Read CHAPTER XIII - THE MYSTERIOUS YACHT of A Campfire Girl's Test of Friendship , free online book, by Jane L. Stewart, on ReadCentral.com.

But, beautiful as the yacht undoubtedly was, the sight of it and the sound of the slipping anchor chains brought a look of perplexity and even of distress to Eleanor’s eyes.

“That’s very curious,” she said, thoughtfully.  “There are no cottages or bungalows near here.  Those people can’t be coming here just for a visit, or they would take another anchorage.  And it’s a strange thing for them to choose this cove if they are just cruising along the coast.”

“There weren’t any yachts here last year when we were camping,” said Margery.  “But it is a lovely spot, and it’s public land along here, isn’t it?”

“No, not exactly.  It won’t be used for a long time, I expect, but it has an owner.  An old gentleman in Bay City owns all the shore front along here for half a mile, and he has been holding on to it with the idea that it would get more valuable as time went on.  Probably it will, too.”

“Well, he lets people come here to camp, doesn’t he?”

“Oh, yes.  He’s glad to have people here, I think, because he thinks that if they see how lovely it is, they will want to buy the land.  I suppose perhaps these people on the yacht have permission from him to come here, just as we have.  But I do wish they had waited until we had gone, or else that they had come and gone before we got here at all.”

“Perhaps they will just stay for the night,” said Margery.  “I should think that a small boat like that would be very likely to put in overnight, and do its sailing in the daytime.  Probably the people on board of her aren’t in a hurry, and like to take things easily.”

“Well, we won’t find out anything about her to-night, I imagine,” said Eleanor.  “In the morning we’ll probably learn what their plans are, and then it will be time to make any changes that are necessary in our own arrangements.”

“Do you mean you wouldn’t stay here if they did, Miss Eleanor?”

“I won’t say that, Margery.  We don’t know who they are yet.  They may be very nice people-there’s no way of telling to-night.  But if they turn out to be undesirable, we can move quite easily, I think.  There are plenty of other beaches nearby where we’ll be just as comfortable as we are here.”

“Oh, but I don’t believe any of them are as beautiful as this one, Miss Eleanor.”

“Neither do I, Margery.  Still, we can’t always pick and choose the things we do, or always do what pleases us best.”

On the yacht everything seemed to be quiet.  When the anchor had gone down, the violin playing ceased, and, though the girls strained their ears to listen, there was no sound of conversation, such as might reasonably have been expected to come across the quiet water.  Still there was nothing strange about that.  It might well be that everyone on board was below, eating supper, and in that case voices would probably not come to them.

“I’d like to own that yacht,” said Dolly, gazing at her enviously.  “What a lot of fun you could have with her, Bessie!  Think of all the places one could see.  And you wouldn’t have to leave a place until you got ready.  Steamers leave port just as railroad trains pull out of a station, and you may have to go away when you haven’t half finished seeing all the things you want to look at.”

“Maybe they’ll send a boat ashore soon,” said Margery, hopefully.  “I certainly would like to see the sort of people who are on board.”

“So would I,” said Eleanor, but with a different and a more anxious meaning in her tone.

“I wish that man with the violin would start playing again,” said Dolly.  “I love to hear him, and it seems to me it’s especially beautiful when the sound comes to you over the water that way.”

“Music always sounds best over the water,” said Eleanor.  “He does play well.  I’ve been to concerts, and heard famous violin players who didn’t play a bit better-or as well, some of them.”

And just at that moment the music came to them again, wailing, mournful, as if the strings of the violin were sobbing under the touch of the bow, held in the fingers of a real master.  The music blended with the night, and the listening girls seemed to lose all desire to talk, so completely did they fall under the spell of the player.

But after a little while a harsh voice on the deck of the yacht interrupted the musician.  They could not distinguish the words, but the speaker was evidently annoyed by the music, for it stopped, and then, for a few minutes, there was an argument in which the voices of two men rose shrilly.

“Well, I guess the concert is over,” said Dolly, getting up.  “Who wants a drink?  I’m thirsty.”

“So am I!” came in chorus from half a dozen of those who were sitting on the sands.

“Serve you right if you all had to go after your own water,” said Dolly.  “But I’m feeling nice to-night.  I guess it’s the music.  Come on, Bessie-feel like taking a little walk with me?”

“I don’t mind,” said Bessie, rising, and stretching her arms luxuriously.  “Where are you going?”

“Up the bluff first, to get a pail of water from that spring.  After that-well, we’ll see.”

“Just like Jack and Jill,” said Bessie, as they trudged up the path, carrying a pail between them.

“I hope we won’t be like them and fall down,” said Dolly.  “I suppose I’d be Jack-and I don’t want to break my crown.”

“It’s an easy path.  I guess we’re safe enough,” said Bessie.  “It really hardly seems worth while to fix up that pipe-line Miss Eleanor spoke about.”

“Oh, you’ll find it’s worth while, Bessie.  The salt air makes everyone terribly thirsty, and after you’ve climbed this path a few times it won’t seem so easy to be running up and down all the time.  There are so many other things to do here that it’s a pity to waste time doing the same thing over and over again when you don’t really need to.”

“I suppose that’s so, too.  It’s always foolish to do work that you don’t need to do-I mean that can be done in some easier way.  If your time’s worth anything at all, you can find some better use for it.”

“That’s what I say!  It would be foolish and wasteful to set a hundred men to digging when one steam shovel will do the work better and quicker than they can.  And it’s the same way with this water here.  If we can put up a pipe in about an hour that will save two or three hours of chasing every day, whenever water is needed, it must be sensible to do it.”

They got the water down without any mishap, however, and it was eagerly welcomed.

“It’s good water,” said Margery.  “But not as good as the water at Long Lake and in the mountains.”

“That’s the best water in the world, Margery,” said Eleanor.  “This is cold, though, and it’s perfectly healthy.  And, after all, that is as much as we can expect.  Are you and Bessie going for a walk, Dolly?”

“We thought we would, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind, of course.  But don’t go very far.  Stay near enough so that you can hear if we call, or for us to hear you if you should happen to call to us.”

Dolly looked startled.

“Why should we want to call you?” she asked.

“No reason that I can think of now, Dolly.  But-well, I suppose I’m nervous.  The way they tried to get hold of Bessie and Zara at Canton to-day makes me feel that we’ve got to be very careful.  And there is no use taking unnecessary chances.”

“All right,” said Dolly, with a laugh.  “But I guess we’re safe enough to-night, anyhow.  They haven’t had time to find out yet how Bessie fooled them.  My, but they’ll be mad when they do find out what happened!”

“They certainly will,” laughed Margery.  “I wouldn’t want to be in Jake Hoover’s shoes.”

“I hope nothing will happen to him,” said Eleanor, anxiously.  “It would be a great pity for him to get into trouble now.”

“I think he deserves to get into some sort of trouble,” said Dolly, stoutly.  “He’s made enough for other people.”

“That’s true enough, Dolly.  But it wouldn’t do us any good if he got into trouble now, you know.”

“No, but it might do him some good-the brute!  You haven’t seen him when he was cutting up, the way I have, Miss Eleanor.”

“No, and I’m glad I didn’t.  But you say it might do him some good.  That’s just what I think it would not do.  He has just made up his mind to be better, and suppose he sees that, as a reward, he gets himself into trouble.  What is he likely to do, do you think?”

“That’s so,” said Margery.  “You’re going off without thinking again, Dolly, as usual.  He’d cut loose altogether, and think there wasn’t any sort of use in being decent.”

“Well, I haven’t much faith in his having reformed,” said Dolly.  “It may be that he has, but it seems too good to be true to me.  I bet you’ll find that he’ll be on their side, after all, and that he’ll just spend his time thinking up some excuse for having put them on the wrong track to-day.”

“I think that’s likely to keep him pretty busy, Dolly,” said Eleanor, dryly.  “And that’s one reason I really am inclined to believe that he’ll change sides, and go to Charlie Jamieson, as Bessie advised him to do.”

“Well, if he does, it won’t be because he’s sorry, but because he’s afraid,” said Dolly.  “If he can be of any use to us, why, I hope he’s all right.  I don’t like him, and I never will like him, and there isn’t any use in pretending about it!”

Everyone laughed at that.

“You’re quite right, Dolly,” said Margery.  “When you dislike a person anyone who can see you or hear you knows about it.  I’ll say that for you-you don’t pretend to be friends with people when you really hate them.”

“Why should I?  Come on, Bessie, if we’re going for a walk.  If we stay here much longer Margery’ll get so dry from talking that we’ll have to go and get her some more water.”

“Let’s go up the path and get on the bluff again,” said Bessie.  “I like it up there, because you seem to be able to see further out to sea than you can here.”

“All right.  I don’t care where we go, anyhow, and it is more interesting up there than on the beach, I think.”

The night was a beautiful one, and walking was really delightful.  Below them the beach stretched, white and smooth, as far as the cove itself.  At each end of the cove the bluff on which they were walking curved and turned toward the sea, stretching out to form two points of land that enclosed the cove.

“They say this would be a perfect harbor if there was a bigger channel dredged in,” said Dolly.  “Of course it’s very small, but I guess it was used in the old days.  There are all sorts of stories about buried treasure being hidden around here.”

“Do you believe those stories, Dolly?”

“Not I!  If there was any treasure around here it would have been found ever so long ago.  They’re just stories.  I guess those pirates spent most of the money they stole, and I guess they didn’t get half as much as people like to pretend, anyhow.”

“It would be fun to find something like that, though, Dolly.”

“Well, Bessie King, you’re the last person I would ever have expected even to think of anything so silly!  You’d better get any nonsense of that sort out of your head right away.  There’s nothing in those old stories.”

“I suppose not,” said Bessie, and sighed.  “But in a place like this it doesn’t seem half so hard to believe that it’s possible, somehow.  It looks like just the sort of place for romance and adventure.  But-oh, well, I guess I’m just moonstruck.  Dolly, look at that!”

Her eyes had wandered suddenly toward the yacht, and now, from their higher elevation, they were able to see a small boat drawing away from her, on the seaward side, and so out of sight of the girls on the beach.

“That’s funny,” said Dolly, puzzled.  “I should think that if they were going to send a boat ashore she’d come straight in.”

“Let’s watch and see what happens, Dolly.”

“You bet we will!  I wouldn’t go now until I knew what they were up to for anything!”

“It’s going straight out to sea, Dolly, and it’s keeping so that the yacht is between it and the shore.  It does look as if they didn’t want to be seen, doesn’t it?”

“It certainly does!  Look, there it goes through the little gap in the bar!  See?  Now it will be hidden from the people on shore-and it’s going toward West Point, too.  See, I’ll bet they’re going to make a landing there!”

They hurried along the bluff, and in a few minutes they saw the boat graze the beach at the end of West Point.  Three men jumped out and hauled the little craft up on the shore, and then they began to move inland, toward Bessie and Dolly.

“We’d better work back toward the camp,” said Dolly, excitedly.  “It wouldn’t do to have them see us-not until we know more about them.”

“I wonder if they’ll come back this way, toward the camp?  And why do you suppose they’re acting that way?  It seems very funny to me.”

“It does to me, too.  I’m beginning to think Miss Eleanor had a good reason for being nervous, Bessie.  I don’t believe that yacht is here for any good purpose.”

“It’s a good thing we came up this way, isn’t it?”

“It certainly is, if we can manage to find out something about them.  I say, do you remember where the spring is?  Well, right by it there’s a mound, with a whole lot of bushes.  I believe we could hide there, and be waiting as they come along.”

“Let’s try it, anyhow.  Maybe there’s something we ought to know.”

They found it easy to hide themselves, and when, a few minutes later, the three men came along, they were secure from observation.

“Do you think it’s Mr. Holmes?” whispered Bessie, voicing the thought both of them had had.

“It’s just as likely as not!  It’s the sneaky way he would act,” said Dolly, viciously.  “They’re pretty careful about the way they walk-see?”

But then the men came into the range of their eyes, and the sigh of disappointment that rose from them was explained by Dolly’s disgusted, “It’s not Mr. Holmes, or anyone else I ever saw before.”

The men came nearer, and seemed to be looking down at the camp.

“They’re the ones!  That’s the outfit, all right,” said one of them.  “Well, it’s easy to keep an eye on them.”