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Title: The Adventure Girls in the Air

Author: Clair Blank

Release date: April 2, 2014 [eBook #45308]

Language: English

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


Transcriber's Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.

Phyllis’ parachute came free and straightened out with a jerk. (Page 99)

Clair Blank
Akron, Ohio    New York

Copyright MCMXXXVI
The Adventure Girls in the Air
Made in the United States of America



Chapter I

The airplane circled low over the shore, its motor a loud humming noise. The begoggled head of the pilot peered over the side at the little group of people on the beach as he sent his plane zooming up again.

“Must be from the Army field below here,” vouchsafed one sunburned young man, raising himself on one elbow to peer up at the plane.

“It isn’t an Army plane though,” another added.

“He must be trying to smash himself up as quickly as possible,” declared Carol Carter.

The other five girls and three boys present agreed heartily with her.

The plane, its engine roaring, dove straight for the blue waters of the Atlantic, only to zoom upward again when the waves threatened to engulf it.

The young people, when nothing happened, turned their attention to something else. Airplanes were familiar to them.

“How did you make out in your English exam today?” Carol asked her friend, Janet Gordon.

The girl in the bright red bathing suit made a wry face and sighed. “I believe I established a new record for low marks.”

“But you don’t want to flunk in anything this term!” Phyllis Elton said aghast. “It is your Senior year!”

“You won’t be eligible for the college exams if you do,” added Valerie Wallace.

“I’ll make it up,” Janet said confidently, as usual not letting anything worry her.

“Have you decided what college you are going to?” Bruce Latimer asked as he let a handful of sand trickle slowly down Gale Howard’s back.

She wriggled away from him. “I like Briarhurst,” she answered.

“That is where we all want to go,” supplied Madge Reynolds. “Do you think you can make it, Phyllis?”

Phyllis Elton looked at the blue water lapping the shore and a little sigh escaped her.

“I don’t know,” she said slowly. “I want to, more than anything—but my Aunt——”

The others knew Phyllis’ life was governed completely by her Aunt’s whims and commands. Since babyhood Phyllis had lived alone in a big stone house with Miss Fields. Her friends were not allowed to visit her, nor she them if her Aunt knew it. However, when Phyllis had started High School she became chums with the Adventure Girls and now every moment she could get away from the big house was spent with one or the other of them.

“Why does your Aunt object to Briarhurst?” asked David Kimball.

Phyllis shrugged. “Why does she object to anything? Why doesn’t she let me have friends—give parties—like other girls? I never know why she objects to things—she just does.”

“I wouldn’t stand for it,” said rebellious Janet.

Phyllis smiled slowly. “What can I do? She is the only relative I have in the world. I can’t do anything but what she lets me.”

“What college does she suggest?” Peter Arnold wanted to know.

“Stonecliff,” Phyllis said shortly.

“Not that place!” Carol cried. “It is like a prison there!”

“I know it.” Phyllis sighed.

“The girls aren’t allowed any fun at all! You aren’t going there!” Madge wanted to know.

“I shall probably go wherever my Aunt chooses to send me,” Phyllis said, and her young voice was cold with anger and rebellion. “If she insists on Stonecliff, it will be Stonecliff.”

“But haven’t you told her about Briarhurst?” Gale asked.

“That is why she suggests Stonecliff. She has discovered where you girls are going and suspects that I want to go because you are. Whatever I want to do she objects to—you know that.”

“It isn’t fair!” Valerie declared.

“We ought to do something,” added Carol.

“We will start a conspiracy, that is what!” declared Madge. “We won’t have you breaking up our club by going to a different college!”

“That crazy aviator is back again,” volunteered David.

“Wonder who he is,” murmured Bruce.

Diving and side-slipping, the pilot put on an air circus by himself for the benefit of the people below. Straight upward the pilot nosed his ship, but suddenly it failed him. The roar of the engine was cut off abruptly. Like a falling leaf caught in an autumn wind the plane turned over and over. In scarcely any time at all the shining red monoplane lay a twisted mass of wreckage on Cloudy Island.

“You girls stay here,” called Bruce over his shoulder as he and the other two boys started off on a run for the little wharf where Bruce’s motor boat lay rocking gently on the swell of the water.

Despite the boys’ half-warning command, Gale and Phyllis were at their heels when they reached the boat.

Chapter II

Cloudy Island, so named because of the fog which usually held the island in its grip and the group of clouds stationed above it like sentinels in the sky, was but a two minute ride from the main shore. It was a brown strip of land jutting up out of the blue Atlantic Ocean scarcely a mile from the coast of Maine. It was covered with a thick growth of trees and underbrush. About the only shelter of any kind was a fair sized log cabin which the young people had built as a combination picnic lodge and boat house.

Bruce’s motor boat covered the distance in record time, its owner at the wheel and his companions crouched low, straining their eyes for a sight of the airplane.

“It fell at the north end, didn’t it?” Phyllis murmured.

Bruce headed his boat for the sandy beach at the northern point. Bathing suits and sunburned arms and legs flashed in the sun as they left the boat and the boys brought it to a safe anchorage on the beach.

The girls led the dash from the sandy shore into the thick growth of trees, but there the boys soon overtook them.

“Janet will be wild because they were left behind,” Phyllis declared gaspingly as she ran along beside Gale.

Gale’s answer was lost in a cry as they burst suddenly upon the wreckage of the red monoplane. One wing was crumpled beneath the heavy cabin of the plane and the wheels were sticking grotesquely up into the air. The propeller had snapped in half and the shining red surface of the plane was scratched and blackened. The cockpit yawned black and empty.

“Where’s the pilot?” Peter demanded in amazement.

“Look!” Phyllis cried.

A man in the uniform of a flyer leaned weakly against a tree and endeavored to grin at them. There was mud and grime on his clothes and from a cut on his cheek blood was flowing. Bruce and David caught him as he almost fell to the ground.

“Take him to the cabin,” Peter proposed.

The other boys nodded in agreement and the girls ran on ahead. Pillows and blankets were whisked into position for a makeshift bed. A small fire was started in the stone fireplace and water put on to heat.

David, who was studying to be a doctor, put his knowledge to good use by examining the pilot.

“Is he badly hurt?” Gale asked when her friend straightened up.

David shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

The pilot opened his eyes again and looked wordlessly from one to the other, letting his gaze rest finally and longest on Gale. Slowly he sat up and negotiated it successfully, but when he tried to stand his leg gave way beneath him.

“Take it easy,” Peter encouraged.

“Sprained ankle,” was the answer.

“Shall we get you a doctor?” Phyllis inquired anxiously. “We can take you back to the mainland in the boat.”

He shook his head and smiled. “Plane a wreck?”

“Smashed,” Gale supplied for him. She handed him a glass of cool spring water brought in by Peter.

He drained it and handed the glass back to her with a wide smile. “Thanks, feel a lot better now. Where am I anyway?” He looked curiously about the cabin, at the woven rug in the center of the floor, at the small radio set, at the furnishings and curtains at the window.

“We use this as a sort of camping lodge,” Bruce explained. “In a shelter next to this we keep a small canoe. We often spend a whole day here on picnics.”

“Cozy place,” the pilot declared.

“Don’t you think you should go to a doctor with that ankle?” Peter interjected. “We can easily run you over to Marchton.”

The pilot looked at him thoughtfully. From Peter his gaze traveled in turn to each of the others. He frowned at the fireplace before he spoke.

“I don’t know how to make you understand—I’d like to stay here in your cabin—until my ankle mends. Will you rent it to me—say, for a few weeks?”

“Of course,” Bruce said with a frown, “but——”

“There is no one here on the island, and you would be all alone,” Phyllis said.

The pilot smiled. “I shan’t mind that. I want to be by myself—no one must know I am here. Absolutely no one, do you understand?”

“No, sir, we don’t,” Bruce said promptly.

“Why shouldn’t anyone know you are here?” added David. “A lot of people must have seen your plane fall.”

The pilot ran a hand through his hair nervously. “I realize that, but look here, couldn’t you say I was unhurt and you took me to a railroad station or an airport and I’ve gone away? It is so important that no one knows I am here!”

The young people looked at him speculatively.

“Are you an escaped convict?” Phyllis asked outright.

The strange young man laughed heartily.

“Hardly!” he declared. “I am just a harmless flyer who desires a little peace and quiet for a while. What do you say? Will you help me keep my presence here a secret? You can tell people my plane fell into the sea and was washed down the coast. There is no harm in keeping me hidden.”

The young people could think of no convincing reason why they should tell anyone that the pilot desired to be alone on the island nor why he should not stay here if he wished.

“I suppose it is all right,” David said dubiously.

“Of course it is!” the man assured him.

“We can bring you food from the mainland,” Gale suggested.

“Fine!” the pilot declared cheerfully.

After his ankle was bathed and bandaged and he declared his intention of resting the young people had no choice but to take their leave.

“He seemed glad to be rid of us,” Phyllis said in an injured tone as they climbed back into Bruce’s motor boat. “I wonder who he is?”

“We didn’t ask his name,” David murmured in surprise.

“There is something mysterious about him,” Bruce said with a frown. “I wonder if we should have let him stay at the lodge?”

“Why not?” Gale wanted to know. “He can’t run away—not on his injured ankle—there is no harm in it. I think he is rather nice,” she added, with an afterthought for the pilot’s dark curly hair and handsome, boyish face. “Well, I do!” she insisted defiantly when the boys laughed. She remembered the way the pilot had looked at her and felt a pleasant little thrill. He had such a nice smile!

“What happened? Was he killed?”

Such were the cries from the other four Adventure Girls who had been left behind on the mainland.

The pilot’s presence couldn’t be kept a secret from these four girls so the others told them everything that had happened, eliciting a strict promise to keep confidential the man’s presence at the lodge.

Janet and Carol were beside themselves with excitement and ecstasy. To think that a real, young, and handsome pilot should be plunged suddenly into their midst! Things like that very seldom happened in the little coastal town.

Marchton was a small but busy little town in Maine, bordering the rocky coast, and with its share of the traditional Maine woods.

The Adventure Girls had been raised, each one, in this sheltered spot; however, they were in no way behind the times. Readers of The Adventure Girls at the K Bar O Ranch are already familiar with the girls’ desire for adventure and love of the open road. All were in their last year at the Marchton High School and looking forward eagerly to the day when they would enter college.

One by one the young people went into their homes as they left the beach and walked home in the glowing sunset until only Gale and Bruce were left. The boy and girl lived across the street from one another and it was not until they came to the swinging, whitewashed gate of Gale’s yard that they parted.

Gale ran up the back stairs to her bedroom where she discarded the bathing suit for a trim sports outfit. With her English text book under one arm she descended to the porch to study until time for dinner. English at any time was a problem upon which Gale found it hard to concentrate, but this afternoon it was even more difficult than usual. The brown, laughing face of the airplane pilot kept interfering with the printed page.

All through dinner Gale kept thinking about him. She knew there was no food to be had on the island and she decided to take him some. After dinner, with the expressed opinion of going to the early show at the movies, Gale left home, but her destination was the grocery store. Not the one her Mother usually patronized because it might come to her Mother’s ears what she was doing. It wasn’t that her parents would not understand—nor forbid her to go, it wasn’t that—but the pilot had said to tell no one. If he wanted to be a secret, so he should be. Her parents would, perhaps, never say a word against what she was doing. On the other hand they might not like it at all. Gale hated explanations and questions. When she had an impulse she liked to carry it through. Of course, she decided guiltily, she would tell her Mother tomorrow—then her parents could share the secret with her, but for to-night the pilot would be her own secret.

Her chosen foodstuffs secure in a big brown bag Gale went down to the beach. She had often used Bruce’s motor boat and she knew he would not object to her doing so now. She climbed aboard and deposited her bundle on the cushioned seat while she started the motor.

The stretch of water was black with white-tipped gentle waves as she headed the boat away from the shore toward Cloudy Island.

Chapter III

Gale had run the motor boat on this short jaunt often before but never had she experienced the thrill of adventure and excitement that was prevailing tonight. The prow of the boat cut through the water and flung a fine spray over the girl.

The island was dark, but the moonlight flung the trees and the little lodge into sharp relief against the sky. A light gleamed faintly through the window of the lodge and there Gale went.

There was no electricity on the island so the lodge was illuminated solely by the light from the fire in the fireplace and a small oil lantern which stood on the little table in solitary state.

A brief glance told her that the room was empty. Abruptly her bundle slid to the table and she sat down while she tried to grasp the fact that the pilot was gone. There had been something mysterious about him. He had tricked them and disappeared at the first opportunity! But how had he left the island? The motor boat had not been here. His airplane was out of commission. They had left no means of escape for him.

Suddenly she thought of the canoe housed in the little adjoining shed. Of course! It would be easy for him to get away in that. No trouble at all, for the bay had been as smooth as glass.

Unnecessarily she went out, taking the lantern with her, to the shed. There she stared in amazement. The canoe was safely installed as it had been yesterday. The pilot had not touched it. Then how—he couldn’t have swum to the mainland!

She left the shed and was about to rëenter the lodge when she stiffened to attention and stared down the beach. The moonlight was brilliant as daylight, throwing a silver path on the water and sandy shore. A solitary figure was coming slowly and laboriously along toward the cabin. Setting the lantern down quickly she ran down the beach to meet him.

The pilot stood on one foot and waited for her to come up to him. There was a smile on his face but she could see that he looked tired and there was perspiration standing out on his forehead from the exertion of walking on his injured ankle.

“What are you doing?” she cried in consternation.

“Down to see the plane,” he explained breathlessly. “Farther than I thought.”

“You shouldn’t be walking on that ankle!” she said sternly. “It will only make it worse.” She saw that he carried a small bundle wrapped in oilskin under his arm. “Shall I carry them for you?”

“What? Oh, no thanks. A little bit farther won’t matter.”

She slipped her arm beneath his. “You can lean on me. It isn’t far.”

He squeezed her arm gently and released it laughing a little. “I can make it quite all right.”

It was slow business for him, getting back to the cabin and once there he sank down onto a chair and sat for a long time with closed eyes breathing heavily. At last, when Gale was beginning to get anxious, he looked up and smiled.

“What is that?” he asked, indicating the parcel on the table.

“I brought some groceries,” she answered. “Since you are going to be a hermit—you have to eat.”

“That was thoughtful of you,” he said gratefully. “I was wondering if there were any cocoanuts or bananas on this desert island.”

“I’ll cook you something,” she said with sudden inspiration. “It will take only a minute.”

“Oh, but——” he began in protest.

“You must be hungry,” she insisted.

He couldn’t deny that and he had to admit, too, that with his ankle throbbing as it was at present, he didn’t want to contemplate making his own supper. Nevertheless he regarded her thoughtfully.

“Do your parents know you are here?” he asked suddenly.

Gale felt the color stealing up into her cheeks. “No,” she admitted finally.

“Where are you supposed to be?”

She swallowed a difficult lump in her throat. “At the movies.”

“Then off you go to the movies,” he said firmly. “You don’t want your conscience troubling you.”

“I’ll go right after I’ve fixed you something,” she promised. “Honestly I will!”

“And hereafter there are to be no more lies!” he said severely.

“I was going to tell them tomorrow,” she said slowly.

“You will,” he said more brightly. “You have my permission to tell your parents about me, but nobody else, mind you!”

Gale smiled. “Right you are, Mr. Hermit!”

While they were talking Gale was busy and in a few minutes his supper stood hot and inviting.

“Come along and eat,” she invited.

“Not until I see you safely off in your boat,” he insisted.

She sighed. “I was going to wash the dishes for you, but I’ll go.”

He came close to her and put some money in her hand. “For the groceries,” he explained.

“But this is too much——”

“Well, I’m going to need some more, won’t I?” he asked gaily.

When Gale ran down the beach to her boat she could see his figure outlined in the doorway. She felt happy and pleased with herself as she started the motor and swung the boat about in the direction of the shore. But her elation was to be short lived.

When she climbed from the boat to the wharf a figure stepped from the shadows. Gale started.

“Bruce! How you frightened me!”

“Sorry. Where were you?” the boy asked.

“To see the mysterious pilot and to take him some supper,” she answered immediately, truthfully and brightly.

“Don’t you know you shouldn’t go all by yourself to see him?” the boy asked indignantly.

“Why not?” All Gale’s friendliness and joy vanished as though from a touch of icy wind.

“We don’t any of us know who he is——” Bruce began. “I don’t like it, Gale. What would your parents say? You should take someone else—one of the boys—with you. Hereafter——”

“Hereafter I’ll thank you to mind your own business, Bruce Latimer!” Gale said heatedly. “You can’t tell me what to do. I’ll go where I please and when I please! I don’t have to use your old motor boat, either!”

“Gee, Gale,” the boy said ruefully, “I didn’t mean——”

But Gale had left him standing in the darkness. She almost ran through the streets to her own home. Her Mother was sitting on the porch and Gale dropped breathlessly beside her.

“The show let out early, didn’t it, dear?” her Mother asked, smiling.

Gale felt more ashamed of herself than she had ever done before.

“I didn’t go to the movies,” she said in a rush, her words tumbling over each other. Swiftly she told her Mother of the pilot, how they had seen him crash, how they had taken him to the lodge—everything up until the minute she left the island tonight.

“I’m glad you told me,” her mother said simply.

“And you aren’t angry?” Gale whispered.

Mrs. Howard smiled. “No, I’m not angry.”

“And I can go to see him whenever I want?”

“Perhaps it would be best to go when the others go,” her Mother said after a moment.

Gale left it at that. She took a cushion and sat on the top step, watching the stars overhead. A figure crossed the street and entered the yard. She recognized Bruce and stood up. She looked about but her Mother had disappeared.

“Gale,” Bruce called uncertainly.

“Yes,” she answered reluctantly.

Bruce sat down beside her. “I’m sorry I said what I did,” he murmured.

“I am too,” she admitted.

“You will use my boat any time you want, too,” he urged.

“I don’t know whose I would use if I didn’t,” she laughed.

Harmony was completely restored. After that they talked together easily and long.

The next afternoon after school Gale and Phyllis went down to the beach and climbed into Bruce’s boat. Soon they were at the island.

The pilot was glad to see them. Already he was getting bored with his self-imposed exile. He had been sitting at the table poring over the package of papers for the possession of which he had made that slow and painful journey to his plane last night. When he heard them he jumped up and immediately sat down again. His ankle was too painful for sudden movement.

The girls had brought some more supplies for the pantry and the pilot received them thankfully. The three talked together for a long while. When the girls decided it was time to leave, the pilot whispered to Gale while Phyllis was already on her way to the boat.

“I must see you tonight for a few minutes—alone!”

Gale looked at him in surprise. His voice and tone had been most mysterious.

“Alone?” she asked uncertainly; she was suddenly afraid of him.

“Alone unless you can get that young fellow Bruce to come with you.”

“We’ll come,” Gale promised him.

Her mind was full of the pilot and his words as she steered the boat with herself and Phyllis back to the mainland. What could he want of them?

“He is nice, isn’t he?” Phyllis said. “Brent Stockton,” she murmured the pilot’s name over. “I’ve heard that name some place before.”

“Wasn’t it in the newspapers some time ago in connection with the invention of a new parachute or something?” Gale asked slowly.

“That is it!” Phyllis said eagerly. “He is an inventor. Do you suppose he is working on something now and that is why he wants to be alone on the island?”

“There is nothing there for him to work with,” Gale said. “He would need a laboratory or workshop or something.”

“That’s true,” Phyllis agreed as she and Gale turned into the driveway of the big house on the hill where Phyllis lived.

“Do you think I should come any farther?” Gale asked, halting at a small summerhouse where the girls invariably took their leave. Very seldom did they go on up to the house.

“My Aunt was supposed to be out this afternoon,” Phyllis said. “I think you might come up. I’d like some help with my Algebra.”

“Have you said any more to her about going to Briarhurst?” Gale asked as they walked slowly up the gravel path and with light steps mounted to the porch.

Phyllis led the way into the dark, formal hallway and up the stairs to her own room. There, though the furnishings were stiff and old fashioned, the sun shone in, dispelling the sense of gloom that seemed to hang over the rest of the house.

“She insists that I go to Stonecliff,” Phyllis sighed. “I suppose I must, but I shall hate it,” she said with sudden vehemence. “I don’t want to be separated from all the Adventure Girls. You mean more to me than you know,” she said, a sudden mist in her eyes. “You are the only friends I have. The only fun I have I have to steal with you. I never thought a person could be as cruel as Aunt Melba. She has taken every nice thing I ever had away from me. Now she proposes to take you girls away too.”

Gale slipped a loving arm through her friend’s. “She can’t take us away. We love you too, Phyl,” she declared earnestly. “Don’t let it worry you. We shall think of something. We’ll take the situation into our own hands and you won’t have to go to Stonecliff.”

Gale had been purposely gay and confident when she was talking to Phyllis but afterward she wondered what they could possibly do about it. Miss Fields was a thin, middle-aged woman who ruled her household with a rod of iron. No one had ever been known to oppose her successfully or for long. Phyllis, especially, was a victim of her Aunt’s every whim. Raised in terror of the stern old woman that terror still held Phyllis in its grip.

Gale turned into her own yard and then she suddenly remembered Brent Stockton’s words. She looked across the street. Bruce was just coming home from football practice.

“Hi, Bruce!” she called.

He grinned and waved in response. When he came up to her she laughed at his appearance. Bedraggled and mud splashed, he looked every inch a returning warrior from unknown wars.

“Think we will win from Northwood on Friday?” she asked eagerly.

“Of course we will,” he returned. “We’ve got a swell team.”

“Bruce,” she lowered her voice to a confidential pitch, “Phyllis and I were out to the island to see the pilot this afternoon. He said he wanted to see you and me tonight for a little while—alone.”

“What for?”

“I don’t know,” she frowned. “What do you suppose he could want? He sounded awf’ly mysterious.”

“Did he say what time?”

“No. Any time I suppose.”

“We’ll go right after dinner, eh?”

She sighed. “I was afraid you wouldn’t go at all.”

He looked at her in surprise. “Why not?”

She laughed. “Never mind.” She turned to the house. “See you tonight,” she called and disappeared within.

How could she tell him she had thought he would not go because she doubted if he had an adventurous spirit? Sometimes Bruce irritated her. He was so cold and sane. Never enthusiasm for anything. No ambition, at least he never said anything to her about it if he had, no urge to go anywhere or see anything. He took things so calmly she sometimes wondered if he were altogether human. She was positive he had never done an impulsive thing in his life.

She sighed as she sat down at the piano and let her fingers roam over the keys. Perhaps that was the way she should be, thoughtful, serious, never doing anything rash. But she couldn’t. Sometimes she would be all prepared to go to a study or a game or book seriously, when someone’s word or sentence would strike a discordant note and her temper would flare forth or a spring of laughter would burst within her and gone immediately were all her good intentions. Somehow she just couldn’t take herself as seriously as did Bruce with himself. To him life was a problem and it was meant to be coped with as such. She preferred to snatch pleasure from life as she went along. Didn’t her friendship with the other Adventure Girls prove that? Certainly there could be no more nonsensical, yet sweet, girls than Carol and Janet. Madge, too, had a sense of humor. And Val, good old Valerie! She, like the rest, was always ready for anything.

The low tones of the piano crashed like thunder as she brought her hand down heavily and swung about on the stool. She had better get in some study on her English Literature if she hoped to pass that exam.

After dinner Gale and Bruce went down to his motor boat and crossed to the island. As it had been the night before, the island was in darkness save for the gleam of lantern light from the cabin. The boy and girl stood for a moment in the doorway watching the pilot in silence.

Brent Stockton had papers and blue prints spread out before him and he was compiling figures on another sheet of paper.

“Hello,” Gale said uncertainly.

The pilot swung around, his hand instinctively seeking to cover the paper before him. He smiled in mingled pleasure and relief when he recognized them.

“Didn’t hear you coming,” he apologized. “Sit down, won’t you?” he indicated two chairs drawn up to the other side of the table.

The girl and boy sat on the edge of the chairs and stared interestedly at the blue prints before them.

“A new motor?” Bruce asked; his technical eye had already recognized the sketches.

The pilot nodded. He leaned toward them confidentially. “Are you sure there is no one but me on this island?”

“I don’t think there is anyone else,” Gale said. “No one ever comes here but us.”

“Queer,” Brent Stockton murmured. “All day I’ve had the feeling that someone was watching me.”

“Must be your nerves,” Bruce smiled. “What did you want to see us about?”

The pilot threw down his pencil and folded his arms while he regarded them with a half frown. “Have you ever heard of me?” he asked surprisingly.

“You’re an inventor,” Gale said immediately. “You invented a new type of parachute or something a few months ago.”

He nodded. His voice was low when he spoke and the two young people bent forward so as not to miss a single word.

“Now I am working on something new. A motor that will have less gas consumption and be more or less foolproof. It will be most economical, automatically reducing the upkeep of a plane. It especially is designed for the new pursuit type ship the Army is planning. I hope to have one installed in my racing plane before the air races three weeks from Saturday, that is if I have it perfected in time.”

“Did you have one in the plane in which you crashed?” Bruce asked.

“Yes. I’ve been working on these plans ever since and I’m convinced that I’ve located the only weak spot in the whole unit.”

“But——” Gale frowned. “Where do we come into it?”

He tapped the plans significantly. “I needn’t tell you how important these plans are. If they should fall into the wrong hands, well, I don’t think our army would be using my motor in their pursuit ships. I have to get them to the airport above Marchton so my mechanic and his helper can assemble the motor in time for the races. There I hope to prove definitely that my motor is the most practical and economical as well as fastest.”

“Well?” Bruce encouraged.

“Other men are planning motors and assembling units for the same demonstration,” Brent Stockton said. “One in particular is willing to do anything to sell his motor to the government. He will stop at nothing and, since he suspects that I have a good unit, is trying his best to keep mine from appearing in the race at all. Twice he has attempted to steal my plans. Both times I have been fortunate in having them just beyond his reach. Once there was even a bold attempt on my life.”

Bruce whistled expressively. “Why don’t you go to the police?”

“I would if I could name the man who has done these things,” Brent Stockton laughed. “I’ve never seen him so I can’t very well turn him over to the authorities. He uses other less important individuals than himself for his work. The three times I spoke of I managed to get a glimpse of the thief—each time it was a different man.” He shrugged. “It is fighting more or less in the dark.”

“What do you want us to do?” Gale asked breathlessly. She was terribly interested in all this. Brent Stockton was like a hero in a modern story of adventure and romance.

The pilot smiled. “Here is my plan. If you don’t want to come along with me it is all right. I won’t think any the less of you for it. There is liable to be danger—that is the part I don’t like when it comes to you,” he said frowning at the youngsters.

“What do you want us to do?” Bruce asked, brushing aside the thought of danger.

“Take these plans to my mechanic,” Brent said immediately. “I will tell you where to meet him. You must be absolutely sure that they never leave your sight for a moment. There is too much at stake to risk losing them.”

“Is that all?” Gale asked disappointed. “That doesn’t sound very dangerous.”

He smiled. “Ah, but it might prove to be. If you were held up and robbed, which is possible, it would not be exactly safe, you know.”

“But nothing like that ever happens in Marchton,” Gale said.

“I’ll take the plans to your mechanic,” Bruce agreed. “But I don’t think Gale should go.”

“Bruce Latimer!” Gale was furious again. “Are you going to tell me what to do? I am going! Mr. Stockton asked me just as much as he did you. Don’t dare say——”

Bruce started to laugh. “All right, all right, hold on a minute. I only didn’t want you to be in any danger.”

“There isn’t a bit of danger and you know it,” Gale said, slightly mollified. “Nothing is dangerous in Marchton.”

The pilot was regarding them with a wide grin. “At least I gather that you accept my proposition?”

“Of course,” Bruce said. “Where do we meet your mechanic?”

“There is a thick wood this side of the airport, do you know it?”

Gale nodded. “We picnic there sometimes.”

“There is an old deserted spring house there. Stubby should be there about nine o’clock,” the pilot said consulting his wrist watch. “It is now eight. Can you make it in an hour?”

“We’ll take our bicycles,” Gale said eagerly.

“What does he look like, your mechanic?” Bruce asked. “How will we know him?”

“When you meet a man,” Brent Stockton said, “ask him the time. If he says seven o’clock by the stars, ask him how long he has been there. He will say three days come Friday. He will probably ask you if you have anything for him.”

“Are you sure he will be there?” Gale asked.

“Stubby will be there,” the pilot answered confidently. “Tell him he must not, under any circumstances, try to communicate with me. He is to go to the hangar at the airport and start work on the Silver Arrow, that is my racing plane,” he explained. While he had been speaking he was rolling the plans up into a tight packet. This he now handed to Bruce. “You are guardian of the treasure now,” he said smiling.

“It is a wonder that you trust me with them,” Bruce said.

“I can’t go myself,” the pilot said, “and I like you,” he added frankly. “I know you won’t let me down.”

“We’ll see that—what was his name?—Stubby gets them,” Gale assured him.

When the boy and girl went down to the motor boat they could see the pilot standing in the doorway watching them. He raised his hand in silent salute as the boat shot away from Cloudy Island.

Chapter IV

The road was dark and lonely. From far away came the dismal hoot of an owl. Gale shivered as she leaned her bicycle against a tree and turned to Bruce.

“He might have picked a better spot for us to meet his mechanic,” she whispered.

“It isn’t very cheerful, is it?” Bruce managed a laugh. “But there is no one here but us.”

“How do you know?” she countered.

“Because anyone else would have enough sense to stay out of the woods at this hour,” he declared.

Bruce took her hand in his warm grasp and they started across a small open place. In the distance between the trees ahead they could see the tumbling ruins of the deserted spring house.

“Don’t be frightened,” Bruce said kindly.

“I’m not frightened,” Gale said indignantly. “But—do you suppose those plans are as important as he says?”

“Of course they are,” Bruce said. “He knows what he is talking about. He invented the motor, didn’t he?”

“You don’t suppose anyone might try to take them away from us?” Gale murmured in awe, watching the dark shadows around her.

“Certainly not,” Bruce declared. “Don’t you see, that is why he wanted us to take them. No one would suspect us of having them.”

Gale considered this logic for a moment and was forced to admit it was the obvious conclusion. Who might know they were carrying the important plans? Her thoughts promptly said no one, but she looked about at the ominous shadows and was uncertain. The moon had disappeared behind a bank of clouds. The trees were sighing and whistling in the night wind.

“Well, here we are,” Bruce announced. “I don’t see anyone,” he added.

As if in answer to his words a figure appeared from the dark ruins of the spring house behind them.

“H-Hello,” Bruce said in surprise.

The man came toward them, his hat pulled forward so as to shield his face from view. He held out his hand.

“I’ll take that package,” he said in a low, gruff voice.

Bruce held it out and then pulled it back. “What time is it?” he asked, according to the instructions he had received from Brent Stockton.

“After nine,” the man said pleasantly. “Gettin’ late for you youngsters to be out. Give me that package and you can go home.”

“Sorry,” Bruce shook his head. “I don’t think it is for you.”

“Give it to me!” The man advanced slowly and ominously upon Bruce.

“B-Be c-careful, Bruce,” Gale whispered with difficulty.

Under cover of the darkness Bruce passed the package behind his back to Gale. She took it and moved a few paces away.

The man’s arm shot out and Bruce was sent sprawling in the dust. The man turned to Gale who backed slowly away. Bruce had played football too much to stay down from such a gentle push and now he launched himself forward in the tackle that had helped Marchton High School win so many football games.

The man fell to the ground with Bruce on top of him. Bruce tried to cling to his perilous position on top of his adversary but he was in sad danger of losing his advantage when help arrived in the form of another silent figure which came also from the ruins of the spring house. The newcomer hauled the two apart and in the moment that Bruce was getting to his feet the other man broke away and ran among the trees, disappearing into the darkness.

“You let him get away!” Bruce said angrily. “You shouldn’t have!” He looked around. “All right, Gale?”

“Yes,” she answered. “But he almost had them, didn’t he?”

“You came here to meet someone?” the new arrival asked. He was a short, stocky, blurred figure in the darkness.

Gale thought instinctively that he must be Stubby. The name fitted him to perfection.

“Yes,” Bruce murmured. He wondered if this were another foe or really the man they had come to meet. “What time is it?” he asked without further preliminary.

“’Bout seven o’clock by the stars,” the man answered.

The right answer! Gale breathed easier. Now they could be rid of the plans.

“How long have you been here?” Bruce continued.

“Three days, come Friday,” was the answer. “Have you anything for me?”

“Yes,” Bruce almost shouted in relief. He took the package of plans from Gale and handed them to the man. “You’re Stubby?”

He heard a low chuckle from the man. “Yes, where is Brent?”

“He said we weren’t to tell you and you must not make any attempt to reach him,” Bruce said. “You are to start work immediately.”

“Tell him the plane is all ready for the motor. It will be ready for the races.” The man turned away then. “Thanks,” he called over his shoulder before he disappeared.

“We might as well go home,” Gale said with a sigh.

“We might as well,” Bruce agreed.

They went back through the woods to where they had left their bicycles propped against a tree. They rode most of the way in silence. It was only when they came into town and stopped before The Kopper Kettle that Gale looked closely at her companion.

“Bruce!” she cried, half laughing, “You’ve got a black eye!”

He touched it gingerly and grinned.

“How will you explain it?” she wanted to know.

“I walked into a door—or was it a tree?” he said laughingly.

“Look,” Gale cried, “the whole gang is here.”

The Kopper Kettle was a combination sandwich shop and ice cream store where the Adventure Girls and their especial friends were wont to gather in much of their free time. Now the other girls, that is all but Phyllis, were lined up on stools before the soda fountain and with them were Peter and David. The newcomers were hailed with various cries.

“Who hit you, Bruce?”

“What a shiner!”

“Wait until Coach Garis sees that!”

“Did you do it, Gale?”

“Can’t blame it on football!”

Bruce remained mysteriously silent as to how he had acquired the bruised eye and the others could decide on no satisfactory solution. Gale would in no manner aid them to solve the mystery, merely looking unaccountably delighted in their mystification. Secretly she was congratulating herself and Bruce for coming off their mission so lightly. If Stubby had not appeared when he had there is no telling what might have happened.

Chapter V

“Ten yards—nine yards—two—he made it! He’s over! We win!” Jubilantly Janet threw her arms about Carol and the two danced in glee.

The occasion was the opening game of the football season. The Marchton High School had come through with flying colors, having three touchdowns to their opponent’s two.

As they walked homeward through the early twilight Janet demanded of the other girls:

“Wasn’t Mark Sherwin wonderful?”

Valerie winked at Gale. “Why Mark Sherwin particularly when there were ten other boys on the team?” she asked.

“Haven’t you heard?” Carol pounced on Valerie, eager to impart her bit of friendly gossip. “He is Janet’s latest crush. He took her to the movies the other night and since then——”

“So that is the way the wind blows,” Madge laughed.

“I haven’t a crush on him,” Janet said with dignity. “Crushes are for children.”

“Is he going to take you to the Senior Prom?” Gale asked.

“If he asks me I shall die of joy!” Janet declared ecstatically.

“Then you wouldn’t be able to go,” Madge said smiling. “I think you will rally sufficiently to accept.”

“I shall say I would!” Janet declared. She turned in at the gate to her front yard as her younger sister called a greeting to the others. “See you tomorrow, gals!”

“Sweet dreams!” Carol bid her.

Carol and Madge were the next to depart. Slowly the other three walked homeward.

“Have you seen the pilot any more?” Phyllis asked of Gale.

“Not since yesterday,” was the answer.

“How is his ankle?” Valerie wanted to know.

“Getting better,” Gale said. “He can hobble about a little now without much pain.”

When Gale left Phyllis walked beside Valerie in deep thought.

“Do you think Gale likes Brent Stockton?” she asked at last.

Valerie smiled. “She must. She goes over to the island a lot. I think he is nice, too,” she declared. She had journeyed to the island one afternoon with Gale.

“Oh he is nice,” Phyllis said hastily. “What I mean is, do you think—Gale really likes him? An awful lot I mean?”

Valerie regarded her friend silently, puzzledly for a moment. “How do you mean?”

“Well,” Phyllis coughed embarrassedly and wished she had never mentioned the subject. “He is young, handsome, and quite charming. Gale might——”

“You mean Gale might fall in love with him?” Valerie asked aghast.

“Well—yes,” Phyllis said in confusion. “Do you suppose she might?”

Valerie laughed. “But she is still in High School!”

“That doesn’t make any difference,” Phyllis assured her.

“No,” Valerie said after a moment, “I don’t suppose it does. But Gale isn’t any older than we are. Seventeen! He must be—oh, well, in his twenties. Whatever gave you such a crazy idea?”

“I don’t know,” Phyllis said hurriedly. “Forget I said anything.”

“Have you said any more to your Aunt about Briarhurst?” Valerie wanted to know.

Phyllis shook her head and snapped her history book open and shut.

“No, I’m half afraid to.”

“We will keep our fingers crossed. She may come around to your way of thinking yet,” Valerie said cheerfully. “So long, Phyl!”

Phyllis watched Valerie’s form retreating along the stone flagged path to the Wallace house, a house where Valerie was free to come and go as she pleased, where she was assured of warmth and love and laughter. Phyllis went more slowly on her way. All that was waiting for her in the house at the top of the hill was a cold bedroom where she would study her next day’s lessons in silence and then eat a silent dinner sitting opposite her Aunt. After that, there was nothing for her but to retreat to her own room with her books and to bed, to wait for the next morning when she could again escape from the cold, old house.

After dinner Gale stepped out onto the porch and viewed the sky overhead. It was studded with stars and high in the East rode a giant yellow moon. She looked out over the lawn to where deep shadows lay thick beneath the trees and about the shrubs. There was a decided tinge of early winter in the air. The football game this afternoon had been another hint that winter was officially on the way. It had been an exciting game! A thrill every minute. She lived over again the exciting last touchdown.

Gale had been leaning idly against the white porch pillar but suddenly she straightened up with a jerk. A shadow had moved stealthily from the street through the gateway to a position under the linden tree. Gale could not see the identity of the intruder but it was someone she did not expect, of that she was sure. None of her friends would come silently, like a thief. Any of the Adventure Girls or the boys with whom they associated always descended much like pirates besieging a treasure ship, with whoops and plenty of noise. Not so this person, whoever he was.

Gale considered shouting for her father, when she remembered he had gone out to see a client. Her father conducted a successful law practice and often made trips out at night to interview his clients.

Gale decided to stay where she was and watch. She did not want to alarm her mother, and besides the person had not done anything yet. Perhaps it was just someone who had made a mistake in the houses. It might be a respectable visitor of one of the neighbors.

She had held her position for about five minutes, her eyes never wavering from the spot under the linden tree where the shadow had stopped, when she saw a white hand beckoning to her. Should she go down and see who it was? Very clearly she remembered the night when she and Bruce had almost lost Brent Stockton’s plans for his airplane engine. Suppose this was another thief who had learned that she knew where the pilot was! What would he do?

Almost imperiously this time the hand beckoned again. There seemed a suppressed urgency about it. She decided to throw caution to the winds and go down to the linden tree. As she stepped from the porch she shivered with excitement. It was all so thrilling! She would keep the girls spellbound with a recital of this tomorrow. She walked swiftly across the lawn. Now that she had decided what to do she wanted to hurry before caution changed her mind. She parted the low hanging branches and stepped into the shadow beyond.

“Did I scare you?”

Gale almost laughed aloud. It was Stubby, Brent Stockton’s mechanic.

“You did!” she declared. “What do you want? How did you know where I lived?”

“It was easy to discover that,” he said brushing her question aside. “You have to take me to Brent. Where is he?”

“He is——” Gale stopped herself. She remembered how firmly Brent had said the mechanic was not under any circumstances to communicate with him. “Why do you want to see him?” she asked. “He said you shouldn’t.”

“I’ve got to see him,” Stubby said firmly. “Something has gone wrong with the plane and he is the only one who can fix it. He knows his engine backwards.”

“But——” Gale hesitated, torn between Brent’s wishes and this new emergency. If something really were wrong with the engine he would want to see the mechanic, wouldn’t he?

“Where is he?” Stubby persisted.

“On the island,” she said slowly. “In our clubhouse.”

“Can you take me over in a boat? Or how can I get there alone?” Stubby asked quickly.

“I’ll take you,” Gale said. “We can use Bruce’s—that’s my friend—he lets me use his boat.”

“Fine!” Stubby rubbed his hands together gleefully. “Let’s go.”

“Wait until I get my coat,” Gale said.

She ran back to the house. In the hall she slipped into her light sports coat and called in to her mother in the living room.

“Going out for a while, Mother. I won’t be late!”

A minute later she was walking swiftly down the street beside the thick figure of Stubby. It took them only a few minutes to reach the shore and with Gale at the wheel, Stubby crouched low in the stern, holding his hat for there was a stiff breeze on the water, the boat shot toward the island.

Gale was feeling a little nervous. Brent Stockton had been so insistent that they bring no one to see him, that they should reveal his whereabouts to no one, that now she felt afraid he might be angry that she was bringing Stubby. Still it was important she argued with herself. He wanted his airplane in shape for the races and every day was precious.

She led the way up the beach to the cabin. There the pilot met them at the door. He greeted Stubby as an old friend and some of Gale’s fears were allayed. The two men talked long and earnestly but most of their conversation was so complicated and technical that Gale could not grasp the full significance of it. She waited patiently until they were finished so she might take Stubby back to the mainland in the boat.

“Then if everything isn’t all right by Saturday I will come over myself,” Brent said in conclusion.

“You are leaving the island?” Gale asked. Somehow the thought alarmed her.

“Perhaps,” Brent smiled. “I’m not sure yet. I don’t want to leave until the day of the races but I might have to.”

“Are you perfectly comfortable?” Gale asked eagerly. “Can I get you something?”

“You might bring some books for me the next time you come,” he said. “I don’t know what to do with myself all day long.”

“I’ll bring some over tonight,” Gale promised.

“There is no need for that,” he said. “Wait until tomorrow.”

But Gale did not want to wait. Immediately the boat nosed into the wharf, Stubby departed as silently and mysteriously as he had appeared in the Howard yard. Gale went home and into her room. Books overflowed a large bookcase against one wall and peeped from under the window seat. She chose four volumes she thought he would like and decided to find out his favorite authors and take more on the morrow.

She peeped into the living room before she went out again. Her mother was asleep. Gale smiled softly and closed the door behind her.

Brent Stockton accepted the books eagerly. It seemed she had brought just what he would like.

“Then you aren’t angry?” she asked when he was walking slowly, with the aid of an improvised cane, beside her to the boat. “You aren’t angry with me for bringing Stubby over?” she insisted, stopping and looking up at him, young and slight in the moonlight.

“Angry?” His free hand fell lightly upon her shoulder. “My dear child, I couldn’t be angry with you.” Suddenly he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the forehead. “Now run along home, youngster!”

Gale tried to say something but words stuck in her throat. Silently she climbed into Bruce’s boat. Her hand shook as she snapped the motor on. All the way across the bay she seemed wrapped in a vague, glorious dream.

Later as she buried her hot cheeks in her cool pillows and tried to stop thinking about Brent Stockton she could feel a thrill run all through her. She had not been like the other girls, Carol and Janet. She had never had a—as they called it—crush on any boy before. She admitted to herself, but to no one else, that she thought Brent Stockton was pretty grand. He was everything the other boys she knew were not.

Chapter VI

At the wharf the next afternoon she found Stubby awaiting her.

“Have to take me to the island,” he said without preliminary. “Brent must come to the airport!”

“Can’t you manage the plane without him?” Gale asked.

“No. Something is wrong. I can’t get the motor to hum right. Brent is the only one who knows enough about it.”

“But he said he didn’t want to go to the airport until the day of the races,” Gale said petulantly.

“If he doesn’t come now his plane won’t be in the races,” Stubby declared bluntly.

Gale sighed and stepped into Bruce’s boat. Stubby was a silent passenger all the way to the island.

Brent was not pleased at the news Stubby brought him. Finally he sighed and admitted it would be best if he did go to the airport to supervise personally the installation of the new motor.

“But not until tonight,” Brent said. “After dark perhaps Miss Howard will motor me across the bay. I’ll come then.”

“Of course I will,” Gale said. “If you are going to stay in Marchton you can live at my house, too,” she said breathlessly. “I already suggested it to my mother and she would like it too. You have no place else to go, please say you’ll come,” she pleaded.

“I’ll talk to your parents first,” he said.

As soon as it was dark that night Gale motored across the bay and returned with Brent Stockton for dinner at the Howard home. Later, when he declared his intention of going to the airport, Gale pleaded to go along. They were just leaving the yard when Bruce appeared.

“Hullo,” he said in surprise at the sight of Brent. “Where did you come from? I thought you were still on the Island?”

“No. I’m needed at the airport and I’m staying at Miss Howard’s home while I am in Marchton.”

“Going to the airport now?” Bruce asked. “May I come along?”

The three of them walked to the corner bus stop. The bus took them to within a square of the airport. The buildings, three in all, were dark, shrouded in black silence. A knock at the small door at the side of the private hangar where Brent stored his planes brought a crack which widened into a yawning black hole when Brent was recognized. The three of them stepped within and immediately the door was closed behind them.

Gale felt nervous. The mystery made her apprehensive. In the darkness she caught at a friendly hand. When a dim light flashed on she hastily disengaged her hand from Brent Stockton’s grasp, blushing furiously at the thought of what he must be imagining. She had no idea it had been his hand she was holding on to.

“Why all the secrecy?” Bruce demanded of Stubby who had opened the door.

“We’ve had other visitors tonight,” Stubby replied. “Not very welcome ones either.”

“Has someone been here again?” Brent Stockton demanded.

Stubby nodded. “The same one who tried to get the plans from this young fella.” He indicated Bruce and led the way past a huge nondescript shape, which Gale supposed to be the plane, but in the darkness could not discern clearly, into a small office. There he lounged against the wall while Brent eased himself into the chair before an untidy desk and Gale and Bruce sat on the radiator by the window.

“What did he do?” Brent asked; his voice was low, strained with anxiety. “Did he get to the motor at all?”

“That he did not!” Stubby said, bristling with indignation. “It’s my job to protect it and I did!”

“But what did he do?” Bruce pursued.

“Well, it was this way,” Stubby said, “along about seven o’clock I heard a funny scratching sound. I put out the light and went out to the door. He was fooling with the lock, trying to get in. I slipped back the bolt and jerked the door open, meaning to catch him. He ran, that’s all.”

Bruce and Brent were talking with Stubby about the strange man while Gale, her attention wandering, looked out the window. The moonlight illuminated the field as brightly as any searchlight. Suddenly she stiffened to attention. A skulking figure had just straightened up from the corner of the hangar. This hangar and office were built together much like the letter L, the office sticking out like the foot of the letter. From her position at the window Gale could clearly see the whole one side of the hangar. Now, watching the man in the shadows, her eyes fell to the white bit of something which he had left lying on the ground. Running swiftly the man disappeared off the left side of the field in the direction of the highway.

Gale, her actions unnoticed by the other three who were deep in conversation over a set of blue prints, slipped out the door into the blackness of the hangar. She stumbled over tools and walked into ropes as she found her way to the door. It took but a moment to slip back the bolt and step out into the moonlight.

Swiftly she ran to the corner of the hangar and picked up the white bundle she had seen. It was something hard wrapped in newspaper. She turned and took it back to the office, puzzling over the contents. Probably Brent would know what it was. Perhaps he had even instructed the man to leave it there. But it was strange, she told herself, the man had seemed so mysterious.

“I’m just hunting for trouble!” she scolded herself as she rebolted the hangar door behind her.

“What is that?” Bruce asked when she appeared.

She laid the package down on the desk in front of Brent. “I saw a man leave it by the corner of the hangar,” she replied.

Brent unrolled the newspaper and they all gasped.

“Yeow!” Bruce yelled. “It’s a bomb!”

Stubby grabbed the bomb and departed on a run, the others behind him. As fast as his short legs could carry him Stubby ran out along the edge of the flying field to where, at the end, a thick group of trees bordered the smooth landing space. When he thought he was a safe distance away from the hangar he deposited the bomb very gently on the ground and bolted back to the others. Silently, standing in the shadow of the hangar, the four of them watched and waited.

At last with a loud roar a shower of dirt rose high into the air.

“We might have been going up too if it hadn’t been for Gale,” Bruce said appreciatively.

Brent said nothing, he merely watched until the last film of earth had settled down into the hole where Stubby had placed the bomb.

Silently the four went back into the hangar. Brent pressed a switch and the whole hangar was flooded with light.

Gale and Bruce saw two low winged monoplanes standing side by side. On one the motor stood revealed, signs of Stubby’s work upon it still evident. Brent limped to the latter plane, a black and silver work of art, and laboriously climbed up to look at the motor.

“Has the other one got your motor, too?” Bruce asked, indicating the yellow plane standing to one side.

“No. I use that one to run about in while I work on this. I used to experiment with the one I cracked up, too,” Brent said.

“With all these things happening aren’t you afraid to put everything into that one motor?” Bruce pursued.

“What do you mean?” Brent turned to look down at him.

“Well, if the race means so much you should have a—duplicate of that motor,” Bruce said. “I’d put one in that plane, too, so if someone throws a monkey wrench into the works in that motor you still can fly with the other one.”

“It would take too long to perfect another one now,” Brent said.

“The one you cracked up had the new motor, didn’t it?” Gale asked.

Brent looked at her. “It did,” he agreed slowly, “and it wouldn’t take as long to repair that one as to construct a new one.”

“Could you install it in the yellow plane?” Bruce asked.

“We could do that,” Stubby said eagerly. “It’s a good idea, boss.”

“But how would you get it to the airport from the island?” Gale wanted to know.

They considered this thoughtfully; finally Bruce had a suggestion.

“David’s father has a light truck we could borrow to bring it from the wharf here,” he said. “And we could bring it across the bay by towing it with my boat. We could put the motor on a raft or something.”

“Let’s go,” Stubby said impatiently. “We ought to start on it at once.”

“But someone has to stay here,” Brent said slowly. “I think I had better. I wouldn’t be much help traveling back and forth with this lame ankle. Could you,” he asked Bruce, “get the other boys to help you?”

“Sure,” Bruce said at once. “We will go now. It won’t take so very long.”

“I’ll stay here and wait for you,” Gale proposed.

“Don’t you think you had better go home? Your parents will worry,” Brent Stockton said.

“They know where I am,” Gale said. “Besides, I want to wait and it isn’t late.”

Brent and Gale stood at the door of the hangar and watched until Bruce and Stubby had disappeared toward the highway where they were to take the bus back to town. When there was nothing in sight and not a sound to disturb the stillness the young man and the girl continued to stand there. The moonlight was like a path of silver straight down the runway of the landing field.

“When are you going to test your plane?” Gale asked, watching the slow circle made by the searchlight on top of another hangar.

“In a day or so,” the pilot answered.

“Take me up with you?” Gale asked shyly. “I’ve never been up in a plane.”

“It is thrilling,” Brent said, smiling. “Certainly I’ll take you up. The day before the race in the black and silver plane,” he added.

Gale felt immediately marvelously happy. To sail through the clouds like a bird—and with Brent Stockton! Gale leaned against the hangar and sighed. Dreamily she closed her eyes. It was a heavenly night. The cool wind stirred a wisp of curly hair against her cheek. The wooliness of her sports coat felt warm. Gone was all thought of school troubles. Gone even was the remembrance of the narrow escape they had all had from the consequences of the bomb.

But suddenly, quite suddenly, she was afraid. Of what she knew not. Nothing had happened. The moonlight was just as bright, the breeze just as cool and faintly scented. The searchlight still made its steady white circle. The stars shone with the same shimmering brightness. It was something intangible. It was as though, somehow, she had suddenly had a glimpse into the near future. A glimpse of something stark and tragic that was to happen.

Brent Stockton sensed rather than saw the quiver that ran through the girl. He looked down at her. Her head was on a level with his shoulder, her hands were deep in her pockets. Her eyes were fixed out across the landing field, her lips quivering.

“What is it?” he asked anxiously.

“I—I don’t know,” she managed to whisper faintly. “I have the strangest feeling that something is going to happen—something dreadful!”

“You are cold,” he said, a comforting arm instantly about her shoulders to quiet her trembling. “Come inside.”

She shook her head, leaning against him, grateful for his nearness and his understanding.

“No—it is something else. I know something is going to happen. I can feel it!” She turned dark eyes to him. “What can it be?” she whispered fearfully.

“There is nothing going to happen to you,” he said smiling. “Do not be afraid.”

“I’m not afraid for myself,” she said slowly, “but you—if anything should happen to you——” In confusion, she bowed her head on his shoulder and a sob escaped her.

His eyes were wide with amazement as he awkwardly patted her shoulder. A tender smile flitted across his face. He had never for one moment supposed that she—— How in the world should he deal with the situation?

“Gale,” he spoke gently, slowly, “have you ever been in love?” He felt her stiffen instantly and her head came up with a jerk.

“Why—what do you mean?” she asked faintly.

“Sit down,” he invited. Two boxes stood against the hangar wall and he seated himself beside her. “I am speaking this way because I don’t want you to make a mistake. Have you ever,” he spoke lightly, almost gayly, but Gale could grasp their hidden meaning, “have you ever thought about what the French call—ze grande passion?”

“Y-Yes, some,” Gale admitted.

“Will you tell me what you think it is—love, I mean?” he asked softly.

“Well,” she said with difficulty, “it is probably the biggest thing in our lives, isn’t it? I mean—did you ever read Elizabeth Browning? She says—‘I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life!’ I always thought—maybe—I should love someone like that some day.” Gale was so thankful for the darkness here against the hangar. He couldn’t see how her cheeks were burning. Never, never, had she thought she would ever talk to anyone like this!

Brent Stockton thoughtfully brushed an imaginary bit of dust from his jacket sleeve. “You are right,” he said. “You should love someone like that. You are young and—quite lovely.” He grinned down at her. “There will be a great many boys in love with you, Gale.”

Gale felt herself blushing more furiously than ever. How could he talk like that? She laughed lightly.

“Positively,” he insisted. “But you are still in school. You want to make something of yourself. Remember that! You don’t want love until you are ready for it. You want to finish growing up first. You will find it worth while in the end.” He laughed. “I sound like Old Man Experience himself, but I can’t quite see how to make you understand.”

Gale was fast regaining her composure. “I believe,” she said forcing a laugh, “that you are in a very good-natured way warning me not to fall in love with you and not to mistake a silly school-girl crush for the real thing.”

He cleared his throat in embarrassment. “Ah, now you have taken offense. I’m sorry, Gale—I only meant the best, to make you——”

Gale stood up, pulling her coat closer about her. “I don’t think I shall wait for Bruce after all. I shall go home.”

“I will take you,” Brent said immediately.

“No, please! I’d rather you didn’t.” Her words rumbled out in a rush and she turned away to the road.

“Gale,” he called after her. “Wait!” He held out his hand and she put hers into it reluctantly. “You are sweet, Gale. We’re always friends, remember!”

“Good night,” she said thickly. When she walked to the bus stop there were tears in her eyes, tears of anger and self-reproach. How could she ever face him again? She had practically thrown herself at him! And the way he had talked to her——

In the darkness she stopped to wipe away a surreptitious tear and instantly came to attention. She had not yet quite reached the road. Here there were heavy trees on each side of her. From the trees on her right came the sound of voices, low, sinister voices. She recognized one of the voices as that of the man who had almost taken the plans from Bruce that night at the old spring house!

Chapter VII

Gale stepped silently behind a tree and listened. Her heart was thumping heavily. It sounded like thunder in her own ears. The voices were mere whispers now; only occasionally could she catch the words uttered. She puzzled over the snatches of conversation that drifted back to her.

“Alone—motor in the black plane—so he won’t be able to fly Saturday—now is our chance—worth five thousand to us.” Here there was a lengthy pause before Gale heard: “Let’s go!”

The last sent her sprinting back the way she had come at top speed. Only partly did she understand, but this much was clear: The two men, she supposed there were only two of them, had discovered that Brent was alone at the hangar. They were going back there to do something—anything to keep him from flying in the races on Saturday. She remembered the night when she and Bruce had agreed to take the plans to Stubby. Brent had told them then that there had been a bold attempt on his life once before. It seemed now there was to be another. She covered the distance to the hangar much more swiftly than she had left it. Sheer terror lent wings to her feet.

Brent was sitting outside the hangar where she had left him. He stood up slowly when she came into sight.

“Gale!” he said incredibly, “what is wrong? Has anything happened?”

Gaspingly she told him of the two men she had overheard. He drew her into the hangar while he thought quickly of what to do.

“You must get away,” she said.

“And leave my planes?” he demanded. “I won’t do it. But you must go—now!”

“Can’t you telephone for help?”

He snapped his fingers. “Of course, I forgot.” He drew her with him into the little office. He picked up the receiver and jiggled the hook.

“Hello—Hello—Central!” He slammed it down. “Wires must be cut.”

“Come,” he added a moment later, “you must get out of here.”

They went back to the hangar but discovered it was too late. Someone was tampering with the lock on the door. Brent made sure the inside bolt was secure and drew her back to the office. He crossed to the window.

“Out you go. Back to town for help.”

“Look!” Gale cried.

Even as she spoke a brick was hurled through the window, narrowly missing Brent, and the head and shoulders of a man appeared. He had a revolver in his hand and as he pointed it Brent whisked Gale back into the hangar and the office door shut behind him. He turned the key and hurried her across to the black and silver plane.

“Get in!” he commanded, boosting her up to the pilot’s seat. “Keep your head down!”

“But——” she began.

“Keep quiet!” he cautioned. “You stay here no matter what happens. They won’t see you.”

She said no more but snuggled down, her head just below the edge of the seat. But the blackness and silence was more terrifying than the real danger. Cautiously she raised her head. She wished she knew where Brent was. What was he doing? What were those men doing? The man at the door must have given up his work at the door for she could no longer hear the queer scratching noise.

Rapidly she made a calculation as to the time. Did Bruce and Stubby have enough time to get to the island and start back with the other motor? They had been gone quite a long time, but they had had a lot of work to do. She had no idea when they would be back.

“Brent!” she called in a cautious whisper.

“Here!” he answered at her side. He had been standing beside the plane but in the darkness she could not see him.

“Where are they?” she asked.

“In the office,” he replied.

“Are your plans in there?” she wanted to know.

“No. They are here in the plane.”

“Couldn’t we make a dash for it out the hangar door if they are in the office?”

“We could,” he said significantly, “but we have no idea how many more are on the outside. We better sit tight and wait.”

“But the suspense is terrible,” she declared. “Do you suppose Bruce and Stubby are on their way back?”

“They are our only hope,” he said quietly. “Hush! Here they come! Head down and quiet!”

He stepped away from the plane into the blackness as a rending crash sent the office door flying open. For an instant two shadows were silhouetted against the light behind them and then they melted into the darkness of the hangar. But suddenly a round circle of light appeared and moved quickly over the planes and the hangar. One of the men had a searchlight. Quickly Gale ducked her head as the circle of light traveled over the black plane. Vainly she waited for the shout that must come when they discovered Brent. But the cry did not come. Only silence. Where could Brent be? What was he doing?

“He got away!” a voice said.

“But the black plane is here. That is all we really want anyway,” the other voice agreed.

Gale’s heart beat alarmingly. She was in the black plane! The men’s footsteps sounded on the cement floor. They were coming toward her plane. She gripped the sides of the cockpit and wondered if she should sit quietly or announce her presence with a scream. But there was no need for either. A sudden sound and clank of metal. One of the men groaned and fell to the floor. Brent with uncanny precision had thrown a monkey wrench at a point slightly above the circle of light from a flashlight. It had gone home to its mark. In an instant another spot of light had fastened on him and the intruder’s deadly revolver was aimed directly at Brent. But the pilot did not wait for the shot to come. He launched himself forward and both Brent and the man rolled on the floor.

Gale exposed herself now. How in the world could she keep hidden? She climbed over the side of the plane and dropped to the floor. She moved slowly, carefully toward the wall. If only she could find the light switch! The sounds of the two men on the floor sent nervous chills through her. They were thrashing about dangerously near to her when her fingers found the switch. Light disclosed the intruder astride Brent and pounding away viciously with his fists but Brent managed to throw him off. At the same time the other man showed signs of life. Gale silently stepped behind him and picked up the revolver he had dropped. As the man gripped the monkey wrench which had hit him and advanced on Brent, Gale cried:

“No you don’t. Stand still!”

The man halted in surprise.

“Brent——” Gale called. “I have this one’s gun. I——”

The sound of a motor outside! Voices! Help at last! There was a heavy tattoo on the door and Bruce’s voice.

“Gale—Mr. Stockton!”

Cautiously Gale backed to the door to unlock it as Brent hauled his victim to a standing position by a heavy hand on the man’s collar.

“Open the door, Gale, then we will see what this is all about.”

But the second that Gale relaxed her attention from the man before her to unlock the door was their undoing. The door opened and at the same time the two intruders made a simultaneous dash for the open. The ones outside were too taken aback with surprise to stop them, and by the time Brent and Gale had called a warning the men were dashing toward the road, Bruce and David in hot pursuit. But it was no use. The moment’s start was all the men needed.

“Talk about excitement——” Gale sighed when Bruce and David had returned. “I’ve had all I want for one night.”

“I’ll take you home,” Bruce said immediately.

“I am going to sleep here tonight,” Brent said. “I shall stay here until after the races. Good night, Gale.”

Gale went off with Bruce and on their journey home told him of all that had happened that night at the hangar—that is, all but her talk with Brent. That was for no one but herself!

Chapter VIII

Brent Stockton’s enemies, after that one last attempt, seemed to fade into obscurity. Work on the two planes went forward rapidly. If nothing else happened to deter them the planes would be ready in ample time for the races. Bruce and Gale were frequent visitors at the airport as were all the Adventure Girls. The secrecy which, despite their presence, still surrounded the planes intrigued them. Then, too, there was always the hope of more excitement.

As the day for the races neared more planes began landing on the Marchton field. Pilots from all over the country brought their entries.

“It’s going to be the most exciting thing that ever happened in Marchton,” declared Janet.

“And I wouldn’t miss it for anything!” Madge echoed. “Do you suppose there will be many entries in the parachute jump?”

A special woman’s amateur parachute jumping contest was announced by a big yellow flag which blew in the breeze above the main hangar.

“Well, here is one who isn’t going into it,” Valerie declared vigorously and the rest laughed.

Gale was standing with Bruce while Brent warmed the engine of his Silver Arrow, the black and silver plane.

“Don’t forget you promised to take me up,” she called.

He nodded. “Going to fly your father to Quebec tonight. Perhaps we can take you along.”

Gale shivered in gleeful anticipation. That would be better than a ride merely circling the field.

“Do you think it is wise to go up with him in that?” Bruce murmured as he walked beside Gale back to town.

The fall day was sunshiny and cool and they had decided on the walk to rouse a good appetite for dinner.

“Why not?” Gale asked suspiciously.

“Well, you don’t know whether the motor is perfect or not,” he said. “Suppose something went wrong. You might crash.”

“Oh, don’t be such a Weary Willie!” Gale said impatiently. “Brent is one of the best pilots there is. Didn’t he fly that anti-toxin up to Alaska to those Eskimos last year and save hundreds of lives? If he could do that he can take us to Quebec tonight. He can handle his plane perfectly. Besides, he has already tested it.”

“The race is tomorrow. You might not be back in time,” Bruce added.

“Oh, yes, we will!” Gale said. “Nothing could make Brent miss that and you know it.”

“Just the same——” Bruce said uncomfortably.

They waited until the cloud of dust raised by a passing motor vehicle had died down before they resumed their walk.

“You see a lot of Brent, don’t you?” Bruce mused. “He takes you to the movies, out here at the airport——”

“Well?” Gale said with ominous quiet in her voice.

“It seems funny,” Bruce continued. “And another thing—you are neglecting your studies. If you aren’t careful you won’t pass the college exams and then where will you be?”

Gale whirled on him suddenly. Her eyes were dark with fury, her cheeks blazed with color.

“If I flunk it will be my fault and nobody else’s,” she declared angrily. “You don’t have to lecture to me about it either. I’ll do as I please—go where I please and with whom I please!”

Bruce merely looked at her when she whirled and set off down the road alone.

Gale was in a temper. Bruce had added the final touch to a smouldering conflagration. He was not the first one to remark on how she was neglecting her studies, but his words had burst the dam of resentment that had been welling up within her. She was angry that he should try to tell her what to do. His patronizing tone had set her aflame with self-justification. She tramped along, her eyes stormy, looking neither to the right nor left. When Bruce stepped quietly into pace beside her she did not look at him.

Gradually her temper abated somewhat. She could hear a few remaining birds singing in the fields to her right. Birds preparing to fly south before the long months of winter. The last rays of the afternoon sun were warm. She stole a cautious look at Bruce. He was watching the clouds overhead. Clouds like giant white sailboats on an ocean of azure blue. She frowned but this time not at him, at herself. After all she needn’t have snapped at him the way she did. He was only trying to give her some good advice.

“Bruce——” she began slowly.

He smiled at her. “I know,” he said, “forget it.”

The rest of the walk to her home was covered in complete harmony.

After dinner Gale drove with her father out to the airport. The Silver Arrow was standing in the white light of the field. The searchlight circled slowly. Numerous planes stood near the shelter of the hangars.

Mr. Howard had to interview a witness for a court case he was presenting. It was important that he do it as soon as possible and when Brent had volunteered to fly him to Quebec Mr. Howard accepted gladly. At first he had refused to consider taking Gale along but his daughter had finally coaxed permission from him.

Gleefully Gale climbed into the cockpit and squeezed into a tiny corner while her father took his place beside her. Up ahead Brent manipulated the controls. Stubby was at the propeller.


The call was borne back to Gale on the wind. The propeller spun around. Slowly the plane taxied across the field, rising gently in the face of the wind. Once Brent circled the field, the bright lights, people and planes below them like a miniature city, then he streaked away into the north.

Stubby watched until the bright searchlight could no longer trace them. The blackness of the plane had melted into the blackness of the sky. The mechanic smiled contentedly and made his way to Brent’s private hangar to stand guard over the yellow ship. His boss’ plane had responded to every lightest suggestion of the controls. If everything went as well tomorrow as it had gone in the tests during the last few days there could be no doubt that Brent would win the races and probably sell his patent to the government. So Stubby mused on while he sat in the cockpit of the yellow plane and waited for the return of the Silver Arrow.

Chapter IX

“He flies through the air with the greatest of ease,” sang Carol lustily as she and her friends watched the take-off of a stunt pilot.

Phyllis sat on the running board of David’s car and looked around.

“But I don’t see anything of Gale or Brent Stockton,” she observed.

“They must be here somewhere,” Valerie declared. “Where’s Bruce?”

“In the hangar probably,” Janet answered. “There is what’s his name—Stubby.”

“Hi, there,” David called. “Where is Mr. Stockton?”

Stubby approached them, a worried frown on his face.

“You don’t look very happy. Has someone smashed the Silver Arrow?” Peter Arnold inquired.

“The plane is all right, I hope,” Stubby said gloomily.

“You hope!” the others echoed.

“Brent hasn’t brought it back yet,” Stubby informed them. “He went off last night with Miss Howard and her father and hasn’t come back yet.”

“But it is almost time for the races,” Valerie breathed. “Where are they?”

Stubby shook his head. “I wish I knew.”

“Will you fly the yellow plane if he doesn’t come back?” Peter asked anxiously.

“Can you fly it, Stubby?” David put in.

Stubby regarded him seriously. “I can fly it—license and everything, but it is Brent’s ship and his motor.”

“But he would want you to take his place if he couldn’t be here,” David assured him. “Come along, we’ll help you roll the ship out onto the field—just in case Brent doesn’t get back in time.”

The boys and Stubby walked to the hangar while the girls moved leisurely out to the field where a crowd had already gathered about the planes that would in a little while be vying with one another in the clouds.

“I’m going over to see the other plane Stubby is going to fly,” Phyllis said after a while and departed.

A few minutes later Janet slipped away from Carol, Madge and Valerie. The three girls were at first unaware of her absence but even when they discovered it they thought nothing of it. Janet often wandered away by herself—in search of something else to hold her interest. They supposed she had gone after Phyllis.

Over in the central hangar a huge passenger plane was slowly being wheeled out into the open. It was the plane that was to take the women parachute jumpers up the required number of feet. From there they would jump out and the first one on the ground receive a cash prize. The entrants were slipping into the white, jumper-like suits and parachutes provided by the airport.

Janet, her parachute bumping her legs as she walked from the hangar into the sunlight, bumped ignominiously into another girl similarly struggling with her equipment.

“Having——” Janet began and stopped to emit a shout of surprise. “Phyllis! What are you doing in that parachute?”

“I might ask the same thing of you,” Phyllis laughed. “How come?”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Janet said, slipping her arm within her friend’s as they walked to the waiting plane. “It has always been a suppressed desire of mine to jump out of an airplane.” She grinned engagingly at Phyllis. Secretly she was glad of her friend’s presence. It lent her support in the last minutes when she felt her courage weakening. “Do you suppose they will give us a new parachute if this one doesn’t work?”

Phyllis laughed. “If this one doesn’t work you won’t need another one! Come along, we have to get in.”

They let most of the other jumpers precede them, getting into the plane. Just before Janet disappeared within she looked out over the crowd. Squarely she caught Valerie’s eye and waved to the girls. She could see the amazement plainly written on their features.

“Are they surprised,” she laughed nervously to Phyllis. “I’ll bet they never suspected us of doing this!”

When the door to the plane was closed and the pilot was sending the plane skimming across the ground Janet began to get a reversion of feelings. It had seemed a great idea when she thought of it—this parachute jump. It had been a new and frightfully brave adventure. But now that the jump was only minutes away she began to wish she was with her friends down on the ground looking up.

She looked at Phyllis who was interestedly peering at the ground below. Phyllis, too, seemed a little paler than usual. Janet touched her friend’s hand. Phyllis’ fingers were like ice.

Janet swallowed with difficulty and placed her lips close to Phyllis’ ear. “I’m getting scared,” she acknowledged.

Phyllis agreed with a grin. She could sympathize with Janet most heartily for if she felt as shaky as Phyllis herself did——

The pilot raised his hand, the signal to his assistant to open the door to the plane. Phyllis pushed Janet into place in the line of jumpers. They had received their instructions on the ground and now anxiously reviewed them in their minds.

Janet came to the edge and looked out. She shut her eyes and held her breath. The ground was so awf’ly far away, but there were others behind her. She couldn’t stop now. Holding firmly to all the courage she possessed Janet stepped off into space.

Phyllis was next. As her friend disappeared she stepped quickly to take Janet’s place. She knew if she hesitated she was lost, so immediately stepped out into the clouds. But she had been too soon. She yanked on the ring of her parachute, and the white folds streamed out behind her.

Phyllis, in her fall, a good distance before she pulled the ripcord, had caught up with Janet and now her parachute became tangled in the folds of her friend’s. The strings wound around each other as each girl tried vainly to pull her respective silken umbrella loose.

“I’ll bet that is Phyllis and Janet,” Madge said nervously. She could not see the identity of the girls up above the spectators, but something told her that fatality hovered over her friends.

“Something like that would happen to them,” Carol agreed with a sigh. “Oh, why don’t they do something!”

Phyllis and Janet were tugging frantically at the strings above them. Finally, when they had about decided there was nothing for them to do but prepare to land with hope for as little injury as possible, Phyllis’ parachute came free and straightened out with a jerk. Thereafter they floated down to the ground easily, with the lightness of birds.

Phyllis braced her legs to meet the ground rushing up at her. In another minute she was flat on her back and the parachute covering her like a giant blanket. Friendly hands came to her rescue and soon she was upright, stepping from the harness of the parachute.

“All right, Janet?” Phyllis called anxiously, running to where her friend’s parachute covered a squirming, wriggling figure.

“I’ll be all right if somebody will take this thing off me,” Janet cried fretfully. “Never,” she declared solemnly as she trudged along beside Phyllis back to the hangar where they divested themselves of their suits, “never will I try that again. Never!”

“Wasn’t it thrilling?” Phyllis asked eagerly. “I was never so thrilled in my whole life!”

“I don’t care to experience it again,” Janet said flatly. “When I stepped from the plane out into nothing and went tumbling down toward the ground——I hope I haven’t shortened my life by ten years,” she added.

“Of all the crazy stunts!” Carol greeted them when they were all together again.

“I know, I know,” Janet said with a wave of the hand, “you don’t have to say a word.”

“Whatever possessed you to do it?” Madge demanded.

“I wondered that myself when I was up there,” Janet murmured. “Just suppose the parachute hadn’t opened!”

“A fine time to think of that!” Carol laughed. “You didn’t really think you would get the prize, did you?”

“Well, I considered it,” Janet said diffidently. “By the way, who did get it?”

It seemed none of the girls knew and the interest in the award died out when Stubby appeared with the information that neither Brent Stockton nor Gale had yet returned.

“I never thought Gale would miss all this,” Valerie declared.

“Nor Mr. Stockton,” added Phyllis. “I wonder where they are.”

“Maybe they eloped,” Carol said brightly hopeful.

“Do you really think so?” Janet asked eagerly.

“Of course they didn’t!” Phyllis said shortly. She turned to Stubby. “What are you going to do about the race? It must be something terribly important to keep Mr. Stockton away when this is so important to him.”

Stubby squinted up at the sun, then at the other planes already warming up on the field. He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his greasy overalls.

“I s’pose I’ll have to fly her,” he said slowly.

“Here it comes,” Janet cried.

Bruce, David and Peter with the help of two other mechanics were bringing the yellow plane from the hangar out onto the field. The yellow plane gleamed in the sun like a canary waiting to take wing. Stubby stroked the nickel propeller with almost loving fingers.

“Warm her up, Stubby!” Bruce urged.

Stubby disappeared within the hangar and reappeared with helmet and goggles. He climbed into the cockpit. Bruce turned the propeller as he had learned to do for Brent. The engine broke into a roar, the propeller was a silver streak. The wind sent up a cloud of dust as the ship swung about and slowly taxied to the starting line where the other planes were all ready and waiting.

“Good luck!” Bruce called, but it is doubtful if Stubby heard him even though he waved to the group.

The planes were off in a burst of noise and wind. Touching the ground ever more lightly they ran the length of the field before rising into the air on the first lap of the race. Around and around they went the length of the field, circling the specially erected towers, soaring over the heads of the people.

The Adventure Girls and the three boys watched with bated breath. Stubby had taken the lead easily enough after the take-off, but now a red, streamlined plane with a mighty engine and a determined pilot was closing the distance between them. Once Brent’s engine sputtered fitfully, but resumed a smooth evenness after a moment.

“Stubby can’t handle it like Brent can,” Bruce sighed. “Brent would win easily enough.”

No one else said anything. They merely watched, not taking their eyes for a minute from those man-made birds speeding beneath the clouds. Only once did their interest and excitement turn into genuine concern. A black plane suddenly disclosed a spurt of smoke and flame from the motor. The pilot without more ado set his ship down on the ground, unhurt, but definitely out of the race. The other flyers had not even slackened their pace. Such bits of hard luck were common to those in the flying business.

“Stubby is getting the feel of it now,” David said confidently as slowly and surely the yellow plane resumed the lead of the field.

No more did Stubby allow the red monoplane to creep up into a challenging position. He was sure of his plane now. The yellow ship was not to be outdone. It streaked away a good half lap in the lead when the checkered flag brought the close of the contest.

Stubby silently received the congratulations accorded the winner. The motor had proved to stand the test. The plane had come through and defeated all Brent’s enemies. Brent would probably sell his plans to the government. His plane had won—but where was Brent?

Chapter X

Quebec was a fascinating city to Gale. The old churches and streets, the people, friendly and smiling, all charmed her. She walked beside Brent, feeling as happy as she had ever felt in her life. It had been such a marvelous trip up to Quebec, and they had made it in such a marvelously short time. They were to have a late supper with Mr. Howard before they were to start back to Marchton, late the same night.

Gale regretted leaving this intriguing city so soon after her arrival, but tomorrow’s air races would be thrilling, too. She mentioned this to Brent and saw his eyes gleam in anticipation at the thought of his plane a possible winner.

The two young people stopped in a little shop for postcards and souvenirs and lingered too long. When they emerged onto the street again and Brent disclosed his wrist watch they were amazed at the time. Immediately they hurried to the little restaurant where they were to meet Gale’s father.

There they found he could not go back to Marchton with them that night. He had already made arrangements to stay at a hotel until the next day for a further talk with the man he had come to see.

“May I stay too?” Gale asked eagerly.

But her father refused, as she had expected him to do. She was to fly back with Brent as had been planned. Mr. Howard accompanied them to the plane.

Gale had asked Brent to circle over the city and fly over a little more of Canada before setting his course southward. Now as the plane streaked over the ground and rose into the blackness of the clouds Gale watched with interest the scene below her. Lights flickered on and off. She noticed the stars overhead had disappeared. The moon was hidden behind clouds and the air was much colder. Gale huddled down in the cockpit and was thankful for her woolly coat, but she could have stood even more.

It was while the plane was flying toward the north, away from Quebec, Brent trying to satisfy Gale’s longing to see more of Canada even at night, that the storm struck them. Brent, before he took off, had felt a little consternation about the unnatural darkness of the sky and the hint of storm in the air, but he had felt confident of his plane to ride it out. However, he had not counted on such uncontrollable fury or the suddenness with which the storm was upon them. One moment they had been flying calmly and the next they were in a sea of trouble, being tossed about like a toy balloon. The motor turned rhythmically. Brent felt sure they would come through the storm all right, but just the same he wished Gale was either with her father or safe at home.

Idly he looked at the instruments on the board. His light revealed an alarming fact. The gas needle was dangerously near to the empty point. Was the instrument broken or was the tank really that near empty? He tapped the glass on the indicator but the needle did not vary.

Suddenly the plane lurched heavily and turned over and over, going into a spin. A down current of air had caught him unaware and for a few moments the earth rushed up to meet them with terrific speed. Gale wondered frantically what was the matter, but soon Brent straightened out and the nose of the ship pointed gently upward. He would try to get above the storm before heading south. If the storm was all along the coast he preferred to keep away from that direction, no sense in being swept out to sea!

Gale, in the rear cockpit, could have no inkling of the turmoil that was going on in Brent’s mind. She was nervously clinging to the edge of the seat, wiping the rain from her face, and endeavoring at the same time to get a glimpse of the ground below them. The lights, now, were gone from sight. No more did they twinkle on and off like stars. She looked above and around her. Even the heavens were black—no friendly star or moon. She wished for one second that she had insisted on staying with her father in Quebec or rather still that she had never come to Canada at all! But then she reconsidered. It had been no end of fun flying up with her father and Brent. And it was thrilling to be flying back alone with Brent. She had not had much chance for private conversation with him ever since that night at the airport. She still felt embarrassed when she thought of it. But he had been so nice and she had had quite a crush on him! In fact, she admitted to herself reluctantly, she still had and he was still nice! The very next day when she had gone with Phyllis to the airport to talk over the previous excitement he had acted as though they had never said a word. But she had not been able to pass it by so easily. Mortification enveloped her every time she thought of it.

She noticed with alarm, now, that the motor had stopped. They were gliding in a gentle spiral toward the ground. She strained her eyes through the darkness, trying to see ahead to Brent.

The pilot was bent anxiously over his instruments. His first fear was realized. The gas tank was empty. The man at the field where they had landed had not filled it for the return trip. Brent blamed himself for not determining before they ever took off whether there was enough gas to take them back to Marchton. Now what would happen?

His question was soon answered. They hit another air current in the midst of the storm. This time the plane could not pull out of the spin into which it had fallen. Over and over they turned. Parachutes, if they had had them, would have been of no avail in the fury of the elements.

Gale braced her feet and held securely to both sides of the cockpit. She shut her eyes and waited breathlessly.

Up ahead Brent was working frantically to bring the plane down in a glide, but it was no use. He looked over the side and wished he could see upon what they were going to crash.

The crash came with a loud splintering and rending of canvas and wood. Overhead the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled, but on the earth all was silent, except for the whistle of the wind and patter of the rain. The plane lay crushed like a bird brought low by a triumphant hunter. The wheels were sticking grotesquely up into the air, the tail mangled and the wings crumpled like paper.

For a long, long while, until the storm had almost wasted its fury, there was no stirring of life about the plane. At last a brown jacketed arm appeared and Brent slid from the front cockpit. He had landed on his face when he fell from the plane, and now with difficulty he got to his feet. Stumbling in the darkness he felt his way to the cockpit in the rear where Gale was.

The plane had crashed in a forest and now as Brent tried to extricate Gale from the wreckage of the plane he could not. The limb of a tree which had been torn off by the impact of the plane lay squarely across the fuselage, effectively pinning Gale in her seat. Vainly Brent pulled and tugged at the limb, but he could not move it. Queer pains were shooting through his shoulder and he felt strangely lightheaded.

Brent stepped back and leaned heavily against a tree while he tried to see through the darkness. He must get help! There was nothing else to do. He took a few steps away from the wreck and saw faintly in the distance the flickering of a light. He started toward it, determined to make as fast time as possible. The ground was muddy, and he could not see where he was going. Several times he stumbled into muddy holes and fell headlong over low lying logs.

Once when he thought he had come quite a distance he stopped. The light was gone. On each side of him was nothing but darkness. Undaunted, Brent spurred himself on. The thought of Gale behind him lent him fortitude. He didn’t know how many hours it was since they had crashed. He should have reached that light by this time. Unless—the thought gave him pause. Suppose it had been a car on a road in the distance. It might not have been a house after all! After a brief rest he continued on his way. Sooner or later he must come to civilization!

Chapter XI

At the corner bus-stop the yellow and green vehicle emitted eight young people who immediately scattered in different directions to their homes. Phyllis went off with David and Janet, while Carol went in the opposite direction with Madge and Peter Arnold. Valerie and Bruce walked slowly toward Gale’s house. It was their intention to see why she had not appeared at the airport and also to discover if she knew where Brent Stockton was.

As they stopped at the Howard gate they met Mr. Howard just arriving from the opposite direction.

“How was the air-meet?” were his first words.

“Marvelous!” Valerie declared.

“Did Mr. Stockton’s plane win the race?” he asked next as he latched the gate after the three of them.

“Yes,” Bruce said, “his plane won, but if Stubby hadn’t flown it, it wouldn’t have.”

“What was the matter with Brent?” Mr. Howard asked in surprise. “I thought he was to fly it himself?”

“He hasn’t been at the airport all day,” Bruce explained.

“But why not?” Mr. Howard wanted to know.

“That is what we want to find out,” Valerie put in. “He brought you back from Quebec last night, didn’t he?”

Mr. Howard frowned thoughtfully. “No, he didn’t. I came back today on the train. I’m just coming from the station now.”

“Then Gale is with you?” Bruce asked.

“No. She started back last night with Brent in his plane.”

“But where is she?” Valerie demanded. “I certainly thought she would be at the races today.”

“Haven’t you seen either her or Brent since the take-off yesterday?” Mr. Howard wanted to know in a worried voice.

The young people had to admit that they hadn’t.

“Gale is probably in the house somewhere,” Valerie said after a moment. “Something might have kept her home.”

“But Brent——” Bruce said uneasily.

The three of them went toward the house. The honeysuckle vine gave off a sweet, heavy scent in the late afternoon air. Bruce seated himself on the banister while Valerie sank down on the swing and idly rocked back and forth. Mr. Howard went immediately into the house. Valerie picked up a magazine and turned the pages while they waited. Bruce whistled in a low tone under his breath. It was quite a while before Mr. Howard reappeared. When he did his face wore an unusually grave expression.

“Where’s Gale?” Valerie asked immediately, sensing that something was wrong.

“I wish I knew,” Gale’s father replied heavily. “We’ll have to notify the authorities immediately.”

“What for?” Bruce interposed.

“To find them. Gale and Brent took off last night. They haven’t arrived back here. Something must have happened—a crash.”

“How terrible!” Valerie whispered in awe.

There was a short, charged silence. They could not readily grasp the fact of a crash—yet that must have been what happened. The races had meant so much to Brent and also to Gale that it must have been an accident that delayed them. There could be no other reason.

That day was but the first in the long days of anxiety and mystery. The rest of the afternoon was spent in setting in motion the wheels that would find the two who had vanished into the sky. Bruce stayed with Mr. Howard while Valerie went off to notify the other Adventure Girls of what they were afraid had happened.

It was at the Kopper Kettle, gathered as usual to spend an hour or so before dinner in talking, that Bruce found them with the news. The Adventure Girls with David and Peter were discussing Marchton’s chances in the next football game when Bruce appeared. Immediately all thought of sport was dispensed.

“Have you learned anything?” Valerie asked before Bruce had even time to seat himself among them.

“Yes,” he said slowly.

“What?” Phyllis asked anxiously.

“The plane is smashed—a complete wreck.”

“And Gale and Brent?” Carol put in.

“Brent is in a hospital nursing a fractured shoulder and a couple broken ribs,” Bruce replied.

“And Gale—what about her?” Janet insisted.

“That is what is so strange,” Bruce said slowly, reluctantly. “Gale has disappeared.”

“Disappeared!” the others echoed. “But how—where——”

“Mr. Howard talked to Brent on the telephone,” Bruce continued with his tale. “After the crash last night, when Brent could drag himself free of the wreckage, he started out to find help. He thought he saw a light in the distance and made for that. The sleet and snow was thick and fast. He couldn’t go very swiftly, the ground was uneven and it was pitch dark but he kept on going as best he could. He knew he must come to something eventually. He had left Gale pinned in her seat by the branch of a tree which was too heavy for him, hurt as he was, to move.”

Bruce paused and not a sound came from the others. They were hanging breathlessly onto his every word.

“At last he saw a house ahead of him. He hurried forward but all his knocking on the door brought no one. He turned away and went on. Later he came to another place. By now he was worn out completely. He could hardly stand. He could do no more than stumble up to the door. The last he recalls was leaning against the door and as it gave way, of falling into the dark room beyond.”

“Go on,” in a faint whisper Janet voiced the feelings of all of them.

“Well, the next thing he knew he was in the hospital. The people who lived in the house he had come to had taken him there. At once he sent out a party to the plane, but when they got there Gale was gone.”

“No wonder,” Carol said. “It must have been hours after he left that the rescue party arrived.”

Bruce nodded and was silent.

“And they don’t know where Gale is?” Phyllis declared, rather than asked.

“No,” Bruce continued. “It had snowed a lot after the wreck and all around the plane the snow was unbroken. No footsteps to show how she had gotten out or in what direction she had gone.”

“What are they going to do?” David wanted to know.

“Keep on looking for her I suppose,” Bruce sighed. “As soon as Brent can leave the hospital he says he is going to join the hunt.”

“He should,” Janet declared. “I wish I could. How long will it be before he gets out?”

“He says he is going to leave tomorrow. He insists the doctors can strap his ribs so he won’t hurt himself by walking around. Of course he won’t be able to fly because of his shoulder and all—but at least he will be up there at the scene of the crash.” Bruce’s voice told them there was nothing he would like better than to be there also.

When the young people broke up their gathering it was to go home subdued and quietly thoughtful, hoping every minute for some word of Gale’s safety. It had been arranged that the minute Bruce heard anything he was to telephone Valerie. Valerie would in turn phone Janet and so on. The word would be relayed from one to the other. But the telephones remained silent—all that night, the next day and many days after.

School went on as usual, and after school were the football games, basketball, or their meetings at the Kopper Kettle. But in all there was something missing and they knew it was the sunny presence of Gale. Gale had been one of the most popular girls in the school and expressions of sympathy came not only from the students but from the faculty as well.

On the third day of the unsuccessful search a plane with two passengers landed at the Marchton airport. Brent had had to secure another to pilot him and while Stubby made friends with the new pilot Brent went in to Marchton to Gale’s home. After a long talk with the girl’s parents he went to the Kopper Kettle to meet the other young people. They welcomed him eagerly, hopefully, but he could tell them nothing new.

Phyllis regarded the young aviator with thoughtful eyes. Brent was paler, he seemed taller too, now, with his right arm in a sling, his shoulder thick under bandages and his tweed coat, his eyes darkened with worry.

“You can find nothing,” she said again.

“Nothing,” he replied hopelessly. “The snow is so deep up there in some parts that we can’t get about very easily. There are lots of out of the way farms to which she might have wandered.”

“But surely the people would have notified the authorities,” Bruce put in.

“I suppose so,” Brent admitted.

“Besides,” added Janet, “how did she get out of the plane? If the branch that pinned her into the seat was too heavy for you to lift, certainly she couldn’t have.”

Brent shook his head. “I don’t know where she is, but I’ve got to find her. I blame myself for the whole mess.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Valerie said quickly and the others agreed with her. “You couldn’t tell the storm would come up or that you would run out of gasoline.”

“But I should never have left her in the plane!” Brent said restlessly.

“You had to get help,” Bruce said. “You thought you were doing the best thing. It was the only thing——”

“I know,” Brent said hastily, “but just the same——” he stood up. “I’ve got to get back to the airport. We are flying up again tonight, but I’ll be back in a day or two—to let you know how things are going.”

“Do you think I might be able to help up there?” Bruce asked eagerly.

Brent looked at him. “Honestly I don’t. There are hundreds of people looking for her—police, newspaper men and all. Everyone knows about Gale—it was in all the papers and broadcast on the radio. I don’t believe there are three people within a radius of hundreds of miles that haven’t seen her picture in the newspapers or heard about her. Sooner or later something will come to light.”

“Sooner or later,” Phyllis echoed drearily.

“You will tell us the minute you learn anything,” Valerie pleaded.

“Of course,” Brent said with an attempt to be cheerful. “And I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you. I’m positive Gale will turn up all right. Anyway, I’ll be down again in a few days. Meanwhile, perhaps you can think of something that might help in the search.”

Brent went off to the airport, with an attempt to leave a brightened atmosphere behind him, but his attempt had failed. The others were more mystified than ever about what had happened to their missing member.

“I’ve always liked to solve puzzles,” Carol declared, “but this has me stumped! What on earth could have become of her? If everyone has seen her picture in the papers as he says, why haven’t we heard something?”

“You know the old saying ‘No news is good news’ so maybe we should be glad we haven’t heard anything,” David put in.

“But the suspense is terrible,” Janet sighed. “I have to write a composition for English tomorrow—I think I will make it the ‘Dangers of Flying.’”

“Flying is no more dangerous than driving an automobile,” Peter put in scornfully. “Airplanes have saved hundreds of lives. Look at the time that aviator flew that serum to those Eskimos up north.”

“And the time last winter when airplanes dropped food to people stranded in their homes by blizzards and unable to drive miles to the nearest town for food,” from David.

“They are as safe as anything else nowadays,” declared Phyllis.

“Maybe so,” Janet said, unconvinced.

“You can have breakfast one morning in New York and the next in California,” added Valerie. “Think of it!”

“I’m thinking of it,” Janet said. “So what?”

“Look at the time saved,” pointed out Peter. “Suppose your life depended on reaching a certain point at a definite time. What would you do?”

“Fly,” Janet said, “and maybe I would get there and maybe I wouldn’t.”

“Did you read the piece in the newspaper the other day about a man who had flown thousands of miles, spent hundreds of hours in the air, and broke his neck by falling down the cellar stairs?” Bruce said. “I’m strong for airplanes.”

“He should never have gone down the cellar,” Janet smiled.

“The pilots of the airplanes are just like the old pioneers. They are exploring new worlds in the air,” contributed Phyllis. “People think they are crazy in trying flights to all corners of the world and stratosphere hops. People thought Columbus was crazy, too. Yet where would we be today if it wasn’t for him?”

“We would probably be living in a tepee and using war paint,” laughed Carol.

“Perhaps you better forget I said anything,” Janet interrupted. “I don’t think I’ll write my composition tomorrow.”

“Well,” Phyllis sighed and looked at her watch, “I’ve got to go home.”

Phyllis’ departure was the signal for the group to break up. As she walked slowly home to the forlorn house on the top of the hill Phyllis’ mind was busy with thoughts of Gale. She entered the house and started up the stairs to her customary retreat for studying before dinner when her Aunt’s voice halted her.

“Phyllis! Come here!”

Her heart heavy with misgivings Phyllis made her way reluctantly down the stairs again to the kitchen where her Aunt was. The tone of her Aunt’s voice had been angry and Phyllis was afraid there was another tirade against herself in the offing. Perpetually she lived in dread of her Aunt’s scoldings and punishments. She had done nothing wrong that she knew of, but quite often some little inoffensive act was the signal for her Aunt’s anger to flare up.

Now as she approached the kitchen door with slow and uneven steps she was afraid. Phyllis stopped on the threshold to watch her Aunt who was tying a bandage around the hand of Minnie, the woman who came in twice a week to help with the cooking and housework.

“Did you want me, Aunt Melba?”

“Of course I want you or I wouldn’t have called you. Don’t stand there! Minnie has burned her hand and all the preserving to be done! You’ve got to help.”

Phyllis opened her lips to tell her Aunt of the difficult history examination on the morrow, one which would require hours of study, but she swallowed the words and went forward. She would have to study tonight after her Aunt was in bed.

“Come, child! Make yourself useful. Rinse those jars.”

Phyllis moved like an automaton under her Aunt’s disapproving eyes.

“Has anything been heard about Gale Howard?” her Aunt asked after a while.

“No,” Phyllis said in a low voice, “she is still missing.”

“Hmph! Probably run off for some fun somewhere never thinking of the worry to her parents. She’s a wild one, that girl. I never liked——”

“She is a fine girl,” Phyllis interrupted hotly. Her Aunt never failed to rouse Phyllis’ resentment when she talked about her friends. “There isn’t a nicer girl in Marchton than Gale Howard. She is a friend of mine, too,” Phyllis finished proudly.

“I won’t have you associating with that crowd from the high school!” her Aunt said, coldly despotic. “I have told you time and time again. You shall not——”

“I shall too!” Phyllis said, for once in her young life openly defying her Aunt. “I shall see them whenever I can. You won’t let me have any friends! Even now you want to separate me from them by not sending me to Briarhurst because they are going there.”

“Phyllis! How dare you speak so? Go to your room!”

Without another word Phyllis whirled and marched from the kitchen. She mounted the stairs to her room and closed the door behind her. Only for an instant a smile hovered about her lips. There was more than one way of escaping from working in the hot kitchen. Not that she had deliberately, with such an intention, spoken so rashly to her Aunt! Her words had been forced from her. Now she was regretting them with all her heart, but she would not say she was sorry! She wasn’t sorry, and what she had said was true—every word! But it would make life so difficult for her. Her Aunt’s disapproval hung over the house like a dark cloud unnerving Phyllis more at every moment.

What her Aunt had said about Gale had made Phyllis angry. Gale was her best friend. They would have done anything for each other. More than ever now, when they did not know where Gale was, what had happened to her, or when they would see her again, Phyllis could not let anyone speak slightingly of her.

It was hard for Phyllis to remember how many hours she and Gale and Valerie and the other girls had spent together when now perhaps Gale was needing them and they didn’t even know it. She knelt by the window and listened to the cool late autumn air rustling the tree branches against the window pane.

After a while her thoughts returned to the present. She rose and took up her history book. Tomorrow’s examination would mean a lot to her marks and she must be ready for it. But with the worry of Gale, and her recent quarrel with her Aunt fresh in her mind, she found it difficult to concentrate on the book before her.

Chapter XII

Meanwhile in a little, crude French Canadian farmhouse a slight dark haired girl bent over her sewing while a roaring fire in the brick fireplace sent its welcome warmth out into the room.

To Antoinette Bouchard the winter was the best season of the year. She loved to sit warm and cozy in her brother’s house and listen to the wind sing in the chimney and watch the swirl of snow outside. This storm was the earliest she remembered. It was not yet deep winter, barely winter at all, but the snow was piled high against the house and this morning when François had shoveled a path from the door it had been up to his knees.

The rocking chair in which she had been swaying gently to and fro creaked suddenly and she looked up in alarm at the figure across the hearth. Her eyes took on a compassionate gleam, her lips curled in a smile, half admiration and half pity. When the other person did not stir, Antoinette resumed her gentle rocking, but her eyes were not now on her sewing and her work lay idle in her lap.

This other girl was not quite as old as she, Antoinette, and she was so pretty. The reddish brown hair lay in soft curls about the pale, still face. Her eyes were closed, but Antoinette could well remember the hurt, clouded expression of them when they had first looked into hers that morning. She could clearly remember the puzzled look on the girl’s face when she had asked her questions, questions that had remained unanswered.

It was last night François had brought the girl to their little house. She remembered clearly the tale he had told her of the wrecked airplane, the tree which he had moved to pull the girl from the wreckage, of carrying her the long, long distance through the snow to his home because he did not know where else to take her.

This morning she and François, when the girl had awakened from a sleep which had at first seemed to refresh her, had asked questions but she had been unable to tell them who she was. The little English that Antoinette knew had been exhausted in an attempt to discover the identity of the girl and from whence she had come.

The girl had been bewildered, frightened, and they hoped a quiet rest would restore her memory. All day it had been so. She had sat with closed eyes most of the time, but Antoinette guessed that her mind was struggling to remember the details of who she was and what had happened.

Antoinette sighed and returned to her sewing. This morning François, after he had cut some wood, was to start out on a trip back to the airplane. Perhaps there he could have discovered someone searching for the girl. But he was destined not to go. During his log splitting, the axe had fallen upon his foot, making a nasty wound that would leave him crippled for many days. There was nothing now to do but keep the girl here and try to help her restore the past that had suddenly been blotted from her mind.

Antoinette stole a glance at the young girl. She was amazed to see tears stealing down the soft cheeks. Immediately she dropped her sewing and fell upon her knees beside the other girl. She clasped her close and murmured soothing words.

Gale merely clung tightly to Antoinette while sobs shook her slender body. All day she had been thinking, thinking, trying to remember who and what she was. But it was no use. Her mind was a complete blank. A fog shrouded her memory and it would not lift. Not an inkling of the airplane crash did she remember, or her friends or parents back in Marchton. She knew only that this girl and her big brother were marvelously kind to her. The tenderness of Antoinette had its effect and slowly the sobs subsided, but Gale remained clasped in the little French girl’s arms for a long while afterward. Then Antoinette helped Gale to her feet and led her to the little bed in the other room that had been Antoinette’s for years. Later she went into the third and last room of the log building to sit with her brother.

“What are we to do, François?” she asked. “The girl is worried—she is afraid.”

François nodded in quiet agreement. “It is sad. So young, so lovely—perhaps in time she will remember.”

“We will keep her here, François?” Antoinette pleaded.

“You wish for a little sister?” her brother asked smilingly. “But of course she will remain here. Where else would she go when she does not remember anything? It would be cruel to send her away.” After a while he spoke again. “If I but had not hurt myself. I might have been able to learn something about her. In town they may know something.”

Antoinette shook her head. “The snow has blocked the roads. You could not get to the town. We must wait.”

“She is well otherwise?” François asked.

“Yes. It is only her mind that is affected. She is so quiet,” Antoinette said. “I know she is worried.”

François whistled in a low tone to a little bit of fluff curled up in the corner. The dog, a young collie, perked up his ears and trotted obediently over to his master. There he sat while the man stroked his fur.

“She is sweet,” Antoinette murmured dreamily.

“But we love Antoinette, eh Toto?”

The dog licked his master’s fingers in agreement while the girl laughed with pleasure. For years the two had lived here in this house built by François and his father. At first there had been the three of them but now there was but the girl and her brother. François earned enough money by his work in logging camps during certain months of the year to keep the little farm running smoothly. Toto was the very last addition to their mansion and he was the gayest of company for the girl when her brother was away.

In the other little room Gale sat up in the bed and stared out the small window at the snow. The ground was white in the moonlight, and unbroken save for the path from the door of the cabin. She clasped her knees in her arms and rested her chin on them. Her eyes were dark, like the waters of a bottomless pool. She didn’t cry any more. Her tears were all gone; instead had come a queer sort of fatality. She realized now that no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t remove that gray blanket from her thoughts. It was as if she had never known anything but this day, as if there had never been any yesterdays. She knew nothing beyond the walls of this cabin, and no one but Antoinette and her brother.

Gale lay back on her pillow and stared up at the darkness. Her heart was heavy and she felt listless. Suppose her memory never came back? With a little sense of comfort she remembered the French girl’s words of earlier that evening.

“Chérie, you must not weep. A little time and everything will be well again.”

She must believe that! The thought that somewhere there might be someone looking for her, she not knowing where they were, unable to go to them, made her heart beat longingly.

Her hand had been hanging over the side of the bed and now something cold and wet was pushed into it. With a little startled cry she pulled away until in the moonlight she saw the form of woolly Toto. In his exploring the household for a warm friendly place to spend the night, he had come into her room. She patted the bed beside her and with difficulty, for his legs were rather short and clumsy yet, he jumped up into her arms and snuggled close.

In the morning Antoinette found them, the dog still curled in the crook of Gale’s arm, both sound asleep. She smiled to herself and gently lifted the dog to the floor. He let out a protesting grunt at being roused from his delicious slumbers and Gale opened her eyes.

“Bad Toto!” Antoinette scolded. “Waking Chérie. You are wicked!”

Toto merely blinked in the sunlight and dabbed carelessly at his paw with his red tongue before hopping up to resume his place in Gale’s arms.

Antoinette laughed. “He has already fallen in love with you,” she said in uncertain English.

Gale laid her cheek on the dog’s soft head. She could feel the fast beating of his little heart. She rubbed his ear and he cocked his head in appreciation.

“I like him,” she said.

Antoinette smiled. The stranger looked much better this morning. A little color was coming back to the white cheeks and Toto had already succeeded in rousing a smile. Antoinette brought Gale’s breakfast in to her, after which, while Antoinette was out of the room, Gale got up and dressed herself, glad to know she was physically capable of anything. Toto looked on with silent, doggy admiration. Upon slipping her blouse over her head, Gale’s fingers came in contact with a light golden chain upon which hung a small round locket. She turned it over in her fingers and in the bright morning light could barely make out the word engraved on its surface.

“What is it?” Antoinette had entered unperceived by Gale. Over her shoulder Antoinette looked at the locket. “Ah! Your name—Gale!”

So it was that Antoinette and her brother learned the name of the stranger. Of course they did not know her last name and save for giving them a name for her the discovery did not help much. Evidently the name meant nothing to the girl herself. It stirred absolutely no familiar memories.

Days passed, days spent entirely in the little cabin or with Antoinette in the snow outside. They never went far from the house, so it was not strange that word from the outside world did not reach Antoinette or her brother. They could not know, having no radio, receiving no newspaper or visitors, that the girl in their home was the object of a nationwide search. Gale endeared herself to the two in the cabin and worked readily into the scheme of their everyday life. She shared the daily chores with Antoinette and that girl, on her part, was teaching Gale to speak her own familiar language.

At night was the most difficult time for Gale. During the day she would be busy with Antoinette or playing with Toto. But at night, when she had gone to her room and the others were asleep, she often lay awake thinking, trying to find a thread that would unravel the mystery of her past life. Tonight was one of the nights when she could not sleep.

Silently she got up and put on her coat. She tiptoed to the door and stepped out into the cold, Canadian night. For a while she stood in the moonlight, then slowly she walked to the group of trees off to the right. The scent of pine was in the air and the wind stirred the branches faintly. She breathed deeply of the cool air and felt the blood tingling to her very fingertips. The silence and friendliness of the night stirred a faint memory of another such night. Somewhere, sometime she had stood exactly so, in the quiet darkness of night. But where or when she did not know.

She felt keenly alive, standing there in the snow and silence. She knew she was in much better health than that morning when she had first awakened in the little cabin, but it was not alone that. She had learned things during her stay with Antoinette and her brother in their humble home. Subconsciously her mind had stored the value of the simple life they led, of the freshness and cleanness of the life here. Once more standing there she tried to bring the dark past into the light. But it was no use, it only baffled her and gave her that depressed, hopeless feeling. Slowly she turned and made her way from the clump of trees back to the little cabin.

Half way across the clearing a humming noise broke the stillness of the night. She raised her eyes to the stars. An airplane was winging its way across the path of the moon. Gale gave the flying thing no name. She merely stood and watched until it had faded into the west.

For a moment she almost grasped the remembrance of her flight with Brent. Then the memory was gone and she could not recall it. The clouds had seemed ready to break when she looked at the airplane but now her mind was darker than before.

She returned slowly to the cabin and to bed but she could not sleep. All night long she thought of the sense of familiarity she had experienced as she watched the airplane. It must be a key to her past, part of the puzzle of her memory, if only she could fit it into the right place! Along toward dawn she fell into a light sleep but she was up at the first sound from Antoinette and all day she tried to connect an airplane with her thoughts. If only she could remember!

She helped Antoinette with the little housework there was to do, sewed two buttons on her jacket and romped with Toto before luncheon.

After the midday meal Antoinette proposed that she and Gale walk in to the little town where they could replenish the supply of flour and canned goods that was dwindling rapidly. François was at first reluctant to let his sister make the trip, but she finally coaxed forth his permission.

In her coat, the same woolly one that had kept her warm in Brent’s airplane, and one of Antoinette’s close-fitting caps over her curls, Gale started out walking briskly between Antoinette and the leaping, frolicking Toto. The two girls talked gayly, Antoinette learning more and more about this girl who had come so strangely into their life.

It was a good hour’s walk to the little French village where Antoinette and her brother purchased their supplies. There while Antoinette greeted friend after friend and entered little stores to procure their provisions, Gale, with Toto at her heels, went through the little crooked, cobbled stone streets, both of them keenly delighted with the sights. Toto delighted because there were so many little nooks and crannies for him to explore and Gale because every street warranted her a pleasant surprise.

Chapter XIII

Brent made many more trips from Marchton to Canada and back again, and each time he had no good news to bring the people waiting so eagerly for a word of encouragement. Gale had disappeared as neatly as if the earth had opened and swallowed her. The wreckage of his plane had been removed from the spot where he had crashed and there remained now only a few trees whose bark had been scraped off by the falling plane to mark the spot. He had visited every nearby farmhouse and personally inquired for news of Gale. To all his efforts he had received the same result—nothing. But Brent was nothing if not dauntless. Not for nothing had he flown thousands of miles, in sun and storm. He had gained a courage and determination scarcely to be equalled. Now he could put his determination to good use. He needed it all to keep him from giving up the search. Give up? He could not! He meant to find Gale. How or where he did not know, but he would find her. He had to. He had learned a lot of things since that night by the hangar when he and Gale had exchanged confidences. He certainly could not give up now when he did not know what had happened to her. Day after day he visited the French towns and farms in the surrounding country.

“Do you think you will ever find her?” Phyllis asked him wearily on his next trip to Marchton.

He smiled confidently, much more confidently than he felt. “Of course. You know the saying—‘There’ll come a day.’”

“But it seems so hopeless now—after all this time!” Phyllis said. “Sometimes I think——”

Brent smiled at her, his light quizzical smile. “You are really fond of Gale, aren’t you?”

Phyllis nodded, a lump in her throat so that she could not speak.

“So am I,” Brent said, his eyes on the automobiles passing in the street. “I won’t give up until I find her.”

Phyllis pressed his arm. “I hope you find her—truly I do. I know she likes you—a lot.”

Brent smiled upon her again. “You make me feel a lot better,” he said. “I really needed some cheering up—more than I would admit.”

Soon after that he was off for Canada again. At first he went to the hotel in Quebec where he had made his headquarters. There was no mail for him nor any word of Gale. He went down to the street and found the car and chauffeur he had hired until his shoulder should be well enough for him to drive himself. He directed the man to drive north. He had no specific destination, he proposed to merely drive through the northern roads again in the hopes of meeting someone or finding something that would lead to Gale.

It was late in the afternoon when they came to a small French village where they stopped for the luncheon they had missed. The chauffeur had much more of an appetite than Brent and while he waited for the man Brent decided to explore the little village. The streets were quaint and expressed the simplicity and charm of the inhabitants. He turned from the contemplation of an old Frenchman, who was sunning himself in the doorway of his home, to look at two girls making their way out of town. Their arms were laden with bundles and a small collie scooted ahead in front of them. But Brent had eyes merely for one of the girls. Was it possible? He passed a dazed hand across his eyes. Could he be mistaken?

“Gale!” he called. Did he fancy that the girls hesitated for a moment and then went on? He called again but they did not turn. Starting after them he reached the turn in the road just in time to see the girls climb into a farmer’s wagon and the wagon start off down the road.

Brent went back to the old Frenchman and asked him if he knew the girls. In these small towns nearly everybody knew everybody else.

“It is François Bouchard’s sister,” the old man nodded. “She lives with her brother on a small farm east of the village.”

“And the other girl?” Brent asked.

“I do not know, Monsieur.”

That was that Brent decided. He would have no rest now until he learned if the girl really was Gale. Certainly the likeness had been astonishing. The girl had seemed in the height of gay spirits. But if it really had been Gale, well and strong as this girl, wouldn’t she have sent word to her parents? Tried to get back home? He rumpled his hair in perplexity and replaced his hat. He would start after them and ask questions. He might discover something. But when he returned to the inn where he had left his chauffeur, the man was gone. For an hour Brent fumed in impatience until the man finally reappeared. To all Brent’s upbraidings the man turned a deaf ear. He merely climbed into the car and sat waiting. Without further waste of time Brent climbed in beside him and, having secured directions from the old man, set off in the direction of Bouchard’s cottage.

The car bumped along over ruts hidden by the snow and ice. The driver might just as well not have been present for all the company he was to Brent. He uttered not one word from the time they left the village, replying to all Brent’s attempts at conversation with grunts. Brent had always thought the French-Canadians friendly, sociable people, but this man irked him. Soon he forgot his companion, however, forgot about the uncomfortable car in which he rode and which jolted his shoulder, causing it to pain him, and concentrated on the object of his search.

For days, weeks, he had been traveling, seeking some touch, some clue to the whereabouts of Gale. Yet not three hours before he had seen her, apparently well and happy. There must be some explanation!

His musings were brought to a sudden halt and he was thrown so far forward as to almost bump his nose on the windshield. Brent could speak fluent French and he used it to good advantage. He poured a tirade out on the head of the driver. The man merely gestured to the trees and the end of the road to which they had come. Brent had to see that it was impossible for the car to go any farther.

The driver signified his intention to remain in the car by slumping down in the seat and pulling his cap over his eyes for a quiet nap.

In disgust Brent jumped out and started to tramp across the road and into the clump of trees, stripped now of all autumnal glory and black with the cold of early winter. The snow lay in deep drifts in several places and these Brent avoided to the best of his ability. He hoped he was still going in the right direction. That driver was as good as nothing. He had assured Brent he had heard of Bouchard’s cottage and with his hand had gestured widely to the right. That was as well as he could do.

The wind up here was cold and Brent buttoned his coat more tightly as best he could, using one hand. It put new life into one, though. The air was keen as a knife and the sky as clear as crystal water. Brent remembered the exhilaration he had experienced last night flying through the star-studded sky. It had been keen! But a most cruel reminder of his last flight with Gale. Then, too, in the beginning the stars had been close and friendly.

Brent halted in his stride and knit his brows in perplexity. Had the plane crash occurred near here? No, he corrected himself. It had been much farther south. How then, had Gale wandered way up here? He shook his head and went on.

Ahead a thin blue column of smoke drifted up from beyond a slight rise in ground. He redoubled his efforts. That must be Bouchard’s cottage. He came to the hill and leaned momentarily against a tree to get his breath, looking down at the log cabin and the open clearing before him.

A girl was romping with a dog. The same girl whom he had seen in the village. There could be no doubt, it was Gale. The way she lifted her head, the laugh that floated up to him when the dog in play nipped her fingers. All of them bespoke Gale. He stood there watching, for it was a charming scene. In the snow the dog and girl, when she suddenly stumbled over the former, rolled over and over.

When Gale sat up there was a glow in her cheeks and a laugh bubbled in her voice. Toto stood, legs slightly asprawl, gazing at her, his red tongue dangling from between white teeth, his eyes dancing with mischief. François appeared in the cabin doorway, leaning upon his improvised crutch. After a brief greeting to him Toto trotted back to Gale and put his front paws into her lap, looking up into her face with a doggy smile.

Brent started toward them and when Gale saw him she stood up, shaking the snow from her coat and attempting to straighten her disheveled cap. François had disappeared within the cabin again and from there came the sound of Antoinette, humming at her work.

“Gale—don’t you know me?” Brent asked, as soon as he was within speaking distance.

Gale merely stared at him. She recognized him as the strange young man who had called after them that morning in the village—but that was all!

“Gale! I’m Brent—surely you haven’t forgotten me!” he said, half laughing. He went toward her, seeking to touch her, but she eluded him.

She ran for the protection of the cottage with Toto at her heels. Brent had no course but to follow. He stood in the doorway and looked at the others before him. It was a homelike, cozy, if crude room. François sat in a chair by the fireplace. Gale stood behind his chair while in the corner Antoinette was watching him in surprise, her sewing now forgotten.

“How—how do you do,” Brent began uncertainly. “I——”

“Enter, Monsieur,” François invited courteously, “and be seated by the fire. The day is cold and you have come a long way?” The last of his speech was a question.

Brent inclined his head and took the chair opposite François, his eyes on Gale. In the half daylight and glow from the fire he was more certain than ever of her identity. Yet if it were Gale, surely she would know him?

Without preliminary Brent spoke in French. “That girl,” he nodded toward Gale, “is she—your sister also, Monsieur Bouchard?”

François smiled faintly. “You know me, Monsieur? Yet I do not know you.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I quite forgot myself. I am Brent Stockton,” Brent continued. “You see, for weeks I have been searching Canada for a girl. We crashed in an airplane some little distance from here. I left her in the plane and went for help, but while I was absent she disappeared. Since then I have not been able to find her. This young lady is very much like her—very much,” he murmured again.

François nodded and frowned into the fire. “I was afraid we were causing someone a great deal of anxiety, but it could not be helped. You see I injured my foot the day after, and I have not been able to go to the village to notify the authorities. My sister knows very little about such things.”

“Yes?” Brent murmured. He was waiting impatiently.

“I found Mademoiselle, here,” François looked up at Gale and the two exchanged smiles, though she did not understand his French words, “in a wrecked airship weeks ago. She was pinioned in her seat by a fallen tree branch which I moved.”

“My plane!” Brent gasped.

“As you say, Monsieur. I brought her here. She seemed unhurt, but her mind——”

Brent grasped the edge of his chair. “What was it?”

“Her memory, Monsieur, it is gone. Do you understand? We could not notify anyone because we did not know who she was. She has remained here ever since.”

Brent sat stunned. It was hard for him to grasp the fact. No wonder Gale hadn’t recognized him! His glance wandered to the girl. She was standing slim and straight behind François. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, her skin creamy, she was as he had seen her last except for a slight shadow in the depth of her eyes.

“She seems all right,” he said finally.

“Yes, Monsieur,” François said. “She is in perfect health except for—it is sad.”

“She must go back with me,” Brent said finally. “Her parents are frantic—her friends—we will have the best doctors in the land.”

“Time and peace will heal her,” François said. “I studied medicine, Monsieur, I know.”

Brent stood up. “I have no words with which to thank you, sir. It is a debt which can never be repaid. If it had not been for you——”

“It is nothing,” François said, with difficulty rising and holding out his hand to Brent. “We have loved her as a sister, Monsieur.”

Brent silently wrung the Frenchman’s hand and felt he must burst with gratitude. To think at last he had found Gale! He took a step toward her and she backed away. She seemed curiously afraid of him.

“Gale,” and now François spoke in English, “this young man has come to take you back to your parents and friends.”

“He knows——” Gale started in a whisper.

François nodded. “He knows you. He has come to take you back to those who love you.”

“I must leave?” Gale wanted to know. She glanced first at François, at Antoinette and then down at Toto.

“Yes,” François said sadly.

“Come, Gale,” Brent said gently, holding out his hand.

But Gale did not put hers into it. Instead she backed away into a corner, Toto moving instinctively with her. Brent moved towards her, talking slowly, gently, but she was terrified. Why, he could not understand.

Toto, puppy that he was, seemed to know his friend’s fear and bared his teeth savagely at Brent.

Brent stopped, torn between conflicting emotions, and looked helplessly at François.

Antoinette ran to Gale and took the trembling girl in her arms.

“Gale, ma chérie, you must go back to those who love you. They are lonely without you.”

But Gale shook her head determinedly. She didn’t want to go off with this strange young man, nice as he seemed, and nothing they said could change her mind. For an hour Brent, François and Antoinette urged, coaxed, and pleaded with her. But Gale held Toto in her arms and refused to budge from her corner. Finally they gave up in despair and she watched with frightened eyes while Brent conversed with François. Every time they glanced at her her heart almost stopped. She was so afraid she would have to leave these people who had been kind to her, who understood her, to go to strangers.

At last Brent moved to the door. On the threshold he turned to look at her and the picture he carried away was of a frightened girl clutching her beloved dog in her arms as her sole means of comfort.

Chapter XIV

All the way back to Quebec Brent thought of Gale, trying to devise some way to bring back her memory. He thought of her parents and wondered how he would ever break the news to them. How, too, he would tell the other Adventure Girls.

That night he and his pilot flew back to Marchton. Early the next morning he went to Gale’s parents and told them. The decision made was that they should fly back to Canada with him the same night.

When school was out and the Adventure Girls and three boys wended their way to the Kopper Kettle they found Brent already there awaiting them. Eagerly they crowded round him, welcoming him back and asking the now almost hopeless questions about Gale.

He was silent, answering not one question until they were all seated about a table in the corner. Then he began slowly:

“Yes, I was successful. I’ve found Gale.”

“She isn’t——” Valerie began fearfully.

“She is perfectly happy,” he said.

“Thank goodness!” Carol sighed, inadequately expressing the feelings of them all.

“But you don’t look very happy about it,” Janet put in. “Did you bring her home with you?”

“No, I couldn’t bring her home with me,” Brent said, carefully tearing a straw into minute bits with his finger, “you see, she didn’t know me.”

The others waited, instinctively guessing there was more important news to come.

“Why not?” Madge finally ventured.

“In the crash of the plane she—lost her memory. She has been living all this time with a Canadian man and his sister in their cottage. She is perfectly well except for the fact that she doesn’t remember a thing about who or what she is.”

“Poor Gale!” Carol murmured.

“Can’t anything be done?” Bruce asked.

“I am flying her parents and a doctor back with me tonight,” Brent answered. “Her memory may come back to her all in a flash, a sudden shock might do it, or it might take time. I don’t know.”

“Can’t we do something?” Janet wanted to know anxiously. “I mean, do you think she might remember if she saw one of us?”

“Show her Janet, that would be a shock!” Carol suggested, daringly impudent.

Brent laughed with the rest but then he shook his head. “When she sees her parents she should remember—if anything familiar can restore her memory.”

“If she didn’t know you——” Phyllis began.

“What was it, Brent?” Bruce asked. “The shock of the crash? The limb of the tree that fell upon the plane or what?”

“I suppose we will never know,” Brent said. “It must have been one of those.”

“Isn’t it terrible?” Valerie murmured with a little shiver. “Think of Gale, not knowing who she is, where she came from. I wish I could go to her.”

The others were silent until Brent rose saying he must get back to the Howard home for dinner. Phyllis went out with him. He left her at the corner and entered the yard of Gale’s home. Strange she could remember none of this, he thought. The flowers which in summer ran as a border to the walk, the old tree by the fence, her home, the place where she had lived all her life.

Dinner was a hurried, hap-hazard affair. Gale’s parents and Brent were eager to be off to the airport. He told them again of his finding and by that time they were ready to leave.

Upon coming out to the porch they discovered Phyllis in woolly coat and beret with a small bag at her side sitting on the top step.

“Where do you think you are going?” Brent demanded.

“With you, please, mayn’t I?” Phyllis begged. “I’ve told my Aunt I’m going and she didn’t stop me. Please take me, I want to see Gale.”

Brent looked at the Howards and back to Phyllis.

“Oh, well, come along,” he said gruffly.

They climbed into the Howards’ automobile and five minutes later picked up the grey-haired family doctor who had known Gale since she was three. He had helped her through every sickness but nothing as serious as this. It did not take long after that to reach the airport.

The cabin plane they were to use was standing on the field, the motor turning over rhythmically, the propeller whirring. Stubby helped them into the plane and when Brent had taken his seat up in the nose of the ship beside the pilot they were off.

In Canada they landed and went immediately to a hotel where they were to spend the night. Brent had thought it best to wait until the following morning before driving to the little village from where they would go to Bouchard’s cottage. He was a little dubious as to the outcome of their trip. He hoped fervently, as did the others, that Gale would recognize them but he had his doubts.

The next morning they breakfasted early and entered the car in which they were to drive to the little French-Canadian village. The driver of the car was the same one who had driven Brent on his previous trip. Though he was not fond of the man or his companionship Brent had hired him because he already knew the way.

It was nearly lunch time when they entered the little village. Without a stop they came upon the road that led away to the north and followed it to its end. Then, leaving the driver with the car, they set out on foot.

The Howards were silent, thoughtful, and Phyllis, walking beside Brent, felt her heart begin to beat with excitement. They had come so many miles, suppose now they discovered that Brent had been mistaken in his identity? She rebuked herself sharply. How could he have been mistaken? He had heard the Frenchman’s story. But if only Gale would recognize one of them! Phyllis thought she must. She looked up at Brent. He was looking away, ahead of them, his eyes fastened on the little crest of ground beyond which lay the Bouchard cottage. Phyllis thought he looked older, worried. She knew he had suffered even more than she and Gale’s other friends had because, in a way, he blamed himself for the crash and Gale’s disappearance.

Brent held up his hand and they halted for a brief rest.

“You can see the smoke from the cottage,” he said, motioning ahead with his hand to where a thin stream rose into the sky.

The others did not reply, merely glanced at one another and moved forward again.

Chapter XV

Gale, when Brent had left the cottage, took Toto and went to her room. There she put the dog on the floor and flung herself down on the bed. Propping her chin in cupped hands she could see out the window to the snowy fields in the distance and the blue, cloudless sky. But her eyes were fixed on something outside her vision. She did not watch Brent’s figure as he trudged away out of sight. Rather, she was again trying to bring to the fore some knowledge, the memory that lay dormant, of who she was.

Antoinette entered softly and gazed compassionately down at Gale. She sat down beside her and put a friendly arm across the other’s shoulders.

“Do not worry, Gale,” she murmured.

Gale smiled a trifle. “I’ll try not to,” she whispered. “But suppose he does know who I am? I—I should have gone with him!” Her eyes were dark with shadows, her lips trembled.

Antoinette hugged her affectionately. “I am glad you did not. It would be lonesome here without you. And if you did not like him——”

“Oh, but I did,” Gale said hastily. “He seemed nice but—it was just—I didn’t know where he was going to take me.”

“I understand,” Antoinette nodded. “Now you must rest. Come, Toto!”

The French girl rose and went to the door. The dog obediently trotted after her. Gale lay back and closed her eyes, but she could not sleep. Vividly she remembered the young man who had wanted her to go away with him. If only she could recall him from the past! If only his face and name would mean something to her! Warm tears slipped down her cheeks before she sat up and in annoyance brushed them away.

Gale got up and donned her coat. With a word to Antoinette she went outside, her customary bodyguard, Toto, at her heels. She tramped into the woods and kept on walking. She knew if she would tire herself out she would be able to sleep tonight and not keep tantalizing herself with questions she could not answer.

She walked along breathing deeply of the cold, crisp air, Toto scampering ahead of her or lingering behind to dig out a half buried root and shake it vigorously in his firm white teeth. The sun moved slowly to the western horizon. Its rays became less and less warm, the sky began to be overcast with night clouds and a strong northern wind sprang up. With a start Gale realized that it would soon be night and unless she turned back now she could easily become lost. Whistling to Toto who was deeply engrossed in a bit of bark he had unearthed and which he was trying to shake into some semblance of life, she turned her back on the sunset to go back to the cottage. At her whistle Toto pricked up his ears and started on a run for her. She ran too. Together they romped until both had to stop for lack of breath.

Finally Gale put aside her thoughts of pleasure and concentrated on the landmarks about her. None of them were familiar. She subdued a sense of panic that gripped her. She must find the way back to the cottage. They could not stay in the open all night. Let’s see—she must have come that way, it looked like the tree around which she had chased Toto. Resolutely she started off in that direction. But it was not long before she discovered she was wrong. She came to a tiny stream of water, frozen over now with the ice of winter. She stood and looked at the mirror-like crust on the water. Toto, too, regarded his own reflection with interest. Turning her back upon the water Gale stared intently first to the north then to the south. She had not come upon this stream when she came from the cottage; therefore, all this time she must have been going away from, instead of toward, her home. Toto sat in the snow and regarded his friend with dancing eyes.

“You know, Toto,” she said speaking slowly to the dog who had his head cocked as if understanding every word, “I believe we are lost.”

At that the dog merely yawned.

“What will we do?”

Toto stood up and shook himself, trotted a few paces away and came back to look at her.

“Do you suppose you could find the way home?” she asked with a half smile. “You’re too much of a puppy to have much sense of direction yet, but we’ll try it. Which way do you want to go, Toto?”

The dog immediately trotted a few paces toward the north and stood waiting for her to follow him.

“All right,” she agreed. “We’ll go that way and I hope you are right!”

Gale walked along swiftly to keep the dog in sight. But soon she had to slacken her pace. She was tired, they had come far, and now she found it almost impossible to keep up a fast gait. Too, it was getting darker. The Canadian night was closing in upon them rapidly. She thought of Antoinette and François waiting, watching for her and scolded herself for ever coming so far. She thought of the warm supper awaiting them, of the warm bed which would feel so good now, and lashed herself on to a renewed pace. But it was hopeless. When it was so dark she could not see Toto ahead of her she halted and called the dog to her. She picked him up in her arms, she didn’t intend to lose her one companion in the wilderness. His rough, red tongue licked her chin affectionately and she almost dropped him.

“Toto, you are even a worse direction-picker than I am,” she declared, squeezing him. “We are really lost this time!”

Toto didn’t seem to mind. He snuggled down in her arms, even trying to get his head into her jacket pocket.

Gale grasped him more firmly and started to walk again. She didn’t know where or in what direction she was walking, she only knew she must keep in motion to keep the biting cold air from freezing her limbs. Then, too, sooner or later she must come to some house! She had a faint idea she was walking in the direction of the little village to which Antoinette had taken her. From there certainly she could find her way home.

The dog in her arms became heavier and heavier as Gale became more and more tired. It seemed almost impossible to carry him a step farther. She leaned against a tree and deposited him in the snow at its base. Toto protested with a grunt at being roused from his warm nap and hovered about her feet shivering.

“This is a nice mess,” Gale said in disgust. “Why did you let me come so far, Toto?”

When Gale had regained her breath and felt in a measure rested she settled Toto comfortably in the crook of her arm and started out again. Nearly all night she trudged slowly through the snow and moonlight. Only the knowledge that she must keep moving kept her on her feet at all. She wanted to lie down and rest and sleep. Her eyelids felt weighted down. She was almost asleep on her feet. At last she submitted, as she must have in time, and sat down, her back against a sheet of rock to rest. The rest stretched into a sound sleep. Her head fell forward on her knees and Toto, too, slept peacefully by her side.

The sun was high when she awoke and started to her feet only to abruptly sit down again. Her muscles were stiff and arms and legs cramped and numb. Toto yawned, shook himself and ran a few paces and back to her side. Gale rubbed her arms and legs vigorously and stood up to survey their position.

Away to her right rose a cliff of rock and ice. Gale remembered she had been able to see this cliff with the peculiar formation of a man’s head from her window on clear days. Antoinette had laughingly referred to it as the Lonesome Man. It was the only jutting rise in their immediate horizon and the ice and rock had formed to make a perfect man’s head. Gale started in the direction of the Lonesome Man. It was her opinion that if she could climb upon the rocks she might be able to see the cottage in the spread of world at her feet. Then it would be a simple matter to steer a straight course for home.

But the Lonesome Man was farther away than it had at first appeared. Its very largeness gave it a sense of being close when in reality it was a mile away. Gale stubbornly clung to her first idea to climb upon it. Otherwise she would have absolutely no course of action and she would not be able to see the cottage from where she was on the ground. Toto trotted obediently by her side, looking up from time to time to observe the expressions on her face.

“Hungry, Toto?” she asked once and he barked in response. “So am I,” she declared laughingly. “But don’t worry, it won’t be long now. Once we are on Lonesome Man and can see the cottage—we shall be home soon then.”

Toto seemed to understand for he cavorted gaily, falling over himself in his exuberance.

It was the middle of the day when they came to Lonesome Man and Gale felt a gnawing hunger. The sun was directly overhead and she was keenly anxious to get back home. Antoinette and François would be anxious, that she knew.

The first step on Lonesome Man was a huge rock which must be gotten up on before one could continue up to a point of vantage where the ground would lay revealed openly. Every tree, every stream, every cottage for miles could be seen from the top of Lonesome Man’s head.

Gale, after some difficulty, managed to mount the huge rock which was the first step in her ascent. She stopped to rest and waved at Toto on the ground below. The dog set up a howl. He looked so plaintive and lonesome and howled so indiscreetly as to awaken a hundred echoes that Gale had no course but to come down after him. It took quite a while until both she and Toto had again negotiated the first step.

“See all the time we’ve wasted,” she complained to the dog, sitting beside him and letting her legs dangle over the rock, “just because you wouldn’t be good and stay on the ground.”

The dog showed his appreciation of her return for him by kissing her lavishly with his rough, red tongue, so lavishly that Gale had to scramble away.

She took the next rock to a point higher and hauled Toto up after her. The dog, after once sticking his nose over the edge and finding the ground quite a distance below him, cowered against the wall, his hair standing on edge.

Gale laughed. “Don’t be nervous, Toto; if you’re good you won’t fall off.”

The dog turned earnest brown eyes to her, his tail wagging faintly.

“You wouldn’t stay on the ground,” she reminded him. “Now you can just wait here for me.”

Gale climbed a little higher, the dog watching her, wanting to follow but afraid to move. The puppy was used to the good firm earth beneath him and was not at all sure that he should even let his friend out of his sight. Gale meantime was slowly finding foothold to reach the summit, the top of Lonesome Man’s head. Once when her foot slipped a shower of loosened rock and bits of ice rattled to the ground below. Gale held her breath and dug her fingers into the niches of the grey rock, holding on for dear life. When her panic subsided she found she was in no immediate danger of falling and could proceed with a maximum of caution.

Lonesome Man hadn’t seemed as high as he really was. When Gale reached the top she sat down and looked over the side. She shut her eyes quickly. It made her dizzy to think that she might have slipped with those pebbles. Of course even then it wouldn’t have been as far a fall as if she should slip now!

She wondered how Toto was but could not see him from her present position.

When her breath was coming naturally and she was feeling a little rested from her climb Gale could stir up enough interest to view her surroundings. Far to her right she could see a brown cottage which at first looked like the Bouchards’. But after a careful scrutiny she decided it wasn’t and turned in the opposite direction. Carefully her eyes wandered over the scene spread out before her. Trees, stripped of their summer splendor, stood revealed black and forlorn. Winter wind swayed their stripped branches. She beheld a moving object which at first she thought was a man, but later decided it was a bear. She shivered. Suppose she had met him in the dark last night!

Finally she saw another house, smoke rising from the chimney. This one stood in the center of a triangular clearing exactly like the Bouchard cottage. It must be home! She was surprised at its nearness. She had been searching the far horizon for it and had at first overlooked the objects nearer at hand. She sighed with relief and was about to climb down in order to waste no time in returning when she stopped, her attention caught by a small group of figures which had suddenly appeared in the clearing. She could not determine the identity of the people from where she was, but nevertheless she watched with interest. Only one she was sure of, François, hobbling with the aid of his crutch. There could be no mistaking him even at a distance.

She watched closely, noting every movement, while two men and a girl started off parallel to her, in the direction she had at first taken yesterday when she started out for her walk. Another man and a girl started directly toward her, while a last feminine figure remained standing beside François. Gale could not at first understand it. Then she concluded it was Antoinette and friends searching for her. It must be Antoinette and a friend who was coming toward her now.

Gale stood up on Lonesome Man’s head, the better to watch their progress. The wind whipped her dress about her and its piercing cold went right through her coat. At the same time she saw the two stop and suddenly the man pointed to her. The girl, Gale supposed her to be Antoinette, waved. She responded with an upraised arm. She could see they redoubled their efforts and were running toward her. It would not be so very long before they reached Lonesome Man.

Without wasting more time Gale started the downward climb. It was even more precarious picking her way down than it had been climbing up. The ice had frozen over spots that had been fairly easy to negotiate on the way up, but now she was afraid of skidding at every step. Twice she slipped and would have fallen had she not grasped the rocks on each side with all her strength. When she finally reached the spot where she had left Toto she breathed freely for the first time. It would be simple now to reach the broad rock at the base and from there jump to the ground. By that time Antoinette should be there. She looked away across the tree tops. She could make out the man and girl still coming toward her.

Gale swung her legs over the edge when she remembered Toto. She looked around. The dog was no longer crouching in safety by the solid rock wall. He had gone adventuring and now Gale gasped as she saw his dangerous position.

Unable to reach the high point his friend had obtained Toto had contented himself with snooping his way out onto the ledge of rock which made the Lonesome Man’s nose. It was a narrow ledge jutting out in a straight line for about five feet with nothing but the ground twenty feet below. There Toto had decided to await the return of Gale and she now found him interestedly watching her, his eyes dancing, red tongue dangling from white teeth.

“Come, Toto, we’re going home,” she urged.

His tail beat a tattoo on the rock ledge but he did not move.

“Come, Toto, come,” Gale coaxed.

She whistled, called, did everything to coax Toto from his position on the narrow ledge but he did not budge.

“I declare you’re laughing at me!” she scolded. “Now come, Toto! Oh, if I get my hands on you!”

Gale considered leaving Toto there upon the ledge and running to meet Antoinette. Perhaps she could coax the dog off. But just as she decided this, Toto decided to be good and started toward Gale. He had taken but one step when he looked from Gale to the ground below. He looked at the narrow span of rock which he must cross to reach her. Then he backed up and sat on the very edge of the ledge. His eyes pleaded with her to understand. He was frightened. He did not know how he had gotten here and was afraid to cover the distance to Gale where he would be safe. He shivered in the cold wind, a suddenly forlorn little figure.

Gale felt all her impatience with Toto fade away. The little thing was too frightened to come when she called him. She couldn’t go away and leave him there. Suppose he fell off! She looked at the ground. Snow had drifted in a huge pile against this side of Lonesome Man. The dog would be plunged straight down into the snow and perhaps onto rocks beneath.

She sighed and moved forward. She would have to get him. For a moment she considered the narrow ledge. It didn’t look as though it would hold much weight. At a little whimper from Toto, Gale crept forward. She put one foot on the ledge. Nothing happened. The surface was icy and she was in imminent danger of slipping at every inch she traversed. Toto, watching, contemplated her progress with sad brown eyes. He seemed to realize the peril of their position and did not once move.

Slowly and with the utmost care Gale moved out farther and farther onto the ledge. She held her breath every minute lest Lonesome Man’s nose should crack and plunge them both down to the ground. After seconds which seemed like hours Gale was in a position to grasp Toto and start the return journey.

Chapter XVI

When the party from Marchton arrived at the Bouchard cottage and found Gale again missing it was another bitter blow on top of all the others they had suffered. They listened to all that François and Antoinette could tell them. Then they organized a searching party. Mr. Howard, the doctor and Antoinette started off in the direction Gale had taken yesterday afternoon when she left. Brent and Phyllis started off to test Phyllis’ suggestion that from the top of the mountain and through François’ powerful field glasses they might be able to find some sign of Gale on the countryside. Mrs. Howard remained with François.

When they had gone a very short distance from the cottage Brent espied a tiny figure atop the mountain Antoinette had called Lonesome Man. He pointed to it and Phyllis gripped his arm tightly while she waved with her other hand.

“Gale!” Phyllis whispered when the figure had returned her salute.

“Come on,” Brent said and was off, running lightly, Phyllis keeping pace with him.

“She is climbing down,” Phyllis said as they halted momentarily, watching the figure on the cliff in the distance.

“That’s dangerous,” Brent muttered, “the surface is icy, you can see it glisten in the sun.”

When they ran out into the clearing at the base of Lonesome Man, Gale was just beginning her trip to rescue Toto.

“Gale! Go back!” Phyllis cried, but her voice did not carry to her friend. “She can’t go out there!” Phyllis said wildly to Brent.

Brent started forward but a second later Phyllis stopped him.

“Wait,” she said. “Look!”

Gale had worked herself half way out on the ledge.

“Don’t go now—you will frighten her and she will fall.”

The two watched breathlessly. Their eyes never once wavered from the figure of the girl above them as she worked her way out on the ice covered ledge to where a little ball of fur crouched in terror. They gasped when once her foot slipped and she was prostrated flat on the ice.

“Ooo, I can’t look!” Phyllis whispered frantically, but just the same she watched Gale fascinatedly.

When Gale had Toto secure in her arm the two spectators let out a sigh of thankfulness but they were too soon. Gale had no more than started the perilous return journey to the rock when a warning crack was heard. They saw her give one horrified glance at the icy floor beneath her.

When the ledge snapped off with a grinding crack Gale, with Toto clasped in her arms, was hurled into space. Phyllis screamed, Brent started forward on a run. There was danger to Gale not only from her fall but from the rock that also fell. If she should be crushed under any of those jagged edges——

Brent reached the scene first. Toto was scrambling from the snow. Phyllis appeared then and together they pulled Gale from the snow.

“Is she killed?” Phyllis asked tremulously.

“No,” Brent said finally. “I’ll carry her, you run ahead.”

Phyllis swept Toto up into her arms and darted off.

Gale looked up at the ceiling and knit her brows in perplexity. Where was she? The last thing she remembered she was in the seat behind Brent in his black and silver monoplane and they were turning over and over about to crash in the storm. She looked at the rough log-hewn walls, at the moonlight streaming in through the little window and brought her gaze back to the ceiling. No, no, the plane wasn’t the last thing. Slowly, like a moving picture coming into focus, her mind’s eye picked up the pictures of the weeks past. Now she remembered everything! The fall from the ledge of rock, the shock she had suffered, had restored suddenly everything that had been a blank before.

She became aware of someone sitting on the floor beside the bed. All she could see was the top of a light curly head but even that was familiar.

“Hullo, Phyl,” she said.

Instantly Phyllis looked up. “Gale!”

“How long have you been sitting there?” Gale demanded smiling.

“Since—since—not very long,” Phyllis replied. “You do—you do remember me?” she asked gently.

“Of course,” Gale said. “But why—oh, I know! You heard that I couldn’t remember anything. That I didn’t know——”

Phyllis nodded. “Brent told us.”

That was the beginning of a talk that lasted a long time, before either of them thought of the other people in the main room of the cottage.

“We’ve been here since this morning,” Phyllis explained when she stood up. “We flew up last night. Your parents, Dr. Miller, and Brent and I. Antoinette is an angel! This morning when you were missing was almost as bad as—when the plane crashed. Then when Brent and I saw you fall from the ledge—my heart nearly stopped!”

“It was sweet of you to come all the way up here, Phyl,” Gale said, “to help me.”

Phyllis colored uncomfortably. “I’ll tell the others you are awake. We’ve been worried all day.”

When Phyllis had departed Gale had but a moment to reminisce over all the days she had been here and to grasp the fact now of what her mysterious disappearance and subsequent hiding must have meant to those in Marchton. She regretted every moment of anxiety she had caused them and vowed to make it up; then the others came in and there was the happiest joy of reunion.

Later, much, much later, when the others forced themselves to leave in order to let Gale sleep and regain her strength to travel back to Marchton on the morrow, her miraculous escape from serious injury in both the airplane crash and her fall this morning was still a wonder to them.

Brent, the last to enter, and the last to leave, took her hand in his and squeezed it.

“I’ll bet you’ll never go flying with me again,” he said ruefully.

“Try me,” she laughed.

“Anyway, I’m glad to see you all right again, kiddo,” he said with a wide smile.

Gale sat up. “You weren’t hurt much then,” she murmured thankfully.

“No. But you gave us plenty to think about. We were worried to death about you.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t think you would worry so much.”

“Worry? Oh, my dear——” He checked himself and grinned. “Go to sleep, youngster. Tomorrow we go back to Marchton.” He looked down at her for a long time. “Good night,” he said finally and kissed the top of her head. Hastily he made his way out.

Gale lay and let little shivers run up and down her back. She was so comfortable and warm, so supremely happy, she let her dreams run riot. Tomorrow she would be home again, safe and among friends. But she had been among friends here, too. It would be hard to leave Antoinette and François and—Toto. If the little dog hadn’t crawled out on that ledge this morning, if she hadn’t gone after him and if the ice hadn’t crumpled she might still be living in the shadows she had lived in for the past weeks. She still might not know who she was.

She sat up and looked out the window. In the distance Lonesome Man was brilliantly alight with moonlight but now he was a man without a nose. She smiled slightly. She had forever ruined the facial beauty of Lonesome Man but it had brought her happiness.

She stretched luxuriously and snuggled down again between the blankets. Cautiously the door opened and Antoinette looked in.

“Antoinette!” Gale said, stretching out her hand.

“You are well again, Gale,” Antoinette said, almost sadly. “I am glad. But now you will leave us——”

“Tomorrow,” Gale nodded. “I can never thank you enough, Antoinette, for all you have done——”

“It was nothing,” the French girl said confusedly. “You were like a sister.”

“You will come to the States to see me?” Gale pleaded. The subject had been mentioned earlier when the others had been present and Antoinette had flushed with pleasure at the invitation.

“But of course, I shall be most happy,” she declared.

When Antoinette had gone again Gale turned contentedly on her pillows. She had had a most exciting time but now her difficulties were over. Tomorrow she would fly back to Marchton. School would begin for her again, gay times with her friends, a sheltered life in the little town. Except for a slight headache she had no reminder at all of the long time through which she had just come. Again she sighed with pleasure. Another thing that made her happy—Brent was going home with them!

Chapter XVII

“For she’s a jolly good fellow, for she’s a jolly good fellow——” the Adventure Girls sang loudly if not well.

“And a hot cha cha!” Janet put in lavishly.

“That doesn’t fit,” Carol complained.

“I don’t care whether it does or not,” Janet said irrelevantly. “I’m happy and I don’t care who knows it.”

“What is the reason?” Carol inquired suspiciously.

“Gale’s return,” Janet said promptly, a little too promptly.

The young people were gathered in the living room of the Howard home. All the Adventure Girls were present. Gale had been back one week now but they never refused any opportunity to have any sort of gala occasion in honor of her return. There had been little gatherings and parties ever since the plane that brought her back had landed at the Marchton airport. Tonight, however, was devoted strictly to only the Adventure Girls. They had demanded one night for their very own.

Now they all cocked a suspicious eye in Janet’s direction to seek the cause of her extra-exuberant spirits. That young lady was deeply involved in looking through the music on the piano. They had sung nearly every piece there, but Janet was still seeking another to which to devote their talents.

“See here,” Carol turned Janet squarely about, “confess all! What has happened to you? You were in a glow all through English class this afternoon and anything that can make you glow in that class is colossal.”

“Is that so?” Janet scoffed.

“Is it a secret?” Madge asked hopefully from her position on the arm of Phyllis’ chair, idly strumming her ukulele.

“Aren’t we your bestest pals? Don’t we tell you everything?” Carol insisted. “Come on, Janet, what is it all about?”

Janet bent intently over a pile of music. “If you must know, Mark Sherwin has asked me to the Senior Prom.”


“Whoopee! He asks far enough ahead of time.”

“No wonder you were all smiles!” Carol declared. “So that is it! Your hero!”

“He isn’t,” Janet said shortly. “He’s nice, he has ambition,” she added loftily.

“Happy days are here again,” Carol said, whirling Janet around the room.

“Be quiet,” Janet complained. “You’re jealous,” she accused.

“Where is the dance to be held?” Phyllis wanted to know.

“At the Country Club,” Valerie put in. “I’m on the dance committee.”

“You are!” Madge echoed. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

Valerie laughed. “I didn’t know it myself until this afternoon. I had almost forgotten it. Who are you going with, Phyl?”

“If I can go,” Phyllis said ruefully, “if my Aunt will let me, David wants to take me, but I don’t know.”

“She still insists on keeping you out of Briarhurst?” Gale asked.

Phyllis nodded vigorously. “I suppose I shall go to Stonecliff and wear a horrid uniform.”

“We must do something about that,” Janet said. “We won’t be separated, Aunt or no Aunt!”

Phyllis laughed but she didn’t look as though she believed they could do anything. She knew her Aunt better than any of them.

“Who is taking you to the prom, Gale?”


“I’ll bet she can’t make up her mind,” teased Janet. “Which is it, Gale? Bruce or Brent?”

“It is a secret,” Gale said promptly. “You shan’t any of you know until you see me there.”

“Ah, that isn’t fair!” the others complained.

“But it will give you something to look forward to,” Gale laughed.

To tell the truth she didn’t know. Bruce might ask her. He usually took her to the school dances but she—she wanted to ask Brent but she was a little afraid. Afraid he would refuse and then she would be hurt. She hadn’t seen much of him since her return to Marchton. He had gone to Washington the day after and had not yet returned; if, she added to herself, he intended to return.

When the others teased her she remained silent. A mysterious smile was all the reply she would give them.

The girls gave no thought to the classes they would have tomorrow while they were enjoying themselves and it was late when they finally bid Gale a sleepy good night. After a little straightening up Gale crept away to her own room but not to sleep. She brought out her books and tackled the lessons which she found difficult. During her absence the classwork had gone forward and now she was hard pressed to make up for lost time.

Soon, however, the pencil dropped from her fingers and she stared out the window to where the winter moon floated easily through the clouds. She thought of Antoinette and sighed. It had been very hard to part from the French friends she had made. She missed the three in the little Canadian cottage more than anyone knew. Especially she missed the sweet friendly presence of the girl and her romps with Toto. She missed the cold nights in the bright moonlight when she had tramped in the snow. Here she could not go out walking when she felt like it. Her parents and friends would think her insane if she should go for a walk late at night. There would never be the same freedom here that there had been in Canada for that short time.

Gale yawned and closed her history book. She could not cram another sentence into her head tonight. Her eyes burned and felt heavy. She took deep breaths of the cool air that drifted in the window but she did not feel refreshed.

Upon a sudden decision she took her woolly coat from her closet and on tiptoe crept into the hall and down the stairs. At every creak of the steps she held her breath lest her Mother call her. She didn’t propose to do anything wrong, but she felt she must get away from the house, away from the books and studies that were becoming more and more difficult, from the worry of her examinations which was beginning to have a smothering effect on her.

Dry leaves rustled beneath her feet as she went down the path to the street. There she turned in the direction of the bay. At the tiny wharf she seated herself on a deserted soap box and gazed out over the gentle swell of waves. A huge blot in the darkness was the island. Beyond that lashed the heavy ocean waves. She could hear the roar of the surf even at this distance. She sniffed appreciatively and felt the spell of depression that had enveloped her lifting.

Suddenly she heard a sound in the stillness. It was a footfall and quite abruptly a man was outlined against the line of water and sky as he stood at the opposite end of the wharf from her. His figure was a mere blot, indistinguishable. He carried a huge bag or box, Gale could not determine which in the indistinct light. As she watched he set this down at his feet and took a few steps along the edge, peering over into the water.

Gale, in order to have a better point of vision, dropped from the wharf into the rear seat of Bruce’s motor boat. She pulled a huge piece of canvas over her and lay still, watching the shadow up above her through a slit in the canvas. It had come to her suddenly that she had been quite mad to come down to the shore at this hour. Burglars, smugglers, anyone might be here. Even though she had never heard much of such desperate characters in Marchton now, with the stranger standing ominously in the shadows, her imagination pictured all sorts of crimes.

Footsteps approached and Gale hastily drew the canvas more fully over her. A thud, and the boat rocked as another person took his position up in the front at the wheel. A few minutes later and after several false attempts, the motor broke into a roar that shattered the stillness of the night like a roll of thunder.

Gale peered out and thought of making a wild dash for the safety of the wharf but it was already too late. The shore was being rapidly left behind. She glanced up at the prow. The man was leaning over, getting every ounce of speed from the engine that was possible. Again Gale mentally scolded herself for the foolhardy thing she had done. She should never have come to the wharf; but in the second place, and now more important, she should never have gotten into the boat. She was an unwilling passenger of a strange pilot on a still stranger cruise.

At first she had thought the boat was headed out for the open sea but, by discreetly raising her head for a glimpse into the darkness ahead, she saw the pilot was heading straight for the island. What could he want there? Gale had not been there since the day Brent left. It was deserted as far as she knew. The club house which Brent had occupied during his stay there was boarded up for the winter. What could he want?

The boat veered off sharply and chugged onto the shore. The prow grated on the pebbly sand and Gale kept herself hidden until she was sure the pilot had jumped clear and started up the beach. Then she raised herself and looked after him. The dark figure was striding up toward the club house.

Gale stood up and after some difficulty negotiated her way up to the prow of the boat from where she could jump onto the sand. The water lapped her shoes as she darted away from the boat and sprang up the beach, keeping in the shadows out of sight of the stranger. She must see what he was about. Her curiosity was aroused and a feverish interest to keep the strange man and his doings in sight gripped her.

The figure ahead of her had approached the club house. He was working with the door and she saw it give beneath his weight. A second later he disappeared into the darkness within. She waited until a faint glimmer of light came from between the boards on the windows and from beneath the door. Then she crept forward. It was impossible to see into the room between the boards and she was puzzled. She must find out what he was doing in there! Cautiously she moved to the door. It was not latched, merely pushed to a thin crack. Gently she began to move it open far enough for her to see into the interior.

To the man inside the little club house, the slowly moving door was sinister and threatening. Not a sound came to his ears; that is, no human sound. He could hear the lapping of the water on the shore, could hear the swish of a tree branch on the roof, but there was no indication of another’s presence on the other side of the door.

He grasped a stout piece of wood which had originally been intended for a fire log and advanced slowly. About five paces from the threshold he halted and waited. The door had stopped moving. He could see nothing but he sensed someone standing there, listening. Cautiously he stretched out his hand and gave the door a sudden jerk inward. A girlish figure was precipitated into the room at his feet.

“Oh!” Gale almost shrieked as a brown hand seized her own. Her heart raced with terror until she saw his face.



The man flung aside his bit of firewood and helped her to her feet.

“You were almost crowned,” he declared laughing. “I thought a ghost of an ancient pirate had risen to confront me.”

“And I thought you were a smuggler or something!” Gale admitted laughingly. “I was going to protect our club house from any of your nefarious schemes.”

“How did you get on the island?” he asked.

“I rode over in the boat—with you,” she explained and smiled at his mystification. “I was hiding under the canvas in the stern.”

“Suppose I had been a burglar or something,” he admonished. “You would be in a fine mess.”

“But I’m glad you aren’t,” she said. She swung herself up onto the table and swung her legs out before her, regarding him with serious eyes. “But what are you doing here at this hour?”

“Lady, you see a recently returned traveler seeking some place to lay his weary head.”

“You came back to Marchton tonight?” she murmured. “Why didn’t you come to our house?”

“It was too late to barge in upon anybody. I had the brilliant thought of your club house and decided I would like to spend a night here again. So here I am,” he finished.

“It is boarded up for the winter,” Gale said with a distasteful glance around her at the dust and shuttered windows. “It isn’t very pleasant now.”

“Never mind about me,” he declared. “Young lady, you explain what you mean by running around at this hour of the night alone? You should be in bed and asleep.”

Gale grimaced wryly. “I wasn’t sleepy and I felt like walking.”

He swung her down from the table. “Come along, I’ll take you home.”

“But you aren’t coming back here, are you?” she protested when she saw he had left his traveling bag behind them in the club house.

“For tonight,” he said.

“But—but it is so cold and damp and—dangerous.”

He laughed. “Nonsense. I want to—I want to think about something and this is a fine place for it. Tomorrow I’m going to the Ayres Hotel.”

Gale let her protests subside. For the ride over to the mainland she was mostly silent. It was not until they stood at the gate to the Howard yard that she asked the question that had been bothering her.

“Are you going to be in Marchton long?” she asked.

“Not so very long,” he answered. “You see, Gale, I’ve been offered a position with the Transcontinental Air Line Company. It—it’s the chance I’ve been waiting for.”

“I’m glad,” Gale said, even though in her heart she felt she wasn’t glad because then she wouldn’t see him very often. “You will live in Washington?” she heard herself asking.

“Yes.” It seemed as though he wanted to say something else but decided not to. Instead he murmured, “Good night.”

But Gale stopped him. “Brent, I’d like to ask you—that is would you mind—I mean, will you go to the Senior Prom with me?” Her words seemed loud and brazen to her own ears. She couldn’t see him very well in the shadows but she had the horrified notion he was laughing at her. And what man in his position wouldn’t laugh? Not that he was so much older than she—he couldn’t be more than twenty-three and she was almost nineteen. It was just that she should have the cheek to ask him! She felt like crying, “Don’t pay any attention to me. I know you won’t go. I shouldn’t have asked,” when as if in a dream she heard him saying—

“That will be great, Gale. When is it?”

As Gale ran the short distance to the house she felt as though she were treading on air. Her heart was soaring with ecstasy. It was a small matter to creep upstairs, undress and get into bed without making a sound. Once in bed she could give herself up utterly to dreams of that gala night to come.

Chapter XVIII

Even the pleasant anticipation of the Senior Prom could not drive from Gale’s mind the necessity for passing her mid-term examinations. Her whole future, so she had privately decided, rested on her passing and going on with her friends to Briarhurst. If she couldn’t go with the others she would not want to go at all. It was unthinkable that she should be left behind!

Slowly but surely Gale pulled her marks up. The lapse of time when she had fallen so far behind was forgotten. She regained her old honor roll standing in every subject but one.

Gale had always had trouble with English. Poetry, literature and written composition all combined to give her the most trouble of all her subjects. She could read poetry, memorize it and recite it beautifully, but she had not the faintest appreciation of it. The passages of the greater composers with their clarity and beautifully penned expressions awoke no interest in her whatever. Literature stirred her even less. Her compositions were fair, but not good enough to counter-balance her deterrent marks in the other subjects.

Disheartened and it seemed all for naught, Gale studied literature and poetry. English was a major and she must pass! It meant the necessary points for her graduation! She learned the words in her books and could repeat them like an automaton but they meant absolutely nothing to her.

Miss Relso was not so very much older than Gale. She could remember her own school days when she, too, had struggled with difficult subjects. She wanted to help Gale but the girl must first learn an appreciation of Shakespeare and Browning and all the other masters. Once she had the foundation of a liking for the finer writings it would not be difficult to master all she had to for her class.

The teacher, in a vain attempt to force interest into Gale, kept her after school for conferences, paid particular attention to all Gale’s classwork. But it seemed hopeless. Gale either couldn’t or wouldn’t learn to like poetry.

“Gale, take this book home and read the story of Elaine and Lancelot tonight,” the teacher said one afternoon. “When you’ve finished it, no matter what time it is, come around to my house and we’ll talk about it.”

Gale accepted the book “Idylls of The King” reluctantly and left the classroom. She had a wild desire to pitch the volume into the first handy wastepaper basket. Never had she liked Tennyson. She had not liked any of the poets, but Tennyson in particular. However, the blue book remained in her possession as she wandered homeward. It even remained with her when she met the other Adventure Girls at the Kopper Kettle.

“Hello,” she said as she sank down in her chair. “Where’s Phyllis?”

“In the gym practicing for basketball,” Janet said and pulled her chair in closer. “Now here is my plan.”

“Plan?” Carol inquired lazily. “I didn’t know you had one. What is it for?”

“Listen and find out,” Janet said. “While Phyllis is away, let’s go to her Aunt and ask her to let Phyl go to Briarhurst with us.”

“Not me!” Carol said lustily. “I wouldn’t face that woman for anything.”

“Scaredy cat,” Janet scoffed. “She can’t bite you.”

“She will try hard enough,” Carol declared. “That is the wrong thing to do, Janet. She won’t agree for spite then. You know she never lets Phyl do anything when she thinks Phyl has her heart really set on it. We should use strategy.”

“Such as——” Janet inquired hopefully.

“I don’t know,” Carol admitted.

“Then we’ll do as I suggest—this once,” Janet said. “We’ll go and see her Aunt. Who will go with me?” She looked around. “Don’t all speak at once,” she begged when none of the others had said a word.

Gale laughed. “I might be persuaded,” she said at last. “I’ll go if you will do the talking.”

“Try to keep Janet quiet,” Carol laughed.

“I’ll go too,” Valerie said.

“Excuse me,” Madge put in. “I feel as Carol does. I won’t face Phyl’s Aunt!”

“Then we three will go and beard the dragon in her den,” Janet said with dignity. “Come along, girls.”

The three went out and walked briskly up the long hill. However, as they neared Phyllis’ home their steps began to lag. Some of their bravado was vanishing now that they were actually nearing the tall, cold, sharp-faced woman whose strong will so dominated the life of their friend.

The house itself did not look very encouraging. The curtains were drawn over all the windows and the panes looked bleak and unfriendly. The outside was grey and weatherbeaten and the girls knew from their infrequent visits the inside was just as bleak.

“Well, ring the bell,” Janet said as they stood undecided on the porch.

Gale stretched out a hand and pulled the old fashioned bell handle. They could hear the peal of the iron bell somewhere within the interior.

“Don’t forget,” Valerie told Janet, “you are to do the talking!”

A second later the door was opened by Phyllis’ Aunt in person. The woman took in the three girls standing there and remained firmly planted in the doorway. Obviously she did not intend to invite them in.

“Well?” she said when neither of them spoke.

“I—we—that is——” Janet began lamely and looked appealingly at Gale. Gone were all intentions of talking.

“We’ve come to talk to you about Phyllis,” Gale said, reluctantly taking upon herself their mission.

“What about her?” Miss Fields demanded. “If she is in any kind of trouble I’ll——”

“Oh, no!” Valerie said hastily.

“We’ve come to talk about Phyllis going to Briarhurst,” Gale said unwisely.

The woman before them stiffened noticeably, if it were possible for her to get much stiffer.

“Phyllis is going to Stonecliff,” she said.

“That is it,” Gale said. She scarcely realized what she was saying. Her words tumbled out incoherently in her haste to say what was to be said and to be away again. She realized now more than ever before why Phyllis lived in such awe of Miss Fields. The woman was a positive tyrant! There was not a glimmer of emotion in the stern cut of her features. Gale doubted if a smile had ever curled the corners of the thin lips.

“We’ve become such good friends with Phyllis that we were hoping she might go along with the rest of us to Briarhurst. It seems a shame to break up our group now. Besides Briarhurst is much the finer college. Their curriculum is much larger, the girls are friendly—everything is nicer and Phyllis really wants to go with us.” Gale realized how unwise the last had been as soon as she had said it.

Miss Fields drew herself up to her full height and glared at each girl in turn. “Phyllis is going to Stonecliff,” she said, and without giving the girls a chance to carry the argument any farther she turned and slammed the door in their faces.

“I’m glad she saw our point of view,” Janet commented dryly when the girls had left the vicinity of Phyllis’ home.

“Do you suppose we should tell Phyllis we were here?” Gale asked after a moment.

“We better,” Valerie said.

“I hope Miss Fields doesn’t think Phyllis sent us up there,” Janet put in.

“I hope not!” Gale said.

“Well, what luck?” Carol demanded when the three girls reëntered the Kopper Kettle.

“Not one inch of ground has been gained,” Janet sighed. “We were forced to retreat. The enemy was too much for us.”

“You should have used strategy,” Carol insisted.

Janet sighed and motioned to Phyllis who was just entering.

Phyllis listened silently to the story of the girls’ visit to her Aunt. She had not a word of comment to make. She was not surprised at the abrupt manner of her Aunt. She might have told them to expect nothing else.

When the girls broke up to make their ways to their separate homes for dinner Gale at once retreated to her room and opened the book her English teacher had given her. “Idylls of The King” had not appealed particularly to her when they had read it in class last year. But now she found her interest being drawn into the story of Elaine.

“‘Elaine the fair, Elaine the lovable,
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat.’”

From the very first words she let herself be drawn into the story, and found to her amazement, when she had finished, that she enjoyed it. Perhaps it was because she secretly saw much of Elaine in herself. And Lancelot? No one but Brent could be Lancelot to her.

Obediently when she had finished she donned her coat and walked over to Miss Relso’s home. There she had the most pleasant discussion she had ever had about a book. She found herself liking the young English teacher more every minute and made a determined effort to like and to grasp those points upon which she had never focused much attention before.

From that time on the major part of Gale’s battle was won. Every day brought a new discovery, new appreciation of plays and poetry. She even surprised herself when she discovered she was liking the studies in which she had previously failed. Now she took rapid strides forward. She coöperated wholeheartedly with her teacher and she did not fail to pass her examinations with flying colors. Her admiration for her teacher knew no bounds.

Chapter XIX

The committee’s plans for the Senior Prom met with many setbacks. There was trouble on all sides, but finally everything was settled. It had so long been delayed that it was May before the big night finally arrived. It was the main event in the lives of the Seniors. It was a night they had long awaited and dreamed of.

If the night were to exceed Gale’s dreams it would have to be gala indeed. For months, ever since the night she had asked Brent, Gale had lived the Prom secretly in her heart many times. Brent had gone to Washington to take up his position with the air company, but he wrote her long, chatty, amusing letters. And she answered in kind. She had been desperately afraid he might forget he had promised to take her, but there was no danger of that. The day before the Prom Brent came to Marchton and upon insistence from the whole family stayed in the guest room at the Howard house.

Now here she was, coming from the dressing room where she had left her wrap, meeting Brent, tall and handsome in his formal clothes. Gale felt her heart must burst with happiness. She had no idea how lovely she herself was, flushed with the excitement and happiness of the evening, but Brent had.

The ballroom was crowded. Gale felt as though she scarcely knew the young people there. There was such a difference. Formal clothes on the boys and long, fluffy gowns on the girls changed the hail-and-well-met chums of the campus to dignified young people. The committee had spared no pains to make the night one to be remembered. The ballroom was decorated artfully with the school colors. The orchestra played smooth, sweet rhythm.

“Happy?” Brent asked.

Gale sighed. “I didn’t know I could be so happy.”

Over his shoulder—she could just about see over Brent’s shoulder—Gale smiled at Phyllis dancing with David Kimball. She was delighted on Phyllis’ account. It had been a long time before Phyllis dared plan to come to the dance. There was Valerie dancing with Peter Arnold—and Janet! Janet with Mark Sherwin and having the time of her life. That was easily determined by the rapt expression on her friend’s face. Gale in her long acquaintance with Janet had never seen the latter look so demure and sweet.

Carol was there with her favorite basketball player, as was Madge with the boy next door. In fact every one Gale knew was there and well they might be. It was the goodbye social affair for them. In another month they would be graduating from high school. Then would come vacation days and then college.

Mingling with the other young people she knew Gale felt happy. She danced with the other boys and Brent danced at least once with the other Adventure Girls, but Gale was happiest when she was dancing with Brent. At other times they talked a lot, they always had something to talk about, to discuss, to laugh about, but tonight they were for the most part silent. Gale felt it was all a dream. The reality was even more sweet than her dreams had been.

Down the smooth expanse of floor Brent guided their progress, winding in and out among the other dancers, to the wide French windows that led out onto the terrace of the Country Club. It was an exceptionally warm night for the spring and startlingly clear. The stars were out doubly strong and the moon beamed with, it seemed, whole-hearted approval upon the pleasure of the young people.

With mutual consent they found a little stone bench in the seclusion of a willow tree and sat down. The night was scented with the sweetness of blossoming flowers. Gale leaned her head back against the rough trunk of the tree and closed her eyes. She felt if something didn’t happen soon to remind her she was actually here she would simply burst with happiness and contentment. It was like a setting in a play—the garden, a boy and girl, and in the distance the faint murmur of music.

“Isn’t it lovely?” she murmured.

Brent had eyes not for the night, but only for Gale. He said as much and she smiled.

“I mean it,” he insisted. “Gale—” his voice had become gentle, low, and desperately serious. “I want to marry you. No, listen, hear it all,” he said, as she would have spoken. “I know, you are going to college, you want to do a lot of things. I want to amount to something and to have something real to offer you. It will take time. But I had to tell you now. I’ve thought about it a lot lately—I’m always thinking about you. Tonight I—I just had to tell you!”

“I’m glad,” Gale whispered.

“If you will wait, Gale, it may not be for long, but I want to give you so many things. If you will wait for me—for a little while, Gale——”

Gale listened to his words, her heart beating fast. It was true she was going to college, she wanted to finish growing up, to have a chance in the world, and with Brent working for the same goal as she—— When she looked up there were actually tears in her eyes. “Oh, Brent,” she whispered, “I’ll wait—I’ll wait forever!”

When they went back into the ballroom Gale’s eyes were a little brighter, her cheeks a little rosier, and her hand nestled cozily in Brent’s possessive grasp. Her friends noted these things and Valerie and Phyllis smiled knowingly. They fully appreciated how happy Gale must be and the minute they could, when they were alone in the dressing room preparing to leave and drive out to the country to a little place for waffles, they each kissed her.

“Has it happened, Gale?” Phyllis asked.

Gale blushed. “Nothing is to be said, but I’m so happy, Phyl!”

“I’m glad,” Phyllis said, and she meant it.

Gale and Brent were both favorites with the Adventure Girls. In the short time they had known him Brent had won a place beside Gale in their affections. They liked his ready smile, easy-going nature and sociability.

The evening ended with Gale, Phyllis and Valerie with their three escorts, driving out into the country where they had hot chocolate and waffles, and then by a long, roundabout way, driving home in the moonlight.

Chapter XX

“For April showers may come your way,” Janet sang lustily as she tramped along through the warm June rain beside Carol and Gale.

“Slightly off in your months, aren’t you?” Carol commented. “Methinks this is June.”

“Ah, yes, ‘what is so fair as a day in June’?” Janet murmured. She squinted up at the dark clouds hanging overhead and at the heavy downpour coming therefrom. “I ask you, ‘what is so fair as a day in June’?”

“June,” soliloquized Carol, “the month of roses, sweet scented breezes—and examinations!” she ended disgustedly.

“What has come over you two?” Gale wanted to know. “Quoting poetry—even in the rain!”

“Yes,” Carol grinned mischievously, “one might think we were in love instead of it being you who——”

Gale frowned good-naturedly at her. “Instead of who?” she encouraged threateningly. She didn’t mind their teasing; by now she was used to it.

“I was going to say——” Carol continued meekly.

“Hi, book slaves,” Madge called, and swung into step beside them.

“Ah, the light of the history class,” Janet greeted her. “I hear you were disgustingly brilliant in your examination this morning,” she accused the latest arrival.

“As usual,” Madge said modestly.

“And poor me,” Carol sighed, “I probably won’t sleep tonight for worrying about my test tomorrow morning.”

“As if anything less than an earthquake could keep you awake!” Janet declared.

“I understand that is what we are coming together for this afternoon,” Madge said, “to coach you.”

“Much to my sorrow,” Carol declared. “You know I simply can’t learn anything when we are all together.”

“Is that the only time?” Janet inquired daringly.

There might have been serious results to her last question had not Madge supplied food for different thought.

“How is it Phyllis is having us at her Aunt’s house?” Madge wanted to know, shifting her books from one arm to the other while she juggled her umbrella.

“I think her Aunt is out of town for the day,” Gale answered.

“I hope she is out of town,” Carol declared heartily. “I wouldn’t want to be present if she should come home and find us.”

“If we get the chance, if her Aunt should surprise us, we must carry out our plans!” Janet insisted.

“Hm,” Carol said unenthusiastically, despite the fact that in the very beginning the girls’ plan had originated with her.

The four went on to the grey house on the top of the hill. There they discovered Valerie had already arrived and was attempting to draw some music from the old piano which was so very seldom used.

“What a day!” Janet declared. “Even music. What would your Aunt say?”

“Why do you have to remind us of what Miss Fields might say?” Carol asked irritably. “We want to enjoy ourselves.”

“Not you, my fine young lady,” Janet declared, flinging Carol’s history book at her. “To work, for you!”

For the rest of the afternoon the girls tried to impress on Carol the facts she would surely need for tomorrow’s examination, the final and biggest of the term. On it depended the result of her whole year’s work. They simply would not let her fail.

“I’ll have a pony!” Carol said with sudden brilliancy.

“You know very well you can’t take a horse into a classroom,” Janet said.

“Silly,” Carol laughed. “A pony in this case is a little slip of paper with all the answers written on it.”

“Uh huh,” Janet said, “and what happens if you lose the paper?”

“I didn’t think of that.”

“Besides, how do you know what questions are going to be asked? How can you tell which are the right answers to write down?” Madge added.

“Forget I said anything,” Carol pleaded. “I’ll pass without the pony.”

The girls really had a good time, and at dinnertime Carol had to admit that she did know a little more than when she had started.

Phyllis suggested that they all stay and between them make their own dinner. The girls welcomed the suggestion albeit they were a little fearful of the sudden and unexpected return of Phyllis’ Aunt. However, Phyllis assured them Miss Fields wasn’t expected back until late in the evening. She was no more anxious than the rest of them to incur her Aunt’s wrath.

For that one evening the house on the hill was lighted gaily, laughter and chatter echoed in the rooms usually so silent and the dining room was the scene of a festive, yet far from elaborate, dinner. The silver and glassware glittered in the light from the old-fashioned chandelier. The girls were delighted with the old patterned china and glassware.

“It is a wonder your Aunt wouldn’t give a lot of parties just to show off the things she has,” declared Madge.

Phyllis laughed but said nothing. She could never picture her Aunt as hostess to any party.

After the simple meal the girls put together and washed the dishes, Gale doing the actual washing, Valerie and Phyllis drying while Madge, Janet and Carol carried them to the dining room and put them in the old-fashioned sideboard.

It was upon one of the return trips to the kitchen for more dishes that Carol pushed the swinging door squarely into Madge, knocking the huge platter from her hand.

“I’m dreadfully sorry!” Carol said in horror, gazing down at the smashed fragments of the dish.

“That doesn’t help matters any,” Janet said with a frown. “Why don’t you be careful? We will probably get Phyllis in an awful mess now.”

“It doesn’t matter really,” Phyllis said, knowing in her heart it mattered a great deal. She had no idea what her Aunt might do when she discovered the destruction of her favorite platter.

While Gale assisted Phyllis in picking up the pieces the other girls returned to the dining room. There they waited for the other two while tracing the patterns of wood carving on the heavy oak furniture.

Suddenly Carol, who had been standing at the old sideboard beside Janet, looked up and into the mirror over her head. She saw suddenly the figure of Phyllis’ Aunt in the doorway behind them. At first she almost dropped from fright, then quickly she gathered her wits together. She nudged Janet and from the look on her friend’s face judged Janet had already become aware of Miss Fields. Carol only hoped now that the woman did not know the girls were aware of her.

“You know,” Carol said, trying to speak naturally, “since Phyllis can’t go with us to Briarhurst, suppose we go to Stonecliff with her.”

Valerie and Madge looked at the other two swiftly, but taking their cue, nodded in agreement.

In the mirror Carol saw Miss Fields draw back into the protecting shadows of the room beyond. She turned quite calmly about. Phyllis’ Aunt could not now be seen, but she was still listening, of that Carol was sure.

“Yes,” she said, “I think it would be more fun to go with Phyllis than to break up our group, don’t you think so?”

“Don’t we think what?” Phyllis asked, entering then with Gale.

“We’ve been thinking,” Janet supplied, “that it would be nice if we went with you to Stonecliff since you can’t go with us to Briarhurst.”

Phyllis stared at her friends in surprise. “But I thought——”

“That we were set on Briarhurst?” Valerie put in. “One college is as good as another,” she shrugged convincingly.

“But——” Phyllis began, and stopped. “Why this sudden decision?” she demanded.

Carol was afraid she would spoil everything. “We just decided on it!” she said firmly. “Can’t we change our minds if we like?”

“It will be nice being with you,” Phyllis sighed. “I—Aunt Melba!”

“Phyllis, when your guests have gone I would like to speak to you. I will come to your room.”

The girls were not slow in taking their leave after that. As Carol said, they didn’t need a second hint.

When the door had closed behind her friends Phyllis leaned against it and for a moment considered dashing after them. Her heart was beating wildly. There had been something about her Aunt—Phyllis dreaded being alone with her. She knew there was punishment coming for daring to bring her friends into the house and then there was that prized platter! What form the punishment would take Phyllis did not know. Her Aunt did not use physical violence, instead she deprived Phyllis of something the girl wanted very much. Phyllis was glad the Prom was past. This would have been an excellent reason for her Aunt to refuse her permission to go. But now nothing could dispel the memory of the good time she had had that night.

Slowly and thoughtfully she mounted the steps to her room. There was a glimmer of light beneath her Aunt’s door but not a sound came from within. In her own room Phyllis sat on the edge of the bed and waited. Two important thoughts leaped and surged through her mind. One was her Aunt’s anger and the other the Adventure Girls’ new announcement. She was glad that they were going to Stonecliff with her. It would not be so lonesome now.

Suddenly the door knob turned and noiselessly the door opened. Phyllis stared at her Aunt standing on the threshold. A heavy frown was on the cold features. Phyllis thought instinctively of the broken platter. Now it would come! She got to her feet and stood waiting.

“Phyllis——” her Aunt began.

“I’m sorry I brought the girls here, Aunt Melba,” Phyllis interrupted. “I didn’t mean——”

“Silence!” Her Aunt held up a peremptory hand. “We won’t discuss that. Recently you asked me to reconsider my decision to send you to Stonecliff. I have done so and have decided that perhaps you are right. Briarhurst may be the best for you.”

Phyllis sat down abruptly upon the bed. “But now——” she began vaguely.

“Briarhurst is the better college,” her Aunt said firmly. “You should be pleased. It was what you wanted. Good night.”

The door closed behind her Aunt and Phyllis flung herself across the bed. What she wanted? Last week it was, but now—just when the other girls had made up their minds to go to Stonecliff? She, her Aunt, must have been listening tonight when the girls were talking about Stonecliff, Phyllis decided. It must have been then she decided to send her niece to the other college. Anything to break up the friendship between Phyllis and the other girls.

Phyllis choked back her tears and went to the window. The rain had cleared away and in the faint moonlight Phyllis could see the houses in the valley below lighted and cozy. She thought of the other girls in homes that were gay and with lots of friends. Girls who did much as they pleased.

Phyllis tried to remember her own mother and father but she could not. Her Aunt never referred to Phyllis’ parents and she gave the girl no opportunity to ask questions. But lately Phyllis had begun to wonder. She even doubted sometimes if her Aunt was really her Aunt. If she were really Miss Fields’ niece, wouldn’t the woman have a little affection for her? Wouldn’t she be a little kinder sometimes? Must she always be distant, always cold, always a total stranger?

Phyllis decided to give up thinking anything tonight and go to bed. She felt very young and friendless as she climbed into bed and lay staring up into the darkness. Yet a moment later she chided herself sternly. She had friends, all the Adventure Girls and others. She supposed her Aunt did love her in her way or else she wouldn’t be sending her to college at all. Yes, she told herself, she did have friends. Hadn’t the Adventure Girls decided to go to Stonecliff because she was to go there? Yes, but now she wasn’t going there. She would have to see if she could change her Aunt’s mind back again. Everything was terribly mixed up!

Chapter XXI

The next day was the last day of examinations. It marked the end of all their four high school years. Carol did her best in history class and she had the secret conviction when the bell dismissed them that she had done pretty well. Of course she wouldn’t know until their papers were marked, but she was sure she had passed. The other girls, too, were pretty confident now of having no more difficulties with high school studies.

“If you hadn’t been so patient I wouldn’t have passed,” Gale declared to Miss Relso that afternoon when she was the last one to leave the English class.

“I’m glad you passed, Gale,” the teacher said, “and I want to wish you lots of success in college.”

“I’ll probably need a lot of good wishes,” Gale confessed. “I know college will be more difficult than high school has been.”

“If you do your work as you have done here you won’t have any trouble,” Miss Relso assured her. “To what college are you going, Gale?”

“Briarhurst,” Gale said.

“Indeed!” Miss Relso murmured in a pleased tone; she had graduated from there.

Gale greeted this news eagerly. “Then perhaps you can help me,” she said. “The girls and I want to make arrangements for our rooms, but we don’t know the dormitories or anything. Or will all that be taken care of for us? Will the registrar assign our dormitories?”

“It would be nice if you could get into the Omega Chi Sorority house,” the teacher mused.

“Is that your sorority?” Gale asked, indicating the pin the teacher wore.

It seemed at that Gale struck a responsive note for the teacher launched into vivid details of her days at the Sorority house. Right then and there Gale decided she would rather stay at the Sorority building than anywhere else. The teacher’s description of the rooms, the friendship that sprang up between the girls, all delighted her. Gale made up her mind to write to the Omega Chi Sorority that very night. Unknown to her the teacher at the same moment decided to write in the girls’ behalf.

The sun was setting but it would not be dark for a long while yet, when Gale ran lightly down the wide stone steps of the high school building. Boys and girls lounged on the corner, strolled slowly homeward, or made their way to the tennis courts in back of the building. Gale answered their hails with smiles and a wave of her hand but she did not linger. She suspected and earnestly hoped that there would be a fat letter from Brent awaiting her when she reached home. She was not disappointed. There was a letter whose thickness delighted her and also some snapshots taken by Stubby of Brent in his flying togs and near his pet plane.

Gale propped the pictures upright upon her dressing table and curled up on the window seat to read the closely written pages of his letter. She read it through twice before she finally restored it to the waiting envelope.

She knew the other girls were waiting at the Kopper Kettle for her, but she couldn’t bring herself to bestir herself from her dreams. She could look out and down on the lawn and street beyond. The trees had once more assumed their gay lovely summer colors. The scent of flowers was heavy.

Gale’s eyes were dreamy and there was a half smile on her face. If someone had spoken to her then she wouldn’t have heard. She was miles away, alternately dreaming of a tall young man who spent much of his time in the sky, and the college days that were to come. She wondered if she would like the girls at Briarhurst. She wondered if she would fare well in her studies. She wondered if, with the enlargements of their interests and new friends, the Adventure Girls would ultimately be broken up.

The jangle of the telephone sent her scampering downstairs to answer.

“Say, aren’t you ever coming?” Carol’s impatient voice demanded.

“Right away!” Gale declared and true to her word snatched up her tennis racquet and departed forthwith.

After their impromptu meeting at the Kopper Kettle the girls were to play tennis until dinner time. They all had their tennis racquets, that is all but Phyllis. When she appeared, even after Gale, the others noted the lack of the important equipment if she was to play with them.

“You can’t play!” Janet cried in disappointment.

“No,” Phyllis said briefly, seating herself beside Valerie, “I can’t play and what is more—I won’t be going to college with you.”

“What’s that?” Carol demanded. “Do you mean to say that after all this——”

“What I mean to say is that since you are going to Stonecliff my Aunt has decided to send me to Briarhurst. Whichever one you go to I shall probably go to the other. Now when I want to go to Stonecliff——”

“You can just keep on wanting,” Madge said delightedly, “because we aren’t going there.”

Phyllis looked at the smiling faces about her in bewilderment. “But you all said——”

“What we said was said for your Aunt’s especial benefit,” Carol explained. “Remember I said we would have to use strategy in bringing your Aunt around to our way of thinking? She still doesn’t think as we do, but nevertheless we accomplished what we set out to do.”

“I don’t understand,” Phyllis murmured. “First you were going to Briarhurst, now you aren’t——”

“You see,” Carol went on obligingly, “last night when we were at your house Janet and I saw, in the mirror, your Aunt standing behind us in the doorway. She thought we hadn’t seen her and that is exactly what we wanted her to think. We put our plan into action then. We said what we did because we knew your Aunt was listening.”

Janet made a wry face. “We also knew how she felt about us going with you. She didn’t want to send you to the college we were going to.”

“So you said you were going to Stonecliff to make her change her mind about me,” Phyllis said happily. “Well, it worked. I’m off for Briarhurst the first week in September.”

“Miss Relso was telling me about the Omega Chi Sorority house at Briarhurst,” Gale put in, “and from what she says it will be wonderful if we could get into the sorority and live there. I’m going to write them tonight.”

“The Omega what?” Carol asked again. “Would it be safe to sleep in a house with that name?”

“The house isn’t called that,” Gale laughed. “That is the Greek name of the sorority.”

“Carol wouldn’t appreciate that,” Janet put in. “Well, are we going to play tennis or aren’t we?”

“We are!” declared Valerie and Madge in the same breath.

However, Gale at the last minute decided she didn’t want to play tennis. She walked up the hill to Phyllis’ home with her and there they talked for a while until Phyllis had to go in. Then Gale went slowly down to her home again.

She was seated on the porch, lazily swinging to and fro, watching night darken the world slowly and relentlessly when a tennis ball was thrown at her. It was aimed perfectly and hit her squarely but without hurting. She sat up with a jerk.

“Bruce Latimer! Come out of there!”

Bruce cautiously poked his head around the honeysuckle trellis and grinned.

“Top of the evenin’ to ye, my fine Miss.”

“Where did you get the brogue?” she demanded laughingly.

“Came over to see if you would care for a ride in the motor boat on this swell night.”

“I’d love it,” she declared. “Let’s go!”

“Ah, a girl of action,” Bruce laughed. “You astonish me. Take it easy,” he pleaded as Gale, bouncing his tennis ball ahead of her, ran before him to the street.

“Slow poke,” she teased.

If Bruce was, he belied the name then and did his best to retrieve his ball but Gale eluded him with the agility of long practice. When they arrived at the spot where Bruce’s boat was tied to the makeshift pier they were both breathless and laughing.

It took but a moment before they were in the boat with the motor putting amicably.

Bruce ran his boat to the edge of the bay, to the little inlet where the sea and the quiet inner waters joined. The waves rocked the little boat gently, the air was cool and the night star-studded.

“We better do something or I’ll fall asleep,” Gale declared. “It is too peaceful here. Isn’t the moonlight glorious?”

“Mmm.” Bruce started the motor.

“Let’s go to the island,” Gale proposed. “We will officially open it for the summer.”

The prow of the boat cut through the water like a giant knife sending a light spray back over the two occupants. Twice Bruce circled the bay, the thrill of speed and wind exciting them. Finally he drew up to the island and they went ashore.

Quite a while passed as they strolled along the beach. They sat for a time on a box that had been washed up on the shore by the waves and watched clouds slowly darken the moon. Wind whispered with increasing volume in the tops of the trees, occasionally an owl hooted from his post in the darkness.

Gale sighed audibly and thought of Brent far away in Washington. It was on such a night as this they had gone strolling in the garden at the Country Club. There would never be another night as wonderful as that, she was sure. If only Brent wasn’t so far away!

From Brent her thoughts went again to the college days that were so close. Only a little more than two months and she would be taking the train for Briarhurst. She had always dreamed of college some day, but it seemed unbelievable that those days should actually be here.

“We better go back, Gale, it looks like a storm,” Bruce’s voice recalled her to the present.

The moon was darkly hidden. Trees were swaying with the wind of a sudden approaching storm. In the east thunder rumbled heavily; a flash of lightning illuminated the dark waters of the bay.

“Righto!” Gale agreed immediately.

They set off swiftly, going through the thick growth of trees as a short cut to the opposite shore where they had left the motor boat. Progress was impeded somewhat by the brush and trees which were abundantly thick. In the midst of the woods there was an ear-splitting clap of thunder. A flash of flame and one of the giants of the forest tottered.

Bruce snatched Gale out of danger and they hovered trembling while the tree crashed safely to one side of them, its branches sweeping leaves and brush from its neighbors.

“That was close!” Bruce whistled expressively. “We’ve got to run for it, Gale.” He took her hand in his and they ran forward. “The island is no place to be caught in a thunderstorm—there are too many trees.”

They reached the shore just as the rain started coming down in torrents. They ran along the beach to where the motor boat had been.

“Gone!” Gale gasped.

The placid waters of the bay were now tossing waves stirred with the storm and current from the ocean. The motor boat had been drawn from the shore and was now afloat far out of reach.

“What’ll we do?” Gale wanted to know. “We can’t stay here. Suppose we use the canoe to get to shore.”

“We wouldn’t make it,” Bruce declared instantly. “The canoe would be capsized before we were half way across.”

Behind them trees creaked as they were bent in the force of the wind. The boy and girl were nearly swept from their feet as a sudden gust of wind and rain drenched them.

“I won’t stay here,” Gale said. “We might as well try to make it in the canoe as stay here and get drenched—besides being hit with a falling tree.”

“We couldn’t take the canoe over those waters,” Bruce said again. “Tell you what, you wait in the club house—I’ll take the canoe and try to reach the motor boat. I won’t have to go far, we can see it adrift out there, and it will be safer crossing in the motor boat.”

“If you go, I go,” Gale said stubbornly. “I’ll hold the canoe about while you climb onto the motor boat.”

Bruce started to argue but it was of no avail. Gale was quite firm in her determination to accompany him. Bruce brought the canoe down to the water’s edge and held it steady while Gale climbed into it. The canoe tossed about like a paper cup.

“We won’t make it,” Bruce said shaking his head. “We won’t even stay right side up until we reach the motor boat.”

“We can try,” Gale insisted. “Get in.”

Tremulously the two trusted the small, fragile boat to the fury of the bay waters. Waves rocked them, more than once the canoe hovered on the verge of going over. Their paddles were as naught against the black water. Neither spoke. Gale took an oar and between them they tried to steer the canoe to the dark outline of the motor boat. Every time they sent the boat forward a stroke the waves hurled them back. The struggle lasted scarcely any time at all. Like a paper bag the canoe crumpled, tossing them into the water.

Gale came to the surface spluttering in protest at the mouthful of water she had swallowed. In the darkness she looked about for Bruce. He came up to the right of her.

“Make for the shore,” he cried. “The island!”

They had completely lost sight of the motor boat and the mainland was too far away to dream of swimming there. The waves tossed them about like playthings. Both were excellent swimmers but their training was lost in the swirl of the stormy waters. They were pitched ahead, dragged down, and finally tossed up on the shore weak and breathless.

“Castaways on a desert island!” Gale grumbled as they entered the club house. “I hope the place isn’t smashed under a tree.”

“I believe the thunder and lightning will let up in a little while,” Bruce declared, on his knees coaxing a flame into life in the dark fireplace.

“That feels good!” Gale shivered, holding her hands out to the blaze, after wrapping herself in a blanket. “How are we going to get home?”

“I don’t think we will—tonight,” Bruce said, frowning. “No one knows where we are for one thing. I’ll sleep in the canoe house on the cot tonight and you can have the bunk in here. Pleasant dreams!” and he was gone. He knew the struggle in the water had tired Gale and it was best to let her rest.

Gale listened to the whine of the wind and the slashing of rain against the frail walls of the club house and shivered. She was afraid, but she wouldn’t call Bruce. She remembered vividly the second when the earth had seemed torn apart when the tree was struck by lightning. Suppose one of the tall trees about the club house should fall? She and Bruce would be crushed by the weight of the walls and roof! Such thoughts were horrible and she endeavored to thrust them from her.

She was beginning to feel deliciously warm and cozy. Gale curled up on the bunk and watched the fire in the fireplace and listened to the rain. The rain was a lulling accompaniment to the crackling of the logs and before she knew it she was asleep.

Gale had no inkling of when the rain stopped. The next morning when she awakened and sat up the sun was streaming in through the open door and birds were chirping outside.

“Bruce!” Gale called, but there was no answer.

She looked into the adjoining canoe house, but it was empty. Outside she looked about. The beach was empty as far as she could see.

“Bruce!” she called again.


It was his voice right enough but she could not see him.

“Where are you?”

A twig fell at her feet and she looked up. Bruce was perched in the topmost branches of a sturdy tree. He had a vividly colored Indian blanket in his hand.

“What on earth——” Gale began in amazement.

“Going to be a hermit,” he laughed.

“What’s the idea?”

“People on the mainland,” he answered. “They are looking at something—I believe it is our motor boat—must be a wreck. I’ve been waving the blanket so they can see it and come and rescue us. I want my breakfast.”

Once more Bruce waved his gayly-colored flag, so furiously he nearly toppled from his perch.

“Do they see it?” Gale inquired anxiously.

“They won’t even look over this way,” he said.

“Keep trying,” she urged.

On the shore Carol and Janet with David and Peter were bending over the ruins of the canoe. Farther along the shore Janet called attention to Bruce’s motor boat lying on its side, half filled with water.

“Do you suppose——” Carol couldn’t finish her thought.

“What could have happened to them?” Janet murmured fearfully.

“If they were on the bay in the storm last night,” David said, “it is hard to tell what might have happened.”

“Both boats wrecked—it looks bad,” Peter commented.

“Poor Gale,” Carol whispered in a low voice. “And Bruce——”

Carol and Janet had called for Gale on their way to school that morning. Upon learning that Gale had not been home all night they were preparing to rush out and tell the other girls when they met Peter and David with news of the wrecked boat. They all came down to the shore to make sure it was Bruce’s boat. Their fears were confirmed and now they were at a loss what to do. People had been known to drown in the bay—especially during a storm like the one of last night.

David and Peter hauled the canoe farther up the beach.

“It is the one from the club house all right,” David declared. “I wonder how it got over here?”

“Look,” Carol murmured, “do you see something moving on the island?”

“You are seeing things,” Janet declared.

“I mean—look in that tree right opposite from us. I can just faintly see something—looks like a flag being waved.”

“Perhaps it is Gale and Bruce,” Janet said excitedly. “Get a boat. We’ll go over and find out.”

David departed to find a friend who could lend him a motor boat. The fifteen minutes it took him were interminable for those waiting.

When the boat put out from the mainland Bruce half slid, half climbed down from the tree and together he and Gale went down to the beach to await their rescuers.