The Motor Girls Through New England Part 36

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"There's a family of them, at any rate," remarked Jack, as he neared the open spot, where now could be seen a hut.

A rough-looking man was waiting to see what they wanted. He smoked a pipe, wore heavy shoes and clothing.

Mr. Rand spoke first.

"Good afternoon, stranger," he said in a pleasant voice.

The man touched his hat and replied with an indistinguishable murmur.

"Camping?" went on Mr. Rand, scarcely knowing how to get into conversation.

"Sort of," replied the man shortly.

"Might we intrude for a little water?" continued the old gentleman.

"The girls had a dusty ride."

"Certainly," replied the woodsman, motioning toward a pail and dipper on a bench in front of the hut.

"Hard to get at," whispered Jack to Walter, "but he doesn't look so bad."

"No, I rather think he is not the man we want," agreed the other young man.

"Stay here all year?" asked Ed, as he handed the br.i.m.m.i.n.g tin dipper to Bess, and turned to the stranger.

"Pretty much," spoke the man with the pipe. "But is there anything wrong? Anything I could do for you?"

This caused the whole party to surmise that he must have heard that "something" was wrong. That looked suspicious.

A woman emerged from the hut. She was not altogether untidy, but of course showed that she lived far from civilization. She bowed to the party, then called to the children in the woods.

"Well," said Mr. Rand finally, "we are looking for somebody. You haven't happened to hear or to have seen anything of a young girl in these parts, a girl--who might have gotten lost in the woods; have you?"

"I have heard that a girl was lost," replied the man. "But I'm one of the forest rangers and I keep pretty close to my post at this time of the season, watching for fires. There are so many young folks camping and reckless with matches. Is there no trace of her? The missing girl from the hotel, is the one you mean, isn't it?"

Then he was not a gypsy! The forest ranger!

"No, I am sorry to say we have not yet discovered her," went on Mr.

Rand. "But you being here in the very depths of the woods would likely know of any gypsy camps about, I believe."

"There are no camps in the woods this year," the man a.s.sured him. "We have kept them out of this particular clearing by law. There are a lot of them scattered about in the mountains, but as far as I could find there is no camp deep in the woods. You see every summer someone gets lost in these woods, and we don't like the gypsies to have the first chance of finding them. But sit down," and he cleared the bench of the water pail. "You must have had a weary search."

Everyone sighed. They were still without a possible clew.

"We will rest for a minute or two," said Mr. Rand, "but we must still cover a lot of road tonight. We are out to find her if she is on the White Mountains."

And so after some conversation and advice from the forest ranger the searching party again pressed on.

CHAPTER XXVII

THE CALL OF THE HEART

"I am not the least bit afraid; in fact, I think I shall just sing to show them I feel secure," and Cora s.n.a.t.c.hed up the guitar. She fingered it tenderly, then let it rest for a moment in her arms. "Did Lena say it was all right?"

"The dogs are drugged. I didn't have the heart to kill the brutes, ugly as they are. They will not awaken."

"Good! Then everything else will be all right. Oh, Helka, can you imagine we are so near freedom?"

"I never was frightened before. Whether it is the thought of meeting David, or whether it is the thought of leaving them all, I cannot say, but I am shaking from head to foot," said the queen.

"That is natural. You have been with them almost all your life. But I shall show you what real life is. This is slavery."

Helka looked about her uneasily. "What shall we do first?"

"When it is very dark, and all are in bed, I will fasten the rope to the big nail that Lena fetched. Then I shall try it from this side, and if it holds me I will slip down. Then I shall run. When you no longer hear the leaves rustle, or if you can hear the whistle I will give you as a signal, then you must come."

"And if you go, and I cannot get out! Oh, Cora, I should die here alone now!"

"Faint heart! Be brave! Be strong! Say you will win!"

Cora was jubilant. To her it meant freedom! She had no fear of detection. All she thought of was success. To get away and then to send word to her dear ones!

Lena tapped on the door.

"Helka," she said, "could I, too, go?"

"You, Lena--why?"

"I will not be happy without Helka and without the good lady. I, too, would go away!"

Her eyes were sad, and her voice trembled.

"Why, Lena, they would search the earth for you--you are a real gypsy,"

said Helka.

"But I have no mother, no father, and what right have they to me? In the world I could learn, I would work for you, I would be your slave!"

The poor girl was almost in tears. Her manner pleaded her cause more eloquently than could any words.

"How would you go?" asked the queen.

"When I go out to lock the barn, I would just run, and run through the woods. I would wait for you at the big oak."

"Where is Sam?" asked Helka.

"He went out with the wagon this afternoon. He will not be back."

The Motor Girls Through New England Part 36

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The Motor Girls Through New England Part 36 summary

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