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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 18. Anxious Days
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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 18. Anxious Days Post by :Riverbraid Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :2515

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The Outdoor Girls At Ocean View, Or The Box That Was Found In The Sand - Chapter 18. Anxious Days

CHAPTER XVIII. ANXIOUS DAYS

"Come on, boys!" cried Allen, evidently the first to sense the meaning of the alarm.

"Oh, but shouldn't we have some sort of weapons, you know?" spoke Percy.

"Get out of my way!" cried Roy Anderson, brushing past the dude. "My fists are the only weapons I want."

Betty and the other girls hung back in a frightened group. The maid's voice continued to ring out, and now Mrs. Nelson could be heard demanding to know what was the matter.

"Around to the side, fellows!" commanded Allen. "There's an outer door they'll probably try for."

"But who'll guard the front here?" asked Amy's brother.

"Let Percy do that!" Allen flung back over his shoulder. "He probably won't come with us, anyhow," he added.

The three young men hastened around to the side of the cottage, while Percy, hardly knowing what to do, remained with the girls in front. At the side was an old-fashioned, slanting cellar door, the kind celebrated in song as the one down which children slide, to the no small damage of their clothes.

As Allen and his chums reached a point where they could view this door, they saw it suddenly flung up with a bang, and three men spring up the stone steps.

"There they are!" yelled Roy.

"After 'em!" shouted Henry Blackford.

"It wasn't a false alarm, anyhow," added Allen. "Hold on there!" he cried. "Stop! Who are you? What do you want? Stop!"

But neither the commands nor the questions halted the men. They ran on, with never a word of answer or defiance flung back--dogged shadows fleeing through the moonlight to the shrubbery-encompassed grounds of Edgemere.

"Stop, or I'll shoot!" cried Roy.

"Oh!" screamed Grace, covering her ears.

"Good bluff, all right," complimented Allen. "But it won't work."

Nor did it. Roy's bright idea went for naught, for the men still crashed on. They were lost sight of now behind a screen of bushes, but the boys were not going to give up the pursuit so easily.

"Come on!" called Allen. "We'll have them in another minute! They can't get over the stone wall."

"Stone wall?" echoed Henry.

"Sush! It was another bluff, just as my threat was to shoot," cautioned Roy. "It may turn them back."

But it did not. Evidently the men knew the grounds about Edgemere as well as did the boys, for there was no sign of a halt in their headlong pace. On they crashed through bushes and underbrush, dodging among the trees of the garden, and minding not the flower beds they trampled under foot.

"They're getting away from us," remarked Henry, who was panting along beside Allen.

"Yes, they evidently had a line of retreat all marked out."

"Who are they?"

"Haven't the least idea. Tramps, maybe--maybe something worse."

"You mean----"

"I don't know just what I do mean," replied Allen. "Come on, let's do a little sprint, and we may get them. If we don't they'll soon be down on the beach, and it will be all up with the chase if they have a boat, as they probably have."

"If it was on the ocean side we'd have some chance; the surf is heavy to-night."

"Yes, but they're running toward the bay."

As I have explained, Edgemere was built on a point of land. One side of the house fronted the ocean, and the other the bay. At this point the land was not above a thousand feet wide, and the cottage property extended from shore line to shore line.

As Allen had said, the intruders, coming from the cellar, had turned toward the bay side, and if they had a boat waiting for them in those quiet waters they would have no difficulty in pushing off. But if they had gone the other way the unusually heavy surf would have held them back, at least for a time.

"There they go!" cried Roy, breaking out through the last fringe of bushes.

"And in a motor boat, too!" added Roy.

"If we only had ours," Henry mourned.

But it was vain wishing. The _Pocohontas was docked some distance away, and by the time the boys could reach her, and start an engine that was never noted for going without considerable "tinkering," it would be too late.

For the men had luck on their side. They fairly tumbled into a swift looking craft that was near shore, in charge of some one evidently waiting for them. In another instant the chug of the motor told that it had started. Then the boys had the dissatisfaction of standing on the sand, panting after their run, and seeing the men gradually draw out into the bay.

The sky had clouded over and the moon, that might have been a help, was not now of any service.

"Well, there they go," said Allen, in exasperated tones. "I'd give a good deal to know who they were, and what they were after."

"Let's go back to the house and see if we can find out," suggested Roy. "The fuss started there, you know."

"In the cellar--where the diamonds are," added Henry.

"That's so!" cried Allen. "For the moment I had forgotten them! Come on back. Maybe the rascals got the stones!"

The boys went back the same route they had so recently and so uselessly traveled. As they neared the cottage a voice hailed them.

"I say. Hold on! Who are you? What do you want? Remember there are ladies here!"

"It's Percy!" gasped Allen, trying not to laugh. "He's acting as home guard!"

"I wonder if he has his wrist watch on," laughed Roy.

"It's all right," called Henry, not wishing his sister and the other girls to be needlessly frightened. "We're coming back."

"Did you get them?" asked Betty, from the darkness.

"No, they got away in a boat," answered Allen. "Is anyone hurt?"

"No, but the servants and mother are quite frightened. Could you see who they were?"

"No. Evidently tramps, or fishermen. We'll have to have a look at those----"

Allen did not complete the sentence, but they all knew to what he referred.

"So you--er--missed them?" questioned Percy, when the two groups were together again. "Too bad! I was just coming to join you. I had to have a weapon, you know, and I found--this."

He showed a little stick which he had picked up.

"I should have hit them with it had I gotten near enough," he went on, seriously--for him.

"It's a good thing you didn't," spoke Roy. "You might have killed one of them with that, Percy."

"Oh, so I should! I--I can strike very hard when I am angry. I am just as well pleased that there was no need for desperate measures. I really am!"

But no one paid any attention to him now, though he tried to walk beside Betty. Allen and Roy had taken this vantage place, one on either side of the Little Captain.

"Betty, where are you?" called Mrs. Nelson, from the darkness.

"Here, Mother. Don't worry. It's all right. The men got away in a boat. We are coming in to hear all about it."

The story was soon told.

One of the maids, going down cellar to get something from the food store-room, had surprised a man prowling about with an electric flashlight.

The girl screamed, and her cries were augmented by the yells of another domestic in the kitchen.

Then the first girl saw two other men come from some part of the cellar and join the first one. They ran out just as the boys came up, and the fruitless chase resulted.

"What sort of men were they?" asked Betty of the girl who had given the alarm.

"Oh, I don't know, Miss Betty," was the half-sobbed reply.

"But you must know! Did he wear a tall hat or----"

"A tall hat? Of course not, miss. He was like a tramp, or a fisherman--maybe a clammer."

"That's how I sized them up," Allen said. "Fishermen. Did they say anything to you?" he asked the maid.

"Not a thing--no, sir. He just caught his breath, sort of frightened like, and ran out."

"Did the one you saw call to the others?"

"Oh, no, sir, they all ran out at once, as soon as I went down. I had a light myself."

"What part of the cellar were they in?"

"I couldn't exactly say. They seemed to be all over."

"Well, we'll have a look for--to see if anything is missing," Allen hastily changed his remarks, for the servants knew nothing about the diamonds; or, at least, they were not supposed to know about them.

"Come on, boys," the young law student went on.

"Oh, but hadn't we better send for the authorities?" asked Percy. "Or at least take a weapon," for Allen and the others had nothing in their hands.

"He's loony on the subject of weapons," grunted Roy.

Allen led the way down cellar, the girls and the servants not venturing, though Betty did want to go. But her mother kept her back.

A glance served to show that the diamonds were in the box, safe. As far as could be learned the intruders had not been near them.

"We'll bring them up, after the servants have gone to bed," Allen confided to his chums.

And when the maids had retired there was a sort of "council of war" among the others.

Opinion was divided as to whether the men were ordinary tramps, or perhaps sneak thieves, or whether they were after the diamonds.

"But how would they know they were down cellar?" asked Betty. "We are the only ones who know of the hiding place, and we haven't told anyone, except Percy."

"Oh, I never said a word!" Percy cried. Indeed he only heard the story of the find, after the scare.

"Of course if some men from this neighborhood hid the diamonds in the sand, and knew we girls took them out, and if they were around the house and heard something of the excitement the night papa took them down cellar, it would explain how they knew where to look for them," Betty said.

"Too many ifs," commented Allen. "Have there been any strangers around lately--tramps or anyone like that?"

At first Betty said there had been none, but later she recalled that a maid had reported to her that an undesirable specimen of a man had begged something to eat at the kitchen door the morning after Mr. Nelson had hid the diamonds down cellar.

"And," Betty said, "he may have been hanging around when father and Will left for Boston that day."

"But how could he know the stones were hidden down cellar?" asked Mollie.

"I don't know that he could tell that, exactly," Betty admitted, "but if you remember, as papa was going away he called back: 'Be sure to keep the cellar locked!' Don't you remember?"

"Yes, I heard that," Amy contributed.

"Well, if a tramp, who was not really a tramp, but some one in disguise, heard that he might jump to some conclusion," Betty went on.

"Too much jumping," Allen said. "As a matter of fact we're all in the dark about this."

"And it isn't a very pleasant suspense, either," declared Betty, as she looked at the black box with the diamonds safe in the secret compartment. "What are we going to do with that?"

"Hide it in a new place," suggested Henry.

That much was decided on, and the treasure was taken up to the attic, though there the danger of fire was ever present.

"Oh, I wish father were home," said Betty, a worried look on her face.

But it would be several days before Mr. Nelson could return, and those days were anxious ones indeed for the outdoor girls. The morning after the scare in the cellar inquiries were made, but no trace of the mysterious men was found.

"I can't stand this much longer!" declared Betty, one night. "I almost wish we'd never found the diamonds."

"You're nervous," said Mollie. "We've been too much in the house. To-morrow we shall try one of our old stunts--a picnic!"

"Good!" cried Grace. "That will be fun!"

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