The Meadow-Brook Girls in the Hills - novelonlinefull.com
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"There goes another shot!" exclaimed Harriet.
"Answer it, dear."
"There are only five more sh.e.l.ls in the gun. Shall I use them all?"
Harriet did so, getting two signal shots in return.
"That means the strangers have heard and understood, does it not?"
questioned the guardian.
"I think so. Now, I would suggest that we keep very quiet until we see who it is. We don't know but it may be our old enemy, who is taking this method of locating us. I have four more cartridges in the magazine. I think we should be able to hold the strangers off with those if we have to."
"Do not fire a shot unless I tell you to!" commanded Miss Elting firmly.
Harriet agreed with a nod, while the guardian stepped back to warn the other girls to be absolutely silent, no matter what might happen.
Harriet, acting upon a sudden thought ran over to the fire and scattered it with a stick so that it would not blaze up so high. Then she returned to her post. Some time had elapsed before she was startled, all at once, by the sound of a stick snapping.
The girl crept to a more favorable position, where she could obtain a better view of the camp. Then her heart fairly leaped into her throat.
Standing plainly outlined in the flickering light of the campfire was a man. Harriet studied the man, then slowly slid the barrel of the rifle into position.
"Stand still! Don't move!" she cried. "I have you covered. If you move I'll shoot! Hands up!"
The man started, opened his mouth as if he were about to speak, then quickly raised his hands above his head. There was a half grin of amus.e.m.e.nt on the face of the visitor, but Harriet, as she crouched squinting over the barrel of the captured rifle, failed to notice it.
The light was faint and the man's hat shaded his face.
"Who are you and what do you want here?" she demanded, a trace of excitement in her tone.
"It's all right, Miss," the man smiled, tilting back his hat and revealing an open countenance. "I'm the sheriff of the county. I've been sent to look you up. We have your guide down at the foot of the White Trail. He's been hurt. We've got another fellow in whom you'll be interested too. Ja.n.u.s Grubb sent us to find you."
"Is Mr. Grubb badly hurt?" queried Harriet, as all the girls came slowly out from their hiding places.
"Sprained an ankle, not much, but it will lay him up for a few days.
The other man we have is Charlie Valdes, known as Big Charlie. The story of Valdes dates back to the time when Jan was a deputy sheriff.
He ran down Charlie and another bad character, Henry Tracy. Both fellows were poachers, preying on the preserves of rich men in these mountains. Jan got his hands on the pair and gathered the evidence that put them in prison. Charlie's time was up first, and he came back on purpose to even the score with Jan. The instant I had a description of the fellow who bothered you in Compton I felt sure it was Big Charlie. He's the man who has been following you, and we'll prove the burning of the bridge against him, too."
"Did Mr. Grubb catch the man again this time, too?" asked Hazel.
"Jan overhauled Valdes, and in the fight that followed put a bullet in his leg," replied the sheriff. "It was in the tussle that Jan got his ankle sprained, but your guide landed his man. Sometimes Jan may seem slow, but in a rumpus he's a terror for speed, decision, and grit. We were heading up the White Trail, hoping to head you off, when we ran into Jan and Valdes."
Later, at the county seat the Meadow-Brook Girls were permitted to put their evidence against Big Charlie, whom they recognized and identified. Charlie was held for trial, and afterward sent back to prison for a much longer term than his first one.
The Meadow-Brook Girls regretted parting with Ja.n.u.s Grubb, whom they held in the highest esteem. But Ja.n.u.s was not able to guide any one for the next fortnight or longer, so he recommended a new guide, who led the Meadow-Brook Girls on a long mountain "hike" over beaten trails. Then, at last, Harriet Burrell and her friends reluctantly turned homeward.