The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Motor Girls at Camp Surprise; Or, The Cave in the Mountains

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Title: The Motor Girls at Camp Surprise; Or, The Cave in the Mountains

Author: Margaret Penrose

Release date: June 14, 2011 [eBook #36426]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Roger Frank and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at







The Cave in the Mountains




Margaret Penrose




Publishing Co.






I.An Unpleasant Awakening1
II.The Lost Trail10
III.Two Strange Men18
IV.A Curious Story26
V.Counterfeit Tickets34
VI.Off to Camp42
VII.Jack’s Bath50
VIII.The Storm58
IX.Tied Up67
X.A Night Ride74
XI.In Camp Surprise83
XIII.That Noise98
XIV.Was It Thunder?108
XV.A Narrow Escape115
XVII.Two Men131
XVIII.Real Surprises138
XIX.Where’s My Light?147
XX.More Happenings158
XXI.A Dancing Light163
XXII.A Mountain Cave170
XXIII.The Trembling Noise178
XXIV.The Secret Passage184
XXV.The Patched Tire191
XXVI.The Dropped Bundle200
XXVII.The Girls’ Discovery207
XXIX.To the Rescue222
XXX.All’s Well235


1The Motor Girls at Camp Surprise


“Look where you are steering, Cora Kimball! You nearly ran over a chicken that time.”

“Yes, and avoiding the chicken on that side, you nearly hit a child on this side. Such a dear little boy—or was it a girl? I never can tell when they’re so young.”

“Two misses are as good as two miles,” misquoted the bronzed girl at the wheel of the automobile, as she straightened the car on the long, shaded road, where the trees met in a green archway overhead, and where the golden shadows flitted in the dust like so many little chickens running to cover, away from the fat-tired wheels.

“Why are you in such a hurry, Cora?” asked Bess Robinson, as she tucked back a straying lock of brown hair. “It’s too perfect a day to do anything in a hurry—even run a car.”

“Bess doesn’t believe in doing anything in a hurry,” lazily droned her sister Belle, from the rear seat. “That’s why she’s so fat.” 2

“Don’t dare use that objectionable word!” stormed Bess, turning about so suddenly that she sent Cora’s elbow against the plunger of the horn, thereby producing a sudden blast.

“Oh!” exclaimed Bess. “Did we run into something again?”

“Again?” demanded Cora. “Come, I like that—not! We haven’t run into anything yet.”

“That chicken,” murmured Belle, even more lazily. “Yes?”

“Was a good fifty feet out of danger!” declared Cora indignantly.

“And what of the child?”

“That never was in danger. I didn’t see him—her or it—until we had passed. But the child—gender unknown—was playing in the dust beside the road. Queer how mothers can let them.”

“Probably the mother didn’t know a thing about it,” said Bess, who had discovered that she was the sole cause of the needless alarm in regard to the horn’s blast. “One can’t be always on the lookout.”

“Don’t start a discussion,” begged Cora, as a backward glance showed some signs of Belle’s stirring up sufficiently to refute her sister’s remarks. “It’s too hot.”

“It is when you slow down,” observed Bess. “But the breeze is perfectly fascinating when you keep the car moving, Cora.” 3

“Well, I don’t intend to slow down right away. Have you girls any particular desire to go to any particular place?”

“Spare us all nerve-racking particulars on a day like this,” entreated Belle, sliding down into a more comfortable position in the big, cushioned seat she occupied all alone. “It is so warm! Summer is coming with a vengeance.”

“And it makes me wish we had set the date of our departure for Camp Surprise a week or so earlier,” remarked Cora. “I wonder if we could arrange to go any sooner.”

“I could,” declared Bess. “I haven’t a thing to do.”

“Except reduce,” put in her sister tantalizingly.

“Belle Robinson! If you don’t stop those mean, insinuating remarks, I’ll—I’ll——”

“You won’t give me any more of those chocolates you sneaked into your bag as we were coming out,” finished Belle. “I saw you, and you know what Dr. Blake told you would happen if you didn’t stop eating sweets. You’ll get so——”

“These aren’t sweet!” interrupted Bess. “They’re the bitter kind, and they’re delicious, too. They have them so fresh at Gordon’s.”

“It’s a wonder she wouldn’t give us a chance to decide for ourselves, instead of introducing expert testimony on her own account,” laughed Cora. “Come, Bess, out with them!” 4

“Certainly,” agreed the plump girl, with easy grace. “I intended to share them all along, but it was so warm——”

“Don’t say warm again!” drawled her sister. “Your nose is as shiny now as a tin teakettle.”

“Belle Robinson! It is not!”

Instantly Bess had her little mirror and vanity box in use, and a quick dab on her rather up-turned nose did away with the condition complained of, or at least alleged, by her sister.

“There, does that satisfy you?” she asked, turning about for inspection, as Cora swung the big car around a turn in the road.

“Oh, I’m easily satisfied,” Belle murmured. “What a perfectly gorgeous view!” she cried, as she looked down from a height toward a village that lay nestled in a green valley, girt around by a winding, silvery river, glimpses of which could be had now and then between the trees that lined the shores.

“Yes, it is a good view,” agreed Cora, stopping the car. “Cheerful Chelton looks even more amiable and love-like than usual to-day. It’s cooler up here, too. Now pass over those chocolates, Bess.”

“And watch her get more and more—well, I’ll say plump—before your eyes, like that fat boy Scott tells about,” laughed Belle.

“It wasn’t Scott’s fat boy. He was in Dickens,” corrected Cora. “Nicholas Nickleby, I think.” 5

“Pickwick Papers!” voiced Bess. “There! I know something even if I am—plump. But, girls, I have lost five pounds in the last month.”

“Not so’s you’d notice it,” murmured Belle.

“Cease! Cease and have done!” admonished Cora. “How does that new one go—two slow and one quick to the side and then——”

“Not slow at all!” interrupted Bess. “You’ve got to follow through or you’ll slice the ball and——”

“What in the world are you talking about?” demanded Cora, her eyes opening wide. “Slice the ball? What’s that in? The fox trot?”

“I was speaking of golf,” murmured Bess.

“She’s taken it up to—reduce,” whispered Belle.

“I thought you meant that new three-step we tried the other night,” came from Cora.

“It’s too warm even to talk about dancing,” declared Belle. “Really we must think of getting away sooner. Do you think we could get that bungalow at Camp Surprise earlier than we had planned to take it, Cora?”

“I don’t know. Mother made all the arrangements. But I can find out. Do you really think you’d like to go sooner?”

“I certainly do,” murmured plump Bess, who seemed to feel the sudden summer heat more than did Cora, or the more svelt Belle. “Oh, by the way, Cora! why do they call it Camp Surprise?” 6

“I meant to ask that, too,” added Belle. “It’s such an odd name.”

“And there’s an odd story connected with it,” said Cora. “I’ll have to ask mother about it. She merely mentioned it, and something else came up so I forgot to get the particulars. I’ll find out when we go back. But if you girls are really in earnest about starting our summer vacation a little earlier this year——”

“I most certainly am in earnest,” Bess said.

“And I,” added her sister.

“Then I’ll see what we can do,” went on the girl at the wheel. “Oh dear! I wish I hadn’t eaten those chocolates!” she exclaimed, making a wry face. “I ought to have known better. Candy always makes me thirsty, and I didn’t bring the vacuum bottle.”

Belle sat up, carefully removed, with the tip of her tongue, some brown chocolate stains from the tips of her pink, well-manicured fingers and, looking up and down the road, announced:

“That dear little tea room—Ye Olde Spinning Wheel—is only about a mile farther on. Suppose we go there? I’m dying for a cup of tea with lemon in it.”

“Oh, so am I!” added Bess. “They say lemon is thinning.”

“Then you’d better have lemonade with a leaf or two of tea in it,” said Belle. 7

“You—you——” spluttered Bess, drawing back her hand in which nestled a chocolate. And then her desire to throw it was overcome by her appetite for the confection.

“Ye Olde Spinning Wheel,” repeated Cora. “That sounds most enticing. We’ll go there, if only to keep you two from bickering. What’s gotten in you sisters to-day, I never saw you so on each other’s nerves.”

“It’s the weather,” returned Belle.

“Let us hope so. Well, if you’ve admired the view enough we’ll go on.”

They had come to a pause at the crest of a shaded hill, and down below them lay the village in which the three girls lived. Cheerful Chelton it had been designated, and cheerful it was.

Cora, who had not stopped the engine, slipped the clutch in after shifting the gear and the car moved down the slope, gradually cutting off the view of the town.

“What about the boys?” asked Bess, apropos of nothing in particular.

“What boys?” demanded Cora.

“Ours, of course,” and Bess looked surprised that any others should have been thought of. “I mean your brother Jack, Walter Pennington and Paul Hastings. Didn’t you say Paul was thinking of going to camp with our boys, if they took the little bungalow near ours at Camp Surprise?” 8

“Yes, Paul is coming,” Cora said.

“Well, can the boys get away earlier if we do? It won’t be any fun going there alone, particularly if there’s a mystery about the place.”

“I didn’t say there was any mystery about the place,” corrected Cora. “Though there may be. Besides, we’re to have a chaperon, you know. Or at least the caretaker and his wife live in Camp Surprise, and I presume she will be a chaperon.”

“But it won’t be half the fun if the boys don’t come along,” declared Belle. “They are so jolly, and—er—well, you know what I mean,” she finished a bit lamely.

“No need to explain at all,” said Cora cheerfully. “It’s perfectly all right. If I go, that means mother can close the house so much earlier. Jack won’t stay there alone, I know, so he’s likely to tag along.”

“And if Jack goes Walter will. I guess we can count of making an earlier start on our vacation than we contemplated,” said Bess. “It will be lovely.”

“Yes,” Cora assented.

“There’s the tea room,” added Belle a little later as the car came out on a long, level stretch of road. “It’s a perfect dear of a place; isn’t it?”

“A regular gazelle,” agreed Cora mockingly.

She swung her machine into the parking place provided, and a few minutes afterward the three 9 girls were sitting at one of the wicker tables, in wicker chairs, near a window which opened on a vine-shaded porch, while electric fans hummed and droned breezily and refreshingly behind them and in front of them stood rose-tinted plates heaped high with pale yellow cream, nestled alongside of which were delicately browned macaroons.

“Oh, what a symphony of color!” murmured Cora, as the white-capped, colored waitress set the refreshments from off her mahogany-cretonne tray.

“If it tastes half as good as it looks,” murmured Bess, “I’m going to have another plate, if I have to roll twice my usual number of times before I go to bed to-night.”

“It is good,” said Belle. “It’s delicious!”

“I could just sit here and—dream,” announced Belle, as she closed her “effective” eyes, as Jack Kimball had designated them.

“Yes, it is very soothing and restful,” agreed her sister, who had been rendered sleepy by the combination of heat, a refreshing meal and the droning of the electric fans.

“I feel sleepy myself,” Cora confessed, closing her eyes.

She opened them a moment later though, for a cry from Belle brought her and Bess to a most unpleasant awakening.

“Your car, Cora!” cried the slim Robinson twin. “Some one is taking your auto!”


“My car! Some one taking my car!” repeated Cora Kimball. “Who is it, Belle?” and she hurried to the window from which the tall, willowy Robinson twin was gazing toward the spot where the auto had been left.

“Two young men. I saw them get in, and—there they go! Out into the road! We must stop them!”

Belle turned to make her exit, but her dress caught on a chair, and as Cora and Bess were behind her, they, too, were delayed.

“Oh, hurry!” begged Cora.

“I can’t tear my dress,” retorted Belle.

With a pull she loosed it from a splinter of the wicker chair, and then made for the doorway, followed by the other girls.

And while they are thus on their way to intercept those who had taken Cora’s car I will devote a few minutes to acquainting my new readers with the characters and incidents that go to make the previous volumes of this series. 11

“The Motor Girls,” was the title of the initial book. In that we find Cora Kimball, the daughter of a wealthy widow, with her brother Jack, living in “Cheerful Chelton,” as it has been called, a village on the Chelton river, in New England, not far from the New York boundary. Cora and Jack each had an automobile, but most of the adventures took place in or about Cora’s car, in which she and her two most intimate chums, the Robinson twins—Bess and Belle—went for many a ride.

The Robinson girls were the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Robinson, the former a rich railroad man, and I think I have already sufficiently indicated to you their characters. Bess was plump, and Belle tall and willowy, inclined to indolence which she imagined was graceful. Cora Kimball was a leader, and where she went the Robinson twins generally followed.

Jack Kimball, a student at Exmouth college, was almost as much a chum of Cora’s as were her girl friends, and the girls regarded Jack and his chums, Walter Pennington and Paul Hastings, as their especial retainers and vassals as the case demanded. Paul’s sister Hazel, a sweet girl—if you know what I mean—had been quite friendly with Cora and her chums, until her removal to another city. Hazel was expected for a visit to Cora soon, and, as has been mentioned, Paul contemplated going camping with the boys. 12

Soon after Cora secured her car the Robinson twins induced their father to purchase one. The Motor Girls, as they had come to be known, went on a tour, in the course of which many things happened. They had more adventures at Lookout Beach, and also when they went through New England.

In succession Cora and her friends paid a visit to Cedar Lake, down on the coast, and next they spent a summer on Crystal Bay. They had there a most delightful time, but perhaps not more so than that told of in the book immediately preceding this one.

That volume is named “The Motor Girls on Waters Blue.” I forgot to mention that the girls, after having served their apprenticeship, as it were, in automobiles, had acquired a fine, large motor boat. In this they had many good times, though it was not this boat that figured largely on the blue waters. When Mr. Robinson had been called to Porto Rico on business he had taken his daughters and Cora with him.

How the steamer on which Mr. Robinson sailed to another island was endangered, how the Tartar was chartered by Cora and her chums to look for the shipwrecked ones, and how Inez Ralcanto, the beautiful Spanish girl, and her father, a political refugee, were aided—all this is set down in the book preceding this present volume. 13

It was not until after many hardships and not a little anxiety that matters were finally straightened out, and our friends came back to Cheerful Chelton, which had never seemed so homelike or so desirable, Cora said, as after the exciting episodes in what was practically a foreign land.

A fall and winter of gaiety had brought spring and early summer, in which delightful time of the year we now find our girl friends once more.

“It is gone! My car is gone!” exclaimed Cora, as they ran out of the tea room.

“Of course it is!” declared Belle. “Didn’t I see them take it!”

“Two young men, you say?” asked her sister.

“Yes. I didn’t see their faces, but I knew they were young by the way they moved about—so lively!”

“Say!” cried Cora, imbued by a sudden idea. “Could they have been Jack and Walter?”

“Your brother?” asked Bess.

“Yes. I heard him say he was coming over in this direction in his car. He and Walter might have driven up, and, seeing my car and guessing that we were inside, may have gone off in it just for a joke.”

“It’s possible,” assented Belle. “Anything is possible for Jack and Wally. But if they came here they must have left their car near by. Turn about is fair play—let’s annex theirs.” 14

“Let’s find it first,” said Cora.

They hurried out to the road. A quick look up and down showed no automobile in sight—not even Cora’s.

“They must have speeded up,” murmured Belle. “Oh! why weren’t we quicker?”

“It doesn’t amount to anything if those young men were really Jack and Walter,” Cora said. “But we can’t be sure of that; can we, Belle?”

“No, I can’t. I only had a glimpse of their backs, and all backs look alike to me.”

“It can’t have been Jack,” declared Bess, “or his car would be somewhere in sight. He wouldn’t know we were in the tea room until he came up close, and then there wouldn’t have been time to run his car back.”

“You can’t tell what they would do,” said Cora. “Come on, we’ll walk as far as the turn in the road, and see what’s down there.”

“Hadn’t you better report your loss to the proprietor of the tea room?” suggested Belle. “He might send a man out to look for the machine.”

“I don’t want to make too much fuss if it was Jack and Walter,” Cora objected. “Let’s take a look ourselves first.”

The girls hurried down the road, all their drowsiness gone now. They were rather alarmed in spite of the cool way in which Cora took it.

“It’s dreadfully warm walking,” complained 15 Bess. “I shall have to have more cream after this is over.”

“You can go back and wait for us,” suggested Cora, “if you’re too——”

“Don’t dare say I’m too stout to keep on the trail!” cried Bess. “I’ll never give up!”

They were almost at the turn when the honking of an automobile horn warned them of the approach of a car.

“There they come back!” cried Belle, in relieved tones.

But a moment later, as a machine swung into view around the curve, the girls saw that it was not Cora’s.

“But it’s Jack and Walter!” cried the former’s sister. “Wait! Stop!” she begged. “Jack—Wally—we’re in trouble! Did you take our car?”

“Take your car?” repeated Jack, bringing his machine to a stop with a screeching of brakes. “What’s the joke?”

“It isn’t a joke at all!” declared Belle. “I saw two young men making off with Cora’s car. At first we thought it might be you and Wally.”

“Not guilty!” affirmed the latter, holding up a protesting hand.

“Where did all this happen?” Jack wanted to know.

“At the Spinning Wheel tea room. We stopped there,” his sister informed him. 16

“Which way did they go?” asked Walter Pennington.

“Down this way,” Belle said, explaining what she had seen, and how they had come along the road thinking to meet the perpetrators of the joke.

“Come on, Wally!” cried Jack. “We’ll get after those fellows. It may have been a joke, and, again, it may not. No use taking any chances. There have been several cars stolen around here lately. Maybe there’s a regular organized gang. Go on back to your tea and cakes, girls. We’ll round up the villains. Ha! Ha!” and he struck a theatrical attitude.

“We’ll wait at the tea room for you,” Cora said. “You can trace my car in the dust, Jack, by the tire-marks. There’s a big patch, where it was vulcanized. It’s on the right forward wheel, and it makes a mark like a big Z. Look for it.”

“I will, Sis. But there isn’t much chance. Too many cars pass along this road to let the dust-marks of any particular one stay in sight long. But we’ll do the best we can.”

Jack backed and turned his car around, and was soon off down the road in a clatter of exhausts, while the three girls went back to Ye Olde Spinning Wheel.

“Who do you suppose they could be—those two fellows?” asked Bess.

“Haven’t the least idea,” her sister assured her. 17

“It couldn’t have been Paul Hastings, could it?”

“Of course not!” declared Cora. “Paul isn’t given to playing such jokes. Besides, he’s in the auto business you know, and he doesn’t believe in taking chances with the cars of others. It may be a joke, as Jack says, and some of our numerous friends may have tried to scare us, or it may be——”

“Don’t say your lovely car is really stolen!” interrupted Bess, impulsively.

“Well, I’d have to say it if it were,” declared the practical Cora. “And the sooner we find out the better, in order to get the police after the thieves.”

Wearily they trudged back to the tea room, which they had left so suddenly.

“Let’s have some more ice cream while we’re waiting,” suggested Bess.

They had nearly finished their second plates when the honking of a horn warned them of the approach of some one. Eagerly they looked out to see Jack and Walter returning.

“We lost the trail!” Jack called. “I saw the tire marks, Cora, for a little way, then they disappeared. We’ll have to notify the police. Your car’s stolen all right.”

“Oh, Jack!”

“Might as well realize it first as last, Sis! Where’s a telephone?” he asked the waitress.


“What are you going to do, Jack?” asked Cora.

“Notify the Chelton police, and also the authorities here. They will send out a general alarm better than we can. Now who saw these chaps, and how did they look?”

“Belle saw them.”

“Then, Belle, I’ll have to call on your detective abilities. Describe these villainous characters.”

“I wouldn’t call them particularly villainous looking,” said the tall girl. “In fact we thought for a time it was you two, and——”

“I see,” interrupted Walter. “Belle, I thank you for your good opinion.”

“Come on, get down to business!” exclaimed Jack Kimball. “I want to know how these fellows looked so I can tell the police. Were they young or old?”

“Two young men,” answered Belle. “They were about your age, Jack.”

“But, unfortunately, they did not have his angelic 19 disposition,” mocked Walter. “Bouquets are coming your way fast, Jack.”

“I’ll dispense with them. Come on now, Belle. Anything else except that they were young?”

Belle thought for a moment. She had had such a momentary glimpse of the two that, really, it was hard to describe them adequately for the purposes of police detection.

“Why not describe the car?” asked Cora. “No matter who is in my machine they haven’t a right to it, and they should be arrested on sight.”

“Good idea!” agreed Jack. “I can describe the car right enough.”

“And give the license numbers,” said Bess.

“Of course. Good girl. Let me have them, Cora.”

They were the only ones in the tea room at this time, and the excitement was only communicated to the help. The waitress showed Jack where the telephone booth was, and while Cora, Walter and the girls explained to the girl cashier at the desk what had happened, Jack got the Chelton police over the telephone and asked them to send out an alarm, and also to be on the lookout for the thieves.

The tea room was in Pepack, the township next to Chelton, and Jack also called up the town hall and notified the authorities there, who promised to do what they could. 20

“But they may have taken any of half a dozen roads leading out of here,” Walter said. “They must have hurried away.”

“And you didn’t have a glimpse of them?” asked Belle.

“Not a trace,” answered Jack. “We managed to pick up the trail by means of that patch on the tire. Saw it in the dust several times. Then it was lost in the shuffle, as you might say, so we thought it better to come back. I wonder if the people here noticed anything of two strange men hanging about.”

“We’ll ask the cashier,” suggested Cora.

She knew, slightly, the girl who sat at the cash register, for Ye Olde Spinning Wheel was a popular resort for automobile parties.

“Yes, Miss Kimball,” the girl said, “there were two young men in here this morning, though whether they were the ones who took your car I can’t say.”

“How did they look?” asked Jack.

“Well, I don’t know that I can tell you. They were both of medium height, and were smooth shaven—I mean they had no beards or moustaches, though both of them would have been better for a visit to the barber’s.”

“What did they do or say?” asked Walter.

“They came in and each had a plate of cream,” went on the girl. “I didn’t exactly like their looks, 21 for, though we try to run a place that will suit every one, we are a bit particular too. But they didn’t make any fuss, and even tipped the waitress.”

“Then they must be ‘regular fellows,’” said Walter, jokingly.

“‘Scuse me,” broke in the voice of the waitress—the same one who had waited on the girls—“but de dime tip dey gibbed me wasn’t any good.”

“Why not?” asked Jack.

“It was plugged. Look!” and she exhibited it.

“So it is!” exclaimed Cora’s brother. “They weren’t so regular after all.”

“I didn’t see it till after dey’d gone,” the negress went on.

“Perhaps you can describe them for me,” Jack suggested.

It developed that the waitress could give a better word-picture of the two young men than could the cashier, whose attention, naturally, was taken up with her duties at the desk.

Jack noted down the none too good distinguishing marks as described by the waitress, and went to telephone them to the police as an additional help in capturing those who had gone with Cora’s car.

There was nothing more that could be done just then, and Jack was about to suggest that, by means of a little crowding, he could take his sister and 22 her chums back to Chelton in his car when the young woman who had charge of the tea room entered, it being her hour to go on duty.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, as she observed the group of excited young people about the cashier’s desk.

“Two strange young men went off with Miss Kimball’s auto,” was the cashier’s answer, and the circumstances were related.

“Two young men!” exclaimed the manager. “Why I remember those two who had cream in here this morning. They spoke to me as they came out on the porch, and I bought tickets of them.”

“Tickets!” exclaimed Jack. “Tickets?”

“Yes. They seemed all right—I mean respectful and all that. They said they had unexpectedly run out of funds and wanted to know if I wouldn’t buy some railroad tickets they had to New York. I said I hadn’t any use for them, and couldn’t get off to go to New York anyhow, as this was our busy season.”

“So you didn’t buy them?” asked Cora. “But I thought you said——”

“I didn’t buy the railroad tickets,” said the young lady manager. “But I did purchase two tickets for the opera performance that is to be given at Chelton on Friday night. I’d been wanting to go, and I was going to telephone for tickets when these young men said they had two good 23 ones they’d let me have for less than the regular price.”

“And you took them?” asked Walter.

“Yes. It seemed a bargain, and I am desirous to see the play.”

“Do you mind letting me see the tickets?” asked Jack.

“Certainly you may see them,” was the answer, and from her pocketbook, which she had left in charge of the cashier, the manager took out two slips of blue pasteboard.

“Hum! They seem regular all right,” remarked Jack. “Date and seat numbers all proper. I know where those seats are, too, right in the middle of the first row balcony. I always sit there myself when I go.”

“They said they were good seats,” declared the girl, “and I saved a dollar. They wanted the money they said, for they had spent their last for some ice cream. They seemed to be all right.”

“Maybe they were,” agreed Jack. “Of course it’s perfectly proper for persons who can’t use railroad or theatre tickets they have purchased, to sell them again. And these tickets seem to be the same as those you would get at the box office. And there’s no crime in being without cash. But it is a crime to take an automobile.”

“The only question is whether the same two fellows are involved,” suggested Walter. 24

“That’s it,” agreed Jack. “I wish you girls had had a better look at those who went off in the machine.”

“It all happened so suddenly,” Belle explained.

“Yes, such things generally do,” remarked Cora. “Well, there’s nothing else to do, is there?”

“I guess not,” said Jack, who had telephoned in the additional description of the young men who had sold the tickets, adding the information that there was only a suspicion that they were the same two who were responsible for the taking of the car.

“If they had only kept the theatre tickets, instead of selling them,” said Walter, “we’d have a good chance of arresting them.”

“How?” Belle demanded.

“By watching those two seats. As soon as the fellows came in to take their places we could have an officer arrest them.”

“Please don’t try it on me,” begged the young lady who had purchased the coupons. “I don’t want a scene,” and she regarded Walter smilingly.

“Of course not,” agreed Cora. “Oh, dear! My nice car, that I was counting on taking to Camp Surprise with me.”

“We’ll get it back before then!” declared Jack.

“Oh! but we’re going earlier than we planned originally,” said Belle.

“And she wants you boys to come, too!” cried Bess. 25

“No more than you do!” snapped Belle, her fair face flushing.

“What’s the idea?” asked Walter.

“It’s getting so unbearably warm,” said Cora, and then she explained that they might go earlier than originally planned to the bungalow camp in the mountains.

“Well, we might manage it,” Jack said. “We’ll talk it over, Wally. Have to see Paul, though I guess he’d fit in anywhere Bess went.”

“Oh! is that so?” cried the plump girl, blushing in her turn.

The tea room people promised to be on the lookout for the strange young men, and to notify Jack or the police if they came around again.

“But if they were the ones who took the car they won’t come back,” Walter declared.

By crowding, all the young people managed to get in Jack’s car. On the way back to Chelton a sharp lookout was kept for the missing machine, but no trace of it was seen, and Cora was much depressed when she reached home.

“Never mind,” whispered Jack, “you may use mine, Sis, until yours shows up. Don’t worry, we’ll get it yet.”

“I hope so,” murmured Cora.


Such measures as one might expect to have taken in a place like Chelton and the surrounding towns were taken by the authorities in an endeavor to recover Cora’s stolen automobile. For stolen it certainly was, and not taken in a joke. That fact was patent when several days passed and no trace of it was found and no word received as to where it might have been taken or abandoned by the two strange young men.

“They might merely have taken it to get some place, seeing that they had no money,” observed Belle, when the three girls were talking the matter over one day at Cora’s house.

“They had railroad tickets, though,” said Belle.

“Yes, but to New York, and perhaps they didn’t want to go there.”

“I should think New York would be just the place where they would want to go if they had no money,” came from Cora. “There are so many chances to make money there.”

“Perhaps they didn’t dare go,” suggested Belle. 27

“What do you mean?” came in a duet from the others.

“They might have done something—perhaps have taken another auto—and they knew the police would be after them,” explained Belle.

“Quite dramatic,” observed Cora. “But whoever they are or whatever their motive, I wish they’d send back my car. I want it.”

“I don’t blame you a bit,” came from Bess. “Come on, we’ll go out on another searching tour.”

“All right,” agreed Cora, and they were soon on the road again in the car of the Robinson twins. The girls had not left it all to the authorities to find the missing automobile. They had made diligent inquiries themselves on all roads leading out of Chelton and in the vicinity of the tea room. Nor had the boys been idle. Paul Hastings arrived in town on business connected with the automobile concern by which he was employed, and he, Jack and Walter, made it their business to scurry around in Jack’s car, looking for clews.

But the slender ones they found proved unavailing. Automobiles are all too common to attract attention unless there is something unusual about them. And Cora’s car, while it was a fine one, was not unusual enough to call for special notice.

The number on the license plates had been given to the police and constables, but it would have 28 been a comparatively easy matter for the thieves to change the number or rub oil on and let dust accumulate until it would have been all but indecipherable. Then, too, persons seldom notice the number on a car unless there has been some accident.

“It just seems to have disappeared,” declared Cora at the close of the day, when a long tour and many inquiries had resulted in nothing. “I just wish I had hold of those two fellows!”

“It is provoking,” agreed Belle. “Let’s stop at the tea room and see if they’ve heard anything more there.”

The girl at the cash register, the young lady manager, and the colored maid who had waited on them before greeted the three pretty chums smilingly as they again entered the pleasant tea room of Ye Olde Spinning Wheel.

“Were your tickets for the play all right?” asked Cora as the manager stepped over to inquire if everything was to their liking.

“I haven’t used them yet. They are for this week Friday. Oh! I’m sure they’re all right. Some of my friends bought tickets from the same fellows for the same night and they are next mine.”

“Those chaps must have planned for a regular theatre party,” observed Belle.

“Have you had any trace of your car yet?” the cashier asked, as Cora went up to pay the check. 29

“No, I’m sorry to say, I haven’t.”

“If you don’t get it soon, Cora,” said Belle, “you’d better plan to use ours to go to Camp Surprise.”

“Oh, we’re going in the motor boat,” Cora said. “I didn’t tell you, but mother learned that the roads around the camp were so rough that it would certainly spoil a car to take it to camp, so I wouldn’t take mine, anyhow.”

“Camp Surprise,” repeated the pretty cashier. “That sounds interesting.”

“I hope we don’t find it too much so,” returned Belle.

The plans for going to live at the bungalow with the odd name, which was situated in the mountains some miles west of Chelton, had been talked over at length, and an earlier trip than the one originally decided on had been voted for.

“Going in the motor boat! How nice!” cried Bess, as they went out of the tea room. “Then it doesn’t matter about your auto, Cora—I mean, of course—oh! I don’t mean that!” she cried, blushing. “Of course you want it back——”

“Well, I should say I do!” exclaimed Jack’s sister with mock indignation.

“I mean we won’t have to wait until you get your car back before going to Camp Surprise,” Bess went on.

“No,” agreed Cora. “That won’t delay us.” 30

“And now don’t you think you ought to tell us why the camp where we are going to spend most of the summer has such an odd name?” asked Belle.

“I’ve been meaning to this long while,” assented Cora, “but so many things have happened that I didn’t get to it. Come on, let’s sit out here on the porch, where it’s so nice, cool and shady, and I’ll tell you all I know.”

“You couldn’t, Cora, dear—not in the limited time at our disposal,” said Belle, languidly sinking into an easy wicker chair. “You know too much.”

“Thank you. I believe this was my treat, so now we’re even. But I meant all I know about Camp Surprise.”

“First, how did it get its name?” asked Bess.

“Because of the surprising things that happen there.”

“Happen—happen?” queried Belle. “Do you mean they still happen?”

“Well, so mother said,” observed Cora.

“Bur-r-r!” shivered Bess, with a hasty glance over her shoulder. “I’m not so sure I want to go there.”

“Nonsense!” cried Cora. “If there’s a ghost we’ll lay it—whatever that means.”

“Oh, Cora! Ghosts!”

“Oh! I don’t mean that, exactly. It isn’t so bad as that. The worst things that have happened 31 are that things in the bungalow seem to be upset and misplaced without reason.”

“Upset? Misplaced?” murmured Belle.

“Without reason?” added her sister.

“Oh! perhaps I am making a mountain out of a molehill,” confessed Cora. “This is how the matter stands. Up in the mountains are a number of camps, cottages, bungalows—what you like—which belong to a development company. The bungalows and camps are rented, furnished, to whoever wants them. Camp Surprise, where we shall have a good-sized bungalow to live in, is one of the best of these resorts. It is about five miles in from the Towanda river, which is what the Chelton is called up state, and it was going up the river that I planned to use the motor boat.”

“How do we get over the five miles?” asked Bess.

“By buckboards over a mountain road. That’s why we won’t need the autos. Of course we could use a car, but as long as mine is still among the missing we won’t make any such plans. Camp Surprise is right on the edge of a stream which is quiet enough in dry weather, but a torrent when there’s a heavy rain. And there’s a little lake and a waterfall near the bungalow.”

“That sounds lovely,” remarked Belle.

“It is lovely,” asserted Cora. “I’ve seen pictures of it. And while our bungalow is on one side 32 of the mountain torrent there is another one, not far off, on the other side, where the boys are going to stay.”

“How nice,” commented Bess.

“Is that other bungalow within sight or calling distance of ours?” asked Belle.

“One or the other, yes,” assented Cora. “But why so anxious?”

“Because when those ghosts, or whatever they are, get to moving things about I want a man, or at least a good-sized boy around,” was the answer.

“Nonsense!” exclaimed Cora. “It isn’t so bad as that.”

“Say it again,” begged Bess. “You told about unseen hands moving chairs and tables.”

“I didn’t mean it exactly that way,” and Cora smiled. “You see there is a man and his wife who have rooms in the bungalow, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd. They look after the place, and they’ll be our chaperons. I did think mother might be able to go with us, but she won’t. But mother knows Mrs. Floyd, and says she’s very nice.”

“I hope the ghosts will be nice,” said Belle.

Cora laughed.

“Oh, you funny girl! Why will you persist in calling them ghosts?”

“Well, aren’t they? Moving chairs about?”

“Is that what happened—or happens?” asked Bess. 33

“So I understand,” returned Cora. “Mr. and Mrs. Floyd don’t use the main bungalow, keeping to their own rooms. But they wrote mother that, of late, there have been some queer goings on. They said they would go out, leaving the rooms in perfect order, only to find them all upset on their return. Chairs would be misplaced, tables that had been in the middle of the room would be shoved back against the wall. Dishes would be taken out of the closets, and——”

“Tramps!” interrupted Belle.

“What?” cried Cora, rather startled by the suddenness of the ejaculation.

“I mean tramps got in and did it.”

“No, I don’t think so,” and Cora spoke slowly. “For, though the dishes were taken from the pantry, there was no food missing. Tramps would take food.”

“Is this all that happened?” Bess demanded.

“Well, once something was taken,” Cora said. “A party had the bungalow, and when they left at the end of their stay, they forgot to take some of their silver with them. Then came one of the upsetting periods, and the furniture was misplaced and the silver taken.”

Belle and Bess looked at their chum, then the former said slowly:

“I—I don’t believe we want to go to Camp Surprise, Cora.”


Cora laughed melodiously. Belle and Bess looked at her with just a shade of indignation in their eyes.

“I didn’t think you’d be such—such, well, I won’t say cowards,” Cora voiced, when the gale of merriment had passed. “But I think, Belle, that you would rise above the occasion, even if Bess——”

“Now what is there she can do that I can’t?” demanded the plump twin truculently. “I guess if it’s a question of bravery, I’m as willing as she is to go to Camp Surprise.”

“I thought you’d be,” Cora observed.

“But is it a question of bravery?” asked Belle.

“What else?” her sister demanded.

“Well, from the way in which Cora told it, I should think it would need some members of the Society for Psychic Research to get to the bottom of all those queer manifestations. Cora Kimball!” Belle suddenly exclaimed, sitting up in her chair. “You haven’t been hoaxing us; have you? This 35 isn’t a joke; is it? I mean all those things really did happen; didn’t they?”

“My! what a lot of questions to set off at once,” objected Cora. “But I can answer them all by saying that I have given the story to you just as it came to me. As far as I know, it’s no joke, and the way the furniture behaved, or rather, was made to act, is strictly true.”

“And you are still going to Camp Surprise?” asked Bess.

“Certainly. Why not?”

“Well—er—that is—— Oh! of course I know there’s no such thing as a ghost,” said Belle. “But, at the same time, even if those things happened by human agencies—as naturally they did—it might make it very unpleasant for us up there.”

“Nonsense!” cried Cora. “It will make it all the more interesting. Think of the fun we can have, organizing ghost-detecting parties, sitting up until all hours of the night, daring the boys to sit with us. And then, after all, finding out it is only the tricks of some alleged fun-loving person, or perhaps boys of the neighborhood.”

“Do you really think so, Cora?” Belle asked.

“Why, yes.”

“I don’t know,” murmured Bess, thoughtfully.

“Come! Where has all the bravery of the Motor Girls vanished to?” demanded Cora with a silvery laugh. “We didn’t act thus timidly when we 36 solved the secret of the red oar on Crystal Bay. And perhaps——”

“Cora’s right!” interrupted Belle.

“She generally is,” contributed Bess.

“There’s a secret here, and we will solve it!” her sister went on. “I didn’t look at it that way before, but I see it now. We mustn’t be driven away, or kept from going just because of these rumors. We’ll go to Camp Surprise and surprise those who are making such a fuss there. I wonder some one hasn’t done it long ago.”

“Just what I was about to remark,” came from Cora. “I’m glad to see that your natural courage has come back. I thought it would. We haven’t been together on various quests for nothing. Now we’ll prove ourselves true Motor Girls, and get at the bottom of these surprising happenings. You won’t back out?”

“Never!” affirmed Bess.

“Cross my heart!” laughed her sister, with the old, familiar, childish gesture of emphasizing a statement.

“Then it’s all settled. Now let’s go home. Jack and Walter said they were going over to Meadport to-day to see if any word had been received there of my missing auto. They may have returned with some news.”

“Why was Meadport regarded so favorably?” asked Bess. 37

“Well, a constable there sent word to our police that there had been a number of petty robberies committed in the neighborhood. A number of thefts would take place in one night, and so far apart that the only probable theory was that the thieves used an auto. Jack thought my dear car might be used for such base purposes, so he and Wally went over there to-day.”

“Let us hope they have good news,” said Belle, as with her sister and Cora she entered the Robinson automobile and headed back for Cheerful Chelton.

“Nothing doing,” announced Jack, as his sister and her chums came in sight of the Kimball home, and saw him with Walter, sitting on the broad, shady piazza. “Absolutely nothing transpiring, as the poet saith.”

“College hasn’t improved your slang any,” observed Bess.

“No, I guess I’ll have to take a P. G. course to accomplish that. I am a bit rusty. Wally, suppose you give them a sample.”

“Spare us,” murmured Cora. “Was there really no news, Jack?”

“Not an atom, or even a molecule. Which is smaller, Wally? I forget.”

“Same here. Anyhow they hadn’t caught those Meadport thieves, so whether they have your auto or not, Cora, my dear, remains yet to be proved.” 38

The young people talked on, the conversation reverting naturally to Camp Surprise.

“What do you think it all means, Jack?” asked Bess.

“Kids playing tricks,” declared Jack tersely. “So it didn’t scare you girls out from going?”

“Of course not!” declared Bess indignantly. A look passed from her to Cora, from Cora to Belle—and that was all.

“That’s right!” chimed in Walter. “Don’t let a little thing like that scare you away. We’ll get at the bottom of this mystery.”

“When do you plan to go?” asked Cora of her brother.

“As soon as Wally can get his new suit that he’s ordered from that nobby tailor.”

“Don’t you believe him,” cried Walter, thumping his chum on the back. “I’m as ready as he is. He’s waiting for one of those sport shirts——”

“Go on! I wouldn’t wear one!”

“Well, make up your minds, and we’ll all go together,” urged Cora. “We can go up in the motor boat as far as possible, and take buckboards the rest of the way. We’d like to have you boys on hand when we begin the investigation of Camp Surprise.”

“Oh, ho! Afraid?” laughed Walter. “I thought there was a mouse in the woodpile somewhere, Jack, my boy!” 39

“Nothing of the sort!” came from Cora. “Besides, you’re thinking of the mouse and the lion. It is an African gentleman of color who makes the woodpile his habitation.”

“That’s right,” admitted Walter. “I never was very good at dates anyhow.”

“Fig paste is more to your liking. Have a chocolate,” urged Bess.

“We want you along to bear testimony when we have routed out the mischief-makers,” said Cora, after the laughter had subsided. “Your bungalow is near ours, and we can call to you to come and hold the disturbers when we capture them.”

“Is that what you’re going to do?” asked Jack.

“Certainly,” returned Belle, as if the girls had never hesitated.

“Well, it would be a pity to disappoint you,” Walter declared. “We’ll go when they do, Jack. But—whisper—they’ll be more than a week yet. I know girls.”

“You only think you do,” mocked Cora. “We’ll be ready before you are.”

Then they began to talk seriously and plan for their summer outing. It was not the first time they had been away together, the boys and girls often going to the same resort and occupying adjacent bungalows or cottages. In this way they divided such work as there was, and multiplied the possible good times. 40

Mrs. Kimball was to go to the Thousand Islands with her sister, which left Jack and Cora free to do as they pleased. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson would, as usual, occupy their seashore cottage, but Bess and Belle would not join them there until later in the season, going first to Camp Surprise with Cora.

“Well, now it’s all settled,” declared Cora, after a season of talk. “We’ll go to Camp Surprise two weeks from to-day. I’ll tell mother, and have her write to Mrs. Floyd to have everything in readiness.”

“Even the ghosts?” demanded Walter.

“Even the ghosts,” agreed Cora, accepting the implied challenge.

“Good!” cried Jack.

A few days after this the three girls, all of whom belonged to a church home mission society, went to take some medicine and food to an old woman who was one that the society looked after. This dependent lived some distance out of Cheerful Chelton, and the Robinson twins brought their car in which to carry the baskets of food.

They had done their little errand of mercy and on the way back Cora proposed that they stop at Ye Olde Spinning Wheel for some tea or ice cream, as the girls preferred.

They had the place practically to themselves, as it was not the hour when most motorists stopped 41 for refreshments. Cora and her chums spoke to the manager, and noticed that she seemed a bit downcast.

“What is the matter?” asked Cora.

“Oh, it’s something that happened last night. You know I told you I had two tickets for the opera. My friend gave me the money to get them, and I bought them off the two young fellows who were here one day last week.”

“Yes, it was the time my auto was taken,” Cora said.

“Of course! I ought to have remembered. Well, I bought two tickets for the opera from those men at a reduced price.”

“And couldn’t your friend go with you?” asked Belle sympathetically.

“Oh, yes. He came for me all right. But when we went to go in they wouldn’t let us.”

“Who wouldn’t let you, those two young men?” asked Cora eagerly.

“No, I only wish it had been the young men. I’d have had ’em arrested. But the doorkeeper would not let me and my friend in on those tickets.”

“Why not?” asked Bess.

“Because he said they were counterfeit. And after my friend had given me his good money for them. I was that angry I could have cried! Counterfeit tickets! What do you know about that?”


“Really, were they bogus tickets?” asked Cora after a pause.

“And wouldn’t they let you in?” Bess cried.

“How could they tell they were counterfeits?” was Belle’s question.

“’Cause some one else had our seats, or the seats our tickets called for,” said Miss Magin, the manager of the tea room. “This is how it was. I got all ready to go—it was my day off, you know, and I had a new dress. Had my nails manicured and went to a hair dresser, for I wanted to look nice. My friend is some swell dresser himself, and you know how it is. You want to be a credit when a person goes to the trouble to take you out.”

“I know,” Cora murmured.

“Well, I did look nice, if I do say it myself,” went on Miss Magin, “and I was quite pleased when I handed my friend back a dollar.

“‘What’s this for?’ he asked me.

“‘What I saved on the tickets,’ I told him, and I mentioned how I’d bought two from the fellows 43 who were here trying to sell some railroad transportation as well. My friend was quite pleased, of course, for he has to work hard for his money. ’This’ll do to help get a lunch after the show,’ he said, and I was glad.

“Well, we got to the opera house all right, but they wouldn’t let us in. That is, they wouldn’t give us the seats our coupons called for. We did get in, but when we went to the seats there was a couple already in them.

“My friend thought the usher had made a mistake, and there was a mix-up for a while. Then the usher got the other couple’s coupons and they were the same number as ours. They called the manager, and he said our tickets were counterfeit.

“First my friend wouldn’t believe it, but the manager showed by the other tickets taken in that ours were different. The print was the same, and so was the color of the pasteboard, but it was stiffer than the regular tickets. There was no way out of it. We had been cheated, and so had some other people who had bought tickets from those fellows. There was quite a disturbance.”

“It’s too bad!” exclaimed Cora. “Then you didn’t see the opera after all?”

“Oh, sure I did!” exclaimed Miss Magin. “My friend wouldn’t see me disappointed. He bought other tickets, though they weren’t as good as the ones I had—or thought I had.” 44

“And they really were counterfeit?” repeated Bess.

“Yes, but cleverly done. It was only the quality of the paper, or pasteboard, that showed,” went on the tea room manager. “If we had gotten there first we might have had our seats without any trouble, though of course when the folks came in that had the real tickets it would have been found out, I s’pose.”

“And you say others also bought the bogus tickets?” Cora asked.

“Yes, quite a few. Got them from the same fellows, too, who told the same story about being hard up for cash, and wanting to sell the tickets they’d purchased.”

“Were they the same young men?” asked Belle.

“The descriptions were the same as the two who were here, and who must have taken your auto, Miss Kimball. When I found out our tickets were worthless I told the manager about your car, though of course he had heard of it from reading the paper. Oh! I just wish I could have them arrested!”

“So do I,” agreed Cora.

“Could they find out where the tickets were printed?” asked Bess.

“Not just by looking at them,” answered Miss Magin. “The bogus ones looked for all the world like the real ones, even to the company’s name 45 that was printed on them. But the opera house manager kept those my friend and I turned in and said he’d make an investigation. Say! I felt pretty cheap when it turned out I’d bought bogus tickets with my friend’s money.”

“Oh! you couldn’t help it,” Cora said, her chums murmuring their agreement.

“Well, I meant all right,” Miss Magin went on, “but I cost my friend more than if I hadn’t a’ been so soft-hearted wanting to help out those fellows who told a hard-luck story.”

“They’ll be caught some day,” declared Bess. “Printing bogus theatrical tickets isn’t easily done. Care has to be used, and sooner or later those fellows will be arrested.”

“The sooner the better,” said Cora. “I want my car back.”

The girls and the manager talked for some little time longer about the happenings of the night before. Presently a man alighted from a taxicab, or rather, one of the town’s few jitney cars, and entered the tea room. He looked rather sharply at our friends—at least so Cora thought—and, taking a seat at a table not far away, ordered a cup of coffee and a sandwich.

He spoke casually to the waitress, and as Miss Magin, as was her custom, walked up to see if the service was satisfactory, he spoke also to her pleasantly, and she replied. 46

“Was it one of the young ladies here who recently purchased some bogus theatre tickets?” the man asked, after some casual remarks.

“I hope you haven’t any more to sell!” retorted the manager, a bit sharply.

“No. I am a detective sent out by the agency which prints theatre tickets for many shows. This isn’t the first time we have had trouble, and I want, if possible, to get on the track of the persons responsible. Do you mind telling me all you can of this?”

Of course Miss Magin was only too glad to do so, and, incidentally, she mentioned the loss of Cora’s automobile. Naturally that brought our friends into the conversation, and the detective, who introduced himself as Mr. Boswell, went over to the girls’ table. He spoke of having been for some time unsuccessfully on the trail of the bogus ticket sellers.

“Taking automobiles is a new line for their activities, though,” said Mr. Boswell. “This may make it easier to catch them.”

“Of course,” suggested Cora, “we are not altogether certain that the same persons who sold Miss Magin the tickets took my auto.”

“Very likely they were,” declared the detective. “They probably realized that they had done all the illegitimate business possible in this neighborhood, and they wanted to get as far away as they could 47 before the fact about the tickets became known. An auto offered the simplest means.”

“I should have locked the ignition switch,” said Cora. “I usually do when I get out. But we thought we would stay only a little while, so I didn’t do it this time.”

“Too bad,” said Mr. Boswell. “If I get on the track of your car, Miss Kimball, I’ll let you know.”

He made a memorandum of the description of the two men as furnished by Miss Magin, and took his departure, promising to let Cora hear from him in case anything developed.

“More of the mystery,” remarked Bess, as she and the others were on their way back in the automobile. “What with this and what may happen at Camp Surprise, I can see we are in for a busy summer.”

And busy enough the girls were during the next week. There were trunks to pack, messages to send to the caretakers at the camp, dresses to have finished in time, and many odds and ends to be looked after before leaving for so long a time.

“There’s a nice dancing pavilion not far away,” Cora told her chums. “And of course there’ll be one or two formal affairs at a neighboring hotel.”

Hazel Hastings had come on to be Cora’s guest and was staying at the Kimball house. She was the same sweet girl as before, though a little older, and not quite so timid as she had been. 48

Paul was the same jolly chap, quite engrossed in his automobile business, but not so much so that he could not enjoy the little outing in prospect.

“I’ve sent a description of your car, with the number of it, the number of the engine and other identifying marks, to all the second hand dealers,” he told Cora. “If it’s offered for sale to any one in the dealers’ association I’ll hear of it and there’s a chance that we’ll get it back for you.

“Of course there are some ‘outlaw dealers’ who do not belong to the association, and who might take a chance on buying a stolen car,” said the young automobile agent. “But we can’t help that. I think we’ll get your machine sooner or later.”

Cora was grateful for Paul’s efforts, but she had about given up hope. The police had secured no clews, and, though they professed to be active, there really was little for them to do.

The motor boat had been overhauled and put in shape for the trip up the Chelton river. Though the craft offered accommodations for sleeping on board they did not plan to use the berths on this occasion. They were to make an early start and reach Riverhead, the end of navigation on the Chelton, early in the afternoon. From Riverhead they would go to Camp Surprise in wagons of the buckboard type, made with wooden slats for springs, very comfortable to ride in over rough roads. 49

The boys were to go with the girls, Jack and his sister acting as chaperons for the others until camp was reached, when Mr. and Mrs. Floyd would perform this office.

Light baggage would be taken with them on the boat, the trunks being sent on ahead.

“And we’ll take lunch along, of course,” Bess said.

“Of course,” echoed her sister. “We don’t want to go hungry any more than do you.”

The day of departure came at last. Bess and Belle were early at Cora’s house, and found her, Jack, Paul and Hazel busy making the final preparations.

The valises and bundles were carried down to the motor boat, good-byes were said over and over again, various cautions were given by Mrs. Kimball and Mrs. Robinson, and then Cora, standing at the wheel of the craft, steered out into the middle of the pretty stream.

“Off for Camp Surprise!” she cried gaily.


Out into the sunlit Chelton river swung the smart motor boat with Cora at the wheel. The sun glinted on the water, it reflected from the polished brass rail and the white forward deck of the craft, it sparkled from the brass letters of the name—Corbelbes, and danced in javelins of light on the little waves.

The Corbelbes was the latest name of the motor boat which had been variously christened at times. The craft was owned jointly by Cora, Belle and Bess, and in accordance with their agreement they had in turn the privilege of naming it, such name to be used during a whole season.

In turn the girls had adopted various more or less classical nomenclature. Each one’s time having expired, it came to Cora again, and she confessed that she did not know what to select.

“Let me name the boat for you,” suggested Jack. “I’ve thought of a swell name.”

“Something ridiculous, I’m sure of that,” ventured Cora. 51

“No, something really classy. How’s this,” and Jack quickly printed on a piece of paper the name now glinting on either bow of the craft.

Corbelbes,” repeated his sister. “That isn’t half bad. What is it, Spanish or Latin?”

“It’s French for curling iron and face powder,” laughed Jack.

“You mean thing!”

“No, it isn’t, Sis. Don’t you see, it’s the first part of the names of all three of you.”

“Oh, so it is.” Cora was smiling now.

“What better name could you have for a boat?” Jack demanded. “It’s something distinctive and individual.”

Cora and her chums agreed with him, and the motor boat became the Corbelbes, and as such had remained.

“Does she steer all right, Cora, with the new tiller ropes on?” asked Jack, as he lolled lazily on one of the cushioned lockers, which, at night, could be turned into comfortable bunks.

“A bit stiff,” responded his sister.

“Well, the ropes will stretch, after they’ve been used a bit, so it’s just as well to have them tight now. You get quicker action when you turn the wheel, though the river will not be crowded after we get up a way.”

Bess, Belle and Hazel busied themselves setting to rights their various possessions in the little 52 cabin, and then they sat out in the wicker chairs in the after part of the craft, where Jack and Walter were. Paul seemed to find entertainment up in the bow with Cora.

“Where are the eats?” demanded Walter, when they had been under way for perhaps a half hour. “Didn’t I see you smuggling something on board, Bess?”

“Eats? Now?” cried Jack. “And if you saw Bess have anything it was a box of chocolates.”

“It was not, Jack Kimball!” retorted the pretty, plump twin. “I’ve given up chocolates.”

“For how long?” he teased.

“For ever. I’m eating lime drops and lemon drops now. Have some?”

“I knew I saw you have something,” declared Walter. “Why, they’re chocolates after all!” he went on, as he helped himself to what Bess offered.

“I know they are, but the chocolate coating is very thin,” she said. “They’re sour inside.”

“Sort of Christian Science treatment,” remarked Jack. “Bess couldn’t altogether give up her chocolate, so she takes it in homeopathic doses. Whew! they are sour!” he cried, as he bit into one of the candies, making a wry face.

“Fruit acids make one thin, I read,” Bess stated, “so I had these made to order.”

“Bess Robinson, you never did!” voiced her sister in surprised accents. 53

“Why shouldn’t I? They didn’t cost any more than the others. All the candy shop did was to dip their regular lime and lemon drops into chocolate for me.”

“Well!” exclaimed Belle. “Did you hear that, Cora?”

There was no reply from the girl at the wheel. She and Paul were busy talking.

“Let her alone,” urged Bess. “She knows about my candy. I told her.”

“Yes, don’t disturb ’em,” agreed Walter. “But I want something more substantial than candy. Didn’t you bring anything else, Bess?”

“Yes, we have a nice lunch, but I’m not going to have you spoil your appetite by eating now,” declared Belle.

“You don’t know how hard it is to spoil his appetite,” laughed Jack. “I’ve tried several times to find out just where the vanishing point is, but I haven’t succeeded. I’ve begun to believe that his appetite is like the poor—always with us—or him.”

“Base traitor!” retorted Walter, reaching out to punch Jack, but finding him too far away he did not exert himself.

The Chelton river was a busy place in the neighborhood of the town where our friends lived. On the way up the Corbelbes passed a number of craft, some of them slow-moving coal or grain 54 barges, others passenger steamers, and not a few pleasure craft. Those in charge of the latter recognized the Corbelbes and saluted her with the regulation three whistles, which Cora returned.

“We couldn’t have had a better day,” remarked Paul, as he sat beside Cora.

“No, it’s perfect. If the weather only behaves when we get to camp we’ll be in all sorts of ways obliged to it.”

“Oh, I guess it will,” was the comment. “Look out for that fellow, Cora. He doesn’t seem to know which way he wants to go.”

“I’ve been noticing him,” and Cora looked at a man in a rowboat who was yawing from side to side as though unfamiliar with the proper method of navigation.

Cora blew the whistle sharply as the man seemed about to cross her bows, and this further confused him so that he was really in danger of being run down.

“Look out!” cried Paul again, instinctively, though he knew Cora knew how to manage the boat.

And she proved that she did by quickly reversing the propeller, while a series of sharp blasts informed any craft coming astern to look out for themselves.

“What’s the matter with you?” demanded Paul, as the Corbelbes passed the man in the rowboat. 55 “You ought to take lessons before you come out on the river.”

The man looked frightened but did not answer, pulling awkwardly away.

“What are you trying to do, Cora?” demanded Jack. “Have an accident before we’re fairly started? Better let me steer.”

“I will not, indeed! It wasn’t my fault!”

“I should say not!” cried Paul. “That fellow was a dub!”

That was the only near approach to a collision, though the river was unusually crowded that morning. In a little while, however, the water traffic thinned out, and Cora did not have to devote so much attention to the wheel.

“Say, isn’t it time for lunch now?” demanded Walter, insinuatingly.

“It’s only eleven,” announced Belle, with a look at her wrist watch.

“That’s his regular feeding time—at least he’ll say so,” put in Jack, before his chum had a chance to answer.

“I had an early breakfast,” put in Walter in extenuation.

“Oh, well, give the child something,” laughed Bess, “and let us have peace!”

Sandwiches, cake and other things were brought out, set on a table which unfolded from the side of the boat, and the merry chatter was soon interspersed 56 with periods of silence to allow a chance to eat.

“We’ll get there in good season,” Cora was saying, when the engine gave a sudden combined cough, wheeze and sneeze, and stopped.

“No gasoline!” cried Walter.

“Indeed not!” answered Cora. “Both tanks are full.”

“Ground wire broken,” suggested Paul.

A hasty look at the conductors proved this theory to be wrong.

“Then it’s the carburetor,” Jack affirmed. “The worst possible place for trouble. I’ll look after it, Sis. I’ve had the dingus apart, and if anybody knows about its insides I do. Throw that anchor overboard, Wally, and I’ll tinker with the troublemaker.”

A small anchor splashed into the river, while Jack, putting on an old jumper and overalls, kept for such emergencies, took off the carburetor and proceeded to examine it, from cork float to butterfly valve.

“Must be poor gasoline they’re serving us lately,” he said. “It’s awfully dirty. Look!” and he held up his grimy hands.

“Have you found the trouble?” Cora asked.

“Yes, it was the air intake valve. Little speck of carbon in it prevented the proper mixture. I’ll have it fixed in a jiffy.” 57

Jack proved the truth of his assertion by replacing the carburetor, and, a little later, by starting the engine without any trouble.

“Hurrah!” cried Paul. “That’s what it is to have a good mechanician aboard.”

“It’s a wonder you wouldn’t qualify yourself,” said Jack grimly. “Look at me! I’ll have to take a bath!” and he held up his hands, grimier than ever.

“There’s some of that mechanic’s soap—with pumice stone in it—in one of the lockers,” volunteered Cora. “Use that, Jack.”

The anchor was hauled in and the Corbelbes started up the river once more. Jack knelt down on one side of the stern deck, and, reaching down into the river, wet his hands, rubbing on them some pasty soap, guaranteed to remove grime of all kinds and leave most of the original skin.

“Where’s the camera?” asked Bess.

“What for?” demanded her sister.

“I want a view of Jack at his bath. Doesn’t he look cute?”

“Wait until I pose for you,” Jack suggested, making a lather of the soap. “I’m a dandy when it comes to poses. Just watch me.”

He stood up on the after deck, but his foot slipped on a bit of the lather that dropped from his hands, and, a moment later, Jack plunged overboard.


“Oh, Jack!” cried Cora, as she had a hasty glimpse of her brother making a rather ungraceful dive over the side of the Corbelbes. “Oh!”

Her words were echoed by Bess and Belle, and while they started up, overturning the chairs on which they had been sitting, Cora, alive to the emergency, quickly threw in the reverse clutch, and a smother of foam arose under the stern of the boat as it lost way.

Nor had Walter and Paul been idle. The former seized a canvas covered cork life ring, and, waiting a moment to catch a glimpse of the bobbing head of his chum, threw the ring to him, with a cry of:

“There you are, Jack!”

“I’ll go after him in the boat!” called Hazel’s brother, for a small dingey was riding astern of the larger boat, and Paul now hauled this toward the side.

There was no need for any one else to go overboard, for Jack, as his boy and girl chums well 59 knew, could swim excellently, and he had fallen in with only overalls and jumper on, which made raiment almost as light as a bathing suit. True, he had on his shoes, but in several tests at summer camp Jack had swum across a lake with all his heavy clothes on.

Still Paul was not sure but what his chum might have struck his head going overboard, and in this case it would be advisable to have the little boat ready.

“There he is—he’s all right,” cried Walter, as he saw Jack striking out for the motor boat, ignoring the life ring.

“Get it, Jack! Get it!” cried Cora, indicating the white, floating object.

“Don’t need it!” Jack sung out, cheerfully enough. “What do you think I am, an invalid?”

However, he was glad enough to crawl into the smaller boat, which Paul sent over toward him, for Jack found his shoes heavy, and the side of the Corbelbes was high out of water, making it difficult for one to reach the gunwale.

“All right?” asked Cora, as Jack sat dripping on the stern seat.

“Sure I’m all right. I was going in for a swim anyhow, and this saved me the trouble.”

“Well, come on board and we’ll start again,” Cora said. “Pick up the ring, Paul. I don’t want to lose it!” 60

“Aye, aye, my captainess!” and he saluted with an oar.

“How did it happen, Jack?” asked Walter, when his chum, dripping, was safe on board again.

“Somebody pushed me! I think it was Hazel,” and he winked at the others while he gazed as severely as possible (which was not greatly) at the blushing girl.

“Oh, Mr. Kimball! I—I did not!” cried Hazel.

“My goodness, how very formal! Mr. Kimball!” mocked Bess. “Since when, Hazel?”

“Since he accused me that way.”

“Oh! I’ll withdraw the accusation if you’ll only call me Jack! I love to hear you say that, Hazel! Call me Jack.”

“Silly!” muttered Cora.

“Mushy, I call it,” declared Bess. “Downright mushy!”

“You’re jealous,” added Walter.

“Say Jack!” commanded the dripping owner of the name, “or I’ll come over and sit by you, Hazel, and I’m almost sure that blue dress of yours spots.”

“It does! Oh, don’t let him come near me!” begged Hazel, trying to retreat into the cabin.

“Say Jack then!” commanded the relentless one, dripping at every step as he pursued her.

“Oh—Jack!” she complied. 61

“Your brains seem to have gone overboard, and not to have come back with you,” said Cora to her brother. “Quit your fooling. You’re getting the cushions all wet.”

Jack subsided after blowing a kiss to his sister, and sprinkling her with water from his dripping hair. Then the boat was put back on her course, the dingey was made fast, the life ring put in place, and there was peace and quietness once more, broken only by Jack’s grunts and exclamations as he struggled to get off his wet shoes.

“Cora,” called Jack, from the curtained cabin, where he was changing into dry garments, “I didn’t put an extra pair of shoes in your valise; did I?”

“I rather guess not,” was the quick answer.

“Then I haven’t any,” wailed Jack. “I’ll have to borrow a pair of you girls’ slippers. The biggest I can get—don’t all speak at once.”

There were some subdued giggles.

“Did I hear Cora say hers would be too big for me?” asked Jack.

“Oh, do get sensible!” commanded his sister. “There’s a pair of worsted bedroom slippers of mine you can take until your shoes get dry. You can’t stretch them any too much. Put your shoes near the muffler. They’ll dry there.”

“Yes, and get all out of shape,” objected Jack. “I’ll put them on the forward flag staff and let the gentle breezes dry them. ’Tis Nature’s way.” 62

“You’ll do nothing of the sort!” groaned Cora. “What would people say on seeing a pair of shoes at the top of the staff? Please put them near the muffler and they’ll dry all right.”

This Jack did, the iron cylinder that received the burned gases from the engine being quite hot, so that the wet garments and shoes bid fair to dry speedily. Jack, meanwhile, donned a pair of his sister’s slippers—a pink one and a blue one, Cora not having been able to find mates.

“I don’t know what’s in him to-day,” Cora confided to Hazel.

“He’s awfully jolly, I think,” said Paul’s sister.

“Jolly? You wouldn’t think so if you had to live with him as long as I have had to.”

“Is he always this way?”

“No, thank goodness; it goes by streaks, like the lean and fat in a piece of bacon.”

“The idea of comparing Jack to a piece of bacon!” commented Bess, who overheard.

“Well, he is that way,” insisted Cora.

“I hope my shoes get dry by the time we reach Riverhead,” Jack confided to Paul and Walter. “I have another pair in my trunk, but that may not be there when we get to camp. And I do hate wet shoes to dance in.”

“Who said we were going to dance?” asked Walter.

“I did,” replied Jack. “There’s a hotel not 63 far from the camp, I hear, and the season ought to be partly in swing now. Well, if you fellows don’t want to go I can borrow your shoes.”

“Who said we didn’t want to go?” Paul cried.

“Oh, well, don’t bite me!” pleaded Jack, in falsetto accents.

The little excitement caused by Jack’s involuntary bath gradually subsided. He made a final and fairly successful effort to rid his hands of the grime caused by cleaning the carburetor, and then, attired in dry garments, and with one pink and one blue slippered foot resting “nonchalantly” (as he called it) on the rail, he watched the receding, wooded shores of the Chelton.

From somewhere in the distance a factory whistle blew.

“One o’clock!” cried Jack. “Is dinner ready? I say, Cora, I have a wonderful appetite!”

“Never knew you when you didn’t have,” she replied.

“Why, we just had lunch—just before Jack fell overboard!” ejaculated Hazel.

“That won’t make a bit of difference to him—or them,” said Belle, with a resigned air. “We’ll have to serve another meal I suppose.”

“A regular one this time, if you please,” begged Walter. “Those olives, anchovies and the caviar sandwiches only made me a bit keen.”

The girls were nothing loath to put out the food 64 again, for, truth to tell, the river air had given them, as well as the boys, an appetite. They had brought plenty with them, for though they had requested Mr. Floyd to have supper ready when they reached the bungalow (the first meal in camp the boys were to share with the girls), still Cora had feared they would arrive late, and had made arrangements accordingly.

They had as much fun over the regular lunch as they had had over the “temporary” one, as Walter and the boys designated the first meal, and the afternoon waned pleasantly.

“I hope we shall get to Riverhead before the storm,” observed Cora, as she came back to take her place at the wheel again, a post she had abandoned while she helped the girls put away the dishes and what was left of the food.

“What storm?” asked Paul.

Cora indicated a bank of sullen-looking clouds in the west. They were sufficiently ominous to cause Cora to speed up the motor a bit, and to request her brothers and his chums to see to the side curtains.

“We ought to get in long before that breaks,” Jack declared.

But he did not count on the speedy approach of the storm, nor on the fact that the boat ran into a shallow section of the river, where there grew long grass which got entangled in the propeller. 65

Though the Corbelbes managed to force her way through this patch of “seaweed” as Jack called it, when she emerged into free water again the motor could hardly turn the screw. It was necessary to reverse the engine, to unwind the grass, and even then some had to be pulled away with the boat hook—no easy task.

And then, when they were once more under full speed, the storm came down with a rush and a roar, with blinding sheets of rain, with a wind that caught the boat broadside, where the rubber curtains made a wide sail area, and heeled her over at no small angle.

With the rain came thunder and lightning, sufficiently fierce and loud for a time to terrify at least Belle, who was the most nervous of the girls.

“I can hardly see to steer,” said Cora, peering out of the rain-drenched windows of the cabin.

“Want me to take the wheel?” asked Jack.

“No, thank you, I think not. We ought to be almost there now. But I don’t know about going over the mountain trail in this storm.”

“Maybe it will stop,” suggested Belle.

“It doesn’t act so,” commented Walter.

The thunder had almost ceased, and the lightning was not so startling, but the rain came down harder than ever.

“I declare I can’t see either bank of the river,” Cora said. “I hope I shan’t run into anything.” 66

They kept on for perhaps an hour longer, the rain never ceasing. But they were good and dry in the snug motor boat.

“I think we’d better put ashore and find out where we are,” suggested Jack, after a bit. “We may have run past Riverhead, Cora.”

“Run past it! How could we, Jack? The river’s almost too shallow for a rowboat past Riverhead. We’d be aground.”

“Not necessarily. They’ve lately dredged a channel about a mile beyond, to let boats bring ice down from the houses up above. You may be in the channel,” Walter said.

“I don’t believe—” began Cora, when suddenly the boat ran against an obstruction. The occupants were almost thrown off their feet. A grinding, scraping sound was heard and Cora threw out the gears.

“Why—why!” she cried, as she looked out into the dark mist of the storm. “We’ve run ashore!”


Silence followed Cora’s startling announcement—that is comparative silence, for the rain, hissing into the river, and pelting on the deck and cabin roof, made quite a noise.

“What’s that you say?” demanded Walter, arising from a stern locker where he had been talking more or less nonsense to Hazel.

“Run ashore?” echoed Jack.

“At least I suppose it’s the shore,” said Cora, who had stopped the engine, the controls being near the wheel. “There aren’t any islands in this part of the river; are there?”

“Not one,” said Jack. “It is the shore,” he confirmed after a look through the cabin window.

“Any damage done, Sis?”

“Not to the shore, at any rate. We didn’t hit very hard. I saw something looming up through the mist and slowed down.”

“We must be up to Riverhead all right,” remarked Bess. “Though I haven’t noticed anything like a town.” 68

“You couldn’t notice much of anything in this rain,” Cora said. “We’re not aground, at all events,” for they could feel the boat moving down stream under the influence of the current.

“Switch on the searchlight and see if we can discover where we are,” suggested Belle.

“Good idea,” commented Captain Cora. A push of a button and the small but powerful searchlight, mounted amidships on the cabin roof, gleamed out. It was operated by a storage battery, which, in turn, was charged by a small dynamo connected to the engine fly wheel. And by means of a worm gear, operated by a wheel near the steering apparatus, the light could be deflected in any direction.

Cora trained it on the bank. Looking through the rain-covered windows of the cabin the girls, and their boy guests, saw a water-soaked bank, covered with bushes and rushes. It was dusk now.

“That doesn’t look like Riverhead,” commented Jack.

“More like river-end,” said Paul. “Where in the world are we?”

“Don’t ask me!” exclaimed Cora, a trifle nervously. “I’m sure I did the best I could in the mist.”

“Of course you did, Sis,” said her brother soothingly. “It isn’t any one’s fault. We’re all right. The boat doesn’t seem to be damaged by trying to 69 poke her pretty nose into the bank, and if we can’t go on to Camp Surprise in the darkness and rain we can go to some hotel and stay. There’s one in Riverhead.”

Just then, into the radiance of the searchlight stepped a man clad in yellow oilskins, rubber boots and with a sou’wester on his head.

“I’ll ask him,” said Jack. “He’ll tell us where we are.”

The individual—evidently a fisherman, as indicated by his unjointed pole and a basket—stopped in some surprise as he saw the big motor boat so close to shore, with lights gleaming and the powerful beams of the one on the cabin roof setting him out in bold relief in its glare.

“How far to Riverhead, if you please?” called Jack, sliding back one of the cabin windows.

“Riverhead?” cried the man, and surprise was plain in his voice. “Why, Riverhead’s over on the Chelton side, about ten miles from here.”

“On the Chelton side!” repeated Jack. “Isn’t this the Chelton?”

“No. This is Batter Creek,” the man explained. “The Chelton river branches off to the right, six miles down. You must have taken the left turn where Batter Creek runs into it. First you know you’ll be up in the swamp.”

“Good-night!” cried Jack, with a tragic gesture. 70

“On Batter Creek!” echoed Walter.

“Ten miles from Riverhead!” was Cora’s gasping remark.

“No wonder the poor boat ran ashore,” commented Bess. “She’d rather do that than get lost in a swamp.”

“So this is Batter Creek,” went on Jack. “I see how it happened. You steered over to the left at the junction, Cora, instead of following the right shore—I mean the right hand shore.”

“I suppose I must have,” Cora admitted. “But I couldn’t see in all that storm.”

“Of course not,” said Hazel, slipping her arm around Cora’s waist. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“Certainly not,” added Walter and Paul in a duet.

“Jack, please shut the window,” begged Belle. “That is, if you have finished talking to that man. The damp wind will——”

“Take all the frizz out of your hair—I know!” Jack cut in. “All right. Much obliged to you, sir,” he continued.

“Don’t mention it,” replied the man of the yellow oilskins. “Quite a drizzle; isn’t it?”

“Regular Scotch mist!” chuckled Walter, in exaggerated Highland accents.

“I suppose we can get to Riverhead by turning around, following the left shore here until we come to the place where Batter Creek runs into 71 the Chelton, and then go up the river?” suggested Jack, as he slowly slid the window shut.

“That’s right,” returned the fisherman. “But don’t go up this creek any further, or you’ll run aground in a swamp.”

“Thanks,” called Jack. “Oh, I say, are you going or coming?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean have you been fishing, or are you just going?”

“Just going. They always bite pretty well for me in a rain.”

“Oh. I thought maybe if you had any we’d buy ’em.”

“Sorry, but I haven’t anything but shiners for bait. I’m going down to the deep water.”

“What in the world did you want to buy fish for, Jack?” asked his sister as he closed the window, and the yellow figure splashed away.

“To eat,” was his answer. “We’ve got to have supper; haven’t we?”

“But can’t we go on to Riverhead, and then to the bungalow?” asked Bess.

“Hardly,” declared Jack. “It isn’t so late, of course. But this rain is going to keep up, if I’m any judge, and though we might manage to reach Riverhead, we certainly couldn’t undertake a ride over the mountain trail in an open buckboard in this downpour.” 72

“But what are we going to do?” cried Hazel, opening her eyes wide. She seemed in much distress.

“Do? Why, stay right here, my dear,” said Jack. “That is, if you will allow that poetic license—because ‘dear’ rhymes with ‘here.’”

“Oh,” murmured Hazel, blushing. “Stay here?”

“We have remained on board over night,” Cora remarked. “But we’ll be a bit crowded,” and she glanced appraisingly at Jack and his chums.

“Don’t worry about us, Sis,” he hastened to assure her. “We can bunk anywhere, or sit up. I don’t feel sleepy anyhow.”

“But we’ve got to eat,” said Walter. “Too bad that chap didn’t have any fish. We could have fried them on the gasoline stove.” The Corbelbes was fitted up with a little galley, the girls often having stayed on board for days at a time.

“Maybe we can catch some ourselves,” suggested Paul.

“No outfit or bait,” remarked Jack.

“A bent pin and a piece of string?” suggested Paul, but not with any degree of enthusiasm.

“Well, we’ve got to do something,” Cora declared. She had again set the engine in motion, but it was running only fast enough to overcome the sluggish current in the creek.

“Stay here,” urged Jack. “We know where 73 we are now, but if we go down stream in the darkness we may fetch up at a place we don’t know.”

“You mean tie up here?” asked his sister.

“Sure. Cast the anchor, set the riding lights, make everything snug below and aloft, my captainess, and turn in. Set an anchor watch, heave the lead, and ’ware the lee shore and breakers ahead! Yo ho! My hearties! The stormy winds do blow, do blow, do blow!” and Jack began howling an old sea-song at the top of his voice.

“Jack, be quiet!” insisted Cora. “You’ll arouse the neighborhood.”

“There aren’t any neighbors here,” he laughed. “The only one there was has gone fishing, and he doesn’t mind! Yo, he ho!”

“I guess to tie up is the best thing to do,” said Paul, and there was something in his manner that caused Cora to say:

“All right, Jack. Drop the anchor, and we’ll stay here for the night.”

“And then see about something to eat,” suggested Walter.

Jack made a dash outside, shoved over the anchor, took a turn of the cable about a deck cleat and came back into the cabin. The Corbelbes was tied up for the night.


“Well, now that we’re here——”

“Because we’re here,” Walter interrupted Cora, in the words of the foolish song. “Excuse me,” he added, as he caught her look, “I didn’t mean anything special.”

“Now that we’re here,” Cora resumed, “hadn’t we better——”

“See to the eats,” broke in Paul. “No offense, loidy!” he hastened to add, imitating a tramp, “but wees would loik a bit of a bite——”

“Speaking of bites,” laughed Jack, “some fish wouldn’t go half bad.”

“Will you be quiet!” commanded Cora. “I want to say something!”

“Say on!” urged Jack. “Now that we are here, as snug as a rug in a bug——”

Cora reached for something, she was not just sure what, and Jack, knowing that his sister had a straighter aim than have most girls, cried:

“Don’t shoot, Davy Crockett, I’ll come down.”

“You’d better,” Cora said, laughing in spite of herself. “Now that we are here——” 75

“She said that before,” whispered Jack, but his sister took no notice, going on with:

“We must see about something to eat. We have enough for supper, but breakfast will be another matter. I’d like to get some bacon and eggs. That, with coffee, will make a good morning meal.”

“And what, if I may be so bold as to ask,” came from Bess, “is to be the menu for this evening.”

“We’ll have a look,” suggested Cora. Attached to the small galley, in which was a gasoline stove, was a sort of cupboard. An inspection of this did not reveal as much as Cora had hoped for.

“There isn’t a great deal left; is there?” she said.

“I should say not!” cried Jack, peering over his sister’s shoulder. “Fellows, we’ve got to rustle for the grub! Don’t all speak at once. Listen to that!” and he signaled for silence, which, when it came, enabled them all to hear the swish and patter of the raindrops on the roof.

“I’ll go,” offered Walter. “I’m hungrier than any of you, I guess, and I have a pair of rubbers in my valise.”

“Regular fireman you are,” commented Jack. “Why didn’t you bring rubber boots?”

“And I see Cora has an umbrella,” Walter went on, ignoring Jack’s sarcasm. “I’ll go out in the rain, and——” 76

“Give a correct imitation of a duck doing its Christmas shopping!” gibed Jack. “Wally, you’re all right!”

“If you had some of his public spirit we’d all be better off,” said Cora.

“Oh, don’t um be mad at um’s ‘ittle bruver!” mocked Jack.

“Oh, quit it!” begged his sister.

“Where can you get anything to eat around here?” asked Paul.

“I don’t know, but I can forage for it. The presence of that fisherman clearly proves that this is an inhabited land, and where there are inhabitants there must be food. I may find a country store, or, if I can’t find that, I’ll find a house, describe our plight in such moving words as I am able to command, and buy what they’ll sell.”

“I’d like a cup of tea,” murmured Belle. “My nerves——”

“Are nothing to what they’ll be when the ghosts of Camp Surprise begin to make the stairs stand on their head,” broke in Jack.

“We have tea,” Cora said. “I’ll put the kettle on at once. It seems a pity to have you go out in this storm, though, Walter.”

“I don’t mind a bit. I’m glad to do it.”

“He’ll say anything as long as there are ladies present,” declared Jack. “But wait until you’re gone. He’ll say you drove him to it.” 77

Walter paid no attention to his tormenting chum, but began talking to Cora as to what best he had better try to get in the way of food, provided he could find a store or a house where some might be obtained.

And then, having donned his rubbers, and taking Cora’s umbrella, Walter set off on his quest. It was still raining hard, but the thunder and lightning had ceased some time since.

While he was gone the others began their preparations for spending the night on board. The girls would occupy the main cabin, where there were four berths. The after part of the boat had been enclosed in heavy curtains when the rain set in, and here the boys could sleep on the locker cushions spread on the floor. They had done it on one or two other occasions.

There were a few blankets, besides those for the bunks, but the boys said they would not need many coverings, as the night was warm.

Cora put the kettle on the gasoline stove, and as soon as it boiled, tea was made. There was condensed milk in the larder, and sugar for those who wished it, though Bess bewailed the lack of lemon, for she wanted to “reduce” she said, and some one had told her lemon juice in tea was helpful.

Cora was setting out what remained of the sandwiches and cake, and Jack was eyeing, rather dubiously, the 78 apology for a meal, when they heard a hail:

Corbelbes ahoy!”

“That’s Walter!” declared Paul.

“And may he come well-laden!” ejaculated Jack.

“You poor boy!” exclaimed Cora, sympathetically, as Walter came dripping into the after cabin. “Are you soaked?”

“Not quite so bad as that,” he answered, laying down some brown-paper-wrapped bundles.

“Never mind how he is, what about the eats?” asked Jack.

“You are heartless,” said Hazel, and then she wished she had not spoken, for Jack flashed a look at her, and whispered:

“Can you blame me for being heart-less where you are?”

“Oh, oh!” she murmured.

“Found a store about half a mile down the—well, I wouldn’t call it a road,” and Walter looked at his mud-splashed feet. “Say, rather, down the swamp. Found a store there, and I got a few things.”

“I should say you did!” exclaimed Bess, who, with Belle, had opened the packages. “This will be fine,” for Walter had purchased jellies, jams, some tinned meat, bacon, eggs and enough canned food, together with some rather doubtful oranges, to make a substantial meal. 79

“That looks good to me!” declared Jack, while Walter divested himself of his rubbers, and put the umbrella where it would not flood the cabin.

“Oh, and even olives!” gasped Hazel.

“Olives for Olivia,” crooned Walter. “Say, Jack, s’pose those overalls you went bathing in would be dry enough for me?”

“Sure! Try ’em on. You’ll look sweet in ’em.”

“I don’t care whether I look sweet as long as I feel dry,” retorted Walter.

And while the girls prepared the supper, he changed to the garments Jack had used, they having dried sufficiently.

With the hot tea, and with what Walter had foraged for, a really good meal was made. The young people were hungry, and their appetites made up for any lack in the nicety of the food.

“It was a regular country store,” Walter explained, “but they had some good things.”

“And now we have ’em,” murmured Jack, tipping back on his stool contentedly.

It was still early, for the storm had brought darkness ahead of time, and, unwilling to retire so soon with no very good prospects of sleeping, the boys and girls sat up and talked.

“I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Floyd will think, when we fail to arrive on time,” remarked Cora. “I hope they don’t send telegrams home, telling the folks we have turned up missing.” 80

“I don’t believe they will,” argued Jack. “They’ll know the storm delayed us. And in the morning we can send telegrams ourselves, notifying our folks that we’re all right, any reports to the contrary notwithstanding.”

The girls passed a fairly comfortable, and the boys a rather uncomfortable night, but it could not, as Jack said, last forever, and a bright morning sun made them all forget the discomforts.

Hot coffee, bacon and eggs, that were fresher, Cora said, than the high-priced ones at home, made them all look at the day’s prospect with genial spirits.

“And now we’ll make another attempt to get to Camp Surprise,” said Cora, as the anchor was hauled up and the engine set in motion.

“I’m surprised that we didn’t get there before,” Jack said.

“Oh, what a miserable pun!” groaned Walter.

Good time was made to the junction where Batter Creek flowed into the Chelton river. It was not much of a junction and the creek was so unimportant a stream that Cora and her friends had never thought of going up it.

“But this time we did it in spite of ourselves,” said Bess.

“It was only because of the mist and darkness that I made the wrong turn,” declared Cora.

They stopped long enough to send reassuring 81 telegrams home, and also one to Mr. and Mrs. Floyd, explaining the delay.

Again they were on their way up the Chelton river, and for a time all seemed to go well. But four miles from their destination, engine trouble developed, and when the cause of it was discovered, it proved to be a break that needed the attention of a machinist.

“We could leave the boat here and go on,” Cora said, “but we have made arrangements to have it taken care of at Riverhead, and the man I have engaged won’t know what to think if we don’t come.”

“Oh, let’s wait here until it’s fixed,” suggested Belle. “We want to arrive in style. It won’t take long, and to go on we’d have either to hire another boat or go by wagon.”

“All right,” Cora agreed.

The repairs took longer than they anticipated, and it was not until late afternoon that they were able to go on. This time they arrived safely at Riverhead, shortly before dusk, which was the time they should have been there the previous evening.

The man who was to dock the Corbelbes was on hand and took charge of the craft. He also directed the party to the big waiting buckboard, in charge of a driver, that had been sent by Mr. Floyd to meet the girls and boys. 82

“You’re a little late,” said the man. “Not that I mind, but we’ll have to make a night drive of it.”

“We don’t care,” Cora said, “as long as the roads are safe.”

“Oh, they’re safe enough.”

“What about supper?” asked Jack.

“Mrs. Floyd said she’d have it ready for you,” the driver stated.

“I’ve got some sandwiches and a box of candy,” observed Bess.

“Then we won’t starve,” said Jack.

“May blessing be upon thy head!” intoned Walter.

The driver looked at them in a queer sort of way, as though he did not know altogether how to take them, and he was heard to murmur something about “queer city folks.”

The valises and other belongings they had brought along on the motor boat were put in the big wagon, the driver climbed to his seat, and, with the shadows of night falling, they set off up the mountain for Camp Surprise.

“Some buckboard this!” remarked Jack, as he surveyed the vehicle.

“It sure is,” responded Walter. “The largest buckboard I ever saw.”


“Isn’t it dark!” voiced Belle, nestling against her sister.

“Well, we don’t have many electric lights up here,” chuckled the driver of the buckboard.

“How do you see the road?” asked Cora, the wagon lurching along over the rocky way, though riding much easier than an ordinary vehicle would have done, for buckboards are made for just this purpose.

“I don’t try to see it,” the driver said. “I let the horses pick their way. They’re like cats, I reckon—can see in the dark.”

“What sort of place is this Camp Surprise?” asked Jack, giving Walter, next to whom he sat, a nudge as a signal to play second to his game of questioning. “We’ll get some inside information about this business,” Jack said in an aside to his chum.

“Camp Surprise?” repeated the driver. “Well, it’s a mighty nice place, as far as scenery goes—for them as likes scenery,” he hastened to add. 84 “I don’t care much for it myself. There’s a waterfall, and a little lake, though I don’t reckon you could get your boat up to it,” and he chuckled. “Yes, folks what come up here always like this neighborhood, and Camp Surprise is one of the best outfits around here. You boys are going to take the small bungalow, I hear.”

“Yes,” assented Jack. “If we get there alive!” he said quickly, for the wagon gave such a lurch that Jack, who was on his feet to assume a more comfortable position, nearly slid out.

“Oh, this isn’t anything,” the driver said. “That stone must ‘a’ been put there since I come down this afternoon,” and he chuckled again. “We’ll get there alive all right.”

“But what I meant was,” went on Jack; “what sort of place is our camp? It has a queer name, you see, and they say—at least we’ve heard—that queer things go on there. What are they?”

The driver was silent a moment, and then he answered:

“Well, I don’t take much stock in them stories myself. I never see anything out of the way happen.”

“Oh, don’t spoil all the romance that way!” begged Cora. “Aren’t there any ghosts?”

“Ghosts! Huh!” the man fairly snorted. “I never see any.”

“But about things being taken?” ventured Bess. 85

“And the furniture being moved?” asked Belle.

“Humph!” and the driver seemed out of patience. “Things will be taken from almost any camp or bungalow if you don’t watch ’em. Thieves up here aren’t any more virtuous than in the city.”

“And didn’t you hear anything about chairs and tables being moved about?” asked Cora.

The driver fidgeted in his seat.

“G’lang there!” he called to his horses.

“Didn’t you?” persisted Jack’s sister.

“Oh, yes, there was some such story,” the driver finally admitted, slowly. “But I reckon it was just boys skylarking. That was all. Boys will go into any place they can get in you know, and I reckon when they found the bungalow of Camp Surprise without any one in it they just naturally went in and cut up.”

“If they try anything like that when we’re around, there’ll be trouble!” threatened Jack.

Cora sighed.

“All the poetry seems to be going out of it,” she said. “I hoped we would have at least one visitation from the spirits.”

“You may yet,” Walter whispered in her ear. “In my private opinion this driver person is concealing something from us.”

“Do you think so?” asked Cora, hopefully.

“Yes. He’s afraid we won’t stay if he tells all the horrible details of the story.” 86

“What object would it be to him to have us stay?”

“Why, he may get a percentage on our board. Or perhaps he has the only mountain-cruising buckboard in these parts, and he doesn’t want to lose trade. Have done with thy queries, Friend Jack,” he went on. “We’ll scare up a ghost or two for the young ladies ourselves, if this sordid and heartless driver person refuses.”

Jack left off with his questions about Camp Surprise, and the conversation became general. The driver, who volunteered the information that his name was Jim Dobson, said there was good fishing in the pool of water at the foot of the cataract.

“All you have to do is to throw in your baited hook,” he told the boys, “and haul out as many fish as you want for breakfast, dinner or supper.”

“That sounds good!” commented Jack. “I’m glad I brought my pole.”

“Same here,” echoed Paul, who, when he had time, was an ardent fisherman.

Up and up, and on and on they went over the rough mountain trail, for they had to ascend to a height of about fifteen hundred feet to reach the reservation owned by a company which had divided it into camps and bungalows.

“My, but it is dark!” said Cora, after a period of silence. 87

A lantern was slung under the buckboard, and cast gleams of light on the ground, but the darkness seemed only blacker by contrast. The horses, however, did not seem to find any difficulties in making their way. They never stumbled, though the boys and girls tried in vain to distinguish anything like a road ahead of them. The wagon was going along in a lane of trees, which in most places met in an arch overhead, thus cutting off what little light might have come from the stars.

Occasionally there would be a break in this leafy arch, and then glimpses could be had of the star-studded sky above. It was a beautifully clear evening, and warm enough to be comfortable.

Now and then Jim Dobson spoke without being asked a question, but he was not unduly talkative. He seemed to enjoy the chatter of the young folks, chuckling now and then at some of their remarks.

As for Cora and the others they talked about everything imaginable, as you may well imagine, from the latest dance steps to what they would do now that they were really starting their summer vacation.

“Is there any golf up here?” asked Bess, who had taken up the sport to “reduce.”

“Well, not enough to hurt,” the driver said. “Once in a while I hear of a case, but it ain’t nothing like as bad as hay fever, and there’s none of that here.” 88

“Mercy!” whispered Bess to Cora. “I guess he thinks golf is a disease!”

“Well, don’t say anything. He’s real nice.”

“I won’t. But I guess I’d better ask only plain questions after this.”

“I guess so,” Cora agreed.

“Come on there, boys, not that way!” the driver suddenly called, as he pulled his team to the right. “They want to take the road home,” he explained. “There’s a turn here.”

“How you know it I can’t tell,” said Jack. “It’s all as dark as a pocket.”

“Oh, I’m used to it and so are the horses. We’re on a private road now, leading to Camp Surprise. Be there in half an hour.”

“Are you sure this is the right road?” asked Cora. “We don’t want to be lost again,” and she mentioned their going up the creek instead of the river.

“Oh, sure, this is the right road,” the driver assured them.

There was silence for a little while, and suddenly Belle grasped Cora’s arm, and whispered:

“What’s that?”

“Where?” inquired Cora, for Belle’s voice was startling.

“Over to the left—in the woods. Don’t you see something white?”

Cora looked where Belle directed. At the moment the 89 others were deep in a discussion about something of comparative unimportance.

“There!” whispered Belle, tensely, and she gripped Cora’s arm hard.

“Yes—yes. I see it!”

“It—it looks like a—a ghost!”

They both saw something white that seemed to float, rather than move among the trees, and Cora was about to call it to the attention of the others when it disappeared.

“Don’t say anything about it,” she quickly whispered to Belle. “Of course it wasn’t a ghost. It may have been a wisp of fog, or some one going through the woods. Then there’s that—oh, what do they call that light which comes from rotting wood?”

“You mean ignis fatuus?” asked Belle.

“Yes; that’s it. Will-o’-the-wisp some folks term it. It comes from phosphorus. It may have been that.”

They went on a little farther, and suddenly a light shone through the woods, while a dull rumble and roar, increasing in intensity, came to the ears of all.

“What’s that?” asked Jack.

“Camp Surprise,” announced the driver. “That’s the waterfall you hear. Here we be!” he called in louder tones, as an approaching lantern flashed through the dark forest.


“Well, well! Glad to see you!” called a small, grizzled, but cheerful-faced man, as he came out to the buckboard. “Got here all right did you?”

“This is Mr. Floyd,” explained the driver.

“Yes, we’re here,” said Cora. “Sorry to be so late, but we had engine trouble and——”

“Don’t make no manner of difference at all. We’re used to seeing people come early and late. I’ll help set your things inside. Here comes Mrs. Floyd.”

“Is that them?” asked a woman’s voice. “The Kimball party?”

“They’re here,” her husband answered while the boys helped the girls down from the wagon, and the driver and Mr. Floyd looked after the baggage.

“Glad to see you all!” went on Mrs. Floyd, who was the same genial sort of personage as her husband. “I was afraid you’d give us another disappointment, and not get here.”

“Oh, we’re here,” affirmed Cora, “and we’re sorry to give you so much trouble by being late.” 91

“No trouble at all!” the chaperon assured them. “Come right in. Supper is all ready and——”


“Supper is my middle name!”

“Lead us to it!”

Thus in turn cried Jack, Walter and Paul.

Mrs. Floyd looked a bit startled as she stood revealed in the light of a lamp, the illumination streaming out of the door of a big bungalow.

“It’s only the boys,” explained Cora.

“Only!” accented Bess with a resigned expression.

“Jack!” chided Cora. “Why don’t you behave? Hazel, say something to your brother, you and I have more responsibility than the twins.”

Hazel did not know what to say, and the girls could not help laughing, in spite of themselves at the antics of Jack and his two chums.

“Welcome to Camp Surprise,” said Mrs. Floyd as the girls followed her into the house, or rather, bungalow, for it was of that style of architecture, and was but a story and a half high. The boys followed the girls, Mr. Floyd and the driver bringing up the rear with the valises.

“Do we eat with the family, or at second table?” Jack demanded.

“You shan’t eat with us if you don’t behave,” his sister threatened him. “Do quiet down, boys. Mrs. Floyd may not like——” 92

“Oh, don’t worry about me, Miss Kimball,” the chaperon hastened to say. “I’ve raised a family, and I know what boys are.”

“If she doesn’t she’ll find out before those three leave,” observed Belle.

The buckboard rattled off in the darkness and the young people were thus thrown on their own responsibilities as far as getting away from the place was concerned, for it was near no railroad.

“Isn’t he afraid to go home alone?” asked Belle.

“Who?” inquired Mr. Floyd.

“That driver; Mr. Dobson I think he said his name was.”

“Afraid? Him? I guess not!” exclaimed the caretaker. “What’s there to be afraid of?”

“The dark woods,” said Belle. “Cora and I thought——”

“Belle, dear, don’t you think we’d better see to our baggage?” interrupted Cora with a sharp glance at her chum. She raised her eyebrows meaningly.

“Oh, yes, I suppose we had. Of course he, being a big man, wouldn’t have anything to be afraid of,” she concluded, nodding in the direction of Mr. Dobson.

“But there’s nothing here to be afraid of,” insisted Mr. Floyd. “Leastways, nothing you can put your hand on, though——” 93

“Harry,” said Mrs. Floyd, and it seemed as though there was a caution in her voice, “I think I’ll have to ask you to bring in some more wood. I want a hot fire to finish supper.”

“All right,” he answered, and went out.

“Now if you young ladies want to freshen up you’ll have time before I get the meal on the table,” went on the chaperon. “The boys can go with my husband and they’ll be shown where they are to stay. Their bungalow is just across on the other side of the mountain stream. I don’t know just what arrangements you made about the meals for the young men, Miss Kimball——”

“Oh, they’re to shift for themselves,” said Jack’s sister. “They are so uncertain, going and coming, that no earthly mortal could tell when to feed them. They were to have supper with us to-night, and perhaps breakfast in the morning, my mother said. But after that they’ll look after things themselves. They’d rather, anyhow.”

“Sure,” assented Jack, while the others nodded assent. “We can’t be positive when we’ll be on hand.”

The boys followed Mr. Floyd, while Cora and her chums looked about the bungalow before going to their rooms, where their trunks had been carried, having arrived safely the day before.

The main floor of the bungalow consisted of one big living room, with three smaller rooms opening 94 off from it. These could be used as sitting rooms or bed rooms, folding bunks making beds at night. The living room, as also an alcove dining room, was simply but tastefully furnished, with rustic furniture. At one end was a big stone fireplace, though it was so warm now that no blaze was needed.

A broad stairway gave access to the upper story and here the bedrooms were. Though the rooms there were not high-ceilinged they had such large windows that plenty of air was assured. There were two bath rooms, a spring up in the hills filling a tank on the roof so that a supply of running water was to be had.

The bedrooms each contained a white iron bed and just enough furniture to make a simple life agreeable. There was a touch of daintiness, mingled with utility, and the girls were delighted with their apartments.

Soap and water, with a mere suggestion of talcum powder, wonderfully refreshed the four, and they were ready for the appetizing meal, odors of which were wafted up from the kitchen.

This was in a separate part of the bungalow, and the quarters of the caretaker and his wife were in a building connecting with the bungalow by a covered passageway.

“There come the boys back!” exclaimed Hazel, giving a hasty glance in a mirror, as she floated 95 out of Cora’s room, having come in to borrow some hairpins.

“Yes, you can hear them before you see them,” agreed Jack’s sister. “I hope Mrs. Floyd has enough for them to eat.”

“And for us, too. I’m hungry, Cora. But she looked like a good cook.”

“Mother said she was. Well, are you ready to go down?” she called to Bess and Belle.

“Whenever you are,” answered the plump twin.

They found the boys waiting for them in the dining room, which opened off the living room at the rear, and a supper which met the most exacting requirements of Jack and his chums was soon on the table.

“How do you like your quarters?” asked Cora of her brother.

“Couldn’t be better. Not that we’ll be in them much, though. We’ll be over here or out-of-doors most of the time.”

“You can’t live here,” Cora warned him.

“Oh, you’ll be glad enough to have us when the ghost begins to walk,” prophesied Walter.

“Has anything really strange happened here, Mrs. Floyd?” asked Cora, determined to get at the bottom of the matter.

“Well, I suppose you must have heard the stories about Camp Surprise,” answered the chaperon. “It would be strange if you had not. And I must 96 admit that there have been little happenings here that I can’t explain.”

“Such as——,” hinted Bess.

“Oh, disturbances in the bungalow when we weren’t here. Misplaced furniture, and once some silver was taken. But that might be the work of tramps. I don’t set much store by that. However, don’t let it worry you. I don’t believe anything will happen while you’re here.”

“I hope it does,” Jack said. “We’re going to lay the ghost.”

Talk went on during the meal and toward the close Jack said:

“This sure is a fine place! You ought to see the waterfall.”

“Is it nice?” asked Cora. They could hear the roar of it as they sat at table.

“It’s great! I’m going to take some pictures of it,” said Walter. “And the way to our bungalow is over a bridge just made for lovers to stand on and look down into the water.”

“As long as they don’t fall down into the water they’ll be all right,” commented Paul. “But it sure is nice. Our shack is just across the stream.”

“We’ll be all ready to respond to the first alarm, girls,” promised Walter, as the boys left the main bungalow later in the evening to repair to their own. “If the tables begin dancing, or the chairs do a jig, call us.” 97

“It’s a little far to shout,” said Cora. “We’ll have to put up some sort of telephone from one bungalow to the other.”

It must be admitted that the girls were a little nervous when they went to bed that night. Tales of queer happenings, not easily explicable, are apt to get on the nerves of the best of us. But the young people were tired from their journey and lack of restful sleep the night before, so they had hopes of a good rest.

Cora was awakened by a shout under her window.

“I say! Sis! Cora! Stick out your head!” cried Jack.

Slipping on a robe Cora went to the casement.

“Go on away, Jack!” she ordered. “Let the girls sleep.”

“Sleep? Why, it’s nine o’clock,” he said. “Say, did the ghost walk?”

Cora yawned.

“Not even a creep,” she said. “I didn’t hear a sound.”

“Well, if that isn’t poor luck!” exclaimed Jack in disappointed tones. “There we go and stay awake half the night, expecting a summons to capture a spirit, and nothing happens. Camp Surprise! Where’s the surprise come in, I wonder.”

But there was plenty of time, as Jack soon learned.


One after another the girls drifted lazily downstairs to the dainty breakfast Mrs. Floyd had prepared for them.

“I just couldn’t bear to get up,” confessed Bess, “though I knew it was a perfectly glorious day outside.”

“It is wonderful,” declared Cora.

“How do you know? Have you been out?” asked Hazel, with a questioning look at Cora’s negligee.

“Peeped from the window—Jack called to me,” explained his sister.

“I was so tired,” said Belle. “I thought I never would get enough sleep. I wouldn’t have gotten up if a ghost had called me.”

“Jack was a bit disappointed that we didn’t call on them for help,” remarked Cora, and she detailed her brother’s morning salutation.

“I think it’s all perfect nonsense,” declared Belle. “Of course I don’t mean you, Cora,” she said, “for you only told us what you heard. But I don’t believe a thing will happen.” 99

“I hope nothing unpleasant does,” remarked Bess, tucking back a rebellious lock of her pretty hair, and glancing at her pink nails which she kept, as Jack taunted her, “in a state of faultless repair.”

“Did you sleep well?” asked Mrs. Floyd, coming in with more coffee.

“Fine,” answered Cora. “And please don’t think we are going to impose on you in this way every morning. We came up to help with the work, and we’re going to do it. But this morning——”

“I know, my dear. You girls don’t exactly need any beauty sleep,” and she beamed at the four pretty faces that smiled back at her, “but you must have been tired after your trip. I don’t in the least mind.”

“You’ll find us quite energetic after this,” predicted Belle. “That is all but my sister, and you see she is——”

“Belle Robinson! If you talk about me that way I’ll—I’ll—— Oh! why do you all poke fun at me?” and Bess seemed quite distressed.

“I won’t any more,” promised Belle. “She is trying to ‘reduce’” she added to Mrs. Floyd, “so let her do all the work she wants to. We shan’t stop her.”

“What’s the program to-day?” asked Hazel, as the girls finished their coffee. “It is perfectly 100 glorious outside. From my window I can see part of the fall. It’s beautiful. I could sit and look at it forever.”

“And not want anybody to share the view?” asked Cora, pinching her blushing cheek.

“The witness refuses to answer,” mocked Belle. “But we mustn’t dawdle here all day. Let’s go and get dressed, and by then——”

There came a knock at the door.

“May we come in?” asked Walter.

“We—want—our—breakfast!” bawled Jack and Paul.

“Mercy no! Don’t let them in!” cried Bess, beating a precipitate retreat.

“We—are—coming!” chanted Walter.

“Stay out a minute,” ordered Cora. “Don’t be afraid, the door’s locked,” she added to her companions. “We’ve just finished,” she went on in louder tones. “Hurry with your breakfasts, and then prepare to give us a good time.”

“Your majesty’s wishes shall be obeyed,” declared Paul, and as the girls went upstairs to put on more conventional garments, the boys hurried in, bubbling over with good spirits, greeting Mrs. Floyd effusively, and preparing to devour everything in sight, which not very remarkable feat (for them) they nearly accomplished.

“Did that waterfall bother you?” asked Jack, of his chums. 101

“Kept me awake a little,” admitted Walter. “Sounded a bit like the surf at first, and I dreamed I was down at Crystal Bay again.”

“We sure had a swell time down there,” said Jack.

“I like the mountains better,” confessed Paul. “This place suits me.”

“It will be all right,” Jack said. “Now then, let’s see what’s doing.”

“Fishing for mine,” declared Walter. “That pool below the fall looks good to me.”

The others also voted to try their luck as disciples of Izaak Walton, and presently, with rods and lines, having dug some worms where Mr. Floyd showed them a place, they were patiently waiting on the bank of the stream that flowed away from the waterfall.

Camp Surprise was situated amid one of the wildest and most desolate parts of the mountains west of Chelton. It was remarkable, in a way, that such a lonesome place could be found so close to such a number of large and thriving towns and villages. But it was this wildness and isolation that gave it the peculiar charm, and which had led the land company to establish a number of camps and bungalows in the vicinity.

So rugged and diversified was the scenery, that, with the exception of the two bungalows occupied respectively by the boys and girls, no other two 102 buildings were in sight of each other. Though not far removed from one another the dwelling places were off by themselves, giving a seclusion so often demanded by those who go to summer resorts.

At present, as the season had hardly opened, there were no other visitors at Camp Surprise, though many were expected later in July and August. Camp Surprise was not the real name of the place, which was called by the development company, Mountain View. But Camp Surprise had been applied because of the queer happenings, as has been intimated, though so far our friends had seen no occasion for such appellation.

The waterfall and the stream which flowed from it divided practically in half the area of land owned by the Mountain View Company. Having its origin some miles back in the mountains, the stream was augmented by brooks, creeks and other streams until, on reaching Camp Surprise, it had become almost a river.

Flowing along peacefully, through green meadows, or down the slope of some rocky hill, the river came suddenly to a great cleft in the hills, and down this it plunged in a most beautiful fall, from a height of about fifty feet, and perhaps a hundred feet in breadth.

At the foot of the fall was a deep pool, worn in the limestone rocks by the erosion of the falling 103 water, and there the white foam boiled and bubbled in a miniature whirlpool and rapids until the stream slipped farther on down the side of the mountain, in a series of little cascades, in which were, so it was said, many fishes.

The boys had selected as their spot a quiet one, where a sort of eddy, or back-water, made a quiet pool that looked, as Jack said, “like a regular bachelor apartment for fish.”

“Keep still! Don’t move!” called Belle, as she and her chums, now with all their “war paint on,” as Walter hinted, approached the three young men.

“What is it—the ghost or the furniture mover?” asked Walter.

“I just want to get a picture,” Belle explained, snapping her camera. “You look so respectable to what you do ordinarily.”

“Just for that you shan’t hold my hand!” declared Paul.

“Don’t come any nearer,” warned Walter. “I think I have a bite. Yes! He’s on!” he cried as the tip of his pole bent, and a moment later he hauled out a flashing beauty.

“Oh, I want to catch one!” cried Cora, who was as ardent a lover of outdoor sports as any of her boy friends.

“You may take my pole,” offered Paul, as Walter unhooked his fish. 104

“Oh, no, I don’t want to deprive you,” Cora objected.

“I’ll sit near and watch you—have all the fun and let you do the work,” he retorted. And the boys and girls were soon together on the bank.

Luck was fairly good, and presently enough fish had been caught for a “good mess,” as Mr. Floyd observed when he came past.

“We’ll cook them for you,” offered Belle. “Won’t we, girls?”

“Do you know how?” asked Jack.

“Listen to him!” mocked Bess.

As Mr. Floyd and his wife had to go to one of the more distant bungalows, to see about some repairs, and as they would be gone most of the day, Cora and her chums agreed to be the housekeepers and to let the boys share the lunch with them.

“Which isn’t such a concession after all,” Jack said, “seeing as how we caught the fish.”

“I caught one myself,” Cora declared.

“With Paul’s pole, so that doesn’t count,” retorted her brother quickly.

They had a jolly time at lunch and spent the afternoon roaming about the mountainside. The girls took pictures of the fall, which was really a beauty-spot, and some of the prints were afterward enlarged, and they made most charming pictures.

“There’s the hotel,” said Paul, as they came 105 out on a ledge of rock, and looked down in a valley. “That’s where I’m going to have some tango tea.”

“To-night?” asked Jack. “I’m with you if you go.”

“Count me in,” added Walter. “I haven’t had a good dance, not since——”

“The one with me,” cut in Cora, for she and Walter were good partners.

“Right—oh, little one!” he cried. “Shall we all go down to-night?”

The hotel was about a mile from the Mountain View property, and was quite a well-known hostelry, though the season was not yet in full swing.

“Some other night,” suggested Cora. “We haven’t really gotten settled yet, and we don’t know what time Mrs. Floyd will come back. Besides, do they let any others than guests and their friends dance?”

“Oh, I guess so,” said Walter. “We’ll find out. But if you don’t want to go to-night we’ll wait.”

This was agreed to, and the rest of the day was spent on the part of the girls in getting their rooms in order, putting away their dresses and arranging for supper, for they were going to do much of their own work in camp, Mrs. Floyd being more of a chaperon and general manager than housekeeper or cook.

The boys said they would shift for themselves. 106

“Aren’t you going to get your suppers?” asked Cora of her brother, as she saw him and his two chums going down the road about five o’clock in the afternoon.

“Later,” he answered. “We’re going for the mail now. It gets in about this time, and Walter is expecting a letter.”

“No more than you are!” was the quick retort.

“Bring us all one!” called Bess. “Does the mail really come up here?”

It did, twice a day it developed, coming to the little village of Mountain View, which was about a mile from Camp Surprise.

“Maybe there’ll be some word about your car, Cora,” said her brother.

“That’s too good to hope for, Jack.”

There was a letter for Cora from her mother, but there was no news of the car. And as there were epistles also for Bess, Belle and Hazel, the boys took great credit to themselves for having fulfilled the commands of the girls.

“And we think we ought to be rewarded, too,” said Walter.

“What form ought the reward to take?” Cora asked.

“The form of supper,” was the quick answer. “We don’t feel like pitching in and opening a tin of corned beef just now. Feed us to-night, and we’ll rustle the grub for ourselves after this.” 107

“Well, in view of the fact that you’ve been so nice to us, we will. Shan’t we, girls?” asked Cora.

“Yes!” came in an unhesitating chorus; and once more the boys ate bounteously with no effort on their part.

Mrs. Floyd and her husband returned about eight o’clock, to find the young people playing games in the big living room, and having a jolly time.

They planned an excursion for the next day, to include a stop at the hotel to ask about dance privileges, and then, this having been arranged for, good nights were said.

Cora, whose room adjoined that of Belle, was awakened some time in the night by a touch on her arm.

“Yes! What is it?” she asked, sitting up quickly, and reaching for the little electric flashlight she always had under her pillow. “Oh, it’s you,” and she revealed Belle’s face. “What’s the matter—are you ill?”

“No, but listen! Did you hear that—that noise?”


The silence of Cora’s room, into which Belle had tiptoed, was broken only by the accentuated breathing of the two girls.

“I don’t hear anything,” began Cora. “Are you sure——”

“Listen!” interrupted her chum. “Did you hear it then?”

For a moment Cora was not aware of anything, and then there seemed gradually to come to her a dull, scraping sound. Perhaps it would be more correct to call it a vibration. If you have ever tried to raise a window which fits loosely in the frame sidewise, as compared to the other direction, and have felt it go up in a series of vibrations, you will understand what is meant. The whole room seemed to tremble like the shaking of the window.

The whole bungalow, too, seemed to be vibrating and delicately trembling from some cause—a deep, low and hardly audible sound that was, in effect, more sensation than noise. 109

“It’s the waterfall,” said Cora. “Don’t be a goose, Belle!”

“I’m not. It’s a noise. Can’t you hear it above the sound of the water?”

Cora listened more intently.

“Yes, I can,” she reluctantly confessed. “It’s like the rumbling of a wagon going past the house.”

“Yes,” agreed Belle in a whisper. “But it isn’t a wagon. There isn’t any out at this hour, and the noise is in this bungalow, not outside.”

Cora agreed to that, also. She snapped on the switch of her little portable light, so that it would glow without the necessity of holding her finger on the push-button, and then she slipped on her robe, and put her feet in slippers. Belle was similarly attired.

“What are you going to do?” asked Belle.

“Find that noise,” whispered Cora. “But don’t let’s wake up the others. It may be—nothing, and they’d only laugh.”

“It can’t be nothing,” insisted Belle. “There it sounds louder than ever.”

Together they went silently to the door of Cora’s room. But either their movements or the queer noise had awakened Bess in the adjoining apartment.

“Is that you, Cora?” she called.

“Yes. It’s nothing. I’m going to get a drink, 110 Bess. I am,” she added in a whisper to Belle, to justify herself.

“Bring me one,” begged Bess, sleepily.

It was evident that the noise which had alarmed—or if not alarmed, had awakened—Belle, had not disturbed her sister. For as Belle and Cora went toward the door they could both hear and feel the vibration more plainly now.

“What can it be?” asked Belle. “Some one trying to get in?”

“Nonsense!” chided Cora.

“But it sounds like raising a sticking window. Are you going to call Mr. Floyd?”

“I wish he weren’t so far off,” said Cora, pausing undeterminedly in the middle of the room. “He might just as well be in another building as where he is. I don’t like going through that connecting passage. And he and his wife both sleep soundly. She told me so.”

“We ought to have some means of summoning them—or the boys,” continued Belle.

“We can always scream,” Cora remarked.

“Yes, and startle every one. I almost screamed when I heard the noise, and then I thought I’d come in to you.”

“I’m glad you did. Can you hear it now?”

They were out in the hall, and could see the light that was kept aglow in the bath room. Cora switched off her electric. 111

“I don’t hear it,” affirmed Belle. “The noise has stopped.”

It had, that was certain. The silence of the night outside was broken only by the distant roar of the waterfall, a sound with which by this time the girls had become so familiar that they did not notice it unless they listened especially for it, as the receiver of a wireless message must be tuned to catch the wave impulses of a certain length.

“I can’t hear it,” said Cora, breathing softly, as Belle was doing.

There was no more noise.

“Could it have been distant thunder?” asked Cora, when a minute passed in silence—and a long minute it seemed to the waiting ones.

Belle stepped to the window and looked out and up at the sky.

“The stars are shining,” she said. “If there is a storm it is a distant one, and one that far off wouldn’t sound so near. I don’t believe it was thunder.”

Whatever it was, the sound was not repeated. Together Cora and Belle got a drink in the bath room, and brought one to Bess. Cora called softly to her, but the plump twin had gone to sleep again, without waiting for the water. Cora set it in a chair by the bed and came out of the room as softly as she had gone in.

“No use letting her know about it,” she remarked to 112 Belle. “And we won’t tell anything in the morning, until we hear what the others have to say.”

“All right,” agreed Belle. “I’ll lie with you a while.”

“Yes,” assented Cora. She understood Belle’s feelings.

The two girls talked in whispers, straining their ears for a repetition of the strange noise, but none came, and finally Belle, who was fighting off sleep, announced that she was going to her own room.

Cora and Belle looked significantly at one another across the breakfast table, and Bess remarked:

“Did you hear me knock it over?”

“Knock what over?” asked Cora, wonderingly.

“The glass of water in the chair by my bed. I didn’t know it was there, and just before daylight I awoke, and as I put my arm out of bed I knocked the glass to the floor. I thought sure you must have heard it.”

“No,” Cora replied. “Did you break it?”

Bess shook her head.

“It fell on the rug, but the water splashed in my ties. I’ll have to wear my high shoes until the others dry. Why didn’t you tell me the water was there?”

“You were asleep when I brought it in,” Cora said, “and I felt it was a pity to disturb you.” 113

“What were you prowling around for?” asked Hazel.

“Oh, just for fun,” Cora said, with another warning look at Belle.

“They didn’t hear anything,” the latter said to Cora when they were alone a little later.

“No, and Mrs. Floyd or her husband didn’t either, for they didn’t say anything.”

“Unless they heard it and don’t want to tell us.”

“Why shouldn’t they tell us?” Cora asked.

“Oh, they might think we’d go away if the queer things begin happening.”

“It wasn’t so very queer—just a noise,” declared Cora.

“Was it just a noise?” asked Belle, suspiciously.

“I don’t know—was it—or—wasn’t it?” Cora questioned.

“I guess we’ll have to let it go that way,” Belle decided. “Here come the boys. Shall we tell them?”

“No—that is, not directly. I’ll see if I can’t find out in an indirect way.”

“All right, I’ll leave it to you.”

After some general talk when the boys had come in, Cora brought the subject around to the waterfall.

“Have you boys gotten used to the noise of it 114 yet?” she asked. “You’re nearer to it than we are. Does it keep you awake now?”

“Can’t anything keep me awake,” yawned Jack. “I don’t get half enough sleep as it is.”

“You certainly slept soundly last night,” said Walter.

“How do you know? Did you stay awake to find out?”

“No, but I heard it thundering, and I called to you that you’d better put your window down, for your room faces the west and most storms come from there this time of the year. You didn’t answer so I concluded you must have been sleeping.”

“I was,” declared Jack. “Thunder, eh? I didn’t hear it.”

“It was only a rumble,” Walter said. “I didn’t stay awake longer myself than to hear that.”

“They heard it, too,” said Belle, when she and Cora had walked off by themselves.

“Yes,” agreed her chum. “But was it thunder?”

“We’re right back where we started,” laughed Belle, “arguing in a circle. Let’s forget it.”


But though Cora and Belle agreed to drop the matter of the unexplained noise, they could not dismiss it from their minds. Several times that day Cora would notice Belle in a brown study, and on taxing her with it would be met with the statement:

“I can’t think what caused it.”

“That noise you mean?”

“Yes. Wasn’t it queer?”

“Oh, not so very. At home we wouldn’t give it a second thought.”

“Yes,” agreed Belle, “but there are so many ways of explaining noises in town, and so few ways up here. I wonder if that is the beginning of the surprises, Cora?”

“If it is they aren’t so unpleasant. Noise never hurt any one.”

So they said nothing to the others about the little disturbance in the night, and the only remark the others made, having any reference to it, was that of Walter’s about thunder. 116

“It must have been thunder,” Cora said, “for if the noise had been in our bungalow the boys couldn’t have heard it in theirs.”

“I don’t see how they could,” Belle agreed.

“But, all the same, I’m going to have some way of calling to Jack and the others without screaming our lungs out,” declared Cora. “It’s only right to be able to summon them if we want them. One of us might become ill, and they’d have to go for the doctor. I’d rather call Jack than Mr. Floyd.”

Cora spoke to her brother that afternoon.

“We should have some sort of speaking tube,” he assented. “I might rig up one of the string telephones we used to make with tin baking powder boxes that served both as transmitter and receiver.”

“Can you do it?” asked Cora.

“I guess so.”

“I know something better than that,” Paul put in. “There’s a toy telephone that comes now, made of string, but the baking powder boxes are replaced by wooden cylinders with parchment tightly stretched over one end. You can hear quite well with them.”

“Where can we get it?” asked Cora.

“I have one,” Paul said. “I bought it just before we left to come up here, intending to give it to a kid cousin of mine, but I forgot to mail it. You can use that if you like.” 117

“Just the thing!” exclaimed Jack. “The dear girls can’t get along without us after all; can they?”

“Oh, don’t flatter yourself that we’re as fond of you as all that,” laughed Belle. “But we do like to have you within call—especially up here.”

“Why, have you seen any suspicious characters lurking around?” asked Walter.

“Nary a lurk,” responded Cora. “We’re just getting ready for emergencies.”

The toy telephone was strung that day from the girls’ bungalow to that of the boys’, and it worked quite well. As simple as it was, and it scarcely could have been more simple, talk could be plainly heard over it. The string took up the vibrations imparted to the parchment by the voice, and transmitted them across space to the other end of the line. Of course the string had to be tight, and it must not touch anything in its course, or the vibrations would have been interfered with. But space was what they had most of in Camp Surprise.

“To my mind the camp isn’t living up to its name,” declared Paul, after the telephone had been put up and tested, the boys sending any number of foolish messages over the string. “No, sir! There hasn’t been a surprise worth talking about,” went on Paul. “Why doesn’t something happen?”

“Give it time,” suggested Jack. 118

“Perhaps that noise was the start,” said Cora to Belle when they were alone.


The trip down to the hotel had given the young folks the information that there were dances twice a week, the Saturday night “hop” being quite an event. They were cordially invited to attend, and the first Saturday night in camp they took advantage of the chance.

The crowd was not large, but, as Walter said, it was “nice and comfortable,” and the girls and boys thoroughly enjoyed the dance. The hotel proprietor introduced them to some other young folks and, as was voted by Jack and his chums afterward, “a large and glorious time was had by all.”

“What a splendid moon!” cried Belle, as she walked along with Jack on the way home. “It’s a shame to go to bed.”

“Let’s don’t!” proposed Paul. “Let’s go down where we left the motor boat and have a ride.”

“Let’s don’t!” cried Cora. “Walk over that rough mountain road at this hour of the night? I guess not!”

“But look at the moon!” begged Paul. “The glorious moon!”

“You’ve been looking at it too long already,” was Cora’s retort. “I guess you’re looney.”

And so, laughing and joking, they walked on. 119

“This is how it goes!” said Belle suddenly, seemingly apropos of nothing at all, and, at the same time she began to step backward and forward in a peculiar manner in the road.

“What in the world——” began Hazel.

“That new Cortez step the girl in pink was doing with that nice man dancer,” Belle explained. “I’ve been puzzling over it. I hoped he would ask me to dance, but he didn’t.”

“Say, I like that!” cried Walter. “Didn’t I ask you?”

“Yes, but you can’t do that step. I remember now how it went. I was watching that couple. It’s a rocking step forward, then one back, step back with the left, draw the right and go forward again with the left, see!”

She executed it there in the road, her shadow, cast by the moon, bobbing curiously back and forth.

“It is pretty,” agreed Cora. “How does it go?”

Belle and she took a dancing position and Cora had soon acquired the new Cortez step.

“Now you’ve got me doing it!” cried Jack. “Come on, Hazel, I’ll show you.”

“He doesn’t even know himself,” derided Cora.

“You watch!” challenged Jack.

“Why, he can do it,” said Belle, as she looked at Jack and Hazel. For Hazel was a natural 120 dancer and, it developed, she, too, had been watching the girl in the pink dress.

“Well, here we are,” said Bess, as they reached their bungalow. “I’m tired.”

“Is that all you’re going to say, after we took you to the dance?” demanded Walter.

“Don’t we get asked in to have some cake and chocolate?” questioned Jack.

“Shall we?” queried Cora.

“Please do!” urged Paul.

And they did.

The plans for the next day included a long walk up the mountain to a place where it was said a wonderful view could be had. They were to take their lunch and stay all day, for they could not get back to the bungalow by noon.

“All aboard!” cried Jack, as he and his two chums called for the girls, crossing the rustic bridge at the foot of the fall. “All aboard!”

They started off merrily together, talking and laughing. Walter had been down to get the early morning mail, and there was a letter from Cora’s mother, which said, among other things, that the police had some clews to the men who took the automobile.

“Good!” cried Jack, when Cora read out this. “What’s the rest of it?”

“Well, it seems that some more bogus tickets have been disposed of in places around Chelton, 121 and the men who sold them are described as the same two who sold the coupons in the tea room. The police seem to think there is a good chance of getting them.”

“They didn’t see them have your car; did they, Cora?” asked Hazel.

“No such luck, I suppose. But mother doesn’t mention that.”

The view was voted all that had been said of it, and after admiring it for some time, preparations were made to eat lunch.

“Let’s sit down here,” proposed Cora, pointing to a grassy spot in the shade of a big sycamore tree. “Boys, spread the cloth and unpack the baskets. Oh, what a curious root!” she cried, stooping over toward something near a stone.

“Look out!” suddenly cried Paul, pulling Cora back so sharply that she nearly toppled over. The next moment Paul caught up a stone and threw it with all his force at the spotted root. There was an angry hiss.

“Narrow escape for you, Cora,” said Paul, a trifle pale. “That was a copperhead snake!” and he pointed to the writhing, dying reptile. His stone had struck it fairly.


Cora Kimball was not an unusually nervous girl, nor was she given to hysterical demonstrations, but, somehow or other, she felt sick and faint as she looked at the wiggling snake in its death agony. Her eyes saw black, and she swayed so that Paul stepped forward and slipped an arm around her waist.

“I thought you were going to faint,” he said in explanation.

“I—I was,” faltered Cora. “But I’ve gotten over the notion. Thank—thank you, Paul. Could I have a drink of water?”

Jack brought her some from a spring not far away.

“Brace up, Sis,” he said with rough, brotherly kindness. “You’re all right. That snake wouldn’t have killed you anyhow. I’ve been bitten by ’em, and it isn’t much worse than a mosquito.”

“You have?” cried Paul, in such a queer tone that all save Cora realized that Jack was bluffing for the sake of minimizing the effect on Cora. 123

Jack made this plain to Paul by winking quickly, and motioning to him to confirm what he had said.

“Oh, yes, that’s right,” Paul went on. “I’d forgotten that the copperheads aren’t poisonous this time of year. You wouldn’t have been much damaged, Cora, if you had been nipped by this fellow,” and with a swift motion of his foot he kicked the still writhing reptile to one side.

“Really?” she asked.


She looked relieved. The faint spell passed and Cora smiled. The color was coming back to her cheeks.

“I’m sorry I acted so,” she said, “but I have a terrible fear of snakes, even harmless ones. I thought this one was a curiously mottled root, and I was going to pick it up. Suppose I had? Oh!”

She shuddered and looked at Paul.

“A miss is as good as a bird in the hand,” he misquoted. “Come on now, let’s eat.”

“Say, old man,” said Jack to Paul, when they were alone a little later, “that snake was a bad chap, wasn’t he?”

Paul nodded in confirmation.

“I thought so,” Jack went on. “Just as well, though, not to let her know, she’s so deadly afraid. There’d have been trouble if she had been bitten?” he questioned. 124

“Yes,” said Paul, simply. “Of course they’re not sure death, but they’re dangerous enough.”

“I thought so. Shake!”

After the temporary scare of the snake had passed, the picnic party made merry, laughing and talking as they enjoyed the lunch the girls had put up. It was a perfect day, rather warm, but cool enough in the shade, and the mountain air was invigorating. There followed a delightfully lazy time, lying on the grass under the trees when every one had eaten enough.

Then they packed up the rest of the food and walked on, intending to make a circle and return to Camp Surprise late in the afternoon. Now and then they would come to some open space, where the sloping mountain dropped away suddenly, revealing below a vista which made them pause in admiration.

Once they reached a point where they could look down on Mountain View, and, though they could not distinguish their own bungalows, they could see about where they were situated.

Cora stood gazing down, in rather a thoughtful mood. Walter was by her side, and noted her abstraction. He held up the proverbial penny.

Cora shook her head.

“No. I won’t tell,” she said with a smile.

Walter guessed that she was thinking of the snake, but he refrained from saying so. And 125 then Cora, fearing he might put a wrong construction on her words added:

“I was just wondering when they were going to continue.”

“What was going to continue?” he inquired.

“The surprises in our camp. You know——”

“Continue!” he interrupted. “I didn’t know we had had any. I had begun to think it was all a hoax.”

“Oh, no,” cried Cora, impulsively. “There was a——”

She caught herself just in time, for she recalled that she and Belle had agreed not to mention the queer noise.

“Was it a ghost?” asked Walter.

“It wasn’t anything,” Cora hastened to say. “Look, see that curl of smoke. Isn’t it just like a great big ostrich plume? What a hat it would require to carry it! A giant’s hat.”

“Lady giant you mean,” said Walter. “But look here, Cora, you are keeping something from me.”

“Not at all.”

Her manner was light, but Walter was a good guesser.

“Yes, you are!” he insisted. “Something did happen, Cora. Go on, tell a fellow.”

“Nothing really happened, Walter.”

“Then you heard something.” 126

“How did you know?” she asked with a start.

“I thought I’d catch you. Come now. Own up. You didn’t have that toy telephone strung to our bungalow just on general principles. Did you hear something, Cora?”

She looked around to make sure none of the others were listening. Then she told Walter of the queer noise, enjoining him to secrecy, however.

“So that’s what it was,” he said. “I thought it was thunder myself, but if you heard it in your bungalow it couldn’t have been.”

“And it was in our bungalow,” Cora said. “Seemingly away down in the cellar, or sub-cellar, if they have such a thing.”

“Not as deep as that, I guess, Cora. But it was a queer rumbly noise, though how I could hear it, when it was under your bungalow I can’t imagine.”

“Unless it came from the waterfall.”

“How could it come from the waterfall?” Walter asked.

“I don’t know,” said Cora. “But there might be some sort of hollow rock—blowing stones I believe they are called—and when air is forced into the hollow, by the action of the water, it might give a roaring sound, and vibrate the earth.”

Walter considered a moment.

“It’s worth looking into,” he said. “I won’t say anything, but the first chance I get I’ll have a 127 peep at the fall. I think I can get behind the water curtain.”

“Oh, Walter! don’t take any risks.”

“I won’t, Cora. But come on. The others will wonder what we find to talk about and look at here. Not that I wouldn’t want to stay talking a great deal longer, but, well——”

“I understand,” and she smiled.

“We’re going berrying,” cried Bess, as Walter and Cora came up to join the others. “That is, unless you two want to stand there on the edge of ‘Lovers’ Leap’ and think sad thoughts.”

“Is that place called Lovers’ Leap?” asked Cora.

“Well, it might be if any lovers ever jumped off there. Do you want to go berrying?”

“Surely,” said Cora, and Walter nodded assent.

The berry hunt was not very successful, though a few early ones were found. However, it served as an incentive to call the young folks farther afield and up the mountainside, and they found new beauties of nature at every step.

“This is the nicest place I was ever in,” declared Hazel.

“I like it, too, almost as well as any place we ever picked out for our vacation,” said Belle. “My hair doesn’t get so slimpsy as at the beach.”

“We’re getting beautifully tanned, instead of 128 the lobster-red I always turn at the shore,” said plump Bess.

“Say, hadn’t we better begin to think of turning back?” asked Cora, after a while, when the few berries that had been gathered had been eaten, though Jack begged that they be saved for a pie.

“Yes, it’s getting late,” said Paul, looking at his watch. “And we have a few miles to go.”

“I should say they were a few!” chimed in Walter. “Seven at the least back to Camp Surprise.”

“Don’t say that!” begged Bess. “You’ll have to carry me.”

“All right. We’ll make a litter of poles and drape you over it in the most artistic fashion,” said Paul. “Do you prefer to be carried head or feet first?”

“Feet, of course. Riding backwards always makes me car-ill.”

“It’s down hill, that’s one consolation,” came from Jack. “Well, come on. All ready! Hike!” and he marched off, swinging a long stick he had picked up to use Alpine-stock fashion.

There was a patch of woodland to go through, a fairly good path traversing it. The party of young people went along, talking and laughing, occasionally breaking into song as one or another started a familiar melody.

“Say, Jack,” remarked Cora at length, “aren’t these woods pretty long?” 129

“What do you mean?”

“I mean oughtn’t we to be out of them by this time? Are you sure you’re going the right way?”

“Well, I never was here before,” said Jack, “but I set our course by compass,” and he indicated the little instrument on his watch chain.

“We started to walk due west,” he said, “up the mountain. Now we are going east, as you can see, because the setting sun is at our backs. So we are going toward camp.”

“But we swung off to the right as we came up the mountain,” Cora went on.

“Exactly, a sort of northwest course,” agreed Jack. “And now we are heading southeast, which is exactly the reverse. Look for yourself, Sis.”

He held out the compass, the tiny needle vibrating as the instrument rested in his hand. Cora was enough of a navigator to see that Jack was right.

“Well, the only thing to do is to keep on,” she said. “But I should think, by this time, we’d be somewhere near the camp.”

“Oh, not yet!” declared Jack. “We’ve got miles and miles yet to go!”

“You horrid creature!” cried Bess. “Oh, my feet!”

“This is the best exercise for reducing you could have,” laughed Paul. “Come on, I’ll race you.” 130

“Run? Never!” wailed the plump one. “I can only hobble.”

They tramped on. The afternoon shadows were lengthening now, and Cora’s face wore a somewhat anxious look. They entered another patch of woodland, and as they emerged into a clearing Cora cried:

“Look at the sun!”

“What’s the matter with it?” Belle demanded. “I think that is a perfectly good sun.”

“But it’s in front of us,” said Cora. “It’s in front of us!”

For a moment the others did not realize what she meant. They stared at the big red ball which was sinking to rest amid a bank of gorgeously colored clouds. Then Jack exclaimed:

“By Jove! you’re right, Sis. The sun should be back of us. We were going east, but we’ve got turned around, and are going west.”

“Unless the sun has changed,” put in Paul, with a laugh, “and is coming up in the morning. We may have been walking all night and didn’t know it.”

“It’s no joke,” said Cora, seriously, as the others laughed. “Jack, we’re lost!”


Naturally enough Cora’s words were echoed aloud by some of the party.

“Lost!” cried Belle. “How do you know?”

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Cora said. “Don’t you know when persons get lost in the woods they always go around in a circle? Nearly always they turn to the right, as we have done. I forget the explanation, but it has something to do with the right side of the body being stronger than the left. And that’s what we’ve done. We’ve wandered around in a circle, so of course we’re lost.”

“That doesn’t follow at all,” declared Walter.

“Why not?” challenged Cora.

“Because the path may have been shifting. We’ve only followed the trail through the woods. We haven’t gone off it.”

“That’s so,” chimed in Paul. “We’re still on the path, and it must lead somewhere.”

“Perhaps it’s a cow-path,” suggested Bess. “It’s narrow enough for one.” 132

“Well, even a cow-path leads somewhere,” said Hazel. “We’ll end up at a stable.”

“Or a dairy,” added Jack. “Some bread and milk won’t go bad if we miss our supper.”

“Oh, we won’t miss it,” declared Walter. “We’re bound to end up somewhere, and even if we come out a mile or more from our camp. And if we see a house, we can hire a farmer to drive us over, if we’re too tired to walk.”

“Yes, we could do that,” Cora assented. “But what plan is best to follow now? Shall we keep on the way we are going, on this path, even though it leads west and our camp is to the east? Or shall we go back until we find a path extending in an easterly direction?”

“Whew!” whistled Jack. “That sounds like a question in my old school geography. What’s the answer, Cora?”

“I wish I knew,” said his sister. “Let’s take a vote on it.”

They discussed the matter a little while, and the general opinion was that it was better to go on than to retreat.

“We didn’t see any houses in all the distance we came,” said Walter, “and it is getting so late now we may have to appeal to a farmer to drive us back. I say go ahead, even if the direction seems to be wrong. We may reach a house this way.” 133

“I guess you’re right,” admitted Cora, “though it seems illogical to go deliberately away from, instead of toward, our camp.”

“Perhaps it isn’t called Camp Surprise for nothing,” suggested Hazel.

“What do you mean?” asked her brother.

“I mean it may surprise us by appearing when and where we least expect it.”

“You always were a hopeful child,” laughed Paul. His sister blushed. “You believed in Santa Claus long after I had detected our respected parents sneaking down the back stairs with the presents,” he continued. “Hope on, foolish one.”

“She may be right at that,” said Jack, championing Hazel’s cause. “If the sun insists on appearing where we think it oughtn’t to be the camp may take a notion to do the same thing. Come on! Forward!”

A little anxious, they kept on, rather tired, but not greatly discouraged. Youthful hearts are not made for discouragement, fortunately.

“Anything left to eat?” asked Jack after a bit, when the path seemed to be shifting somewhat toward the east.

“A little,” announced Walter, who was carrying the basket. “But you can’t have any.”

“Why not?” demanded Jack, indignantly. “I have as good a right as you. Who delegated you to carry the rations?” 134

“Nobody else seemed to want to. Now I’m in charge of the commissary department, and I’m going to put you, and myself included, on short rations. We may have to stay out all——”

“Ahem!” interrupted Paul, giving Walter a nudge. “Do you see anything like a house through the trees? Cut out that talk about having to stay out all night, if that’s what you were going to say,” he added in a quick whisper.

“It was,” Walter admitted. “But I’ll cease.”

“You’d better. We don’t want the girls to get nervous.”

“I don’t see any house,” Jack reported, having looked in the direction indicated by Paul.

“I thought I saw smoke, and where there’s smoke there’s generally a house or a camp,” Paul said. “However, I may have been mistaken.”

It was evident that he had been, but a little later, as they once more emerged from the woods, Cora gave a joyful cry and called out:

“There it is!”

“What, our camp?” asked Belle.

“No, a house! See it?”

They looked to where her finger pointed. Undoubtedly, it was a farmhouse, located on the farther edge of the clearing in which they had halted. There was a vacant space about it, and several barn-like structures. But there was a curious lack of life around the place. 135

“I don’t believe any one lives there,” said Jack.

“Don’t be a pessimist,” urged his sister. “Let’s go and find out.”

They hurried toward the house, but the nearer they approached it the more it seemed that it was not a farmhouse in the ordinary sense of the word. Though in the midst of cleared fields that must at one time have been part of a farm, there were no growing crops. The fields were overgrown with weeds, there were no horses or cattle to be seen, and no challenging dog rushed out to bark at the boys and girls.

“Still some old man or woman may live there who can put us on the right road,” Cora suggested. “We won’t give up yet.”

Confirmation of Jack’s idea that the house was uninhabited was given as they went up the weed-entangled front path. And the sight of broken windows, a door sagging open on fractured hinges gave further aspects of abandonment.

“Anybody home?” called Walter, knocking on the door, which swayed as though it wanted to part company from the only hinge that held it up. “Who’s in here? Hello inside!”

An echo was his only answer, though as they had approached the place Paul had said he heard a noise inside.

“Nobody home,” said Jack. “But this is at least encouraging. We are getting ‘warm’ as they say 136 in hunt the thimble. Let’s go around back. Maybe they don’t use the front door.”

He started around a side path, followed by Cora, Bess and Belle. The others straggled along in the extreme rear. As the four in the lead turned around an ell of the house, Cora uttered a cry and pointed to two men who were running out of the barn, not far off.

“Look, Jack!” she cried.

Jack stood still, quite taken by surprise, and then Belle added:

“Why, Cora! I declare! One of those men looks like one of the two who ran off with your car!”

“Are you sure about that, Belle?” demanded Cora’s brother. “I don’t want to make a mistake.”

“I only saw their backs, of course,” explained Belle, quite excited. “But that one on the left looks like the one who took the wheel and steered Cora’s auto away from the tea room. The coat is just the same.”

“Well, it’s pretty slim evidence on which to chase after two strange men,” said Jack, “but here goes. Come on, boys!” he called to Walter and Paul. “Tally-ho!”

“What’s the excitement?” asked Walter, as he and Paul came running around the corner of the house. “Dog after you, Jack?” 137

“No, but we want to get after those two fellows. See ’em?”

He pointed to the fleeing men.

“Who are they?” Paul queried.

“Belle thinks they’re the ones who took Cora’s auto. It’s a rather slim identification, but we’ll take a chance.”

“Yell at ’em,” suggested Paul.

“Good idea,” commented Jack. “I say there—you two! Hold on a minute, we want to talk to you!” he cried.

The two men, running away, never heeded nor looked around. They ran on toward the woods, the boys following, while the girls stood in a group near the deserted house.


“They aren’t going to stop,” observed Paul, as he ran along beside Jack, watching the fleeing men.

“No, and that makes me suspicious. Why should those men run away just because we hailed them? They don’t know us—that is, they haven’t any reason to suppose we represent the girl whose auto was taken. They have never seen us.”

“And they didn’t have a chance to get a good look at Cora and the other girls, even supposing they are the thieves who took the auto. According to what Belle says, the men didn’t once look around as they got into the car and drove off.

“Though they must have been hanging around the Spinning Wheel for some time to have disposed of the tickets,” said Walter. “They might have seen the three girls, and again recognized them as they came along now.”

“Possibly, but not probably,” declared Jack. “They are either tramps, who have been sleeping in the barn and think we own this place and have 139 come to drive them out, or they are the auto thieves, and naturally would run.”

“I’m inclined to the tramp theory,” declared Paul. “They don’t look like knights of the roads, though.”

“I guess we won’t have much further sight of them,” commented Jack. “They’re almost at the woods, and going strong.”

The men, indeed, were distancing the boys, running fast with never a backward glance.

“Give ’em another hail!” cried Paul. “All together. Tell ’em we only want to ask the way from them. Now yell!”

The three lads united their voices in a loud shout, but it had no effect, and, a moment later, the two fleeing men plunged in among the trees.

“Shall we follow?” asked Paul, bringing his run down to a walk.

“Hardly worth while,” commented Jack. “We’d never find them in the woods.”

“Besides, we don’t want to leave the girls alone,” added Paul.

“They are evidently determined not to be left alone,” commented Jack with a smile. “There they come after us.”

Cora and her chums were advancing across the weed-grown field that lay between the house and the woods, and over which the unsuccessful chase had taken place. 140

“Come on, we’ll give it up,” Walter said, as he started back to meet the girls.

“We didn’t like to stay there all alone,” confessed Cora.

“So we observe,” remarked Jack.

“You didn’t get them?” questioned Cora.

“They wouldn’t even hesitate,” laughed Walter. “Now for an inspection of the barn and house.”

“Are you going in?” asked Hazel.

“Why not? We may find some valuable evidence that will put us on the track of Cora’s auto. We may even find some hermit living in the house who can put us on the right road. Let’s try the barn first, though, as it was from there the men came.”

The girls would not go in, but Walter and Jack did, leaving Paul to stay with his sister and her friends.

“Just keep your eyes open, Paul,” suggested Jack. “Those fellows may come back while Wally and I are inside.”

“Trust me,” observed Hazel’s brother.

But Jack and Walter found little to repay them for their inspection of the barn. It was a dilapidated building, almost tumbling down in fact, and contained nothing save some wisps of hay and straw. In one corner, though, was a pile of old feed bags, arranged as a rude bed. 141

“Tramps been sleeping here,” observed Walter. “Maybe those two men.”

“Maybe,” agreed Jack.

But that was all they could gather, and they came out.

“Now for the house,” suggested Walter.

“There’s some sort of lane over there, leading to the cow shed,” said Cora. “Suppose you look in that building.”

“Might as well,” agreed Jack. And it was in approaching the smaller farm building through the grass-grown lane that they made a discovery.

“There’s been an auto in here!” cried Paul, as he saw some depressions in the ground. “An auto has been driven in here and out again. I can see two sets of wheel marks plainly.”

“Did one tire have a vulcanized patch on?” Cora asked eagerly. “Mine had.”

“The marks aren’t plain enough to decide that,” said Paul. “If there were dust or dirt here I could tell, but grass and weeds don’t take a good enough impression. The auto was put in the shed, evidently.”

That proved to be a good guess, for the marks of the big-tired wheels went up to the shed, which was roomy enough for a car.

“Yes, one’s been in here!” cried Jack, as he swung open the door. “See the tire marks on the boards.” 142

“Was it mine?” asked Cora, eagerly. But again the impression left was too faint to show the vulcanized patch.

“Maybe some autoists, caught out in a storm, put in here,” suggested Walter. “We mustn’t build up too hopeful a theory on a slender basis of fact.”

Traces of the automobile wheels were lost a short distance down the lane, and none appeared in the road which ran in front of the house—near which the highway did not seem to be much traveled.

“And now for the house itself,” said Jack. “Come on, boys!”

“And girls, too!” exclaimed Cora. “We’re not going to be left outside.”

They entered the old farmhouse, calling aloud to ascertain if in some distant room there might not be an occupant. But their voices were answered only by echoes, with which their footsteps mingled.

The house was typical of many another deserted farm residence, of which there are many throughout New England.

Windows were void of glass, doors hung uncertainly on one hinge, moldy wall-paper drooped down from the ceiling like unlovely Spanish moss, and in many of the rooms the dampness and rain had loosened the plaster which had fallen. 143

There were some old boxes, a broken chair or two, and a moldy horsehair settee that, in bygone days, must have graced the closed-up parlor, opened only for marriages or deaths. Or, perchance, on its glossy and slippery surface, lovers had sat long ago.

“Ugh!” exclaimed Cora, with a little shudder. “Come on out. It gives me the creeps in here.”

“Yes, I guess there’s nothing to gain by staying,” Jack remarked. “Nobody home, and there’s no use wasting time.”

“I wish we were home,” said Belle.

“And I. At least, back in camp,” added her sister.

As they went from the house they saw out in the road a man driving a horse attached to a farm wagon.

“Oh, there’s something human at last!” cried Cora. “Wait, please, we want to ask you something!” she called impulsively.

But the man had already stopped of his own accord, and a look of surprise came over his face as he saw the party of young folks come out of the abandoned house.

“Can you tell us the way to Mountain View?” asked Jack.

“Yes, I’m going that way myself,” the man answered. “At least within a mile of it. Want to ride?” 144

“Oh, do we!” exclaimed Bess with such a sigh of relief that the others laughed.

“Pile in,” invited the farmer. “You aren’t thinking of buying the old Mellish place; are you?”

“Is that what this is called?” asked Walter.

“Yes. Zeb Mellish used to own it, but he went crazy and hung himself and nobody’s lived here since; ’ceptin’ maybe tramps.”

“Yes, we saw two run away from the barn as we came up,” stated Jack.

“Humph!” commented the farmer. “I’ll have to speak to the constable about ’em. Too many of us have been losin’ chickens lately. I suspected it was tramps. Which way’d they go?”

The boys told; also narrating the details of their little picnic and of their becoming lost.

“Well, that ain’t surprisin’, considerin’ how th’ cow paths in the woods twist to and fro,” commented the farmer, who gave his name as Anthony Wale. “So you’re from one of the bungalows in the Mountain View property; eh?”

“Yes, Camp Surprise,” said Cora.

The man seemed to start, and looked sharply at Cora.

“Camp Surprise; eh!” he exclaimed.

“Know anything about it?” asked Walter. “We have been expecting to be surprised, but haven’t been, so far.”

“I know they tell queer stories about it,” said 145 Mr. Ware, “but that’s all I do know. Maybe the surprise party hasn’t started yet.”

“Well, if it’s bound to happen, I wish it would get over and done with,” said Cora. “It’s awfully good of you to give us a lift this way.”

“Glad to do it,” said Mr. Ware. “There’s room on the seat with me for two of you gals—at least the thinnest ones—not meanin’ anything against you,” and he looked at Bess, half smiling.

“Oh, I’m used to it now,” she declared. “You can’t hurt my feelings. I’ll be glad to sit on one of the boxes.”

The wagon contained several crates, and these were utilized as seats, Hazel and Belle, as the “thinnest gals,” sitting on the seat with Mr. Ware.

He drove them to within a half mile of their own camp and they were soon at the bungalow, just as Mr. and Mrs. Floyd were getting anxious about their charges, and were talking of going in search of them.

“What happened to you?” Mrs. Floyd inquired.

“Lost,” explained Jack, sententiously.

The adventures of the day were gone over again at a joint supper, the boys being invited in by the girls.

“You aren’t doing any housekeeping at all,” Cora complained to Jack, afterward.

“What’s the use when you girls are such good 146 cooks?” he asked with a laugh. “We’re thinking of hiring a chef, anyhow, and then we’ll reciprocate and give you a good feed.”

A trip down the mountain stream to where it widened into a lake was the plan for the next day, and an early start was made, Mrs. Floyd and her husband stating that they had to go to town to do some shopping, and would not be back before night. They started before the young folks left, and the girls locked their bungalow as they came out.

Nothing of moment occurred on the trip to the little lake, if the fact that Jack fell in up to his knees, while trying to get some pond lilies for Hazel be excepted.

“Well, I wonder if anything happened while we were away?” asked Cora of Walter, as they neared their camp on the return trip.

“Why do you suggest that?” he queried.

“Oh, I don’t just know. I have a funny sort of feeling ‘in my bones,’ as mother used to say.”

Cora had the key and opened the door. The boys were coming in, as they usually did, and stood waiting for the girls to enter.

As Jack’s sister threw back the door she gave one look in the living room, and exclaimed:

“It’s here!”

“What?” asked Walter, quickly.

“The surprise! Look!”


Crowding up behind Cora, the others peered over her shoulders. The setting sun, streaming in through the windows, revealed a strange sight in the big living room. Several chairs were overturned, a large couch that had been against the wall was out in the middle of the floor, a table that had been piled with magazines and books was turned on its side, and turned upside down on the overturned table was perched a chair, as though children had been playing some simple game, like stagecoach or steamboat, with the table and chair to represent make-believe articles of locomotion.

For a moment surprise and wonder held them all dumb, then Jack burst out with:

“Say! who did this monkey-business, anyhow?”

“Monkey-business?” repeated Cora.

“It’s the surprise!” exclaimed Belle, and her voice was not quite steady. “We’ve been expecting this. The ghosts have paid one of their visits. Oh dear!” 148

“Don’t be silly!” exclaimed Bess, who, perhaps because her nerves were better protected, did not give way to emotion so readily as did her thinner sister. “Isn’t this just what we’ve been looking for—and hoping for?”

“Hoping for?” asked Paul. “Well, I must say it’s a queer sort of hope!”

“Oh, I don’t mean that, exactly,” Bess went on. “But we knew something like this was bound to happen, and this is the first manifestation.”

“No, not exactly the first,” Cora said.

“What do you mean?” asked Bess. “Isn’t this the first time anything has been upset in our bungalow?”

“Yes, but it isn’t the first manifestation,” Cora went on. “Shall we tell, Belle?” she asked.

“Yes,” nodded the slim Robinson girl.

“Though how you can connect the queer noise with what has taken place here I don’t see,” put in Walter who had been looking curiously about the upset room, which none of them had ventured yet to enter.

“What! Does he know about it, too?” asked Belle.

Cora nodded. “He heard it, and thought at first it was thunder.”

“Say, what’s this all about?” demanded Jack. “Are you hiding part of the secret from us, Sis?”

“Well, in a way—yes.” 149

“That isn’t fair. If there’s a secret here we ought to share it. And if you girls are going to keep things to yourselves we fellows will pack up and leave, and——”

“Don’t dare desert us!” cried Belle. “I won’t stay here a minute after the boys go; will you, Cora?”

“Well, I like to have them here, of course,” answered Jack’s sister. “But if we talk that way about them they’ll get an exaggerated idea of their importance, and there’ll be no way of enforcing discipline. So if they want to go let them, and we’ll solve this mystery ourselves.”

“I think we’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” declared Walter. “I don’t see any great mystery here. A few chairs and a table are upset. It’s the most natural thing in the world.”

“Natural? How do you make that out?” asked Bess.

“Why, Mrs. Floyd has been sweeping and dusting in here, and she has moved the chairs about. They always do it at our house. And say! some days it’s as much as your life is worth to try to navigate through the misplaced furniture. You need a harbor pilot and a searchlight, to say nothing of a chart and an automobile road map. That’s all that’s happened here. Mrs. Floyd has been doing a little house-cleaning.”

“So that’s your explanation of it; is it?” asked 150 Cora. “Then how do you account for the fact that Mrs. Floyd and her husband have been away all day?”

She pointed toward the road and the others saw the two caretakers in Mr. Floyd’s light wagon approaching the bungalow. They were returning from their day’s shopping trip, as was evident by the number of bundles in the vehicle.

“I think you’ll find that Mrs. Floyd hasn’t done any house-cleaning to-day,” said Cora. “You can’t account for the surprise that way.”

Cora was right, in so far as Mrs. Floyd was concerned. The chaperon and her husband had been away all day.

“What is it? What has happened? Is anything the matter?” asked Mrs. Floyd, as she saw the young people on the porch of the bungalow, looking in at the open door. “Is any one hurt?”

“No, it’s just the surprise,” said Cora. “Is that what has happened before, Mrs. Floyd?”

The caretaker looked inside, and caught her breath sharply.

“Yes—yes,” she answered slowly. “This has happened before, but never as bad as this. I mean it never before was quite so upset. I—I can’t account for it.”

“It’s them pesky tramps!” said Mr. Floyd. “I’ll notify the constable again; that’s what I’ll do!” 151

“Do you think it was tramps?” asked Jack.

“Who else could it be?” the caretaker demanded, and neither Jack nor the others could answer, though Walter asked:

“Well, if it were tramps, wouldn’t they steal something if they had the chance they’ve had to-day? Let’s take a look and see if anything is missing.”

Then they went in, a bit gingerly at first, for there is a queer, uncanny sort of feeling in coming back to find the furniture upset in a strange fashion. They all felt it, even joking Jack.

But, aside from the misplaced tables, chairs and couch, nothing wrong was found. Nothing was missing, as far as could be ascertained, and no food had been taken from the pantry, though more than once, Mrs. Floyd said, on former occasions when the “surprise” had been manifested, the larder showed signs of an unknown visitor.

“Now before we set things to rights,” suggested Jack, “suppose we see if there are any clews. Let’s go at this thing right. Look at each piece of furniture and see if it has——”

“Any finger marks on? Is that what you mean, Jack?” asked Paul.

“No, I’m not drawing it quite as fine as that. I mean look around on the floor for bits of mud, for any signs of foot prints—anything, in fact, that would give us a line on who did this.” 152

“It seems to have been done deliberately, anyhow,” observed Walter. “The chairs and other things weren’t misplaced in a hurry. They took their time. Why any one but a child would want to pile that chair on the table is remarkable.”

“That very thing may indicate that it was just some skylarking boys,” commented Jack.

Mr. Floyd shook his head.

“There aren’t any boys around here,” he said. “Of course lads might come out from the village, and break in to do this mischief, but it isn’t likely. This is private land, and on several previous occasions trespassers have been arrested, so the boys don’t generally come here. Besides, they wouldn’t have had a key to come in with.”

“Did they use a key to enter?” asked Paul.

“The door was locked when we got back,” replied Cora, as if that settled it.

“And the window fastenings are still on,” reported Jack, who made a quick inspection.

“Here’s a bit of mud near this one chair, as if it had dropped from some one’s shoe,” Walter said. “So the surprisers must have come in from outside.”

“Where else would they come from?” Jack demanded. “Did you think they were concealed in the bungalow?”

“I don’t know what to think,” Walter answered slowly. “It’s a queer mystery.” 153

“I hope it won’t cause you folks to leave,” said Mrs. Floyd a bit anxiously. “We’d like you to stay on.”

“And we will!” cried Cora. “We knew that a surprise awaited us when we came here, and we haven’t been disappointed. And, now that it has come, we’re not going to turn cowards and run away. We’ll get to the bottom of this mystery.”

“That’s right!” cried Jack. “Who’s afraid? You aren’t; are you, Hazel?”

“Not—not if——”

“Not if I stay! There, I knew it!” and Jack puffed out his chest. “See what it is to have confidence in a man. Now if the rest of you will act as I do, we’ll soon——”

“Oh, I didn’t say that at all!” cried the blushing Hazel. “I meant I would stay if the rest did.”

“Squelched!” murmured Jack in dejected tones. “Never mind, I’ll lay this ghost yet. Now let’s get things to rights, and then we’ll stay to supper with you girls.”

“Hadn’t you better wait until you’re invited?” asked Cora.

“Oh, do let them stay!” begged Belle. “I—I’m a bit nervous over this.”

“Another manly protector needed,” murmured Paul.

“Let us stay and we’ll help find the ghost,” suggested Walter, and the girls were glad enough to 154 agree, for, truth to tell, they were a bit upset, and even Cora looked over her shoulder nervously as she ascended the stairs.

“Well, they didn’t come up and disturb your bedrooms this time,” said Mrs. Floyd, as she went to the upper story with the girls.

“Do you mean to say they actually have upset the things in the bedrooms?” asked Belle.

“Sometimes,” replied the caretaker. “Though that hasn’t happened of late.”

“Oh, dear!” sighed the slim girl. “I did hope we would be safe from them up here.”

“Oh, they never come—that is, things never happen—when any one is in the house,” Mrs. Floyd hastened to add. “It’s always when the place is left to itself.”

“Then the—er—well, call it ghost, for want of a better name,” said Jack—“then the ghost must keep watch to know when we go out.”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Mrs. Floyd. “It’s very annoying, and I do hope you will find out what does it and stop it.”

“We will,” Jack declared. “I’m sure, after all, we’ll find out that it is due to perfectly natural causes.”

“That’s what I believe,” said Walter. “I wonder if it could be an earthquake?”

“Earthquake?” echoed the others.

“Yes,” Walter went on. “You know that queer 155 noise which Cora, Belle and I seem to have heard to the exclusion of you others? Well, that was a sort of rumbling of the earth. It might have been a slight shock, a reaction from a distant quake. Such things have been known to happen. And if there was one there might well be another. If the bungalow shook hard enough the chairs might have been upset as we found them.”

Jack shook his head.

“Your theory won’t hold water,” he said. “If there was a hard enough shock to knock over chairs and tables, the dishes in the closets would have been broken.”

“I think so, too,” declared Paul. “The earthquake won’t account for it, Walter.”

“Perhaps not. But I can’t think what else it could be.”

“A human agency, you may be sure of that,” declared Cora. “I don’t believe in the supernatural. This was done by human hands and, sooner or later, we’ll discover by whom. Humans are fallible and will make a mistake. We must watch for that mistake.”

They righted the furniture and talking of the matter seemed to make it lose some of its mysteriousness. The boys stayed to supper and until late in the evening. Jack offered to remain all night, and sleep on the couch downstairs, but Cora would not hear of it. 156

“We’ll be all right,” she declared. “We can call you on the telephone if we want you. Besides, Mr. Floyd is going to leave open the door leading to his quarters, and he can hear if we call. We’ll be all right.”

“Well, ring us up if you find the chairs doing a fox trot or hesitation waltz in the middle of the night,” suggested Walter.

The girls went upstairs together, casting quick, nervous glances over their shoulders as they ascended. They locked their hall doors as soon as they were inside. But as the four chambers communicated, it was as if they were in one large apartment.

“Oh dear!” exclaimed Cora, as she was taking down her hair. “I’ve forgotten it.”

“What?” asked Bess, who was taking off her shoes.

“My flashlight,” Cora answered. “I left it on the table in the living room. I meant to bring it up, for I like to see what time it is if I awaken in the night.”

“I’ll go down with you if you want to get it,” offered Hazel.

“No, thank you. I’ll do without it. I dare say I shan’t need it.”

“Let’s burn a light all night,” proposed Belle.

And no one called her silly. So the lamp was left aglow, turned down a little. 157

Contrary, at least to some expectations, the night passed peacefully. There was no disturbance, and the girls awoke refreshed and with only a little feeling of uneasiness as to what might happen in the future.

But when Cora went downstairs, and began looking among the things on the table in the living room, another manifestation of the queer happenings was in evidence.

“Where’s my light?” she demanded. “I left my flashlight here last night, and now it’s gone. Did any one take it?”

No one had, the boys and girls denying all knowledge. Nor had Mr. or Mrs. Floyd removed it, and Cora was positive she had left it on the table. She recalled her remarks about it the night previous.

“Well, it’s gone,” she said. “Another one of the mysteries.”

“You seem to be singled out,” observed Walter. “First it’s your auto, and now your light.”

“Do you think the two cases have any connection?” asked Cora.


Walter considered the matter rather judicially before answering. Then he gave as his decision:

“No, I can’t say that I do. It is, perhaps, only a coincidence that your automobile and your flashlight should have been taken. I dare say that had it been a light belonging to any one else it would have disappeared just the same.”

“You mean that they—the mysterious They—would have taken the light, no matter to whom it belonged?” asked Jack.

“Exactly! It was a case of wanting a light and taking it.”

“But how did they get in to take it?” asked Paul. “There’s no sign of anything having been broken; is there—no doors or windows?”

“We didn’t look,” Cora said.

“Then that’s what we’d better do,” Jack suggested.

But an examination did not show that any means had been used to force a passage from without. 159 The windows were provided with screens which fastened from within in such a way that force would have to be exerted to slip them. And this had not been done. Nor had the door been tampered with.

“There’s only one way to account for it,” said Walter, “and that is on the theory that the Surprisers, Ghosts, They—whatever you choose to call them—used skeleton keys. And they must be professional burglars, or they would have made noise enough to have aroused you girls. You didn’t hear anything; did you?”

Not one had heard a sound.

“But if they were professional thieves wouldn’t they have taken something else besides a flashlight?” asked Jack. “There’s plenty of other things they might have picked up.”

This was true enough, for the girls had left many of their more or less valuable belongings downstairs. But none of them had been taken.

“Perhaps they just needed Cora’s light to help them in some of their other surprise visits,” suggested Bess. “Isn’t it most delightfully mystifying?”

“I don’t know that I find it especially so,” retorted Belle, with a quick glance over her shoulder. “It’s getting on my nerves.”

“Well, you can quit and go away when you want to,” suggested her sister. 160

“Never!” cried Cora. “We’re not going to desert in the face of danger; are we, Belle?”

The slim twin hesitated a moment, and then answered, but not very decidedly:


“I knew you wouldn’t,” said Jack’s sister. “We Motor Girls aren’t cowards.”

“We give you credit for that,” declared Walter.

In spite of the brave front of Cora and her chums, the happenings at Camp Surprise were getting on their nerves. The boys, true to their promise, began to plan to do their own cooking; but in view of the fact that the oftener they were in the girls’ bungalow the better Cora and her chums liked it, it was decided to have the boys take all their meals with the girls. Jack, Walter and Paul would merely sleep in the smaller building, where they were in close call by means of the telephone.

For the next two days nothing happened. No more articles were missed, and the furniture remained where it was put. Then came two or three days when our friends were off on long picnics, remaining all day, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Floyd in charge. Nor on these occasions did anything happen. The bungalow was as peaceful when they returned as when they left.

“I guess it’s all over,” said Cora, when nearly a 161 week had passed, and there had been no more manifestations. “It was a flashlight they were looking for all the while, and, now that they have it, they are satisfied.”

“It might be,” admitted Belle. “I hope it is.”

There were happy days in the mountains. Sometimes the young folks would wander far afield or through the woods, taking their lunches and staying all day. Again they would go berrying or fishing. And they did not get lost again, for the boys became familiar with the lay of the land. Cora, too, as well as Belle and Bess, got her bearings, and knew how to find the back paths.

Fishing formed a pastime that all enjoyed, for the streams and ponds in Mountain View were private property, and had not been depleted of their finny inhabitants. So fish formed many a dainty dish for the table.

It was one day when Mr. Floyd had gone in to town, and Mrs. Floyd had departed to one of the more distant bungalows to get it in readiness for occupancy, that Cora and her friends again went on a little trip to the small lake which once before they had visited.

“And make sure everything is well locked,” Belle advised, as they started away, boys and girls together.

Windows and doors were seen to, though no one had more than a faint suspicion that any unbidden 162 visitors would call. They got back rather early in the afternoon, for a thunder shower was threatening, and as Jack opened the door and looked in the living room, he called out:

“All serene. They haven’t been here this time.”

“That’s good,” said Belle. “I guess we’ve broken the hoodoo.”

But when Cora and Hazel went upstairs there came simultaneous cries of surprise from them.

“Oh, Cora!” cried Hazel. “Look at my room!”

“And look at mine!” Cora added.

“What’s the matter?” asked Jack from below.

“Everything!” answered his sister. “They’ve been up here, Jack!”


“The Surprise, of course. Our rooms are all upset.”

“Is anything taken?” asked Jack, who, with the others, came up to look at the strange evidences left by the mysterious visitors.

“We can’t tell yet,” said Cora. “Oh dear! what does it all mean?”

No one answered for a moment, but Belle and Bess looked half-fearfully about, as though even then they might be standing in the presence of some unseen creature.


“This is getting to be the limit of patience!” exclaimed Jack a bit wrathfully, as he looked at the disordered rooms. “Why can’t we do something?”

“We could, if we knew what to do,” said Walter. “But you can’t fight nothing with something.”

“It is very intangible,” said Cora. “Oh, all my pretty things scattered about!”

“Look and see if anything is taken,” suggested Paul. “If we can find out what is missing—I mean the character of the things—we can get a better line on who might have taken them. So far, the flashlight indicates regular burglars.”

For a time the girls were so put out, and so nervous over what had happened, that they could not ascertain what, if anything, was missing.

Then Cora began to reckon up her belongings, and found that a number of articles had been taken. Hazel found the same misfortune had visited her.

“There are lots of my things gone,” said Cora. 164

“What?” asked Walter, producing pencil and paper. “Let’s get at this systematically.”

“Oh, well, there are lots of things you—you wouldn’t understand about,” said Cora, blushing slightly.

“That’s true enough,” Walter admitted with a smile. “You are not on the witness stand, so you needn’t mention face powder, nose rings——”

“Well, I like that!” cried Cora. “As if we used face powder!”

“Just for that he will have to eat at the second table,” pronounced Hazel.

“Come on!” challenged Jack, laughing. “Get down to business. What sort of things are missing, Cora?”

“Girls’ things, of course,” said his sister. “We didn’t have much else up here.”

And that, it developed, was what was missing. Trinkets, some toilet articles, including a silver-mounted set belonging to Cora which Jack had given her the previous Christmas, were gone. Hazel lost a silver-backed mirror and a box full of bright ribbons.

“Well, this beats me!” said Walter with a puzzled air, as he looked at the list he had made. “They took some things they may possibly dispose of at a pawnshop, but why grown men burglars should want hair ribbons, or neck ribbons, or whatever ribbons they are, gets me.” 165

“What makes you think they were men?” asked Belle.

“Who else would it be?”

“Well, we first had a theory that the upsetting might have been done by boys,” said Cora.

“Yes, that theory would fit, under certain circumstances,” agreed Walter. “So would the taking of the flashlight. Almost any boy would have been glad to get that. But what boy would take a lot of pretty ribbons, even though he were enough of a criminal to know that he might be able to dispose of the silver-mounted toilet articles? It doesn’t jibe.”

In the main, they were forced to agree with Walter.

“Well, the fact remains that we have had another visit from the unknowns,” concluded Walter, “and what are we going to do about it?”

For a moment no one knew what to say. And then, as brains were busy with the mystery, several schemes were offered.

“Put some animal traps about and catch the intruders,” said Jack.

“One of us stay and watch, while the others go away,” was Paul’s contribution.

“Sprinkle talcum powder on the floor, and then we can track them by the marks,” offered Hazel.

“Not such a bad idea,” declared Jack, as the others laughed. “It has been known to work.” 166

“Call in the police,” came from Bess.

“Pooh!” scoffed Cora. “If they couldn’t get back my automobile they can’t find mysterious thieves who enter through locked doors or windows, and vanish into thin air with their ill-gotten gains.”

“Let—let’s go home!” faltered Belle.

“Nonsense!” cried Cora. “We’ll stick it out. It is just getting interesting.”

“That’s all right,” announced Belle, “but suppose—suppose they come in the night, when we’re asleep, and take one of us?”

“Let them begin on Bess,” suggested Jack, with a laugh. “No offense, of course, fair one,” and he bowed, “but you know you could give a good account of yourself if some one did try to walk off with you.”

“Don’t dare suggest such a thing!” cried the plump twin. “I’d never go to sleep if I thought they’d come at night.”

“They do seem to confine their visits to daytime, and to the periods when we are away,” said Cora.

“Which makes it look, more than ever, as if they watched the bungalow and knew just when to take advantage of our absence,” commented Paul.

“Oh, don’t say that!” begged Belle. “Just think—they—they may be watching now!”

“Well, if they are let’s go and see if we can 167 rout them out,” suggested Jack. “There aren’t many places of concealment about the bungalow.”

While the other girls helped Cora and Hazel put to rights the upset rooms, the boys made a thorough search outside. There did not seem to be any place where the mysterious persons might conceal themselves in order to spy on the bungalow. There were trees all about, but the underbrush had been cut away, and there was small chance for concealment. The boys also started to make an inspection about their own bungalow, but this was cut short by a shower that came up.

“Well, so far, we are just about where we started,” said Jack, as he and his two chums were eating supper with the girls that night. “We haven’t found out anything.”

“But we will!” declared Cora. “I’m not going to be beaten this way. We’ll organize a campaign.”

They talked to this end, making a tentative plan that the next time they went off on a trip, some member of the party would be left behind in concealment in the bungalow, to see, if possible, who the visitor or visitors were.

“And if that doesn’t work we’ll try something else,” said Walter.

It was evident, though, that after the first few trials the new plan was not going to work. Though the boys took turns in remaining in concealment 168 while the others went away, not a sound or sign of disturbance was noted. No furniture was misplaced, and nothing was taken.

“We’ve got to have a new scheme,” said Cora. “Let’s talk to Mr. and Mrs. Floyd about it. Maybe they can suggest something.”

But the caretaker and his wife had nothing to offer. They were as much worried and disturbed by the queer happenings as were the girls and boys. And though they were generous and kindly souls, they were not quick thinkers, and had little imagination.

“It’s just spirits,” said Mrs. Floyd. “Spirits come and go.”

“There aren’t any such things,” declared Cora.

“Maybe it’s lightning,” suggested Mr. Floyd. “We have pretty heavy thunderstorms up here.”

“Lightning can’t move furniture, nor carry off looking glasses and hair ribbons,” Cora went on.

“Well, once lightning struck Jim Dobson’s cabin,” the caretaker said, “and knocked all his pots and pans off the stove, and burned a hole right through his clock.”

“That’s within the bounds of possibility,” admitted Jack.

“It’s boys!” decided Walter. “You’ll find that some youngsters are up to these tricks, and they’re cute enough to cover up their tracks.” 169

“That’s it,” said Paul. “They’re too cute. They don’t leave any tracks. How they get in and out again, without leaving a clew or a mark is more than I can see.” For an examination of the place after the losses suffered by Cora and Hazel had disclosed no apparent means of egress or ingress.

One evening when the girls had gone over to the boys’ bungalow to sit and talk, Cora, who had gone to the end of the porch, whence a view could be had of the other building, uttered an exclamation.

“There’s a light in our bungalow!” she called. “Did we leave one burning?”

“No,” answered Belle. “I put it out, as I was afraid of fire.”

“Well, one’s there now. See how it dances about!”

Indeed, a light could be observed, dancing up and down, flashing first from one window and then from another.

“It’s Mr. or Mrs. Floyd,” said Jack.

“They’ve gone to the village,” Paul said. “I saw them go.”

“It’s the mysterious visitors!” cried Walter. “They’re using Cora’s flashlight! Come on, boys, this time we have them!”

He ran toward the bungalow, followed by the others.


Advancing rapidly toward the girls’ bungalow, where so many strange happenings had occurred, and where even now the strange light was flashing, first at one window, then at another, Cora and her chums—boys and girls—speculated on what could be the cause.

“Let the boys go first,” cautioned Belle. “We don’t know what it might be.”

“That’s right! Wish the danger on to us!” commented Jack. “But we’re not afraid.”

“It’s only those mischievous boys,” declared Paul. “We’ll catch ’em in the very act now.”

“But how did the little rascals get in without our seeing them?” asked Walter.

“We weren’t watching the bungalow very closely,” said Paul. “They could easily have slipped in from the back, around on the forest side. They watched their chance.”

“But what’s their game?” asked Jack, as they crossed the rustic bridge on the run, their footsteps echoing dully on the boards. 171

“Go easy!” cautioned Walter. “Don’t make so much noise, or we’ll scare them away before we have a chance to catch them.”

“They can’t hear us above the noise of the waterfall,” declared Jack. “But what’s their game? That’s what I want to know. Why are they flashing that light about so?”

“There must be two or three of them with lights,” said Cora. “For first I noticed it up in the window of my room, and a second later, certainly in less time than any human boy could make the trip downstairs, the light showed from a window in the living room.”

“Probably there are three or four of the little rascals,” said Walter. “Come on now, we’re almost there.”

“Wait here, girls,” suggested Cora. “Let the boys go ahead, though after they catch these mischief-makers I’ll feel like giving them a good shaking myself.”

Walter, Paul and Jack advanced toward the bungalow. They went softly up on the porch, looking sharply for a sign of the light.

“Seems to have gone out,” commented Jack in a whisper.

“Yes. They must have heard us and switched it off.”

“Probably they’ve skipped out, too, worse luck!” came from Paul. 172

Indeed, as they listened, they could hear no sound from the bungalow, at the door of which they now stood. All was silent and dark within.

“Got a match?” Walter asked.

“Take my flashlight,” returned Jack. “It’s stronger than Cora’s.”

The brilliant white beam of light from the electric flash which Jack handed to Walter illuminated the interior of the living room. And at the sight which met the gaze of the boys, they could not restrain murmurs of astonishment.

“Well, would you look at that!”

“Same thing over again!”

“And right under our noses too! They never made a sound!”

“What is it?” called Cora, from where she and her chums stood waiting. “Did you catch them?”

“Haven’t yet,” answered Walter, playing the light about the room. “But the furniture is all upset, just as it was the other day, only more so. Come on up, girls. I guess there’s no danger. The boys have probably skipped out, though we may get them yet. Jack, you go around to the side door. Paul, you cover the back. I’ll take a run through the bungalow and stir them up.”

Pausing to light a lamp in the living room, Walter ran up the stairs to the apartments of the girls, while Jack and Paul formed a guard outside the 173 bungalow. The girls still remained a little distance away, awaiting developments.

But there were none—at least inside the bungalow. Walter came down stairs to report that no one was up there.

“But are things upset in our rooms?” asked Bess.

“And is anything taken?” Hazel questioned.

“I didn’t stop to look,” confessed Walter. “I was just trying to drive out intruders.”

“None came out the door I was watching,” declared Jack.

“Nor where I was,” said Paul.

“How in the world did they get away so quickly?” asked Walter.

No one could answer him and they all turned their attention to the living room.

As Walter had said, it was more upset than on the other occasion. Every chair in the big apartment had been overturned, and in some cases two were jammed together, the legs interwoven. On a table two chairs had been piled, while the couch was turned completely upside down, and a stool perched on top of it, a sofa cushion surmounting that.

Other sofa cushions were tossed about the room, as though the intruders had been having a pillow fight, and in fact the whole room had that appearance. 174

“But nothing seems to have been taken,” said Cora, after a look around, when the furniture had been put to rights.

“Better not be too sure,” cautioned Walter. “Wait until you take a look upstairs. I only glanced around.”

“How in the world could they do all this without making a noise?” asked Paul. “It seems to have been done in a hurry, and boys are rather clumsy—I know I was. They ought, by rights, to have stumbled all over themselves, doing this by the light of only a pocket flash. And yet we heard no racket as we ran up. It was all quiet.”

“That’s one queer part of it,” admitted Walter. “It almost makes one believe in——”

“Ghosts! Go on and say it,” challenged Cora. “You can’t scare us.”

“Any more than we are frightened now,” said Belle.

“Are you frightened?” asked Jack.

“A little,” she confessed. “Wouldn’t you be—if you were I?”

“I might be,” he admitted. “But we’ll get at the bottom of this for you, and catch those youngsters.”

“If we only could be sure they were boys,” Belle murmured.

“Who else could it be?” asked Jack.

“Ask us something easier,” suggested Paul. 175 “Go ahead upstairs, girls, and see if anything is missing.”

This advice was acted upon, and when the place was aglow with lights Cora and her chums took “an account of stock,” as Jack said.

“Well, any of your ‘war paint’ missing?” he demanded of his sister when she came down.

“Only a few little trinkets,” she said, “ribbons and things like that. If it were not impossible, I should say girls had a hand in this.”

“It isn’t impossible,” declared Walter. “Girls can do almost anything nowadays. But it isn’t likely. Some boys are just as fond of bright things as are girls, and probably these youngsters hope to make neckties of your ribbons.”

“Well, what are we going to do about it?” asked Jack, when they had sat discussing the curious happening for some time.

“What can we do?” Walter demanded.

“I know one thing I am going to do,” declared, Belle, “and that is I’m going home in the morning.”

“No!” cried Cora.

“I am if this mystery isn’t cleared up. It’s getting on my nerves horribly,” and she gave a quick glance over her shoulder as a slight noise sounded.

“I did that,” confessed Hazel, who had dropped a book. 176

“Don’t do it again, my dear,” begged Belle.

“Now look here!” cried Cora, “this won’t do. We’re going to stick it out. We agreed on that, you know. We’re going to find out what this mystery is.”

“That’s what I say!” came from Bess.

“I’m willing to stay,” declared Hazel.

“Well, since I seem to be in the minority I’ll have to give in,” sighed Belle. “I’ll stay if you all do, but I really think some one ought to be in this bungalow with us—one of the boys or——”

“I’ll stay here,” came from Jack, Walter, and Paul in a trio.

But when Mr. and Mrs. Floyd returned from town, and heard of the strange happenings, they offered to sleep in a small room opening off the living apartment.

The night, however, passed without incident, though none of the girls slept well. Morning seemed to quiet the frayed nerves, and the happenings of the night before did not seem so mysterious in the glare of the golden sun.

The season for berries was at its height now, and as many varieties grew on the mountainside the young campers organized another expedition one day, about a week after the disturbance in which the light figured. Mrs. Floyd promised to bake the pies if the boys and girls gathered the berries. 177

They planned for an all day stay, taking their lunch, and early in the afternoon all berry baskets were filled. Then, as there were some ominous-looking clouds in the west, they decided to start for the bungalows.

They were about half a mile from Camp Surprise, on a new short cut which Mr. Floyd had mentioned, when Cora, who was hurrying along in the lead, slipped on a slight declivity and, to save herself from falling, grasped a bush.

The bush, however, offered little hold, for it came away in her hand, and Cora slid on, until she brought up on a level place. She looked back, to join the others in the laugh at her slight mishap, when her eyes noted the place from which the bush had pulled away.

“Why look! Look here!” she called to the others. “Here’s a regular cave!”

“A cave?” echoed Jack.

“Yes. There’s a big hole which I’d never have seen only the bush became uprooted. Come here!”

“Come on!” cried Jack. “Let’s see where this leads to. It may have something to do with the mystery.”

“What mystery?” asked Bess.

“What mystery? The mystery of Camp Surprise! Maybe the boys hide in this cave. Come on!”


Jack, Walter, and Paul tore away more of the bushes screening the mouth of the natural cave. As they removed the leafy branches the black hole was seen to be of large size, fully high enough to permit even a tall man to enter without stooping, and wide enough to enable three to walk abreast.

“This is some cave!” exclaimed Jack. “I wonder Mr. Floyd never told us about it.”

“Perhaps he didn’t know,” suggested Cora. “I wouldn’t have seen it, and I was within a few feet of it, if I hadn’t slipped and pulled away the bush.”

“Well, we’ll soon see if it amounts to anything,” declared Paul, setting down the pail of berries he was carrying.

“Are you girls coming in with us?” asked Walter, looking at Cora and her chums who had not advanced.

“I don’t know. Shall we?” asked Hazel, looking at her brother.

“I don’t want to stay here,” said Cora. “Besides, 179 something might happen to the boys. But how are you going to explore the cave in the dark? And it is as dark as a bottle of ink in there. Have any of you your flashlights?”

“We can make a torch of wood,” said Jack, when it developed that none of them had one of the pocket electric lights.

But just as Jack and the others were about to enter the cave the mutterings of thunder which had been increasing, culminated in such a clap that the girls, involuntarily placed their hands over their ears.

“Come on! Run for the bungalow!” cried Cora. “Else we’ll be caught in a terrible storm! It’s starting to rain now.”

Some hot drops hissed down, the prelude to an almost tropical fury of the elements it seemed.

“We can go into the cave,” suggested Paul.

“No!” cried his sister. “You shan’t go in there with this storm coming up. The cave will keep. Come on, let’s run!”

She darted off down the side of the mountain, the other girls following. The boys hesitated a moment, and then, not wishing to desert the girls, even though the latter ran first, they followed.

“We can come back to the cave to-morrow,” said Walter. “It won’t run away. And to explore it well we ought to have the electric lights. Come on.” 180

Paul and Jack followed him, and they all reached the girls’ bungalow just as the deluge of rain came down.

For an hour or more the storm raged, blinding lightning and deafening thunder succeeding one another. But the bungalow was snug and safe, though once, when a tree was struck not far away, the girls screamed in terror.

That crash, however, seemed to be the culmination of the outburst, for from then on the rain began to slacken, and the thunder died away in muttered rumblings and the lightning became paler and paler until it was only a faint, shimmering light.

Then the dark sky cleared and the sun came out, shining through the storm-riven clouds and warming the ground and trees which were dripping from the vigorous bath.

“We got home just in time,” commented Cora, as they looked out on the ceasing storm. “A little longer on the mountain and we would have been drenched.”

“That cave was a find,” commented Jack. “I want to see what’s in it.”

“Probably nothing more than a hole in the side of the mountain,” commented Bess.

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” voiced Walter. “I wonder if Mr. Floyd knows anything about it?” 181

It developed that the caretaker did not, though he said there were several small mountain caves in that section, and this was probably one of them that he had not chanced upon.

“Do you think smugglers or pirates might have used it?” asked Hazel, with a smile.

“Hardly pirates,” commented Jack. “Too far from the water. But smugglers might have done so. We’re not so far from the Canadian line.”

“All bosh!” declared Paul. “It’s probably a garage dating from the stone age when the early inhabitants used the dinosaur as a jitney!”

They all laughed at his conceit and talked further of the cave and what they might find in it when they explored it the next day.

Whether it was the severe thunderstorm, or whether it was the culmination of the happenings of the past few weeks was not made clear, but it was certain that the girls, even Cora, were more nervous than they had been at any time yet.

“I—I wish we didn’t have to stay here to-night,” said Belle when supper was over, and they sat out on the porch, gazing into the fast-gathering darkness.

“Why?” asked Cora.

“Because I—I’m afraid. Come now, aren’t you?” she challenged.

“Well, I can’t say I like all the mysterious happenings,” Cora admitted. “And now that we 182 know there is a cave near us—more than one perhaps—and that we don’t know who—or what—may be in them, why, I can’t say it is the most pleasant vacation we have experienced.”

“This bungalow gives me the creeps!” complained Hazel.

“Why not take ours?” suggested Walter. “It’s large enough for you to sleep in, and we’ll take this one. Come on, what do you say?”

“No, not to-night anyhow,” decided Cora. “We’ll keep to our agreement and stay here. Mrs. Floyd will be here with us.”

“And not Mr. Floyd?” asked Belle.

“No, not until later. He has to go to some town meeting I believe, and will come in around midnight. But nothing has happened in the last few days—not even a noise.”

“I’ve heard noises,” confessed Belle.

“What sort?” Jack inquired.

“Oh, sort of rumbling, trembling noises, and they seemed to be away down under the ground. I heard one yesterday, when I came back to get my veil after the others had gone out. It scared me,” Belle added.

“I think the waterfall causes those rumbling noises,” said Walter. “We’ll have to investigate that to-morrow.”

The boys went to their own bungalow, and Mrs. Floyd came in to occupy the small temporary bedroom. 183 Her husband would be in later, she explained, confirming Cora’s information in that respect. The thunderstorm had cooled the rather oppressive air and there was a refreshing breeze blowing as the girls went up to their bedrooms.

Just who awakened first, it would be hard to say. Probably it was Belle, as she was the lightest sleeper. Cora heard her calling, and at the same time she was aware of another disturbance.

“Do you hear it?” asked Belle from her room.

“Yes,” Cora answered. At the same time she could hear Bess and Hazel getting up.

The whole bungalow seemed filled with a roaring, trembling noise, and there was a slight vibration of the building.

“What is it? Oh, what is it?” cried Belle, in hysterical tones.

“I don’t know,” answered Cora. “But I’m going to find out.”


“By calling the boys. Mrs. Floyd, are you awake?” Cora demanded, going to the head of the stairs.

“Yes. That noise awoke me.”

“Is Mr. Floyd home?”

“Not yet.”

“Then I’m going to telephone for the boys!”


Hastily donning robes and slippers, the girls gathered about Cora as she rang the electric bell which had been arranged to summon the boys in the other bungalow to the toy telephone. Meanwhile, Mrs. Floyd had arisen and dressed to let in the boys. The rumbling, trembling noise had stopped.

“Oh, why don’t they answer?” cried Cora, impatiently pushing the electric bell button again and again.

Then, through the toy receiver came a faint voice.

“Hello! Hello, there! Is that you, girls? What is the matter?”

“This you, Jack?” Cora asked.


“Come over as fast as you can! Hurry!”

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Don’t stop to question! Hurry over!” Cora begged. “It’s that terrible noise again. Can’t you hear it?” 185

“No,” answered Jack. “But we’ll be right over. Come on, fellows!” Cora heard him call to Walter and Paul, as he left the telephone. “The girls are scared.”

“I guess he’d be too, if he heard that noise,” Cora said. “Did you all hear it?” and she appealed to her chums.

“I did,” affirmed Hazel. “It sounded like distant thunder.”

“Could it have been?” asked Mrs. Floyd, who had joined the girls.

“The stars are shining,” reported Belle, looking from a window, shading her eyes with her hands from the light in the room. They had partly dressed and gone down to the living room. There they listened and waited both for a recurrence of the noise and for the approach of the boys.

The latter made their presence known first, fairly running along the graveled way that led from their bungalow, over the rustic bridge, to the girls’ abiding place.

“What’s all the racket about?” demanded Jack, as he and his two chums entered, rather breathless from their run and their hurry in dressing, the hurry showing itself in the absence of collars and ties.

“It’s that noise,” said Cora, her voice trembling slightly. “We heard it again, Jack.” 186

“Was it so scary?” demanded Paul, looking at his sister.

“It certainly was—too scary for words!” answered Belle. “I’m not going to pass another night in Camp Surprise!”

“It has been a surprise with a vengeance,” declared Bess. “Boys, can’t you do something?” she appealed.

“What’s to be done?” asked Jack. “We’ll have to wait until we hear the noise again, and then we can tell from which direction it comes. Suppose, while we’re waiting, you girls just tell us what you heard.”

They had all heard something different, it developed. At least, they all had a different impression of the noise.

Cora described it as a “trembling roar.”

Bess said it was a rumble, as though a heavy wagon had passed in front of the bungalow.

Belle said it reminded her of a deep, heavy sound, such as she had once heard in a blast furnace.

It was reserved for Hazel to describe accurately the noise, though none of them knew her description was correct until afterward.

“It was like a factory or machine shop next door,” said Paul’s sister. “It seemed to shake the bungalow as though heavy machinery were working.” 187

“It must be the waterfall,” decided Jack. “Only a large body of water, tumbling down into some chasm, could make a noise like that. There’s no machinery around here. Besides, the waterfall is bigger than ever now, on account of the rain. It must be that.”

“It wasn’t!” declared Cora, though when pressed for reasons to bolster up her denial she could give none. “It wasn’t that sort of noise at all,” she affirmed. “It was more like——”

“What’s that?” asked Belle so suddenly that the other girls jumped nervously.

It was the sound of a footstep on the porch, a firm, unhesitating footstep.

“I expect that’s my husband,” said Mrs. Floyd.

It was Mr. Floyd, and he was, greatly surprised to see the “whole family up,” as he expressed it.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, looking around on the circle of rather startled faces, ending with his wife’s. “Did you sit up to see how late I got in? Strictly business, young ladies and gentlemen,” he went on, smiling at them. “The committee had considerable to transact, and I had to stay.”

“This is a sort of surprise party,” Cora told him. “Camp Surprise is living up to its name,” and she went on to tell about the noise, the others adding bits here and there. 188

“Pshaw now! That’s queer!” commented Mr. Floyd. “I have heard them rumblings myself, but I laid ’em to the waterfall. It’s a curious cataract at times.”

“This noise,” began Cora, “isn’t like anything I ever——”

She paused midway in the sentence, and a strange look grew and spread over her face, as it did over the faces of the others.

“There it is now,” whispered Bess. “That—that noise!”

They all heard it, a dull, rumbling roar that made the bungalow tremble as when a heavy wind blows and vibrates the timbers of a house.

“So that’s what it is!” exclaimed Jack. “This is my first experience.”

“I heard it once, though distantly,” said Walter.

“Listen!” cautioned Cora.

The noise seemed to increase.

“Say, that is curious!” commented Mr. Floyd. “I never noticed that before. Where does it come from?”

Hardly had he spoken than the rumbling ceased, and there came a sharp crash, as though wood had broken somewhere.

“The chimney’s fallen!” cried Mrs. Floyd.

“Nonsense, Eliza,” said her husband. “The crash would be up on the roof if the chimney toppled 189 over. Besides, there’s no wind, and the noise didn’t come from above, it came from—down there!”

He pointed to the floor of the living room, which was of bare boards, with rugs here and there.

“That’s right!” cried Jack. “The crash was below us. It’s under this bungalow somewhere. Up with the floor boards! We’ll get at the bottom of this!”

There was no doubt on that score. Every one in the room was sure the noise had come from under the floor.

“But how could it?” asked Walter. “There’s no cellar to the bungalow; is there?”

“None that I ever heard of,” said Mr. Floyd. “I didn’t live here when the bungalow was built, but I’ve always understood it had no cellar.”

“It hasn’t,” Cora affirmed. “At least none that you can find. There are no cellar stairs and the place seems to rest on piles.”

“But the noise came from down there,” and Jack pointed to the floor. “The only way to find out is to take up the boards. May we, Mr. Floyd?”

“Why, yes, I reckon so. We’ve got to get at the bottom of this. It’s better to spoil the floor than to lose the renting of the bungalow by ghosts scaring tenants away. Take up the boards. I’ll get an axe and a crowbar.” 190

And so, in the middle of the night, for it was close to twelve o’clock, the strange work of looking under the floor of the bungalow for the source of the queer noise was begun.

“Where shall we start?” asked Jack, when Mr. Floyd had brought the implements.

The caretaker considered a moment.

“If there is some sort of cellar, or space under this bungalow, it must be near the center of the floor, I’m thinking. We’ll begin there. Don’t be afraid of spoiling the floor. I’ll take the responsibility.”

Jack swung the axe vigorously, and, being aided by Walter, soon had removed two or three of the narrow boards. As they were prying on another, a queer thing happened.

A solid section of the floor from the middle of the room suddenly sank down, and then rolled back, exactly as a sliding door rolls, only this door was horizontal instead of vertical. Back it rolled, leaving what was practically a trap in the floor, and as the light shone down this a flight of steps was revealed leading into darkness.

“Great bumblebees!” gasped Jack. “See what we’ve done! Uncovered a secret passage! Now for the solution of the mystery!”


Crowding around Jack they all gazed down into the opening. For a moment no one spoke. Then Cora softly murmured:

“A secret passage.”

“What else is it?” demanded her brother. “No one knew it was here. You didn’t; did you?” he asked Mr. Floyd.

“Never had the least notion of it. How it got here is a mystery to me.”

“It must have been built in the bungalow, or put in after it was built,” said Bess. “What does it mean? What’s it all about?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out,” declared Walter.

“You don’t mean to say you’re going down—there!” and Belle, with a dramatic gesture, pointed to the dark opening.

“Why shouldn’t we go down there?” asked Paul. “It’s nothing but a cellar.”

“Cellar!” ejaculated Jack. “We’ll find this more than a cellar I’m thinking!” 192

“Well, the steps are just like cellar stairs,” said Paul.

“Except they’re of stone,” added Walter, “and that passage isn’t going to prove as prosaic as a cellar, I’m thinking.”

“How did you come to open it, Jack?” asked Hazel.

“That’s what I can’t tell you,” was the answer. “It seemed to open of itself when the axe, or something, hit on the hidden spring. It’s a secret door to a secret passage, and the land knows what we may find at the end.”

“Why, it’s just like in a book or a play!” gasped Belle.

“More like a play,” said Cora. “They have sliding doors like this on the stage where the spirits appear and disappear.”

“That’s it!” cried Jack, as if an idea had suddenly come to him.

“What’s what?” Walter demanded.

“This is where the spirits came from—the spirits that have been having fun with the furniture,” Jack went on. “Don’t you see? They came up through this secret door, did what they pleased, and went down again, closing the door after them by means of some secret mechanism.”

“You’re not so far wrong at that,” remarked Paul, examining the queer sliding door in the floor with a mechanic’s eye. “This is a pretty piece of 193 work. You seem to have smashed the operating part of it with your axe, Jack, or at least the part of it that opened the door from this side. It slides back and forth though,” and Paul rolled the section of the flooring to and fro.

“Don’t close it!” cried Walter. “You might shut it so we couldn’t get it open again. We want to explore that passage.”

“That’s what!” came from Jack. “This is where the furniture-movers came from all right.”

“Though why they should want to upset chairs is more than I can account for,” commented Walter.

“We’ll find out when we go down there,” suggested Paul. “Wait until I take a look at this apparatus. We don’t want it closing over our heads after we get down there.”

The sliding door, or rather the section of flooring, was comparatively simple in arrangement. It was made so that it could be dropped down two inches, and then it could be rolled under the floor on small steel wheels, which ran on projecting strips of wood.

As Paul had said, Jack, by a blow of his axe, had destroyed the spring that controlled the mechanism, but this very chance blow of the implement had revealed the secret. Probably there was one certain board which, when pressed on, or shifted, operated the sliding door. And so cleverly was it 194 fitted into the floor, and so tight was the joining, that the presence of it would never have been seen. Only by chance had they happened upon it.

“Well, who’s going down?” asked Jack, as they stood looking into the opening. “We’ll need lights, though.”

“I have my flash,” said Walter. Paul, it developed, had his also. Both were powerful pocket electric torches, with dry storage batteries.

“We’ll all go,” suggested Paul.

“No you won’t!” cried his sister. “We’re not going to be left here alone, with that queer noise likely to happen at any time.”

“I guess there won’t be any more noise, now that we have discovered this,” said Jack, significantly. “This is where it came from all right.”

“But what caused it?” asked Bess.

“That’s what we’ve got to find out,” said Walter. “Come on, boys. Into the secret passage!”

“I’ll stay with you girls,” said Mr. Floyd. “Let the boys investigate all they like. But this sure does beat me! To think this bungalow had this concealed under the floor all the while, and I never knew it.”

“No wonder this was named Camp Surprise,” said Cora.

“I don’t believe even them folks that give it that name suspected anything like this,” Mrs. Floyd remarked. 195

“We’ll take all the surprise out of it before we’re through,” Jack said, as he started down the stone steps. Walter and Paul followed, their flashes switched on. The stone steps proved to be made of cement well moulded, and there were ten of them, which led to a flat place under the bungalow, the floor of which was now three feet above the boys’ heads. They found themselves standing in a rectangular space, with heavy planks on the sides.

“Is it just a cellar?” called Mr. Floyd from up above, where he stood at the edge of the opening, with the girls and his wife.

“There’s a long narrow passage leading off somewhere,” Jack called back. “We’ll investigate. It doesn’t seem to be just a cellar though.”

“Be careful,” warned Cora, as the boys passed out of sight of those who were watching.

Jack, Walter and Paul found themselves in what was practically a planked passageway, about four feet wide and eight feet in height. There was a musty, damp smell to it, and when they had walked on a few feet over the hard-packed dirt floor, Jack said:

“This goes beyond the bungalow.”

“What do you mean?” asked Walter.

“I mean that we have passed beyond the limits of the bungalow. This passage extends back under the ground, perhaps into the mountain.” 196

“Maybe right into that cave we found to-day,” suggested Paul.

“It might be,” agreed Walter. “There’s something queer about this—something big, too. Keep on, and we’ll find where this passage leads to. It’s been built some time, that’s evident.”

This was shown by the fact that the planking on the sides and overhead was old, and rotted in some places. And the ground underfoot was packed so hard that it gave no evidences of footprints or other marks.

Wondering what lay before them, the boys pressed eagerly forward. And then, after a sudden turn, the passage came to an abrupt end. They found themselves up against a stone wall, a veritable, and not figurative one.

“Well, what do you know about this!” exclaimed Jack in chagrin.

“This is the end,” said Paul.

“Perhaps not,” asserted Walter. “This passage must lead somewhere. Nobody would go to all this work making it, only to block it off in this fashion. And it’s blocked off solidly enough, too,” he added as he banged his fist against the stone. Like the steps it seemed to be of cement.

“Isn’t there any way of opening that?” asked Jack.

“There doesn’t seem to be,” Paul said, examining it closely. “Looks to be pretty solid.” 197

“Can’t be,” declared Jack. “Else how could those spirits or boys get through and up into the bungalow to play tricks with the furniture?”

“If they were spirits a stone wall wouldn’t stop them,” Paul said. “But we can’t do anything more to-night.”

“Can we at any time?” asked Walter.

“Sure!” cried Jack. “We’ll get crowbars to-morrow and tear down this cement wall. Then we’ll find what’s at the other end of the passage. Now come on back and tell the girls.”

They found their friends eagerly waiting, though there was some disappointment when the boys reported finding nothing.

“Not a thing in that passage except the solid wall at the end,” Jack said. “But we’ll tear that down to-morrow and see what’s beyond.”

“Now hold on a minute,” said Mr. Floyd. “Of course I’m as anxious as you folks are to get at the bottom of this. But I don’t own this property, and before I let you go to work tearing down stone walls and so on, I’ll have to get permission from the owners.”

“Well, that’s right,” assented Jack. “Who are they?”

Mr. Floyd gave the name, and added the information that they, or rather the one man who owned this particular bungalow, could be reached by the long-distance telephone. 198

“Then we’ll call him up in the morning,” decided Jack. “I don’t know how far the passage extends, or whether it’s all under the property that goes with this bungalow, but we’ll get permission before we go ahead.”

This was agreed to, and when the girls learned that there was nothing to be alarmed at they went down into the passage also, as did Mr. and Mrs. Floyd.

“Well, there’s nothing more we can do,” said Cora. “Let’s get what little sleep there is left, and then prepare for work in the morning.”

“It’s almost morning now,” said Belle, pointing to the windows through which they could see a faint glow in the east, presaging the rising sun.

They were all too highly excited to sleep much, and they were up early. Boards were laid over the opening in the floor, it being feared if the sliding section was closed there might be trouble in opening it again.

The strange happenings of the night formed the only topic at breakfast, and then the boys set off for town to get in communication on the telephone with the bungalow owner.

“I can’t see why he would object,” said Jack.

“Unless he made that passage for his own use, and doesn’t want any one to meddle with it,” Paul remarked.

“What could he use it for?” asked Walter. 199

“Well, that may be part of the mystery. Let’s take a short cut to the village,” and he indicated a path that led toward the cave in the mountainside.

They emerged into a country road, thick with dust, and were trudging along this, talking on all the aspects of the queer discovery, when Jack suddenly stopped and stared intently at something in the dirt of the highway.

“What is it?” asked Walter. “A snake?”

“No, marks of an automobile tire,” Jack answered.

“Nothing very remarkable in that,” laughed Paul.

“There is in this one,” Jack declared excitedly. “See the big Z mark where the tire has been patched—vulcanized. Boys, that’s the same mark as was on the tire of Cora’s car! I believe her machine has been along here this morning!”


Walter and Paul stood beside Jack, looking at the queer mark of the automobile tire in the dust.

“It is just as Cora described it,” said Walter.

“I remember, too,” added Paul. “She spoke about it at the time, saying the man at the garage had made a poor job when he vulcanized on that patch. He didn’t know his business, that’s a fact. But still there might be other cars with that same sort of tire, Jack.”

“Of course, but this is worth taking a chance on. What do you fellows say?”

“Tell us first what you want to do,” suggested Walter.

“Follow this tire mark until we either see the car, or lose trace of it.”

“What about telephoning to Mr. Haight about permission to rip down that cement wall?”

“We can do that, too,” answered Jack to Paul. “This auto seems to be headed for town, and that’s where we’re going. If we see the men who have stolen Cora’s car, we’ll get it back for her.” 201

“If the men let you,” added Walter, significantly.

“Oh, we’ll get help if we have to,” said Jack. “Come on.”

For some distance it was comparatively easy to follow the automobile track by means of the prominent impression left by the patch on the tire.

“But if you can tell whether it’s going to town or coming from there, it is more than I can,” asserted Paul, “and I know something about autos.”

“Of course, I’m not sure of that part of it,” Jack admitted. “But we have to go to town anyhow, and it won’t be any harm to go by this road, on the chance of seeing Cora’s car; will it?”

“No,” agreed Walter. “Perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone that way, as well as any other.”

But the hopes of the boys were doomed to disappointment, at least in respect to getting further trace of Cora’s car, provided the tire marks were made by hers. At least it was a temporary setback. For after about half a mile there came a patch of hard oily road, in which the impression of the big Z was lost. And when next a dusty stretch was encountered, there were so many marks of automobile tires that it was impossible to distinguish any particular one.

“Baffled!” exclaimed Walter, semi-dramatically, after a back-aching inspection of the road. 202

“Only for a time,” added Jack, cheerfully. “After we telephone we’ll take the trail of the marks, going in the other direction. That will be back toward the cave, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some connection between the cave, the passage under the bungalow and the men in Cora’s car.”

“Some cute little detective you’re getting to be,” laughed Paul. “Well, it may be that you’re right. Go on.”

A little later the boys reached the village, and, after executing some commissions for the girls, including the purchase for Bess of a box of chocolates, they found a long distance telephone in a drug store where there was a booth to insure privacy.

It was decided that Walter should explain matters over the wire to Mr. Haight, the owner of the bungalow, and ask permission of him to batter down the stone wall that brought the secret passage to such an abrupt end.

“And while you’re about it, Wally,” suggested Jack, “ask him what the whole mysterious business means, what makes those noises, and why spirits, or humans, should have the nerve to sneak into the girls’ rooms and upset the furniture.”

“I’d need a night letter to get all that information,” Walter retorted. “You forget this is long distance telephone rates I’ll have to pay.” 203

“We’ll whack up on it,” suggested Paul. “Go ahead, Walter, get all the information you can.”

Walter’s stay in the telephone booth was a lengthy one. His chums only caught disconnected murmurs of his talk, but they had glimpses of his face through the glass door and there was sufficient astonishment and satisfaction depicted to whet their curiosity to the utmost.

“Whew!” Walter exclaimed as he came out. “It was some hot in there!”

“Never mind about that!” exclaimed Jack. “Can we tear down that wall?”

“Sure!” gasped Walter. “Mr. Haight was as surprised as we were to hear about it. He’s coming up to have a look.”

“Do we have to wait until then?” asked Jack, in disappointed tones.

“Not at all. He said to go right ahead.”

“And doesn’t he know anything about the queer goings on, or who upsets the furniture?” came from Paul.

“Not in the least. It’s all news to him, though he says Mr. Floyd did write a letter telling about some strange happenings. Mr. Haight didn’t pay much attention—said he couldn’t make head or tail of the letter. He intended to look into the matter when he had a chance, but now he authorizes us to do it for him.”

“And couldn’t he give even a hint as to why the 204 sliding door was made in the floor, and who cut the passage?” asked Jack.

“No, though he said something which may prove to be a clew. He said he bought the bungalow from a man who used to be a well-known actor. This actor gave up the stage, and it was rumored that he was slightly demented before he died. Now it occurs to me that this theatrical chap may have had this sliding door made to gratify his whim for sudden and unexplained comings and goings. Perhaps to frighten his servants. Any sort of theory might explain it. That’s only a guess, but it’s as good as any.”

“It sounds reasonable,” admitted Jack. “At least the actor may have had the secret door built, but the passage, which leads to goodness knows where, looks more like the work of smugglers or a band of outlaws.”

“Perhaps it may turn out to be that before we’ve finished,” said Walter. “Anyhow, we have permission to go ahead, and the sooner we get at it, and have that wall down, the sooner we’ll know where we’re at.”

They hastened out of town, eager to begin work on the wall, and were soon on the same highway where they had seen the automobile marks.

“And this time we’ll follow them in the other direction,” said Jack. “We might as well spend a little time on this end of the game now as later, 205 and it may be that this will fit in with the rest of the mystery.”

“Good idea,” commented Walter.

As the boys retraced their steps they took note of the fact that the mark of the big Z in the dust became plainer.

“We were wrong before,” decided Jack. “We were going in the direction from which the auto had come. Now we’re following it.”

“To its lair, I hope,” said Paul. “I’m anxious to get back to the bungalow and have a go at that wall.”

“Same here,” commented Walter.

The boys were walking along, their eyes on the ground so as not to lose sight of the marks, when Jack, raising his head, uttered a cry that attracted the attention of his companions.

“Look!” he cried, pointing down the road. “There’s Cora’s car now, and two men are in it!”

There was no doubt about it. Cora’s car was of a peculiar purple tint with maroon trimmings. It had been made especially for her, and that it was her machine was evident at a glance, especially to Paul who was in the automobile business.

“Come on!” cried Jack. “We’ve got ’em!”

But had they? The automobile had turned out of a field, against a side hill of which was built a wooden building, like a farmer’s spring-house. The men seemed to have been using it as a garage, 206 and Cora’s automobile, occupied by two strangers, was rapidly speeding down the road.

At Jack’s cry one of the men looked around, and then the machine was speeded up, raising a cloud of dust.

“No chance of catching them!” cried Paul. “We’ve got to get another machine somewhere.”

“We can’t!” exclaimed Jack. “We’ll have to follow until we see where they go. We mustn’t lose sight of ’em now.”

It seemed a hopeless chase, and it was, practically. Jack distanced his companions, who called to him to come back so they could examine the building in the lot.

“Maybe we’ll find a clew there,” cried Walter.

And finally even Jack gave up. Human legs, even those of an ambitious youth, are no match for an automobile. But as Jack slackened his pace he saw something which caused him to run forward again. For a bundle had been dropped from Cora’s car, and the men did not stop to pick it up.

“Maybe that will prove the best clew yet,” thought Jack, as he hastened forward to pick it up.


“Why don’t they come back?”

“What keeps them so long?”

“I declare this waiting is worse than——”

“Doing nothing,” Cora finished for Bess. “Probably the boys can’t find the kind of chocolates you ordered, pretty little plump maid, and they’re afraid to come back without them.”

“Silly,” protested Bess.

“But they are a long time,” said Hazel, she and Belle having uttered the two rather impatient sentences at the opening of this chapter.

The girls were in the bungalow, eating, not exactly bread and honey, but ice cream and cake, which Mrs. Floyd had made. And they were talking of the absence of Jack and his chums, who had gone to town to telephone to Mr. Haight.

It was now lunch time and the girls, after waiting in vain for the boys, had eaten, and were enjoying their dessert. Or rather, they were trying to enjoy it under the rather unappetizing influence of impatient worry. 208

“If they don’t come back pretty soon I’m going down there myself and see if we can discover anything,” Cora declared.

“Down where?” asked Belle.

“In the passage, of course. I want to see if we can find where that queer noise came from.”

“And who upset the furniture,” added Bess.

“Well, we’re on the track of it,” said Hazel. “We are pretty certain, now, that whoever did it came up through that sliding door, and went down the same way. That accounts for our never seeing any one enter or leave the bungalow after the manifestations, and that’s why, after the boys ran over so promptly the time we saw the dancing light, they couldn’t find any one. Whoever it was just slipped down through the secret passage, pulled the section of flooring back into place, and there was no trace.”

“But where did they go after they got down in the passage?” asked Belle. “They couldn’t stay there all the while, and there’s no sign of any one there now, unless they’re invisible. They couldn’t get past the blocking cement wall.”

“There’s something beyond that wall, and we’re going to find it!” declared Cora.

“Perhaps when the boys come back they won’t have permission to tear it down,” suggested Bess.

“Then we’ll begin our investigations from the other end,” Cora said. 209

“What other end?” Hazel questioned.

“The cave! I think this passage connects with the cave. That would explain a hiding place for whoever has been playing these tricks on us, and making that strange noise.”

“You mean the cave you accidentally discovered yesterday?” asked Belle.

“Yes,” Cora answered. “I’m sure that has something to do with the mystery. So if Mr. Haight won’t let us open the wall, we may be able to see what is on the other side by going to the cave, and finding the passage that connects with the one which comes out into our bungalow.”

“In that event the stone wall must be movable,” suggested Hazel.

Cora jumped up so suddenly that she disturbed Bess who was leaning against her.

“That’s it! That’s it!” Cora cried. “I wonder we didn’t think of it before. That surely is it!”

“What is?” eagerly demanded Belle. “You are talking in riddles.”

“This whole affair is a riddle, girls!” exclaimed Cora. “But what Hazel said gave me an idea. That cement wall seems solid, but it can’t be. If it were no one could pass. So it must be made to look solid to deceive those not in the secret. Probably it is a balanced stone like the ones you read of in stories of the cave dwellers. Some of them 210 closed the entrances to their caves by heavy rocks, set on pivots, turning when you pressed on a certain mechanism. There are counterweights, just as in a window, which makes the heaviest rock move easily. I’m sure that’s what is in the passage—a balanced rock doorway. And there won’t be any need of tearing the wall down at all!”

“It sounds like a detective story,” commented Bess.

“It may turn out to be one before we’re through,” Cora said.

“Oh, dear! Why don’t those boys hurry back?” cried Belle for perhaps the tenth time. “Let’s go out and look down the road to see if they are coming.”

The girls went out, too anxious and too eager to sit still, but they had no sight of Jack and his chums.

“I’m not going to wait any longer!” exclaimed Cora at length. “If I’m right, there will be no need of tearing down the wall. That is, if I can find the mechanism that turns the rocky door. And if I’m wrong, there won’t be any harm in doing it.”

“Doing what?” asked Bess.

“Going down into the passage to see what we can discover. Will you come?”

“I will!” exclaimed Hazel.

“Then we will, too, Belle,” said Bess, quickly. 211 “They shan’t call us cowards, even if we are twins.”

“Come on,” cried Cora gaily. “We must do something or fly to pieces with nerves. Anything is better than sitting still, waiting.”

Back to the bungalow the girls hastened. The hole in the floor was still open, the sliding door having been braced back so it could not be closed by any accident.

“We don’t want to go down there and not be able to get up again,” Cora remarked.

“Shall we tell Mrs. Floyd we’re going to see what we can find?” suggested Belle.

“No,” decided Cora, after a moment’s thought. “She might not want us to until we have Mr. Haight’s permission. We’ll just do this on our own responsibility. We won’t damage the wall any.”

Down the cement steps went the four girls, into the dark passage. The boys had left behind their flashlights and these were carried by Cora and Hazel. The small, but powerful lamps gave a good light.

“Ugh! It’s rather creepy in here,” complained Belle, looking back over her shoulder.

“Don’t be silly!” said Cora, sharply. “Just think of it! We may solve the mystery all by ourselves.”

“Let us hope so,” murmured Bess. 212

They came to the cement wall that barred further progress along the passage.

“First to see if it’s solid rock,” Cora suggested.

“How?” asked Belle.

“By tapping. I brought along a hammer.” With this implement Cora gave several blows against the obstruction. An unmistakable hollow sound resulted.

“I believe it’s only a wooden door, covered over with cement stucco,” Cora said. “Now to find the secret catch.”

With their flash lamps the girls went over every inch of the surface of the door. At first it all looked alike, dull, gray, smooth cement. Then Cora’s light lingered a moment on a certain place.

“Girls, watch!” she said suddenly.

With her thumb she pressed on the spot where it seemed the cement was worn smoother than elsewhere. And then, to the surprise of even Cora herself, the cement door swung slowly back, revealing a dark passage beyond.

“We’ve discovered it!” cried Cora. “No need to tear the door down. Just as I suspected, it’s on hinges. Come on, girls!”

Hardly realizing what they were doing, the others followed, their torches illuminating the plank sides of the underground tunnel.

“Are you sure this is all right, Cora?” asked Belle, as she stepped beyond the open door. 213

“I’m not sure anything is right about all this mystery,” was the answer, “but this is a chance we mustn’t miss. Come on.”

“But where are we going?” Belle queried.

“I can’t tell, but I think to the cave,” Cora answered. “Don’t be afraid. There’s no danger.”

Hardly had she spoken than a noise sounded behind them.

“Oh! what’s that?” cried Belle, rushing forward.

“It sounded like a door closing,” said Hazel.

She flashed her light back on the way they had come, and as she did so she cried:

“It was the door. It has swung shut, girls! We’re trapped!”


Walter and Paul stood close beside Jack Kimball, as he turned over the package which had dropped from the automobile—Cora’s automobile, to be exact.

“What is it?” asked Walter.

“Just what I’m going to find out,” answered Jack. “Feels like a package of money, if I’m any judge.”

“Whew!” whistled Paul. “Counterfeiters, do you think?”

“I’m not so rash as to do any thinking after the queer things that have been happening,” retorted Jack. “I’m going to make sure before I do any guessing. Here goes!”

He cut the string of the packet. It was well wrapped in stout brown paper, and when Jack, sitting down on a wayside stone and resting the bundle on his knees, had folded back the covering, there was revealed to the boys bundles of tickets tied in little packets.

“What in the world is this?” asked Paul, picking up one of the little packages. “Tickets?” 215

“Railroad and theatrical,” added Walter, as he examined some more closely. “Say, this is a queer find!”

Jack whistled shrilly and then cried out:

“It fits in! It all fits in!”

“What does he mean?” asked Paul.

“I don’t know,” Walter answered. “Tell us, Jack. Can you see through the puzzle?”

“Part of it. Don’t you see? These tickets—some railroad and the others for theatres and opera houses—they’re counterfeit—bogus—no good! They’re just like those that girl in the Spinning Wheel tea room bought. Don’t you remember, she purchased two of a couple of young fellows. It was thought at the time they might have been the ones who went off with Cora’s auto. Now we reverse the process. We find the bundle of tickets that dropped out of Cora’s car, and we see two men running away in it. They’re the same ones, or in the same gang, I haven’t a doubt. It’s up to us to get after them.”

“You seem to have struck it,” commented Walter. “Do you mean these men have gone into the business of counterfeiting tickets on as big a scale as this?”

“I’m thinking that,” Jack answered. “You see it wouldn’t pay to print a few tickets. They’d have to make a whole lot of them, and in the case of theatrical coupons, sell them quickly, for the 216 fraud would soon be discovered. Railroad tickets might take a little longer to prove invalid, for they would have to go to the head offices, and there the railroad men could tell by the consecutive numbers that there was duplication somewhere. And the tickets would have to be pretty well distributed—only a few in each city.”

“That’s what they wanted of Cora’s auto,” suggested Paul. “They wanted to cover a big area.”

“Yes,” Jack went on. “And they probably have accomplices in many places. Once the tickets were printed, they had to distribute them over a wide territory. Boys, I think we’ve discovered a daring band of ticket-counterfeiters.”

“But where do they do their work—their printing?” asked Walter.

“Why not in the cave?” asked Jack. “It would be the most natural place around here.”

“What’s the matter with looking in that shack where the auto came from?” asked Paul, nodding back toward the field against a hill in which the shed was built.

“I was going to suggest that,” Jack went on. “Perhaps that is another entrance to the same cave Cora found. Come on, we’ll have a look, anyhow. We’ve got this for evidence, in any case,” and he held up the bundle of tickets.

“Are you sure they are bogus?” asked Paul. 217

“Well, not positive, of course,” Jack said. “But you’d hardly find so many kinds of railroad and theatrical tickets, the latter for a number of different cities, all in one bundle unless something were wrong. I put these fellows down as counterfeiters of tickets, and you’ll see I’m right.”

“Well, we’ll take a chance,” decided Walter. “Now what are we going to do about getting Cora’s car back?”

“We can’t do much right away,” said Jack. “But those fellows will come back, I’m sure. Let’s explore a bit in that shack, and then we’ll go and rip out that door in the secret passage.”

The doors of the shack which stood against the hill in the big field were fastened with a cheap padlock, and Jack, after a moment of hesitation, smashed it with a stone.

“Come on in, boys!” he called, swinging back the doors.

“It’s as dark as pitch,” complained Walter. “Did any of you bring your flash lamps?”

“Left ’em at the bungalow,” Paul answered. “I have some matches though.”

By the glimmer of one he struck, the boys saw that the shack was a sort of vestibule to a cave, for a big hole extended under the side of the hill.

“Jack was right!” Walter exclaimed. “This is a cavern, and it looks to be a good-sized one. I wish we had a light.” 218

“Here’s a lantern,” said Paul, who had lighted another match. “We’ll explore a bit.”

By the greater light of the lantern, which was found near the doors, the boys saw that the cave was indeed a large one, extending well back under the hill. They went in cautiously at first, not knowing what they might find, or what hidden pitfalls might lie in their path.

“Look!” exclaimed Jack, pointing to several boxes lying about. “They must have been doing, or else are getting ready to do, lots of business. Those boxes contain paper and cardboard by the looks and marks on them. And now——”

“Hark!” exclaimed Paul in a whisper. They all listened. From somewhere far back in the cave came a dull, rumbling, vibrating noise, and the ground faintly trembled.

“There it is again!” said Walter—“that strange noise. Now we’ll find out what it is. Come on.”

He started forward, the others following, Paul in the rear with the lantern, for it had a reflector on and gave better light when carried behind the boys.

“Wait a minute!” cautioned Jack. “I don’t seem to hear that noise now. It’s stopped.”

“So it has,” concurred Paul.

They listened intently, then Jack said:

“I hear another sound, though. It’s behind us, toward the mouth of the cave. Boys, it’s those 219 fellows coming back. Out with that light, Paul. We’ll hide in here and surprise them. Quick! Down behind some of these boxes!”

Paul extinguished the lantern, and he and his companions sought places of concealment. They could now plainly hear footsteps approaching, while they also distinguished the murmur of excited voices.

Meanwhile, another part of the strange mystery was being enacted with the girls as principal characters. They had entered farther into the secret passage, beyond the queer swinging door which had closed after them.

“We’re caught!” cried Belle. “Oh, Cora!”

“Perhaps not,” said Jack’s sister. “If that door opened once for us it will do it again. But don’t go back. Come on. We must see what is ahead of us. The boys will laugh if they hear we turned back when we had such a good opportunity.”

“Well, they shan’t laugh at me!” declared Hazel. “I’m with you, Cora.”

“And you may be sure we’re not going to be left alone,” cried Bess. “Come on, Belle!”

The latter hesitated a moment, looked back at the closed door, and then went forward. Their lamps made the place fairly light, and they could see that the passage was planked here as it had been nearer the bungalow. 220

They had gone on perhaps fifty paces more and were wondering when the queer tunnel would come to an end, when Cora, who was walking in advance with Hazel, put her hand on her companion’s arm, and cried:

“Do you hear it?”

“Hear what?”

“That strange, rumbling, trembling noise. Don’t you feel it?”

“Yes! Yes!” cried Belle. “Oh, what is it?”

There was no doubt of the noise. It seemed to fill the whole passage with a dull, rumbling roar, and the ground vibrated and trembled.

“Come on!” cried Cora, resolutely. “It’s just ahead of us. We will solve the mystery now!”

Willing or unwilling, Belle, Bess and Hazel followed their leader. With their electric lights showing the way the girls pressed forward. Suddenly the passage turned, and, making that turn, the girls came upon a strange sight.

Before them was an open door, which gave entrance to a large cave with rocky sides and roof. Vaulted and large the cave was, and from long wires fastened somewhere in the roof hung a number of incandescent lights. In the cave the girls saw several queer machines, and Cora, at least, recognized more than one of them as printing presses. A gasoline engine was throbbing away in one corner, and it was this, Cora decided, which 221 made the rumbling, the throbbing and trembling vibrations.

Hardly realizing what they were doing, the girls walked forward, and, passing through the open door, entered the cave which widened out at the end of the secret passage.

“What—what does it all mean?” asked Bess.

Low as her voice was it seemed to awaken strange echoes in the vaulted cave. And at the sound of it something stirred in one corner. From a pile of boxes something arose—a something that resolved itself into an old man with white hair and a long, white beard. He peered from beneath his bushy white eyebrows, with piercing eyes at the startled girls, and from his throat came a guttural cry.

“Ah, ha! Police spies—four of ’em!” he snarled. “I thought we’d be found out!”

With surprising quickness in one seemingly so aged the man slipped behind the girls. They turned, fearing an attack, but they need have had no alarm on that score. With a quick motion the old man closed and locked the door through which they had come.

“Now you’re here—you’ll stay!” he rasped out. “On guard here, Bombee! Hist! Watch ’em!”

And, as he called, a raw-boned, half-witted boy shuffled forward, and squatted, with a horrible grin, in front of the terrified girl prisoners.


Jack and his two chums, waiting in the dark of the cave, wondered who it was approaching. They had guessed it would prove to be the two men who had gone down the road shortly before in Cora’s car, but this was only a guess. And whether these two were the same men who had first taken the machine was, of course, only a conjecture.

“What’ll we do, Jack?” whispered Paul, from behind a barrel where he was crouching. “Jump out on ’em?”

“No,” was the answer. “Not at first. Let’s see what their game is and then we’ll have better evidence against them. Just lie low and wait.”

“Here they come!” cautioned Walter.

The sound of the footsteps and of the voices was nearer now, and presently the boys saw the glimmering reflection of light on the rocky and dirt sides of the cave.

“We’ve got to work lively!” said a man’s voice. “Those campers are beginning to suspect there’s 223 something wrong. We’ll have to clear out, bag and baggage, presses, engine and everything.”

“That’s right,” added another. “Lucky we have the car. We can take most of the stuff in that if we have time, and set it up somewhere else. This graft is too good to give up.”

“Where’ll we take it?” a third voice asked, and the boys, who could not see the speakers, wondered how many of them there were.

“Oh, we can stow it away at——” began the man who had spoken first when there came an interruption from his companion.

“No names!” he cautioned.

“Who’s to hear?”

“You can’t tell. Since those boys opened up the floor of the bungalow, there’s no telling what might have happened. Besides, I don’t want old Jason to know where we are going. I’m going to get rid of him; he’s more trouble than help.”

“Especially with that horrible boy of his,” some one said. “Ugh! I can’t bear the creature!”

“Still he’s been useful. He did the tricks all right. But it was a mistake to go to the bungalow. That’s caused all the trouble. We should have stuck to this end of the cave.”

“We had to have an emergency exit,” declared one of the men, “and the bungalow was the best.”

“Yes, until these campers came. Now that jig is up.” 224

“Yes, the whole business is up, I’m afraid. Well, let’s see what we can get out now before we’re found.”

Jack and his chums could hear the men moving about boxes and barrels. They seemed to be taking them outside. What was in the packages the boys could only guess. And Jack was wondering what he and his companions could do if the men in the cave should suddenly discover the presence of the intruders.

Jack peered out from behind his barrel and had a glimpse of a man moving about in the light of a lantern the criminals had brought into the cave with them. But the man’s legs alone were visible and Jack could form very little idea from them of how the man looked.

“Isn’t this enough for one load?” asked one of the men. “We don’t want a breakdown.”

“Oh, that machine will carry more,” declared another. “We did a fine stroke when we picked that up. I wonder if those girls have an idea where their car went to?”

“They’ll have one soon,” thought Jack, gritting his teeth. “The nerve of you!”

“Let’s go back and get that little numbering press,” suggested a man. “It’s too valuable to leave, and it won’t take up much room. Come on, and pick up what we can. The fewer trips we make, the better it will be for us. Come on.” 225

The light flickered and the footsteps of the men died away.

“I say Jack!” called Walter, after a moment’s pause.

“Yes, what is it?”

“What’s the matter with our going outside and getting Cora’s auto now. It’s got a lot of their stuff in it that will be fine for evidence against them. It’s our best chance—just slip out now and get Cora’s car.”

“That’s right,” agreed Paul. “If we let them get away with it again we may never see it.”

“All right,” agreed Jack. “You two go out and capture the car. Do whatever you think best about it. I’ll stay here and follow the men when they come out. If they have some of their machinery that will be additional evidence against them. Go ahead.”

Paul and Walter hurried out, leaving Jack alone in the dark cave. They left him the lantern, saying they could find their way out by means of matches. Jack felt a little apprehensive as he was left alone, knowing that at least three men, who might prove desperate criminals, were in the cave with him. And if they discovered him, and knew that he was one of those working against them—well, Jack did not altogether like to speculate on what might follow.

Those seeking to solve the mystery were now 226 divided into three parties. There was Jack, alone in the cave, waiting for the return of the three men. Walter and Paul were on their way outside to get the automobile. While Cora and her chums were prisoners of the old man and his imbecile son.

Walter and Paul reached the outer end of the cave without incident, and just without the wooden shack found Cora’s car standing unguarded and well-laden with packages and some small bits of machinery.

“Caught with the goods!” chuckled Paul. “This game is coming right into our hands now. What shall we do?”

“Drive the car as near to the bungalow as we can,” decided Walter. “The girls will be anxious about us, anyhow. We can leave the car with Mr. Floyd and then come back to Jack.”

A quick examination showed that Cora’s car, though it had been sadly misused, was in shape for running. It responded at once to the self-starter and Walter and Paul were soon chugging down the road, taking off the spoils of the ticket counterfeiters.

“Camp Surprise ahoy!” called Walter as he ran the car as near as he could to the bungalow. “Girls, where are you? We’ve got great news! We’ve solved the mystery!”

There was no answer to the hail, and Paul 227 looked at his chum rather apprehensively as they alighted.

“They don’t seem to be here,” he said.

“They must be,” Walter argued. “There’s Mrs. Floyd. We’ll ask her.”

“Why, aren’t the girls in the bungalow?” asked the chaperon, wonderingly. “I have been away a little while, and just got back. They were here when I left.”

A quick search through the bungalow failed, of course, to disclose the presence of Cora and her chums. The entrance to the secret passage was still open, but Walter, running down the steps, reported that the girls were not there, and that the blocking door was closed.

“But we’ll soon have it open,” he said. “We have permission from Mr. Haight to tear down the obstruction.”

“Where is Mr. Kimball?” asked Mr. Floyd, who had been summoned by his wife from a bungalow not far away, where he was making some repairs.

“He’s up in the cave, keeping watch on the counterfeiters,” said Paul. “It’s a great story!”

Thereupon he and Walter gave a short account of the movements of themselves and Jack up to the present.

“But where are the girls?” asked Paul. “We must find them.” 228

“Perhaps they went up to the cave Cora found,” suggested Walter. “Let’s go there and look.”

“First we’d better see if Jack doesn’t need help,” Paul said. “I guess the girls know enough to keep out of danger, and it’s daylight yet. We’ll go to Jack.”

“I’ll take charge here,” said Mr. Floyd. “I’ve got a man working with me at the other bungalow, and he and I will stand guard over the auto. When you come back, if the girls haven’t returned, we’ll go after them.”

This plan was deemed the best to follow, and Paul and Walter hastened back on foot to the cave where they had left Jack.

Cora and her friends, made prisoners in the cave by the old man and his horrible, grinning, half-witted helper, felt faint and sick as they realized what might be the outcome. For a moment none of them spoke. The old man laughed, showing his blackened teeth—a strange contrast to his white beard—and then he chuckled:

“Police spies; eh? Come to catch the old man! But he was too smart for ye; wasn’t he? He caught you; didn’t he?”

“What do you mean by locking us in?” demanded Cora. “Open that door at once and let us go!”

“And call away that—that horrid idiot!” half-sobbed Belle. “If he catches hold of me——” 229

“Oh, Bombee won’t hurt you; will you, Bombee?” said the old man, patting the half-witted youth on the head. “That is, he won’t if you do as I say, and don’t try to run. Bombee’s like a dog. He’s my pet, so he is. Hi, Bombee! Do a trick for the ladies!”

The idiot gave a shrill cry, bounded up on a box and stood on his head, his legs kicking in the air.

“See!” chuckled the old man. “Bombee minds me. If I was to tell him to bite you he would, but I won’t tell him.”

“You let us go!” demanded Cora, her thoughts in a whirl with the strange ideas that came to her mind.

“I didn’t ask you to come here,” snapped the old man. “And them as comes uninvited must stay until they’re let go. Ye can’t go out and bring in the police.”

“But if—if we promise not to tell the police?” faltered Bess.

“I wouldn’t trust you,” snarled the old man.

“Then there must be something here about which you are afraid,” said Cora, boldly. “Why do you fear the police?”

The man gave her a sharp glance.

“Never you mind that,” he said. “When the others come I’ll know what to do with you. I’ll make you——” 230

He paused and seemed to be listening. At the same time the idiot gave a whimpering cry.

“Some one’s coming!” snarled the old man. “The police, maybe. You’ve sent ’em. But they won’t find you. Quick, Bombee—the secret room—open the door!”

The half-witted creature bounded forward, and caught up a club. Bess screamed, fearing the fellow was going to attack them. But the idiot merely put the stick in a hole in the wall, and pressed on the lever with all his might. A heavy plank door swung out, revealing a black room.

“Into that with you!” cried the old man.

“No!” screamed Cora.

“In there with you or I’ll——”

He looked so terrible, and made such a threatening gesture, and the half-witted youth seemed so ready to do his master’s bidding that the girls shrank back from the claw-like hands of the old man, and fairly ran into the secret room opened by the helper. Once inside they heard the door close after them.

“Oh!” gasped Belle. “This is terrible, Cora! What shall we do?”

“Keep quiet a minute. Let me think. Oh, oh!”

Hazel flashed on her light.

“Thank heaven for that!” moaned Belle. “We can at least see.”

The girls looked quickly about them. The light 231 showed them that they were in some sort of office. There were desks and chairs in it, and on the desk were a number of papers, while innumerable tickets were scattered about. The girls attached no significance to them at first. There was an incandescent lamp swinging above the desk, and Cora turned the black key. At once there was light, showing that the gasoline engine, the rumble of which could still be heard, operated a small dynamo.

“Oh, what shall we do?” gasped Bess.

“Listen!” whispered Cora.

From the cave outside came the murmur of excited and angry voices. There followed sounds of great activity, as if boxes and barrels were being moved about. Once or twice came a snarl from the idiot, and the commanding voice of the old man. The other voices the girls could not recognize.

“I’m going to call for help,” said Cora. “That may be the boys come to rescue us. Come on, girls! We’ll all shriek!”

This they did, uniting their shrill voices in an appeal for help. Cora caught up a paper-weight from the desk and hammered on the door of their prison. But neither their calls nor the pounding brought an answer. The noise in the outer cave continued. The men seemed to be quarreling among themselves now. 232

Then came silence. The girls called again but with no result. They listened. Not a sound came from beyond the door.

“What has happened?” asked Bess.

“I can’t even guess,” Cora said. “But don’t worry. We’ll get out of here some time. Meanwhile, let’s see if we can by any means open the door.”

Events were now happening in several different places—events connected with the boys and the counterfeiters.

Jack was waiting in his hiding place, wondering what would next take place, and he was getting rather tired of his cramped position, when he heard footsteps coming back.

“Here’s where I do a sleuthing act and follow them,” he decided. But he was hardly prepared for what followed. The footsteps broke into a run, and there were excited voices calling one to another. There was the crash of falling boxes, and above everything came a strange unearthly yell, like that of some animal in pain.

“What in the world——” began Jack.

There was a rush of several bodies past his hiding place. Jack looked up over the head of the barrel in time to see four men, one carrying a lantern, dash along the cave, and behind them came another with abnormally long arms.

Pausing a moment to allow the fleeing ones 233 to get a little ahead, Jack followed. His brain was excitedly thinking.

“There’ll be a grand ruction in a minute,” Jack chuckled to himself. “Things will happen with a vengeance.”

He heard cries of rage from the shack at the mouth of the cave. Advancing into it, but keeping himself concealed, Jack peered out. He noted that the automobile was gone, and from the absence of Paul and Walter he argued that they had driven away in it.

The talk of the men confirmed this.

“They’ve dished us!” exclaimed one, angrily.

“The car’s gone!” faltered another. “We were too slow!”

“What are we going to do?” asked a third.

“Cut and run for it!” some one answered. “The game is up. Scatter, and we’ll meet again, later. Lively’s the word!”

Jack looked out to see the two men he and his chums had observed before, with a third one, start for the wooded slope of the mountain. Then he saw the old man and the half-witted helper.

“Wait—wait for me!” pleaded the aged one. “I can’t run fast, I’m all crippled with rheumatism! Wait!”

“We can’t wait. Look out for yourself,” one man flung back unfeelingly over his shoulder. “It’s every one for himself.” 234

“Ah! desert me, would you!” cried the old man, shaking his fist at the fleeing ones. “But I’ll get even with you. Old Jason will get even! I’ll let the girls out of the cave, and tell them the whole story! I’ll let the girls out of the secret room in the cave!”

Jack had been in two minds whether to advance and speak to the old man, or follow the fleeing ones, but as he heard these words he knew something else now called for his attention.

“The girls in the cave!” he murmured. “It must be Cora and the others he means. They must have gone into the cave while we were in town. I’ve got to rescue them. Let the men go! I must help the girls.”

Catching up his lantern, Jack dashed back into the dark cavern.

“I’m coming, girls! I’m coming!” he cried. “To the rescue!”


Walter and Paul, hurrying to aid Jack, whom they had left in the cave, came in sight of the shack just as the old man and his helper were turning back into it. The two boys did not glimpse the three fleeing men who had by this time disappeared among the trees.

“Look—look at that!” gasped Paul, rubbing his eyes. “Am I dreaming, Wally, or is that an ape or a human being?”

“It’s real enough—some sort of a crazy chap, I should say. But what’s he doing?”

“Calling down the vengeance of heaven, I guess,” observed Paul, for they saw the old man shaking his fist in the air.

“Hurry up and we’ll speak to him,” urged Walter. “Somehow I think he’s part of the mystery.”

They reached the old man just as he was turning back into the shack. He did not seem greatly surprised to see them.

“Will that—er—fellow hurt us?” asked Walter. 236

“Not unless I tell him to. Are you the police?”

“No, but we can get them if you wish,” said Walter. “We are after the ticket counterfeiters,” he added shrewdly. “We have recovered the stolen auto, and a lot of the stuff is in our possession. Now if you——”

“Yes, I’ll give up. I’m too old to run away. They deserted me, and I’ll tell all I know. I’m getting tired of it anyhow. Being a criminal doesn’t pay. I’ll give up. Come on back and I’ll let out the girls. I’m sorry I locked them in, but I thought there was a chance to escape. I didn’t hurt them.”

“Girls! What girls?” gasped Walter.

“Well, I guess likely they’re of your party—from the bungalow,” said the old man, from whom all the spirit of rage and fighting seemed to have gone. “They’re in the secret room of the cave. Come on, Bombee, we’ll let them out.”

Wondering what it all meant, Walter and Paul followed the old man back into the cave. He seemed to know his way in the dark, though Walter had brought an extra flashlight from the bungalow, and now switched this on.

A little later the two boys, with the old man and the half-witted helper, entered the main cave where they found Jack running about half wild with excitement. He was shouting, and muffled cries—the voices of the girls—came in answer. 237

“Jack! You here!” cried Walter.

“Yes, and the girls are here too, but I can’t locate them, though I can hear them. They’re locked in some secret room. We must find it.”

“I’ll let them out,” said the old man. “I locked them in. Hi, Bombee, open the door.”

Once more the powerful helper took up the wooden club, or lever. He inserted it in the opening and the plank door, which could not, at first glance, be told from part of the cave sheathing, swung open. Then, tearful and disheveled from their efforts to escape, out rushed the girls.

“Oh Jack!”

“Oh Paul!”

“Oh Walter!”

Thus they gasped, the two girls seeking refuge in their brothers’ arms, while Belle and Bess clung to one another.

“Oh, that horrible man!” gasped Belle.

“Bombee won’t hurt you,” said the old man, humbly. “And I ask your pardon. I had to do what I thought best, but it is all over now. I give up!”

“Let’s get out of this terrible place,” begged Cora.

“Come on, then,” returned Jack. “Why, it’s a regular underground printing shop,” he added as he looked around. “Here’s where they made the counterfeit tickets.” 238

“Yes, this is the place,” confessed the old man. “You have found our secret.”

Walter and Paul started to go out of the cave the way they had come in.

“There is a shorter way,” said the old man. “It leads to your bungalow.”

“But that door is shut,” said Cora. “It shut after us.”

“Bombee can open it,” was his reply. “He knows the secret as well as I. Come. It opens easily.”

He led the way back along the passage through which Cora and her chums had lately come, first unlocking the door which he had closed after them. When they came to the cement obstruction, the helper pressed on a certain place, and it swung to one side. A little later the entire party was in the bungalow, to the great surprise of Mr. and Mrs. Floyd. The caretakers looked in astonishment at the old man and his assistant.

“Well, now let’s have some explanations,” suggested Walter.

“Did you get the auto?” asked Jack.

“Yes, and a whole lot of tickets and other stuff,” Paul said.

“My auto?” asked Cora.

“Yes, we have it back for you,” answered Walter. “And before we lose any more time we had better get the police after those three men.” 239

“I’ll go into town,” offered Mr. Floyd. “And about him?” he nodded to the man the counterfeiters had called Jason.

“Oh, I’ll give myself up,” the old man said. “Old Jason is tired of the game. Lock me up whenever you wish,” he seemed very tired and weary. “I won’t run away. I’ll stay with Bombee.”

A little later the authorities took charge of matters, entering the cave and taking possession of a very complete though small printing plant, and numberless bogus tickets. Constables were sent to look for the three men. The old man was arrested and taken to jail, and Bombee, his son, who would not be separated from him, went with him. But before Jason was taken away, he told enough to make the mystery clear.

He was an expert printer, it seemed, and had fallen in with a band of men who planned to flood the country with bogus railroad and theatrical tickets. They had set up their plant in the cave, the existence of which they had learned by accident and kept secret.

There were three entrances to the cave. One was in the side of the hill, where the men had put up a shack in order to conceal the opening. The second was the one discovered by accident by Cora. This was not used, being too small. And the third was through the bungalow and the passage. 240

This passage, the secret sliding door in the floor, and the cement door that blocked the passage (it developed later) had been constructed by the actor who formerly owned the bungalow. Just what his object was no one knew, but his unbalanced mind probably built a romance about the great dark hole. The cave was then used for nothing, but it admirably suited the purposes of the ticket men who fitted it up as they wished.

To it they brought their machinery and began issuing tickets, Jason, aided by the half-witted Bombee, doing the printing, while the others distributed the product. It was the rumble and clank of the gasoline engine and presses that made the queer trembling sounds heard by the girls and boys. The rocky cave acted as a sort of telephone, or sound box, and sometimes the noises would be louder than others. The fact that the engine stood on a strata of rock upon which the bungalow was constructed accounted for the trembling and vibration of the building.

“We did the printing when you folks were away from the bungalow at most times,” said old Jason. “We found out when you were gone by means of the secret passage. But sometimes we had to work on a rush order when you were on hand.”

“Then is when we heard the noise,” said Jack.

“But who upset the furniture, and took our things?” asked Cora. 241

“Oh, that was Bombee,” said the old man. “I could not always watch him, and he would slip away, open the secret door of the passage and get up into the bungalow through the floor. He is very mischievous, but gentle. He likes to upset chairs and tables. He used to do that trick, among others, in a theatre where he used to show as a human ape. He didn’t look unlike an ape, you see.”

“He took your ribbons and things, too. They are in the cave. I thought they came from your bungalow, but I did not dare return them. Once he brought in a flashlight.”

“That was the time we saw the queer, dancing beams upstairs and down,” said Hazel.

Before our friends had occupied the bungalow, Bombee had been up to his tricks. He had upset the furniture, giving rise to the strange stories about Camp Surprise, and he it was who had taken the silver, having a love of bright things. He would slip out of the cave, open the passage door (having seen Jason operate the mechanism), get into the bungalow by means of the opening in the floor, upset the furniture and then run out through the passage again, closing the doors after him, so there was nothing to show how any intruder had gotten in and out.

It was learned that the time the boys and girls saw the two men at the tumbled-down old house, 242 that the counterfeiters had gone there to meet some persons to whom they gave bogus tickets to dispose of. The men probably realized that our friends were on their trail and fled. The taking of Cora’s car had been done on the spur of the moment, the need of some means of getting quickly about the country to dispose of the tickets being pressing.

The crash heard in the night, which caused the floor to be taken up, was caused by one of the men dropping a box of tickets. He was storing it in the passage near the secret door. Occasionally, when the bungalow was not occupied, the men used it, and it was in this way that the big, half-witted youth learned to find his way there.

“Well, I guess that ends the surprises of this camp,” said Cora, as the officers took Jason away. “Now we can enjoy our stay here.”

And the surprises were indeed over. The secret door in the floor was closed, and fastened, the mechanism having been broken. After the printing apparatus had been taken out our boys and girls, and many others inspected the cave. It was a large and curious place, and the criminals had made it their living and hiding place for some time.

Though a diligent effort was made to capture the three men, they were not apprehended, and in view of his confession Jason was given only a light sentence. 243

Cora’s recovered car was put in good order and used some, though the mountain roads were not very good for automobile riding.

“And now for some glorious times!” cried Bess one day, about a week after the mystery had been cleared up. “Boys, we’ll give you——”

“A big chicken dinner!” interrupted Jack. “That’s what we want.”

“Well, you deserve it,” said Cora, “for the clever way you laid your plans.”

“You girls were a bit clever too, getting into the cave by the secret door while we were off in town telephoning,” said Walter. “We give you the credit for that.”

“Everything came out all right all around,” remarked Hazel. “But, oh! we were scared stiff for a while.”

“I should say so!” ejaculated Belle. “That horrible old man and his awful son!”

“Well, all’s well that ends well,” said Bess. “And I have a whole box of chocolates to go with the chicken dinner.”

“Marvelous—a whole box!” echoed Cora. “How did she ever manage it, girls?”

The chicken dinner was voted a great success. By this time the summer season was in full swing, and many cottages and bungalows in Mountain View were occupied. Cora and her friends entered with zest into the jolly life, and they were 244 the recipients of much attention, for the story of Camp Surprise had been told in many papers.

“But it’s nicer not to hear queer noises and see strange lights,” said Cora. “And it’s a relief to come in and find the furniture the way you left it.” And the others agreed with her.

“Will we ever have another time like this?” asked Belle.

“Perhaps. Who knows?” returned Cora. And leaving that question to be settled later we will say good-bye to the Motor Girls.