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   Chapter 6 FOUND—ONE ALBUM

Billie Bradley on Lighthouse Island; Or, The Mystery of the Wreck By Janet D. Wheeler Characters: 9029

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"I'm sorry Connie couldn't come along," said Laura, drinking in deep breaths of the fragrant air.

"Yes," said Billie, her eyes twinkling. "She said she wished she hadn't been born with a conscience."

"A conscience," said Vi innocently. "Why?"

"Because," said Billie, her cheeks aglow with the heat and exercise, her brown hair clinging in little damp ringlets to her forehead, and her eyes bright with health and the love of life, "then she could have had a good time to-day instead of staying at home in a stuffy room and writing a cartload of letters. She says if she doesn't write them, she'll never dare face her friends when she gets home."

"She's a darling," said Laura, executing a little skip in the road that sent the dust flying all about them. "Just think-if we hadn't met her we wouldn't be looking forward to Lighthouse Island and a dear old uncle who owns the light--"

"Anybody would think he was your uncle," said Vi.

"Well, he might just as well be," Laura retorted. "Connie says that he adopts all the boys and girls about the place."

"And that they adopt him," Billie added, with a nod. "He must be a darling. I'm just crazy to see him."

Connie Danver's Uncle Tom attended the lighthouse, and, living there all the year around, had become as much of a fixture as the island itself. Connie loved this uncle of hers, and had told the girls enough about him to rouse their curiosity and make them very eager to meet him.

The girls walked on in silence for a little way and then, as they came to a path that led into the woods, Laura stopped suddenly and said in a dramatic voice:

"Do you realize where we are, my friends? Do you, by any chance, remember a tall, thin, wild-eyed man?"

Did they remember? In a flash they were back again in a queer little hut in the woods, where a tall man stood and stared at them with strange eyes.

Laura and Vi started to go on, but Billie stood staring at the path with fascinated eyes.

"I wonder why," she said, as she turned slowly away in response to the urging of the girls, "nothing ever seems the same in the sunlight. The other night when we were running along that path we were scared to death, and now--"

"You sound as if you'd like to stay scared to death," said Laura impatiently, for Laura had not Billie's imagination.

"I guess I don't like to be scared any more than any one else," Billie retorted. "But I would like to see that man again. I wonder--" she paused and Vi prompted her.

"Wonder what?" she asked.

"Why," said Billie, a thoughtful little crease on her forehead, "I was just wondering if we could find the little hut again if we tried."

"Of course we couldn't!" Laura was very decided about it. "We were lost, weren't we? And when the man showed us the way back it was dark--"

"The only way I can see," said Vi, who often had rather funny ideas, "would be to have one of us stand in the road and hold on to strings tied to the other two so that if they got lost--"

"The one in the road could haul 'em back," said Laura sarcastically. "That's a wonderful idea, Vi."

"Well, I would like to see that man again," sighed Billie. "He seemed so sad. I'm sure he was in trouble, and I'd so like to help him."

"Yes and when you offered you nearly got your head bit off," observed Laura.

Billie's eyes twinkled.

"That's what Daddy says always happens to people who try to help," she said. "I feel awfully sorry for him, just the same," she finished decidedly.

Then Laura did a surprising thing. She put an arm about Billie's shoulders and hugged her fondly.

"Billie Bradley," she said sadly, "I do believe you would feel sorry for a snake that bit you, just because it was only a snake."

"Perhaps that's why she loves you," said Vi innocently, and scored a point. Laura looked as if she wanted to be mad for a minute, but she was not. She only laughed with the girls.

They had as good a time as they had expected to have in town that afternoon-and that is saying something.

First they went shopping. Laura had need of a ribbon girdle. Although they all knew that a blue one would be bought in the end, as blue was the color that would go best with the dress with which the girdle was to be worn, the merits and beauties of a green one and a lavender one were discussed and comparisons made with the blue one over and over, all from very love of the indecision and, more truly, the joy that looking at the dainty, pretty colors gave them.

"Well, I think this i

s the very best of all, Laura," said Billie finally, picking up the pretty blue girdle with its indistinct pattern of lighter blue and white.

"Yes, it is a beauty," replied Laura. "I'll take that one," she went on to the clerk.

After that came numerous smaller purchases until, as Vi said dolefully, all their money was gone except enough to buy several plates of ice cream apiece.

They were standing just outside the store where their last purchases had been made when Billie, looking down the street, gave a cry of delight.

"Look who's coming!" she exclaimed.

"It's the boys!" cried Vi. "Mercy, girls, we might just as well have spent the rest of our money, the boys will treat us to the ice cream."

"Goodness, Vi! do you want to spend your money whether you get anything you really need or wish for or not?" inquired Billie, with a little gasp.

"What in the world is money for if not to spend?" asked Vi, making big and innocent eyes at Billie.

Just then the boys came within speaking distance.

"Well, this is what I call luck!" exclaimed Ferd Stowing.

"Yes," added Teddy, putting his hand in his pocket, "just hear the money jingle. A nice big check from Dad in just appreciation of his absent son! What do you girls say to an ice-cream spree? No less than three apiece, with all this unwonted wealth."

"Ice cream? I should say!" was Billie's somewhat slangy acceptance.

"Teddy," suddenly asked Laura, "how does it come that you have any money left from Dad's check?"

"Check came just as we left the Academy, Captain Shelling cashed it for me, and we have just reached town."

"Oh! Well, maybe I'll find one, too, when we reach Three Towers."

"So that's it, is it, sister mine? Envy!"

After that they ate ice cream to repletion, and at last the girls decided that there was nothing much left to do but to go back to the school.

It was just as well that they had made this decision, for the sun was beginning to sink in the west and the supper hour at Three Towers Hall was rather early. As they started toward home, having said good-bye to the boys, the girls quickened their pace.

It was not till they were nearing the path which, to Billie at least, had been surrounded by a mysterious halo since the adventure of the other night that the girls slowed up. Then it was Billie who did the slowing up.

"Girls," she said in a hushed voice, "I suppose you'll laugh at me, but I'd just love to follow that path into the woods a little way. You don't need to come if you don't want to. You can wait for me here in the road."

"Oh, no," said Laura, with a little sigh of resignation. "If you are going to be crazy we might as well be crazy with you. Come on, Vi, if we didn't go along, she would probably get lost all over again-just for the fun of it."

Billie made a little face at them and plunged into the woods. Laura followed, and after a minute's hesitation Vi trailed at Laura's heels.

They were so used to Billie's sudden impulses that they had stopped protesting and merely went along with her, which, as Billie herself had often pointed out, saved a great deal of argument.

They might have saved themselves all worry on Billie's account this time, though, for she had not the slightest intention of getting lost again-once was enough.

She went only as far as the end of the path, and when the other girls reached her she was peering off into the forest as if she hoped to see the mysterious hut-although she knew as well as Laura and Vi that they had walked some distance through the woods the other night before they had finally reached the path.

"Well, are you satisfied?" Laura asked, with a patient sigh. "If you don't mind my saying it, I'm getting hungry."

"Goodness! after all that ice cream?" cried Billie, adding with a little chuckle: "You're luckier than I am, Laura. I feel as if I shouldn't want anything to eat for a thousand years."

She was just turning reluctantly to follow her chums back along the path when a dark, bulky-looking object lying in a clump of bushes near by caught her eye and she went over to examine it.

"Now what in the world--" Laura was beginning despairingly when suddenly Billie gave a queer little cry.

"Come here quick, girls!" she cried, reaching down to pick up the bulky object which had caught her attention. "I do believe-yes, it is-it must be--"

"Well, say it!" the others cried, peering impatiently over her shoulder.

"Miss Arbuckle's album," finished Billie.

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