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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 23. Hidden Treasure
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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 23. Hidden Treasure Post by :joebiff Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1716

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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 23. Hidden Treasure

CHAPTER XXIII. HIDDEN TREASURE

The week that followed the Outdoor Girls remembered as just one endless round of fun. With the exception of two days, the weather was perfect. They traveled over to town on the rickety ferryboat several times. They took the cars out of the garage for short spins about the country, and otherwise amused themselves.

Then, too, the fish in the unrivaled fishing pool proved just as agreeable as they had on that first day, and provided many delicious suppers for the young people. The only thing that served to mar their pleasure was the continued reluctance of the mysterious cave to come to light--it was as though the earth had opened and swallowed it up.

"I'm beginning to think it just never was," Grace remarked, as she contentedly munched some chocolates that Frank had laid on her altar. "Will is terribly worried about it. He thinks since he is in the secret service that he ought to investigate it."

"How can he if there isn't anything to investigate?" asked Betty. And in truth there seemed some reason in her query. "It makes me angry every time I think of it."

"Yes, the fellows say Will even talks in his sleep about the cave," Amy volunteered. "Probably they exaggerate, but I don't wonder he is all on edge about it."

"And we have to leave so soon, too," Mollie commented. "We haven't much more time to look for it."

"It doesn't seem possible we have to go back home in less than a week," sighed Amy. "I just hate to leave this place."

"To change the subject," said Betty, "I wonder what's keeping the boys. Let's get the lunch and go to meet them."

The girls agreed, and Betty ran in to get the luncheon and tell Mrs. Irving where they were going.

Before they had gone more than a hundred feet from the house they were met by the boys, who seemed in a great hurry.

"Oh, did we keep you waiting?" Roy inquired anxiously, evidently relieved to see them. "Old Will here disappeared and we had to go on a still hunt to find him."

"Yes, he still has that confounded cave in his head. I'd given the thing up. Why worry about a thing you can't find?" Frank demanded.

"But we saw it," Will argued, relieving the girls of the basket. "And as long as we saw it, it's got to be on this island somewhere--that's a sure thing--and I'm going to find it."

"Well, I wish you luck," said Allen gloomily. "Blow a horn when you find it--we all want to be in at the death."

"If you are going to be so lazy I'll keep it all to myself," Will retorted. "That cave is somewhere on this island, and I intend to find where if I have to stay for another six months."

"Hear! hear!" cheered Roy. "That's the way I like to hear a fellow talk."

"Yes, you do," Will was beginning when Betty interrupted him.

"I'm on your side, Will," she said staunchly. "I'm not going to stop looking for the cave until we have to go home. Why, just think of the things we might find. There is probably loot in that place that is worth a great big lot of money, and in some cases they might be things that money couldn't replace. It's not a question of mere curiosity, it's a duty we owe to society."

"Speech! speech!" Roy cried again. "We have some little orator in our midst! But may I ask," he added, with exaggerated politeness, "how we are to go about accomplishing this service to society?"

Betty's patience was at an end. "Ask something you can answer yourself!" she said shortly, and Roy was silenced.

They deposited the basket at what seemed to them an ideal spot and were about to examine the contents when a sharp cry from Mollie arrested their attention.

"Look! look!" she cried. "I've found it! Girls--boys, come here! Quick."

There was no need of urging, for they fairly flew in the direction of her voice. There she was down on her knees before an opening much lower and narrower than the one they had discovered before, but nevertheless unmistakably another entrance to the cave.

"I caught my foot in a twig," she explained, as they crowded around her, wild with excitement, "and I almost fell into the cave." So, as in the first place, the discovery had been made through an accident.

The cave seemed to have been formed in a rise of the ground--it could hardly be termed a hill--and as the young people looked inside, its black interior stretched as far as they could see.

"Who wants to go in first?" asked Amy, her tone low and awed in the presence of the unknown. "The boys will have to stoop to get in."

"I'll go," said Will, pushing his way past them, and in his tone was a ring of command. "Come on, anybody that wants to. I'm going to find what's in this place before it disappears again."

The place had a damp and earthy smell, and Amy drew back uncertainly. "The rest of you go first," she said. "I'll come--later."

Nothing loath, Mollie, Betty and even Grace pressed into the opening after Will, the boys standing aside--this last bit of self-control proving that chivalry was not all dead yet. The first temptation had been to run pell-mell after Will, regardless of girls or any other disturbing element that might be about.

However, as has been said, they allowed the girls to go in first and followed them as closely as they dared, Amy, however, going last of all.

After several feet of back-breaking progress the girls came out into another portion of the cave, where the roof was high enough to admit of an upright position. As they stood up, nerves aquiver with suppressed excitement, Will rushed back to them.

"There is another entrance at the other end," he cried. "That must be the one you and Allen found, Betty. Come over here where you can get more light," he added. "It filters through the leaves and twigs at the opening."

All this time he was leading the way to the spot that he was describing, the others following breathlessly. Once there, he grasped Allen's arm excitedly, crying in a tense voice: "Look here, old man, here is one of those bags they carried the other day--the place is full of them. Now I am going to open this one. You keep a good lookout."

"Hush!" cried Allen, and they listened, scarcely daring to breathe. From the mouth of the cave, soft but unmistakable, came the sound of voices--voices speaking in a tongue the boys had heard before. There could be no mistake--the gypsies were visiting their hiding place!

"Get back," breathed Will. "Back into the other mouth of the cave." He pushed the others before him with all his force and they obeyed without question.

They shrank back in the darkness and waited for what was to come. They might have fled, but curiosity held them chained to the spot.

Once Amy uttered a weak protest, saying: "Don't you think we had better go back?" when Will silenced her, none too gently. The moment was a critical one.

The little group of young people held their breath while the gypsies entered, silent now. In the dim light of the cave their features could not be seen, but there was something about the bent old figure of the foremost gypsy that proclaimed the leader of that other day. They were as velvet-footed as cats, and as the girls' eyes became more accustomed to the gloom they discovered that the gypsies were not hunch-backed, as had first appeared, but merely carried upon their backs packs like those others scattered about the cave. These they deposited on the floor without much ceremony and were gone before the girls and boys had fairly realized it.

The watchers stood motionless even after the footsteps had died away in the distance. It seemed as though a mystic spell had been woven about them, which, for the time, they were powerless to break.

It was Roy who first "came to life," as Mollie expressed it. "I say, what's the use of standing here?" he inquired. "Let's have a look."

"Oh, hush, please!" begged Grace, alarmed at the unrestraint of his tone. "They might come back."

"No, they won't," Will asserted, for he had suddenly acquired great dignity. "They have probably gone for another haul. In the meantime it is up to us to inform the authorities, and mighty quick, too."

"But we don't even know that it _is loot, Will," Betty protested. "We ought to make sure first."

"That's easy enough," Allen commented. "Besides I've been anxious to examine the contents of that bag for a long time. Now, I'd like to see anybody keep me from it!" and he rushed over to the other side of the cave and was opening one of the bags even as he spoke.

The others crowded close beside him as he knelt on the ground, taking advantage of the meager light from the cave mouth to examine its contents. What they did see literally made them gasp. Gold and silver and strings upon strings of beads--some very valuable, others less so--and trinkets of all sorts and descriptions.

"Say, those gypsies are experts!" Frank exclaimed, awe in his tone. "I think I'll go into the business."

The girls didn't even pretend to be shocked at this--they were too taken up with their own emotions--too excited to notice such trivial remarks.

"Oh, aren't they wonderful?" cried Amy, down on her knees before the bag, and running her fingers through the brilliant mass delightedly. "How do they ever get such things?"

"That's a funny question to ask," Grace remarked. "They steal them, of course."

"But what are we going to do?" asked Betty practically. "If all the bags contain things like these, this cave is a mighty valuable place. Oh, and to think that we were the ones to discover it!"

"Well, you people can stay here and guard the loot if you want to," said Will. "But I'm going over to the mainland to hunt up a couple of ancient sheriffs--I suppose they are ancient," he added whimsically. "In stories, you wouldn't recognize a sheriff without his whiskers."

"Never mind the whiskers," said Mollie impatiently. "The thing is, somebody has to stay and guard the cave or it will disappear the way it did the other time, and you will bring the authorities over here for nothing."

"Well, of course you will have to stay until I get back," Will decided. "In the meantime, you can eat lunch. Good-bye, I'm off." And he led the way into the sunlight, which dazzled their eyes after the semi-gloom of the cave.

"But you will have to wait for the ferry," Allen called after him, "and it may not be along for some time."

"I'll take a chance," Will flung back. "I'll get there if I have to swim!"

"Maybe if you swim you can beat the ferry," suggested Allen, with a laugh.

"Say, that's a scheme! I guess I had better try it."

"Nonsense! You take the boat, old as it is."

"All right, Allen."

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