- زمان مطالعه 48 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
Before the girls went to bed, Hannah suggested that Laura’s jewelry be put into the wall safe in Mr. Drew’s study.
“Dad, Hannah, and I are the only persons who know the combination,” Nancy told Laura.
“It would be a good idea,” the brown-eyed girl replied. “First, I’d like to show you some of
Mother’s treasures. She gave them to me before her last illness.”
“Do you have this in writing?” Hannah asked.
“Yes, I do. Why?”
“Then the jewelry wouldn’t be part of your mother’s estate,” Mrs. Gruen answered, “and there’d be no tax on it.” Laura took a package from her handbag and opened it. She displayed a string of priceless matched pearls, a gorgeous diamond clip and earrings, several jeweled pins set with rubies, pearls, and emeralds, and six rings, including one with a brilliant star sapphire.
Nancy and Hannah were astounded. “Why, this is the most beautiful collection I’ve ever seen!” Nancy exclaimed. She pointed to a ring set with a perfect aquamarine. “I love this!” Laura smiled. “That was Mother’s favorite,” she said. “My father gave it to her on their first wedding anniversary.” “Thank goodness your guardian didn’t find these things!” Hannah declared.
Finally the jewels were put into the safe and everyone went to bed.
Nancy awoke at seven o’clock the next morning. After taking a shower, she decided to wear a forest-green cotton dress and flat-heeled brown play shoes.
Laura was still sleeping when Nancy joined Mrs. Gruen at breakfast. The housekeeper was using a cane.
“My ankle feels almost as good as new,” Hannah announced. “I’ve discarded the crutches.”
Nancy was delighted to hear this. As they ate, she and the housekeeper talked about the young sleuth’s trip.
“I’ll worry about you every second until you return home,” Mrs. Gruen declared. “If you’re not here by ten thirty, I’ll notify the police.” Nancy grinned. “I’ll try to be here by suppertime. If not, I’ll call you.”
A short while later Nancy battled the early-morning traffic through the city. Reaching the outskirts, she took the road to Melrose Lake.
“Poor Laura,” she thought, wondering what the day would disclose about the girl’s strange guardian and his wife.
If Laura were really penniless, maybe the man thought he had a legitimate right to take and sell the jewelry for the girl’s support. But his wife had bragged about having plenty of money to take care of their ward.
After a time Nancy came to the Melrose Lake detour. Laura had told her there was a sign marked “Eagle Rock” in front of the lane leading to her guardian’s property.
Presently Nancy approached the spot where the pine tree had fallen. Fortunately, it had been removed.
She drove more slowly, afraid of inadvertently missing the Eagle Rock sign. Then, sighting the turnoff, Nancy left the detour.
“This ring was Mother’s favorite,” Laura said
She had gone but a few hundred feet along the Aborns’ road when she decided it might be safer to walk. After parking along the side of the roadway, she started off. In a few minutes Nancy suddenly caught sight of a man walking rapidly through the woods. He carried a small bundle under his arm.
“Jacob Aborn!” she thought, recognizing his profile and the peculiar stoop of his shoulders.
Nancy recalled Laura’s story of her guardian taking a small package from the refrigerator and leaving the house with it. What was in the bundle and where was he taking it?
“I’m going to find out!” Nancy declared. Without hesitation, she quietly plunged into the thicket. Following at a safe distance she managed to keep the man in sight.
“He doesn’t seem to be worried about being followed,” Nancy thought. “He must not have heard my car when I turned into the lane.” She continued her musing. “I’m glad I wore this green dress. It’s good camouflage!” Just then a twig crackled under her foot, breaking the stillness of the woods. Jacob Aborn turned and looked back, frowning. He stood a minute, listening intently. Only by ducking quickly behind a large bush had Nancy avoided detection.
“I’d better be more careful if I don’t want to get caught,” she warned herself.
As the man continued through the forest Nancy followed, painstakingly avoiding twigs or loose stones. She kept well behind him.
“Wouldn’t it be a joke on me if he’s just a bird watcher!” She giggled at the thought. “And maybe that package has his lunch in it!” Laughing to herself, Nancy picked her way through the woods as she trailed Laura Pendleton’s guardian. Suddenly he disappeared behind a clump of high blueberry bushes. Nancy hurried forward. When she reached the spot the girl detective looked about in all directions.
“Which way did he go?” she asked herself.
Jacob Aborn seemed to have vanished into thin air!
The Danger Sign
ALERT for possible danger, Nancy moved forward with the utmost caution. It occurred to her that possibly Aborn had become aware he was being followed and had hidden in the bushes to watch the pursuer.
“I’ll walk into a trap!” Nancy thought with alarm. “Mr. Aborn will learn I’m spying on him and everything will be ruined!” With great caution she moved from one bush and tree to another. Laura’s guardian was not hiding behind any of them.
“That’s funny,” Nancy said to herself.
She examined the ground, almost expecting there would be a cave or secret tunnel in the vicinity. But the earth was firm and in many places very rocky.
Finally Nancy came to a tiny clearing. On the far side attached to a large oak was a crudely printed wooden sign which read:
PRIVATE PROPERTY. KEEP OUT. DANGER!
“I wonder if that’s where Mr. Aborn went and why?” the young detective asked herself.
She waited several minutes, then decided to cross the clearing. She was not stopped. Entering the woods again, she saw a dilapidated shack. The windows had been boarded up, and the roof sagged.
“One good gust of wind would blow the place over,” Nancy said to herself.
She stepped from among the bushes and stood in the shadow of the trees, curiously surveying the building. Was it possible that Jacob Aborn had entered it?
Nancy’s eyes searched the ground for footprints. Directly ahead, in the soft earth, she saw the fresh mark of a man’s shoe. Instantly her suspicions were confirmed.
Jacob Aborn had come this way!
“I’ll just have a look at this shack,” the young sleuth decided.
After quickly glancing about to make certain she was not being watched, Nancy hurried forward. Tiptoeing across the front porch, she quietly tried the door. It was locked. Nancy walked around to the rear door and found that it likewise was securely fastened.
Although disappointed, Nancy was unwilling to give up. Making a complete circuit of the shack, she saw a window from which several boards had fallen. It was too high for her to peer through. Nancy returned to the rear of the building to get an old box that she had seen. She set it beneath the window and mounted it.
Pressing her face against the glass, she gazed inside. The room, apparently a kitchen, was bare of furniture and covered with dust and cobwebs.
“I wish I could get inside,” Nancy thought.
She was about to climb down from the box when a strange feeling came over her. Though she had heard no sound, Nancy sensed that unfriendly eyes were watching her every move.
Before she could turn around and look over her shoulder, a coarse, angry voice barked into her ear:
“What are you doing here, young lady?”
Nancy wheeled and faced Jacob Aborn!
With as much dignity as she could muster, the girl detective stepped to the ground and regarded the man with composure. His eyes burned with rage.
“I was merely curious,” Nancy replied. “And may I ask why you are here?”
“Yes, I’ll tell you. I’m looking for my ward.”
“You mean Laura Pendleton?”
“Yes. Who else? I thought maybe she was hiding here. But nobody’s in the shack.”
“Why in the world would Laura hide in this ramshackle place?” Nancy asked, trying to show as much surprise as possible.
“Search me,” Mr. Aborn said, then added angrily, his eyes boring Nancy’s, “Laura has run away!”
“Run away?” Nancy repeated.
“Yes. Yesterday. I’ll tell you something about that ward of mine—” A crafty light came into Jacob Aborn’s eyes as he went on, “At times she acts unbalanced—thinks folks don’t treat her right.” “Indeed?” said Nancy, pretending to be shocked.
By now Laura’s guardian had calmed down. When he spoke again he was once more the pleasant man Nancy had met at the Montewago HoteL “It’s for Laura’s own good that she ought to return home,” he said. “Mrs. Aborn is dreadfully upset. She loves Laura just like a mother. Miss Drew, have you heard from Laura by any chance?” Nancy was on her guard. “Why should I hear from her?” she countered. “We never met until that accident on the lake and she came to rescue my friend Helen and me.” Mr. Aborn did not pursue the subject. Instead, he said, “Laura’s a nervous, high-strung girl. Why, do you know she locked herself in her room the entire time she was with us— wouldn’t eat, or even let us try to help her?” “Terrible!” Nancy said, pretending to be shocked. “Laura does need help.”
Secretly Nancy felt that Jacob Aborn was telling this version of the locked-door story to cover his own actions, in case they came to light.
“Have you notified the police, Mr. Aborn?” she asked, probing for further information.
“We have a private detective working on the matter,” the man stated. “We don’t want any bad publicity because of dear Marie Pendleton’s memory. She entrusted Laura to my care because she knew how much my wife and I would love the girl.” Nancy suddenly was finding it hard to concentrate on what Mr. Aborn was saying. Was she wrong or had she heard a sound inside the shack?
“This is very strange,” she told herself. “But I don’t dare pursue the subject or Mr. Aborn will really become suspicious.” Aloud she said, “I certainly hope Laura is all right. Well, I must go now. I have some friends here at Melrose Lake I plan to call on.” She paused, then added lightly, “In fact, I believe you know them, Mr. Aborn—the Donnell family.” The man looked startled, then recovered himself. “Oh, yes. Fine family. Say hello to them for me, please.”
Nancy promised that she would. Since Mr. Aborn made no move to accompany her, she said good-by and walked rapidly back to the spot where her convertible was parked.
As Nancy climbed into it, she cast a glance over her shoulder. There was no sign of Mr. Aborn. Had he gone into the shack? Was someone there? Had he been delivering packages to the person?
Nancy started the car’s motor and backed out to the main road. As she drove along, her thoughts were entirely on Mr. Aborn. She had no doubt but that the man had been lying about Laura’s behavior.
“I must find out more about that man,” Nancy decided.
Reaching the highway, she stopped at a service station, had the gas tank of her car filled, and asked directions to the Donnell home. The attendant told her how to reach the place, and a short while later Nancy drew up before a lovely redwood house located well off the road.
She got out and rang the front doorbell. There was no answer. Nancy walked around to the back of the house. A gardener was there, trimming the flower beds.
“Howdy, miss!” the elderly man hailed her. “Looking for the Donnells?”
“Yes. Are they away?” Nancy inquired.
“Yep. They’re visiting relatives in Crescent Gardens ’til tonight. Any message?”
Nancy said no, that she would call again, and thanked the man. As she drove away Nancy was disappointed that she had been unable to pick up any information regarding Mr. Aborn. “I don’t want to leave Melrose Lake until I have learned something to help Laura,” she thought. “Mr. Aborn may trace her whereabouts to our home and force Laura to return with him before Dad gets back to town. I suppose he has a legal right to do it.” At last an idea came to Nancy. “I’ll go to one of the hotels on the lake and engage a room. Then, after it gets dark, I’ll do a little more investigating.” Fortunately, Nancy always carried an overnight case in her car trunk. It contained pajamas and robe, two changes of clothing, toilet articles, and, this time of year, a bathing suit.
Presently she saw a large white building ahead of her. Its green lawn sloped down to the sandy beach. On the stone pillar at the side of the driveway was the sign: Beach Cliff Hotel.
“I think I’ll stop here,” Nancy decided. She parked her car and entered the pleasant lobby. In a few minutes she had registered and been taken to a comfortable room overlooking the lake.
“I’ll telephone home,” Nancy said to herself, “and tell Hannah where I am.”
As Nancy placed the call, a chilling thought suddenly popped into her mind. Perhaps the detective whom Aborn had engaged had already traced the runaway girl, and knew Nancy had not told all she knew about Laura. If so, Nancy might find that her guest had already been whisked away from the Drew home!
WHEN Hannah Gruen answered the telephone at the Drew residence, Nancy at once asked, “Is Laura all right?”
“Why, of course,” Hannah answered in surprise. “She’s upstairs setting her hair for the party this afternoon.”
“Well, tell her to be very careful,” Nancy urged. “Mr. Aborn has a detective looking for her!”
“Oh dear!” exclaimed Mrs. Gruen. “And when will you be home, Nancy?”
The young detective explained where she was and that she planned to stay at Melrose Lake and do more sleuthing.
“I think I may be on the trail of something big.”
“I don’t like the idea of you prowling around the Aborns’ home in the dead of night,” the housekeeper objected.
“I’ll be careful,” Nancy promised. “I may even get home tonight.”
“Well, all right,” Hannah consented reluctantly. “By the way, Nancy, I had a repairman fix the window in Mr. Drew’s study this morning, and also requested the police to keep a lookout for anything suspicious going on in this neighborhood.” “Wonderful!” Nancy said, feeling relieved.“Any more news?”
“Everything’s quiet here,” Hannah reported. “And Laura seems happy.”
Laura came to speak to Nancy and was alarmed when she heard that a detective was looking for her. “But I won’t go back to those awful Aborns! They can’t make me! If they try it, I’ll—I’ll run right to the police!” “That’s a good idea,” said Nancy. “By the way, I’d like to do some sleuthing at the Aborn house. I may want to get inside without ringing the bell.” The young sleuth chuckled. “Since it’s now your house too, may I have permission to go in and look around?” “You certainly may,” said Laura with a giggle. “If no doors are unlocked, try my bedroom window. I left it open a crack and there’s a sturdy rose trellis right alongside it.” “Terrific!” said Nancy elatedly.
After she completed the call, Nancy went to the hotel coffee shop for a hearty lunch. Since it was now almost one thirty, the room was empty.
After eating, Nancy put on her bathing suit and wandered down to the beach. A boy in attendance gave her a towel and Nancy stretched out on the sand, unaware of the steadfast glance of a couple hidden behind a large green-and-white striped umbrella not far away. They nodded to each other, then when Nancy was not looking, they quickly left the beach.
“Guess we’re safe,” the woman muttered. “She’s here to stay and have a good time.”
As the strong rays of the sun beat down on the unsuspecting girl, she rehearsed her plan for the evening. When it was dark she would visit both Jacob Aborn’s home and also the shack in the woods, if time permitted.
“I’ll miss Dad’s call tonight,” Nancy reflected.
Standing up half an hour later, Nancy put on her bathing cap and walked to the water. She stuck her toe in. The lake water felt icy cold, and Nancy noticed that there were more people on the beach than in swimming. Nevertheless, she waded out to where it was deep enough to make a surface dive and plunged in. Once she was wet, the water was invigorating.
After swimming for a while, Nancy came back to her beach towel and dried off. Then she returned to her room, showered, and slept for two hours, realizing that the rest would give her more endurance for the evening ahead.
Awakening at six o’clock, Nancy put on the simple black cotton dress from her suitcase and pumps. After brushing her hair until it snapped with electricity, she was ready for supper.
“What will it be this evening, miss?” asked the friendly waitress.
Nancy selected steak, a baked potato, and tossed salad, then sat back to enjoy the soft dinner music playing in the background. The orchestra was in an adjoining lounge.
Nearby diners regarded the lone girl with interest, for the prospect of the daring adventure had brought a becoming flush to her cheeks.
“If I’m wrong in suspecting Jacob Aborn of being dishonest,” thought Nancy, “then I guess I’d better give up sleuthing!” Upon leaving the dining room an hour later, she lingered on the porch for a few minutes, watching couples dance. As a red-haired young man began to walk toward Nancy with an invitation in his eyes for her to dance, she hastily went to her room.
Chuckling to herself, Nancy said aloud, “Romance and detective work won’t mix tonight!” Then she changed to walking shoes, sweater, and skirt.
The moment it became dark enough for her purpose, Nancy left the hotel in her car. As she drew near the Aborns’ lane a short while later, she turned the convertible off the road and ran it into a clump of bushes where it would not be seen.
Switching off the engine and locking the doors, Nancy started down the lane leading to the house, holding her flashlight securely. She found the windows of the house dark.
“The Aborns are out, I guess,” she told herself. “Well, that means I can do some looking around.”
Circling the structure cautiously, Nancy noted that the second-floor wing, where the bedrooms apparently were located, was in the back. She found the trellis easily.
“I’ll try the doors first,” Nancy decided, and darted to the front. Gently turning the handle, she found the door locked.
An investigation of two other doors revealed that they, too, were securely fastened.
“I guess I’ll have to climb after all,” Nancy said to herself.
As quietly as possible, she climbed the trellis. It wobbled and creaked a little but did not give way. When Nancy reached the window ledge of Laura’s bedroom, she found to her delight that the window raised easily. She crawled through and switched on her flashlight.
As Nancy tiptoed across the room, which was in disorder, she heard a noise. Halting, she listened. A car was approaching the house. Looking out the window she could barely make out the figures of a man and a woman who alighted. Who were they and what should Nancy do?
“I’ll stay right here,” she determined.
As Nancy waited tensely she realized someone was walking up the stairs. Quickly Nancy closed the window without a sound. As she looked around for a hiding place she saw a closet, and darted inside it, switching off her flashlight. Crouched in a far corner behind some of Laura’s dresses, Nancy scarcely dared to breathe.
The door to the room was opened a moment later and the boudoir lamps switched on. Cautiously Nancy peered out through the keyhole in the closet door. She saw Jacob Aborn!
The man went directly to Laura’s dressing table. Apparently he had not heard Nancy, for he did not glance toward the closet.
Ruthlessly he jerked out drawers from the dressing table and emptied their contents upon the bed. As he surveyed the assortment of tiny bottles, boxes, and other paraphernalia, Laura’s guardian gave a disgusted grunt.
“Last place to look!” he said, as if addressing someone out in the hall, probably his wife.
“Guess Laura really took the jewels with her. Well, I’ll soon have them back!”
Nancy’s heart leaped. There was no longer any doubt in her mind as to the character of this man. She was now certain that his sole interest in Laura was to get possession of her property! Only the girl’s opportune escape from the house had prevented him from seizing the valuable jewelry collection!
“Laura’s mother couldn’t have known his true character, or she wouldn’t have entrusted her daughter to Aborn’s care,” Nancy pondered.
Her thoughts came to an abrupt end as the man moved toward the closet. Fearfully, Nancy ducked down behind Laura’s dresses again and fervently hoped that she would not be discovered.
Suddenly, as Nancy’s legs began to grow cramped, the closet door was jerked violently open. Jacob Aborn looked in!
A Black Abyss
As JACOB ABORN stared into the closet where Nancy was hiding, the girl detective wished wildly that she were invisible. There was no telling what harm the man might inflict if he saw her!
“He has such a violent temper,” Nancy realized.
But Aborn’s glance did not stray to the dress section. Instead, he reached up for two large suitcases which were on a shelf above the clothes. He set them on the floor outside and shut the closet door.
Beads of perspiration trickled down Nancy’s neck as she relaxed. Presently she heard the man leave the room and shut the hall door with a loud bang.
Nancy waited a moment, then left her hiding place. “I suppose I’d better leave while I can,” she advised herself.
But running away from a chance to pick up a clue was not in Nancy’s nature. As she heard Laura’s guardian descending the stairs to the first floor, she became aware of a woman’s voice somewhere below. Nancy decided, “I’ll stay and see what’s going on.” Before leaving Laura’s bedroom she gave it a final searching look and shook her head, puzzled. The room was one which Nancy would be happy to call her own. The feminine furnishings and good colonial pieces showed evidence of discerning taste. They did not fit the Aborns’ character. Perhaps an interior decorator had planned it!
“One could believe from this room that the Aborns really wanted Laura,” Nancy pondered.
It just did not make sense. Many criminals, Nancy knew, laid the groundwork to lull any suspicion on the part of their victim, then cornered him. But Laura had not even been settled in her new home when the Aborns had begun to persecute her.
Soundlessly Nancy opened the bedroom door, and keeping her flashlight low to the floor, tiptoed along the carpeted hall. Step by step, she edged down the stairway to the floor below. Here there was no sign of activity but Nancy saw a light shining through louvered doors to her left.
“That’s probably the kitchen. The Aborns are in there,” she thought.
A moment later the woman said, “Here’s the combination. I’ll pack this stuff while you open the safe.”
Quickly Nancy stole into the living room and hastily ducked out of sight behind a large sofa. She was just in time. One of the louvered doors opened and Laura’s guardian came into the living room carrying a suitcase. He flicked on a table lamp.
Near it hung the small oil painting of a ship. Aborn lifted it from the wall and set the picture against a chair.
Nancy’s eyes widened as she saw that the painting had concealed a wall safe. Aborn deftly twirled the dial to the left, then several notches to the right, and back to the left again. He swung the safe door open.
With a grunt of satisfaction, the man removed several packages of bank notes and some papers which looked like stock certificates. Mr. Aborn chortled and called to his wife: “When we get the rest of these cashed, you and I will be set for life—thanks to Laura and a few others.”
Nancy, startled, almost gave herself away. So Laura did have a sizable inheritance other than the jewelry! But how had the securities reached the safe? Had Aborn brought them here or was he stealing them from someone else? Nancy felt more confused by the moment.
As her thoughts raced, Aborn replaced the loose papers in the safe and closed it. Then he put the money and securities into the suitcase. Giving a tired yawn, he switched off the lamp and left the room.
“Guess I’ll turn in,” he called to his wife. “Got to be up early tomorrow and get Fred. You ready?”
Marian Aborn came from the kitchen carrying the other bag. Together the couple ascended the stairs. Nancy heard a bedroom door above close.
“Now I must get the police,” the girl detective thought.
She paused for several seconds, after coming from behind the couch, to stretch her cramped limbs. “I’d better go out the front door,” she decided. “The bedrooms don’t overlook that.” Noiselessly Nancy slipped outside and started for her hidden car. Then a temptation came to her. “Why don’t I investigate that shack in the woods first? I may have an even bigger story to tell the police! I’ll do it!” Taking a deep breath of air, Nancy hurried toward the path leading to the dilapidated building. Had she been right about having heard someone inside? Was he a friend or an enemy of Aborn’s? Were the packages being carried there and what did they contain? Loot?
“Maybe just food,” Nancy concluded. “But being taken to whom?”
Beaming her flashlight on the ground, the young detective soon picked up the trail she had taken earlier in the day. It was quiet and eerie as she stumbled along the uneven ground. Nancy became apprehensive once or twice as she heard scuffling noises of forest creatures in the underbrush, but went on.
“I wish Dad were here now,” she thought fervently.
Nancy reached the shack without mishap and paused in front of it. A sixth sense seemed to tell her there was someone inside who needed help. No person would stay in such a place unless forced to.
“This is no time for me to hesitate,” she told herself.
As Nancy moved toward the rear of the tumble-down building, she glanced at her flashlight and was alarmed to see that it was beginning to grow dim.
“Just my luck when I need it the most!”
In an attempt to save the battery, Nancy switched off the light. As her eyes became accustomed to the darkness, she moved toward the window she had looked through earlier that day. Appraising it, the young sleuth realized that the window ledge was too high from the ground for her to climb through unassisted, even when standing on the box.
Undaunted, she began to examine the other windows. On the south side of the shack she found one which opened from the rickety porch. It was boarded up.
“This is my entry,” Nancy determined.
She began searching the yard for something with which to pry off the boards, and finally found a stout stick. Nancy began wedging it between the boards with all her might.
The first board offered stubborn resistance. Then, with a groan and a squeak, it gave way.
The remaining boards were removed with less difficulty.
To Nancy’s joy, the window was unlocked! Pushing it up, she beamed her flashlight inside. The room beyond was bare and quiet as a tomb.
“Well, here comes Nancy Drew, housebreaker and spy!” Nancy thought with amused determination. “It’s certain now no one lives here.” When she was halfway through the window the young sleuth hesitated without knowing just why. She glanced back over her shoulder. A queer sensation made Nancy quiver as she turned searching eyes toward the woods.
“How silly!” she scolded herself. “No one’s there. It’s just nerves.”
Bravely Nancy swung herself through the window. Hastily she moved toward an adjoining room, noting that her flashlight was growing dimmer. Soon she would be left in total darkness! She must hurry!
Her light revealed a small room, also empty, its walls and floor dusty from long lack of any occupant’s care. Nancy was disappointed to find nothing of interest.
“I’d better leave and drive to police headquarters,” she thought.
Just then Nancy’s flashlight revealed a trap door in the floor. Quickly she moved over toward it. But she had taken only a few steps when an unusual sound arrested her attention. Had she heard a board creak behind her, or was it a night sound from the woods?
After hesitating a second, Nancy again started for the trap door. As she reached down to grasp the ring in it, her body became tense.
This time there was no mistake. She had heard a peculiar sound which seemed to come from beneath the floor.
“It sounded like a groan!” Nancy decided. She felt cold all over.
Someone was imprisoned in the cellar! Who? And why?
As Nancy tugged at the ring, another idea came to her. This might be a trap laid for her!
“Oh, what should I do?” she thought, hesitating. There was still time to run away from danger.
But the fear that some person was in distress gave her the courage to open the trap door. As it swung upward, Nancy saw before her a flight of stone steps, leading down into complete darkness. A gust of damp, musty air struck her in the face and momentarily repulsed her.
Nancy glanced nervously at her flashlight. The battery could not last much longer. Already the light was so weak that she could barely see the steps in front of her. Did she dare investigate the cellar?
“It won’t take long,” she thought.
She descended the steps and came to a landing. The rest of the stairway went toward the left. Nancy peered anxiously into the black abyss below.
To her horror, she saw a man stretched out full length on a bench. His face was turned upward and Nancy caught a full glimpse of the countenance.
He was Jacob Aborn!
An Actor’s Ruse
SPELLBOUND, Nancy stood like a stone image, gazing down into the face of Jacob Aborn. How had the man reached the bungalow ahead of her? What was he doing sleeping in the musty cellar of the old shack?
As these thoughts flashed through Nancy’s mind, the beam of her flashlight flickered again. Then it went out, leaving her in total darkness, Sheer panic took possession of the girl detective. Something very strange was going on! She must not be caught in a trap!
Turning, she gave a low cry and stumbled up the stairway and toward the window through which she had entered. Her flight was abruptly checked as she banged one foot on something metallic that moved ahead of her. In a second she smelled kerosene.
“A lantern!” she decided.
The thought of a light gave her hope. She felt around and discovered an old-time oil lantern,
Collecting her wits, she stopped and listened for any sounds of pursuit. There were none. The shack appeared as deserted and silent as before.
“I’m sure that was Jacob Aborn down in the cellar,” Nancy thought in perplexity. “I didn’t imagine it. But how did he get here so fast? After I left his house I didn’t waste much time.” Suddenly an amazing thought came to Nancy. Was the man she had seen by chance a brother, even a twin, of Jacob Aborn? He might be honest and Jacob had found him in the way!
“I’m going to find out!” Nancy declared excitedly.
Eagerly she reached into the pocket of her dress, recalling that at dinner she had taken a pack of matches from the hotel dining table for her souvenir collection. Good! The pack was still there!
Striking a match she was pleased to discover that the lantern was half full of oil. Someone had used it recently, for the glass was clean. Nancy lighted the wick and a flame spurted up. Carrying the lantern, she returned to the trap door.
Suddenly, from below, Nancy heard a moan of pain. This was followed by a pitiful cry of “Help!”
“That settles it,” the worried girl thought.
As she descended the steps, the lantern’s flickering glow revealed that the cellar was dungeon-like, with solid stone walls and no windows.
From below came a pitiful cry of “Help!”
She held the light high above the figure on the bench. A man, deathly pale, was lying where she had first seen him.
But he was not Laura’s guardian!
“There’s certainly a startling resemblance, though,” Nancy thought, her heart filled with pity for this unfortunate stranger.
Dropping to her knees, she felt his pulse. It was faint but regular.
“He’s just unconscious,” she told herself in relief.
At the same time, Nancy saw with horror a large chain around the man’s waist. It was attached to the prisoner in such a way that it allowed him some freedom of motion and yet held him captive. Was Jacob Aborn responsible for this atrocity? Nancy wondered angrily.
“I must do something to revive this man,” she decided, “and get him away from here.”
Picking up the lantern, Nancy mounted the cellar steps two at a time. She headed for a small sink in one corner of the room above, where she had seen a pump.
After a search through the cupboard she at last found a battered tin cup. Quickly pumping water into it, she returned to the cellar.
Nancy wet her handkerchief and applied it gently to the prisoner’s forehead. Then she sprinkled a little of the water on his face and chafed his wrists. The man stirred slightly and moaned.
As she gazed anxiously into his face, Nancy wondered how she could have mistaken him for Jacob Aborn. Although the two men were of the same age, and had similar facial characteristics, the prisoner was gaunt and thin. His features, contrary to Mr. Aborn’s, were gentle and relaxed.
Now Nancy saw that the man was slowly regaining consciousness. As his eyes fluttered open he cried “Help!” feebly, then stared into Nancy’s face, amazed.
“Help has come,” Nancy said quietly.
The man attempted to raise himself to a sitting position with Nancy’s aid. “Didn’t—think— help —would—ever come,” he murmured. Then he saw the cup in Nancy’s hand and asked for water.
Nancy steadied the cup while he drank. Finally the man leaned against the wall. “First water I’ve had in twenty-four hours,” he said more clearly.
The young sleuth was horrified. She introduced herself, then asked, “Who are you—and who did this terrible thing to you?” A bitter expression passed over the prisoner’s face. “I’m Jacob Aborn,” he said. “A crook by the name of Stumpy Dowd took over my house, imprisoned me here, and somehow or other arranged for my new ward, Laura Pendleton, to come to my home earlier than she was expected. Yesterday he told me that he had the girl’s inheritance in his possession—and showed bonds to prove it.” “You’re Jacob Aborn!” Nancy repeated, as the prisoner, exhausted by these words, leaned against the wall.
Quickly Nancy’s mind flashed back to everything that had happened since she had met Laura. The puzzling questions that had bothered her about the girl’s guardian now became clear. Most of all, it was a relief to know that the person to whom Marie Pendleton had entrusted her daughter’s care was not a criminal.
Equally important, Nancy realized that Stephen Dowd—alias Stumpy—used his talent as an actor and skill with make-up to fool other people, and then probably swindled them. The young sleuth wondered if there was a tie-in between Laura’s inheritance and the Monroe National Bank thefts of stocks and bonds. She must find out from Jacob Aborn, but the police should be notified immediately, as well as her father.
Aloud Nancy said, “I want to hear the whole story of what has happened to you, Mr. Aborn, but first—”
Briefly, she told of having met the man who had impersonated him and of seeing Laura at Twin Lakes. Nancy was about to add that Laura was now at her home when Mr. Aborn said: “If Stumpy caught you here once today we’d better get out right now!” He told Nancy that Dowd kept the key to the padlock on his chains on a hook near the stairway.
“This is a lucky break,” said Nancy. She snatched the lantern from the floor and started toward the stairs.
“Please hurry,” Mr. Aborn said faintly. “Stumpy Dowd is a dangerous criminal! He boasted to me that he and his accomplices have victimized several people besides Laura!” Nancy anxiously moved the lantern up and down, illuminating the dingy walls. Just above her head to the left she finally saw the hook, with a key dangling from it.
“I have it!” she exclaimed triumphantly.
As Nancy hurried back to Mr. Aborn’s side she speculated on how the Dowds had found out about Mr. Aborn, his wife, and Laura.
“I’ll have you free in a minute, Mr. Aborn,” Nancy said, as she stooped over the bench.
While she worked on the rusty lock, Nancy asked if he had known the Dowds previously.
“Yes,” he replied. “Mrs. Dowd was hired by my wife as a maid to come when we arrived. Soon after I reached the house her husband came. He grew quite loud and abusive and when I objected he knocked me unconscious. When I came to, I was chained in this cellar.” “How dreadful!” Nancy exclaimed. “But where is your wife?” she asked.
“She had to go to Florida unexpectedly. Her mother, who lives there, had an emergency operation. Marian went down to be with her and I moved into our new home.” Mr. Aborn sighed. “Of course I haven’t heard a word from her since I’ve been tied up here!” “You’ll be able to find out about her now,” Nancy assured him. “Do you know how many people are working with Stumpy Dowd?” “One or two others besides his wife, I believe. Stumpy Dowd is secretive about some things, although he boasted a lot. I did hear him mention the name Fred, but I don’t know who he is.” When the padlock finally snapped open Nancy’s spirits soared. Now the suitcase of securities that Stumpy Dowd had packed could be retrieved. The criminals could be apprehended and her father’s case perhaps solved!
Meanwhile, neither Nancy nor Mr. Aborn had noticed a dark figure creeping slowly down the steps. Near and nearer the man came, a stout cane gripped tightly in his right hand.
“That’s wonderful, Nancy!” Mr. Aborn exclaimed. “Now if I just knew where Laura is.” As he spoke Mr. Aborn glanced up. A look of horror froze his face.
“Look out, Nancy!” he shouted.
A Desperate Situation
THE WARNING came too late. Before Nancy could turn, the end of the cane crashed down on her head. With a low moan of pain, she sagged to the floor and lay still.
How long she remained unconscious, the young sleuth did not know.When at last she opened her eyes Nancy found herself stretched out on the cold floor of the cellar. Bewildered, it was a full minute before she could account for the splitting pain in her head.
Then, with a shudder, the young sleuth remembered what had happened. She had been struck down from behind. Who was her assailant?
Nancy became aware that someone was standing over her, but objects whirled before her eyes and she could not distinguish the face. Then, gradually, her vision cleared. She saw Stumpy Dowd gazing down upon her, a satisfied leer on his face.
“Well, Miss Drew,” he said mockingly, “we meet again. You’ve gotten in my way once too often!”
As Nancy started to speak, Dowd reached down. Catching Nancy by an arm, he jerked her roughly to her feet. Nancy was so weak that she nearly fell over.
Nevertheless, with a show of spirit, she said, “You’ll regret this, I promise you!”
“Let the girl go,” Jacob Aborn pleaded from the other side of the room. “Do anything you like to me, but set her free.” Nancy saw that he was again padlocked.
Stumpy Dowd glared at his other prisoner. “It’s quite impossible for me to release either of you,” he said calmly. “You see, you both know too much.” Nancy was aware that resistance would be useless. Right now she did not have the strength to make a break for the stairs. But as the criminal began to unwind a long rope, Nancy realized that unless she thought of something the situation would be desperate. There would be no way to escape!
As Stumpy began to bind Nancy’s feet together he said sarcastically, “Mr. Aborn will enjoy having company. And you two have so much to talk about.” An idea suddenly came to Nancy. She remembered that a detective who had called on her father a few months before had told her how it was possible to hold one’s hands while being bound so as to slip the bonds later. He had given a demonstration.
“If I can only remember the correct position,” Nancy prayed fervently.
When Dowd began to bind Nancy’s wrists she tried to follow the detective’s instructions. As the ropes cut into her flesh it seemed to Nancy that she must have made a mistake. Certainly there was little space between her wrists and the bonds.
“And now, just to make sure you won’t get away—” Stumpy muttered with a sneer.
He took the end of the rope and ran it through a ring in the wall, knotting the rope fast.
“I guess that will hold you for a while and teach you not to meddle in affairs that are none of your business!” the man added.
Nancy Drew had never been so angry in her life, but she realized that any argument she might give would only provoke the man to further torture. So she set her jaw grimly and kept still.
“You’ll pay for this, Dowd!” Jacob Aborn spoke up in a quavering voice. “When I get free—”
“When you get free!” Stumpy Dowd taunted. “That’s a laugh. Why, you fool, how do you propose to get help? If it hadn’t been for this meddlesome Drew girl only the rats would have known you were here!” Nancy could not help but remark quietly, “The police will catch you in the end.”
“I doubt it,” Dowd said with confidence. “I’ve covered my trail thoroughly. I’ve made plans to leave the country and I’d like to see the police or anyone else catch me!” He turned to Laura’s guardian. “First, of course, we’ll have to get the jewels away from Laura.” “How do you propose to do that,” Nancy asked quickly, “when you don’t know where she is?”
Stumpy Dowd laughed. “That’s what you think. Laura is at your home in River Heights, Nancy Drewl”
As Nancy blinked, a look of horror came into Mr. Aborn’s eyes. Nancy knew he was wondering why she had not mentioned Laura’s being at her home. Also, he realized that his last hope of keeping Laura’s whereabouts unknown was gone.
Nancy, too, was worried. What did Stumpy plan to do? Right now, he looked pleased at his prisoners’ reactions.
“My wife overheard Laura placing a call to Nancy Drew in River Heights yesterday morning. When Laura ran away, we had a hunch she would go there. I asked my detective to find out.” Dowd said the sleuth had seen Laura leaving the house that afternoon with a young man. “I presume she left her jewels behind,” he added. “But we’ll get them before we leave this area!” “Don’t try anything foolish,” Nancy warned.
“All my plans are well made,” Dowd said coolly. “Too bad you aren’t more cautious, Miss Drew.”
He said that his wife had felt a draft in the house and gone downstairs to find the front door part way open. Then she had seen a girl heading into the woods and had awakened him. Dowd had figured out that it might be Nancy.
“That’s the end of my story,” he said, “except to tell you, Aborn, I sold your blue sedan this morning. The money helped pay for my new foreign car.” Jacob Aborn was so furious he almost choked. “You robber! You kidnaper!” he cried out.
“Tut, tut, none of that!” Dowd said. “You’ll get your blood pressure up.”
“Laura’s not in your clutches, and she won’t get there!” Aborn stormed. “And I can support her without any inheritance!” Dowd shrugged. “It won’t do any good to threaten me. You’re my prisoner and don’t forget it! After the jewels are mine—” Nancy felt as if she would choke with rage. Mr. Aborn closed his eyes and seemed to have fainted.
Meanwhile, Stumpy Dowd had replaced the key on the wall—the hook supporting it, Nancy saw, was far out of the two prisoners’ reach.
“You can think of this in the days ahead,” the crook taunted. “And now—good-by!”
Turning, he ambled up the steps. Nancy heard mocking laughter as the trap door was slammed shut. Soon a deathlike quiet fell on the shack.
“Mr. Aborn!” Nancy called.
There was no answer. Nancy’s heart beat wildly. Was the man only in a faint or had something worse happened to him?
Holding her breath, she strained her ears to see if she could detect any sign of life. A few seconds later Nancy caught faint sounds of inhaling and exhaling.
“Thank goodness,” she thought.
Presently the man stirred, and regaining consciousness, looked about. Seeing Nancy, he exclaimed, “Now I remember! We were so near freedom.” “Yes, we were, Mr. Aborn. And we may get out of here yet. I’m trying to slip this rope off my wrists. In the meantime, I want to tell you why I didn’t mention that Laura is at my home. I was about to do so when you urged that we leave the shack as fast as possible.” “I see and I forgive you,” said Mr. Aborn. “Never having met you, Dowd’s announcement gave me a momentary feeling of distrust in you. But that’s gone now.” “Then would you mind telling me about Laura’s mother and the estate she left?” Nancy requested, as she worked to free her hands.
“I’ll be glad to. Mrs. Pendleton appointed the Monroe National Bank executor of her estate and me as Laura’s guardian. During Mrs. Pendleton’s long illness she had all her securities taken from her private safe-deposit box and put in care of the bank. They were turned over to the custodian department and kept in the bank’s personal vault.” “Then how could Stumpy Dowd get them?” Nancy asked.
“That’s the mystery. He didn’t say.”
Nancy was convinced now that a good portion of Laura’s inheritance must be among the securities stolen from the bank. She asked whether Mrs. Pendleton had left a large estate.
Mr. Aborn nodded. “Laura is a very wealthy young woman,” he said, then went on to explain that at the time of Mrs. Pendleton’s death, the Aborns were abroad. Upon their arrival in New York, Mrs. Aborn had received word of her mother’s illness. It was then that Laura had been asked to postpone coming to Melrose Lake until his wife’s return.
“Laura was staying on at her boarding school with the headmistress until our trip to Melrose.”
“She never received your letter,” Nancy told him. “The Dowds must have intercepted it. Soon they told her to come.”
Just then Nancy thought she had found the trick to freeing her hands, but a moment later she sighed in discouragement. The rope still bound her wrists.
“At least we have a light,” she said. Fortunately, Stumpy Dowd had forgotten the lantern.
“Yes, but the oil is burning low,” Mr. Aborn remarked quietly. “When it’s gone we’ll be in the dark—as I have been for the past two weeks.” Nancy shuddered. “Did Stumpy bring you food in little packages?”
“Yes, when he thought of it. He kept me alive just to pump me for information, and threatened to harm Laura if I didn’t tell him what he wanted to know.” Suddenly Nancy felt the rope which chafed her wrists slacken. At the same time the light went out. The cellar was plunged into darkness.
Plans for Rescue
BACK in River Heights, meanwhile, Hannah Gruen had spent a restless and worried evening, expecting to hear Nancy’s convertible pull into the driveway at any moment. Moreover, Mr.
Drew had failed to call at the appointed hour and Hannah had no knowledge of how to contact the lawyer.
At ten thirty, when the front doorbell rang, the housekeeper limped hurriedly to answer it. Instantly she felt a sense of keen disappointment.
“Oh, hello, Laura,” she said, and turned to greet Don Cameron. “Did you have a good time at the barbecue?”
“It was wonderful!” Laura exclaimed happily, as she and Don entered the house.
“Certainly was fun,” Don agreed. “Too bad Nancy wasn’t with us. Where is she, Mrs. Gruen?”
At these words tears welled up in Hannah’s eyes. She told of not hearing from either Nancy or Mr. Drew that evening. “I’m so upset,” she said. “What will we do? Call the police?” “Probably Nancy decided to stay overnight at the Beach Cliff Hotel,” Laura said at once. “Have you called there to find out?” “No, because Nancy always calls when she changes her plans.”
Don, greatly concerned, went at once to the telephone. Impatiently the young man waited for a response to his ring.
The hotel telephone operator answered. When Don asked for Nancy Drew, the girl said, “Just a moment.” It was nearly five minutes before she told him: “We are unable to reach your party. Miss Drew is not in the hotel.”
“Then she didn’t check out earlier this evening?” Don inquired.
“No. Miss Drew is still registered.”
Don Cameron hung up, a drawn expression on his face. He told the others what he had learned.
“Oh, I just know something has happened to Nancy!” Laura cried, her lower lip quivering with nervousness. “And it’s all my fault.” Hannah took the girl into her arms. “You must not feel this way,” she said gently. “Nancy is trying to help you because she wants to.” Don spoke up, “I don’t know whether we should notify the police or drive to Melrose Lake ourselves.”
As the three hesitated, they heard an automobile stop in front of the house. Then a door slammed. Don looked out the window.
“It’s a man,” he said. “He’s coming to the door.”
Don opened the door to Carson Drew, who came inside immediately. He greeted Hannah and Don. Then, after being introduced to Laura Pendleton and bidding her welcome to his home, the lawyer asked: “Where’s Nancy? Upstairs?”
When told that his daughter had not returned from her investigation at Melrose Lake, the lawyer was gravely concerned.
“I don’t like the sound of this at all,” he said. “I had no idea that Nancy was planning to sleuth in Mr. Aborn’s home at night.” “She mentioned something about wanting to pay another visit to a mysterious shack in the woods, Mr. Drew,” Hannah volunteered. “But I don’t know where it’s located.” Carson Drew’s anxiety deepened. “It would be just like Nancy to follow up a good clue,” he said, “particularly if she thinks there is something odd about the shack. She never gives up until she figures out the solution to whatever the problem is.” Despite his worry, Nancy’s father uttered these words proudly. He had often admired the initiative his daughter displayed when she was trying to unravel a mystery.
“I think you’re on the right track, Mr. Drew,” Don Cameron said thoughtfully. “Since Nancy hasn’t returned to the hotel, there are three possibilities—she’s had car trouble, something has happened to her in the woods—” “Or the Aborns have discovered Nancy prowling about their house,” Laura put in fearfully.
“And if that is the case, there’s no telling what they may do to her!”
The girl quickly mentioned a few of the things which had happened in her brief stay at the Aborns.
“I’ll leave for Melrose Lake immediately,” Mr. Drew announced. “If I don’t find Nancy in a very short time, I’m going to notify the police that she’s missing!” The others begged Mr. Drew to let them accompany him. The lawyer thought it best for Hannah to remain at home in case Nancy should call.
“But I’ll be glad to have you accompany me, Laura and Don,” he added.
Don hurried to the telephone to notify his parents of the plan, while Laura went for a coat. Then they went outside and got into Mr. Drew’s car.
“Be sure to call me as soon as you’ve found out something!” Hannah called.
“Don’t worry, we will!”
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