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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 23. Smuggled Diamonds
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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 23. Smuggled Diamonds Post by :Riverbraid Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :2549

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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 23. Smuggled Diamonds

CHAPTER XXIII. SMUGGLED DIAMONDS

Slowly the mysterious schooner gathered headway. Her sails creaked and groaned as the ropes slipped through the sheaves, and the chains squeaked around the drum of the steering wheel. There was a rattle of blocks, hoarse cries from several sailors on deck, and then, down in the cabin, where the horrid old woman slipped the pieces of cloth from the mouths of Betty and Amy, had the two girls the strength to utter cries it is doubtful if they would have been heard a hundred feet away.

There was no other craft within a mile of the vessel that was moving up the bay toward the more open water.

"There you are, my dear," leered the fishwife. "All nice and snug and comfortable."

"Oh--oh!" gasped Betty, as the creature stretched out her hands toward her. "Don't--don't you dare touch me!"

"Jest goin' to take the ropes off your pretty hands, dearie," was the smirking answer. "You don't need them now. You can't run away, you know. Tee-hee!" and she tittered in glee.

Betty felt it better to submit to the ministrations of the crone, for the sake of being released from the bonds, which hurt her cruelly. For they had been pulled tight by the fishermen. It was some time after the ropes were taken off her ankles and wrists before Betty felt the blood circulating normally.

Amy lay inert on the rude bunk where she had been placed. Betty noticed there were sleeping accommodations for three in the place, and with a shudder she wondered if the old woman was to be their companion on the voyage that seemed to have begun. For the schooner was pitching and tossing on a ground swell, that seemed to presage a change of weather.

"Oh--oh, Betty! What has happened?" faltered Amy, as she opened her eyes. The cloth had been removed from her mouth and the ropes loosed. Having done this much the old woman crouched on the third bunk, smiling, muttering to herself, and looking from one girl to the other.

"Oh, Betty--what does it mean?" repeated Amy.

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out soon," declared the Little Captain, with a return of her usual courage. She felt better now that she had the use of her arms and legs. She started toward the door.

"It's locked--on the outside, my dearie!" chuckled the old woman. "And it won't be opened until I call to 'em. So there's no use in makin' a fuss, my dear!"

"Stop your senseless talk!" snapped Betty. "Don't dare call me by that name, you--you horrid creature."

"No use gettin' mad," said the crone, and she showed a change of temper. "You're here, and you're goin' to stay until we put you on shore, so you might as well make up your mind to that."

"We demand to be put on shore at once!" cried Betty. "Evidently you and--and those with you have made some mistake. We will not make trouble for you, if you set us ashore at once. If not----"

"Well, what will you do, dearie?" sneered the old woman.

"My father will deal with such as you!" declared Betty, her eyes flashing. "You must put us ashore."

"The men will have to attend to that," the crone said. "One of 'em will be here pretty soon, and you'd better answer 'em fair, or it may be the worse for you."

Her tone was fierce now.

"Oh--oh, I--I feel faint," gasped Amy. "It is so close in here----"

"Get her some water," ordered Betty, authoritatively.

"It's right here," said the old woman. "I thought you'd want a drink. And you can have somethin' to eat as soon as you like. It sha'n't be said we starved you."

"Eat! I couldn't bear the sight of food!" said Betty, with a shudder. "Here, Amy, drink this. It seems to be--clean!" and Betty tried to express the contempt she felt for the slovenly appearance of the old woman.

Fortunately the water did seem to be drinkable, and it was quite cold, as though it had been on ice. Both girls drank gratefully, for their mouths were parched and dry.

"Are you better?" asked Betty, smoothing back the hair of her chum.

"Oh, yes, much. But, Betty dear, what does it all mean? Why are we here? I--I seem to be in a sort of daze."

"I feel that way myself. I don't know what has happened, Amy, except that we were kidnapped, and brought to this schooner."

"Kidnapped? Oh, no, my dear!" interrupted the old woman. "We only want you to tell us something, and as soon as you do that you can go where you please."

"Tell you? Tell you what?" demanded Betty, though she felt she could answer that question herself.

"I don't rightly know what it is, my pretty!" protested the crone with an evil glance. "My man will be here pretty soon and tell you. He has to get the sails up, and all of that, first."

The creaking of pulleys on the deck told that the operation of getting the schooner under way was not yet completed. There was a regular swing to the vessel now, however, that told she was getting into more open water. Fortunately both the outdoor girls were good sailors.

The old woman was putting back in a box the bottle of water and the tin cup from which she had given Amy and Betty to drink. For a moment her back was turned, and Betty decided on a bold move.

Quickly she darted over toward the door, and pulled with fierce strength on the knob. It resisted her efforts. The old woman turned with a mocking smile on her wrinkled face.

"I told you it was locked," she jeered. "It won't be opened until I knock in a certain way. I'll do it soon, for we must be getting pretty well out."

She peered through a dirty round window that gave light to the cabin, which seemed to be located in the after part of the schooner, though neither Betty nor Amy had noticed to which part they had been taken.

"I demand that you let us out of here!" cried Betty, stamping her foot.

She looked around as though for some weapon with which to enforce her orders, and the woman evidently guessed this, for she chuckled grimly.

"You can't have your own way here," she said, with a grin that showed her almost toothless gums. "My man is captain of this boat, and out at sea, you know, the captain has to be obeyed."

"Oh, are you going to take us out to sea?" gasped Amy. "Please don't! I'll do anything if you will release us. See, I have money," and she brought out a little gold purse from a skirt pocket. At the sight of the gleaming metal the crone's eyes glittered.

"Don't be afraid," she said. "You won't be harmed. All we want to know is----"

A knock interrupted her. She glided quickly between Betty and Amy and the door was opened a crack. Betty had a wild idea of forcing her way out, but she had a glimpse of two rough looking men through the opening, and she dared not approach. There was a whispered talk between the old woman and one of the men.

Then, in an instant the old crone slipped out, and the door was locked again, leaving Betty and Amy alone in the cabin.

"Oh--oh!" cried Amy, and a moment later she was sobbing in the strong arms of Betty.

Meanwhile Allen and Henry had come out from the fisherman's cottage, having satisfied themselves, by a quick search, that no one was in the upper story, or down in the cellar.

"They were here, though," Allen said.

"Yes, my sister's handkerchief proves that," agreed his chum. "Now we must go back to the others."

"But Grace and Mollie will have a fit when they know we haven't found Betty and Amy."

"It can't be helped. There has been some mix-up somewhere. I have an idea, but I won't spring it now. Come on."

They hurried back to where the motor boat had been left.

"Were they there?" asked Grace, eagerly.

"Yes, they--_were_," said Allen, slowly. "But they've gone home."

"How do you know that?" asked Henry in a low voice.

"I don't know it!" came the reply in a whisper. "But we've got to pretend that until we find it isn't so. I'm hoping it is, though. You see," he went on, aloud, "we found they had been there. Amy dropped her handkerchief."

"But where are they now?" demanded Mollie.

"They probably hurried back to the cottage."

"But without coming to tell us?" objected Grace.

"They probably had no time," said Allen. "My idea is," he went on, speaking rapidly so he would not be interrupted, "that they got some news about the diamonds, and had to act on it quickly. I think that is why they didn't wait to tell you girls. They knew if they didn't come back that you would know enough to come home, or they may have planned to return to you later."

"What had we better do?" asked Grace.

"Get back to Edgemere as soon as we can," was Allen's opinion. "We'll probably find them waiting for us."

They piled into the motor boat, and used all speed in getting back. No sooner had they reached the little dock, where Tin-Back tied his boats, than Will Ford came racing down from the cottage.

"I thought you would never come back!" he cried, his face showing excitement.

"Why, have you found them? Are they here?" asked his sister, wondering why her brother had returned from Boston.

"Here? Of course they're here!" he answered. "Where else would they be. And I've found them."

"I don't see how----" began Allen.

"Oh, it wasn't easy, I assure you. I had to work on a lot of clues. But I came out all right. I've found out all about 'em. Those diamonds were smuggled, and there's a good reward offered for the capture of the men, as well as something due for turning the diamonds over to Uncle Sam."

"The diamonds!" cried Mollie.

"Yes. I've found out their secret!" Will said.

"We--we thought you meant you had found Betty and Amy," returned Grace, in a strange voice. "They--they're lost! They're gone!"

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