"THAT'S A MANATEE-A SEA-COW SOME FOLKS CALL 'EM."
ANSWERED THE YOUTH.-Page 120.
The Outdoor Girls in Florida.
BAD NEWS ....................*...........
GOOD NEWS .......................*******
"COME HOME! .............................
MISSING AGAIN ............................
AN APPEAL FOR HELP ......................
OFF FOR FLORIDA...........................
LAUNCHING THE BOAT.....................
ON A SAND BAR.............................
DOUBTFUL HELP ............................
INTO THE INTERIOR ........................
A STRANGE Tow...........................
THE TATTERED YOUTH .......................
THE Two MEN .............................
SUSPICIOUS CHARACTERS ...................
BETWEEN Two PERILS ......................
THE LooN ...................................
XXI To THE RESCUE............................ 169
XXH THE EVERGLADE CAMP...................... 177
XXIII THE ESCAPE............................... 185
XXIV THE YOUTH ON THE RAFT................. 89
XXV WuLL FORD................................. 196
THE OUTDOOR GIRLS
"WHY, Grace, what in the world is the mat-
ter? You've been crying! "
"Yes, I have, Betty. But don't mind me. It's
all so sudden. Come in. I shall be all right
presently. Don't mind!"
Grace Ford tried to repress ier emotion, but
the cause of her tears was evidently too recent,
or the effort at self-control too much for her,
for she gave way to another outburst, sobbing
this time on the shoulder of Betty Nelson, who
patted her sympathetically, and murmured sooth-
ingly to her chum.
"But what is it, Grace?" Betty asked, after
waiting a minute.
I-I'll tell you in a moment or two, Betty.
Just-just wait," and the tall, graceful girl made
a more successful effort to master her feelings.
Here come Amy and Mollie," went on Betty,
? THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
as she glanced from the library window and saw
two girls walking up the path opened across the
lawn through the mass of newly fallen snow.
"Do you want to meet them, Grace; or shall I
say you don't feel well-have a headache?
They'll understand. And perhaps in a little
"No-no, Betty. It's sweet of you to want
to help me; but Amy and Mollie might just as
well know now as later. I'll be able to see them
'-in a little while. It-it's all so sudden."
"But what does it all mean, Grace? I can't
understand. Is anyone dead-or-or hurt?"
and Betty Nelson, who had called at the house
of Grace to talk over plans for a dance they
were going to attend the following week, looked
anxiously at her chum. Only the day before
Grace had seemed like her nearly-always jolly
self. She and her three chums, including Betty,
had been down town shopping, and Grace, as
usual, had indulged in chocolates-her one fail-
ing, if such it can be called.
"Surely she can't be ill," thought Betty. "Ill
from too many chocolates? I've seen her take
twice as many as she did yesterday, and she
doesn't look ill."
With this half-formed thought in her mind
Betty looked more critically at her chum. Aside
from the tears-which seldom add to a girl's
beauty-there was no change in Grace Ford.
That is, no change except one caused by some-
thing rather mysterious, Betty thought-some-
thing that was hard for Grace to tell, but which
had deeply affected her.
There came a ring at the door. Betty started
toward it from the library, where she and Grace
had gone when Grace let her chum in a short
"Shall I answer, Grace?" inquired Betty,
"Yes, do, please. I think Katy is with
mamma. She took the news very much to heart.
Let Amy and Mollie in, and then I'll tell you all
about it. Oh, but I don't know what to do!"
"Now look here, Grace Ford!" exclaimed
Betty briskly, pausing a moment on her way to
the door. "You just stop this! If no one is
dead, and no one is hurt, then it can't be so
very dreadful. You just stop now, and when wel
all get together we'll help you in whatever trouble
you have. You know that; don't you?"
"Oh, yes, Betty, I do. You aren't the 'Little
Captain' to all of us for nothing. I'll try and
not cry any more."
Do. It-it isn't at all becoming. Your nose
is positively like a-lobster! "
4 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
It is not, Betty Nelson!" Grace flared.
It certainly is. Look in the glass if you don't
believe me. There-take my chamois and give
it a little rub before I let in Amy and Mollie.
It's only nice, clean talcum-you needn't think
"All right-as if talcum wasn't powder,
though," and Grace smiled through the traces
of her recent tears.
"That's better," decided Betty, with a noid of
her shapely head and a bright look from her
sparkling eyes. "Yes, I'll be there in a mo-
ment," she called as there came another ring at
"Shall I bring them right in, Grace?" she
called over her shoulder, as she neared the door.
"Yes-yes. I might as well-have it over
with," faltered the weeping one.
"Gracious, you'd think some one was going
to be hanged, or beheaded, or sent to the galleys
for life-or some other dreadful thing such as
we read of in our ancient histories," commented
Betty. "Cheer up, Grace. There may be worse
"It's awfully good of you, Betty, to try and
cheer me, only, if you.understood-but there-
let them in. They must be perishing!"
"Oh, it isn't so cold. You don't feel well,
that's all. Hello, Amy-Mollie. Come in!" she
greeted the other girls, at the same time endeav-
oring by nods and winks to convey some idea
that all was not well with Grace.
But if Betty hoped to convey a quiet intima-
tion that something out of the ordinary had hap-
pened she did not succeed. In her eagerness to
warn the newcomers not to ask questions she
overdid it, and succeeded only in making them
"What-wliat is it?" asked Mollie, in a sort
of stage whisper.
"Oh, nothing like that," said Betty, seeing
that she was only making matters worse.
"Who-who is- began Amy.
"No one!" said Betty, half-sharply. "Don't
put on such a mournful look, Amy. But Grace
has had some bad news, I expect, so I let you
"Bad news!" echoed Mollie.
"What kind? inquired Amy.
"I don't know-yet. She's going to tell us."
The two newcomers, divesting themselves of
their rubbers, walked on tiptoe toward the li-
brary, preceded by Betty. The latter heard their
cautious approach and turned on them quickly.
"Nobody's asleep!" she exclaimed. "Why
don't you act-naturally?"
6 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
"Why don't you, yourself, Betty Nelson?"
demanded Mollie Billette, quickly, her dark eyes
flashing. "You meet us as if-as if something
terrible had happened, and because we live up
to the part, and behave ourselves, you--"
"Hush, please," begged gentle Amy, for well
she knew Mollie's failing-an exceedingly quick
I beg your pardon," spoke Mollie, contritely.
"I forgot myself."
"That's all right," said Betty, with a smile.
"I don't blame you. But we must all help
Grace now. She feels very bad."
As the three entered the library they saw their
chum standing near a window, looking out over
the snow-covered lawn. Grace did not turn at
the approach of her friends.
Then Amy stole softly up to her, and, reach-
ing up her arms, tried to put them around Grace's
neck. But Grace was tall, while Amy was rather
short, so the little act of kindness could not be
Mollie laughed a little. She could not help
Amy flushed. She was rather sensitive on the
point of her stature.
"Don't mind them, Amy," said Grace quickly,
as she turned about, placing her own arms around
the other. "I know I am too tall, and I seem
to keep on growing. Hello, Mollie dear. I'm
so glad you came," and she kissed the two new-
Her eyes filled with tears again, seeing which
TBetty called out:
Now, Grace, remember you promised not to
do that any more. Just be brave, and tell us all
about it; that is, if we can help you in any man-
"I-I don't know whether you can or not,"
spoke Grace slowly, "but I'll tell you just the
same. It's-it's about my brother Will! "
She paused a moment, catching her breath as
she gave this piece of information.
"Has he-has he- began Betty, hoping
to make it easier for Grace to tell.
"No, he hasn't done anything to attract pub-
lic attention this time," went on Grace. But
he has run away."
It was a surprised chorus from the three visi-
"Yes he has left Uncle Isaac's home-stopped
work in the cotton mill, and gone-no one knows
"Why, Grace!" exclaimed Mollie. "Do you
really mean it? "
g THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
Grace nodded. She could not speak for a mo-
"How did it happen ? asked Betty.
"Who told you? Amy wanted to know.
"Uncle Isaac himself told us," resumed Grace,
after a pause. "As for how it happened we
don't know yet. Uncle Isaac is on his way
now to give us some particulars. He just tele-
phoned to mamma, and that is what upset us
all. I have sent for papa to come home from the
office. He will be here to meet Uncle Isaac I
hope. Oh, isn't it dreadful! "
"But perhaps it is only some boyish prank,"
suggested Betty hopefully. What are the par-
ticulars? Perhaps he has only gone off with
some friends, and will come back again, just as
he did the-other time."
"The other time," as Betty called it was rather
a delicate subject with the Ford family, for Will
with some chums had gotten into a little difficulty
not long before this story opens, and the present
complication was an outcome of that. I shall de-
scribe them in order presently.
"No, I don't believe it is a prank this time,"
went on Grace. "He has been gone some time,
and we never knew it until Uncle Isaac mentioned
it casually over the telephone. Oh, I wish he
would come! We can't do a thing until we hear
the particulars. Then papa will start an inquiry,
I think. Poor Will! I hope he is not-not
hurt!" and again Grace showed symptoms of
Now stop that! commanded the Little Cap-
tain sharply. "You- know it does no good to
worry. Wait until you have some real facts to
"Yes, do," urged Mollie.
"But he isn't your brother," said Grace in
retort. How would you like it, Mollie Billette,
if Paul should be missing some day?"
"Oh, I'd feel dreadful, of course. But Paul
and Dodo get into so many scrapes," she added,
with a curious shrug of her shoulders, in which
she betrayed her French ancestry-"so very
many scrapes, my dears, that we are past being
But, for all Mollie spoke so lightly, she knew
-and so did her .chums-that should anything
happen to the twins Mollie would be the first to
"Have you heard no word from Will him-
self? asked Betty, after a pause.
"Not a word, and that makes it seem all the
worse. If we only had some word-something
to go by, we might not feel so bad. But it came
like a bolt out of a blue sky-what Uncle Isaac
Io THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
telephoned about an hour ago. He is down town
attending to business, and he said he'd come up as
soon as he could. He was surprised himself,
to know that Will was not home."
"Then he knew that he had left Atlanta?"
"Yes, but he supposed Will had started back
I'm afraid I don't exactly understand it all,"
said Amy in a low voice. You know I've been
"Oh, of course!" exclaimed Grace. "I for-
got that you had been off with that newly-found
brother of yours. Well, you see, Amy, Will dis-
graced himself a while ago- "
I don't call it much of a disgrace," said Betty
in defense of the absent one.
"Well, papa did," said Grace. "I thought
perhaps he was a little too severe on Will, but
mamma said it was best to be severe at the,
"What did he do?" asked Amy.
"I didn't hear all the particulars," went or.
Grace. But you know that new Latin teacher
the High School boys have-Professor Cark, his
Well, the boys didn't like him 'from the very
start," proceeded Grace, "and I guess he didn't
like the boys any too well. They played some
tricks on him, and he retaliated by doubling up
on their lessons. Then one night he was kid-
napped-taken from his boarding place and
hazed. It was nothing very bad, but the faculty
held a meeting, and voted to expell all the boys
concerned in it. Will was one, and papa was so
angry that he said he would punish Will in a way
he wouldn't forget. He said he'd take him out
of school, before he'd have him expelled, and
make him lose a term.
"So poor Will was given his choice of start-
ing the study of law in papa's office, or going
to work for Uncle Isaac Ford-papa's brother.
Uncle Isaac has a big cotton mill down in At-
lanta, Georgia, you know. Papa thought it
would be a good thing for Will to see what hard
work meant. At the same time it would take
him away from Deepdale, and out of the influ-
ence of some of the boys who were responsible
for the hazing. I don't believe Will was one of
"And did he go South?" asked Amy.
He did. He chose to work for Uncle Isaac
instead of studying law here. And for the past
month or so he has been in the mill. Then, all
of a sudden, he disappears."
12 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
"But how?" asked Mollie.
"We don't know the particulars," said Grace.
"We supposed up to about an hour ago, that
Will was in Atlanta, though we wondered why
he didn't write. But then he never was very
good at sending letters. Then came this 'phone
message. I answered and I was surprised to
hear Uncle Isaac speaking.
"At first I thought he was talking from At-
lanta, and I was afraid something had happened.
But Uncle Isaac said he was here-in Deepdale,
and then he startled me by asking how Will
"' Why, isn't he down in your mill?' I asked.
Uncle Isaac said he was not-that Will had not
come to work one morning, and had left a note
saying that he was going to quit. Of course
Uncle Isaac thought Will had come back home.
But when I told him we had not seen my brother,
why, Uncle Isaac was as startled as I was. He
said he'd come right up here and tell us all he
Grace paused. She had spoken rather at
Well, that is rather strange," murmured Mol-
But of course it may be easily explained when
your Uncle comes," said Betty.
BAD NEWS 13
"There he is now!" cried Grace, glancing out
of a window. And he has papa with him. He
must have stopped at the office. Oh, I'm so glad
papa is here!" and she hurried to the frjt
door to let them in.
"OH, father!" gasped Grace, as she slipped
into his waiting arms. Hardly a greeting did she
give to Uncle Isaac, but perhaps this was on
account of having spoken to him over the tele-
phone shortly before. "Oh, father! Where is
I don't know, Grace," answered Mr. Ford
gently. "But don't worry. We shall find him.
How is your mother?"
"Oh, she feels it dreadfully of course. She's
been wanting you so much."
I came as soon as I could. Your Uncle
Isaac stopped for me after telephoning the news
Yes, I allowed that was the best procedure,"
said Mr. Ford Sr., he being the elder brother
of the father of Grace. Uncle Isaac spoke with
a slight Southern accent, but not very pronounced,
since he had lived most of his life in the North.
"I'll see your mother first, Grace, and then
we'll discuss what's best to be done," went on
Mr. Ford. "It was rather a shock to me."
"Oh, father! I hope nothing has happened
to poor Will! sighed Grace.
"Well, if there has, he brought it on him-
self," said Uncle Isaac sharply. "He had a
good place with me, and he could have stayed
there and learned the business. Instead of that
he chose to act like a- "
Never mind, Isaac," spoke Mr. Ford quickly.
"The thing is done, and we'll have to make
the best of it. Perhaps I acted a bit hastily in
sending him to you."
"It would have done him good if he had
stayed with me. But boys are so foolish."
"And I presume you and I were-at Will's
age," said the father. "Well, I'll go see your
mother, Grace, and then I'll be down again. Is
some one here?" and he looked at the rubbers
in the hall.
"Yes, Betty, Mollie and Amy."
Oh, that's all right. You can stay with them
until I come down. Isaac, if you are hungry
I'll have some lunch sent up."
"Not for me. I never eat between meals,"
and Uncle Isaac spoke with firmness.
As Betty looked out of a crack in the library
door she made up her mind that Mr. Ford's
16 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
brother seldom did anything "between meals."
He seemed to be a man who lived by hard and
fast rules, and he had not the most kindly face
and manner in the world. He was quite a con-
trast to Grace's father.
"Maybe that's why Will left him," mused
Betty. "I'm sure he looks as if he would be a
hard master. Poor Will!"
"I'll just sit in here and look af the paper,"
went on Uncle Isaac, starting toward the library.
"The girls-my chums-are in there," said
Grace quickly. "Of course, if you-"
Excuse me! interrupted Uncle Isaac. "I'll
meet them later, after your father and I have
straightened out this tangle-if it can be done.
I'll sit in the parlor, though I'm not used to it:
No use wearing out the best carpet. Is anyone
in the dining room?"
"They are getting ready for 'dinner," said
Grace with a smile, to which the elderly man did
not respond. "I guess you'll have to go to the
,parlor, Uncle Isaac. Of course we'll entertain
"No, I'd rather look over the paper. Go
along, Jim, and comfort Margaret all you can.
I'm sure it wasn't my fault- "
Of course not, Isaac. I'll be back presently,"
and Mr. Ford started for his wife's room. Grace
rejoined her chums, and Uncle Isaac went tj
And, while the scene is thus cleared for a mo-
ment I will take advantage of it to make my new
readers somewhat better acquainted with the
characters and setting of this story.
The initial volume of this series was "The
Outdoor Girls of Deepdale; Or, Camping and
Tramping for Fun and Health," and in that was
related how Betty, Amy, Mollie and Grace had
gone on a walking trip, and how they solved
the strange secret of a five hundred dollar bill.
The second book brought our heroines into the
midst of summer, and also saw them started on a
voyage in Betty's motor boat. This book, called:
"The Outdoor Girls at Rainbow Lake; Or, the
Stirring Cruise of the Motor Boat Gem," had to
do, in a measure, with a curious happening orn
an island, following the strange loss of some
valuable papers, when a horse Grace was riding
ran away with her. And how the papers were
recovered-but there. It would not be "playing
the game to go into details now.
"The Outdoor Girls in a Motor Car; Or, The
Hatuted Mansion of Shadow Valley," was the
third book of the series. As the sub-title indi-
cates there really was a house where strange
manifestations took place, and when Mollie was
18 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
captured by the "ghost," her chums were very
The adventures of our friends in the touring
car, which Mollie owned, carried them well into
Fall, and when the first snow came, and the girls
had the chance to go to the woods, they took
advantage of the opportunity. In the fourth
book, "The Outdoor Girls in a Winter Camp;
Or, Glorious Days on Skates and Ice boats,"
there was related how a certain property dispute,
involving Mr. Ford, was settled through good
luck favoring the girls. Also how Amy was
claimed by a brother, of whose existence she was
They had been back from camp some little
time now, when the strange disappearance of
Will Ford gave them new food for thought and
"Oh, if we only could find him for you,
Grace!" exclaimed Betty, when her chum had
returned to the library, after greeting her father.
"If we only could."
"Yes. If only we could pick him up, as we
did that five hundred dollar bill," added Mollie.
"We might," said Amy, half seriously.
And the girls discussed this possibility-one
not so remote as might seem at first, since they
had done many strange things of late.
A word or two more before I go on.
The girls, as I have intimated, lived in the city
of Deepdale, in the heart of the Empire State.
Deepdale-Dear Deepdale as the girls called it-
lived up to its name. It was a charming town,
with some country features that made it all the
nicer. It nestled in a bend of the Argono River,
a stream of some importance commercially.
The four girls I have already named-Grace
Ford, Mollie Billette, Betty Nelson and Amy.
In the first volume the latter was Amy Stoning-
ton, but a mystery concerning her had been
solved, and a brother who had long sought her,
at last found her. He was Henry Blackford, who
was concerned in the five hundred dollar bill
mystery, and he recognized Amy as his sister in
a peculiar way. So Amy Stonington became
Amy Blackford, and Mr. and Mrs. John Ston-
ington, instead of being her uncle and aunt, were
mere strangers to her.
No, not mere strangers, either, for they had
not brought her up from a baby to so easily
relinquish her now. They could not bear to give
her up, and as she had no other relatives, except
her brother, as far as she knew, and as he had
to travel about considerably in his business, Amy
remained with those she had so long regarded
as her parents. She was very glad to do so.
20 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
Betty was the only child, while Grace had, as I
have mentioned, a brother Will. Mollie had a
small brother and sister-the twins, Dora (or
"Dodo") and -Paul. Her mother was a well-
to-do widow, and the parents of the other girls
were wealthy, but made no display of their means.
As I have noted, Will's foolish prank had
brought its punishment, though perhaps he did
not merit it as much as did some of his chums.
One, Frank Haley, had been expelled, and an-
other had been suspended for three weeks. But
to Will would seem to have come the heavier
punishment, now that he was away from home,
no one knew where.
Mr. Ford came down from his wife's room.
Grace glided out to him.
"How is she? the girl inquired.
"I have made her feel a little easier," he an-
nounced. "Now we will hear what Uncle Isaac
has to say."
It was not a great deal.
"I put Will right to work, as you directed
me, Jim," the visitor said to his brother. "Work
is good for boys, and I started him at the bot-
tom of the ladder. That's what you wanted;
wasn't it? "
Well, I did think so at the time, after he got
into that scrape," said Mr. Ford. I was pretty
well provoked, but I begin to think now I was a
bit too harsh with him."
"Nonsense!" snorted Uncle Isaac. "Harsh-
ness is good for boys. I wasn't any harsher on
him than on any of the boys that work in my
mill. I made him toe the mark-that's all."
"But Will has a sensitive nature," said his
'father slowly. "Did he give any intimation that
he was going to leave? "
"Not a bit. He did his work well-that is,
as well as any boys do. None of 'em are much
Grace caught her breatH. She started to say
something, but her father, by a slight motion
of his head, stopped her.
"Will stayed at my home, you know," went
on Uncle Isaac. I did the best by him I knew.
I didn't let him out nights, I made him read good
and helpful books like 'Pilgrims Progress,' and
others of the kind, and I kept him from the
Well the first thing I knew he wasn't in his
room when I went to call him one morning, and
there was this note."
He held it out. Mr. Ford read it eagerly,
-ll it said was:
"I can't stand it any longer. I'm going fo
22 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
"And he had packed up his things and left,"
went on Uncle Isaac. "I was dumbfounded, I
was. I didn't think it was much use to hunt
for him as I thought he'd come right home. He
had some 'money-you know you gave hirr
Mr. Ford nodded.
"I didn't write, as I calculated on coming up
North," went on Uncle Isaac. "Then when I
telephoned, and found Will hadn't come home, I
didn't know what to think."
"Nor I either," said Mr. Ford, '"when you
stopped in at my office and told me. When did
he leave your house?"
"It will be a week to-morrow."
"And never a word from him in all that
time," mused the father. "I don't like it."
Grace felt her eyes filling with tears. Betty
patted her hand.
"Well, something will have to be done," said
Mr. Ford with a sigh. "Isaac, let's talk this
over, and see what we can do. I may have to go
to Atlanta to straighten this out. I don't believe
Will would deliberately set out to cause us
"I'm sure he wouldn't!" declared Grace, eag-
Her father and uncle left to go to Mr. Ford's
private office in the house, for he was a lawyer,
and kept a large library at home. The girls sat
in the main library, looking at one another with
"Oh, isn't it too bad-just after we had such
fun in our winter camp!" exclaimed Grace.
Poor Will! It does seem as if there was noth-
ing happy in this world any more."
"Oh, don't feel that way!" protested Betty.
"Come, have you girls no good news to cheer
her up with?" she asked, looking at Mollie and
"I'm afraid I haven't-unless it's to tell the
latest funny thing Dodo and Paul did," spoke
Mollie. 'And I detest telling of children's
"How about you, Amy? Can't you cheer up
"Well, I did mean to tell you when I came
in; but seeing Grace so upset I almost forgot it,"
"Forgot what?" asked Betty with a smile.
"Girls, I am almost sure it's something good,
Amy has such a quiet way with her that she al-
- ways has unexpected. pleasure for us."
"I don't know whether this will be pleasure
or not," went on Amy with a blush, "but Uncle
Stonington (I'm going to call him that, though
24 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
he is no relation)" she interjected, "Uncle
Stonington has bought an orange grove in
Florida, and we can have all the oranges we want.
If that's good news," she finished.
"It is-fine!" declared Mollie.
"And we were talking about it to-day," re-
sumed the quiet girl, "and he said perhaps he
would take Aunty down there to stay until spring,
as her health is not very good. And I'll probably
It was a protesting chorus.
"And I mentioned you girls, and Uncle
Stonington said I could bring you down-if
you'd 'come-all of you-to a Florida orange
"Amy Stonington-I mean Blackford-I'm
just going to hug you!" cried Betty. "Go!
Of course we'll go!"
"After we find Will," put in Grace in a low
AMY'S announcement-unexpected as it was-
had two effects. It dispelled, for a time, the
gloom that had come with the news of Will
Ford's disappearance, and it gave the girls some-
thing to talk about, to speculate over and to plan
I must confess," admitted Betty, "that our
strenuous life this Fall and Summer, living in
the outdoors, has unfitted us for the hum-drum
sort of existence that used to satisfy us. We
seem to want some excitement all the while
"That's so," agreed Mollie. "But outdoor
life is a little too chilling these days."
There had been a series of storms and cold
weather in Deepdale, ever since the girls had
returned from the logging camp.
"But it must be perfectly lovely in Florida
now," spoke Grace, who found that by joining in
the conversation she did not think so much about
26 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
her missing brother. The weather there in our
winter season is delightful. Where is Mr. Ston-
ington's orange grove, Amy-near Palm Beach? "
"No, it is somewhere in the Indian River sec-
tion, I believe. I don't know just where."
And do you really mean to say you can take
us there?" asked Betty. "Oh, you're a dear!"
"Uncle Stonington said he would be glad if I
could take you girls," said Amy. "He got the
grove through some sort of a business deal. He
doesn't know anything about raising oranges, but
there are men in charge who do. There is quite
a big sort of place-a ranch I believe they call
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Betty. "Ranches are
only in the West. They are inhabitated by-
cow-punchers," and she seemed very proud of her
"Why do they have to punch the cows?"
asked Mollie. "Westerners use such funny
"Oh, they don't really punch them," said
Grace. I've heard Will and the boys talk about
it. It's just a name. But there are no ranches
"Well, then it's just a plain orange grove,"
said Amy. "There is a large house, some bun-
galows and other buildings. And there is a river
and a lake -"
"My motor boat!" cried Betty.
"What's the matter with it?" demanded Mol-
lie. "Do you see it?"
"No, but I wonder if we could take it
I'll ask Uncle Stonington," said Amy. "I'm
sure you can. Oh, I do hope you girls can go!
Do you think you can? "
"I'm going-if I have to walk!" declared
Betty. I can send my boat by freight, and we
can have the most delightful times ever! Oh,
Amy!" and she hugged her chum again.
"I'm not sure I can go," observed. Grace,
slowly. "If poor Will is in trouble---"
"We'll get him out!" cried Mollie. "Of
course you'll go. And I'll go, too! We'll all
go. We'll be outdoor girls down where there's
"It sounds-enticing," murmured Grace, who
did not like the cold weather. Think of orange
"And brides!" completed Betty. "Oh,
"Silly!" chimed in Mollie.
"Is Mrs. Stonington very ill?" asked Betty.
"You said something about her going down
She is not at all well," spoke Amy. "Uncle
Stonington is quite worried about her. I think
g0 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
only one going South, Mr. Ford. We may go
Go South? What do you mean? he asked.
"Mr. Stonington has purchased an orange
grove in Florida," Betty went on, "and Amy has
asked us all down there. Do, please, say that
Grace can go! and she blew him a kiss, for the
four chums shared their parents and friends as
they did their-well, let us say-chocolates.
"Florida," spoke Mr. Ford, musingly. "I
wonder if, by any chance, Will could have gone
there? Many young men go down South in the
winter to work as waiters in the big hotels. But
I hardly think he would be so foolish. Well, of
course if Grace wants to go-"
"I do want to, Daddy, but poor Will--"
"Oh, I'll find him. He has just gone off on
some little trip, perhaps. Verly likely he has
written to us and the letter has miscarried. Or
he may be carrying it around in his pocket, think-
ing he has mailed it. Yes, I think you may go,
Grace, if the others do. Don't worry about your
brother. We'll have trace of him soon."
I'm sure we all hope so," said Mollie, impul-
sively. "We are thinking of taking Betty's boat
down with us."
A good idea. I wish I could go. And it is
fortunate that, on account of a change in the
school system, you will not miss a term." For
following a shift in the educational work of
Deepdale, had come a reconstruction of the sys-
tem. The outdoor girls were sufficiently ad-
vanced to permit of their taking several months'
vacation, and still remain up to the standard re-
quired by the State regents.
"And to think of going to Florida!" cried
Betty, as she walked about the room. "I know
we shall just love it there."
"Young folks waste a lot more time than I
did when I was young," said Mr. Ford, Sr., with
Perhaps we should have been better off if we
had 'wasted' a little more time, as you call it,"
remarked his brother, as he thought of his miss-
"Humph!" snorted Uncle Isaac.
Well, let's get down to my office," suggested
Will's father, after a pause. I'm going to have
my hands full. To trace a missing boy-though
really I don't imagine that will be serious-and
have a daughter go to Florida is 'going some,'
as the boys say. But I guess I can manage it.
Now, Isaac, if you're ready- "
He was interrupted by a ring at the bell, and
the shrill call of the postman's whistle.
'I'll go," Grace exclaimed, intercepting the
32 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
maid. She brought back several letters, ar:d at
the sight of the handwriting on the envelope of
one she exclaimed:
"It's from Will! It's from my brother. Oh,
Daddy, here's a letter from Will!"
"COC1E HOME! '
GRACE'S announcement caused a flutter of ex-
citement among her chums, and Mr. Ford's face
showed his pleasure and surprise. But a moment
later he had steeled his features into a non-com-
mittal mask, for he was really much provoked
by his son's conduct, and if this was an appeal
for forgiveness he wanted to be in the proper
censuring attitude. At least so he reasoned.
"We'll see you again, Grace," spoke Betty, as
she led the way for the other two girls to follow.
She felt that the family might like to be by
themselves while perusing the first letter from
Will since his latest escapade.
"Oh, don't go!" exclaimed Grace, guessing
her chums' intention. Stay and hear what Will
has to say. I'm sure papa would want you to,"
and she looked at Mr. Ford, who was nervously
tearing open the envelope. His brother was
watching him anxiously, but it was not a kindly
look on Uncle Isaac's face.
34 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
At first, when it seemed as if something seriv
ously might have happened to Will, the elderly
man was rather alarmed, thinking perhaps he
might be blamed. Now that a communication
had come from the youth, seeming .to indicate
that all was well with him, his former employer
was ready to deal harshly with him He was
even meditating what form of punishment could
be applied, and he planned harder tasks for him,
in case his father should send Will back to the
cotton mill in Atlanta.
"Yes, stay, by all means," spoke the younger
Mr. Ford, in rather absent-minded tones, as he
flipped open the letter. "We have no secrets
from you girls, and if you are going to Florida,
and Will is in that neighborhood, he can take a
run over and see you. Let's see now; what does
the rascal say?"
There was a caressing note in the father's
voice in spite of the somewhat stern look on his
face, and he slowly read the letter, half aloud.
The girls could catch a word here and there.
Grace was leaning forward expectantly, her lips
parted. The strain had told on her, and her
eyes were still red from the tears she could not
"'Dear Father and All,'" read Mr. Ford.
"Hum-yes-I wonder if he's going to ask for
money. 'I suppose this will surprise you'-yes,
Will was always good on surprises."
"Oh, father, do please get on with the letter-i
tell us what has happened to Will!" begged
Grace. "We're so anxious! Mother will want
to know. Read faster, please, if you can; won't
"All right, Grace. But nothing much seems
to have happened to him so far. Hello, what's
this, though? 'Going to strike out for myself
Can't stand Uncle '-um-' will write particulars
later-I have a good chance for an opening'-I
wonder if it's as a waiter in some Palm Beach
hotel? 'There may be a good thing in this. I
can learn the business, the agent says'--"
"Oh, Daddy, please read it right!" impor-
tuned Grace. "We can't tell what Will says and
what you make up as you go along. Read it
yourself, and tell us what it means. Then I'll
go to mamma."
Yes, and if he says anything against me, don't
be afraid to come out with it," interjected Uncle
Isaac. "Will and I didn't get along well-that's
no secret. He didn't like work, and he didn't
hesitate to say so. I've no doubt he had hard
'feelings against me, but I say here and now that
I treated him as I would my own son. I made
him work harder than I would my own son, in
36 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
fact, for I felt that I had a duty to do by
"And I guess you did it-too well," muttered
Grace, with rather a vindictive look at her uncle,
which look, however, he did not see.
"Well, to be frank with you, Isaac," spoke
Mr. Ford, the boy says that he did not like the
life.in the factory. But I did not suppose he
would. I did not send him there to like it, but I
thought the discipline would do him good. How-
ever, he seems to have struck out for himself."
"But, Daddy l" cried Grace, clinging to his
arm. "What has happened? Where is Will?
Where did he go?"
There now," he said, soothingly. It seems
to be all right, and Will is in no danger. All
your tears were wasted. To be brief, he writes
that he did not like the work in the mill, and get-
ting a chance to go to Jacksonville, Florida, he
took it and went without the formality of a
"What is he doing in Jacksonville?" asked
Mollie. "If we go to Amy's orange grove we
may see him."
He writes that he has a chance to get in with
a concern that is going to develop some of the
Everglade lands," went on Mr. Ford, referring
to the letter. 'The company plans to drain the
swamps, and grow pecans, oranges and other
tropical fruits and nuts.' Will says he was of-
fered a sort of secretaryship to one of the devel-
opers, and took it.
"He asks my permission to stay and 'make
good," as he calls it. IIe thinks it is a great
chance; better even than the cotton business,
Oh, yes, I s'pose so. There's a lot of folks
been fooled in those Everglade-developing con-
cerns, though. They're fakes, to my way of
thinking. But let him live and learn. That's the
"Are you going to let him stay down there? "
"Well, I don't know," said Mr. Ford, mus-
ingly. "I don't bank much on Will's knowledge
of affairs. This company may be all right, and
again it may not. I'd rather investigate a bit."
"Will says," he went on, again referring to
the letter, "that he is sorry he went off in the
abrupt way he did, but he felt that it was the
only method to pursue. He says he feared you
would stop him, if you heard about it, Isaac."
"I'd have tried, anyhow," was the grim com-
"And as the opportunity had to be taken up
quickly, or be lost, Will went away in a hurry,'0
38 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
continued his father. "He says he wants to
show all of us that he can make his own way
in the world, if given a chance, and he doesn't
want to come back until he has done so. He
thinks he has had enough of school. He sends
his love to-to all of us-and his mother, and
says he will write again soon, and run up for
a few days' visit as soon as he can get the
Mr. Ford's voice faltered a little as he went
on. After all, he loved Will very much, and he
knew that it was only the spirit of a proud boy
that was keeping him away from home.
"Are you going to let him stay, Daddy?"
asked Grace again.
"No, Grace, I think I'll write to him to come
home," replied Mr. Ford. "I think this has been
a lesson to him. He gives his prospective Jack-
sonville address in this note. I'll just send him
Going to the telephone, Mr. Ford dictated this
brief telegram to his son.
"Come home. All is forgiven."
It's like one of those advertisements you see
in the newspapers," said Grace, with a little
She was much relieved now, and so were her
chums. They could think with more pleasure of
the prospective trip to Florida.
But if Will left you a week ago, Uncle Isaac,
I don't see why this letter has only now arrived,"
spoke Grace. "When is it postmarked, father? "
It reached Deepdale to-day, but it was mailed
in-let me see-why, I can't make out the other
mark, nor the date either."
"Let me try," suggested Uncle Isaac, putting
on his glasses. But he had no better luck.
"Either Will carried that letter around in his
pocket after writing it," said Mr. Ford, "or he
dropped it in some obscure postoffice where their
cancelling stamps are worn out and letters go
only once a week or so. The letter was written
on the night he left your house, evidently," he
said to his brother, indicating the superscription.
"I guess the mails down your way are not very
"Not always. Well, I'm glad the boy is all
right. I tried to do my duty by him, as I prom-
ised I would, Jim."
"I know you did, Isaac, and I think this will
be a lesson to him. I'll be glad to have him back,
though. For I-I've missed him," and again
Mr. Ford's voice faltered.
"So have I," said Grace, softly. "And this
(o THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLDRIDA
will make mamma's headache better. I'm going
up to tell her."
And we'll be going, now that you have good
news," remarked Betty. "Wasn't it odd to get
good and bad news so close together?"
"But the good came last-and that makes it
the best," observed Amy with a smile.
Mr. Ford gave Grace her brother's letter to
take up to her mother, while he and his brother
prepared to go down town again, to finish trans-
acting some business that had called the South-
erner up North.
"And I guess I'd better telegraph Will some
money while I am at it," his father said. "He
writes that he has plenty of cash, but his idea
of a lot of money is a few one dollar bills and
a pocket full of change. I'll wire twenty-five
dollars to him in Jacksonville to 'come home
I'll be down in a minute, girls," called Grace,
as she hurried up stairs to her mother's room.
Wait for me, and we'll talk about this Florida
When Grace came down, having made her
mother happy with her good news, she was eat-
"Now we know she is all right," laughed
AND to think that in a few more days we'll
leave all this behind us-all the cold, the icicles,
the snow, the biting winds-leave it all, and sail
into a land of sunshine and oranges and Spanish
moss and magnolias and----"
"Alligators!" finished Betty for Grace, who
was thus going into raptures over the prospect
before them, as she looked over the wintry land-
scape that was in full view just outside the win-
dow of Amy's home. I say Amy's home, for,
though it had developed that she was no relative
of Mr. and Mrs. Stonington, still they insisted
that she call their home hers as long as she liked.
So it was at Amy's home, then, that her chums
had gathered to talk over the trip to Florida.
It was the day after the somewhat startling
developments regarding Will Ford, and Mr.
Ford, true to his determination, had telegraphed
his son twenty-five dollars.
"Well, of course Florida will be lovely I" ex
claimed Mollie, "and I love oranges--"
42 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
"To say nothing of orange blossoms," inter-
"I said oranges!" vent on Mollie, putting
emphasis on the word. "I like them as well as
anyone, but I love winter and skating and ice
"Oh, I just can't bear cold weather!" said
Grace, with a shiver, and a look toward the
chair on which, in a fluffy pile, rested her furs-
and Grace looked handsome in the sable set that
her father had given to her at Christmas.
"You didn't seem so cold when we were up
in the old lumber camp," remarked Betty. You
skated and ice-boated with the rest of us, and
seemed to enjoy it."
"I know, but it was a different sort of cold
up there-so dry, and not so penetrating as down
here. The wind seems to go right through me,"
and again the tall girl shivered.
"It doesn't take long---" began Mollie, and
then she stopped short and bit her lips to keep
back a smile.
"Long to do what?" asked Grace, curiously.
"Never mind," spoke Mollie. "You might
"I will not. I haven't your---"
This time it was Grace who caught herself in
"Go on-say it. You may as well as think
it!" snapped Mollie, with some asperity. You
were going to say you hadn't my temper, weren't
Well, yes, I was," said Grace, slowly. And
you were going to say I was so thin that the
wind didn't take long to go through me; weren't
you?" challenged Grace.
"Yes, I was, and--"
"Girls-Mollie-Grace! cried Betty, anxious
not to see a quarrel. "What can I do to pour
oil on troubled waters? Let's talk about-
"Don't pour cod liver oil, whatever you do,"
said Grace, quickly. "I had to take some of
the horrid stuff the last cough I had, and I can
taste it yet. Where are my chocolates? Oh,
thank you, Amy," as the latter passed them over.
"Have some. These have maraschino cherries
"Leave it to Grace to discover something lux-
urious in the candy line," observed Mollie.
"Well, I notice that you're only too glad to
eat them," and Grace fairly snapped out the
"Oh, dear! It seems hopeless to keep peace
between you two to-day," sighed Betty. "Can't
you be nice? Especially after Amy has asked us
44 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
over here to talk about the trip. Let's talk
"What to wear!" exclaimed Amy, with a
bright thought. "You see we'll have to take
two sets of clothing. One to wear until we get
to Florida, and the other after we arrive at the
orange grove. We'll need thin things there.
Aunt Stonington is making me up some pretty
voile and white muslin dresses."
"I was wondering whether I ought to take
my furs," said Grace.
"Furs in Florida!" cried Mollie. "Never!"
"But it will be cold going down," said Grace.
"It's cold even in Washington, now. I think
I'll wear them. I may not get another chance
this winter if we stay there very long."
S"We can stay as long as \we like," said Amy.
"Uncle Stonington says he'll remain until
Spring, anyhow, for the business will take until
then to get going properly. Then, too, he is
anxious about Aunty's health. The doctor says
the longer she stays in a mild climate the better
she will be."
She doesn't look very well," spoke Betty in a
low voice. Mrs. Stonington had greeted the girls
as they came to call on Vmy, and had then gone
to lie down. The callers had all noticed how
frail and worn she seemed. Perhaps the shock
of almost losing Amy had something to do with
it. But there also appeared to be the seeds of
some deep-seated malady present in her system.
And a look at Mr. Stonington's face told that he,
too, was worrying. But the trip to Florida
might work wonders. They all hoped so, at any
"If we're going to take Bet's boat we ought
to wear our sailor suits part of the time," sug-
gested Mollie. "Are you going to take the
"What about that, Amy?" questioned Betty.
"Did you inquire whether there are navigable
waters near the orange grove?"
"There are. The grove is near the town of
Bentonville, on the Mayfair River, which empties
into Lake Chad, so I think there will be plenty
of chance to go boating. The grove is in the
Indian River section, where some of the finest
"Then the Gem goes along," decided Betty.
"I'm going to stop at the freight office on my
way home, and see about having it crated and
Discussing what they would take in the way
of dresses, and other feminine accessories, talk-
ing over prospective trips in the motor boat,
speculating as to whether Will or any of his boy
46 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
chums would go to Florida for a brief visit,
made the winter afternoon pass quickly.
"It would be nice if Will and some of the
other boys could come down," said Mollie, re-
"By 'some of the others' meaning Allen
Washburn, I suppose," said Mollie, slyly, for
Betty's liking for the young lawyer was no
secret, nor was his for her.
Speak for yourself, please," said the "Little
Captain," a flush mounting to her already rosy
cheeks. "Though of course if Will is coming
home he won't want to go back again," she con-
"Hardly, I fancy," agreed Grace. "That's
the last chocolate. I must get some more for
to-night. Who's going downtown?"
They all were, it developed, and on the way
Betty stopped at the railroad freight office and
arranged to have a man sent to the boathouse to
crate the Gem. Then it could be taken to the
railroad on a truck.
"And what will we do with it when we get
to Bentonville?" asked Amy. "It does look so
big out of the water," for, after the visit to
the freight office they had gone to where the
Gem was stored in winter quarters.
"Oh, we can manage it there," said Betty.
" There must be plenty of men and trucks down
"Uncle Stonington says there are other motor
boats on the river, so there must be ways of get-
ting them on and off," put in Amy.
Grace got her chocolates, and also insisted on
buying hot drinks for her chums.
"For I simply can't seem to get warm," she
declared, as she sipped hers.
"And with all those furs," remarked Betty.
"I guess you'll have to live in the South in
I wish I could."
As the girls walked with Grace toward her
house, the Ford home being the first on their
way, they saw a messenger boy with his little
black-covered book and a bunch of telegrams just
turning into the gate.
"There's a message!" exclaimed Grace,
breaking into a run. "I want to take it from
him before he rings the bell. Mamma is so nerv-
ous at the sight of a telegram. She always
thinks the worst thing has happened. I suppose
this is from Will, saying he is on his way home.
Poor boy! he has had a lesson."
"I feel sorry for him, too," said Betty.
"I'll take the message," spoke Grace to the
boy, as she signed the extended book. Prepaid?
48 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
Yes. Here is a dime for yourself. Get a hot
chocolate; you must be cold."
"T'anks!" was the reply. "I kin git two for
"I hope he won't buy cigarettes," ventured
"Nonsense!" answered Grace, as she tore
open the message, which was addressed to her
father. She felt she had a right to do this, as,
had it been some business communication, she
argued, it would have gone to Mr. Ford's office.
Grace felt sure it was from her brother.
Quickly she read the brief message in the
waning light of the winter day. Then she
swayed and her face paled.
What is it-bad news? asked Betty quickly,
as she put her arms around her chum.
"Yes-yes. It's about-Will. Read it. Poor
mother! How can I tell her? And she has
been expecting him so!"
Betty glanced at the few words. They were:
"Cannot locate Will Ford at Jacksonville ad-
dress given. Am boldine the twenty-five dollars
subjecEt your order. 'arty was at address
noted, but information to our agent here is to
effect that young man left in company with a
labor contractor who does not bear a very good.
MISSING AGAIN 49
reputation. Young man's boarding mistress wor-
ried. What shall we do?"
The message was to Mr. Ford. It was from
Jacksonville, and was signed by the telegraph
"Will is missing again! sobbed Grace. Oh,
what shall I do? What shall I do?"
AN APPEAL FOR HELP
FOR one of the very few times in her life when
confronted by an emergency the "Little Cap-
tain" did not know quite what to do. Grace
clung to Betty, murmuring over and over again:
"What shall I say? What shall I do?"
Amy and Mollie stared uncomprehendingly at
one another. Grace still held the telegram that
had brought more bad news.
Then Betty got her senses in working order.
In the first place," she said, you mustn't let
your mother know about this, Grace. You must
keep it from her. In the second place your father
must be told at once. Now you go in and act
as if nothing had happened. I'll go see your
"But I can't act as if nothing had happened,"
protested Grace, with a wailing tone in her voice.
"I'd be sure to act so strangely that mamma
would suspect at once, and begin to question me."
"Then Mollie or Amy must go in with you,
AN APPEAL FOR HELP
and help to keep up appearances. Amy, you go
in and talk-play-sing-dance-do anything to
keep Grace from feeling bad, and giving away
the secret. As soon as Mr. Ford comes he can
decide whether or not to tell his wife. Mollie,
you and I will go down to his office. This is
the night he gets home late; isn't it, Grace?"
"Yes. Oh, how I wish he were here now!
"Well, we'll soon have him home," declared
Betty. "Now you two do as I tell you. Talk
about Florida-anything but what has happened.
Mr. Ford will know what to do when he comes.
Now, Mollie, let's hurry. Gracious! I believe
it's going to snow. Well, we won't have any of
that in Florida, that's a blessing for you, Grace,"
and Betty smiled bravely.
We may never go now-if Will isn't found."
"Oh, he'll be all right," declared Betty, with
more confidence than she felt. "Come along,
The two set off through the gathering storm,
while Grace and Amy turned into the former's
house. They were under a strain, and afterward
they hardly remembered what they did. But
Grace did not betray the secret, at any rate.
The two girls talked of many things, and when
Mrs. Ford referred to the home-coming of her
52 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
son Amy changed the subject as soon as she
Then, fortunately, Mrs. Ford went upstairs to
lie down until dinner was ready, and Grace, with
a sigh of relief, threw herself on a couch.
"There! she sighed. "We can act naturally
now. Poor little mother-I wonder how she will
"Oh, she is brave," said Amy. "Besides,
nothing very dreadful can have happened. Will
may be all right. Even if he has gone off with
a labor contractor, who has a bad reputation,
your brother is able to look after himself. He
can appeal to the police, if necessary."
"Perhaps. Anyhow, you can look on the
bright side, Amy. I wish papa would hurry."
"Oh, he will, as soon as Betty tells him."
Meanwhile Betty and Mollie were hurrying on
through the storm to Mr. Ford's office. They
found him working over a complicated law case,
and he seemed startled when he saw the two girls.
"Where is Grace-what has happened?" he
"This telegram-it came for you to the house
-Grace opened it," explained Mollie, briefly.
Mr. Ford seemed to comprehend it at a glance.
I was afraid of this! he exclaimed. Some
of those rascally labor contractors will do any-
AN APPEAL FOR HELP
thing to get help. I will have to go down there,
I think. Does Mrs. Ford know?"
"No, I told Grace to keep it from her until
you came home."
"That was right. I must make light of this.
Then I'll leave for Jacksonville at once. Thank
you very much, Betty."
SHe closed his desk and went out with the girls,
calling a carriage for them and himself, as the
snow was now falling heavily.
In some way Mr. Ford managed to impart
some of the details of the new emegerncy to his
wife without unduly arousing her. He also spoke
of the necessity of going to Florida.
"Oh, do you really have to go?" his wife
asked, in alarm.
I think it will be better. Will may do some-
thing rash, thinking he is putting through a fine
business deal. I don't want him to get into-
legal difficulties. It would not look well for my
professional reputation," and Mr. Ford forced a
laugh to reassure his wife.
Arrangements for going to Jacksonville were
soon made, as he was to leave on the midnight
train. In the meanwhile he communicated with
the telegraph authorities in the South, telling
them of his plans, and asking for any additional
54 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
All that he could learn was that Will had gone
to the address given in his first letter-a private
boarding house. He had been there a few days,
making friends with the landlady, and finally had
gone off with a man who bore a shady reputa-
tion in the city. Will had said he was going
farther into the interior, and the woman thought
she heard something about a lumber camp, or a
place where turpentine and other pine-tar prod-
ucts, were obtained.
"Well, do the best you can, Grace, until I
come back," said Mr. Ford. "And look after
your mother. Perhaps this will be all right after
There were three weary days of waiting, re-
lieved only by brief messages from Mr. Ford,
saying that he was doing all he could to find Will.
Mrs. Ford was not told the whole story, save
that her son had gone into the interior.
"Oh, I'm sure something must have hap-
pened!" exclaimed Grace, when on the fourth
day there came a message saying Mr. Ford was
on his way back. "He hasn't Will with him,
or he would have said so. Oh, isn't it perfectly
Now, don't worry," advised Betty. "I know
that is easy to say, Grace, and hard to do. But
try. Even if your father hasn't found Will, per-
AN APPEAL FOR HELP
haps he has some trace of him. He would hardly
come back without good reason."
"I suppose not. Oh, aren't boys-terrible!"
"But Will didn't mean to cause all this
trouble," spoke Mollie.
I know. But he has, just the same."
Grace was too miserable even to think of
Mr. Ford looked pale and tired when he came
home, and his eyes showed loss of sleep.
Well," he said to Grace, who was surrounded
by her three chums, "I didn't find Will. He
seems to have made a mess of it."
"How?" asked his sister.
"Well, by getting in with this developing con-
cern. It seems that he signed some sort of con-
tract, agreeing to work for them. He supposed
it was clerical or secretary's work, but it turns
out that he was deceived. What he signed was
a contract to work in one of the many camps in
the wilds of the interior. He may be getting out
cypress, or turpentine."
"Couldn't you locate him, Daddy?" asked
"No, for the firm he signed with operates
many camps. I could get very little satisfaction
from them. I may have to appeal to the authori-
56 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
"But Will is not of age-they can't hold him
even if he did sign a contract to work, espe-
cially when they deceived him," declared Grace.
"I know it, my dear," replied her father.
"But they have him in their clutches, and posses-
sion, as you know, is nine points of the law, and
part of the tenth. Where Will is I don't know.
Just as the message said, he went off with that
smooth talker, and he seems to have disap-
How-how can you find him? asked Grace.
"I'm going to have your Uncle Isaac trace
him. He knows the South better than I, and
can work to better advantage. That is why I
came back. Uncle Isaac is in New York City
now. I am going to telegraph him to come on
here and I'll give him the particulars. Then he
can hunt for Will. Poor boy! I guess he wishes
now that he'd stayed in the mill."
The news was broken to Mrs. Ford as gently
as could be, but it nearly prostrated her. Then
Uncle Isaac came, and to his credit be it said that
he was kinder than his wont. He seemed really
sympathetic and did not once say, "I told you
He readily agreed to search for his nephew,
and left for the South as soon as he could finish
AN APPEAL FOR HELP
I guess our Florida trip is all off," said Grace
with a sigh, one evening.
"Not at all," said her father. "I want you
girls to go. It may be that you might hear some
word of Will."
"Then we will go!" his sister cried. "Oh!
I do hope we can find him."
The preparations for the Florida trip went on.
Meanwhile nothing was heard from the missing
youth, and Uncle Isaac had no success.
Then, most unexpectedly, there came word
from the boy himself-indirect word-but news
just the same.
It was in the shape of a letter from a Southern
planter, who said one of h:s hands had picked up
the enclosed note in a cotton field near a railroad
track. It had probably been tossed from a train
window, and had laid some time in the field,
being rain-soaked. It bore Mr. Ford's address,
and so the planter forwarded it. The note was
"DEAR DAD: I certainly am in trouble. That
development business was a fake, and I have lit-
erally been kidnapped, with a lot of other young
fdlows--some colored. They're taking us away
to a turpentine swamp to work. I've v tried to
escape, but it's no use. I appealed for help t"
58 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
the crowd, as did some of the others, but the
contractors declared we were a lot of criminals
farmed out by the State. And, as a lot of their
workers really are convicts, I had no show. I
don't know what to do-help me if you can. I
don't know where they're taking us, but if I get
a chance I'll send word. I'm scribbling this
under my hat in the train, and I'm going to toss
it out the window. I hope you get it.
OFF FOR FLORIDA
GRACE was in tears when her father finished
reading Will's pathetic letter. Nor were the eyes
of her chums altogether dry, for they all liked
Will, who seemed as much a brother to them as
he did to his own sister.
We-we mustn't let mamma know this," an-
nounced Grace, when she had regained control of
herself. "It would prostrate her."
"Yes, we must keep it from her if we can,"
agreed Mr. Ford.
"To think of poor Will being in with-with
criminals," went on his sister. It will be a ter-
rible experience for him."
"Perhaps they are not desperate criminals,"
suggested Amy, as a sort of ray of hope.
"No, I do not believe they are," said Mr.
Ford, frankly. "The State would not let con-
tractors hire them if they were. I suppose they
are mostly young men who have been guilty of
60 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
slight violations of the law, and hard work is the
best punishment for them. But I certainly am
sorry for Will.
"I had no idea that when, to punish him for
what was more thoughtlessness than anything
else, I sent him South, it would turn out this
way. I regret it very much."
"But it wasn't your fault, Daddy," declared
Grace. It just couldn't be helped. But Will is
brave-his letter shows that. Oh, can you help
"I certainly shall, daughter," and Mr. Ford
put his hand on Grace's head, now bowed in
grief. I will write to Uncle Isaac at once, and
have him get in touch with the authorities. They
should be able to tell where the different gangs
of prisoners have been, sent, and by investigating
each one we can, by elimination, find Will. Then
it will be an easy matter to get him home. And
I think he will be very glad to see Deepdale again,
in spite of the fact that he wanted to start out
for himself to 'make good.' I hope the lesson
will not be too hard for him."
"If we could only do something!" exclaimed
"Yes, girls always seem so-so helplessly at
a time like this," murmured Mollie. "Oh, I
wish I were a-man!"
OFF FOR FLORIDA
"Tut-tut!" exclaimed Mr. Ford, with a
laugh, something he had seldom indulged in of
late. "We couldn't get along without our girls.
You can offer sympathy, if nothing else, and
often that is something as real as actual service.
But I don't agree that you girls are helpless.
You have proved in the past that you outdoor
lassies can do things, and I would not be sur-
prised in the future if you gave further evi-
dence of it."
Though he spoke rather lightly, Mr. Ford little
realized how soon the time was to come when
the outdoor girls were to prove their sterling
worth in a peculiar manner.
"Well, things are certainly taking a queer
turn," said Grace as she looked at the scribbled
letter of her brother, so strangely forwarded to
them. "There is no telling how long ago this
was written. Poor Will is probably having a
hard time this very minute."
"He probably is if he's at work in a turpen-
tine camp," said Mr. Ford. "It is no easy work,
and it is no wonder the contractors have to take
criminals, and fairly kidnap their helpers. Then
they have to literally mount guard over them to
force them to remain. But I must start things
moving to aid Will."
Letters were written to Uncle Isaac, t6 thli
62 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
planter who had so kindly forwarded the letter,
and to various authorities.
"But you girls must not let this interfere with
your trip, nor with the enjoyment of it," said
Mr. Ford, who had told his wife something of
the truth, but not enough to cause her to worry.
He said they had word from Will, and hoped
soon to have him home. And Mrs. Ford, who
leaned much on her husband and daughter, was
more content than she had been. "Get ready,
Grace," said her father, "and enjoy your winter
in the South."
"I certainly don't enjoy a winter in the
North," she replied. "Girls, did you see my
"Hopeless! Hopeless!" murmured Mollie,
with a smile, as she found the confections on the
Preparations for the Florida trip went on
apace. The girls were so busy sorting out what
clothes they were going to take, and having new
gowns made that, for a time, they almost forgot
Though Mr. Ford had set in motion various
forces, no definite word had yet been received.
But they were hoping that every day would
bring some message. Uncle Isaac wrote that he
was doing all he could.
OFF FOR FLORIDA
Frank Haley, Will's school chum, and Allen
Washburn, the young lawyer, were very anxious
to start off and make a search for their friend.
But Mr. Ford, though deeply grateful to them,
thought it might complicate matters. So, much
against their desire, the two young men were
forced to remain in Deepdale.
"Though we may take a run down anid see
you," said Allen to Betty a few days before the
one set for the departure. Would you mind? "
We shall be very glad to see you," she an-
swered, rather non-committally.
"We?" he asked, pointedly.
"Oh, of course I meant that I would, too,"
and she blushed as she glanced at him.
"That's better! he laughed.
The next day Mollie telephoned for all of her
chums to gather at her house for a sort of fare-
well tea some of the friends of the girls wished
to tender to them. It was a cold, snowy, blus-
tery day, and as Grace, wrapped in her furs,
walked shiveringly along with Amy and Betty
"I can almost envy Will now-down where it
is nice and warm."
"Oh, we'll soon be there," answered Betty.
They found Mollie in the midst of showing
some of her new gowns to her friends, and the
64 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
three chums joined in the admiration. For Mol-
lie, with the characteristics of a French girl,
loved pretty clothes, and rather inclined to a
pronounced style not indulged in by her chums.
But she always dressed becomingly.
"It is lovely!"' exclaimed Hattie Reynolds.
"But isn't it awfully light, Mollie?"
"Not for where we are going," was the an-
swer. "You forget that we are going to a
summer land. Oh, Dodo-stop that!" she cried,
for from the room where stood Mollie's half-
packed trunk came the twin, trailing a garment.
"That's my best petticoat!" wailed Mollie.
"You'll ruin it. And Paul! What are you
doing with that shirtwaist-it's my very finest
"Us 'ookin' for tandy!" calmly announced
Dodo. "Has oo dot any in oo pockets?"
"Pockets! We never have pockets!" cried
Betty. "Oh, aren't they too funny for any-
You wouldn't say so, if they did this-or
something like it-to you. three or four times a
day," exclaimed Mollie, half-crossly, as she ad-
vanced to rescue her garments. But the twins
backed away, stepping on the skirt.
"Paul-Dodo-give those to sister at once!"
OFF FOR FLORIDA
"Us will-for tandy!" stipulated Paul,
Oh, if I only had some!" exclaimed Mollie.
"Allow me," volunteered Grace, producing a
bag. "Here, children."
"Not while they have my things! cried Mol-
lie. "Chocolate on my white waist-never!
Put the things down. Paul-Dodo, and Grace
will give you candy."
"Oo dot tandy? asked Dodo, looking doubt-
fully at Grace.
." Yes," and she opened the bag to show them.
This was evidence enough, and the garments
were placed where they belonged, Mollie hasten-
ing in to lay them straight again.
The little tea was a success, in spite of the in-
vasion of the twins. The girls were bidden fare-
well by their friends-rather envious friends, to
be frank-for who would not envy one a trip to
sunny Florida with its flowers in the midst of
The motor boat had been crated and shipped.
Mr. Stonington had arranged his business for a
long stay in the South, and all was in readiness
for the trip. The girls had decided on a hundred
and one things to take with them, and had re-
jected as many, only to make new selections.
But finally even their exacting tastes were grati-
66 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
fled, and satisfied, and their trunks were ready
But oh, I do wish Aunty Stonington was bet-
'ter," sighed Amy, the day before that set for
"Why, is she worse?" asked Betty.
She seems very weak. Uncle is quite wor-
ried about her, though the doctor says the change
will benefit her as soon as we get there. But I
am afraid about the trip, though we are to go in
a compartment car, and won't have to change."
"That will be lovely," said Grace. "We'll
look after your aunt for you, Amy."
"That's sweet of you girls. Perhaps it will
not be as bad as I fear. But she seems failing
rapidly. The winter has been unusually severe
"And poor mamma is not herself," murmured
Grace. "Lack of news from Will seems to prey
on her mind. But there! don't let's talk any
more about our troubles. Let's look on the
bright side of the clouds. I'm sure we ought to
'just hug Amy to pieces for giving us this nice
"Well, please leave enough pieces of me so I
can eat an orange or two when we get to Flor-
ida," laughed Amy.
"Also enough to catch a few alligators," added
OFF FOR FLORIDA
"Don't you mention the horrid things 1" cried
Grace with a nervous shiver. "Are there really
any there, Amy? Say no, my dear, and I'll give
you two chocolates."
"Well, there are some," said Amy, who never
could seem to dissimulate. "But Uncle Ston-
ington says they are small-at least, near where
we are going. Some people have them for pets."
"Mercy!" cried Grace. "I'd as soon have a
"Well, we won't worry about them until we
get bitten," suggested Mollie. nd perhaps
their bark is worse than their bite. Do they bark,
I'm sure I don't know."
'No, they cry-like babies," said Grace.
" Don't you remember 'alligator tears?'"
"She's thinking of crocodiles," said Betty.
"Or else alligator pears."
"Worse and worse," protested Mollie. "We'll
have the fauna and flora of Florida hopelessly
mixed before we get through. Now let's see if
we have everything packed," and they went over
their list of belongings for the tenth time.
But all things must have an end, and so did
their preparations. The day of the start came,
final good-byes were said, and with Mr. and Mrs.
Stonington the four outdoor girls took the train
for the Sunny South.
LAUNCHING THE BOAT
"CAN you smell the orange blossoms?"
"Yes. 'Aren't they delicious!"
"It reminds me of a wedding-hark, can you
Hear the strains of Mendelssohn?"
"Those are frogs, Betty," laughed Mollie.
The girls and Mr. and Mrs. Stonington were
driving in a big canopy-topped carriage along a
Florida road, toward the orange grove on the
outskirts of the town of Bentonville. Their
journey was over and at last they were in
"Oh, see the magnolias!" cried Grace, as they
passed a tree in full bloom, the fragrance being
almost overpowering. "They are just like those
the boys sold us when the train stopped."
"Only they smell much sweeter," said Betty.
"Yes, almost too sweet," added Mollie.
Their trip had been practically without inci-
dent, and certainly without accident. There
had been one or two delays, caused by various
small happenings, but finally they had steamed
LAUNCHING THE BOAT
into the junction station, where they took a way
train for Bentonville.
This last was a short trip, the one in the com-
partment car, without change, having been rather
monotonous. WAnd yet not dull, for the girls
found much to talk about, to speculate upon and
to wonder at.
The snow, the cold and biting winds had grad-
ually been left behind, and Nature, coy and un-
certain at first, had, with the advance into the
South, grown bolder. They had come from the
land of bleakness and barrenness-from the place
of leafless irees-into the region of Summer, al-
most in a day and night. They had exchanged
snows for flowers.
Mrs. Stonington had stood the trip well, though
a trifle weary and worn as the end of the journey
came in sight. But the warm and balmy air of
the South seemed to revive her, and her cheeks,
that had been pale, took on a tinge of color.
Oh, I am so glad," murmured Amy, and the
others were glad with her.
They had delayed at the Bentonville station
long enough to make sure that Betty's boat had
arrived, and to send home telegrams telling of
their safe journey.
They had been met by a man from the orange
grove, a kindly Southern worker, whose very
70 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
nature seemed a protest against haste and worry.
"Well," he greeted them slowly, "I see you
all has arrived. Welcome, folks! Now when,
you're ready we'll move along; but don't be in no
rush. It's too pow'ful warm to rush."
Indeed it was warm, and the girls, who had
changed to some of their summer garments, felt
the truth of this.
"Oh, for a lawn waist and a white skirt, low
canvas shoes and a palm leaf fan!" sighed Mol-
lie, as they drove beneath great trees that tem-
pered the heat of the sun.
"Anything else?" asked Betty with a laugh,
"Lemonade," suggested Amy. "Or, no, since
we are on an orange plantation I suppose orange-
ade would be more appropriate, girls."
Anything as long as it's cool," sighed Grace.
"I declare, all my chocolates have run together,"
and she looked with dismay into a box of the
confection she had been carrying.
No wonder-it's summer, and we left win-
ter behind us," said Betty. You'll have to give,
up chocolates down here, Grace, my dear."
"Or else keep them on ice," ventured Amy.
A turn of the road brought them in full view
of the orange grove in which Mr. Stonington
was interested, and at the sight a murmur of
pleased surprise broke from the girls.
LAUNCHING THE BOAT
"And to think of going out there and picking
oranges as one would apples!" exclaimed Amy.
"Doesn't it seem odd to see oranges that aren't
;in a crate, or a fruit store?"
"Some of those will be in crates 'fore night,"
said the driver. "We're picking every day now.
It's a good season, and we're making the most
of it," he added to Mr. Stonington.
"Glad to hear it. You'll have to ship them
as fast as you can with four orange-hungry girls
on hand," and he laughed at Amy and her chums.
"Oh, Uncle Stonington!" Amy cried. "As
if we could eat all the oranges here!" and she
looked over the rows and rows of fruit-laden
"You ain't no idea how many oranges you
can eat, when yo'all get them right off a tree,"
said the driver. They taste different from the
ones you Northerners have, I tell you!"
One of the foremen, whom Mr. Stonington
had met before, came from the grove to welcome
them, and to show them the way to the bunga-
low they were to occupy during their stay in the
"We hope you will like it here," said the over-
seer, a Mr. Hammond.
"I don't see how we could help it," said Mrs.
Stonington. "I am in love with the place al-
72 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
ready, and I feel so much better even with this
little taste of Summer."
"That's good!" exclaimed her husband, witl
As the carriage stopped in front of a cool-look-
ing bungalow, a "comfortable-looking" colored
"mammy" came to the door smiling expan-
"Bress all yo' hea'ts!" she exclaimed. "Climb
right down, and come in yeah! I's got de fried
chicken an' corn pone all ready fo' yo'all. An'
dere's soft crabs fo' dem as wants 'em, an' chick-
en-gumbo soup, an'-"
"Hold on, Aunt Hannah!" exclaimed Mr.
Hammond with a laugh. Have a little mercy
on them. Maybe they are not hungry for all your
"Oh, aren't we, though!" cried Mollie. "Just
try me. I've always wanted chicken fried in
the Southern style."
"You'll get it here," said Mr. Stonington.
Let us pass over that first meal-something
that the girls did not do by any means-but the
mere details of our friends arriving, getting set-
tled, and then of resting to enjoy life as they had
never enjoyed it before, can have little of inter-
est to the reader. So, as I said, let us pass over
a few days.
LAUNCHING THE BOAT
Each one, it is true, brought something new
and of peculiar interest to the girls, but it was
only because they had never before been in Flor-
ida. To the residents it was all an old story--
even the picking of oranges.
The grove was near a beautiful stream, not
such a river as was the Argono of Deepdale, but
broader, more shallow and sluggish.
"I wonder if there are alligators in it? asked
Betty, of one of the pickers.
"Not around here," he answered. "You have
to go into the bayous, or swamps, for them crit-
ters. Don't yo'all worry 'bout the 'gators."
"We won't when we get in the Gem," said
Betty. "I wonder when they will bring her up
and launch her?"
"Let's go to the depot and find out," sug-
gested Amy. We can have a carriage and team
with a driver any time we want it, Uncle Ston-
At the freight office the boat was promised to
them for the following day, but it was two be-
4'fore this promise was kept.
"'You mustn't fret," said Mr. Stonington,
when Betty grew rather impatient. Remem-
ber you are down South. Few persons hurry
But finally the Gem arrived, and after some
74 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
hard work she was launched. Proudly she rode
the river, as proudly as at Deepdale, and Betty,
with a little cry of joy, took her place at the
Batteries and magneto were in place, some gas-
oline was provided, and a little later the motof
boat was ready for her first trip in Southern
"All aboard!" cried Betty, as the engine was
Slowly, but with gathering speed, the trim
craft shot out into the middle of the Mayfair.
"Oh, this is just perfect!" breathed Mollie.
There was a little cloud on the face of Grace.
They all knew what it was, and sympathized
with her. No news had come about Will.
They puffed along, to the wonder and admira-
tion of of many of the colored pickers, who
stopped to look-any excuse was good enough
for stopping-especially the sight of a motor
boat. Suddenly Grace, who was trailing her hand
over the stern, gave a startled cry, and sprang up.
"Oh! oh!" she screamed. An alligator. I
nearly touched the horrid thing! Go ashore,
ON A SAND BAR
'A ALLIGATORS!" screamed Amy. "Don't you
dare say that, Grace!"
"But it's so-I saw one-I nearly put my
hand on his big black head. Oh, isn't it horrid!"
Grace and Amy were clinging to each other
how in the middle of the boat. Betty had turned
about at their exclamations, and Mollie was gaz-
ing curiously into the swirling water.
"I don't see any alligator," she announced,
unbelievingly. "Are you sure you saw one,
"Of course I am. Oh, Betty! There's one
now, just ahead of you. You're going to run into
Betty turned her attention to guiding the boat
only just in time. Certainly something long and
knobby and black was almost at the bow. She
yeered to one side, and then exclaimed:
"Alligator! That was nothing but a log,
Grace Ford! How silly of you! "
76 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
Silly? Nothing of the sort. I tell you I did
see an alligator."
It was a log-but it does look like one of the
big creatures, though," said Amy. "Oh, if it
should have been one!"
"Well, it couldn't eat us-here in the boat,"
"No, but it might have capsized us, and
then-" Grace paused suggestively.
"'All's well that ends well,' quoted Betty,
as she turned the boat nearer shore. Some day
we must take our lunch, and have a picnic ashore.
See the lovely Spanish moss hanging down from
the trees. It's like living history over again.
Just think of it, how Balboa came here and dis-
covered the land, and-"
It wasn't Balboa, it was Ponce de Leon who
located Florida," corrected Mollie. "Don't you
"Oh, so it was. Well, anyhow- "
"There-there!" screamed Grace. "There's
an alligator, surely. It's alive, too! Oh, dear!
She pointed to something long and dark float-
ing in the river-something that seemed to be
covered with scales and ridges-something that
suddenly turned up an ugly head, with bulging
eyes, which looked fishily at the girls in the boat.
'THERE! THERE!" SCREAMED GRACE. "THERE'S AN ALLI-
The Outdoor Girls ire Flonda.
ON A SAND BAR
Then, with a swirl of its tail, the creature sank
below the surface.
"Yes, that was an alligator," said Betty
I told you it was," spoke Grace. And to
think I nearly had my hand on it. Oh, I don't
want to remember it."
"But it didn't bite you," said practical Mollie.
"If it had-well, the less said the better," re-
marked Betty. "Now let's forget all about it
and enjoy ourselves. Maybe there are only a
few of them here in the river."
"I wonder what alligators are good for, any-
how? came from Wmy, as she resumed her seat.
"They don't seem fit for anything."
"You forget about alligator bags," corrected
Mollie. "What would we do for valises and
satchels if we had no alligators, I'd like to
"That's so," admitted Amy.
Grace was looking over the surface of the
river as though to see if any more of the ugly
creatures were in sight, but the water was unruf-
fled save by the wind.
Not knowing the character of the stream Betty
"did not want to venture to far. So, after going
down about a mile or so, she turned the boat and
headed up stream. They passed a number of
78 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
small boats, manned by colored boys who were
fishing, and the youngsters suspended operations
to gaze with mingled wonder and fear at Betty's
They tied up at the small dock which extended
out into the river at the foot of the orange grove,
well satisfied with their first trip, even though
they had been frightened by the alligators.
"Yes, you will find one or two 'gators, now
and then," said Mr. Hammond, the overseer,
when told of the girls' experience. "But they
won't bother you, especially in a big boat. Don't
But Grace was so nervous that night that she
did not sleep well, and Mrs. Stonington grew
quite alarmed. Perhaps it was as much worry
over the fate of Will, as the recollection of her
escape from the alligator, that disturbed Grace.
For no good news had come from Mr. Ford.
He had set many influences at work on the case,
but so far nothing had come of his inquiries.
Will seemed to have been taken into the inte-
rior of Florida, and there lost. There were so
many turpentine camps, or places where contract
labor was used to get out valuable wood, or other
products, that a complete inquiry would take a
Mrs. Ford was as well as could be expected,
ON A SAND BAR
Grace's father wrote, though naturally very much
worried. And Grace was worried too. If she
could have engaged actively in a search for her
brother perhaps she might not have fretted so.
But it was harassing to sit idly by and let others
do the work.
"Especially when we have already done so
much," said Betty, agreeing with her chum's
view of the case.
Watching the work of gathering oranges, oc-
casionally themselves helping somewhat, taking
walks, drives and trips in the motor boat, made
time for the girls pass quickly.
Then, one day, Betty said:
"Girls, we must go on a picnic. Take our
lunch and go down the river in the boat. Go
ashore and eat. We will do some exploring."
And perhaps find the fountain of youth that
Ponce de Leon missed," added Mollie.
If you find it, bring some of the water back,"
begged Mr. Stonington. "You girls will noi
need it-I do."
"We'll bottle some for you," promised Amy,
Soon they were off in the Gem again, Grace,
at least, keeping a wary eye out for alligators.
But they saw none of the unprepossessing crea-
8o THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN. FLORIDA
"Though perhaps we may meet with a sea-
cow," suggested Betty, as she looked for a pleas-
ant place whereon to go ashore for lunch.
"What's a sea-cow?" asked Mollie.
"One that eats sea-weed," cried Amy.
"No, I mean a manatee," went on Betty.
"Don't you remember the big creatures we saw,
in the New York aquarium a year or so ago?"
"Oh, yes! exclaimed Amy. "Well, they're
not as bad as alligators-at least they haven't
such large mouths."
"And they only eat-grass," added Mollie.
Betty was sending her boat ahead at good
speed, scanning the shores of the river for some
quiet cove into which to steer. The day was
warm, and the sun shone down unclouded. From
the banks came the odor of flowers.
Suddenly, as the boat chugged along, there
came a momentary halt, as though it had struck
"What's that?" cried Grace.
"Maybe an alligator has us," suggested Mol-
lie with a laugh. For the Gem went on as though
nothing had happened.
"Don't be silly!" chided Grace. "It was cer-
Betty looked back a bit nervously, and glanced
at the engine.
ON A SAND BAR 81
"I hope the gasoline isn't giving out," she
"The ideal" cried Grace.
Then with a shock that threw all the girls for-
ward in their seats the Gem came to a sudden
halt, and the engine raced furiously. Betty at
once shut off the power.
"Oh, oh!" cried Grace. "What is it? Has
an alligator got hold of us?"
Betty looked over the bow. Then she said
"We've run on a sand bar-that's all. Run
on it good and hard, too. I wonder if we can
BETTY'S words caused her three chums to stare
at her in wonder. Then, by glancing over the
side of the boat themselves, they confirmed what
she had said.
A--a sand bar," faltered Grace, sinking back
among some cushions that matched her dress
wonderfully well. Mollie said later that.Grace
always tried to match something, even if it was
only her chocolates.
A plain, ordinary sand bar," repeated Betty.
"One of the men at the dock warned me about
them, and even told me how to locate them, by
the peculiar ripple of the shallow water over
them. But I forgot all about it. Oh dear!"
Well, it can't be so very bad," spoke Mollie,
who was idly splashing the water with one hand.
"We can't sink, that's a consolation."
"Don't do that!" exclaimed Amy quickly.
She had "cuddled" closer to Betty following the
shock as the boat came to a stop on the con-
"Don't do what?" asked Mollie wonderingly.
Put your hand in the water. There may be
alligators, you know. I think-I'm not sure--
'but I think I saw something like the head of one
a moment ago."
Mollie pulled in her hand so suddenly that she
flirted a little shower of drops on all in the boat.
"Stop it! You mean thing!" cried Grace.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," spoke Mollie with
elaborate politeness. "I didn't think your sailor
suit would spot-mine doesn't."
"It isn't that-no indeed. I meant Amy-
for bringing up such a topic as alligators at this
moment, when we can't move. And the ugly
creatures always come out on a sand bar to sun
themselves; don't they?"
Not on this sand bar," asserted Betty. It's
under water. If it had been out I should have
"I'm sure I didn't mean to make you uncom-
fortable, Grace," said Amy humbly, "but really
I did not think it was safe for Mollie to put her
hand in the water."
"Of course it wasn't, you dear!" soothed
Mollie, patting Amy softly on the shoulder. "I
wasn't thinking of what I was doing."
"And I didn't mean anything, either," added
Grace, thinking that perhaps she and Mollie had
84 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
not treated Amy with just the deference due a
hostess, for Amy did figure in that role.
"Oh, that's all right," said Amy with a smile
that seemed always full of warm fellowship and
feeling. "I know just how you feel."
"Well, I feel wretched-there's no denying
that," spoke Betty with a sigh. "To think that
I should run you girls on a sand bar, almost on
our first trip. Isn't it horrid?"
"Well, we'll forgive her if she'll run us off
again; won't we, girls?" asked Grace, searching
among the cushions.
"Here it is," said Amy with another of her
calm smiles, as she produced the box of candy
for which Grace was evidently searching.
"Thanks. Well, Betty, are you going to get
"Which means am I going to get you off this
bar? Well, I'm going to do my best. Wait until
I take a look at the engine."
"What's the matter with it?" asked Mollie
quickly, a new cause for alarm dawning in her
"Nothing, I hope," replied Betty. "But we
ran on the bar so suddenly that it may be strained
from its base."
"Is it a baseball engine?" asked Grace lan-
guidly. She seemed to have recovered her com-
posure now. Whether it was the fact of her
chocolates being safe, or that there was no imme-
diate danger of sinking, or that no alligators were
in sight, was not made manifest, but she cer-
tainly seemed all right again.
It's enough of a ball game to have a base, and
to be obliged to hold it," said Betty with a smile,
as she bent over the machinery, testing the bolts
and nuts that held the motor to the bottom of the
"I guess it's all right," she added with a sigh
of relief. "Now to see if it will operate. But
first I think we'd better see if we can push our-
selves off with the oars and boat hook," for
Betty, knowing that the best of motors may not
" mote at times, carried a pair of long sweeps
by which the Gem could laboriously be propelled
in case of a break-down. There was also a long
hooked pole, for landing purposes.
"Mollie, you take one of the oars, and I'll use
the other," directed Betty, for she realized that
she and the French girl were stronger than the
others. "We'll let Grace and Amy use the hook.
Then if we all push together we may get off with-
out further trouble. If that won't answer, we'll
try reversing the engine." The machinery had
been shut down by Betty immediately following
the sudden stop on the bar.
86 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
About the stranded craft swirled the muddy
river. Bits of driftwood-logs and sticks-
floated down, and sometimes there was seen what
looked to be the long, knobby nose of an alliga-
tor, but the girls were not sure enough of this,
and, truth to tell, they much preferred to think
of the objects as black logs, or bits of wood. It
was much more comforting.
"Are you all ready?" asked the Little Cap-
tain as she took her place on one side, well up in
the bow, Mollie taking a similar position on the
other side. Each held one of the long oars.
"All ready," answered Amy, who had taken
up the boat hook.
"Wait a minute," begged Grace, looking for
something on which to cleanse her hands of the
brown smudge of chocolate. "This candy is so
"There's the whole river to wash in," said
Mollie. "'Water, water everywhere,' and not
any solid enough to go ashore on," she concluded
with a laugh.
"I'll never dip my hands in this water-not
until I can see bottom," declared Grace, finally
selecting a bit of rag that Betty used to polish
the brass work of the engine.
"As if it would hurt to take hold of the boat
hook with chocolate fingers," spoke Mollie a bit
sharply. "At any rate one could wash the pole
without fear if its being nipped by an alligator."
"Don't be silly," directed Grace with flashing
"Well, don't eat so much candy then."
"Come, girls, if we're going to get off the bar
it's time we tried it," suggested Betty with a
smile. She did not want the two tempers, that
seemed often on the verge of striking fire, one
from the other, to kindle now. There was enough
of other trouble, she reasoned.
The oars and pole were thrust into the water
ahead of the boat. Bottom was found within a
few inches, showing how shallow was the stream
over the bar. The prow of the Gem seemed to
have buried itself deeply in it.
They pushed and pushed and pushed again,
but the only noticeable effect was the bending
of the slender pole of the boathook on which
Grace and Amy were shoving with all their
strength. The motor boat did not budge.
"Once more!" cried Betty. "I think it
moved a little."
"I wish-I could-think so!" panted Mollie,
as she shifted the position of her oar.
~gain they all bent to the task, and Amy and
Grace combining their strength on the pole
caused it to bend more than ever.
88 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
"Stop!" cried Betty, in some alarm. "It will
break, and I don't know where I can get another.
We'd better try reversing the engine."
She sat down in the cushioned cockpit, an ex-
ample followed by the others. They were breath-
ing rather hard, and presently Betty went into
the cabin and came out with some iced orangeade
that had been put aboard in a vacuum bottle to
retain its coolness.
"Here," she invited, "let's refresh ourselves
a bit. I .can see that we are going to have
"Trouble?" queried Amy, looking at her
"Yes. We aren't going to get off as easily
as I thought."
"Do you think we'll ever get off?" asked
Of course we will," declared Betty promptly.
"I'll never wade or swim ashore-not with
the river full of such nasty alligators!" an-
"Wait until you're asked," cried Mollie. "I'm
sure we can get off when the motor is reversed."
"The propeller seems to be in deep water,"
spoke Betty, taking an observation over the stern.
"Come back here, girls, and sit down."
"It's more comfortable here," objected Grace,
languidly. "In fact, if it were not for the fact
of being stranded I should like it here." The
cockpit was covered by an awning which kept
off the hot rays of the sun, and the cushions, as
Grace said, were very comfortable.
"But I want to get all the weight possible in
the stern," Betty insisted. "That will raise the
Understanding what was required of them, the
girls moved aft, and perched on the flat, broad
deck, while Betty went to start the motor and
slip in the reverse clutch.
The engine seemed a bit averse to starting at
first, and, for a few seconds, Betty feared that
it had suffered some damage. But suddenly it
began to hum and throb, gaining in momentum
quickly, as it was running free. Betty slowed it
down at the throttle, and then, looking aft to
see that all was clear, she slipped in the clutch
that reversed the propeller.
There was a smother of foam under the stern
of the Gem, which trembled and throbbed with
the vibration. Betty turned on more power,
until finally the maximum, under the circum-
stances, was reached.
"Are we moving? she called, anxiously, to
"Not an inch!" answered Mollie, leaning over
90 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
to look at the surface of the water. Not an
"We'll try it a little longer," said Betty.
"Sometimes it takes a little while to pull loose
from the sand."
"Suppose some of us go up in the bow and
push?" suggested Mollie. "That may help
"Perhaps; and yet I want to keep the bow
as light as possible, so it won't settle down any
more in the sand."
"I'll go," volunteered Mollie. "One can'f
make much difference. And I am not so very
"All right," agreed Betty.
With one of the oars Mollie pushed hard down
into the holding sand, while Betty kept the motor
going at full speed, reversed.
But the Gem seemed too fond of her new loca-
tion to quit it speedily, and the girls, looking anx-
iously over the side, could see no change in their
"It doesn't seem to do any good," wailed
Betty, hopelessly, as she slowed down the engine.
The water about the craft was very muddy and
thick now, caused by the propeller stirring up the
bottom of the river.
I guess we'll have to wade, or swim, ashore,"
said Amy, in what she meant to be a cheerful
"Never!" cried Grace. "I'll stay here until
someone comes for us. Say, we haven't called
for help!" she exclaimed, with sudden thought.
"We're not so far from either shore but what
we could make ourselves heard, I think. Let's
give a good call!"
That's so," agreed Mollie. I never thought
The girls looked across to the distant shores.
True enough, the banks were not far off-too
far to wade or swim, perhaps, but as the day
was calm and still their voices might possibly
There doesn't seem to be much of a popula-
tion on either side," observed Betty, grimly.
"Still there may be houses back from the shore,
hidden by the trees. Now, all together."
They raised their fresh young voices in a com-
bined call that certainly must have carried to both
shores. Then they waited, but nothing happened.
Again they called, and again-several times.
"I'll give the first man who comes for us in'
a boat all the chocolates I have left," bribed
Grace. No one appeared to accept.
Again they called, after a little rest, and a
sipping of what remained of the orangeade. But
92 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
to no purpose did their appeals for aid float across
across the stretch of muddy water.
Once more Betty tried reversing the engine,
and again the girls pushed with the oars and
pole. The Gem remained fast on the sandy bar.
"I wonder how it would do if I got out and
dug around the bow?" suggested Betty. "The
water is shallow on the bar-hardly over my
"Don't you do fit!" cried Grace. "Those
"Hark!" cried Mollie, with upraised hand,
"I hear something."
Through the stillness they could all note the
regular staccato puffing of the exhaust of a gaso-
line motor. It drew nearer.
"It's a boat coming!" crid Betty.
A moment later a motor craft swung into view
around an upper bend, coming swiftly down the
river. But at the sight of it the girls gave a
gasp, for it was filled with roughly dressed col-
ored men, while in the stern sat a white man of
even more villainous appearance than the blacks.
And the boat was headed straight for the strand-
ed Gem. Help was coming indeed, but it was
of doubtful quality.
INTO THE INTERIOR
"OH, dear!" cried Grace, as she shrank back
against Betty. "Oh, dear."
Those-those men," breathed Amy, who also
seemed to be looking about for some sort of
physical support. See, Betty! "
They both seemed to depend on the "Little
Captain" in this emergency. As for Mollie, her
dark eyes flashed, and she looked at Betty with
a nod of encouragement. Whatever happened,
these two would stand together, at any rate.
"Don't be silly! exclaimed Betty, stilling the
wild beating of her own heart by the reflection,
that she must be brave for the sake of others.
"But they are coming right toward us!"'
gasped Grace, making a move as though to hide
in the cabin.
"Of course they are!" exclaimed Mollie,
quickly. "They are going to help us; aren't
I'm sure I hope so," was the low-voiced an-
swer. "One thing, girls, speak very carefully.
94 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
Sound carries very distinctly over water, you
"They are coming toward us," 'idded Amy,
shrinking closer to Betty. There was no doubt
of that. The eyes of all in the approaching
motor boat, which was a powerful craft, were
fixed on the girls in the Gem, and it was a strange
sight to see the eyes of the colored men, with so
much of the white showing in contrast to their
dark faces, staring fixedly at our friends. Grace
caught herself in a half-hysterical laugh.
"They looked just like those queer china
dolls," she explained afterward.
The white man steering the boat was almost
as dark in complexion as were his companions,
but at least he was white-the girls were sure of
"I guess they know we have run on a sand
bar," Betty explained, in as calm a voice as she
could bring to her need. "They are avoiding
As she spoke the other boat made a wide sweep
and then, having gone down past the Gem, it
again swept in on a curve, now being headed up
"Stuck ?" called the white steersman, and his
voice was not unpleasant, though a bit domineer-
ing, Betty thought.
INTO THE INTERIOR
"But perhaps this is because he is used to
giving orders," she reflected.
Yes; we are on a sand bar, I'm afraid," she
answered, and smiled.
Look natural! she commanded to the others
a moment later, her voice not reaching the men
in the other craft, she felt sure, for the clutch
of the relief boat had been thrown out and the
engine was racing, making considerable noise.
"Look as though we expected this," Betty com-
manded. "There's nothing to fear. We are not
far from home."
Lots of folks get stuck on that bar," went on
the man, who was bringing his boat into a posi-
tion favorable for giving aid to the Gem. "It
ought to be buoyed, or marked in some way.
You're strangers around here, I take it," he went
"Yes, from Mr. Stonington's orange grove,"
said Betty, simply. "If you will kindly pull uf
off this bar we will gladly pay you for youi
Was it fancy, or did Betty detect fierce and
eager gleams in the eyes of the colored men?
"Oh, shucks!" exclaimed the steersman,
quickly. "I've pulled lots of bigger boats than
yours off that bar. And not for pay, neither,,
Can you catch a rope?"
96 THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA
"Oh, yes," said Mollie, quickly, determined to
second Betty's efforts to appear at ease. We've
done considerable cruising."
"That's good. Well, you want to know this
river before you do much more. It's treacherous.
Sam, throw that rope while I put us up a little
closer," he commanded.
"Yes, boss," was the reply of a big colored
man in the bow.
Both Mollie and Betty grasped for the rope
as it came uncoiling toward them.
"That's good," complimented the man. "Now
can you make it fast? Have you a ring-bolt
No, but there's a deck-cleat," spoke Betty.
"Just the same. Now, then, I'm going to turn
about and try to haul you off, pointing my bow
down stream. This boat works better on the di-
rect clutch than in reverse. And when I start to
pull, you'd better reverse your motor. Can you
"Oh, yes," answered Betty.
Good. You do know something about boats.
So you're from the orange grove; eh? I heard
the new owner had come on. Need any men
down there? and he seemed quite business-like.
I-I don't know," faltered Betty, looking at
Amy. "Mr. Stonington hasn't told us anything