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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 20. Dangerous Visitors
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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 20. Dangerous Visitors Post by :joebiff Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :3112

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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 20. Dangerous Visitors


"Gypsies?" Betty echoed. "Where?"

"Can't you see?" returned Amy. "They are fording just as that old man said they could. Oh, what are we going to do?"

The boys had been gazing with interest toward the little group of wanderers, but at Amy's cry they were aroused to sudden action.

"Get to a place where we can see, and not be seen," said Frank. "I'd like to watch this thing through."

"They are coming right this way, too," said Grace, delightfully afraid. "Oh, what have they got on their backs?"

"Looks like loot of some sort," Will volunteered, peering forth from his tree trunk. "Say, this promises to be a lark, fellows."

"We'd better get back a little farther, if we don't want them to run right into us," Roy suggested. "They are headed this way."

The watchers retreated still farther into the woods until they came to a dense overgrowth of foliage which effectually screened them from prying eyes.

"This is just the thing," Roy exulted. "I tell you we are running in luck to-day."

"I am glad you think so," said Amy. "If one of those gypsies discovered us, I am afraid we wouldn't live long."

"Well, they are not going to," said Roy, overhearing the last remark. "Don't be a wet blanket, Amy. Anyway, just because they are gypsies they needn't be murderers."

"I'm not a----" Amy was beginning, when Allen hissed a sharp warning. "Keep still, everybody," he said. "They are not a hundred yards away!"

After that silence reigned, broken only occasionally by a nervous whisper from one of the girls as they watched the approach of the enemy--or so they regarded them--with breathless interest.

There were about twenty in the group, of which the majority were men. As they came nearer, the girls and boys could see how greatly their ages varied. Some were old men with white hair and flowing beards, while others were young striplings scarcely out of boyhood. Their clothes were many hued and picturesque, while each one carried on his back a huge bundle. They traveled along the bank, speaking in a low mellow tone, a language which the Outdoor Girls and the boys had never heard before.

Grace crowded close to Betty, and the Little Captain squeezed her arm reassuringly. "I kind of like them," she whispered. "They look so interesting. They look like bandits or----"

Frank's hand closed abruptly over her mouth--for low as her tone had been the gypsies were near enough now to hear the slightest whisper.

On, on came the little procession so near that the girls, by stretching out their hands, could almost have touched them. They scarcely dared to breathe.

The gypsies moved on for a short distance, then gathered about something the nature of which the girls and boys could not discern. In his curiosity, Allen forgot caution and rising from the protection of the bushes he tip-toed over to a more advantageous lookout. In a moment he was back again on his knees beside the crouching group crying in an excited manner: "It's our cave--the cave Betty and I discovered--they are going into it. Say, I wish we had gone in when we had the chance!"

"I don't," said Mollie, "they might have found you there and knifed you in the back or something."

"Especially something," mocked Roy. But Mollie was too excited to hear him.

"Look!" Grace cried. "Now that they are all inside, you wouldn't know that there was any opening there at all."

"It _is tough to have to sit outside and look at nothing," Roy began.

"Don't look at me when you say that," complained Mollie, with a little grimace.

"When we ought to be in there capturing the thieves--if that is what they are," he finished.

"I'd bet on it," said Frank. "All gypsies are born robbers. Just the same, I wouldn't mind having some of their loot."

"Frank!" Grace exclaimed, in a shocked voice. "You know you wouldn't like anything of the sort."

"Why not?" he said, his eyes twinkling, for teasing Grace was one of his greatest delights. "I wouldn't go in anybody's house and deliberately steal anything, but if somebody is kind enough to do it for me----"

"It will do you as much good as it will them, eh, Frank?" finished Will, companion in crime.

"I think you are just talking to hear yourselves talk," Grace commented, and Betty heartily approved. "That's the most sensible thing I ever heard you say, Grace."

"I'm getting stiff sitting on my heels," Mollie complained. "I wish those old gypsies would go home where they belong, and let us get up."

"Seventh inning," said Frank. "All get up and stretch."

Willingly they followed his example, but no sooner had they risen to their feet than they were sent scuttling back again like rabbits into a burrow. The bushes were pushed aside and an aged gypsy stepped forth from the opening. With a little gasp of excitement the girls realized that he was without his heavy pack. Whatever it was they had brought evidently had been left behind in the cave. One by one they emerged until their number was complete. The last of the little band, a lad apparently no more than sixteen years old, replaced the screening bushes very carefully across the mouth of their hiding place. Then they turned, and retraced their steps, still speaking that strange melodious tongue of theirs, until they had reached the shore and departed the way they had come. It was not till then that the watchers ventured to speak above a whisper.

"Now for the cave and what it contains!" cried Will, and started for the spot the gypsies had so lately occupied.

The girls and boys followed him, the former excited yet half fearful.

"Do you think we had better?" asked Amy, as Will pushed aside the curtain of foliage and peered inside. "It's getting dark, and besides the gypsies might come back. Please don't, Will."

"Do you mean to say that you girls want us to go home without seeing what is in there?" asked Frank incredulously. "It can't be done, Amy."

Nevertheless, the boys hesitated before the entrance to this mysterious hole. After all, it was getting dark and the very blackness of the place was forbidding.

"If we only had some matches," said Roy uncertainly. "It wouldn't do us much good to go stumbling around in the dark."

"And I presume Mrs. Irving is back and will be terribly worried," Mollie added, seizing upon the most effective argument she could think of. "She told us to be home before dark."

"Yes, and we can come here to-morrow, anyway," Amy added. "What do you think about it, Betty?"

"Well, I am just crazy to see what the gypsies left there," the Little Captain answered, "but I do think it's a little late now to begin exploring. It isn't as if this were our last day on the island."

"I think Betty is right, fellows." It was Roy who spoke. "Mrs. Irving left the girls in our care and she won't do it again in a hurry if we don't get them home pretty soon."

"That's so, of course," Allen admitted reluctantly. "Just the same, it's a crime to leave a discovery like this without getting to the bottom of it."

"But we can come to-morrow," Betty pleaded. "It isn't as if----"

"Oh, I know all about that," he interrupted. "But we probably can't find the place to-morrow."

"Well, we will have to take our chances on that," cried Mollie, tapping her foot impatiently. "The rest of you may stay here all night if you want to, but I'm going back to 'The Shadows.'"

"Hold on a minute, Mollie, can't you?" said Will. "I wish it weren't so late, but since it is, I suppose we shall have to act accordingly. Who's got the lunch basket?"

"Frank had, the last time I saw it," said Amy, looking about her at the gathering shadows uneasily. "Oh, please let's hurry."

"I forgot all about the basket," Frank confessed. "I think I left it over there behind the bushes."

Allen went with him to find it, while the girls stood huddled together, wishing themselves back at the bungalow. Mystery is wonderful in the glaring sun of noon-day, but in the chill dusk of evening, with a damp mist rising and touching all the land with clammy fingers--at such a time it is not so alluring. All they wanted was home and a fire and a chance to talk things over.

Allen and Frank, carrying the basket between them, soon rejoined those who were waiting at the cave, and they started along the shores of the lake, keeping a sharp lookout for anything that looked like a gypsy.

However, they reached home at last without encountering anything more formidable than their own shadows.

"But I _would like to know what they had in those bags," sighed Betty, as the boys took leave of them. "Can we go back the first thing in the morning, Allen?"

"We can't go too soon to suit me," Allen agreed. "But aren't you going to let us fellows come over to-night to talk things over?"

"Of course," said Mollie, "and we'll have a fire."

"That sounds good," said Roy. "We won't keep you waiting."

Then the girls went in to relieve Mrs. Irving's anxiety and to tell her the wonders they had witnessed that afternoon.

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