Bessie and Dolly looked at one another.
Holmes wasn’t there, but who but Holmes or someone
working for him could have any such sinister interest
in keeping an eye on the camp as was implied by that
sly remark? Evidently luck had favored them once
more, and they had stumbled again on early evidence
of another coming attack.
But they took little time-could
take little time, indeed-to think of the
meaning of what they had heard. It was too important
for them to find out as much as possible from these
men. They dared not speak to one another; the
men were so close that they were almost afraid that
the sound of their own breathing would betray them.
And, dark as it was, they could see
that these were men of a type who would stop at little
if they felt they were in danger of failure. They
were big, burly, ugly-looking men, rough in speech
and manner, and, though they masked their movements,
and went about their business, whatever it might be,
as quietly as possible, their quietness was furtive
and assumed and by no means natural to them.
“They won’t run away to-night,
Jeff,” grumbled one of the men. “You
ain’t a-goin’ to stay here and watch them,
“No, I’m not-but
you are,” growled the one addressed as Jeff.
“See here, my buck, the boss don’t want
any slip-up on this job-see? He’s
been stung once too often. I’m goin’
back to the boat, but you and Tim will stay here till
daylight-right here, mind you!”
“Aw, shucks, that’s a
fine job to give us!” growled Tim. “Larry’s
got the right dope, Jeff. They won’t run
giving orders here? What I say goes-do
you get that? If you don’t, I’ll
find a way to make you, and pretty quick, too.
I don’t want none of your lip, Tim.”
“What’s the game, Jeff?”
asked the man Larry, in milder tones. “We’ll
do as you say, all right, all right, but can’t
you tell a guy what’s doin’?”
“I don’t know myself,
boys, and that’s a fact,” said Jeff, seemingly
mollified by this submission to his orders. “But
the boss wants them two gals-and what he
wants he gits, sooner or later.”
“Guess he does!” laughed
Tim. “You said something that time, Jeff!”
“There’s money in it,
I know that,” Jeff went on. “Big money-though
I’m blowed if I see where! But we’ll
get our share if we do our part.”
“I can use any that comes my
way, all right,” said Larry, with a smothered
laugh. “Always broke-that’s
what I am!”
“How about the morning, Jeff?”
asked Tim. “We can’t stay here when
it gets to be light. They’d spot us in
“Won’t be any need then,
Tim. We can keep an eye on them from the yacht.
And the boss is apt to turn up here himself most any
“Why not pull it off to-night,
Jeff?” asked Larry. “It’s a
good chance, I’d say.”
“Ain’t got my orders yet,
Larry. As soon as the boss turns up there’ll
be plenty doing. Keep an eye out for a red light
from the deck. That’ll be a sign to watch
out for anything that comes along. We may show
it-we may not. But if we do, be lively.”
“All right,” growled Tim.
“But let’s quit this nursemaid job as soon
as we can, Jeff. We’re good pals of yours-and
this ain’t no game for a grown man, you know
“’Twon’t be so bad,”
said Jeff, comfortingly. “Nights ain’t
so long-and you can take turns sleeping.
It’s all right as long as one of you stays awake.”
“So long, Jeff,” said
both the men who were to stay behind, then, in unison.
Jeff. “I’ll have a boat at the point
for you at daylight. Good luck!”
And he went off, quietly, walking
easily, so that the noise of his footsteps would not
reach those on the beach below.
From the beach the voices of the girls
rose faintly. Words could not be distinguished,
but Bessie and Dolly could both guess that their prolonged
absence must be beginning to give Miss Eleanor and
the others some uneasiness.
They were trapped, however, although
they were in no real danger. The men who had
been left on guard were between them and the path;
they could not possibly pass them without arousing
them, and they did not care to take the chance of
making a wild dash for freedom unless it became absolutely
Bessie weighed the chances. It
seemed likely to her that she and Dolly, taking the
two men by surprise, could slip by them and reach the
beach safely. But if they did that, the men would
know that their plans were known, and that their talk
had been overheard, and that would be to throw away
half of the advantage they had gained. It would
be better a thousand times, Bessie felt, to wait,
and take the faint chance that both men might go to
sleep together, and so give them the chance to escape
For some minutes the silence was unbroken
save for the faint murmur of the voices from the beach.
Then Larry spoke to his companion.
“Say, Tim, don’t think
much of this game, do you?” he said.
“Sure don’t!” grunted
Tim. “Just like Jeff, though. Takes
the easy lay himself and don’t care what he
puts up to us.”
“Got any money?”
“About five dollars. Why?
Want to borrow it? Just as soon you had it as
me! Can’t spend it here, anyhow.”
“No. Wouldn’t do
me any good. Got lots of my own out on the yacht.”
“Wish there was a place near
here where I could get a drink. Seems like I
was choking to death.”
“Lots of water right by you,”
said Larry, with a hoarse laugh. “Help
snorted Tim. “That’s not what I want,
and you know it, Larry.”
“Say, come to think of it, there’s
an elegant little roadhouse a ways back in the country
here, Tim. About half an hour there and back,
Tim grunted uneasily.
“Think it’s safe?” he queried.
“If Jeff got on to us-”
“Shucks! What could he do? We ain’t
his hired hands.”
“The boss, though-suppose Jeff told
“He wouldn’t, and how’s
he goin’ to find out, anyhow? Nothin’s
goin’ to happen to-night, you can bet on that.
Come on, be a sport, Tim! We’ve got as
much on Jeff as he’s got on us, if it comes down
to that, ain’t we?”
“I dunno. I’m kind of leery, when
he told us to stick, Larry.”
“I thought you had more nerve,
Tim. Didn’t ever think you’d stand
for no game like this. But, if you’re afraid-”
“Come on!” said Tim, angrily.
“I’ll show you if I’m afraid!
I guess it’s safe enough.”
“That’s more like my old
pal Tim. I knew you had nerve enough. Let’s
be movin’. The sooner we go, the sooner
we’ll be back. And we’ll show who’s
afraid-eh, old sport?”
“That’s the stuff, Larry!
Guess there ain’t no one big enough to tell us
what to do.”
And, with linked arms, they moved
off. Bessie and Dolly, hardly able to believe
in the good luck that left the way to the beach clear,
held their breath for a moment. Then Bessie,
seeing that Dolly was about to rise, whispered to
“Not yet, Dolly,” she
said, tensely. “Wait till we’re sure
they can’t see us. No use taking chances
“All right, Bessie, but what
luck! I was afraid we’d have to stay here
until daylight, and I was wondering what Miss Eleanor
and the girls would think!”
“So was I. I’m afraid
they’re worried about us already. But it
wasn’t our fault, and it really is a good thing
we heard them, isn’t it? The ‘boss’
they’re talking about must be Mr. Holmes, don’t
“I don’t see who else
it could possibly be. Come on, Bessie. I
think it’s time now, they’re out of sight.”
Slowly and carefully, to take into
account the off chance that Jeff, the other man, might
have come back to see if his sentinels were faithful,
they slipped across the path and made their way down.
And at the bottom, as they reached the beach, Eleanor
Mercer spied them, with a glad cry.
“Oh, whatever kept you so long?”
she exclaimed. “How glad I am to see you
back safely! We couldn’t imagine what on
earth was keeping you.”
“You shouldn’t have stayed
so long,” said Margery Burton. “We
were just going to start out to look for you.”
“You wouldn’t have had
very far to go. We’ve been right at the
top of the path for three-quarters of an hour,”
said Dolly, excitedly.
“It wasn’t our fault,
really! We couldn’t get here any sooner,”
said Bessie. “You see-”
And, quietly, being less excited and
hysterical than Dolly, she explained what they had
discovered, and the trap in which they had allowed
themselves to be caught.
“We thought it was better to
wait there than to let them know we had heard them,”
she ended. “You see, they think now that
we haven’t any suspicions at all, and that we’ll
be off our guard. Don’t you suppose Mr.
Holmes must be coming on board that yacht, Miss Eleanor?”
“I certainly do,” said
Eleanor, her lips firmly set, and an angry gleam in
her eyes. “You did exactly the right thing.
It was better for us to be worried for a few minutes
than to take any chance of spoiling all you’d
“What do you suppose they’ll
try to do now?” wondered Margery. “Oh,
I’d like to find some way to beat them, so that
they’d have to stop this altogether.”
“They’ll go too far, some
time,” said Eleanor, indignantly. “Mr.
Holmes seems to forget there is such a thing as the
law, but if he doesn’t look out he’ll
find that all his money won’t save him from it.
And I think the time is coming very soon. My
father has some money, too, and I’m pretty sure
he’ll spend as much as he needs to to beat these
“Can’t we go away from
here to-night, Miss Eleanor?” asked Dolly.
“They said we’d never do that, and it
might fool them.”
Everyone looked at Dolly in astonishment.
It was a strange proposition to come from her, since
she usually was the one who wanted to fight if there
seemed to be any possibility of success. Now,
however, she looked nervous.
“I don’t see how we can,
Dolly,” said Eleanor. “And, really,
I don’t believe there’s any danger here.
Mr. Holmes isn’t on the yacht, and these men
won’t do anything until he is there to direct
them. I shall telegraph to Mr. Jamieson in the
morning, and he will probably come here. He can
reach here by noon, and I think we will be all right
here until then.”
Dolly said nothing more to her, but
when she was alone with Bessie she expressed herself
“I’m afraid of those men,”
she said, with a shiver. “I think they’re
far more dangerous than the gypsies were. Didn’t
you think, from the way they talked, that they would
do anything if they thought they would get well paid
“Yes, but we’re warned,
Dolly. It isn’t as if we didn’t have
any idea, as they believe, that there is danger here.
So I don’t think we need to be afraid.”
On the beach, between the sea and
the tents, the blaze of the camp fire flickered in
the darkness, casting an uneven light on the beach.
On the yacht all was still and peaceful. One
by one her lights had gone out, until only the anchor
lights, which she was required by law to show, remained.
“They’ve gone to sleep
on board the yacht,” whispered Bessie. “That
looks as if they didn’t mean to do anything to-night,
doesn’t it, Dolly?”
“I suppose so, Bessie. But I’m not
Neither, wholly, in spite of her reassuring
words, was Eleanor. Had there been any way of
moving from the camp that night, she would probably
have taken it. But there seemed to be nothing
for it but to wait there until morning, at least.
“We’ll stay here,”
she said, as good-nights were being exchanged, “but
we’ll set a guard for the night. Margery,
I wish you and Mary King would take the first watch.
You’ll be relieved at one o’clock.
You’re not too tired, are you?”
“No, indeed,” said both girls.
“I think I ought to take the
watch. This is partly on my account,” said
“Sleep first, and perhaps you
can take the second spell, with Dolly,” said
Eleanor. “You’ve had a harder day
than the rest of us, and you must be tired now.”
Bessie and Dolly were, indeed, very
tired. The fact that the camp was not to be left
unguarded while they slept seemed to reassure Dolly,
and she and Bessie were soon sound asleep. Only
the noise of the light surf disturbed the intense
stillness, and that had a soothing, musical quality
that made it far from a disturbance to those who slept.
But that peace was to be rudely shattered
before the first watch was over. It was just
after midnight when a wild tumult aroused the camp,
and Bessie and Dolly, springing to their feet, saw
that the beach was as light as day-and
that the light did not come from the camp fire.
Confused and sleepy as they were, they saw the cause
in a moment-the big living tent, in which
meals were to be eaten in case of rainy weather, was
all ablaze, and the wind that had sprung up during
the night was blowing the sparks to the other tents,
which caught fire as the girls, frightened and almost
panic stricken, rushed out.
For a moment there was no concerted
effort, but then Eleanor took command of the situation,
and in a moment a line had been formed, and pails
full of water from the sea were being handed from one
girl to another.
The yacht had sprung into life at
the first sign of the fire, and now, as the girls
worked, they heard the sound of oars, as boats were
hurriedly pushed ashore. In a minute a dozen men
had joined them in their fight against the fire, and,
thanks to this unexpected aid, one or two of the tents,
which had been furthest from the one in which the
blaze had started, were saved.
The men from the yacht worked heroically,
but their presence and their shouts created a new
confusion. And in the midst of it Bessie, a pail
of water in her hand, saw a man seize Zara and carry
her, struggling, toward a boat. She was just
about to cry out when a hand covered her mouth, and
the next instant she was lifted in strong arms, carried
to the boat, and pushed in. Then two men sprang
aboard, and one held the girls, while the other pulled
quickly toward the yacht. They were prisoners!