hastily shifted the gun from
his right hand to his left so he could reach into his pocket and open
the envelope.

In that split second, Philip went into action. Before Graybeard knew
what was happening the pistol had been knocked from his hand. At the
same moment, Philip’s fist crashed against his jaw. Graybeard went limp
and toppled to the floor.

Phil leaped over his unconscious body to retrieve the gun. Then he took
his own pistol from Graybeard’s pocket.

“Now the tables are nicely turned,” Phil chuckled. He quickly tore
strips from the black draperies on the wall and tied the man’s hands
and feet together. He worked fast because he was worried about what
was going on upstairs.

Then he heard sounds on the other side of the door at the top of the
steps. Phil held his pistol ready. One of the gunmen, worried by the
prolonged absence of Graybeard, might be coming down to see what was
happening in the secret room.

The door swung open, and, to Phil’s relief, Pat leaped down the stairs.
Phil met him halfway. “What happened?” he asked nervously. “The
girls--are they all right?”

“Everybody’s just fine,” Pat said, grinning. “I’ll tell you all about
it later. Let’s see what you have here first.”

He bent down and yanked the beard and mask from the unconscious man’s
face.

“Whew!” Pat and Phil whistled in one breath. “Our nice cheap laundry
man!”

For it was Mr. Taggart, and, as he regained consciousness, glaring with
rage up at Phil, his face was anything but pleasant.



CHAPTER 14

FORGOTTEN TREASURE


Pat swiftly untied Taggart’s feet. “Get up,” he ordered. “Your pals are
waiting for you in a nice shiny prowl car in front of the Lodge.”

“The police,” Phil gasped. “But how--?”

Pat grinned. “The whole hold-up was a washout. Oh, some of the ladies
got a little scared when we all suddenly found ourselves facing those
cowboys and their guns. And I was pretty worried about you myself when
I saw the door close and guessed you were trapped down here with the
ringleader.” He chuckled. “Penny saved the day. Just before the hold-up
was to take place, she happened to notice that two of the cowboys, who
were loitering out in the hall, were carrying real guns. She raced
upstairs and called the police.” He laughed at the chagrined expression
on Taggart’s face. “The police arrived shortly after our friend’s pals
had collected their loot. In fact, they walked out of the door and
right into the arms of two of the biggest cops I’ve ever seen.”

“Those fools,” Taggart snarled. “I told Jerry and Rick not to let
anyone out of their sight once the secret door was open.”

Pat, as he deftly emptied Taggart’s pockets, told him, “They didn’t
exactly _let_ her dash upstairs to the phone in her room. She went so
quickly and so quietly they didn’t even know she wasn’t among those
present downstairs. When it finally dawned on them that none of their
victims was dressed as a bride, I imagine they guessed that the game
was up and decided to scram without waiting to see what had happened
to their boss.” He gave Taggart a push. “Get going,” he said gruffly.
“There’s a nice shiny pair of bracelets waiting for you.”

It was after one when the men returned from the precinct station after
preferring charges against the three men. The girls were waiting
excitedly for them on the porch.

“Oh, Phil,” Marjorie yelled, running down the steps. “To think that
Graybeard was Mr. Taggart our laundryman, and none of us saw through
his disguise.”

“Well,” Phil said, “it was a good disguise for one thing, and he was
careful to spend most of his time with Adra who had never seen him.”

Adra smiled rather shamefacedly. “I’m such a lazybones! He usually came
in the morning before I was up. When he did come later in the day I
guess I was always off somewhere having a good time while you Allens
worked.”

“That’s what you were supposed to be doing,” Penny said, smiling.
“You’re our guest, remember?”

“Never mind about that,” Marjorie interrupted impatiently. “What I want
to know is whether or not Mr. Taggart was Mr. X.” She tugged Phil’s
arm, leading him to a seat beside her on the porch glider. “Did he
plant the clues we found and write us the threatening letters?”

Phil nodded. “The other men were merely hired by him for the evening to
keep the guests out of his hair while he looked for a secret drawer
in the safe. He made a complete confession before we left the police
station.”

“Oh, oh,” Marjorie cried jumping up. “Then the mystery is solved. Tell
us everything, Phil, right now.”

He patted her hand affectionately. “Not now, honey. First we must think
of our guests. Family affairs can come later.”

Once everybody was in the dining room, its light and decorations made a
gay setting for the return to normal feelings. As Philip followed the
last guest into the room, Penny said, “Adra and I were just sick with
worry over you, Phil. I want to know every single thing that happened
as soon as possible! Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine,” Phil assured her.

Jimmy, too, caught Philip and said. “Good work, Phil. When do I get to
hear the whole story?”

“As soon as the guests have all gone home or to bed in the Lodge,”
Philip said. “It’s a long story.” He turned to Penny, “And it was your
quickwittedness that made it have a happy ending.”

“I didn’t do anything but dash up to my room and call the police,”
Penny said. “You’re a hero, Phil.”

By now, of course, everyone had removed his mask and all the faces were
familiar ones.

Philip moved on to a space at the central table where he and Adra were
going to sit together. He held her hand in a firm clasp and her fingers
twined in response. Peter smiled at him and clapped his hands together
for order.

“Speech! Speech!”

Philip smiled at everybody and didn’t seem at all nervous or upset
after his experience of the evening.

“I’m very sorry,” he began, “that robbers chose us for their victims
tonight, and that I could not prevent your disagreeable experience.”

“It was fun,” Judy interrupted impulsively. “For the longest time I
thought it was just an act Jimmy and Alf were putting on. What I’ll
have to tell the girls when I get back to Cincinnati!”

Philip smiled at her and continued: “I hope that you all can forget
the unpleasant part of the evening and that you will enjoy the feast
Ann Mary prepared. I have here the jewelry and wallets and handbags
the armed cowboys took from you. As I hold up each item will the owner
please come and get his or her property?”

While the food was being served, Philip distributed the stolen articles
to their owners.

“I was much too surprised to be frightened at first,” said Mrs. Curtis,
calmly pouring cream into her coffee. “Indeed, like Judy, I thought for
quite a while that it was some stunt the boys had thought up. The young
people today are always doing some crazy thing.”

“I was nearly speechless at those guns,” said Mrs. Powell. “I don’t
know what the country is coming to! But it was all over so quickly I
don’t suppose I was much more frightened than I would have been trying
to get across a busy street.”

“That, my dear, is slightly underestimating it--at least for me,” said
Mr. Powell. “I was just plain worried one of those guns would go off.”

“I certainly hated to see my jewelry gathered in,” remarked Mrs.
Sanders.

The prizes were awarded, and there was music afterwards. Some of
the older people retired soon, but as this was the last general
celebration, the younger set preferred to linger.

Philip, whose duties as host had been accomplished, wasted no time, but
took Adra to a moonlit walk and pretty nook on the shore where they sat
on the sand and talked.

Philip told Adra of his feeling of responsibility for his brother and
sisters. “Now Penny is engaged to Peter as I suppose she told you.
This summer’s venture will see Jimmy and Marjorie through school.” He
hesitated. “And, er, college. At last, Adra, I feel I have a right to
say, well, that the only treasure I ever wanted is you!”

Adra’s blush was most becoming and gave Philip courage to go on. “Could
you possibly care for me, Adra? You know your father has invited me
into his office and I want to go on with my college education evenings,
but somehow, whatever I decide to do depends on you. If you care, I
think we can--”

“Manage the rest,” finished Adra calmly, though her heart was beating
fast. “Yes, Phil, I care enough.”

Two happy young people walked back to the Lodge about half an hour
later. As Phil and Adra entered they found most of the guests gone and
Marjorie and Jimmy curled up in big chairs on the porch, sound asleep.

“Those two wouldn’t dare go to bed for fear they’d miss something.”
Adra and Philip laughed and went back to find Peter and Penny raiding
the pantry for a snack.

“Ha!” cried Phil. “More burglars!”

“Yes; come join us,” replied Penny, unwrapping some brick ice cream.

“Delighted,” returned her brother. “We need to celebrate. Adra and
I have just reached a momentous decision and this Lodge can hardly
contain me, big as it is.”

“Honest? Oh, Adra, you perfect dear!” and Penny dropped the ice cream
to hug Adra with enthusiasm. And Peter, who had caught the ice cream
on his plate, shook hands with Philip after carefully setting down his
burden.

“You know,” said Peter slyly, “Philip was going to tell us what
Mr. Taggart said when he confessed, but I guess Adra has made him
completely forget it.”

“That she has,” answered Philip. “Anything else that happened tonight
is very unimportant by comparison with this. After all, that’s over.
Exciting enough while it lasted, but not nearly as interesting as plans
for my future life with Adra.”

“Listen to the hero make little out of his great adventure,” cried
Penny. “Phil, I can’t stand it another minute. Begin at the beginning
and tell us every word Mr. Taggart said when he confessed. How did he
know there was a secret drawer in the safe, and what was in the drawer?”

For answer, Peter led the way to the porch. “Wake up, Sleepy Heads,”
he said, nudging Marjorie and Jimmy. “Wake up and hear a bedtime story
about hidden treasure!”

“Hidden treasure,” Marjorie repeated, instantly wide awake. “Phil!
You’ve been keeping something important from us.”

“I told you it was a family matter,” Phil said, putting his arm around
Adra. “And before I told the tale I wanted to be sure that Adra as well
as Peter will soon be members of our family.”

“I knew it,” Marjorie cried, giving Adra a hug. “I told you so, Jimmy.”

“Congratulations, you two,” Jimmy said. “I mean, you four. Now, can we
hear what went on in the secret room tonight, Phil?”

“The story,” Phil began, “goes back to about twenty years ago when
Uncle John was a very rich man and living in New York City. At that
time he invested $20,000 in a small company belonging to one of his
friends who told him that the stock was sure to go up. But the stock
didn’t go up. It went down and finally its name disappeared from the
Stock Exchange boards and from the newspaper stock lists. Naturally,
Uncle John thought his certificates were worthless, but, lucky for us,
he didn’t destroy them.”

“Golly, Phil,” Jimmy cried enthusiastically. “When you say ‘lucky for
us’ do you mean the old stock is worth something? Can I have a sailboat
after all?”

Phil grinned. “Let me finish, puh-leeze. About five years ago, the
company started paying dividends, but it couldn’t locate a great many
of its stockholders, among them, Uncle John. He had changed his address
several times before he settled down here. So the company officials
turned the matter over to a special detective agency which specializes
in tracking down owners of forgotten stocks. Notices also appeared
in newspapers throughout the country, and Mr. Taggart saw one of the
notices.

“With forged credentials, he got a job with the detective agency and
was assigned the duty of finding Uncle John. Guessing that Uncle John
was dead, he planned to get hold of the stock certificates, and, with
more forged credentials, prove that he was his sole heir.”

Phil turned to Penny who was holding hands with Peter. “If it hadn’t
been for you, Taggart might well have succeeded. A girl not quite so
level-headed might have screamed when she saw those ‘cowboys’ drawing
real guns from their holsters.”

Peter squeezed her hand more tightly. “I can’t bear to think about what
might have happened if those gunmen had seen you darting up the stairs.”

“Stop it, both of you,” Penny protested, blushing. “Get on with the
story, Phil!”

“Okay,” Phil said, smiling. “Taggart finally traced Uncle John to
the Lodge only to find that he was dead and that we had started our
business venture here. He had hoped to find the Lodge deserted so he
could search undisturbed for the certificates. He knew that people
leave old stocks and bonds in all sorts of places. Sometimes they slip
them under the paper lining of bureau drawers or cupboards, or between
the pages of books. False-bottom trunks and secret drawers in old
safes, and so forth, and so forth. Taggart realized that one of us,
while we were getting the Lodge ready for guests, might come across the
certificates. So the first thing he did was to try to frighten us away.”

“That was silly of him,” Marjorie said with a sniff. “He might have
known that the Allens don’t frighten easily.”

“Be quiet, imp,” Jimmy said. “He didn’t know anything about us then.”
He added to Philip: “So it was Taggart who wrote the two threatening
letters? And left his footprint on the ground under the shed floor?”

“That’s right,” Phil told him. “He confessed that he wrote the one to
Penny _after_ she fell down the well. And he also confessed that he
was our night prowler. Actually he did a lot of prowling we didn’t
know about, trying to find out if his anonymous letters had any effect.
The first night he came snooping around he listened outside the living
room window and heard us joking about digging in the well for buried
treasure. That gave him the idea of keeping us busy digging outside,
instead of searching around inside.”

“I can guess what he did next,” Marjorie said with a rueful laugh. “He
wrote that note on an old piece of paper, put one half in the bottle
Judy and I found down on the beach, and the other half in the pocket of
the old suit Brook found when the boys were out camping.” She stopped
suddenly, her blue eyes wide with amazement. “But how and when did he
manage to put that map in the lid of the costume jewelry box?”

“I can answer that one,” Penny said with a sigh. “The day our first
guests arrived, I heard someone rummaging around in the storage room. I
thought it was you, Marjorie, and thought you were fibbing later when
you insisted you were out in the Donahues’ cabin helping Ann Mary count
their laundry.” She laughed. “I owe you an apology, honey. While you
and Ann Mary were busy, and Phil and I were upstairs hanging curtains,
Taggart must have sneaked into the storage room and pasted that map
behind the rotten lining of the old jewelry box.”

“You’re both two jumps ahead of me,” Philip said, laughing. “Taggart
did put the map where you found it, but first he had to have some
excuse for coming out here. He heard in the village that we were
looking for someone who would take the soiled linen in to the
laundry-mat and applied to Penny for the job.”

Penny moaned, covering her pretty face with both hands. “Oh, why did I
fall into his trap so easily? I should have guessed when he offered to
do it so cheaply, that something was wrong.”

“Not at all,” Peter said protectively. “Taggart did handle the laundry
situation in a very satisfactory manner, so I don’t think anyone can
blame you for not suspecting him of an ulterior motive.”

Phil nodded. “That’s right, Penny, nobody blames you. The trouble
was that no one paid much attention to him when he came out here. I
imagine Ann Mary didn’t always have the bundle ready, or his pay when
he brought out the clean wash. Once when she left him alone in the
kitchen he slipped down to the beach and stuck the bottle containing
half the note under a rock.”

“We made everything so easy for him,” Marjorie groaned. “He was there
in the kitchen, I remember, the day Ann Mary suggested that Judy and
I search for rare shells. He was also there the time I asked her if
it would be all right for us to spend the first rainy day rummaging
through the old trunks in the storage room.”

“And,” Penny added, “he knew exactly when the boys left on their
camping trip. Remember? Ann Mary told him he had to bring back their
clean shirts before they left. I imagine it was simple for him to find
out from her where they were going.”

“Uh huh,” Phil said. “_Very_ simple. Ann Mary had no reason to suspect
him. He followed them to Uncle John’s fishing camp only to find that
they had moved deeper into the woods. He saw the Bronc’s tire tracks
and followed them to the lake. Early in the morning before Brook’s
adventure, he rigged up the coat with the other half of the note in the
pocket. He could count on the fact that one of the boys, while out
canoeing, would be sure to notice what looked like the torso of a human
body.” Phil smiled. “Taggart also knew that Jimmy, like Marjorie, was
sure treasure was buried around here and was looking for clues.”

“And,” Peter added, “the man knew that no boy could resist going
through the pockets of an old coat he found.”

Jimmy’s tanned cheeks were very red. “Well,” he said, “that clears up
all the mysterious clues and letters. And we certainly all played right
into his hands when we issued invitations to the masquerade.”

“And,” Penny added, “when I dropped hints all over the village that we
were going to show our guests the secret room that night.” She sighed.
“What I don’t understand is how Taggart knew there was a secret drawer
in the safe.”

“Because,” Philip explained, staring at Marjorie, “one day when he was
out here he caught a glimpse of the safe. Not only is he a notorious
forger, but, in between sessions in jail, he’s made an exhaustive study
of safes. He knew that the particular style and make of the one in the
secret room had a hidden drawer in the top. Since we obviously hadn’t
found the certificates while we were cleaning up the Lodge, he guessed
that they might be in the secret compartment of the safe.”

“But,” Jimmy interrupted. “When on earth did he get a glimpse of the
safe? Up until tonight--I mean last night--nobody but you and Pat ever
went into the secret room. And I’m sure neither of you was careless
enough to open the door unless you were sure no one was lurking around.”

It was now Marjorie’s turn to cover her red cheeks with both hands.
“I can answer that one,” she confessed miserably. “One day when Mr.
Taggart was here, I showed Judy how the door opened. He must have been
hiding in the alcove when the bookshelves moved back. I heard someone
moving down the hall just before we left, and thought it was Ann Mary
with a bundle of soiled laundry. But I guess there’s no doubt that it
was Mr. Taggart.” She raised her face, on the verge of tears. “Thinking
back, I remember now that he was in the kitchen, and Judy and I had
just left there when she begged me to show her how the secret door
worked. Oh,” she finished, “how can I be so dumb?”

“’Tain’t easy,” Jimmy said, grinning. “You’ve got to have a lot of
practice before you can be as hopeless as you are!”

“Never mind, honey,” Penny said to Marjorie in a comforting voice.
“After all, in a way you helped to set the trap that caught Mr. X.” She
turned to Philip. “We’re all trying to tell your story for you, and I,
for one, am getting confused. Once Taggart got a glimpse of the safe
and knew how to get into the secret room, why did he wait until the
masquerade to go in there?”

Phil chuckled. “Because he didn’t know the combination of the safe. He
could, of course, have sneaked out here at night after we’d all gone to
bed and used dynamite to open the safe, but that would have been pretty
risky. Soon after he saw the safe and the room, we issued blanket
invitations to the masquerade and you slyly hinted that part of the
evening’s entertainment would be a visit to the secret room. Taggart
promptly decided that the safest way of getting what he wanted was to
let us lead him right to it.”

“In other words,” Peter added, “while we were setting our little trap,
Mr. X was setting one of his own. While his gangster friends were
holding up the rest of the party, he planned to force one of you Allens
to accompany him into the secret room and open the safe.”

“That’s right,” Philip said. “And I made things easy for him when I
asked him to lend atmosphere by posing by the safe; and then, to cap
the climax, I stayed behind after everyone else had left. The only
thing I can say for myself,” he finished, “is that I did have the
presence of mind to close the door as soon as I realized I’d walked
into the trap we had set for him. And even that,” he admitted, “was
sort of a reflex action.”

“Call it what you like,” Jimmy said, “but it was important. Otherwise,
Taggart would have heard the outraged cries of his gunmen when they
walked into the arms of the police. During that commotion he might have
escaped--with the real loot.” He leaned forward to tap Phil’s knee.
“Now that we’ve all, with the exception of the inlaws-to-be, confessed
to being dimwits in one way or another, let’s hear more about those
stock certificates, Phil. Answer me, yes, or no, are they worth enough
so I can get a sailboat?”



CHAPTER 15

HAPPY ENDING


“I object,” Peter cried. “My wife-to-be isn’t a dimwit. She’s a
heroine.”

“I object, too,” Adra said. “Phil’s a hero.”

“All right, all right,” Jimmy said. “But it’s getting on toward dawn.
Marjorie and I are dimwits. Just tell me whether or not we’re rich or
poor.”

“We’re rich,” Philip said as he drew from his pocket the bulging
envelope he had earlier been forced to hand over to Taggart. He handed
it to Penny. “Open it, Sis.”

Her hands shaking with excitement, Penny lifted the flap and pulled out
a wad of musty-smelling, yellowed stock certificates.

“Those ancient documents,” Phil told her quietly, “don’t look like
much. But, according to Taggart’s confession, when we turn them in
we’ll collect about $50,000--their cash value plus back dividends and
interest.”

For a moment no one spoke. Then Jimmy yelled: “WHOOPEE! The hidden
treasure is found at last. And boy oh boy, will I ever get the finest
sailboat that was ever launched!”

“I can’t believe it,” Marjorie said in an awed voice. “Why, I--I’m an
heiress!”

“_I_ can believe it,” Peter said, pretending to be mournful. “Penny
will never marry poor penniless me now.”

“Of course not,” Penny said with a laugh. “And now Phil doesn’t have to
marry Adra for her money either.”

Everyone laughed then, almost hysterically. They were all tired and
over-stimulated. Dawn was pinking the sky in the east.

“If you ask me,” Jimmy said, stretching and yawning, “I’d say we all
ought to catch a little shut-eye. I for one won’t believe any part of
Phil’s yarn until I hear it all over again in broad daylight.”

But the next morning, after consulting the older men who were staying
at the Lodge, the Allens learned that the old stock certificates were
worth even more than Taggart had estimated.

“I know the company well,” Mr. Curtis told Phil. “Bought stock in it
myself a few years ago when it got a government loan and staged a
comeback.”

And then, to the delight of everyone, Adra’s father, Mr. Prentice,
arrived by plane. They were all eager for the advice of such an
experienced businessman.

“I wouldn’t sell,” he said, after hearing the whole story. “You
couldn’t invest your money in a safer concern. When you collect your
back dividends you’ll each have a tidy sum if you need cash now. If
not, I would reinvest that money and thus provide yourselves with a
comfortable yearly income from it and the original investment.” He
smiled at them. “I’ll handle the whole matter for you, if you like.”

“Please do,” Penny cried. “Oh, it’s all so wonderful! Peter and I can
get married right away and Marjorie and Jimmy are assured of college
educations.”

“What about us?” Philip crossed over to stand beside Adra who was
perched on the arm of her father’s chair. “Sir,” he said with
old-fashioned formality, “your daughter has done me the honor of
promising to become my wife. With your permission we would like to be
married sometime this fall.”

Marjorie could not suppress a giggle. Phil did look as though he ought
to be wearing a Prince Albert coat instead of a sports jacket and
slacks.

Mr. Prentice stood up to shake hands gravely with Philip. “You have my
permission, sir,” he said, a smile twitching the corners of his mouth.
“And my blessing.”

Peter grabbed Penny’s hand. “Come on, let’s celebrate! No more work
today for any of the Allens.”

But Phil and Penny could not take a holiday so soon. Most of the guests
were making arrangements for their departures. Phil and Penny had to be
everywhere at once to help them pack and ship off their luggage, or to
make reservations for them on planes and buses.

Judy flatly refused to leave with her parents and Alf. “I’ve just got
to stay here for Penny’s wedding,” she begged. “Marjorie and I are
going to be bridesmaids.”

“Then we’ll stay too,” Mrs. Powell said and added to Penny, “That is,
if we’re invited.”

“Of course, you are,” Penny cried. “The Curtises and Adra and her
father are going to stay on for the great event, so we’ll have one
grand houseparty until then.”

By Labor Day evening all of the other guests had left the Lodge. To
celebrate the first dinner of the wedding day houseparty, Pat opened a
bottle of champagne that he claimed to have held over from his wedding
for another special occasion.

“Ugh,” Marjorie spluttered after one sip. “What horrible tasting stuff!”

Jimmy, Judy and Alf heartily agreed with her and gratefully accepted
the ginger ale Ann Mary hastily substituted for the bubbling wine.

Peter proposed a toast. “Here’s to the Allens of Allen Lodge. May they
always be happy and prosperous!”

“You’d better include the Wylands in that toast,” Marjorie said with an
impish smile. “Penny won’t be an Allen much longer.”

A few days later, on a beautiful, bright September morning, the
wedding took place. Marjorie and Judy were so excited they couldn’t
fasten the zippers on their crisp organdie frocks. Penny, sweetly
serene, came to the rescue, wearing her lovely flowing gown of white
tulle over taffeta. Marjorie finally conquered her nervousness long
enough to pin on the clusters of orange blossoms which held Penny’s
lace veil in place.

Then, carrying Pat’s enormous bridal bouquet of long-stemmed white
chrysanthemums, Penny came from the house on Philip’s arm to join Peter
under the trees.

Marjorie held her breath while Penny and Peter made their vows in
clear, steady voices. After the ceremony was over, Charles was the
first to congratulate the bridegroom, and Marjorie, the first to kiss
her sister.

“You didn’t act scared at all,” she whispered. “I know I would have
said I _don’t_ instead of I do, just because I was so nervous.” She
turned to give Peter a hug. “It’s so nice to have another brother,” she
cried. “And to know that soon I’ll have another sister.”

A merry wedding breakfast was served on the sunny porch and this time
it was Marjorie who proposed a toast. “To Allen Lodge,” she cried,
holding her punch glass high, “where there’s never a dull moment.
Here’s hoping that it holds some new adventure just waiting to be
discovered.”

“I’m with you there, Sis,” cried Jimmy.

But Peter and Penny only smiled happily.



FALCON BOOKS


_For Girls_

  Champion’s Choice BY JOHN R. TUNIS
  Patty and Jo, Detectives BY ELSIE WRIGHT

BY KAY LYTTLETON

  Jean Craig Grows Up
  Jean Craig in New York
  Jean Craig Finds Romance
  Jean Craig, Nurse
  Jean Craig, Graduate Nurse

BY JEAN MCKECHNIE

  Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House
  Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure


_For Boys_

  The Spirit of the Border BY ZANE GREY
  The Last Trail BY ZANE GREY
  Call to Adventure BY ROBERT SPIERS BENJAMIN
  Champs on Ice BY JACK WRIGHT
  The Strike-Out King BY JULIAN DE VRIES
  The Winning Basket BY DUANE YARNELL
  Over the Hurdles BY EMMETT MAUM
  Boys’ Book of Sea Battles BY CHELSEA CURTIS FRASER
  Through Forest and Stream BY DUANE YARNELL

BY CAPWELL WYCKOFF

  The Mercer Boys’ Cruise on the Lassie
  The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest
  The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt
  The Mercer Boys’ Mystery Case
  The Mercer Boys with the Coast Guard



Transcriber’s Note:

The text as published in the original publication has been retained
except as follows:

  Page 35
  unless their guests’ deposit _changed to_
  unless their guests deposit

  Page 36
  means,” Penny said, “That right after breakfast _changed to_
  means,” Penny said, “that right after breakfast

  Page 55
  They all started silently out _changed to_
  They all stared silently out

  Page 81
  few friends of Charles’ _changed to_
  few friends of Charles

  Page 94
  you’re asolutely right _changed to_
  you’re absolutely right

  Page 120
  can’t thing of anything _changed to_
  can’t think of anything

  Page 146
  heard a night prowler?” _changed to_
  heard a night prowler.”





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