The Outdoor Girls of Deepdale
Laura Lee Hope

Part 3 out of 3

"It's a tame bear!" cried Betty. "That's what I meant. He won't harm us.
Come on back to the road! Oh, I've torn my skirt!" and she gazed ruefully
at a rent in the garment.

The girls hesitated a moment, and then, understanding the situation, and
being encouraged by the fact that the man now had his bear in charge,
also seeing another man, evidently the mate of the first, approaching
with a second bear, they all went back to the highway. The bugle blew
again, and one of the bears, at a command from the man, turned a clumsy

Grace burst into hysterical laughter, in which she was joined by
the others.

"Weren't we silly!" exclaimed Mollie.

"Oh, but it looked just like a real bear!" gasped Amy in self-defense.

"Listen to her," said Betty. "A real bear--why, of course it is. Did you
think it was the Teddy variety?"

"Oh, you know what I mean," spoke Amy, "I thought it was a wild bear."

"It probably was--once," remarked Grace.

They were all out in the road now, and the two men, with the bears, were
slowly approaching. Evidently the foremost man had seen the precipitate
flight of the girls, so, taking off his hat, and bowing with foreign
politeness, he said:

"Excuse--please. Juno him get away from me--I chase after--I catch.
Excuse, please."

"That's all right," said Betty, pleasantly. "We were frightened for
a minute."

"Verra sorry. Juno made the dance for the ladies!"

He blew some notes on a battered brass horn, and began some foreign
words in a sing-song tone, at which the bear moved clumsily about on its
hind feet.

"Juno--kiss!" the man cried.

The great shaggy creature extended its muzzle toward the man's face,
touching his cheek.

"Excuse--please," said the bear-trainer, smiling.

"Come on girls," suggested Amy. The place was rather a lonely one, though
there were houses just beyond, and the two men, in spite of their bows,
did not seem very prepossessing.

With hearts that beat rapidly from their recent flight and excitement,
the girls passed the bears, the men both taking off their hats and
bowing. Then the strange company was lost to sight down a turn in the
road, the notes of the bugles coming faintly to the girls.

"Gracious! That _was_ an adventure!" exclaimed Mollie.

"I thought I should faint," breathed Amy.

"Have a chocolate--do," urged Grace.

"They're nourishing," and she held out some.

"Girls, we must hurry," spoke Betty, "or we'll never get to Broxton
before the rain. Hurry along!"

They walked fast, passing through the little village of Chanceford,
where they attracted considerable attention. It was not every day
that four such pretty, and smartly-attired, girls were seen on the
village main street--the only thoroughfare, by the way. Then they
came to the open country again. They had been going along at a good
pace, and were practically certain of reaching Grace's sister's house
in time for supper.

"It's raining!" suddenly exclaimed Betty, holding up her hand to
make sure.

A drop splashed on it. Then another. Amy looked up into the clouds

"Oh!" she cried. "A drop fell in my eye."

Then with a suddenness that was surprising, the shower came down hard.
Little dark spots mottled the white dust of the road.

"Run!" cried Mollie. "There's a house. We can stay on the porch until the
rain passes. The people won't mind."

A little in advance, enclosed with a neat red fence, and setting back
some distance from the road was a large, white house, with green
shutters. The windows in front were open, as was the front door, and
from one casement a lace curtain flapped in the wind.

"Run! Run! We'll be drenched!" cried Grace, thinking of her new walking
suit. Without more ado the girls hurried through the gate, up the gravel
walk and got to the porch just as the rain reached its maximum. It was
coming down now in a veritable torrent.

"Queer the people here don't shut their door," remarked Betty.

"And see, the rain is coming in the parlor window," added Amy.

"Maybe they don't know it," suggested Grace. "Oh, the wind is blowing the
rain right in on us!" she cried.

"I wonder if it would be impertinent to walk in?" suggested Mollie.

"We at least can knock and ask--they won't refuse," said Betty. "And
really, with the wind this way, the porch is no protection at all."

She rapped on the open door. There was no response and she tapped
again--louder, to make it heard above the noise of the storm.

"That's queer--maybe no one is at home," said Grace.

"They would hardly go off and leave the house all open, when it looked so
much like rain," declared Amy. "Suppose we call to them? Maybe they are

The girls were now getting so wet that they decided not to stand on
ceremony. They went into the hall, through the front door. There was a
parlor on one side, and evidently a sitting room on the other side of the
central hall.

"See that rain coming in on the curtains and carpets!" cried Betty.
"Girls, we must close the windows," and she darted into the parlor.
The others followed her example, and soon the house was closed against
the elements.

Breathless the girls waited for some sign or evidence of life in the
house. There was none. The place was silent, the only sound being the
patter of the rain and the sighing of the wind. The girls looked at each
other. Then Betty spoke:

"I don't believe there's a soul here!" she exclaimed. "Not a soul! The
house is deserted!"



"No one here? What do you mean?"

"Betty Nelson, what a strange thing to say!"

"Of course there must be some one here. They're only upstairs, maybe,
shutting the windows there."

Thus spoke Mollie, Grace and Amy in turn. Betty listened patiently, and
then suggested:

"Just hearken for a minute, and see if you think anyone is upstairs
shutting windows."

Then all listened intently. There was not a sound save that caused by the
storm, which seemed to increase in fury instead of diminishing.

"There is no one here," went on Betty positively. "We are all alone in
this house."

"But where can the people be?" asked Grace. "They must be people living
here," and she looked around at the well-kept, if somewhat
old-fashioned, parlor.

"Of course the house is lived in--and the people must have left it only
recently," said Betty. "That's evident."

"Why did they go off and leave it?" asked Mollie.

"That's the mystery of it," admitted Betty. "It's like the mystery of the
five hundred dollar bill. We've got to solve it."

"Perhaps--" began Amy in a gentle voice.

"Well?" asked Betty encouragingly.

"Maybe the lady was upstairs shutting the windows when she saw the storm
coming, and she fell, or fainted or something like that."

"That's so!" exclaimed Mollie.

"We'll look," decided Betty.

"Betty!" chorused Grace and Amy.

"Why not?" the Little Captain challenged. "We've got to get at the
bottom of this."

"But suppose we should find her--find some one up there in a--faint," and
Amy motioned toward the upper rooms.

"All the more reason for helping them," said practical Betty. "They may
need help. Come on!"

The girls left their things in the hall, and, rather timidly, it must be
confessed, ascended the stairs. But they need not have been afraid of
seeing some startling sight. The upper chambers were as deserted as the
rooms below. In short, a careful examination throughout the house failed
to disclose a living creature, save a big Maltese cat which purred and
rubbed in friendly fashion against the girls.

"The house is deserted!" declared Betty again. "We are in sole and
undisputed possession, girls. We're in charge!"

"For how long?" asked Amy.

"Until this storm is over, anyhow. We can't go out in that downpour," and
Betty glanced toward the window against which the rain was dashing
furiously. "We must close down the sashes here, too!" she exclaimed, for
one or two were open, and the water was beating in.

"What can have happened?" murmured Mollie. "Isn't it strange?"

"I've no doubt it can be explained simply," said Betty. "The woman who
lives here may have gone to a neighbor's house and failed to notice the
time. Then she may be storm-bound, as we are."

"No woman would remain at a neighbor's house, and leave her own alone,
with a lot of windows up, the front door open and a beating rain coming
down," said Grace, positively. "Not such a neat housekeeper as the woman
here seems to be; she'd come home if she was drenched," and she glanced
around the well-ordered rooms.

"You've got to think up a different reason than that, Betty Nelson."

"Besides, what of the men folks?--there are men living here--at least
one, for there's a hat on the front rack," put in Amy. "Where are the
men, or the man?"

"They'll be along at supper time," declared Betty.

"Besides, maybe that hat is just kept there to scare tramps," said Grace.
"I've often heard of a lone woman borrowing a man's hat--when she didn't
have--didn't want, or couldn't get a man."

"That's so," admitted Betty. "But, speaking of supper reminds me--what
are we going to do about ours?"

"It is getting nearly time," murmured Mollie. "But we simply can't tramp
through that rain to your sister's house, Grace."

"No, we'll have to wait. Oh, dear! Isn't this a queer predicament to be
in, and not a chocolate left?" she wailed, as she looked in the box.
"Empty!" she cried quite tragically.

The rain still descended. It was not, for the moment, pouring as hard as
at first, but there was a steadiness and persistency to it that did not
encourage one in the belief that it would soon stop. The big drops dashed
against the windows intermittently, as the wind rose and fell.

Around one angle of the house the gale howled quite fiercely, and in the
parlor, where there was an open fireplace, it came down in gusts, sighing
mournfully out into the room, with its old horsehair furniture, the
pictures of evidently dead-and-gone relatives, in heavy gold frames,
while in other frames were fearfully and wonderfully made wreaths of
flowers--wax in some cases, and cloth in the remainder, being the medium
in which nature was rather mocked than simulated.

The girls stood at the windows, staring drearily out. They could just see
a house down the road on the other side. In the other direction no
residences were visible--just an expanse of rain-swept fields. And there
seemed to be no passers-by--no teams on the winding country road.

"Oh, but this is lonesome," said Amy, with a sigh.

"Girls, what are we to do?" demanded Mollie.

"We simply must go on to my sister's," declared Grace. "What will she
think, if we don't come?"

As if in answer, the storm burst into another spasm of fury, the
rain coming down in "sheets, blankets and pillow cases," as Mollie
grimly put it.

"We can never go--in this downpour," declared Betty. "It would be sheer
madness--foolishness, at any rate. We would be drenched in an instant,
and perhaps take cold."

"If there was only some way to let your sister know," spoke Mollie. "I
wonder if there's a telephone?"

It needed but a little survey to disclose that there was none.

"If we could only see someone--send for a covered carriage, or send some
word--" began Amy.

"Oh, well, for the matter of my sister worrying, that doesn't amount to
much," interrupted Grace. "When I wrote I told her it was not exactly
certain just what day we would arrive, as I thought we might spend more
time in some places than in others. That part is all right. What's
worrying me is that we can't get to any place to spend the night--we
can't have any supper--we--"

"Girls!" cried Betty, with sudden resolve, "there is only one
thing to do!"

"What's that?" the others chorused.

"Stay here. We'll get supper here--there must be food in the house. If
the people come back we'll ask them to keep us over night--there's
room enough."

"And if they don't come?" asked Amy, shivering a little.

"Then we'll stay anyhow!" cried the Little Captain. "We are in charge and
we can't desert now."



That Betty's suggestion was the most sensible one which could have been
made they were all willing to admit when they had thought of it for a
little while.

"Of course it is possible for us to go out in this storm, and tramp on to
Broxton," said Betty. "But would it be wise?"

"Indeed not!" exclaimed Grace, as she glanced down at her trim suit,
which the little wetting received in the dash to the house had not
spoiled. "If we were boys we might do it, but, as it is--"

"I won't admit that we can't do it because we are _not_ boys," said
Betty. "Only just--"

"Only we're just not going out in this storm!" said Mollie, decidedly.
"We'll stay here, and if the people come back, and make a fuss, we'll
pay, just as we would at a hotel. They won't be mean enough to turn us
out, I think."

"We'll stay--and get supper," cried Betty. "Come on, I'm getting
hungrier every minute!"

"If the people do come," remarked Amy, "they ought to allow us something
for taking care of their house--I mean if they attempt to charge us as a
hotel would, we can tell them how we shut the windows--"

"At so much per window," laughed Mollie. "Oh, you are the queerest girl!"
and she hugged her.

"Well, let's get supper," proposed Betty again. "It will soon be dark,
and it isn't easy going about a strange house in the dark."

"There are lamps," said Mollie, pointing to several on a shelf in
the kitchen.

"Oh, I didn't exactly mean that," went on Betty, rolling up her sleeves.
"Now to see what's in the ice box--at least, I suppose there is an ice
box. There's a fire in the stove, and we can cook. Oh, girls! It's going
to be real jolly after all!"

"And how it does rain!" exclaimed Amy. "We never could have gone on in
this drenching downpour."

It was an exceedingly well-ordered house, and the girls, who had been
wisely trained at home, had no difficulty in locating an ample supply of
food. They invaded the cellar, and found plenty of canned fruit, tomatoes
and other things. There were hams, shoulders of bacon, eggs, and some
fresh meat. Great loaves of evidently home-made bread were in the pantry.

"We shall dine like kings!" cried Grace.

"Better than some kings," said Betty. "Only I don't see any chocolates,
Grace," and she laughed.

"Smarty!" was the other's retort, but she laughed also.

Such a jolly meal as it was! The girls, once they had decided in their
minds to make the best of a queer situation, felt more at home. They
laughed and joked, and when supper was over, the dishes washed, and the
lamps lighted, they gathered in the old-fashioned parlor, and Betty
played on a melodeon that gave forth rather doleful sounds.

However, she managed to extract some music from its yellowed keys, and
the girls sang some simple little part-songs.

"Too bad we haven't an audience," murmured Grace, as they ended up with
"My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."

"The rain is audience enough," spoke Mollie. "As for someone's Bonnie
lying over the _ocean_--the yard is a perfect _lake_!" she went on,
looking from the window.

"It would have been foolish to go on," said Betty. "I am glad we have
such a comfortable place."

And comfortable it certainly was. The house, while a typical country
residence, was very convenient and well ordered. Careful people lived in
it--that was easy to see. And as the rain pelted down, the girls sat
about, the cat purring contentedly near them, and a cheerful fire burning
on the hearth in the parlor.

"I hope they won't make a fuss about the liberties we are taking," said
Mollie, putting some extra sticks on the blaze. "Some persons never open
their parlors in the country."

"These people don't seem of that sort," said Amy. "At least, the parlor
was open enough when we closed the windows."

"And how it rains!" murmured Grace, with a little nervous shiver.

"Suppose the people come back in the middle of the night?" asked Mollie.
"They'll think we are burglars."

"We must leave a light burning," decided Betty, "and a note near it
explaining why we came in and that we are asleep upstairs. Then they
will know."

That was decided on as the best plan, and it was carried out. The girls
went to bed, but it was some time before they got to sleep, though
finally the steady fall of rain wooed them to slumber. No one entered
during the night, and the morning came, still retaining the rain.

"Will it ever clear?" asked Mollie, hopelessly.

"The wind is changing," spoke Betty. "I think we can soon start."

"But can we go away and leave the house alone?" asked Amy. "Ought we not
to stay until the owners come back?"

"How can we tell when they will come back?" demanded Grace. "Besides, I
must let my sister know why we were detained."

"I suppose we will have to go on," said Betty. "If the persons living
here didn't care about deserting their place we ought not to."

"But what will they think when they come in and see that someone has been
here?" asked Mollie.

"We must leave a note explaining, and also some money for the food
we took," decided Betty. "Or we can stop at the next house and tell
how it was."

They debated these two plans for some time, finally deciding on part of
both. That is, they would leave a note and a sum of money that they
figured would pay for what they had eaten. They made no deduction for
closing the windows against the rain. They would also stop at the
nearest house and explain matters to the residents there, asking them to
communicate with the occupants of the deserted house.

When this point had been reached, and when the note had been written, and
wrapped around the money, being placed in a conspicuous place in the
front hall, the girls were ready to leave.

The rain had slackened, and there was a promise of fair weather.
Breakfast had been partaken of, and the dishes washed. The house was as
nearly like it had been as was possible to leave it.

"Well, let's start," proposed Grace.

They went towards the front door, and as they opened it they saw
advancing up the walk a lady with a large umbrella, a large carpet bag,
wearing a large bonnet and enveloped in the folds of a large shawl. She
walked with determined steps and as she came on she glanced toward the
house. As she saw the four girls on the porch she quickened her pace.

"Girls, we're relieved," said Betty, in a low voice. "Here comes the
owner, or I'm much mistaken!"



"What are you doing here? Who are you? How long have you been here? Is
Mrs. Black in there?"

These questions were fairly shot at the girls, who stood in rather
embarrassed silence on the porch. The sun was now breaking through the
clouds in warm splendor, and they took this for a good omen.

"Well, why don't you answer?" demanded the rather aggressive woman. "I
can't see what you are doing here!"

She stuck her umbrella in the soft earth along the graveled walk.

"We--we came in to shut the windows," said Amy, gently.

A change came over the woman's face. She frowned--she smiled. She turned
about and looked toward the nearest house. Then she spoke.

"Do you mean to tell me," she demanded, "that after I called her on the
telephone, Martha Black didn't come over, shut my windows, lock up my
house, and feed the cat? Didn't she?"

"We don't know. I'm afraid we don't know Mrs. Black," answered Betty. She
was getting control of herself now. The aggressive woman had rather
startled her at first.

"She lives down there," and the owner of the deserted house pointed
toward the nearest residence.

"No one is here but us," said Betty. "We closed the windows, and we fed
the cat. We also fed ourselves, but we left the money to pay for it.
Shall I get it?"

The woman stared at her blankly.

"I--I'm afraid I don't understand," she returned, weakly.

"I'll explain," said Betty, and she did, telling how they had come in
for shelter from the storm, how they had found the windows open, how
they had closed up the place and had eaten and slept in it. Now they
were going away.

"Well if that doesn't beat all!" cried the woman, in wonder.

"We couldn't understand how no one was at home," went on Betty.

"Well, it's easy enough explained," said the woman. "I'm Mrs. Kate
Robertson. Yesterday afternoon I got a telephone message from Kirkville,
saying my husband, who works in the plaster mill there, was hurt. Of
course that flustered me. Hiram Boggs brought the message. Of course you
don't know him."

"No," answered Betty, as Mrs. Robertson paused for breath.

"Well, I was flustered, of course, naturally," went on the large lady. "I
just rushed out as I was, got into Hiram Bogg's rig--he drives good
horses, I will say that for him--I got in with him, just as I was, though
I will say I had all my housework done and was thinking what to get for
supper. I got in with Hiram, and made him drive me to the depot. I knew I
just had time to get the three-thirty-seven train. And I got it. And me
with only such things as I could grab up," she added, with a glance at
her attire, which, though old fashioned, was neat.

"On my way to the station," she resumed, "I stopped at the drug store,
telephoned to Martha Black, and asked her to run over and close up my
house, for it looked like a storm."

"It did rain," put in Mollie.

"I should say it did. And Martha never closed my house?" It was a
direct question.

"No, we did," said Betty. "Probably she forgot it."

"I'll have to see. Well, anyhow, when I got to my husband I found he
wasn't much hurt after all. Still I stayed over night with him, as there
wasn't a train back. And when I saw you girls on my porch I couldn't
think what had happened. Are you a Votes for Women crowd?"

"No," said Betty. "We're a walking club."

"No politics?"

"None whatever."

"All right. Now, then, I'll see why Martha didn't come over. I can't

"Perhaps this is she now," said Betty, as another woman was seen coming
up the walk.

"It is," said Mrs. Robertson. "That's Martha Black."

The two met. There was much talk, of which the girls caught some, and
then the explanation came. Mrs. Black had started to come over to Mrs.
Robertson's house to close the windows as she saw the rain, but, pausing
to attend to some household duties, she was a little late. Then she
looked over and saw the sashes shut down, and thought that Mrs. Robertson
had come back to attend to them herself. As the storm kept up, she did
not have a chance to call, and only on seeing Mrs. Robertson arrive did
she suspect anything wrong. Meanwhile the girls had been in charge, but
Mrs. Black was not aware of it.

"Well, I must say I thank you," said Mrs. Robertson, to Betty and her
chums. "And as for me taking your money, I'd never dream of it! Won't you
stay to dinner?"

"We must be off," replied Betty, and soon, after more talk and
explanations, and the return of the money left by the girls in the hall,
the travelers were on their way once more.

"Well, I must say, they were neat and clean," observed Mrs. Robertson, as
she went through her house. "Real nice girls."

But Betty and her chums did not hear this compliment. They went on to
visit the sister of Grace, who was not greatly alarmed at their delay,
though she was amused at the narrative of their experience. They remained
there over night, and the next day went on to Simpson's Corners, where
they were the guests of Betty's uncle. This was a typical country
settlement, and the girls only remained one night. Their next stopping
place was to be Flatbush, where Mollie's aunt lived.

The weather was fine now, after the storm, and the roads pleasant through
the country. The grass was greener than ever, the trees fully in leaf,
and there were many birds to be heard singing.

Save for minor adventures, such as getting on the wrong road once or
twice, and meeting a herd of cattle, which did them no harm, nothing of
moment occurred to the girls on their trip toward Flatbush.

They had stopped for lunch in the little village of Mooretown, eating at
the roadside, under some great oak trees, and making chocolate instead of
tea for a change. Then came a rest period before they went forward again.

They were within two miles of their destination, going along a peaceful
country road, arched with shady trees, and running parallel for a
distance with a little river, when Betty paused and called:

"Hark! Listen! Someone is crying!"

"Gracious, I hope it isn't the twins!" exclaimed Mollie.

"Out here? Never!" said Grace.

The crying increased, and then they all saw a little girl sitting on a
stone under a tree, sobbing as if her heart would break. Betty hurried up
to the tot.

"What is the matter?" she asked, pillowing the tousled yellow head
on her arm.

"I--I'se losted!" sobbed the little girl "P'ease take me home!
I'se losted!"



"What are we to do?" asked Amy, in dismay.

"We can't leave her here," added Mollie, and at the word "leave" the
child broke into a fresh burst of tears.

"I'se losted!" she sobbed. "I don't got no home! I tan't find muvver!
Don't go 'way!"

"Bless your heart, we won't," consoled Betty, still smoothing the tousled
hair. "We'll take you home. Which way do you live?"

"Dat way," answered the child, pointing in the direction from which the
girls had come.

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Grace. "Have we got to go all the way back again?"

"Me live dere too!" exclaimed the lost child, indicating with one chubby
finger the other direction.

"Gracious! Can she live in two places at once?" cried Mollie.
"What a child!"

"She can't mean that," said Betty. "Probably she is confused, and
doesn't know what she is saying."

"Me do know!" came from the tot, positively. She had stopped sobbing now,
and appeared interested in the girls. "Mamma Carrie live dat way, mamma
Mary live dat way," and in quick succession she pointed first in one
direction and then the other.

"Oh, dear!" sighed Amy. "It's getting worse and worse!"

"You can't have two mammas, you know," said Betty, gently. "Try and tell
us right dearie, and we'll take you home."

"I dot two mammas," announced the child, positively. "Mamma Carrie live
down there, mamma Mary live off there. I be at mamma Carrie's house, and
I turn back, den I get losted. Take me home!"

She seemed on the verge of tears again.

"Here!" exclaimed Grace, in desperation. "Have a candy--do--two of them.
But don't cry. She reminds me of the twins," she added, with just the
suspicion of moisture in her own eyes. The lost child gravely accepted
two chocolates, one in each hand, and at once proceeded to get about as
much on the outside of her face as went in her mouth. She seemed more
content now.

"I can't understand it," sighed Mollie. "Two mothers! Who ever heard of
such a thing?"

"Me got two muvvers," said the child, calmly, as she took a bite first of
the chocolate in her left hand, and then a nibble from the one in the
right. "One live dat way--one live udder way."

"What can she be driving at?" asked Amy.

"There must be some explanation," said Betty, as she got up from the
stump on which she had been sitting, and placed the child on the ground.
"We'll take her a little distance on the way we are going," she went on.
"Perhaps we may meet someone looking for her."

"And we can't delay too long," added Mollie. "It will soon be supper
time, and my aunt, where we are going to stay to-night, is quite a
fusser. I sent her a card, saying we'd be there, and if we don't arrive
she may call up our houses on the telephone, and imagine that all sorts
of accidents have befallen us."

"But we can't leave her all alone on the road," spoke Betty, indicating
the child.

"Don't 'eeve me!" pleaded the lost tot. "Me want one of my muvvers!"

"It's getting worse and worse," sighed Mollie, wanting to laugh, but not
daring to.

Slowly the girls proceeded in the direction they had been going. They
hoped they might meet someone who either would be looking for the child,
or else a traveler who could direct them properly to her house, or who
might even assume charge of the little one. For it was getting late and
the girls did not feel like spending the night in some strange place. It
was practically out of the question.

They were going along, Betty holding one of the child's hands, the
other small fist tightly clutching some sticky chocolates, when a turn
of the road brought the outdoor girls in sight of a lad who was seated
on a roadside rock, tying a couple of rags around his left foot, which
was bleeding.

Beside the boy, on the ground, was a pack such as country peddlers often
carry. The lad seemed in pain, for as the girls approached, their
footfalls deadened by the soft dust of the road, they heard him murmur:

"Ouch! That sure does hurt! It's a bad cut, all right, and I don't see,
Jimmie Martin, how you're going to do much walking! Why couldn't you look
where you were going, and not step on that piece of glass?"

He seemed to be finding fault with himself.

"Gracious!" exclaimed Mollie. "I hope this isn't another lost one. We
seem to be getting the habit."

"He appears able to look after himself," said Amy.

The boy heard their voices and looked up quickly. Then, after a glance at
them, he went on binding up his foot. But at the sight of him the little
girl cried:

"Oh, it's Dimmie! Dat's my Dimmie! He take me to my two muvvers!" She
broke away from Betty and ran toward the boy peddler.

"Why, it's Nellie Burton!" the lad exclaimed. "Whatever are you
doing here?"

"I'se losted!" announced the child, as though it was the greatest fun in
the world. "I'se losted, and dey found me, but dey don't know where my
two muvvers is. 'Oo take me home, Dimmie."

"Of course I will, Nellie. That is, if I can walk."

"Did oo hurt oo's foot?"

"Yes, Nellie. I stepped on a piece of glass, and it went right through my
shoe. But it's stopped bleeding now."

"Do you know this little girl?" asked Betty. "We found her down the road,
but she can't seem to tell us where she lives. First she points in one
direction and then the other, and--"

"And we can't understand about her two mothers," broke in Mollie. "Do,
please, if you can, straighten it out. Do you know her?"

"Yes, ma'am," answered the boy peddler, and his voice was pleasant. He
took off a rather ragged cap politely, and stood up on one foot, resting
the cut one on the rock. "She's Nellie Burton, and she lives about a
mile down that way," and he pointed in the direction from which the
girls had come.

"I live dere sometimes," spoke the child, "and sometimes down dere," and
she indicated two directions. "I dot two muvvers."

"What in the world does she mean?" asked Mollie, hopelessly.

"That's what she always says," spoke the boy. "She calls one of her aunts
her mamma--it's her mother's sister, you see. She lives about a mile from
Nellie's house, and Nellie spends about as much time at one place as she
does at the other. She always says she has two mothers."

"I _has_" announced the child, calmly, accepting another chocolate
from Grace.

"And you know Nellie?" asked Betty, pointedly.

"Yes," said the boy. "You see, I work through this part of the country. I
peddle writing paper, pens, pins, needles and notions," he added,
motioning to his pack. "I often stop at Nellie's house, and at her
aunt's, too. They're my regular customers," he added, proudly, and with
a proper regard for his humble calling.

"I'm doing pretty well, too," he went on. "I've got a good trade, and I'm
thinking of adding to it. I'll take little Nellie back home for you," he
offered. "I'm going that way. Sometimes, when I'm late, as I am to-day,
her mother keeps me over night."

"That's nice," said Betty. "We really didn't know what to do with her,
and we ought to be in Flatbush at my friend's aunt's house," and she
indicated Mollie. "Will you go with your little friend?" Betty asked of
the child.

"Me go wif Dimmie," was the answer, confidently given. "Dimmie know
where I live."

"But can you walk?" asked Amy, as they all noticed that the boy's foot
was quite badly cut.

"Oh, I guess I can limp, if I can't walk," he said, bravely. "If I
had a bandage I might tie it up so I could put on my shoe. Then I'd
be all right."

"Let me fix it," exclaimed Betty, impulsively. "I know something about
bandaging, and we have some cloth and ointment with us. I'll bandage up
your foot."

"Oh, I couldn't think of troubling you!" he protested. "I--I guess I
can do it," but he winced with pain as he accidentally hit his foot on
the stone.

"Now you just let me do it!" insisted the Little Captain. "You really
must, and you will have to walk to take Nellie home. That will be
something off our minds."

"Maybe we can get a lift," suggested the boy. "Often the farmers let me
ride with them. There may be one along soon."

"Let us hope so--for your sake as well as Nellie's," spoke Grace. "It's
really kind of you, and quite providential that we met you."

"Yes, ma'am," replied the boy, looking from one pretty girl to the other.
"I'll take care of Nellie. I've known her for some time, you see. I
peddle around here a lot. My father's dead, I haven't got any relatives
except a sick aunt that I go to see once in a while, and I'm in business
for myself."

"You are quite a little soldier," complimented Betty, as she got out the
bandages and salve. "You are very brave."

"Oh, I haven't got any kick coming," he answered, with a laugh. "Of
course, this cut foot will make me travel slow for a while, and I can't
get to all my customers on time. But I guess they'll save their trade for
me--the regulars will.

"I might be worse off," the lad continued, after a pause. "I might be in
as bad a hole as that fellow I saw on the train not long ago."

"How was that?" asked Betty, more for the sake of saying something
rather than because she was interested. The boy himself had carefully
washed out the cut at a roadside spring, and as it was clean, the girl
applied the salve and was; skillfully wrapping the bandage around the
wound. "What man was that?" she added.

"Why," said the boy, "I had a long jump to make from one town to another,
and, as there weren't any customers between, I rode in the train. The
only other passenger in our car was a young fellow, asleep. All of a
sudden he woke up in his seat, and begun hunting all through his pockets.
First I thought he had lost his ticket, for he kept hollerin', 'It's
gone! I've lost it! My last hope!' and all things like that. I was goin'
to ask him what it was, when he shouted, 'My five hundred dollar bill is
gone! and out of the car he ran, hoppin' off the train, which was
slowin' up at a station. That was tough luck, losin' five hundred
dollars. Of course I couldn't do it, for I never had it," the boy added,
philosophically, as he watched Betty adjusting the bandage.



The effect of the boy's words on the girls was electrical. Betty paused
midway in her first-aid work and stared at him. Grace, who had,
unconsciously perhaps, been eating some of her chocolates, dropped one
half consumed. Amy looked at Betty to see what the Little Captain would
do. Mollie murmured something in French; just what does not matter.

"Did--did he really lose a five hundred dollar bill?" faltered Betty, as
she resumed her bandaging, but her hands trembled in spite of herself.

"Well, that's what he said," replied the boy. "He sure did make an awful
fuss about it. I thought he was crazy at first, and when he ran and
jumped off the train I was sure of it."

"Did he get hurt?" asked Amy, breathlessly.

"No, ma'am, not as I could see. The train was slowing up at a station,
you know. I think it was Batesville, but I'm not sure."

"That's the next station beyond Deepdale," murmured Grace.

"What's that, ma'am?" asked the boy, respectfully.

"Oh, nothing. We just know where it is, that's all. A five hundred dollar
bill! Fancy!" She glanced meaningly at her companions.

"Well, that's what he hollered," said the boy. "And he was real
excited, too."

"Did you know him?" asked Betty, as she finished with the bandage.

"Never saw him before nor since. It was quite some time ago. I'd just
bought a new line of goods. Anyhow, I'm glad it wasn't me. I couldn't
afford to lose many five hundred dollar bills," and he laughed frankly.
"That's about as much as I make in a year--I mean, altogether," he said,
quickly, lest the girls get an exaggerated notion of the peddling
business. "I can't make that clear, though I hope to some time," he
said, proudly.

"Me want to go home," broke in little Nellie. "Me want my muvvers."

"All right, I'll take you to your real mother," spoke the boy peddler. "I
guess I can walk now, thank you," he said to Betty. "Couldn't I give you
something--some letter paper--a pencil. I've got a nice line of pencils,"
he motioned toward his pack.

"Oh, no, thank you!" exclaimed Mollie.

"We are only too glad to help you," added Betty. "You have done us a
service in looking after the little girl."

"To say nothing of the five hundred dollar bill," added Grace, in
a low tone.

"Hush!" cautioned Betty, in a whisper. "Don't let him know anything
about it."

"And you are sure you wouldn't know that man again?" asked Mollie. "I
mean the one you spoke of?"

"Well, I'd know him if I saw him, but I'm not likely to. He was tall and
good looking, with a little black mustache. He got out of the train in a
hurry when he woke up. You see, he was sitting with his window open--it
was very hot--he fell asleep. I noticed him tossing around in his seat,
and every once in a while he would feel in his pocket. Then he hollered."

"Maybe someone robbed him," suggested Betty, yet in her heart she knew
the bill she had found must belong to this unknown young man--the very
man to whom they had once given something to eat.

"No one was in the car but him and me," said the boy, "and I know I
didn't get it. Maybe he didn't have it--or maybe it fell out of the
window. Anyhow, he cut up an awful row and rushed out. He might have
dreamed it."

"Me want to go home!" whined Nellie.

"All right--I'll take you," spoke the boy. "I can walk fine now. Thank
you very much," and he pulled on his shoe, gingerly enough, for the cut
was no small one. Then, shouldering his pack, and taking hold of Nellie's
hand--one having been refilled with chocolates by Grace--the boy peddler
moved off down the road limping, the girls calling out good-bys to him.

"I hope it's all right--to let that child go off with him," said Mollie.

"Of course it is," declared Betty. "That boy had the nicest, cleanest
face I've ever seen. And he must suffer from that cut."

"Oh, I think it will be all right," said Amy. "You could trust that boy."

"I agree with you," remarked Grace. "Fancy him seeing the man lose the
five hundred dollar bill we found!" she added.

"Do you think it's the same one?" asked Betty.

"I'm sure of it," said Mollie.

"I guess I am too," admitted the Little Captain. "He was the tramp. Now I
will know what to do."

"What?" chorused her chums.

"Let the railroad company know about it. They must have had some
inquiries. I never thought of that before. Look, he is waving to us."

"And little Nellie, too," added Grace. The boy and the little lost girl
had reached a turn in the road. They looked back to send a voiceless
farewell, the child holding trustingly to the boy's hand.

"Come on!" exclaimed Mollie, as the two passed from sight. "We'll hardly
get to my aunt's in time for supper."

And they hastened on.

Somewhat to their relief they learned, on reaching the home of Mrs.
Mulford, in Flatbush--Mrs. Mulford being Mollie's aunt--that the boy
peddler was quite a well-known and much-liked local character. He was
thoroughly honest, and could be trusted implicitly. Some time later the
girls learned from Mollie's aunt that the little lost tot had reached
home safely, and that the boy had to remain at her house for a week to
recover from the cut on his foot.

The mother of the lost child took quite an interest in Jimmie Martin, the
boy peddler, and looked after him, so the news came to Mrs. Mulford, who
had friends acquainted with the parents of the child who insisted she had
"two muvvers."

So that little incident ended happily, and once more the outdoor girls
were left to pursue their way as they had started out. They stayed a day
with Mollie's aunt, a rain preventing comfortable progress, and when it
cleared they went on to Hightown, where they stopped with Grace's cousin.

"And now for the camp!" exclaimed Betty, one morning, when they were
headed for Cameron, where a half-brother of Mr. Ford maintained a sort of
resort, containing bungalows, and tents, that he rented out. It was near
a little lake, and was a favorite place in summer, though the season was
too early for the regulars to be there. Mr. Ford had written to Harry
Smith, his half-brother, and arranged for the girls to occupy one of the
bungalows for several days. Mrs. Smith agreed to come and stay with them
as company.

"Though we don't really need a chaperon," laughed Grace. "I think we can
look after ourselves."

"It will be better to have her at the bungalow," said Betty, and so it
was arranged.

Betty had written to the railroad company, asking if any report of a
lost sum of money had been received, and the answer she got was to
the contrary.

"That leaves the five hundred dollar mystery as deep as ever," she said,
showing the letter to her chums. It had reached them at Hightown.

"Maybe we should have told that boy peddler, and asked him to be on the
lookout," suggested Amy.

"No, I do not think it would have been wise to let him have the facts,"
said Betty.

The girls found the camp in the woods a most delightful place. The
bungalow was well arranged and furnished, and, though there were no other
campers at that time, the girls did not mind this.

"I'll write home and ask Will to come," said Grace. "He might like to
spend a few days here, and Uncle Harry said he could take a tent if
he liked."

"Ask Frank Haley, too," suggested Amy.

"And Percy Falconer!" added Mollie, with a sly glance at Betty.

"Don't you dare!" came the protest.

"I meant Allen Washburn," corrected Mollie.

"He can't come--he has to take the bar examinations!" cried Betty,

"How do you know?" she was challenged.

"He wrote--" and then Betty blushed and stopped. Her companions laughed
and teased her unmercifully.

There was some mail for the girls awaiting them at Mr. Smith's house,
having been forwarded from Deepdale. And Betty's letter contained a
surprise. Among other things, her mother wrote:

"There have been some inquiries made here about the five hundred dollar
bill. Down at the post-office the other day a man came in and posted a
notice, saying he had lost such a sum of money somewhere in this part
of the country. His name is Henry Blackford, and the address is
somewhere in New York State. It was on the notice, but some mischievous
boys got to skylarking and tore it off. Your father is going to look
into the matter."

"Oh, maybe he'll find the owner of the money, after all!" cried Mollie.

"Maybe," returned Betty.



The boys came to the camp at Cameron--Will, Frank--and, as a
surprise--Allen Washburn. Betty could hardly believe it when she saw him,
but he explained that he had successfully passed his bar examinations,
and felt entitled to a vacation. Will had invited him on the receipt of
his sister's letter.

"And we'll have some dandy times!" exclaimed Will.

"What about the man looking for his five hundred dollars?" asked Grace,
for her brother and the other boys knew of the find, and also of the
notice put up in the post-office.

"No one seems to know much about him," said Will, when he had been told
of Mrs. Nelson's letter. "He hurried in, stuck up that notice, and
hurried out again. Then some kids tore off the address."

"He's crazy," affirmed Frank.

"It does seem so," admitted Will. "He asked the postmaster if anyone had
found a big sum of money, and of course Mr. Rock--slow as he always
is--didn't think about the advertisement in the _Banner_. He said he
didn't know of anyone picking up a fortune, and the man hurried off."

"I must write to him, if I can learn that address," said Betty.

The weather continued exceptionally fine, and life in the woods, in the
tent for the boys and the bungalow for the girls, was well-nigh ideal.
They stayed there a week, enjoying the camping novelty to the utmost. At
night they would gather around a campfire and sing. Sometimes they went
out on the lake in a small launch Mr. Smith owned.

Not far away was a resort much frequented by the summer colonists, and
though it was not yet in full swing there were some amusements opened.
These the young people enjoyed on several evenings.

"Well, I do hope my new suitcase comes tomorrow," spoke Grace, for she
had written for one to be forwarded to her, containing fresh garments.

"And I need some clothes!" cried Mollie. "This walking is harder on them
than you'd think."

Fortunately the garments came on time, and in fresh outfits the girls
prepared to bid farewell to the camp, and once more proceed on their
way. The boys begged for permission to accompany them, but Betty was firm
in refusing.

"We said we would make this tour all by ourselves," she declared, "and we
are going to do it. Some other time you boys may come along. But there is
only another day or so, and we will be back home. Please don't tease."

The boys did, but that was all the good it availed them. The girls
were obdurate.

From Cameron they were to go to Judgeville, a thriving town of about ten
thousand inhabitants. Betty's cousin lived there, and had planned a round
of gaieties for her young relative and friends. They were to stay three
days, and from there would keep on to Deepdale, thus completing the
circuit they had mapped out.

So far they had been very fortunate, not much rain coming to interfere
with their progress. The morning they were to leave camp, however, the
weather changed, and for three miserable days they were compelled to
remain in the bungalow.

Not that they stayed indoors all the while, for the travelers fully
merited the title, "Outdoor Girls," and they lived up to it. They tramped
even in the rain, and managed to have a good time.

But the rain sent the boys home, for rain in a tent is most depressing,
and as all the other bungalows were being repaired, they could not live
in one with any comfort.

But finally the sun came out, and the girls really set off on almost the
last stage of their tour. They expected to be in Judgeville at night,
though the walk was about the longest they had planned for any one day.

Shortly before noon their way took them along a highway that paralleled
the railroad--the same line that ran to Deepdale. And, naturally, the
talk turned to the finding of the five hundred dollar bill.

"Do you suppose we'll ever find the owner?" asked Mollie.

"Of course we will!" exclaimed Betty. "It is only a question of time."

Once or twice Amy looked back down the railroad track, and Grace,
noticing this, in the intervals of eating chocolate, finally asked:

"What is it, Amy?"

"That man," replied the quiet girl. "He's been following us for
some time."

"Following us!" cried Betty. "What do you mean?"

"I mean walking along the railroad track back of us."

"Well, that may not mean he is following us. Probably he wants to get
somewhere, and the track is the shortest route."

"He's looking down as though searching for something," said Mollie.

"Maybe he's a track-walker," suggested Amy.

"No, he isn't dressed like that," asserted Betty. She turned and looked
at the man. He seemed young, and had a clean-shaven face. He paid no
attention to the girls, but walked on, with head bent down.

"We must soon stop for lunch," proposed Mollie. "I have not left it
behind this time," and she held out the small suitcase that contained the
provisions put up that morning. "I'm just dying for a cup of chocolate!"

"We will eat soon," said Betty. "There's a nice place, just beyond that
trestle," and she pointed to a railroad bridge that crossed a small but
deep stream, the highway passing over it by another and lower structure.

As the girls hurried on, the man passed them, off to the left and high on
the railroad embankment. He gave them not a glance, but hastened on with
head bent low.

When he reached the middle of the high railroad bridge, or trestle over
the stream, he paused, stooped down and seemed to be tying his shoelace.
The girls watched him idly.

Suddenly the roar of an approaching train was heard. The man looked up,
seemed startled, and then began to run toward the end of the bridge.

It was a long structure and a high one, and, ere he had taken a dozen
steps over the ties, the train swept into sight around a curve. The road
was a single-track one, and on the narrow trestle there was no room for a
person to avoid the cars.

"He'll be killed!" cried Mollie.

Fascinated, the girls looked. On came the thundering train. The whistle
blew shrilly. The young man increased his pace, but it was easy to see
that he could not get off the bridge in time.

Realizing this, he paused. Coming to the edge of the ties on the bridge,
he poised himself for a moment, and with a glance at the approaching
locomotive, which was now whistling continuously, the man leaped into the
stream below him.

"Oh!" screamed Grace, and then she and the others looked on, almost
horrified, as the body shot downward.




There was a great splash, and the man disappeared under the water. It all
occurred suddenly, and the man must have made up his mind quickly that he
had not a chance to stay on the trestle when the train passed over it.

"He'll be killed!" cried Mollie. "Oh, Betty, what can we do?"

"Nothing, if he really is killed," answered the practical Little Captain.
"But he jumped like a man who knew how to do it, and how to dive. The
water is deep there."

"Come on!" cried Amy, for once taking the initiative, and she darted
toward the bank of the stream.

"There he is!" cried Betty. "He's come up!"

As she spoke, the man's head bobbed into view, and, giving himself a
shake to rid his eyes of water, he struck out for the shore.

"Oh, he's swimming! He's swimming!" Mollie exclaimed. "We must get him a
rope--a plank--anything! We'll help you!" she called, and she ran about
almost hysterically.

The man was now swimming with long, even strokes. He seemed at home in
the water, even with his clothes on, and the long jump had evidently not
injured him in the least.

He reached the bank, climbed up, and stood dripping before the four young

"Whew!" he gasped, taking off his coat and wringing some water from it.
"That was some jump! I had to do it, though!"

"Indeed you were fortunate," said Betty. "Are you hurt?"

"Not a bit--a little shaken up, that's all. I should not have been on
that bridge, as a section hand warned me a train was due, and the trestle
is very narrow. But I was taking a short cut. Railroads seem to bring me
bad luck. This is the second time, in a little while, that I've had
trouble on this same line."

Grace was rummaging about in the valise she carried.

"Where's our alcohol stove?" she demanded, of Mollie.

"Why? What do you want of it?"

"I'm going to make him a cup of hot chocolate. He must need it;
poor fellow!"

"I'll help you," said Mollie, and the two set up the little heating
apparatus in the lee of a big rock.

"Are you sure you're not hurt?" asked Betty, anxiously.

"Oh, I'm all right," the man assured the girls. "I wish I had some dry
clothes. This is about the only suit I have. However, the sun will soon
dry them, but they'll need pressing."

"We're making you some chocolate," spoke Grace. "It will be ready soon,
and keep you from getting cold."

The man--he was young and good-looking--smiled, showing his even,
white teeth.

"You seemed prepared for emergencies," he said to Betty. "Are you
professional travelers?"

"Just on a walking tour. We're from Deepdale. We're going home to-morrow,
after stopping over night in Judgeville. We were just going to get our
noon-day lunch when we saw you jump."

"Indeed," remarked the young man, who was now wringing out his vest.
"From Deepdale; eh? I've been through there on the train. This line runs
there; doesn't it?" and he motioned to the one he had so hastily left.

"Yes," answered Betty. "But we never walk the track--though we did once
for a short distance."

"And we found a broken rail, and told a flagman and he said the train
might have been wrecked," remarked Amy.

It was the first she had spoken in some time. The young man looked at her
sharply--rather too long a look, Betty thought; but there was nothing
impertinent in it.

"Railroads--or, rather, this one--have been the cause of two unpleasant
experiences to me," the young man went on. "I was nearly injured just
now, and not long ago I lost quite a sum of money on this line."

At the mention of money Betty started. The others looked at her.

"How did it happen?" asked Betty, and then of a sudden she stared at the
young man. "Excuse me, but, but--haven't we met before?" she stammered.

"Sure!" he answered, readily. "You young ladies were kind enough to share
your lunch with me one day."

"Oh!" cried Mollie. "But you--you looked different then!"

"You had a mustache and long hair," murmured Amy.

"That's right, so I did. But I had my hair cut day before yesterday and
the mustache taken off. Changes me quite a lot; doesn't it?"

"Yes," replied Betty. "But you were saying something about losing money
on this line," she added, quickly.

"Well, I was on my way to New York, expecting to complete a business
deal. I fell asleep in the car, for I was quite tired, and I guess I had
been thinking pretty hard on that business matter. You see a fellow
offered me an option on a small, but good, concern, for four hundred
dollars. I knew if I could clinch the deal, and get the option, that some
friends of mine would invest in it, and I'd have a good thing for myself.

"Well, as I say, I fell asleep. Then I dreamed someone was trying to get
my pocketbook. It was a sort of nightmare, and I guess I struggled with
the dream-robber. Then, all of a sudden, I woke up, and--"

"Was your pocketbook gone?" asked Mollie.

"No, but my money was. And that was the funny part of it. How anyone
could get the money without taking the pocketbook I couldn't see.
And there wasn't anyone in the car with me but a boy--a peddler, I
think he was."

The girls looked at each other. Matters were beginning to fit together
most strangely.

"I didn't know what to do," the young man went on. "I didn't want to say
anything that would seem as if I accused the boy, and I felt the same
about the trainmen. I knew if I said the money had been taken and the
pocketbook left they would only laugh at me. I was all knocked out, and
hardly knew what I was doing. I jumped off the train, and went back over
the line, thinking the bill might have blown out of the window. But--"

"That is just what did happen!" cried Betty.

"What's that?" the man exclaimed, excitedly.

"I say that is exactly what happened!" went on the Little Captain. "At
least, that is how I account for it."

"What sort of a bill did you lose?" asked Mollie, trying not to
get excited.

"It was one of five hundred dollars, and--"

"Did it have a--anything pinned to it?" exclaimed Betty.

"It did--a note. Wait, I can tell you what it said on it." He hesitated a
moment and then repeated word for word the writing on the note pinned to
the bill the girls had picked up. "But I don't see how you know this!" he
added, wonderingly.

"We know--because we found your five hundred dollar bill!" exclaimed



The man stared at the girls as if he could not believe what Betty had
said. A strange look came over his face.

"If this is a joke, please drop it," he began. "I am almost crazy as it
is. I don't know what I am doing. I--"

"It isn't a joke!" declared Betty. "It may sound strange, but it's all
true. We did find your bill, under the railroad bridge in Deepdale. It's
in my father's safe now."

"That's great--it's fine. I'd given it up long ago. I advertised, and put
up a notice in the post-office, and--"

"Yes, my mother wrote me about it," said Betty. "But she did not give
your address, for some naughty boys tore it off the notice."

"And do you really think someone tried to rob you?" asked Mollie.

"I don't know what to think," frankly admitted the young man. "There was
a boy in the same car--"

"He never took it!" exclaimed Grace.

"How do you know?" the young man asked.

"Because we met that boy, and he told us just how you acted when you
discovered your loss. Besides, that boy is thoroughly honest."

"Say, is there anything about my case that you girls don't know?" asked
the young man with a smile. "But before I go any further, perhaps I had
better introduce myself--"

"Oh, we know your name!" exclaimed Betty.

"You do? And you never saw me before?"

"You forget that your name was signed to the notice in the
post-office--Mr. Blackford," and Betty blushed.

"That's so. But I don't know your names, and, if it's not too
impertinent, after the service you have rendered me--"

"We'll tell you--certainly," interrupted Betty, and she introduced
herself and her chums.

"I suppose you will wonder how I played the part of a tramp," said the
young man. "I will tell you why. I was almost out of my mind, and I
imagined that by going around looking ragged I might pick up some news of
my lost money from the tramps along the railroad."

Then he told of how he had started to write a letter, stating he could
not buy the business he was after, and had then torn the letter up,
because he still hoped to find the bill and get control of the business.

"And we found part of that letter," cried Betty. "We tried to find you,
too, but you had disappeared."

"Indeed. I know how that happened--I took a short cut through the woods."

"The chocolate is ready!" called Grace, a little later. "Won't you have
some, Mr. Blackford?"

"Thank you, I will. Say, but you young ladies are all right. Do you do
this sort of thing often?"

"Well, we like to be outdoors," explained Betty, as she handed him a cup
of the hot beverage. "We like to take long walks, but this is the first
time we ever went on a tour like this."

"And we've had the _best_ time!" exclaimed Mollie.

"And _such_ adventures," added Grace. "Will you have more chocolate?"

"No, thank you. That was fine. Now I must try and get dry. But I'm used
to this sort of thing. I'm from the West, and I've been in more than
one flood."

"You have!" cried Amy, and the others knew of what she was thinking--her
own case. "I hope he didn't have the same sort of trouble I had, though,"
she thought.

"Perhaps if you were to walk along your clothes would dry quicker," said
Betty. "And if you went on to Judgeville you might be able to get a
tailor to press them."

"Thanks, I believe I will. That is, if you don't mind being seen with
such a disreputable figure as I cut."

"Of course we don't mind!" declared Betty. "We are getting rather
travel-stained ourselves."

"Our trunks will be waiting for us at your cousin's house, Betty," spoke
Grace, for it was there they were to spend the last night of their now
nearly finished tour. "We can freshen up," went on the girl who loved
candy, "and enter into town in style. I hope mamma put in my new gown and
another pair of shoes."

"Grace Ford! You don't mean that you'd put on a new dress to finish up
this walking excursion in, do you?" asked Mollie.

"Certainly I shall. We don't know who we might meet as we get into

"We will hardly get in before dusk," said Betty. "From Judgeville there
is the longest stretch of all, nearly twenty-two miles."

"Oh, dear!" groaned Grace. "We'll never do it. Why did you arrange for
such a long walk, Betty?"

"I couldn't help it. There were no other relatives available, and I
couldn't have any made to order. There was no stopping place between here
and home."

"Oh, I dare say I can stand it," murmured Grace. "But I guess I won't
wear my new shoes in that case. Twenty-two miles!"

"It is quite a stretch," said Mr. Blackford.

He helped Grace put away the alcohol stove, and the cups in which the
chocolate had been served. They were washed in the little stream, and
would be cleansed again at the house of Betty's cousin.

"You haven't asked us when we are going to give you that five hundred
dollar bill," said Mollie, as they started for Judgeville.

"Well," spoke Mr. Blackford, with a laugh, "I didn't want to seem too
anxious. I knew that it was safe where you had put it, Miss Nelson," and
he looked at Betty. "Besides, I have been without it so long now that it
seems almost as if I never had it. And from all the good it is going to
do me, perhaps I might be better off without it now."

"We didn't exactly understand what you meant by the note you wrote,"
said Betty.

"Well, I'll tell you how that was," he said, frankly. "You see, I was
left considerable money by a rich relative, but I had bad luck. Maybe I
didn't have a good business head, either. Anyhow, I lost sum after sum in
investments that didn't pan out, and in businesses that failed. I got
down to my last big bill, and then I heard of this little business I
could get control of in New York.

"I said I'd make that my last venture, and to remind myself how
desperate my chances were I just jotted down those words, and pinned the
note to the bill. Then I must have gotten excited in my dream. I know
just before I fell asleep I kept taking the bill out of the pocketbook,
and looking at it to make sure I had it. I might have done that while
half asleep, and it blew out of the window. That's how it probably
happened, and you girls picked up the money. I can't thank you enough.
But I'm afraid it will come to me too late to use as I had intended,"
the man went on, with a sigh.

"Why?" asked Betty.

"Because the option on the business I was going to buy expires at
midnight to-night, and as you say the five hundred dollars is in
Deepdale, I don't see how I am going to get it in time to be of
any service."

"Isn't that too bad!" cried Amy.

"And we might have brought it with us," said Mollie.

"Only we didn't think it would be wise to carry that sum with us," spoke
Grace. "And we never thought the owner of it would jump off a railroad
trestle right in front of us," she added, with a laugh.

"No, of course not," admitted Mr. Blackford, drily. "You couldn't foresee
that. Neither could I. Well, it can't be helped. Maybe it will be for the
best in the end. I'll have the five hundred, anyhow, and perhaps I can
find some other business. But I did want to get this one on which I had
the option. However, there's no help for it."

A sudden light of resolve came into Betty's eyes. She confronted the
owner of the bill.

"There's no need for you to lose your option!" she exclaimed.

"But I don't see how I can get the money in time. I might if I had an
airship; but to go to Deepdale, and then to New York with it, is out of
the question."

"No!" cried Betty. "We can do it by telegraph! I've just thought of a way
out. You can take up that option yet, Mr. Blackford!"



Betty Nelson's chums stared at her. So did Mr. Blackford. Betty herself,
with flushed cheeks and flashing eyes, looked at them all in turn. Her
idea had stimulated her.

"What--how--I don't see--" stammered Mr. Blackford. "If you--"

"It's this way!" cried Betty, all enthusiasm. "You know you can transfer
money by telegraph in a very short time--it only takes a few minutes to
do it--really it's quicker than an airship," and she smiled at Mr.

"That's so," he admitted. "I see now."

"I'll have my father telegraph the five hundred dollars to me at
Judgeville," explained Betty. "Then I can give it to you, and you can
telegraph it to your business man in New York. It is sure to reach
there before midnight, and you can take up your option, if that is the
proper term."

"It is--very proper," said Mr. Blackford. "I believe you have the right
idea, Miss Nelson. I should have thought of that myself, but that shows
I am really not a good business man."

"Now let's hurry on to town," proceeded Betty. "We haven't any too
much time."

It was rather an astonished telegraph operator who, a little later, was
confronted by four pretty girls, a man who looked as if he had been in a
shipwreck, and a much-flustered lady. The latter was Betty's cousin, at
whose house the girls had stopped. It was necessary for the recipient of
the money to be identified, and this Betty's cousin, who knew the
operator, agreed to look after.

There was a little delay, but not much, and soon Mr. Blackford was in a
position to take up his option. A local bank, where the telegraph concern
did business, paid over the five hundred in cash, and four hundred of
this was at once sent on to New York, by telegraph.

"I hope it reaches my man," said Mr. Blackford. "I have told him to
wire me here."

A little later word was received that the transaction had been
successfully carried out. Mr. Blackford could now get control of
the business.

"And it's all due to you young ladies!" he said, gratefully. "I don't
know how to thank you. You are entitled to a reward--"

"Don't you dare mention it!" cried Betty,

"Well, some day I'll pay you back for all you did for me!" he exclaimed,
warmly. "I won't forget. And now that I have some money to spare, I'm
going to get a new suit of clothes."

He said good-bye to the girls, promising to see them again some time, and
then he left, having made arrangements to go on to New York and finish up
his business affairs.

"Well, now that it is all over, won't you come on to the house and have
supper?" said Betty's cousin, as they came out of the telegraph office.
"I must say, you girls know how to do things."

"Oh, you can always trust Betty for that," said Mollie.

"It just did itself," declared Betty. "Everything seemed to work out of
its own accord from the time we found the five hundred dollar bill."

"But you helped a lot," insisted Amy.

"Indeed she did," added Grace.

"Well, our walking tour will soon be over," Betty said as they neared her
cousin's house. "We'll be home to-morrow. We've had lots of fun, and I
think it has done us all good. We'll soon be home."

"But not without a long walk," said Grace, with a sigh. "I wonder what we
shall do next? We must keep out of doors."

"We have a long vacation before us--all summer," said Amy. "I do wish we
could spend it together."

"Maybe we can," said Betty. "We'll see."

And how the four chums enjoyed the vacation that was opening may be
learned by reading the next volume of this series, which will be entitled
"The Outdoor Girls at Rainbow Lake; Or, The Stirring Cruise of the Motor
Boat _Gem._"

The stay of the girls at the home of Betty's cousin was most enjoyable.
They remained two nights, instead of one, sending word of the change of
their plans to their parents. Then, early in the morning, they started
for home on the last stage of their tour.

"Twenty-two miles!" sighed Grace, as they set out. "Oh, dear!"

But they were not destined to walk all the way. About five miles from
town they saw a big touring car approaching, and as it neared them they
beheld Will Ford and his chum Frank in it.

"Hurray!" cried Grace's brother.

"Welcome to our city!" added Frank. "Get in and we'll take you home
in style."

"Oh, you boys!" cried Betty, but she and the others got in. Off they
started, all of them seemingly talking at once, and in a short time they
arrived at Deepdale. They attracted considerable attention as they passed
through the town in the car Will and Frank had hired to honor the members
of the Camping and Tramping Club.

"But it rather spoiled our record, I think," said Betty. "We were to
walk all the way."

"Oh, we walked enough," declared Grace. "I did, anyhow," and she glanced
at her shoes.

"But it was fun!" exclaimed Amy.

"Glorious!" cried Mollie.

A little later the four tourists were warmly welcomed at their respective
homes, later meeting for a general jollification at Mollie's house.

"Oh, you dears!" cried Betty, trying to caress the twins, Paul and Dodo,
both at once. "And we saw the dearest little lost girl. Shall I tell you
about her?"

"Dive us tum tandy fust," said Dodo, fastening her big eyes on Grace. "Us
'ikes tandy--don't us, Paul?"

"Us do," was the gurgling answer, and Grace brought out her confections.

And, now that the four girls are safely at home again, we will take
leave of them.


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