Girl Scouts at Dandelion Camp
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“As usual, our Welfare Member is right,” laughed Mrs. Vernon, patting Betty on the head.
But the two detectives failed to come back, and Mr. Gilroy began worrying about them. He thought it foolish for two men to go away like that, while the rascals were still at large.
Then Mrs. Vernon expressed an opinion. “Mr. Gilroy, I will make a motion that you be made to go to bed in the old hut. The spruce tips are made up in there, and you have had a wearing day. We should feel guilty if we had to telegraph a death notice to your friends in New York State.”
“I second the motion!” exclaimed Julie.
“Motion made and seconded that our friend Mr. Gilroy be made to go to bed at once – without his supper,” laughed Joan.
“Don’t take a vote, scouts – I promise to be good!” cried Mr. Gilroy, holding up a hand in protest of the unanimous vote about to follow.
“Then say ‘nighty-night’ and go at once,” added the Captain.
“I suppose I must even though the sun has not yet set, but what is one poor man to do with five domineering scouts about him?” sighed he, in mock obedience.
Having given their guest some supper and then shown him to his room and seen that the candle was safely stuck in an empty bottle, the scouts said good-night and returned to the fire, where the Captain still sat thinking.
“Girls, I want you all to sit in the new hut with me, if you don’t mind,” whispered Mrs. Vernon.
“Why – are you frightened, Verny?” asked Julie, while the others looked apprehensively about.
“I feel that it is all so open out here, and the two detectives never came back. In the hut we will have log walls, at least.”
“Come on – hurry up, girls,” cried Ruth, running over towards the door.
“If only we had some revolvers,” said Julie.
“If only I had had more sense than to give in to your coaxing! I might have known this was no place for us,” snapped Mrs. Vernon, angry with herself.
When the campers were seated upon the boards they had placed across the damaged seats, Betty asked timidly:
“Verny, are we going to bed to-night?”
“You scouts will, but I will sit up all night.”
“Then we shall too, Verny. Not that we want to disobey you, but you must not ask us to do anything you would not do yourself,” said Julie.
“But you will grow drowsy later on, girls, and I want you to have as much rest as possible,” explained Mrs. Vernon.
“I’m sleepy now, Verny; if I only had a pillow I could be off in dreamland in a moment,” confessed Betty.
“Here – lean your head against my shoulder, Betsy,” said Julie, placing an arm about her sister.
But the dreams suddenly disappeared when a stealthy creeping of footsteps seemed to come from the doorway of the old hut. Every one gazed spell-bound at the open door, and Mrs. Vernon could just summon courage enough to say quite loudly:
“Is that you, Chief? Mr. Gilroy is in the small hut!”
She knew the sound of her voice would break the spell of fear that held them all.Then Mr. Gilroy’s voice came back:
“S-sh! It is me – myself!”
“What’s the matter?” anxiously whispered five voices.
The very actions of Mr. Gilroy now filled the scouts with fear, for he leaned over and in such a low whisper as to be hardly distinguishable, said: “Some one’s behind the wall of this hut.”
It was well that at this moment a muffled curse sounded from the wall at the back of the hut, where it was built up to meet the rocky ledge of the mountainside. The scouts instantly felt their courage revive when they knew where to look for the danger.
A hoarse whisper was now plainly heard through the chinks of the wall where the clay had been plastered in.
“Agh! now you must mek a noise aut get us pinched in agin!” The voice was gutteral and spoke with a strong foreign accent.
“But dis foot is crusht allreatty. I can’t stant it anudder minute. I’m better off in jail dan widdout a foot!”
Mr. Gilroy now placed his mouth close to Julie’s ear and whispered: “You and Joan take the flashlight and creep out of here as noiselessly as possible. Run for your lives down the trail and give the signal the police determined upon. Here is a whistle. Blow it three times with but a moment’s interval between – then, if it is not answered, blow again. Keep this up until you get an answer.”
“Supposing the two policemen are not down that trail?” asked Julie, as softly as could be.
“They will be – because now we know they are not killed. We have the two fugitives in behind that wall, and I want to keep them there until the police get here,” said Mr. Gilroy.
Julie and Joan then crept away, and Mrs. Vernon heard Mr. Gilroy’s voice close at her ear explaining where they went.
“You see, the convicts cannot get out of there without our seeing them. In that case I will use my automatic revolver,” added Mr. Gilroy.
“Oh! I didn’t know you had one,” sighed the Captain in great relief.
“Yes, and I was about to say that you and the two girls had better creep out and get under the heap of spruce tips that is piled in the old hut, while I sit here and guard the wall,” Mr. Gilroy returned.
Ruth and Betty refused to leave him, however, so the four sat and waited in the darkness.
After a long interval of absolute silence, a shrill whistle was heard down the trail. Then a voice behind the wall said: “D’ye t’ink enny one’s got a clue?”
“Try to see thu dat crack in de wall – see ef yuh kin see any light in dat room?”
“Not a flicker – black as pitch out dere.”
“Dat shows dey’s gone, ’cause no woman’ll sit in de dark widda coupla o’ convicks loose in de woods,” harshly laughed one.
“I wisht you’se coul’ help lift me foot outen dis hole what’s eatin’ me heart out,” groaned the man who evidently had injured his foot.
“S-she! Dere goes dat whistle agin. Mebbe dem cops is comin’ back dis way.”
“Ef dey come back, it’s ours fer keepin’ mum agin. We cain’t git away, yuh know, wid my foot lame. An’ dey’ll never tink of lookin’ behin’ dis wall fer us ef we kin shet up an’ stan’ it.”
“No, but we woulden’ have t’ought of it ourself ef it hadn’t ben fer dat crookit chimbly. It war so easy to climb dat an’ slide down here behin’ de wall,” chuckled the other one.
Mr. Gilroy gently touched the scouts to keep silence, and all four listened with nerves a-tension.
“Wisht we onny hed a gun – den we coul’ put up a fight ef any one gits on to dis hidin’ place,” said one of the voices, after a silence that had followed another shrill whistle in the woods.
“Dem cops is havin’ fun widda whistle. But dey kin whistle fer all we care.” A chuckle expressed the satisfaction the man felt.
Then an answering signal whistled close to the hut, and one of the prisoners said to his pal: “Gee! Dey’s closer’n I t’ought. Keep mum, now, en don’t groan enny when dey’s in hearin’.”
Another whistle from the trail echoed to the hut, and Mr. Gilroy got up and ran out. He met two of the returning policemen just outside, and drew them away so that he could tell them of the discovery without being overheard by the convicts; for he had learned how the slightest sound echoed in the forest silences.
The men quickly planned how they could catch the convicts, but how should they force them out from behind the wall of the hut?
“We’ll have to chop down the log wall,” said one.
“It will take all night and before we get it down our men may have crept out and escaped,” said the other.
“We’ll have to wait for the Chief and his companion to join us, so that two of us can sit on the roof and guard the hole where these men crept through to get in back there,” said Mr. Gilroy.
A dancing flashlight seen through the forest trees along the lower trail now told the three anxious men that the girls had found the Chief and his men and were returning.
Soon the Chief was in an earnest conference with his men and Mr. Gilroy, while the two scouts crept in to whisper a plan to the Captain.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN – THE REWARD FOR COURAGE
While the Chief drew his men away from the hut so they might talk and plan without danger of being heard by the convicts, Julie and Joan whispered their plan to the admiring Captain.
“We’ll start a blazing fire in the chimney, because everything is laid ready for one, and soon the smoke will choke up the hut and fill the empty place back of the wall, just as it always did when we had a fire for fun,” said Julie.
“Wasn’t it lucky that we built the chimney as we did! If it was straight and correct, it wouldn’t smoke, and then that hollow place behind the wall would never fill with smoke,” whispered Betty, excitedly.
“S-sh! For goodness sake don’t whisper so loud – they’ll hear us and know what we are planning to do!” warned Joan, placing her hand over Betty’s mouth.
“But we won’t hint to those rascals that we are only smoking them out – we will pretend we are going to burn down the hut,” now announced Julie, highly pleased with her plan.
“How?” asked Betty.
“This way – now listen and keep your wits about you – all of you, and reply wisely,” whispered Julie, going over to the fireplace to speak so the men behind the wall could plainly hear her.
“Scouts, the Chief and his men are outside loading their guns to open a fight on these two men hidden behind this wall, but that means there will be an awful fight. Now, I have a much better plan; I am going to pour gasoline all over this wall and then light it. It won’t take long to burn these logs down; but it will give these convicts a chance to give themselves up.”
Julie paused a moment, then called out loudly:
“Say, you two fugitives! Come out from there quietly and we won’t drive you forth.”
But not a sound was heard from behind the wall. After a few moments, Julie added: “All right! We’ll have to burn down the hut. I’m sorry, but we’ve got to get you, or give up camping here.”
The scouts were intensely interested in this farce, but Julie meant business. She turned to the Captain and said: “Make the scouts leave the hut before I pour this gasoline all over the log wall. If they remain here with lighted candles, the fumes of the gasoline will cause an explosion.”
Julie grinned at the girls and placed a finger on her lips as a signal for absolute silence; then she continued:
“That’s right, Captain; now you take that can of gasoline that stands by the door, and pour it all over those logs while I soak these – then run outside. I will wait, and the moment you are out I will throw a lighted taper at the wall. Instantly the flames will eat up the bark and begin to burn through. By that time those two men will be glad to crawl out and give themselves up.”
Julie pointed at a pail of water that stood by the door, so the Captain picked it up. Then the scout began arranging the paper and kindlings in the fireplace. These she lit with a match, and when she found they were beginning to burn, she called out:
“Now! Let us throw the gasoline all over the wall! Ready!”
As Julie gave the word, Mrs. Vernon tossed the water over as much wall surface as possible, then ran from the hut. The smoke now began to pour from the fireplace and filled the room. The scouts had to remain outside to keep from choking. Julie was the last to leave, but she smiled with satisfaction when she saw the dense smoke quickly filling the hut. Then she closed the door.
“Have you enough wood on the fire to last this trick out?” asked Mrs. Vernon, anxiously.
“Piles of it! That’s why it is smoking so furiously,” replied Julie.
“Only a tiny spiral of smoke can be seen coming from the top of the chimney, so most of it must be escaping from the fireplace into the room,” announced Joan.
Suddenly the scouts heard some one back of the hut wall cough. Then another louder cough. Soon two were coughing and strangling desperately, and the Captain patted Julie on the back approvingly.
Then a gutteral voice tried to be heard: “Vee gif up – onny safe us from dis fire!”
Julie held Betty, who was going to shout back that they would be saved. No one replied to the cry, and the two voices shrieked and screamed, “Help! Help – dis house iss on fire – vee burn to dedt!”
Julie was about to answer, when the Chief and Mr. Gilroy ran up. The latter caught Mrs. Vernon’s look, but the former cried excitedly: “How did the hut catch fire?”
He seemed terribly upset about it and wanted to know if the convicts had set fire to the logs. Mrs. Vernon began to explain, while Julie scrambled up on the roof of Hepsy’s shed and carefully made her way along the framework until she reached the chimney, where she held fast and called down to the men behind the wall.
“Come out and give yourselves up, or roast where you are.”
When the Chief heard the scout’s command, he smiled and ordered his men up on the roof to help. Then he followed Julie, and stood beside her with cocked revolver aiming at the rocky wall. The other policemen climbed up, too, and the Chief said to Julie:
“You’d better get down and join your friends now. We can handle the rascals better if you are out of the way.”
“But you won’t have to use revolvers, ’cause they are unarmed,” said Julie, anxiously.
“How do you know that?”
“We heard them whispering. Besides, one man has a crushed foot, and we scouts don’t believe in hurting anything that is helpless – even a convict who has made lots of trouble for us.”
“All right, little girl; I’ll put my gun away, but we ought to have one to show, so the rascals won’t try to overpower us.”
“I guess they are so full of smoke and fear that they won’t be able to fight. Cowards always give up easy, you know,” said Julie, creeping down from the roof of the hut, back to Hepsy’s shed.
As Julie had said, the two convicts crawled up from behind the wall, looking the sorriest mortals ever one saw. Their eyes were red and watery from the smoke so that they could hardly see, and they coughed every other second. One limped most painfully, and had to be helped by his pal. Then, just as they stood up on the roof to hold up their hands in defeat, the other one broke through the tar paper roof and stuck fast between the rafters.
“Oh, there goes our roof!” cried Betty plaintively.
“Never mind, Betty dear! You can hire men to put on fifty roofs now, with the reward you scouts will get,” exclaimed Mr. Gilroy.
“Reward! What reward?” asked five amazed voices.
Mr. Gilroy laughed delightedly. “The Chief told me that one reason his men and all the men in Freedom were so eager to hunt these convicts, was the hope of the cash reward offered. The State has offered $500 a head for the capture, dead or alive, of these outlaws and aliens. You scouts have captured the men!”
“W-h-y! I can’t believe it! How did we do it?” exclaimed Betty.
“Oh – Julie caught them, didn’t she?” cried Joan.
“Not alone, Jo. You all helped, and the Captain poured the gasoline, you know, and took the risk of being blown to bits!” laughed Julie, excitedly, as she twisted her fingers nervously.
“When the Chief told me of the rewards, I said: ‘Then the girls ought to have it, no matter who catches the convicts, for they apprehended them and turned in the news of their whereabouts.’”
“Oh, but we didn’t, Mr. Gilroy. You did that yourself,” Ruth corrected the gentleman.
“I only took the blows from the prisoners – you did the rest. But I never dreamed that you would capture them, too. I might have known that girl scouts are capable of doing anything.”
The moment handcuffs were on the convicts, they were placed in custody of the officer. Then the Chief blew his signal so the hunters on the mountainside would know the men were taken.
He congratulated Julie and her friends on having won the much coveted reward, and then said to Mrs. Vernon: “I suppose you will hear from the Government offices in a few days. Meantime, I will need the names and addresses of the members of Dandelion Camp, to enter the report on my records.”
The scattered men who had been hunting through the forests now straggled into camp, all eager to hear by whom and how the convicts had been caught. When they learned that a few girls did the work, they looked disgusted.
But one of the officers laughed heartily as he said: “Why didn’t we think of that hiding-place!”
“Wall, I kin say I’m glad th’ gals got it! They lost all the camp ferniture and grub, an’ has to go home now!” added Lem Saunders, the constable.
“Oh, we forgot to tell you! The food and some furniture was found hidden down the trail in the bushes,” exclaimed Joan.
“But ye haint be agoin’ to stay out here any more, air yeh?” asked Lemuel, wondering at such a risk.
“Of course! We are safer now than we were before we went to Bluebeard’s Cave, you know,” laughed Julie.
“Now we know where those convicts will be, but for two weeks past they were at large and we never knew it. That was when there was cause to fear for us – being in a lonesome camp,” added Mrs. Vernon.
“Yeh,” agreed Lemuel. “But what one don’t know never hurts one, ye know!”
“That reminds me!” exclaimed the Captain, holding up a hand for attention. “Do any of you men know a young hunter and trapper from up the mountain?”
“D’ye mean Ole Granny Dunstan’s boy?” asked Lemuel.
“I only know he lives up the mountain somewhere, and makes his living through selling pelts. I don’t even know his name,” said Mrs. Vernon.
“That’s him! Ole Granny Dunstan’s son,” returned Lemuel.
“Is he with you to-night?” continued the Captain.
“Nah! He’s gone to Washerton most ten days ago. They writ him a note sayin’ they was holdin’ a French paper fer him,” explained a young man who was standing on the outer line of the posse.
“He fit so hard in France, yeh know, that th’ Frenchys done sent him a fine paper tellin’ folks about him. I’ve hear’n said folks over thar nicknamed him an ‘ace,’” said another man.
“Then he must have been an aviator!” exclaimed Mrs. Vernon.
“Yeh! he can fly in one of them machines – but we don’t keep any in Freedom, so we never seed him ride one,” said Lemuel.
“Well, gentlemen, I thank you for this information. But should you see him when he returns from Washington, tell him we want him to stop in and see us – at Dandelion Camp.”
The Chief had ordered his men to accompany the convicts to the village, so Mr. Gilroy offered the car to them. He was going to stay at camp with the scouts, he said.
“But we left our suitcases at the hotel, and Hepsy is at the stable in Freedom!” declared the Captain.
“We’ll all have to go back, then, and come up in the morning,” added Julie.
So the convicts were tied to horses and two of the officers whose mounts had been chosen for this need sat in the car with the scouts. But they didn’t mind being crowded when the two policemen began telling stories of the narrow escapes they had had in the past while catching criminals.
As the cavalcade entered Freedom, Mrs. Vernon said: “After all those blood-curdling stories, I doubt if my scouts will sleep.”
It was past midnight when the hunting party returned to Freedom, and only goodness knows what time it was when all the hunters had finished telling the citizens how the convicts were captured by a few girl scouts.
Long after the scouts had retired Mrs. Vernon heard them whispering to each other. Finally she called out:
“Why don’t you girls go to sleep?”
“We can’t, Verny; we’re thinking of that reward,” said Joan.
“And we’ve spent most of it already!” laughed Julie.
“You’ll have plenty of time to plan about it, girls, for the Government – like most large bodies – moves very slowly. It may be next summer before you get the check,” said the Captain.
“Never mind; it will be ready for the Adirondacks, then.”
CHAPTER FIFTEEN – A FURNITURE SHOWER
News of the raid on Dandelion Camp traveled swiftly, so that the head of police in Elmertown heard of the posse and the reward offered to capture the convicts.
He was going down the street after hearing the story and, meeting Mr. Allison, stopped him.
“I suppose the scouts came home this afternoon,” he said.
“The scouts! Why, no – why should they?” asked Mr. Allison.
“Is it possible that you have not heard?”
“Heard – heard what? Has anything terrible happened?” cried the frightened father.
Now, the policeman knew that no one in Elmertown had heard the story, but he liked to create an effect, so he explained carefully, “Why, two convicts got away from State’s prison and were hiding on that mountain where your girls are camping.”
“Good heavens! What happened?”
“Nothing more than their camp was broken up. All the food-stuff and furniture are gone. The men stole everything and what they could not carry away, they broke to bits.”
“Why – how awful! Where were the scouts when this happened?” asked Mr. Allison, trembling with apprehension.
“Oh, it seems they went to Bluebeard’s Cave to celebrate the Fourth, and there they found an unconscious man who had been beaten almost to death by the rascals who, after robbing him, took him way back in the Cave and left him there. But the scouts discovered him, and saved his life.”
“Well, now! that is something like it,” said the father proudly.
“But it didn’t spare their camp. When they got back they found everything gone, so they kept right on to Freedom and are staying at Mrs. Munson’s hotel.”
“Why there – they should have come home,” said Mr. Allison.
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