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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 5. Thieves In Deepdale
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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 5. Thieves In Deepdale Post by :joebiff Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1735

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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 5. Thieves In Deepdale


The door bell rang out its noisy summons.

Betty forestalled the maid on her way to the portal with a merry: "I'll go, Mary. It's probably one of the girls."

It was not one of the girls only, but all three of them, and seemingly in the wildest excitement.

"Oh, Betty, Betty!" Mollie cried, not even stopping to say "hello." "Have you heard the news--have you?"

"No, it's so early----" began Betty, but Grace interrupted her.

"But it isn't half as bad as what happened to us," she said, sinking into a porch chair and fanning herself violently, being overcome either by the heat or her emotions--possibly both. "Why! dad's running around the house like a mad man this morning, swearing all sorts of vengeance on the thief, whoever he or she is--I suppose it must be a he, though, because women don't steal----"

"Hold on, hold on a minute," commanded Betty, her hands over her ears. "How _do you expect me to find out what has happened if you won't come to the point?"

"Well, I was going to tell you if you'd only have a little patience," Grace continued, in an injured voice. Here she paused to put into her mouth a chocolate cream, which she had taken from a little box she had brought with her. Then, seeing Amy about to speak, she went on hastily, holding the box out mutely toward her friends, who all shook their heads. "Here I rush all the way over and get all heated up and everything----"

"Oh, for goodness' sake, Grace!" Mollie broke in, having come to the end of her patience. "If you don't tell the story I will. You have been half an hour already getting nowhere."

At this dire threat Grace continued quickly. "Oh, well," she capitulated, "since you are in such a hurry--well, the fact is, Betty, Beauty's been stolen," and she delivered the terrible news in a hushed voice.

"Oh!" said Betty, horrified. "And your father valued him above all the rest. Are you sure he was stolen, Grace?"

"Well, I don't see what else could have happened to him." Now that she had delivered her news, Grace was once more as calm and composed as ever. "The horse couldn't very well file the padlock from the outside or climb out the window, and the groom wouldn't be very likely to take him for a gentle stroll in the middle of the night. And unless one of those things has happened, Beauty has been stolen. Anyway, he's gone, there's no doubt of that."

"That's pretty bad--I can imagine just how your father feels, Grace," Betty's voice was grave. "I do hope they will be able to trace him. Does your father suspect the gypsies?"

"Yes, ever since the store was robbed the other night, dad has been suspicious of them," Grace answered. "He has tried to watch his horses with especial care, too. That's one thing that makes him so tearing mad to-day. Oh, you should have heard him!" and Grace sighed at the memory.

"I remember," said Betty thoughtfully, "that Allen said something the other night when we went to visit their camp about the gypsies being expert thieves. From the way things have turned out I guess he knew what he was talking about."

"And they looked so nice and romantic, too," said Amy, and drew a sigh at the irony of fate.

This conversation took place between the girls on a certain morning several days after their memorable visit to the gypsy camp. A day or so before one of the large stores of the town had been looted and practically cleaned out. For two days Deepdale had been in a furore of excitement and indignation, for in the memory of most of the inhabitants no such crime had ever been perpetrated. There had been small robberies, of course, but that Hendall's, traditionally the oldest store in Deepdale, should have been treated to such insult, and by a band of roving gypsies, too--for every one suspected them from the first--why, it was unheard of! incredible!

Detectives and sheriff had searched the town from end to end but had found no sign of the missing goods. They had visited the gypsy camp, too, submitting it to a strict investigation, but with no result. The countryside had been scoured for miles around, but no trace had as yet been found of the missing criminals nor of their loot. Indeed, the thieves had covered their tracks well, and the inhabitants of Deepdale were beginning to lose hope of immediate reparation.

Such was the chaotic state of affairs on this beautiful summer morning when Mr. Ford had awakened to find his splendid horse, Beauty, the ornament of his stables and the pride of his heart, strangely and inexplicably missing.

For an hour or so the girls pondered on these two mysterious robberies and found themselves not one whit nearer the solution. It was Mollie who finally suggested that they go to her house and look at a couple of new dresses she had bought recently. "It will help get our minds off the robbery," she said.

The girls agreed readily, for they were always anxious to see Mollie's things. "They are always so novel," Grace had once said, and Mollie had been uncertain whether to ticket it a compliment or otherwise.

"Really, my head aches trying to figure things out," Amy complained, as they neared the Billette home.

"Well, it seems to me it is just about time some of those detectives found things out for us," Mollie rejoined. "Will ought to be able to help, Grace," she added, "since he is in the secret service."

"You may be sure he is doing his best," Grace retorted with spirit. "Those gypsies make thieving their profession and it isn't always as easy to track them as it seems. If you don't believe me, just try it yourself."

"I didn't say anything about not believing you," Mollie rejoined, icily. "And there's no reason why you have to go up in the air about nothing. I was simply suggesting, that's all."

"Girls, some day, I am just going to get terribly angry about something and then let fly," Betty broke in. "I'd just like to know what would happen and where we would end up if you didn't have me to act as peacemaker."

"Probably in the county jail for disturbing the peace," said Grace ruefully, and Mollie laughed, thereby restoring harmony, for the time being at least.

"Oh, hurry, please do hurry, Mollie!" A small cyclone precipitated itself out of the house and into Mollie's arms. "Muvver's cwyin' tuwible and she's telephonin' to evwybody to make you come home quick. Oh--oh----" This was the beginning of a muffled wail--silenced by Mollie's hand over the small one's mouth.

"Dodo, don't cry," Mollie implored. "What is the matter with mother? Is she sick? Oh, don't bother to tell me--I'll see for myself. Come on, girls."

"Had we better?" asked Betty, with instinctive delicacy. "It may be something she won't want us to know."

"Oh, don't be silly," cried Mollie, impatiently, shoving the three girls before her through the doorway. "You know as well as I do that we haven't any secrets from you. Oh, what can be the matter?"

They found Mrs. Billette in the library where her small daughter, Dora--nicknamed Dodo, and one of a pair of exceedingly mischievous twins--ran to tell her of Mollie's timely arrival.

The girls followed hesitatingly, as Mollie rushed forward and threw her arms about her mother's neck, crying: "Mother, dear, what is it? Dora says you have been crying and that you have been telephoning for me all over. Oh, I wish I had known! We would have run all the way."

"Oh, I suppose a few moments more or less would make no difference. It wouldn't bring back the silver," said Mrs. Billette, quietly. Hysterics had given place to a sort of despairing resignation. "Only, at first, I felt as if I must talk to some one about it. The twins didn't understand, of course, and I couldn't very well talk to Jane."

"But, Mother, what is it?" Mollie demanded again. "Has Aunt Elvira died or has Paul caught the mumps, or----"

"Of course not, Mollie! How silly of you," her mother broke in, impatiently. "Aunt Elvira will probably live another twenty years. And as for Paul's having the mumps----"

"Then what is it? Have we been robbed?" Mollie's little foot tapped a sharp tattoo on the floor.

"That is just what has happened to us," said Mrs. Billette, as the girls stared incredulously. "We've been robbed of some things that money never can replace. Oh-oh-oh, if I had only put it in a safer place! How could I have been such a fool! Oh! oh!" and Mrs. Billette, poor woman, was fast verging on another attack of hysteria.

Mollie put her arms about her mother soothingly. "There, there, Mother," she crooned. "It may turn out all right after all. But, remember, you haven't told us what is lost yet," she suggested, with a gentleness very unlike her former impatience. "I think it would make you feel much better to talk about it. Did you say it was the silver that had been stolen?"

"Yes, the silver tea service that has been in the family for over a hundred and twenty years." Mrs. Billette's French origin gleamed in her dark eyes as she added: "Oh, if we could only catch them! I'd like to make them suffer for this!"

From Mrs. Billette's rather disjointed story the girls gathered that not only the valuable tea service was missing, but also a number of smaller articles, such as knives and forks. Then there was a valuable jet necklace which Mrs. Billette had locked up with the silver for safe keeping.

The girls were stunned by this last calamity. They could think of one solution and one only, and that was--the gypsies.

As Betty took leave of the girls at her own door that noon, after vainly urging them to stay to lunch--they were too impatient to get home and spread the news to stop for anything, even lunch at Betty's--she heard the jangle of the telephone.

"Sorry you won't come in," she called. "I'll see you later, anyway!" and she flew upstairs to answer the insistent summons.

"Hello! . . . Oh, that you, Allen? . . . Yes, I've just come home from Mrs. Billette's. . . . She has lost a silver tea service and some other things. . . . What's that? . . . Yes, stolen. . . . Gone! . . . Are you sure? . . . Oh, now they will never get their things! . . . Yes, come over to-morrow and we can talk things over. . . . Don't be silly! . . . Yes, come early. . . . Good-bye."

As she hung up the receiver mechanically, Betty's gaze traveled out of the window and over the smooth, green lawn to the far-distant horizon.

"Gone!" she murmured. "The gypsies are gone! Oh, I wonder where they went to?"

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