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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 17. Another Alarm
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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 17. Another Alarm Post by :Riverbraid Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :964

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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 17. Another Alarm


At the first sight of the old crone Betty had drawn back, and now, as the fishwife spoke, in a voice which she tried to render melodious, though it ended only in a croak, the Little Captain seemed to urge her chums away.

"What does she mean?" whispered Grace.

"Come in and rest--it is wearyin' work, walkin' in the sand," the woman persisted. "I know, for many a day I have walked it lookin' for my man to come back from the fishin' channel. But he's away now, and it's lonesome for an old woman. Do come ye in!"

"No, thank you, we like to be out of doors," answered Betty, forestalling something Amy was going to say.

"I could give you a drink of milk," the old fishwife went on. "Nice cold milk. And cookies I baked myself--molasses cookies."

"No, thank you just the same," spoke Betty, in a voice she tried to render appreciative, though she showed a distinct distaste for the nearness of the old woman. "We have just had breakfast," she added.

"But won't you come in and rest?" the crone persisted. "The walk in the sand----"

"No, we aren't tired," said Mollie, seconding Betty's efforts. "And we must be going back. Come on, girls. I'll race you to the old boat!" she cried, with a sudden air of gaiety, and she set off at a rapid pace.

For a moment the others hung back, and then Betty cried:

"Come on, girls! It sha'n't be said that Billy beat me!"

The old woman stared after the girls, uncomprehendingly for a moment, and then, with a scowl on her face, turned back to the hut again.

"Run on! Run on!" she muttered. "But I'll get ye yet! I'll get ye!"

She turned, and seeing the backs of the girls toward her, shook a gnarled and wrinkled fist at them.

"I'll get ye yet!" she repeated.

As she entered the hut a man's face was thrust down through an opening in the ceiling--a hole that had been covered by a hatch-board.

"Wouldn't they come?" he asked.

"Naw! They turned from me as if I was dirt."

"The snips! Well, maybe we'll get another chance."

"Another chance?" repeated the crone.

"Yes! We've got to, I tell you. If not, Jake will----"

"Hush! No names!" cautioned the woman.

Meanwhile the outdoor girls, having raced to the goal, an old boat half-buried in the sand, came to a panting halt. Mollie had won, chiefly because she had started off before the others, for Betty was accounted the best runner of her chums.

"Well, what does it all mean?" asked Grace, who came limping in last, for, in spite of her expressed promise to the contrary, she still wore those high-heeled shoes. "You act as though you had run away from the plague, Betty!"

"And so we did, my dear. The plague of fish! Ugh! I can almost taste them--fishy, oily fish!"

"And she offered us--milk!" added Mollie.

"It would probably have been--cod-liver oil," spoke Betty, with a shudder of repugnance. "Oh, let me get a breath of real air!" and she turned her face to the misty wind of the sea.

"But what does it all mean?" asked Amy, in rather bewildered tones. "Why did we run away?"

"That's what I want to know," put in Grace. "And I believe--yes, I have dropped my chocolates. Oh, how provoking! I'm going back after them."

"You're going to do nothing of the sort!" declared Betty, with a firmness she seldom manifested.

"But--why?" questioned Grace. "Why can't I go back after my candy?"

"Baby!" mocked Mollie.

"Because it's probably near that abominable hut!" said Betty. "And that old crone might capture you. Did you see how eager she was to get us in there?"

"She did seem rather insistent," agreed Amy. "But was it any more than mere kindness?"

"If you ask me--it was," said Betty, firmly.

"But why?" persisted Grace.

"Eternal question mark!" Betty commented. "Now, girls," she went on, "I don't know all the whys and wherefores, but I'm sure of one thing, and that is nice people don't live in that hut. I don't mean just poor, or unfortunate, or ignorant people, either," she went on. "I mean they aren't nice--or--or safe! There, perhaps you'll like that better."

"Not safe?" repeated Grace. "What do you mean?"

"I mean I saw faces looking from the window of that hut, the day we found the diamonds, that I wouldn't want to meet in the dark, or alone--those who go with the faces, perhaps, I should say."

"Oh!" exclaimed Grace, glancing involuntarily over her shoulder.

"Oh, no one is following us," Betty said; "but I wanted to get well away."

"Why do you think she wanted us to go in?" inquired Mollie.

"Do you think it had anything to do with the diamonds?" was Amy's question.

"I don't know what to think," confessed Betty. "But I wouldn't have gone into that hut for a good bit. Though perhaps the worst we would have been asked would have been to purchase some worthless trifles."

"Or perhaps buy smuggled lace," suggested Mollie.

"I never thought of that!" exclaimed Betty. "Of course it might be that."

"If Will were only here!" said Amy.

"We'll tell him when he comes back," Betty said. "Perhaps it may not amount to anything, but if he can give the government some information it may serve him a good turn, since he is just beginning work in the Secret Service."

"But do you really think that old woman, and those you may have seen through the window of the hut the day we made our find, have anything to do with the diamonds?" asked Mollie.

"Frankly, I haven't the least idea," admitted Betty. "And what is the use of guessing and wondering? Only I am sure of one thing. I'll never go into that hut!"

Betty little realized how her boast was to be recalled to her under strange circumstances.

The outdoor girls sat down to rest on the old boat, and talked of many things. The impression caused by the old woman's invitation soon wore off. Then they started back, for they wanted to get their morning bath before luncheon.

"Oh, some one is here!" exclaimed Betty, as they saw an auto standing on the graveled drive of the cottage. "I wonder who it can be?"

"You father or Will wouldn't be back so soon; would they?" asked Amy.

"No, it must be----"

A voice interrupted Betty.

"Ah, I dare say I shall find them! I will keep along the beach. Charming weather, isn't it? Ah, yes, really!"

"Percy Falconer!" said Grace. "Catch me, somebody!"

"Hush! He'll hear you!" cautioned Betty, and a moment later the "johnny" of Deepdale, attired in the latest fashion in motoring togs, came out on the porch, followed quickly by Mrs. Nelson.

"Oh, here are the girls now!" said Betty's mother.

"Yes," assented Betty. "We are back," but there was no enthusiasm in her voice.

"Oh, but I say, I am charmed to see you--all," added Percy, after a glance at the Little Captain. "I motored down, don't you know. Father let me, after some arguing. I should have liked to come in the boat, with the rest of the fellows, but I can't stand the sea, really I can't. But I'm glad I'm here."

"Yes, we--we are glad to see you," Betty said. "We are going in bathing; won't you come along?"

"Ah, thank you, now. I'm afraid it's a little too cool for going into the water to-day; don't you?"

"No, we like it!" said Mollie. "How did you leave Deepdale?"

"Oh, everything is the same, though it's very lonesome, with you girls away."

"Oh, who let him in?" murmured Grace, with a despairing glance at Betty.

"Hush!" the latter cautioned her. "At least he has his car, and we can have a ride now and then," for Mollie's machine was in use by her mother that summer, and the girls had no chance at its pleasures.

"Mercenary!" whispered Mollie to the Little Captain.

Percy was made as welcome as the circumstances permitted, and he sat on the sand under a huge umbrella while the girls frolicked in the water. The boys came back for luncheon, and helped to divide the boredom of the newest arrival, though they made uncomplimentary remarks behind his back, and Betty was in constant fear lest some unpleasant incident should occur. She had to remember that she was the hostess.

Nothing was said of the incident at the fisherman's hut, and that afternoon the young people went for a motor boat trip. That is, all but Percy Falconer. He could not be induced to embark, even on the calm waters of the bay, and so he spent a lonesome afternoon at the cottage, talking to Mrs. Nelson.

Toward evening Betty found a chance to speak to Old Tin-Back, who came with a mess of crabs.

She asked him who lived in the little, lone hut.

"Well, no one as you would care to know, Miss Betty. He's a man that hasn't a good name."

"A man? But I thought a woman----"

"Oh, yes, Mag, his wife, is there, too. She's worse than Pete in some respects."

"Are they smugglers?" Betty wanted to know.

"Well, they might be, if there was anythin' to smuggle. But I call 'em just plain--thieves. Pete could tell lots about other folks' lobster and crab cars being opened if he wanted to, I guess."

A telegram came from Mr. Nelson that evening, saying he would remain in Boston two or three days. He added that there was "no news," which the girls took to mean he had heard nothing about the diamonds. Will sent no word.

It was about nine o'clock, when, after a stroll down the moonlit beach, the boys and girls were returning to the cottage. As they came up the walk a scream rang out.

"What's that?" cried Allen, who was beside Betty.

"It sounded like Jane, the cook," was the answer. "But----"

More screams interrupted Betty, and then the voice of a woman was heard calling:

"Come quick! There's men in the cellar!"

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