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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 16. On The Beach
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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 16. On The Beach Post by :Riverbraid Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :3541

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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 16. On The Beach

CHAPTER XVI. ON THE BEACH

The whole house was roused in an instant. Lights gleamed in various rooms, and from the quarter where the maids slept came shrill screams that matched those of Grace herself. Hoarse shouts came from the rooms of the boys.

But the affair had a most unexpected ending. For the man at whose back Grace was gazing horror-stricken, turned at her sudden shout, and his face betrayed almost as much astonishment, not to say fear, as the countenance of the girl showed.

And then Grace noticed that the man was attired in a bath robe, the pattern of which was strangely familiar to her. She noticed this even before she looked at his face recognizingly, and beheld her host, Mr. Nelson.

"Oh! Oh!" gasped Grace, weakly, and she had to lean against the wall for support, for she was trembling.

"What--what's the matter?" asked Betty's father. "Are you ill, Grace?"

"No, but I--I thought you--oh, I thought----"

Out into the hall poured the others of Edgemere Cottage, attired in a nondescript collection of garments hastily donned. Will, in his bath robe, had his collar and tie in his hand, though it is doubtful if he wore an article of dress to which it could be attached. From the servants' rooms came frantic demands to know if the house were on fire.

"No, it's all right!" called Mr. Nelson. "Go back to bed, all of you!"

"But what's it all about?" asked Betty. "What is the matter?"

"Oh, I guess it's my fault," Grace said. "I got up to get a drink, and I saw your father going down the hall, with the box and the package of diamonds, and I thought--I thought he was a----"

"Burglar! Is that what you thought me?" demanded Mr. Nelson, as a smile crept over his face.

"Ye--yes," faltered Grace. "I know it was silly of me--dreadfully silly, but I--I----"

"It's all right, my dear. I don't blame you a bit!" comforted Betty, her arms around the shrinking figure of Grace. "Go on back, you boys!" she commanded the others. "Our--our hair isn't fit to be seen!" and the boys retired, snickering. No girl likes to be looked at in a dressing gown, when suddenly aroused from sleep. And one's hair doesn't appear half so becoming in that state as it does even under a bathing cap.

"But what does it all mean?" asked Mrs. Nelson, who had waited to put on something smarter than a dressing sack before venturing out into the hall.

"Grace thought papa was a burglar," explained Betty.

"Well--that is, I didn't exactly----" protestingly began Grace.

"Did you have a nightmare?" asked Mrs. Nelson. "I'm afraid the diamond excitement was too much for you. A little bromide, perhaps, or some----"

"Oh, she doesn't need that," Betty said as the boys "made themselves small" around a corner, that they might hear the explanation, if unseen. "She really did think papa was taking the diamonds."

"Why, he is!" cried Mrs. Nelson, as she caught sight of the objects her husband carried--the mysterious box and the packet of precious stones. "What are you doing with them?" she asked.

"I was putting them in a safer place," he explained. "Perhaps it was foolish of me, but, after I had brought them to my room, I got to thinking it was rather careless to leave them about so. It wasn't so much the fear of thieves as it was of fire. You know diamonds can't stand much fire."

"Oh, if they should be melted before we know who owns them!" gasped Mrs. Nelson.

"So when I found I couldn't sleep, for thinking of them," went on Betty's father, "I made up my mind to hide them in a different place. Perhaps it was foolish of me, but I couldn't help it. I'm as bad as some of the girls, I guess," and he glanced at Betty and her chums, who now, with flushed cheeks and looking pretty enough for any number of boys to gaze upon, even if their hair was a bit awry, stood grouped in the hall.

"So I got up," resumed Mr. Nelson, "took the diamonds from the bureau drawer where I had placed them, and started to take them down cellar. I----"

"Down cellar!" cried Betty. "What a place to hide diamonds--in the cellar!"

"It's the safest all-around place," her father said. "I don't believe any burglars would be able to find them where I was going to put them, and in case of fire the diamonds would be in little danger. Of course they might be buried under a lot of rubbish, but they wouldn't go up in puffs of smoke.

"So I got up as quietly as I could, and took the diamonds, intending to go down cellar with them, hoping I would disturb no one."

"But where did you get the box?" asked Betty. "That was in my room, Daddy."

"I know. I went in and took it out."

"And I never awakened?"

"No."

"A fine guard for the diamonds," mocked Will from around the corner of the hall.

"Go to bed--you boys!" commanded Betty.

"I thought I would take the box, too," Mr. Nelson resumed. "It forms one of the clues, and I didn't want anything to happen to that. So I decided to take that, put the diamonds in the secret bottom, and hide all down cellar. Only Grace rather upset my plans."

"I--I'm so sorry," said the thirsty one, contritely.

"Don't you be!" returned Betty. "You're as good as a watch dog. To think of _me never waking when papa came in my room."

"I was glad you didn't," he said. "I hoped to have it all go off quietly, and tell you in the morning. But as long as you know it now I might as well proceed. I'll go on down cellar and hide them."

"And don't forget to tell us where you put them," Betty urged. "If you go away in the morning, we'll want to know where to run to get them in case the house does catch fire."

"Oh, don't suggest such a thing!" begged her mother.

Mr. Nelson laughed and went on down cellar, coming back soon to tell the waiting ones that he had found a little niche in the wall, near the chimney, and had put the diamonds in the box there. Then the house quieted down again.

Will and Mr. Nelson left on an early train for Boston, both promising to do all they could to learn the secret of the mysterious package of diamonds.

"And now what shall we girls do?" asked Betty, after breakfast.

"What do the boys want to do?" queried Mollie. "Perhaps you may have some plans for us."

"Sorry, ladies," Allen said, "but our boat is on a strike again, and we'll have to have it fixed. It isn't much, though, and we can go out this afternoon."

"Then we'll go down on the beach for a while," proposed Betty. "It's lovely this morning. We'll go in bathing just before luncheon, and then, after a little sleep, we'll be ready to have the boys amuse us."

"Sounds nice, to hear them tell us," commented Roy with a laugh.

And this plan was followed. When the boys went off in the motor boat, the ignition system of which was not working to their satisfaction, the girls strolled down to the shore, walking along it.

"Let's go as far as the place we found the diamonds," proposed Amy.

"Think you might find some more?" asked Betty, with a smile.

"No such luck. But I thought perhaps we might see----"

"Those men again? No, thank you!" cried Grace.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Mollie. "The beach is free, and it is broad daylight. Come along."

So they strolled along the sand, stopping now and then to pick up a pretty shell or pebble. Out in the bay was the fleet of clamming boats, little schooners from which the grappling rakes were thrown overboard, and allowed to drag along the bottom with the motion of the craft, to be hauled up now and then, and emptied of their shelly catch.

On the other side of the point of land the ocean beat restlessly on the beach.

"Here's the place," exclaimed Betty, at length, as they came to the log where they had sat when Mollie and Amy dug up the box of diamonds.

"It doesn't look as though they had come back and searched in vain for the treasure," said Betty.

There was no evidence in the sand, that was certain. The girls looked about a bit, and then strolled on. Before they knew it they found themselves in front of the lone hut where, from the odor that hung in the air, and the evidence of nets and boats about, it was evident a fisherman dwelt.

As the girls came opposite this, the door opened and a woman, with a hard, cruel face, peered out.

"Ah, little missies!" she croaked, "it's a fine morning for a walk, but you must be tired. Won't you come in and rest?" And she leered up into their faces.

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