Girl Scouts at Dandelion Camp
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“Verny, don’t you suppose those poor convicts have gone without food for so long that they had to take ours!” ventured Betty, kindly.
“Oh, oh! how can you pity them, Betty Lee!” cried Joan.
“Betty, if you don’t swear to avenge this outrage, I’ll spank you good and hard – so there!” threatened Julie, her eyes gleaming dangerously as she leaned towards poor Betty.
“I can’t swear, Julie, but I am sorry for two terribly wicked men who don’t know better than to hurt Mr. Gilroy and then ruin our lovely home. The food I s’pose they needed,” explained Betty, with more spirit than she had ever expressed in her life.
The scouts were so amazed at Betty’s self-defense that unconsciously they pardoned her charity towards the vagabonds.
“Besides, Verny, they couldn’t have carried the boxes very far, you know, when it took Hepsy and all of us to carry them in,” added Betty.
“And the furniture was awfully heavy, too,” said Ruth.
“And too clumsy for them to handle well,” Betty added, but she had best have left that unsaid, as Julie’s wrath exploded.
“How can you call the furniture clumsy? They were just as handsome as anything I ever saw!”
But no one abetted this statement, so she modified her words. “Well, not very clumsy – only heavy, maybe.”
Mr. Gilroy had been thinking very quickly during this conversation, and now he called to the Captain. They all ran over to him to see if he was all right.
“Oh, yes, I feel all right; but I was wondering if you can find it possible to have Hepsy drive on down to that village you mention?”
“To Freedom? What for?” asked Julie, surprised.
“Because I have a theory about this vandalism, and the sooner the police hear of it, the better for the safety of all,” replied Mr. Gilroy.
“Do you think you can stand the extra journey?” now asked Mrs. Vernon.
“I feel so strong and improved since I see what the rascals did here that I really will be better off if we go to the village than if I remained here chafing against the delay of catching them.”
Mrs. Vernon knew that an unsettled mental condition was worse than actual healthy fatigue, so she agreed to drive on down to Freedom. “But it will be too late for us to return to-night!”
“Oh, you must not think of it! In fact, you must not camp here again until the convicts are taken,” hastily replied Mr. Gilroy.
“I suppose we can find a good farm-house where we can board for a time,” suggested Mrs. Vernon.
“We’ll ask the grocery man who comes up for our orders,” added Julie.
By the time Hepsy was hitched again to the buckboard, the scouts had packed some things in suitcases to take with them. Mr. Gilroy refused to recline on the spruce bed again, so he sat up between the two girls.
Hepsy was inclined to balk when she found she was wanted to drive down to Freedom; but Mrs. Vernon was most emphatic with a persuasive hickory stick, so that Hepsy decided that “discretion was the better part of stubbornness.”
Once warmed up to the going, Hepsy kept on traveling at a great rate, so that the village of Freedom was seen in less than an hour’s time after leaving the camp.While Mrs. Vernon asked the keeper of the general store about hotel accommodations for all, Mr. Gilroy went to the telephone and called up the police station at Junction.
The scouts had not heard the first part of his conversation, as they were interested in hearing about rooms for the night, but when the store-keeper held up a hand for silence, they heard Mr. Gilroy say excitedly:
“Is that so! Well, I really believe I can get them for you. My name is Chester Gilroy, and my home is in New York State, but the young ladies are Girl Scouts. The Captain’s name is Mrs. Vernon, of Elmertown – the other side of this ridge, you know. And the scouts are Juliette and Elizabeth Lee, Ruth Bentley and Joan Allison.”
The scouts exchanged glances with Mrs. Vernon, but they had no clue to the conversation at the other end of the wire.
“What’s that?” asked Mr. Gilroy. “Oh – yes! They lost all their food-stuff, furniture, and other things from camp, so they are compelled to stay at Freedom until the rascals are caught.”
After saying “good-by” Mr. Gilroy hung up the receiver and came over to the group waiting to hear what was to be done.
The excitement and tiresome trip, followed by the sudden relaxation and satisfaction he experienced now, caused the man’s head to whirl, so that he dropped into a wooden chair for a time.
As he sat there recovering himself, he quickly planned. Then he looked up at the store-keeper.
“Mr. Grocer, I can show you an express order on a bank at Junction from my home bank in New York State. I want you to take it – not to cash, but just to prove to you that I mean business.”
The scouts looked perplexed, and the store-keeper said: “What sort of business do you want to transact?”
“I want you to act as a constable for me – or get a real one, if there is one, at once. Then I want you to collect as large a posse of men as you can, and begin and search that mountainside thoroughly. Begin at an outside circle and narrow down as you reach the camp-huts. We’ve got to get those escaped convicts and hand them over to the police before we can feel safe.” The canny grocer shook his head dubiously.
“If the men of Freedom round up and land two dangerous criminals, think of the story the newspapers will tell about it. Why, Freedom will be on the map in big headlines!” Mr. Gilroy was beguiling.
When Mr. Gilroy concluded, the store-keeper said: “How much do yuh kalkerlate on spendin’, mister?”
“How many men can you get to go on this quest?” Mr. Gilroy countered.
“Wall – there air loungers hangin’ about th’ post office, in that store over thar, an’ there be young fellers what’ll want to chase the convicts fer fun, an’ others what will do it fer the dollars. I kin raise ’bout forty er fifty, I rickon.”
“Fine work! I’ll pay them $2 for every half-day they are out, with extra money for meals and night work. But the bosses will get double the money. I’ll pay you a dollar for every man you sign up.”
“Signed up – what fer?” asked the suspicious grocer.
“To contract to hunt these criminals. You see, we’ve got to do the thing business-like, and once they start out they might work a whole day or two, and be entitled to honest pay. But others who never moved may come in at pay-time and claim money for nothing. I’ve got to have the signatures of my men so that I know who I am paying, see?”
The old grocer felt satisfied with the explanation, and said: “I know the constabule pritty well, and he’ll ’tend to the posse if I divide even. He knows the best men to send on a job like this. I’ll be satisfied with half, if I get my picksher in a New York news-paper. I allers wanted to do that afore I die!”
Mrs. Vernon could not refrain from smiling at such a desire and ideal, but the scouts laughed outright. Mr. Gilroy said: “Youth laughs because it does not believe in death.”
“When do ye want ’em to start?” queried the grocer eagerly.
“As soon as you can possibly get them off. Those convicts may escape from the mountainside in another twenty-four hours.”
“I’ll git Lem on the telerphone now, and start him off. He’s our constabule, ye know, and a lively one, tew.”
Soon after this, Lemuel Saunders called to see Mr. Gilroy. “Ef yuh will step over to my office, I’ve got a line o’ men waitin’ to sign up.”
The scouts wanted to watch the rest of this exciting plan, so Mrs. Vernon accompanied them to the constable’s room behind the Post-Office General Store.
Mr. Gilroy hastily wrote upon a sheet of fool’s-cap paper, then handed it to Mr. Saunders to be signed by the applicants. A long line filed in, and, signing, went out again. To each man one dollar was paid in advance for a meal, and advice given as to taking guns, clubs and other weapons with them.
The spirit of adventure, added to a good financial return, had attracted every one in the village, so that wives and mothers had packed up hearty lunches, and seen to it that the hunters were provided with firearms or cudgels for defense.
Scarcely a man or grown boy could be found in town who had not agreed to go out and hunt the felons for Mr. Gilroy. Before sundown that evening the village was left without a man in it. But here and there on the great mountainside twinkling lights could be seen, as the posse moved carefully upwards towards the camp.
The following morning found Mr. Gilroy feeling rested and eager to follow the villagers in their search for the outlaws. But the doctor who had sewed up the gash in his head advised the patient to rest all that day.
The girls made a great fuss over their sick guest – or at least they insisted upon calling him sick in spite of his protests to the contrary – and promised the physician that they would take every precaution to keep Mr. Gilroy quiet.
But they had no idea of how their promise was to be tested. They were soon to know, however.
On the first train that stopped at Freedom came the Chief of Police and a number of his officers from Junction, to capture the two escaped convicts. They went straight to Mr. Gilroy to learn all the facts from him, and having taken down his statement they spoke of securing horses, or a car, to take them up the mountainside.
“I hired all the horses and vehicles to be had in Freedom,” explained Mr. Gilroy, “but I will gladly turn over the auto to you, providing you take me with you on this trip.”
“Why! You can’t leave this porch, Mr. Gilroy,” exclaimed Julie.
“The doctor said we were to keep you very quiet,” added Joan.
“But that was more than an hour ago; I am quite recovered now, my dears,” laughed Mr. Gilroy.
“That makes no difference with us – we were ordered to see that you kept quiet,” declared Ruth.
“I can keep just as quiet while riding in the car with the Chief as if I sat on this chair,” argued Mr. Gilroy.
“Impossible! The excitement of the chase will give you a fever,” said Julie, emphatically.
“Why, they are two poor convicts who are most likely in chains by this time. Our posse has captured them long before this, and all I have to do is to pay off my men,” explained the stubborn patient.
“Well, you’ll find they are not quite tame, or as easy to secure, as you fancy,” ventured the Chief. “One of those rascals is a member of that gang that tried to bomb New York City recently. And the other one is a leader of a group of ‘Reds’ that the secret police rounded up lately. Both, being aliens, were kept in jail until they could be deported. But they managed to make their escape.”
“How did you get the orders to capture them?” asked Mr. Gilroy.
“Why, the Police Chiefs all over the country were sent secret communications with descriptions and photographs of the fellows; just the other day, a young man who lives with his granny on this mountain, said he had seen two evil-looking tramps somewhat resembling the pictures. So we quickly planned to start a round-up when we heard from you. Then last night I got a message over the wire that two suspects were trailed as far as Junction or its vicinity, and we were to look carefully to see if any disguised strangers were hanging about our town.”
“Well, well! This is certainly interesting, but now I am more determined than ever to go with you when you start. Are we waiting for anything?” said Mr. Gilroy.
“Nothing except the consent of your nurses,” laughed the Chief.
The four girls looked obdurate, and Mr. Gilroy began to smile, then he turned to the Chief.
“You feel reasonably sure that I will be taking no risks in accompanying you back to the campsite?”
“Oh, certainly! Those two outlaws will never hang about a spot where so many people are liable to stop.”
“Well, then, is there any objection to my four nurses going with me to see that I keep quiet to-day?”
“Oh, Mr. Gilroy! How splendid that will be!” cried Julie,
“Oh, yes! Do let us go, Chief!” exclaimed Joan, eagerly.
But at this moment Mrs. Vernon came out on the piazza. She overheard the last words and instantly shook her head in disapproval.
“But why not, Verny? The Chief says the ground is perfectly safe about our camp!” pleaded Julie.
“Why, not a mother in the land would ever allow her girls to join the Scout Organization if they thought I was a sample of a Captain – the very idea! to let you girls run right into such a hotbed of danger!” Mrs. Vernon glanced scornfully at Mr. Gilroy as if to dare him to say another word.
But he smiled in return and said: “Just step inside for a moment, Mrs. Vernon, – I have a word to speak to you.”
Wonderingly, the Captain followed him indoors, and whatever he whispered must have had a wonderful power, for a radical change took place in Mrs. Vernon’s opinions before she joined the girls again.
“Mr. Gilroy has convinced me that it is to our advantage to go back to the huts, but still I refuse to go unless the Chief can assure me that we will not be anywhere near those outlaws, or run any risk by returning to camp,” said she.
“As far as that is concerned, I told Mr. Gilroy that the two rascals were too experienced to stay near the camp, but were most likely over the mountain by this time, making tracks for some out-of-the-way place where they could hide again for a few days.”
“Maybe they will go back to Bluebeard’s Cave, now that they got our food and other necessities,” suggested Joan.
“I only hope they do,” laughed the Chief. “For in that case we will smoke them out with sulphur.”
After many misgivings as to the wisdom of this trip, and fearing the condemnation of all the parents of the girls, as well as the disapproval of the Girl Scouts Organization should they ever hear of the escapade, Mrs. Vernon followed her charges to the car.
By the time the police and the scout party arrived at the campsite, the village posse were far past that spot and were beating the woods up on the mountainside. The Chief went carefully over every visible sign of the destruction in the camp, but shook his head smilingly after he had concluded his investigation.
“I don’t believe the rascals stole the furniture, you know, Mr. Gilroy, as it would hamper them too much in their get-away and it would be of no earthly value to any one but these scouts. Neither do I believe that they carried off much food. Only enough to last them for the present. But they doubtless made a cach? of it somewhere, believing that the scouts would be too timid ever to return to this camp, and then they could take up their quarters here. If they were left unmolested, they could move back the furniture and food later.”
“That’s what I thought, too,” agreed Mr. Gilroy. “And by depriving the girls of food and camp-beds, they were sure of driving them away from here at once.”
“Exactly. Now, I should propose to the scouts that they thrash the bushes near here to see if the villagers have not passed over the hidden stores or pieces of furniture. Of course they ought to have beaten the woods too well to miss anything, but one never can tell as, in their zeal, they are hunting men, not food,” said the Chief.
“We will search if you are quite sure it is safe for us to do so. If the hunters who sought first missed the chairs or table, why couldn’t they pass over a recumbent form of a man?” said Mrs. Vernon.
“Oh, I do not think the tables or chairs are left standing intact. And the food-stuffs will not be in boxes, either; but small installments of it probably will be found here and there under the leaves, in hollows, or hidden under roots of trees.”
“Well, Chief, you leave two of your best men here with us for protection, and then go as far as you like over the mountain-top,” agreed Mr. Gilroy.
So two big fighting men were detailed to remain behind with the camp-party, and the rest of the police started in different directions to hunt out the desperadoes.
After the police were out of sight, Joan said: “I wish we could find our food-stuff and furniture before a rain-storm comes.”
Mrs. Vernon laughed. “If the grapevine could withstand the snows and rains of many years before we found it, now that it is turned into furniture for us it will surely not suffer from a slight storm.”
“Well, I am not thinking of storms, but of hunger. Let’s go to work and hunt, then we can stay on in camp – if we find the food,” said Julie.
So in short order every one was beating the bushes and leaves as if in search of diamonds. The policemen had given the girls a “safety zone” in which to work, while they themselves wandered further afield.
Not long after they began seeking, Mrs. Vernon found a cooking-pot under a bush. Then Joan found some groceries. In all sorts of out-of-the-way holes and nooks, well-covered from curious eyes, different articles were found, but the greater part of the food-stuff was still to be regained, when the Captain told her girls to rest for a short time and eat some of the crackers Ruth had found.
A dish-pan of water was brought from the spring and the scouts sat down to eat and drink, while reviewing the thrilling adventures of the past two days.
“I still must say that I am dubious about the reception this present undertaking will receive, when it is known that I am so weak-minded as to give in to four coaxing girls and Mr. Gilroy, who has a wonderful plan for you girls to win a lot of money – but in a manner that is ninety-nine chances against one to its success.”
“Oh, Verny! Do tell us what it is!” exclaimed Julie.
“Is that what he whispered to you that made you change your mind?” asked Ruth.
“Yes, I was foolish enough to believe that it was possible, but now that I am here I see that it is not! I wish to goodness we were back safe at Freedom!”
CHAPTER THIRTEEN – THE CAPTURE
A pleased signal from the detective now caused the happy scouts to race down the trail as if a wild grizzly was after them. Joan and Julie reached him first, and there they saw the nice little cach? of food-stock that every man in Freedom had passed by while thrashing the bushes for the fugitives.
“Of all things! How did they get the time to do it so neatly?” asked Mrs. Vernon, seeing the logs and leaves and stones scattered over the boxes and tins of camp-food.
“They are experienced wanderers, I suppose, and most likely often had to hide their firearms and food from the secret police in Europe,” returned the detective, beginning to drag out the packages and boxes.
“I can’t understand how those men from Freedom, beating over this very ground, should pass by such a clue to the rascals. You see they can’t live very long without food, so here we have them, while they may still be at large on the mountains,” continued the policeman.
The girls were only too glad to carry their campstock back to the small hut and there left it in the custody of Mr. Gilroy, while they sought still further for blankets or bedding.
The Chief soon came down the trail and stopped at the camp long enough to hear about the recovery of the stolen food. Then, hearing that the detective was still out hunting for the bedding, he left the scouts to cook some supper.
As they worked to settle the camp again, Mr. Gilroy sat in the sun thinking. Suddenly he exclaimed, “I have it!”
“What?” cried four voices as they ran over to see if he had caught the vandals with his idea.
“The true story of this entire plot. Now, it is this way:
“Those blackguards saw your party drive Hepsy up the trail going to the Cave. Maybe they hid and heard you talk about the place. And they knew that if you explored the Caves you must find me and doubtless would endeavor to help me.
“They counted on that work taking you much longer than it actually did – for they know nothing about scouts and how they have to understand ‘First Aid.’ But they raced down the trail as fast as they could go, hoping to get away from this region before their new atrocity was published.
“Then they reached your camp and found the food-stuff and the other things. To prevent you from remaining at camp again it would be necessary to deprive you of food and furniture. So they carried everything off and hid it in the bushes where you wouldn’t find it so easily. The food they covered, for that they wanted for themselves, in case they had to hide for a long time.
“They figured that it would take you some time to carry me down the hillside, and much longer to go on to Freedom. By that time they could be miles away over the mountain-top.
“But you upset most of their calculations by unexpectedly appearing on the scene with me, and then going right on down the trail. If we had passed a night here, or even delayed a few hours until darkness fell, perhaps we would never again have seen the day.”
“Oh! You make me shiver, Mr. Gilroy,” exclaimed Ruth.
“Don’t shiver over a theory, Ruth! That’s all it is, for Mr. Gilroy said so before he told his story,” laughed Julie.
“Julie, you’re right! Mr. Gilroy ought to have more sense than to theorize in such a fear-inspiring way,” added Joan, trying to be jocular but feeling creepy.
“I beg your pardon, scouts – I am at fault, I see,” said Mr. Gilroy, politely.
“I say, don’t let’s waste time theorizing and scolding each other, but do let us see that a nice supper is ready for the police when they come up the hill,” said Betty.
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