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Mysterious Canoe Mishap

“NANCY DREW I How did you and Helen paddle that canoe up here so fast from River Heights?” cried Doris Drake in astonishment.

Nancy, an attractive titian blond, grinned up at her friend. Doris was weeding a flower garden at her home along the riverbank. “How do you know when we left home?” Nancy’s blue eyes twinkled.

“My friend Phyl told me on the phone just half an hour ago that she’d talked with you, Nancy, at the Elite Drug Store in River Heights.” Nancy looked surprised. “She couldn’t have. Helen and I were on our way here at that time.” Slender, pretty Helen Corning, three years older than Nancy, frowned. “You must have a double, Nancy. Better watch out” “I can’t understand it,” Nancy murmured. “You say Phyl talked to her and she didn’t say it was a mistake?”

“That’s right, Nancy,” said Doris. “But Phyl was wrong, of course. After all, she doesn’t know you terribly well. Say, where are you and Helen going?”

“To visit overnight with Emily Willoughby and her aunt at Lilac Inn. They’re family friends. Emily and her fiance-we’ve never met himhave bought the inn, and Em tells me, plan to run it full time.”

Helen added, “Nancy and I are to be Emily’s bridesmaids. We’ll talk over wedding plans.” “How wonderful!” Doris exclaimed.

Nancy and Helen said good-by and paddled off upstream. The Angus River, a tributary of the Muskoka, was banked on either side with dense shrubbery, willow trees, and wild flowers.

“We’re almost to Benton,” Nancy said. “The old inn should be just beyond the next bend.” The next second something rammed the canoe violently. The impact capsized the craft, hurling Nancy and Helen into the chilly May waterl Fortunately, the girls were excellent swimmers. Each instinctively grasped her buoyant, waterproof canvas traveling bag, bobbing nearby, and swam to a grassy bank.

“Whew” said Nancy, as she dropped her bag to the ground. “Are you all right, Helen?”

Her friend nodded, shivering in her bedraggled shirt and slacks, despite the warm sun. “What made us capsize?”

Nancy shrugged. She kicked off her moccasins and plunged into the water again to find out, and to retrieve the canoe. It was drifting upside down a short distance away.

After righting the canoe, Nancy towed it to where they had overturned. She ducked her head beneath the unruffled surface, but saw nothing unusual in the twenty-foot-deep water.

“That’s strange,” she thought. “Maybe we hit a floating log.” But this explanation did not fully satisfy her. A drifting log probably would be still in sight, and there was none.

Nancy pushed the canoe toward shore. Helen grabbed the stern, and pulled the canoe far enough up the bank so the girls could examine it. To their relief, it was undamaged.

“Did you see that man with the crew cut in the rowboat?” Helen asked.

“No. Where?”

Helen pointed to a small, high dock fifty feet downstream. She said that while Nancy was swimming, the man had climbed from the water into a rowboat, glanced their way, then gone in the opposite direction.

“He didn’t even try to help us” Helen said indignantly. “Do you think maybe he upset our canoe?”

“I don’t see how he could have.” Nancy smiled. “But he has upset you. Let’s go”

The girls stepped back into the canoe and pad dled off. As they rounded the next bend, Helen cried, “There’s the Lilac Inn dock”

When the canoe came abreast of the dock, Nancy secured it to a post. The girls hopped out and started up the path that led to the inn. On both sides of the path were groves of lilac trees which displayed a profusion of blooms, from creamy white to deep purple.

As the girls gazed in delight, a voice called, “Nancyl Helen! I’m so glad to see you. But whatever happened?”

“Emily! Pretend I’m hugging you,” Nancy said with a laugh, and explained their accident. Emily Willoughby, a dainty young woman, had chestnut-colored hair, set off to advantage by her white linen dress.

Beside her stood a handsome, well-built man with wavy, black hair. Nancy and Helen assumed the young man was her fiance, Dick Farnham, but Emily introduced him as John McBride, an old friend of Dick’s.

“John is going to be Dick’s best man,” Emily explained.

John smiled cordially. “Dick and I were boyhood friends in California, and roommates at college. I’m an Army sergeant on a month’s leave.” He looked at the new arrivals with twinkling eyes. “Emily will tell you why I’m here. And I’m sure glad I am.”

“Now don’t go making up to my friends, John,”

dled off. As they rounded the next bend, Helen cried, “There’s the Lilac Inn dock”

When the canoe came abreast of the dock, Nancy secured it to a post. The girls hopped out and started up the path that led to the inn. On both sides of the path were groves of lilac trees which displayed a profusion of blooms, from creamy white to deep purple.

As the girls gazed in delight, a voice called, “Nancyl Helen! I’m so glad to see you. But whatever happened?”

“Emily! Pretend I’m hugging you,” Nancy said with a laugh, and explained their accident. Emily Willoughby, a dainty young woman, had chestnut-colored hair, set off to advantage by her white linen dress.

Beside her stood a handsome, well-built man with wavy, black hair. Nancy and Helen assumed the young man was her fiance, Dick Farnham, but Emily introduced him as John McBride, an old friend of Dick’s.

“John is going to be Dick’s best man,” Emily explained.

John smiled cordially. “Dick and I were boyhood friends in California, and roommates at college. I’m an Army sergeant on a month’s leave.” He looked at the new arrivals with twinkling eyes. “Emily will tell you why I’m here. And I’m sure glad I am.”

“Now don’t go making up to my friends, John,” Emily teased. “Helen is engaged to Jim Archer, who has a position with an oil company overseas, and Nancy-well, she’s mighty busy these days.” The visitors laughed, as Emily added, “You girls change into dry clothes at once.”

John carried their bags, as Emily led the way along a shrubbed path which opened onto the spacious lawn surrounding Lilac Inn. Helen and Nancy looked with admiration at the historic hotel, erected in Revolutionary times.

“Here are the new guest cottages,” Emily said, as they reached a group of twelve trim white units. “And this one is where you’ll stay.” She unlocked the door of the second cottage and the friends stepped inside. John set down the bags. “See you girls later,” he said. As Helen admired the attractive colonial-style bedroom, Nancy noticed a look of anxiety in Emily’s eyes. But the next instant it vanished. Nancy and Helen listened with great interest while their friend said that she and Dick were enlarging the inn. “John has been a big help with our projects. Dick is in New York working on publicity for us.” “I’m sure Lilac Inn will be a bangup success,” Nancy told her.

“Oh, I hope so,” Emily said. For a fleeting moment Nancy again detected a worried look in the young woman’s eyes. Why?

Emily went on, “You’re almost the first guests in our cottage section-John was first. He’s staying near you. The official opening of the inn won’t be until July first. That is, if we can com plete everything by then,” she added dubiously. “If your aunt is here, Em, I’d love to see her,” Nancy said.

“Aunt Hazel’s been looking forward to seeing you. I’ll tell her you’ve arrived. Come over to the inn after you’ve unpacked.”

Nancy and Helen changed into pastel cotton dresses, put away the few belongings they had brought, then headed for the inn. As they walked across the lawn, they passed gardeners who were pruning trees and cultivating flower beds edged with pansies.

beautiful here,” Helen re-“It’s perfectly marked.

The girls went to the front of the inn, a twostory clapboard building with a one-level wing on either side. All around it were lilac trees and other flowering bushes. Nancy and Helen mounted the wide steps and entered the center hall. Its paneled walls, old staircase, and beautiful cut-glass chandelier made them feel as though they had stepped back into an earlier century. The reservation desk was in an alcove off the hallway. John McBride was just putting a letter into the outgoing mail slot.

“Hi” He grinned. “Ready for a tour of inspection? Delighted to escort you.”

“We accept.” Helen smiled. “After Nancy and l I say hello to Emily’s Aunt Hazel.” Just then Emily entered the hall. “Aunt Ha zel is-er-busy, but she’ll be free in a few min. utes. In the meantime, I must speak to Mr. Daly, the former owner of Lilac Inn. He’s staying to manage the dining room, which we’ve kept open for business.”

She led the girls to a narrow corridor which ran ;’ off the lobby. “Why don’t you two wait for Aunt Hazel and me in my office? It’s the fourth door down.”

Nancy and Helen proceeded along the corridor. As they passed the second door, which was partially open, the girls heard a familiar voice say: “I can’t lend you any more money, Maudl Please don’t ask me again” Before Nancy and Helen could retreat, Aunt

Hazel Willoughby walked quickly from the room. She was followed by a younger woman who had angry look on her rather pretty but petulant face. “Nancyl Helen” Emily’s aunt exclaimed, stopping short. “How nice to see you both herel I’m so glad you can be Emily’s attendants.”

“We are too.” Nancy smiled and Helen added,

“Emily’s going to be a lovely bride.”

Mrs. Willoughby, a woman of fifty-five, beamed.

White hair framed her face in soft waves, and she was impeccably groomed. She introduced her ;’ companion as Mrs. Maud Potter, and said she was to be the inn’s social director for the summer. “That sounds exciting,” said Nancy pleasantly. For a moment Maud’s eyes narrowed. Then she tossed her head. “I may not be here July first” she exploded, and walked away rapidly. The girls, somewhat taken aback, looked inquiringly at Mrs. Willoughby. The older woman, flustered, made no explanation. She excused herself and hurried after Maud.

Nancy and Helen exchanged glances. “What a way for a social director to act “ Helen said in disgust. “I wonder why the two women were quarreling about money.” At that moment Emily rejoined the girls and led them into her office. The room was cozy, with a braided rug and pine furniture. The desk in front of the window was cluttered with papers. “Dick’s” Emily laughed. Then she sobered. “He is worried about finances, poor boyl So far he hasn’t been able to raise as much capital as we need,” she confided. “I had a hard time convincing him to agree to a certain idea of mine.” “Can you tell us about it?” Nancy asked. Before Emily could answer, there was a cry of pain from somewhere in the garden. The three girls dashed outside through the front entrance. Apparently one of the gardeners had stumbled into a large hole in a pathway being strewn with gravel. The man was moaning.

“Oh, Hank” Emily gasped.

The girls hurried to his side and discovered than one of his legs had gone down through some soft’: earth.

“Pull me out!” the gardener demanded. With the girls’ assistance, Hank was freed.

“I hope your leg’s not broken,” Emily said solicitously.

Hank shook his head. “Just a bad sprain. L wasn’t lookin’ where I was goin’. What I can’t fig-‘ ure out is how that hole got here. Queer things’; have been goin’ on at this inn. I’m thinkin’ of quit tin’. Anyhow, I’m goin’ home now.” “Oh, don’t quit “ Emily cried.

Several other gardeners had rushed up. All de nied having dug the hole. Emily asked one of t them, a thin, narrow-eyed young man, named Gil ‘ Gary, to drive Hank to his house.

The other men returned to their work, but the ‘ girls remained at the site of the accident. Emily’s .” face was troubled.

Nancy said impulsively, “Something’s bothering you, Em. What is it?”

Emily’s whispered reply astonished her friends.

“Dick and I seem to have a mysterious enemy. He is trying to jinx Lilac Inn”

CHAPTER II Strange Hamenings

A JINX on Lilac Inn! Nancy and Helen stared at Emily in astonishment.

“Tell us about it,” Nancy urged her friend. Emily sighed. “I will. I didn’t want to worry Aunt Hazel, so I’ve kept my suspicions to myself.” The chestnut-haired girl said that four days ago her fiance had left for New York. Prior to that time, everything had been running smoothly at the inn. An hour after Dick’s departure, one of the waitresses had come to Emily’s office to give notice.

“When I asked her why she was dissatisfied, she said it was because the inn was-was haunted” “What did she mean?” Nancy asked. Emily said she had not taken the statement seriously. “At the time I was sure the waitress, Mary Mason, was just making up an excuse for leaving.

She packed and left on the bus to River Heights that day. Now I’m not so sure she hadn’t seen something strange.

“Sunday morning Gil Gary reported that our finest lilac tree near the front entrance had been stolen. No ghost did that”

“What a shame” Helen exclaimed.

“Mr. Daly was heartbroken,” Emily said unhappily. “Several years ago he rooted this lilacthe Lucie Baltet variety with a lovely pinkish flower. It was just beginning to blossom abundantly.

“The third strange occurrence,” Emily continued, “was around twelve o’clock last night. I was awakened by the sound of music and traced it to our record player in the recreation room. No one was there.”

“Perhaps someone at the inn was playing a joke,” Nancy suggested.

“No. Everyone denied this,” Emily answered. “A window in the recreation room was partially open. It looked as though it had been forced. And I know all the windows had been closed earlier.”

There was a thoughtful silence for several seconds, then Emily linked arms with her chums. “I won’t worry you with any more mysteries,” she said. “Let’s have lunch and later concentrate on wedding plans.”

Near the dining-room door Emily stopped to introduce her friends to a kind-faced, white haired man. “This is Mr. Daly, the former owner, whom I told you about. I just couldn’t get along without him. I’m so glad he decided to stay awhile, even though he wants to retire.” “How do you do?” Nancy and Helen smiled and shook hands, then went to a corner table near an old hutch cabinet.

Nancy’s mind was still on the series of events Emily had just related. It did sound as if something peculiar was going on at Lilac Innl

Nancy had learned from her lawyer father, Carson Drew, that a seemingly unrelated chain of events often became a single baffling mystery. The young sleuth had found proof of this in solving several cases herself-her first being The Secret of the Old Clock, and more recently, The Bungalow Mystery.

Mrs. Willoughby and John McBride joined the girls. Emily asked them where Maud was.

“I believe she’s sun-bathing on the dock,” Mrs. Willoughby replied. “She ate an early lunch.” There was a tense note in the woman’s voice which Nancy quickly detected. The girl detective recalled the conversation she and Helen had overheard that morning. Had further trouble developed?

When Anna, the waitress, brought the first course of beef broth, Emily changed the subject abruptly. “Lilac Inn is really a fascinating place,” she said. “The original floors are still intact, and it’s rumored that George Washington ate here in the stagecoach days.”

John smiled. “According to reports, our first president must have eaten at every dining place in this country”

During the luncheon of creamed chicken on toast, peas, salad, and iced tea, Helen asked whether Emily had a neighbor who wore his hair in a crew cut. She explained about the man who had rowed off, instead of coming to the girls’ rescue, when their canoe capsized. Emily and her aunt shook their heads.

“Not a very gallant guy,” John remarked. He asked several questions about the man with the crew cut and seemed very much disappointed when Helen could add nothing more to the description.

Later, Nancy said to John, “Your career in the Army must be interesting. Do you have a special assignment?”

“Wish I could tell you, Nancy. But it’s classified, or confidential, to civilians.”

“I understand.” Nancy smiled. Presently she turned to Emily. “I saw Doris Drake on the way here. Her house isn’t far away, is it?”

“About a mile up the road,” Emily answered. After luncheon Emily offered to show Nancy and Helen around the inn and take them on a tour of the extensive grounds.

“I’ll get the jeep for that trip,” John offered.

Emily showed her friends the parlors and writing room, and the modern wing containing the pine-paneled recreation room.

“Very attractive,” Nancy remarked. She spotted a record player in one corner. “Is that the one the intruder used, Emily?”

“Yes. And here’s the window which I found forced open last night,” Emily pointed out. Next, Nancy and Helen were escorted upstairs to see Emily’s attractive, old-fashioned two-room suite. “When the inn is ready, there’ll be accommodations for fifty guests-“

At this instant a piercing shriek came from the garden. The three girls dashed down the stairs and rushed outside.

“The cry came from near the river,” said Nancy, running in that direction.

John McBride and two gardeners joined them. They made a thorough search, but found no one. Emily turned to Nancy with questioning eyes. “Are you thinking what I am-that the person screamed just to frighten us? And make this place almost seem haunted?”

“Yes. But why? Is someone trying to balk your expansion program here?” Nancy suggested. “Possibly. But I can’t figure out the reason,” Emily replied. “Well, I’ll show you the rest of the house.”

She took the visitors to the far wing, where the kitchen was located. Its gleaming wall ovens and natural-stone colonial fireplace, complete with spit, fascinated Nancy.

“Emily, you’ll have no trouble filling every room in this inn,” she said enthusiastically. “It’s absolutely charming!”

“I hope you’re right,” Emily replied fervently. “If only the mystery haunting this place could be solvedl You’ll help, Nancy?” “I’ll certainly try, Emily.”

The three girls went to the parking lot where John awaited them at the wheel of the jeep. “Hold onto your hats!” he called.

His three hatless passengers grinned as they hopped into the rear seat. The vehicle shot forward and turned into a dirt lane.

Soon they were driving among groves of apple and peach trees. At Emily’s request, John stopped the jeep near an apple tree. She got out to examine the leafy branches. “We’ll have an abundant crop this season,” she commented. “There are lots of tiny apples forming.” John had climbed out also. Suddenly he stooped and examined the ground.

“What are you looking at?” Nancy called to him.

“A big fat beetle.” John laughed.

Nancy chuckled, but she had the feeling that John had been evasive in his reply. As the jeep started off, she looked back. There was a trail of marks leading toward the river.

“They look like flipper tracks,” she thought. “I wonder if John made them or if he suspects someone else did.”

Later, when the young people returned to the inn, they found Maud Potter on the patio. Nancy was amazed at the change in the woman’s manner.

Now she was smiling broadly as she waved a folded newspaper.

“Nancy” she cried effusively. “You’re a skin-diving celebrity!”

“What do you mean?” Nancy asked, puzzled, as Mrs. Willoughby joined the group.

Maud opened the paper and pointed to page one of the River Heights Evening News. “Why, Nancy Drew” Helen exclaimed. “Your picture-and a write-upl You never breathed a word!”

Everyone clustered around to see the picture of Nancy in a bathing suit, diver’s mask, and flippers and the accompanying article. The caption read: Daughter of Local Lawyer, Carson Drew, Learns Her A-B Seas in Skin Diving.

The article went on to tell that Nancy had just completed a course in advanced skin diving in the Muskoka River, and that she had finished first in total points in the twenty-student group.

” When asked by our reporter where she hoped to practice the sport,’ “ John read aloud, “

Miss Drew replied she would like to skin-dive in both salt and fresh water. This writer

strongly suspects that there will be times when she will use her newly acquired knowledge

in solving mysteries at which Miss Drew, we understand, is proficient.”’

With an admiring glance, John said, “Meet a fellow frogman. I practically grew up in flippers.” “Really? Oh, I have a wonderful idea” Nancy said she would still like to find out, if possible, what had upset her canoe so suddenly. “Maybe there is some submerged object I didn’t notice. It could be a hazard to other people in boats. John, why don’t you take a look underwater at that same spot?”

“How about both of us going?” John suggested, smiling.

Emily spoke up. “Nancy, you and Helen must stay here longer. You can work on the mystery and also go skin diving with John.”

Both girls accepted eagerly. “We’ll paddle home tomorrow,” said Nancy, “pick up more clothes and my diving equipment, then come back.”

For the rest of the afternoon, the three girls discussed the subject of gowns to be worn by Emily’s bridal attendants. Nancy and Helen were delighted to learn that the color was to be lilac pink.

“By the way, Em,” Helen said, “do you know where lilacs came from originally?”

Their hostess nodded. “A German traveler brought the flower from the Orient to Europe in the sixteenth century. Eventually the lilac was introduced to America.”

All this time Nancy had noted that Emily was doing her best to seem cheerful, and Maud too continued to act carefree. Emily had arranged a steak cook-out on the patio, and the social director joined in the lively banter. When they finished eating, she brought out a guitar.

“How about some Western tunes?” she suggested gaily.

“Fine. Let’s all sing,” Helen answered.

At eleven o’clock the group said good night and the River Heights girls tumbled into bed.

The next morning Nancy had just finished dressing when there was a knock on the cottage door. John called out:

“Phone call for you, Nancy, at the desk in the lobby. The cottage phones aren’t connected yet.” “Thank you.” Nancy hurried to the lobby and picked up the receiver. “Hello? . . . Why, Hannah! What’s the trouble?”

Hannah Gruen was the Drews’ housekeeper, and had “mothered” Nancy since the age of three when her own mother had passed away.

“Oh, Nancy” Hannah sounded almost hysterical. “Come home right away! Your father isn’t here, and someone broke into the house last night”.

CHAPTER III A Stolen Charge Plate

NANCY was shocked by Hannah’s news. “Have you called the police about the prowler?” she asked the housekeeper.

“No. I wanted to tell you first. I didn’t know what had happened until I carried some clean clothes to your room. The second floor seems to be the only place disturbed.”

Hannah explained that she had tried to reach Mr. Drew at his hotel in Cleveland, where he was working on a case. But the lawyer had been out.

“I’ll be home as soon as possible,” Nancy promised. “In the meantime, please notify Chief McGinnis.”

“I will, Nancy. Good-by.”

Nancy was just about to put down the phone, when she heard a click on the line. Instantly she wondered if someone at Lilac Inn had been purposely listening in on her call.

Before Nancy could speculate further, Emily joined her. Quickly Nancy gave her friend Hannah’s report. “I must borrow a car and go right home,” she said.

Emily expressed concern about the apparent burglary. “I hope nothing valuable was taken. But, Nancy, you must have breakfast before you go.” Emily led the way to the dining room.

Nancy asked her where the other telephones at the inn were located and mentioned the fact that someone might have been eavesdropping on her conversation.

“Every room has an extension,” Emily said. “But the only ones connected right now, besides the desk phone, are in the kitchen, my bedroom, my aunt’s, and the recreation room.”

The young sleuth hastily excused herself. “I’d like to make a few inquiries, Em. Meet me at the table, will you?”

Nancy went into the kitchen. She saw Anna, the waitress, and asked the girl if anyone had used the telephone within the past few minutes. No one had. Then Nancy hurried to the recreation room. It was empty.

When Nancy reached the dining room, she found Emily at the table alone. “Did you learn anything?” Emily asked.


Emily whispered, “I just remembered, Nancy. Maud had her phone hooked up yesterday.”

At that moment Maud came into the dining room. Nancy learned that Maud had just returned from a walk along the river. A few minutes later Mrs. Willoughby, Helen, and John arrived. None had used the phone that morning.

“Guess that click didn’t mean an eavesdropper at the inn,” Nancy thought.

The others were sympathetic upon hearing her reason for returning home immediately. John promptly offered to drive Nancy in the jeep. But Mrs. Willoughby laughed and said, “I can give you a more comfortable ride, Nancy.”

As she started to explain, Anna came to take the orders of those at the table.

“I have to drive to the River Heights Bank this morning,” Mrs. Willoughby went on, “to get

Emily’s diamonds from the safe-deposit box. I’d be delighted to have company.”

Before Nancy could reply, Maud Potter repeated shrilly, “Emily’s diamonds?”

Mrs. Willoughby nodded. “As you know, I’ve been Emily’s guardian for five years, since her parents were killed in the plane crash. Her mother’s will states that she’s to receive the jewels when she’s twenty-one.”

Emily dimpled. “That’s in two weeks. But I coaxed Aunt Hazel into letting me have them earlier. I’m going to sell enough to help Dick and me with expenses at the inn.”

Nancy smiled. “That must be the plan you told me about yesterday.” “That’s right.” Emily’s eyes sparkled.

Maud had been listening intently. She said to Mrs. Willoughby, “You told me there were twenty unset diamonds. I suppose they are worth quite a bit?”

Mrs. Willoughby smiled. “Yes. Over fifty thousand dollars.”

Maud remarked pointedly, “You’d better be careful, Hazel. Some people would love to get their hands on those jewels.”

As soon as Mrs. Willoughby finished her toast and coffee, she arose from the table. “Nancy,” she said, “I’ll get the car.”

The three girls excused themselves and went outside. “Perhaps, Helen,” Nancy said, “you’d like to stay at the inn. I’ll be driving back, and can stop at your house to pick up whatever clothes you need.”

“Thanks, Nancy. I’d like to stay. I’ll phone Mother.”

Emily asked if Nancy would have a chance to do her a favor in River Heights. “I’d ask Aunt

Hazel, but she wants to get back here as soon as possible with my diamonds.”

“I’ll be glad to. What is it, Em?”

“Find out if the Empire Employment Agency

“Did you get Mary Mason through them?” Nancy asked.

“No. She stopped here. But her references were excellent, so I engaged her.” “I’ll be happy to do the errand for you, Emily,” Nancy said.

Mrs. Willoughby pulled up in her black sedan and Nancy climbed in front. John had come outside too.

“Don’t forget,” he said to her, “we have a skin-diving date when you get back.”

At that moment Maud Potter hurried from the inn to the car. “I’ll come along, if you don’t mind,” the social director said blithely.

She hopped in beside Nancy without waiting for an invitation. Mrs. Willoughby’s lips tightened, but she made no comment. Good-bys were exchanged and the car started off.

Soon the sedan was speeding along the main highway. “Any ideas about your burglar?” Maud asked Nancy.

“No,” Nancy admitted. “Except he might have been trying to break into Dad’s safe.”

Maud cocked her head. “Does your father keep important papers at home?”

“Sometimes,” Nancy replied noncommittally. She tried to hide her annoyance at the woman’s in-quisitiveness.

Mrs. Willoughby frowned disapprovingly. “Don’t ask so many questions, Maud.”

The social director shrugged. Once more she turned to Nancy. Arching her eyebrows coyly, she said, “I’d love to meet your dad sometime. I understand he is a widower.”

“This is the last straw” Nancy thought. Though annoyed, she had to suppress a smile at the woman’s remark. Maud Potter certainly was not the type of person to interest her father.

“Dad keeps very busy, and travels a lot on his cases,” Nancy said coolly. “He’s away now.” Maud’s coyness vanished. “I see. No time for social life,” she said sarcastically.

To Nancy’s relief, the woman spoke hardly at all for the balance of the trip. Presently Mrs. Wil-loughby pulled up into the winding driveway of the Drews’ handsome brick home, surrounded by a velvety green lawn.

Nancy expressed her thanks for the ride and said good-by. She hurried into the house, for the moment forgetting Lilac Inn completely. Hannah Gruen greeted her with, “Oh, Nancy dear. I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve been frantic” Nancy hugged the pleasant-faced woman, who said that Police Chief McGinnis had stopped at the house to investigate the burglary.

“No silver or other valuables are missing,” Hannah went on. “But your room is a mess. Whoever was here must have been after something you keep there.” The woman frowned worriedly. Nancy dashed up the stairs. What a sight met her eyes as she entered her room! Bureau and chest drawers were open, their contents spilling out. Perfume bottles lay overturned on her dressing table. Clothes had been pulled from the closet and flung onto the bed and floor. Mrs. Gruen, who had followed Nancy, explained, “Chief McGinnis wanted me to leave everything like this for you to see.”

Nancy nodded. “How was the house entered?” “Through the back door,” Hannah replied. “The chief said the intruder must be an expert lock picker and burglar. He left no fingerprints.” Nancy hurried into her father’s bedroom. Nothing here had been disturbed apparently. She went into the adjoining den and was relieved to see that the thief had not broken into the safe.

“The only thing missing from here is my picture,” Nancy reported to Hannah.

“Oh, dear! What does it all mean?” the housekeeper asked worriedly.

Before Nancy could continue, the phone rang, and she answered it.

“Miss Nancy Drew?” a woman asked.

“Yes. “This is Burk’s Department Store. I’m Mrs. Reilly of the fine jewelry department. I made a terrible mistake when I sold you that watch this morning. The price was one hundred and twentyfive dollars, not fifty as I told you. Do you still want to keep it?”

Utterly astounded, Nancy said, “Mrs. Reilly, I didn’t buy a watch this morning! I was out of town.”

“Isn’t your charge account number 10-4875?”

“Wait, please. I’ll check.”

Nancy hurried to open the desk drawer where she had put Burk’s charge plate. Its leather case was there, but the metal plate was not inside. “It has been stolen!” Nancy exclaimed.

With a sense of foreboding, she returned to the phone. “I’ll drive right down to see the manager,” Nancy said. “My charge plate has been stolen, I’m afraid.”

Nancy paused long enough to tell Hannah of her discovery, and to notify Chief McGinnis. The officer said he would meet her at the store manager’s office.

Just as she was about to enter Burk’s, Nancy stopped short. To her amazement, she saw Maud Potter entering the Empire Employment Agency office across the street.

“Now what’s up?” Nancy wondered. “Is Maud trying to engage a waitress for the inn, too?” Puzzled, she hurried into the department store and took an elevator to the third-floor office of the manager, Mr. Goldsmith.

“I’m Nancy Drew,” she greeted him pleasantly. “I want to explain-“

She got no further. With a stern look, the manager said curtly, “I know all about the watch


claim not to have bought early this morning. But how about those other items you carried away?” Dumfounded, Nancy could only echo, “Other items?”

Grimly the manager continued, “I don’t know what your game is, Miss Drew. But unless you have a twin, you owe Burk’s Department Store for merchandise worth two thousand dollars”.

CHAPTER IV Address Unknown

NANCY felt she must be dreaming. Not only had the thief charged two thousand dollars to her account, but the store manager seemed to believe that Nancy herself had made the purchases.

“I must have a double” she thought. “Doris Drake’s friend Phyl was right in thinking she was talking to me. Someone is impersonating me. It’s possible this person or a friend of hers broke into our house, took the charge plate, and some of my clothes for her to wear”

Outwardly, Nancy tried to appear calm. “I couldn’t have bought those things, Mr.

Goldsmith,” she insisted. “This is the first time today I’ve been in Burk’s.”

For answer, the manager pressed a buzzer. Three women entered. He introduced them as

Mrs. Reilly, Miss Coogan, and Mrs. Watson. “Mrs. Reilly sold you the watch,” said Mr.

Goldsmith. “From Miss Coogan you bought an expensive mink stole. Next, you purchased two high-priced dresses in Mrs. Watson’s department. Ladies, do you identify this girl?”

The saleswomen nodded. Each one identified her as Nancy Drew, the young woman she had waited on, and who had signed sales slips for each purchase.

“This is preposterous” Nancy cried, her blue eyes flashing. “Someone is impersonating me. She stole my charge plate. I want to see those sales slips.” Just then, to Nancy’s relief, Chief McGinnis entered the office. He and the Drews were old friends, and he greeted Nancy cordially.

Mr. Goldsmith spoke up. “Glad you’re here, Chief. I was just going to call you.” He explained what had happened.

The police officer replied calmly, “If Nancy Drew says she didn’t buy anything, she didn’t. Let’s get down to facts, Mr. Goldsmith. I’m here to help Miss Drew, and Burk’s also.”

The chief quizzed the salesclerks briefly. After hearing their stories, he said gravely, “Nancy, I’m afraid this young woman who resembles you so closely-and forged your signature on the sales slips-may continue to take advantage of it.”

Nancy smiled ruefully. “I realize that.” She was more convinced of this than ever when the sales


slips were brought to the office. The forgery was excellent. Nancy’s impersonator must have carefully practiced the signature on the charge plate.

Mr. Goldsmith sighed wearily. “I’m sorry, Miss Drew, about this whole matter, and that I suspected you of dishonesty.”

“That’s all right,” she replied. “The main thing is to track down the culprit and get back your stolen property.”

She asked the clerks what her “twin” had been wearing. “It was a lovely light-blue dress,” replied Mrs. Reilly. “Printed silk, with white flowers.”

Nancy gasped. “I have a dress like that. And I don’t remember seeing it in my closet today.” “The woman no doubt took it,” the police chief said, frowning. “Nancy, be very careful. This impersonation may mean not only annoyance, but possible danger for you.”

Mr. Goldsmith promised that Burk’s private detective and all the store’s sales personnel would be on the lookout for Nancy’s unknown double.

As the young sleuth left the store with Chief McGinnis, she said to him, “I wonder if this person actually is my double or is only cleverly made up to resemble me.”

The officer frowned. “If it’s the latter, the thief will be harder to catch. She may not pose as Nancy Drew again for some time. But I’ll have my men start working on the case from every possible angle.” He admitted that no clues to the thief at the Drew home had been found. “I’ll post a twenty-four-hour guard at your home.”

“Good,” Nancy said. “Hannah will feel much better, since I have to return to Lilac Inn this afternoon, and Dad’s away.” Nancy said good-by to the chief and hurried across the street to the employment agency. She wondered if by chance Maud Potter might still be . there.

But when Nancy entered the office, the only person there was the woman manager, seated at a desk.

“Can I help you?” she asked Nancy.

“I’m here at the request of the new owners of Lilac Inn,” Nancy replied. “Has anyone else been in to ask about a waitress to work out there?” “No.”

As Nancy asked her next question, she was thinking, “Why was Maud in here?” Aloud she said, “Have you any waitresses on your list?”

“Not at present. We’ll call you if any apply.” On impulse, Nancy asked her, “Could you tell me if you’ve ever had a Miss Mary Mason on your waitress list?”

The woman opened a nearby file and flipped through a folder. “No, we haven’t.”

Nancy thanked the manager and left the agency. When she arrived home and told Hannah the latest developments, the housekeeper was more upset than ever.

“I feel in my bones that this impersonator is up to something sinister,” she declared. “I wish your dad were home.”

“You’ll be safe here, Hannah,” Nancy said as-suringly, and told Mrs. Gruen that a policeman would be assigned to guard the house. “And speaking of Dad, I’m going to call him right now and ask him if he took that picture of me with him.”

“While you do that, I’ll fix some lunch for us,” Mrs. Gruen offered. “You must be starved. It’s two o’clock.”

Nancy went to the hall telephone and a minute later was requesting the switchboard operator at the Cleveland hotel to ring Mr. Drew’s room.

“Hello?” came the lawyer’s deep, resonant voice.

“Hi, Dadl How good to hear you” Nancy said happily.

She gave him an account of the burglary and succeeding events. Carson Drew was greatly concerned. “Nancy,” he added in a troubled voice, “I didn’t bring your photograph with me. Your double must have taken it. She has already fooled four persons who don’t know you well. With the help of the picture, she may try something bolder,” he stated.

“You think this girl has some ulterior motive other than faking my charge account, don’t you, Dad?”

“I’m afraid so. Be on your guard, Nancy. Try to stay with a group as much as possible,

particularly after you return to Lilac Inn.”

The lawyer added that he would be home the next day. “I’ll look into the whole affair then.” Nancy promised to be careful and said good-by. She and Hannah sat down and ate lunch. Finally Nancy said she had to pack and leave.

“But first I’m going to try locating that waitress Mary Mason.” Nancy picked up the telephone directory and thumbed through it until she reached the M’s. She called two families named Mason, but each denied having a relative Mary. “Probably,” Nancy surmised, “Mary did not live in this area.”

Deep in thought she went upstairs and took a suitcase from her closet. Nancy quickly placed additional garments in it, then gathered up her skin-diving equipment: green rubber fins, a diving mask, and an aqualung. Finally, Nancy packed a rubber suit which would insulate her body against the cold river water, and an underwater camera her father had given her.

Nancy kissed Hannah good-by and got into her convertible. She drove to the Cornings’ home and picked up Helen’s suitcase, then set out for Lilac Inn.

Her thoughts revolved around the mystery out there and also on the problem of her impersonator. “No one could look enough like me to be absolutely identical. Why, even identical twins 5 have distinguishing characteristics,” she told herself with a smile, “such as the shape of fingernails, voice tones, and facial expressions.”

The late-afternoon traffic on the highway to Benton was becoming heavy. Nancy turned from the main road onto a very narrow, less-used one. Presently, in her mirror, she saw a red panel truck behind her coming along at an alarming speed. Nancy, at the same time, noted an arrow indicating a sharp curve ahead. She braked and motioned the truck driver to slow down.

Either he did not see her signal, or was ignoring it. Instead of slowing down, the truck’s speed increased, as if to pass her. The curve was not wide enough for two cars to go side by side. On Nancy’s right was a deep ditch, filled with water. She had no choice but to start around the curve. To her horror, the other vehicle was already edging around her left fender. Nancy glimpsed a chrome eagle ornament on the truck’s hood. A split second later her convertible was forced over into the ditch.

CHAPTER V Blackout!

As NANCY’S convertible leaned precariously, its right wheels in the ditch, the panel truck roared on around the bend and out of sight. Nancy braked her car to a stop, thankful it had not turned over.

“That driver ought to have his license re-voked” she thought indignantly. She knew it would be difficult to get out of the muddy ditch. “Well, I’ll have a try,” she decided. “Here goes”

She tried to rock the car gently back and forth to gain momentum. The right tires spun crazily and sank lower into the mire.

Nancy tried again. No use. She feared it might be some time before a car would come along in this deserted area. Finally she decided to search for some objects to force under the right wheels for traction. Just then, Nancy heard an automobile approaching.

“Thank goodness” she murmured a moment later. “A State Police car.”

It drew up and parked at the side of the road. A young officer hopped out.

“Having trouble, miss’?” he asked. “Lieutenant Brice, Benton State Police Barracks,” he said pleasantly.

Nancy introduced herself, then explained. He asked if she had noted the truck’s license plates. “No,” she replied, but described the truck and the chrome eagle ornament on its hood.

Lieutenant Brice said that if he found the truck, he would see that the driver was brought to court.

“I have a tow chain in my car. I’ll try to pull you out. Keep the engine in gear.”

Five minutes later the convertible was out of the ditch. Nancy thanked the trooper for his help, then drove off.

It was almost six o’clock when Nancy pulled into the Lilac Inn parking lot. She went at once to the patio, where the Willoughbys, Maud, Helen, and John were gathered.

“I’m glad you could return in time for supper, Nancy,” said Mrs. Willoughby.

The others plied the girl detective with questions about the Drews’ burglar. Nancy gave an account of her day’s experiences, concluding with the reckless truck driver.

“Why, how terrible!” Emily exclaimed.

“The nerve of someone impersonating you” Helen bristled.

Nancy smiled wryly. “I’d certainly like to know what the girl’s purpose is.”

Abruptly, Maud changed the subject. To Emily she said, “I dropped into the Empire Employment Agency this morning. A waitress walked in to apply, so I told her to report here tomorrow for an interview. Her name is Jean Holmes.”

“But I asked-“ Emily broke off when Nancy gave her a warning look.

Maud evidently did not notice this, and added sweetly, “I knew another waitress was needed here. I just wanted to make myself useful.”

“I see. Thank you,” Emily said coolly. Later, after Maud had excused herself to dress for supper, Emily burst out, “Maud makes me so angryl Why doesn’t she tend to her own job” “Don’t pick on her, dear” Mrs. Willoughby retorted. “She’s had a hard enough time lately.” Rising, Emily’s aunt said she wanted to confer with Mr. Daly and went off.

The four young people were left alone. Nancy asked Emily how Maud had been chosen as social director for Lilac Inn.

“Aunt Hazel asked us to,” Emily replied. In a whisper she added, “I wish Maud would concentrate more on our recreational program. Nancy, why did you give me the high-sign?” Nancy told of having seen Maud enter the agency, and of being informed by the manager later that no one had inquired about a waitress. Emily sighed. “I’ll be so glad when Dick gets back. Especially if any more strange things happen around here.”

“Emily, you’ve nothing to worry about,” John declared. “Everything will be fine.”

The young man stood up, saying he had a supper engagement in town. “Sorry I’ll miss the festivities, Emily. I’ll see your glittering gems later.”

Emily, her face brightening, explained to Nancy that her aunt had planned a festive meal that evening. “To celebrate my receiving the diamonds.”

“That’ll be fun,” Nancy said. “Helen, let’s go now and change our clothes.”

The two girls took the suitcases from Nancy’s convertible. As they unpacked in the cottage and dressed, Helen discussed Nancy’s impersonator.

“It’s positively creepy, Nancy,” she said worriedly. “Your double doesn’t sound like an ordinary thief.”

The girls quickly finished dressing. Nancy had put on a pink sheath dress and pumps. Helen wore an aqua organdy. They went to the patio where Emily joined them a minute later. She said that Jean Holmes, the waitress, had arrived unexpectedly for her interview. The girl had explained that she had heard of a second position, and wanted to make a decision immediately.

“Jean seems quite satisfactory,” Emily stated. “She’ll move in here tomorrow and start work.” Maud Potter joined the girls. “I’m so glad you approve my choice, Emily,” she said ingratiatingly. “Now, let’s have supper and see your diamonds.”

Emily led the group to a small private dining room which opened off the larger room and overlooked a garden. They said good evening to Mr. Daly who stood just outside the connecting door.

Mrs. Willoughby was waiting for them near an open window and greeted Emily with a “Happy Birthday in advance, dear!”

“Oh, thank you, Aunt Hazel. Everything looks divine”

All the girls admired the table, set with gleaming silver, a creamy lace cloth, and a beautiful birthday cake surrounded by red roses for a centerpiece. Soft light from colonial wall fixtures completed the picture, as shadows danced on the old paneled walls.

Emily’s aunt beamed. “I want everything to be perfect tonight,” she said.

Mrs. Willoughby sat at one end of the table, her back to the open windows, Emily opposite her. By the time the main course was finished, it was almost dark outside. Then the candles were lighted on the cake and everyone joined in singing “Happy Birthday” as Emily blew out the candles. After dessert, Mrs. Willoughby asked Mr. Daly to close the door to the private dining room. The elderly man nodded understandingly and shut the door.

Mrs. Willoughby withdrew a white velvet jewel case from her handbag. Getting up, she went to place it on the table before Emily, then returned to her chair. With a smile she said: “This is a wonderful moment for you, Emily dear-the inheritance from your mother. I only hope these gems will bring you happiness.”

Nancy noticed that Emily’s hands trembled slightly as she opened the case. Everyone gasped. Against the white satin lining were the twenty diamonds which glowed and flashed. “Oh” Emily exclaimed. “Aren’t they beautifu” She set the box on the table.

Maud stared in fascination, and Nancy and Helen expressed their delight at Emily’s good fortune. Nancy realized what the sale of these gems would mean in financial assistance to Lilac Inn.

Emily arose and gave her aunt a hug and kiss. “Oh, Aunt Hazel, you’re a love. I’m sure

Mother would understand my wanting to use the gems for my future and Dick’s.”

Suddenly the group was startled by a clattering crash from the adjoining dining room. Simultaneously, the lights went out. Nancy hurriedly rose and flicked the wall switch back and forth, but the room remained dark.

“Mr. Daly,” called Emily, opening the door,

“will you please check the fuse lar?” a main circuit’s “I will,” he replied. “I think blown-all our lights are out.”

“Oh, dear,” fretted Mrs. Willoughby. “What a trying bother”

“Yes. These old buildings are so undependable,” Maud said crossly. “Something’s always breaking down.”

“This can happen in a modern one, too,” Nancy said in defense of Lilac Inn. Maud merely sniffed in annoyance.

To everyone’s relief, John was heard shouting from the garden, “Hold everythingl I’ll be right in” But as John stepped through the open window, the lights came on again. The next instant Emily, returning to her chair, gave a horrified cry.

“My diamondsl They’re gone!” The others gasped in disbelief. Hazel Willoughby, ash-white, stared at the place on the table where the velvet case had rested. Then she pitched forward in a faint.

“Oh” Emily sobbed fearfully. “Your aunt will be all right,” said Nancy, who had jumped up. Quickly she and Helen dampened napkins with ice water from the tumblers and applied these to the woman’s head and wrists. In a few seconds Mrs. Willoughby revived.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized weakly. “Such an flh khdi d ihi i hi air. 21

Emily insisted that her aunt go to her room and lie down.

“I’ll be all right, dear. Really. What do we do now’” Mrs. Willoughby looked around helplessly. “We’d better keep this to ourselves,” John said.

“Otherwise, dinner guests will be upset. I’ll check

outside for prowlers. However, the thief didn’t go out this window.”

Nancy decided to do some sleuthing for the thief in the building and hurried into the main dining room. The only guests were two elderly women, waiting to pay their bill. Nancy learned from them that the waitress Anna had accidentally dropped a tray, which caused the clattering noise just before the lights went out. The ladies were sure that no one else but Mr. Daly had been in the room at the time.

Nancy next went into the kitchen, where the cooks and waitresses were cleaning up after the evening meal. The girl detective asked where each of them had been when the inn was plunged into darkness. All the women except Anna replied that they had been in the kitchen.

Anna gave Nancy a curious look. “Why do you ask?”

The young detective explained that Emily

Willoughby wanted to be sure no one had been hurt by an unexpected fall during the blackout. Nancy left the kitchen and hurriedly went through the other first-floor rooms, but saw no one. As she walked back toward the private dining room, Nancy met Mr. Daly in the lobby. He told her that he had found nothing wrong with the lighting system.

“I can’t understand what happened,” he said, then added, “I just heard from Emily about the missing jewels. How dreadfu”

John came in at that moment and said he had found no prowler on the grounds. “By this time the jewel thief is undoubtedly far away,” he concluded.

As Nancy returned with him to the private dining room, she was deep in thought. Logically, the only ones who could have taken the diamonds were she and her four dining companions” But that’s absolutely unlikely,” Nancy told herself. She reported her findings to the others.

Maud Potter’s eyes narrowed. “I suppose you think Emily should search us” she said nastily to Nancy.

“Maud” Emily protested. “Nancy meant no such thing.”

Maud paid no attention, but turned on Mrs. Willoughby, who was still pale. “You can blame yourself, Hazel-announcing in a public dining room this morning that you were going to get Emily’s diamonds”

hurt by an unexpected fall during the blackout. Nancy left the kitchen and hurriedly went through the other first-floor rooms, but saw no one. As she walked back toward the private dining room, Nancy met Mr. Daly in the lobby. He told her that he had found nothing wrong with the lighting system.

“I can’t understand what happened,” he said, then added, “I just heard from Emily about the missing jewels. How dreadfu”

John came in at that moment and said he had found no prowler on the grounds. “By this time the jewel thief is undoubtedly far away,” he concluded.

As Nancy returned with him to the private dining room, she was deep in thought. Logically, the only ones who could have taken the diamonds were she and her four dining companions “But that’s absolutely unlikely,” Nancy told herself. She reported her findings to the others.

Maud Potter’s eyes narrowed. “I suppose you think Emily should search us” she said nastily to Nancy.

“Maud” Emily protested. “Nancy meant no such thing.”

Maud paid no attention, but turned on Mrs. Willoughby, who was still pale. “You can blame yourself, Hazel-announcing in a public dining room this morning that you were going to get Emily’s diamonds”

“I know.” Mrs. Willoughby sighed. But Emily put a comforting arm around her, and gave Maud a look of disapproval.

“Let’s all search this room,” Nancy proposed quickly. “We might find some clue.”

Everyone but Maud readily agreed. She sat sullen-faced, while the others looked carefully in corners and under tables and chairs.

Nancy herself was scrutinizing the area where Emily had sat. Suddenly her keen eyes spotted three tiny pale-purple lilac buds on the floor. One -two-three-she counted, then saw a fourth bud lying; near the wall to the right of Emily’s chair. Aside from the centerpiece, there were no other flowers in the room.

“How did lilac buds get in here?” Nancy mused. There was no sign of footprints near them. Saying nothing, Nancy picked one up. It was fresh. She looked at the wall thoughtfully and closely.

Everyone watched in amazement as the titian-blond girl began to tap the wall, then listen intently.

Nancy motioned them- not to say a word. She continued tapping, until she tried one spot which sounded different. It had a hollow ring. Nancy pressed against the wooden wall. Suddenly a panel slid aside noiselessly.

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