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CHAPTER VI

Uncanny Recoveries

JOHN and the others gaped in astonishment as the panel in the wall slid open. “Nancy, you’re terrific” John exclaimed, handing her his flashlight.

Everyone crowded behind Nancy, as she beamed the light into a wood-walled closet. It had a musty odor.

“I don’t remember seeing this in the floor plans of the inn,” Emily said, puz71ed, as Nancy stooped and shone the flash on something on the floor. It was a crushed, but still fresh lilac flowerl “It was those other blossoms which made me think there might be a concealed entrance into this room.”

“Nancy, you’re a genius,” said Mrs. Willoughby. “I never dreamed this spot was here. The thief must have been biding in the closet.” “But where did he go?” John asked.

Nancy was feeling the rear wall of the closet. Her fingers touched a small metal latch. She turned it. A second panel slid open soundlessly. Beyond was the coat closet off the lobby of the inn 1 “This must be how the jewel thief got in and out of this dining room,” Nancy announced. She walked on into the lobby, followed by the others.

“Look” Helen exclaimed, and pointed to a lilac bud near the front door.

Nancy examined the bud which proved to be fresh and moist. “The thief probably wore a sprig of lilacs. That makes me think the person was a woman.”

Mr. Daly agreed with Nancy. He admitted that he had not known of the hidden closet, and was perplexed as to who could have learned of it.

“These panel openings must have fallen into disuse before I purchased the inn,” he remarked. “One thing’s certain,” said Nancy. “The thief not only has an intimate knowledge of the original floor plan of Lilac Inn but also knew two other things: that Emily was to receive her diamonds tonight, and where Mrs. Willoughby was to present them.”

“Too bad I didn’t get back sooner tonight,” said John, frowning. “I might have met the thief. Incidentally, she must have had an accomplice to work the lighting system.”

“But how could they communicate at just the Nancy was feeling the rear wall of the closet. Her fingers touched a small metal latch. She turned it. A second panel slid open soundlessly. Beyond was the coat closet off the lobby of the inn 1 “This must be how the jewel thief got in and out of this dining room,” Nancy announced. She walked on into the lobby, followed by the others.

“Look” Helen exclaimed, and pointed to a lilac bud near the front door.

Nancy examined the bud which proved to be fresh and moist. “The thief probably wore a sprig of lilacs. That makes me think the person was a woman.”

Mr. Daly agreed with Nancy. He admitted that he had not known of the hidden closet, and was perplexed as to who could have learned of it.

“These panel openings must have fallen into disuse before I purchased the inn,” he remarked. “One thing’s certain,” said Nancy. “The thief not only has an intimate knowledge of the original floor plan of Lilac Inn but also knew two other things: that Emily was to receive her diamonds tonight, and where Mrs. Willoughby was to present them.”

“Too bad I didn’t get back sooner tonight,” said John, frowning. “I might have met the thief.

Incidentally, she must have had an accomplice to work the lighting system.”

“But how could they communicate at just the right moment if one of them was in the cellar?” Helen asked.

“I can answer that,” said Mr. Daly. “The panel board for the light control is directly under that private dining room. The floor is worn so thin that conversation upstairs can be heard down there.”

Nancy nodded. “After the person in the cellar was sure the thief was hidden again, he or she turned on the lights to make the whole thing look like a temporary outside power failure.” “What shall we do now?” Maud asked nervously.

“Call the police immediately,” Nancy advised.

“Not” Emily cried out.

Emily Everyone looked at her in surprise.

flushed, but remained adamant. “If people hear we’ve had a robbery,” she argued, “it may discourage them from coming to Lilac Inn. Calling in the police will mean newspaper publicity. Dick and I have worked too hard to risk it.” “It will be a shame if you don’t recover the diamonds,” Helen spoke up. “But if you report the theft, at least you can collect the insurance, Emily, and use that money for the inn as you planned.” At this remark Mrs. Willoughby’s face again turned ash-white and the others thought she was about to faint again. “Insurance. Insurance,” she said hoarsely. “There isn’t anyl I thought the jewels were safe in the bank vault and let the insurance policy lapse” Everyone listening was stunned and tears came to Emily’s eyes. She turned to Nancy and asked in a trembling voice, “What shall I do?”

It was Helen who spoke up. “Have Nancy take over the case of your missing diamonds, Emily. I guarantee she’ll unearth them”

All the others backed Helen’s suggestion eagerly except Maud. The social director merely raised her eyebrows.

The amateur sleuth smiled. “I’ll be glad to do what I can, Emily, but this is a big assignment. If I don’t succeed very soon, will you promise to notify the police?”

“It’s a bargain, Nancy.”

John whistled. “Miss Nancy Drew, detective, you’re not going to have much time for skin diving.”

Nancy laughed. “I’ll find time.”

John cautioned the Willoughbys to make sure all first-floor doors and windows were kept locked at night. He himself went outside to make another tour of the grounds. Emily reassured her unhappy aunt and persuaded her to go to bed. Maud said she would follow. andT dhoorh locksi iln tdh e vidardious rhoomks.h Emiilyd took , the kitchen and offices, while Nancy and Helen headed for the other rooms. Minutes later they met in the lobby to report everything locked. Helen gave a huge sigh. “Nancy, aren’t you exhausted after all this excitement?”

Nancy admitted that she was a bit tired. “Two burglaries in one day and a car mishap are quite enough.” She smiled wearily. “Helen, what’s your theory about the theft of Emily’s diamonds?”

The dark-haired girl hesitated. “I’m sure it’s an outside job but-“

“Out with it, Miss Corning,” Nancy urged. “Whom do you suspect?”

“John McBride” her friend blurted. “I like him very much, but he was away most of today. Yet Emily said he was here to help fix up the inn during Dick’s absence.”

“Yes, she did,” Nancy admitted. “But I can’t believe John has anything to do with either the theft or the mysterious happenings at Lilac Inn.”

The young sleuth’s eyes had been roving back and forth across the floor, since it was instinctive with her to be hunting for clues whenever a mystery confronted her. Something glinted in a corner under a chair. She went to pick it up as Emily came into the lobby.

“What is it?” Emily asked.

“Believe it or not, it’s my stolen charge plate” Nancy answered. “I may be jumping to conclusions, but I’m sure now that my impersonator is the jewel thief. She dropped the charge plate from her pocket or purse, probably when she put the jewel case in it.”

“This is positively eerie,” Helen remarked. “Maybe that fake Nancy dropped something else.” The girls started a search and presently Helen found a tiny envelope, farther under the chair. Nancy’s name and address were typed on itl “The charge plate must have been in this and slid out,” she said. “My impersonator must have decided to type the envelope to be sure that she did not make a mistake when the clerks at Burk’s Department Store asked for her address for the sales slips. I notice the letter a is faint.”

Suddenly Nancy chuckled. “Em, you didn’t want the police notified about the jewel theft, but here’s a chance to get police help without telling them.”

“How?”

“Chief McGinnis knows that my charge plate was stolen by an impersonator,” Nancy answered. “With this typed clue, maybe he can find her. And I suspect that when he does, your thief will be caught” Nancy called Chief McGinnis at his home. She told him about the charge plate and envelope, and her suspicion that her impersonator, though not known to the inn’s owners, must have been there.

“Please send the plate and envelope to me for fingerprint analysis,” Chief McGinnis requested. Nancy promised she would and hung up, wishing she could have reported the jewel theft to him. It was after eleven o’clock when Helen and Nancy said good night to Emily and walked to their cottage. Both girls fell asleep almost as soon as their heads touched the pillows. But around three in the morning, Nancy was partially awakened by a noise.

“What was that?” she thought, looking around the cottage with sleepy eyes. She listened. But all was silent now. Finally Nancy went back to sleep.

She awoke at seven. Helen was still asleep. Nancy put on a casual sweater and skirt and loafers. She tiptoed from the cabin and headed for the inn. No one else seemed to be outside.

For the next half hour Nancy looked near the front door for footprints, lilac buds, or anything else to give her a clue to the jewel thief. She found nothing.

She strolled around back and met Hank, the gardener, who greeted her pleasantly and said he had decided not to give up his job. “My injured leg’s better. But I have other worries now,” he said. “Some outdoor equipment was taken last night from the tool shed.”

“Really?” said Nancy. “What?”

Hank led her to the small wooden structure used by the outdoor workers. “We’re missing several shovels, rakes, some wire, and small parts,” said Hank. “But worst of all, an expensive jig saw that Mr. Farnham just bought is gone.” “More thefts,” thought Nancy. Aloud she asked, “Is the shed locked at night?” Hank said it was, and that he was responsible .a for securing the shed after work. “Probably none of the other men thought to ask Miss Willoughby 11 for the spare key to lock up when I wasn’t here.” Nancy examined the soft dirt outside the shed. There were a number of footprints, all blurred and leading in different directions. As Jim, Gil, and Luke-the three other gardeners-reported for work, Nancy questioned each of them in turn. They confessed that they had forgotten to lock the shed, and said they had no idea who might have taken the tools. Before Nancy left the men, she suggested that Hank search the grounds once more before reporting the theft. As Nancy started up the front porch steps of the a inn a few minutes later, she was hailed by John McBride. “Look what I found!” he cried triumphantly. He held out Emily’s white velvet jewel case!

CHAPTER VII A Diver in Peril

“JOHN, you found the diamonds” Nancy exclaimed.

The young man opened the case and displayed its contents. The twenty diamonds, of various sizes, glinted in the morning sunlight.

“Astounding, isn’t it?” John grinned, adding that he had found the case under one of the lobby windows. “I must have missed it last night.”

“Will you show me the spot, please? I must have missed it too.”

John led Nancy to a clump of China-blue lilac bushes, and pointed out the place where he had found the case.

“The thief must have dropped this, but I can’t figure out why she didn’t come back for it,” John remarked.

“She may not have known until later that she had dropped it. By that time she probably was afraid of being caught,” Nancy replied. Just then Emily came outside. She was beside herself with joy upon seeing the jewels. “John, you’re a darling!” she cried. “Let’s go to the patio and tell the others.”

“Isn’t this wonderful?” Mrs. Willoughby exclaimed. “And none of the diamonds is missing” she added, counting.

“Are you sure?” Maud gave John and Nancy suspicious looks.

Nancy was about to make a sharp retort but refrained. The social director seemed determined to be unpleasant, and the young sleuth decided to ignore her insinuating remark. John just looked amused.

“Aunt Hazel,” said Emily, “I think these jewels should be put in a safe place at once. Since I’m going to sell them, I think our jeweler friend in Benton, Mr. Fabian, is the person to keep them. And he can also make a new appraisal of the diamonds.”

Emily’s aunt nodded. “I’m so happy for you, dear.” Emily continued, “I might sell a few of the smaller diamonds today. We need cash immediately to take care of some outstanding bills.” Just then, Hank walked up to the group to tell Emily of the disappearance of the tools. The gardener asserted that he had conducted a thorough search.

An interested expression came over John’s face and he said, “I’ll search.” Nancy wondered if anything unusual lay back of his offer.

Everyone went inside to breakfast. When the meal was finished, Mrs. Willoughby said to Emily, “I’d ride in to town with you, but I have a headache.”

Emily insisted that her aunt rest. “Nancy and Helen will go with me, I’m sure.”

The girls said they would be happy to. At once Maud asked if she might join the group. “All right,” Emily said without enthusiasm.

Before they left, Nancy telephoned Hannah Gruen, reporting the loss and recovery of the diamonds and the finding of the charge plate. She chuckled. “Actually I’m out of a sleuthing job, Hannah, so I’ll see you soon.”

“But you haven’t found out who your impersonator is,” the housekeeper said. “She may keep on making trouble for you.”

“You’re right. I must find her. Now tell me about yourself.”

The Drews’ housekeeper reported an uneventful night and that a police guard was still posted at the house. “Your father wired he would be detained until tomorrow evening.”

“Well, I’ll be seeing you. ‘Bye now.”

On the ride to Benton, Nancy and Emily decided it was best not to mention to the jeweler the disappearance of her diamonds the previous night. “Even though I have them back, exaggerated stories might still get around.”

When the group entered Fabian’s Jewelry Store, Emily asked to see the owner. The pleasantfaced man greeted her cordially and was introduced to the other girls. Then Emily opened her jewel case.

“My, what a lovely collection of stones” Mr. Fabian exclaimed.

He picked up a small diamond and studied it closely. Frowning, he put on his jeweler’s eyepiece, examined the gem, then dropped it into the case. Diamond after diamond was scrutinized in this manner. Emily watched anxiously.

When Mr. Fabian put down the last gem he looked hard at Emily. “Is this a practical joke?” he asked. “These stones are only glass” ‘ Emily’s face blanched. Helen and Maud were speechless.

Nancy was dismayed. Had the thief planted fake stones for some sinister purpose? “What is it?” she asked herself.

The jeweler was saying, “These are excellent imitations, Emily. Where did they come from?”

“Why-er-they were my mother’s. I always thought they were real.”

“I’m sorry,” The jeweler smiled sympatheti cally, as he handed the case to Emily. Almost in a daze, she thanked him and the others followed her from the shop.

the store, Nancy and As they stood outside their friend. “It’s a Helen tried to comfort shame,” Helen said.

. . .” Emily sobbed. “It . . . it’s the jinx again poor Dickl All our “I should have known. Oh, plans are spoiled.”

“I’m not so sure,” Nancy said. “I have a feeling the thief substituted these fakes for the real diamonds. I know it sounds funny . . .”

“Huh!” Maud exclaimed. Turning to Nancy, she said, “An awful lot of funny things have happened since you came to Lilac Inn.”

“That’s enough, Maud!” Emily brushed away her tears. “I won’t have you insulting my friends.

Anyway, maybe Nancy’s right.”

“Oh, I forgot. Nancy’s a famous detective!” Maud said sarcastically.

Helen and Nancy kept still with difficulty. Nancy wondered why Maud had become so antagonistic toward her.

In silence, the four reached Nancy’s car. As the others got in, Nancy stopped a newsboy to buy a River Heights morning paper. Nancy opened her change purse. Simultaneously, a woman coming from the opposite direction jostled Nancy’s arm. The purse dropped to the pavement, scattering change in every direction.

“Oh, bother” Nancy exclaimed.

Emily jumped out of the car to help retrieve the money. A moment later she gave a startled cry _’ and pointed to the ground.

Lying beside the ten-cent piece was a small dia- : mond brilliantly reflecting the sunlight!

The expression on Nancy’s face brought Helen and IM aud hurrying from the car. Emily picked up the diamond.

“Is this yours, Nancy?” she asked: “N-no, I never saw it before,” Nancy stam. mered, completely astounded.

Maud looked smug. “Try and make anyone believe that. It’s one of your diamonds, Emily” Nancy was too horrified to speak. Helen came to her friend’s defense. Glaring at Maud, she declared, “If Nancy says she knows nothing about how the diamond got in her change purse, it’s true “ “Of course it is,” Emily backed her up. “Oh Maud, why are you always so hateful?” Turning to Nancy, she said, “Someone has tried to throw suspicion on you. But why?”

“I don’t know,” Nancy replied. “If that’s the case, I wonder if that woman who bumped me might be in league with the jewel thief.” To her self she added, “Maybe my impersonator is trying to throw suspicion on me” She paid the boy for the paper, then asked him and the others if they had noticed the woman. Unfortunately none of them had.

Nancy suggested that they have the new-found stone appraised, so the group re-entered Fabian’s. The jeweler was surprised but obligingly put on his eyepiece.

“This is a perfect one-carat diamond!” he exclaimed. “If you’re interested in selling, I’ll be happy to make an offer.”

“Not today, but I may be back.” Emily smiled. She and her friends returned to the convertible and Nancy headed for lilac Inn. She speculated to herself on the imitation gems. “The thief learned the number and shapes of Emily’s diamonds, and had the artificial ones made to match as closely as possible. Very clever.”

Her thoughts were broken into by Maud asking Emily, “When are you going to tell Dick about the theft of your jewels?”

“When 1 get ready,” was the cool reply.

As they turned into the Lilac Inn driveway, Emily sighed. “Aunt Hazel will be dreadfully upset to hear about the substitution of the gems.”

“It’ll put her to bed for a week,” Maud prophesied unfeelingly. “Well, I’ll see you all at lunch.” The noon meal was a rather uncomfortable one. Mrs. Willoughby was obviously dejected and ate little. Maud maintained an almost sulky silence. Nancy was preoccupied, though somewhat disappointed that John was not present. Also, a startling idea had come to her about the diamond in her purse: The noise which had awakened her during the night might have been made by an intruder leaving, perhaps by the bathroom window, after planting the diamond. After luncheon Anna the waitress beckoned Nancy aside and handed her a note. “I just took this message from Mr. McBride on the phone. I was passing the desk and answered the ring.”

Nancy thanked the girl and read the message. “Nancy: I’ve found an important clue to the case. Come in your canoe to the dock where you saw the man with the crew cut. Wear your diving gear.”

Nancy was intrigued. What was John’s discovery? What kind of clue would necessitate underwater equipment?

Since Maud was there, Nancy merely told the others she had a date with John, saying, “Dad warned me not to go anywhere alone, but if John’s with me, I’ll be safe.” Nancy then hurried to put on her bathing suit. Over this she slipped her rubber insulation suit. Then, carrying mask, aqualung, flippers, and an underwater camera on a strap around her neck, she went to the dock.

Soon Nancy was paddling her canoe down the river, scanning the shore. ahead for the place near which she and Helen had _capsized. She finally sighted the dock where Helen had seen the man in the rowboat. On the bank nearby was a blue canoe with Lilac Inn painted on its side.

“John” called Nancy, looking about. No answer. Again Nancy called his name. Silence.

A little distance beyond the dock the girl noticed a man fishing from the beach. He wore a wide-brimmed straw hat. Cupping her hands, Nancy called out and asked if he had seen the young man who had come in the canoe.

“Yeah,” the fisherman yelled in a nasal voice. “He went underwater a couple of minutes agodived into the middle of the river opposite his canoe.”

“Thanks.” Nancy was mystified. Why hadn’t John waited for her to arrive? He knew it was dangerous for anyone to go skin diving alone.

Hurriedly she beached her own craft, donned her mask and aqualung, and slipped on the flippers. Then she swam out to the middle of the river.

She made a quick dive to begin her descent. As she straightened out, Nancy kicked with her fins and propelled herself with her arms. The water became darker and cooler as she descended. Small fish flitted by. Presently Nancy realized she was nearing the bottom. She estimated that the river was about twenty feet deep at this spot.

When she reached the muddy floor, she glanced about in every direction.. There was no sign of John-only underwater plants and several large rocks.

Nancy swam cautiously and watched for crev ices as she went forward. Every moment she ex pected to see John. Had he been underwater long? Had he met with a freak accident and been hurt? Even an expert skin diver can overestimate l his physical abilities, she realized.

All of a sudden Nancy stopped abruptly. Her ‘l eyes widened and a chill went up her spine. Pro- ,± truding from a massive rocky overhang was something that resembled a shark’s head!

“It can’t be” she gasped inwardly. “Sharks don’t live in fresh water!”

The sinister shape, however, was far too large ‘'’i to be an ordinary fish. Nancy’s fear gave way to curiosity, as the object remained stationary. She inched forward, holding the camera in front of her and cocking the shutter. Three more strokes and she would have a good view of the mysterious form One-two- Nancy was about to shoot, when a slight movement in the water caused her to whirl around. A spear came hurtling from behind a big rock to Nancy’s right. The next moment the 1’ tip of the spear lodged in the lens of her camera.

CHAPTER VIII A Hoax Revealed

NANCY’S heart thumped wildly as the spear quivered in her camera. Someone had tried to injure her Why?

The girl detective’s first instinct was to avoid further danger and rise to the surface as quickly as possible. But she paused to look around for the spear thrower. There was no sign of him.

“He may be getting ready for another attack, though,” she thought. “I’d better not take a chance.”

Gripping the camera, with the embedded spear, in both hands, she swam upward. At the surface, Nancy set out for shore and climbed to the dock. She glanced about for the fisherman, but he was not there.

Nancy removed her skin-diving gear, then examined the stainless-steel spear. It was the simplest type used for underwater fishing. The weapon was six feet long, with a sharp, thin tip.

Nancy shuddered as she pulled it from the lens of her camera.

“I’d better go back to the inn,” she thought. “Dad was right about it being dangerous for me to be alone.”

Nancy had been preoccupied with her narrow escape. Now she suddenly remembered John. To her astonishment, the Lilac Inn canoe was gone. Had John surfaced while Nancy was underwater, and, not seeing her, returned to the inn? Also, she wondered whether John was the skin diver seen by the fisherman on the river.

Nancy’s head whirled with theories as she pushed her canoe into the water and stepped into it. Recalling the strange, sharklike object, she thought, “Perhaps the spear thrower didn’t want me to photograph the object? And was that what John meant about a clue?”

As Nancy tied up at the inn dock, she saw that the blue canoe was there. “Well, anyway, he’s back.”

As the young sleuth headed for her cottage, she heard Helen call. Nancy stopped, and Helen, Emily, and Mrs. Willoughby hurried forward. They stared aghast at the spear in Nancy’s hand.

“N-Nancyl You’ve been in danger” Helen gasped.

Nancy gave a wry smile. Just then John Mc-Bride, dressed in slacks and sports shirt, hurried toward the group.

7 Before Nancy had a chance to question him, John exclaimed, “Fine thing, Nancy Drewl Standing me up to go skin diving”

“Standing you up?” Nancy retorted. “Where were you?”

“In the apple orchard,” John replied. “Waiting for you, where I said I’d be.”

Nancy shook her head. “There’s been a horrible mix-up. I’ll tell my story first.”

When she had finished, John and the others expressed amazement and concern.

“Nancy,” the young man said, “I didn’t phone any message to you. Someone else did, apparently to keep you from seeing me in the orchard.” “What’s all this about the orchard?” Nancy demanded.

John reminded her that at eleven o’clock she had hailed him from the patio. “I had just returned after failing to find the missing tools. You were wearing the pink dress you had on the night before. You said you had something to discuss with me, and asked if I would meet you at twelvethirty in the apple orchard. I said I’d be glad to.”

“Why, I was in Benton at eleven o’clock” Nancy exclaimed. “I wasn’t the girl you talked to!” John looked dumfounded. “But the girl sounded and looked exactly like you.” He added that he had taken a sandwich with him to the orchard, but left at one-thirty, deciding that Nancy had changed her mind Emily caught her breath. “Oh, Nancyl It must have been the girl who is impersonating you” John nodded somberly. “I’m afraid so. I sure was fooled. And someone wanted to get you away from here and even harm you, perhaps fatally” Helen looked distressed, and Mrs. Wil- ‘ loughby wrung her hands. “We must report all this to the police immediately. No one at Lilac Inn is safe.” Emily, though concerned, still held back. “Please-not until Dick gets home tomorrow. In the meantime, Nancy may solve the mystery.” Her aunt reluctantly agreed. Nancy had been silent, trying to fit the various elements of the puzzle together. It was evident to her that her “twin” had firsthand knowledge as to where she and others at the inn would be at certain times. Nancy was certain the girl’s actions further indi cated accomplices, and dangerous ones at that,,” judging from the spear thrower. Offhand, Nancy could not imagine anyone at the inn being in-,, volved in such scheming, not even Maud. “Has anything else been stolen?” she asked abruptly.

“I haven’t heard of any losses,” Emily replied.

“What’s the next move, Detective Drew?” Helen spoke up.

“I’m not sure,” Nancy replied thoughtfully. “But I do agree, for the time being, it would be ; best not to have the police investigate either the’ river or the inn. Since our enemies apparently want me out of the way, it must mean they want to stay here. Let’s hope we can catch them before they decide to leave” John changed the subject. “I’d like to investigate the place in the river where you saw that shark,’ Nancy. Also, I’ll try to find out who used the inn’s canoe. See you later.”

Nancy returned to her cottage. She put away the skin-diving gear and set the spear in the closet.

“I’d better hang on to this for evidence, even though there probably aren’t any fingerprints on it except rapine.”

She took out her pink dress. It looked crisp and fresh.

“My impersonator sure is a quick-change artist,” Nancy thought. “She must have let herself into the cottage while I was in Benton, and returned the dress while I was at lunch.

“I’d better lock every window and put a padlock on the door,” she determined, selecting a green cotton dress to wear, “and also make some inquiries around here. Maybe someone saw a girl enter this cabin.”

A newspaper Helen had bought that morning lay on a table. Absently Nancy looked at the first page. Suddenly her eyes widened. With interest she read a report about a red panel truck having been stolen two days before. “An identifying mark,” she read further, “18,! a chrome eagle ornament on the hood. The truck is believed to be in the vicinity of Benton.” Was this the truck which had forced her car into the ditch? Lieutenant Brice must have pursued’ her lead, and found out that the vehicle had been,,’ stolen.

“No wonder the driver was in such a hurry” Nancy thought as she left the cottage.

On the way to join the others, Nancy had a sud den hunch. Diary Mason had left the inn abruptly, with the flimsy excuse that the place was haunted. “I never pursued that lead,” the young sleuth i told herself. “Anna was here then. Maybe she knows where Mary Mason is.” Before joining her friends, Nancy hurried to the kitchen to talk to Anna. The waitress was not there. A strange girl came up to her, and intro duced herself as Jean Holmes. Jean’s complexion was very pale, and her brown hair thick and combed close to her face. She wore heavy glasses. “Can I help you?” she asked, smiling shyly. Nancy inquired where Anna was. Jean said she had gone to the storage cellar. Nancy went down stairs and found Anna bringing out a supply of preserved fruits and jellies. “Anna,” Nancy said, “I’m trying to locate Mary Mason who used to work here. Do you know her home address?”

Anna shook her head, but said she would in quire among the other waitresses who had been there when Mary was.

“Thank you,” said Nancy, and went to join her group on the patio.

She noticed that Maud Potter was not present. At the first opportunity, she asked Helen about this.

“Oh, Maud’s been very exclusive. She stayed in her room all afternoon.” Helen added dryly, “She hasn’t been missed.”

Maud did show up later and went to the dining room with the group. Nancy asked John if he had been rewarded in his sleuthing.

He shook his head. “I saw no sharks,’ and no one here admits to having used the canoe.” This reminded Nancy of the fisherman she had seen on the river. Because of his hat, she had not been able to tell if his hair was crew cut. But she wondered if he might be the man Helen had seen after the girls’ canoe had capsized.

At the supper table Nancy confided this idea to her friend in a low tone. Helen wrinkled her brow. “From the general impression I had of Mr. Crew Cut, Nancy, he could be the same one. But of course I only saw him from a distance.”

Both girls became aware that Maud was eying them closely. “Planning another skin-diving excursion, Nancy?” the woman asked sarcastically.

Mrs. Willoughby hurriedly put in, “Oh, yes. I told Maud the latest-er-troubles.”

“I should hope so” Maud said sharply. “If there are dangerous people lurking around here, I’d like to be warned.”

“Nancy’s the one in danger,” Emily reminded Maud coldly.

To change the subject, Nancy observed, “The new waitress, Jean Holmes, seems to be very efficient.”

Maud tossed her head. “I do have an instinct about people, you know.” But she was clearly pleased at Nancy’s remark.

After supper Nancy was leaving the room with the others when Anna came up behind her. “I have some information for you, Miss Drew,” the waitress whispered. “Mary Mason mostly kept to herself, but Kitty, one of the girls, thinks Mary commuted to Dockville every night. She also remembers that Mary once worked for a Mrs. Ernest Stonewell in River Heights.”

“You’re very helpful, Anna,” Nancy said. “Thank you.”

Nancy went to the hall desk and picked up a telephone directory. There were several Masons listed in Dockville, which was near River Heights. The young sleuth dialed the number of each Mason. Nobody knew Mary, the waitress. Nancy now looked up Mrs. Ernest Stonewell’s address. “I’ll call her tomorrow.”

The rest of the evening Nancy spent playing a lively game of ping-pong with Helen, Emily, and

8 John. Around eleven o’clock everyone said good night. John walked with the two girls to their cottage and warned them to secure the new inside bolt on the door, as well as the bathroom window. “I’m within calling distance if you need me.” He smiled.

“Thanks, John,” said Nancy. “Every window sill in the bedroom will have a book on it. If any intruder tries getting in, I hope he won’t notice the book, and will knock it off and wake us” Before going to sleep, Nancy thought happily that her father would soon be home. How much she had to tell himl

Helen, in the meantime, was wide awake. She tossed and turned restlessly. Finally, at midnight, she got up and put on her bathrobe and slippers.

“Maybe some fresh air will help me sleep,” Helen thought.

Despite John’s warning, she slid the bolt and left the cottage, closing the door quietly. The grounds were dark and silent. Helen turned toward the lilac grove.

Suddenly she saw a flickering light ahead, near the grove. Curious, she drew closer. A veiled figure with black hair and wearing a glowing white gown confronted her. The next instant Helen was struck on the back of her head and fell unconscious.

CHAPTER IX The Search

BACK in the cottage, Nancy was awakened by an insistent ticking. She sat up and glanced in annoyance at her alarm clock. It certainly seemed lousy.

Suddenly Nancy realized that her friend’s bed ; was empty. “Helen?” she called, thinking that erhaps the other girl had gone to get a glass of water. There was no reply.

Where can Helen be at one-thirty in the morn-ng?” Nancy asked herself. Hurriedly she put on obe and slippers and picked up her flashlight. When she found the front door of the cottage un-olted, she felt a pang of alarm. Outside, Nancy searched the cottage area, calling her friend’s name again and again. No response. Finally, thoroughly alarmed, Nancy decided to ask John for help. She knocked on his door. No answer. Perplexed, Nancy was about to leave when a twig crackled a short distance away. She turned off her flashlight and crouched behind a low shrub. Who was approaching? She was relieved a moment later to discern the familiar outline of John.

“Oh, thank goodness!” Nancy exclaimed, hurrying toward him. “Have you seen Helen?” she asked. “I ~woke up and found her gone.” ^ “No, I haven’t seen her,” John replied. “I couldn’t sleep so I walked down the road. Come on. We’ll both look.”

They started across the lawn. =”Let’s check the inn first,” Nancy proposed. =”Maybe Helen’s there.”

=The grounds seemed eerie in the moonless night EEas the couple walked quietly, beaming their ^flashes ahead of them. They circled the inn. The place was completely dark, with the exception of the tiny night light in the main lobby. Nancy suggested they try all the doors. “If, one is unlocked, it may mean Helen is inside.” The front, rear, patio, and kitchen doors were securely bolted !from the inside. = “Perhaps Helen couldn’t sleep and went for a walk near the river,” John suggested. Quickly he and Nancy went to the waterfront. Starting with the area near the dock, they proceeded along the bank, calling Helen’s name. As they came to the lilac grove, John said: “I don’t think-“

He was interrupted by a low moan which came from beyond a lilac bush. The couple hurried toward it, with Nancy focusing the beam of her flashlight on the ground.

“Helen” she exclaimed in horror. Before them lay her friend, unconscious. Quickly Nancy and John knelt beside Helen. John held the flashlight while Nancy made a rapid examination. Helen’s pulse was normal, but there was an ugly lump on the back of her head.

John looked grim as Nancy chafed Helen’s wrists. “She must have been struck by a blunt instrument,” he said.

Helen’s eyelids flickered open. For a moment the girl looked terrified, then smiled feebly as she recognized John and Nancy.

“Wh-what happened?” she murmured. “Don’t talk,” Nancy said soothingly, but Helen insisted upon sitting up.

“Oh, my head” she groaned, and leaned against Nancy.

A few minutes later the injured girl was able to talk. She explained about leaving the cabin and walking toward the lilac grove, then told of the strange figure in white she had seen.

Helen described the long translucent robe the figure had worn. “The last thing I saw was that ghostly figure waving her arms back and forth, as if signaling to someone. Then I was struck on the head and blacked out.”

“Don’t talk any more now,” said John, as Helen sighed wearily. “We’ll go back to the cottage and Nancy will put you to bed.”

John carried Helen, and with Nancy’s guiding light, headed toward the cottage. They had hardly started when the trio was startled by a loud boo-oo-m! It seemed to come from the direction of the cottagesl “That sounded like an explosion “ cried Nancy. She broke into a run.

John, carrying Helen, followed as fast as he could. A moment later Nancy heard a crackling noise and smelled smoke.

“John” Nancy cried in horror. “Lookl Our cottage is on fire”

The young people stared ahead in dismay. Tongues of orange-red flames were indeed shooting upward from the girls’ cottaggl The trio could already feel the heat from the blaze.

“We’ll have to douse it,” John said tensely. “The whole row will burn down if we wait for the fire department.”

Helen insisted she was strong enough to walk. “I can help!”

John raced to the side of the inn where an extension water hose was attached. “Get the buckets near the kitchen door” he shouted to the girls.

They dashed toward the inn. At the same time, the hall lights came on and the front door was flung open. Emily, Maud, and Mrs. Willoughby, dressed in robes, rushed out. Behind them was Mr. Daly, carrying a Revolutionary War musket!

Each group was amazed to see the other but Nancy took no time asking questions. “Our cottage is on fire!” she announced.

Soon everyone joined in tossing bucket after bucket of water from a garden spigot onto the blaze. John played a steady stream from the hose. Gradually the blaze was reduced to embers.

“Glad we saved the other units, anyhow,” John said, glancing at the ruined guest cottage. “Too bad you girls lost all your clothes.”

9 “But saved our lives by not being in the cottage,” Nancy remarked grimly.

“How did the fire start? What caused that explosion?” Emily asked, explaining that-she and the others had been awakened by the noise.

“I believe,” Nancy said gravely, “it was caused by a time bomb which someone placed in our cottage before we went to bed. A ticking sound woke me. I thought it was my clock.”

Her listeners were shocked. Mrs. Willoughby grew deathly pale, as Maud shrilled, “There must For once Nancy was inclined to agree with her. The young sleuth added that of course nothing could be determined until daylight when the ruins would be examined.

The exhausted group went back to the inn.

“Nancy and Helen,” Emily said, “I feel terrible about this whole thing.”

Mrs. Willoughby, too, expressed her regret. “At least some of the loss will be covered by our fire insurance,” she added.

Nancy smiled and nodded, then started to relate Helen’s startling experience just before the fire.

When Nancy came to the part about the woman in the white robe, Emily shivered. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she averred, “but Mary Mason probably saw this person. That’s why she said Lilac Inn was haunted”

Nancy suddenly noticed how pale Helen was and suggested she get to bed at once.

“Oh, yes,” said Emily. “Nancy and Helen, take the front second-floor bedroom.”

Nancy noticed that Mr. Daly still clutched the ancient musket. With a sheepish smile, he said,

“Shortly before the explosion, I thought I heard someone prowling around outside. , I grabbed this old musket-guess it’s been here since the inn was built. It’s not loaded, but I figured it might scare away an intruder.”

John grinned. “Nancy and I were your ‘prowlers.’ “ He explained that they had tried all the doors in their search for Helen.

The women and girls started upstairs. John and Mr. Daly, carrying his musket, said they would “stand guard” for the rest of the night.

As Emily showed Nancy and Helen to their room, she said firmly, “This awful experience has made me decide to call the police first thing in the morning” “Oh, Emily, thank goodness” Helen exclaimed in relief. “If there is some kind of maniac loose at Lilac Inn, you’ll be doing the right thing.”

Emily stepped closer to the girls. “When the police arrive,” she whispered, “I’d appreciate it if you still don’t mention the diamond theft.”

Her friends, though surprised, promised not to say a word about it.

“You see,” Emily went on softly, “it’s not for my sake, but Aunt Hazel’s. I can’t explain any more right now. You go to bed. I’ll call you if I need you.”

Nancy and Helen were too polite to ask further questions. Nevertheless, Nancy fell asleep wondering about Emily’s request. When the young sleuth awoke in the morning, her first thought was of the bomb. When had it been planted? While she was skin diving?

“The person who placed the bomb might have been seen by someone connected with the inn,” Nancy speculated.

Helen awoke just then, and Nancy asked how’ she felt. “Fine, except for a slight headache.” Helen shuddered. “Last night seems like a terri.

ble dream “

A few minutes later Emily knocked on the door with clothes for Helen and Nancy to borrow. While they dressed, she reported that a trooper from the Benton State Police Barracks would be over shortly to inspect the burned cottage.

“John checked the lilac grove at daybreak,” she added. “There were lots of footprints of various sizes, but no sign of any suspicious person.”

“Maybe I was dreaming I saw the ghost,” Helen , said. She felt the back of her head. “But this bump is real!” The three girls went down to breakfast. John, Mrs. Willoughby, and Maud were already at the 9 table. No other guests were in the room. Nancy gave her order to Anna. At a nearby table the waitress Jean Holmes ~, was arranging flowers in a copper vase. The girl I smiled shyly at Nancy, picked up the bowl, and walked toward the bay window. As she started to place the flowers on the wide sill, Jean gave a startled cry. She dropped the bowl, scattering flowers and water on the floor. Everyone at the table stared out the window. Two men were peering in. Nancy recognized them and jumped to her feet in surprise.

CHAPTER X “Blue Pipes”

THE unexpected sight of the two men peering through the dining-room window had startled Nancy, but in a happy way. She recognized the observers as her father and the state trooper, Lieutenant Brice.

As Jean apologized for her clumsiness and went to the kitchen for her broom and mop, Nancy hurried to the hall. She greeted her tall, handsome father and the officer who had come to her rescue when her car was forced into the ditch.

“Nancy, are you all right?” was Carson Drew’s first question.

“Oh, just fine, Dad. What a nice surprise to see you” She kissed him affectionately. With a smile she added, “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon, Lieutenant Brice.”

The officer grinned. He explained that he had been assigned to investigate the cottage fire.

When he arrived at Lilac Inn, he had met Carso jj

Drew, who had just driven up. The two men

were:;, completing a quick tour of the grounds passed the dining room and looked in.

Mr. Drew chuckled. “I thought I’d surprise you, Nancy, but I didn’t expect to scare that wait ress.”

“So many upsetting things have happened here,” Dad,” Nancy said, “I guess everyone’s a bit new-“ ous.”

Mr. Drew said that until he had met the officer in the parking lot, he had heard nothing of the trouble at Lilac Inn.

“The lieutenant mentioned last night’s explo sion and fire here Then he asked if I were the father of the Nancy Drew who had the accident on the side road to Benton.”

“You haven’t talked to Hannah?” Nancy asked.

“No. I came directly here.” Mr. Drew put a arm around his daughter. “I’m concerned abou you.”

“I’m all right, Dad,” Nancy insisted. “Really I am. By the way, have you talked to Chief McGinnis?”

“Yes. That’s another reason I came here,” her father said. “I had to phone him on a legal mat ter. He told me that you found the charge plate and the envelope with your name on it. By the way, there were no helpful prints on either the plate or the envelope.”

Nancy decided to wait before telling her father of the other mysterious incidents, and now suggested that the men come into the dining room to breakfast. She made the necessary introductions. The Willoughbys and Mr. Drew were well acquainted and exchanged warm greetings.

Maud fluttered her eyelashes. “So you’re the famous criminal lawyer,” she said coyly. Carson Drew did not like flattery, but nodded politely. He congratulated Emily on her forthcoming marriage. When the men had finished eating, Nancy and her friends went with them to see the burned cottage.

Emily told Lieutenant Brice everything that had happened but excluded the diamond theft. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then said, “All could be malicious pranks, not connected with the explosion. On the other hand, they could very well be part of some big scheme.”

When the group reached the site of the burned cottage, they found John there. Nancy introduced him to her father and the police officer.

After Lieutenant Brice had probed the ruins of the cottage, Nancy and her friends gave him and Mr. Drew a full account of the previous night’s events. When he heard of Helen’s experience, Mr. Drew looked grave and suggested she return home.

Helen shook her head. “I can’t desert Nancy.”

The young .sleuth smiled gratefully. Secretly she longed to tell her father the rest of the storythe trip to Benton, the diamond turning up in her purse, the faked message from John, and her skindiving adventure. But all these, Nancy realized, were related to Emily’s stolen gems.

Finally Lieutenant Brice announced, “I’ve found fragments of what I am positive was a time bomb you heard ticking, Miss Drew. I’ll send an explosives expert over to verify this, however.”

Carson Drew turned to his daughter. “Nancy, I wish I could stay here and help you work out this mystery. Unfortunately, I have to return to River Heights and review highly important evidence for a case I’m to try next week. But keep me posted.”

“I will, Dad. In fact, I may see you if I do some sleuthing near home, as I plan.”

Before leaving, Mr. Drew asked if Nancy had come upon any leads to her impersonator. “Nothing definite, Dad,” was all Nancy could in truth reply.

The attorney then advised Emily to engage a guard to stand night duty. “I can recommend an excellent man,” he said. “His name is Carl Bard.”

Emily agreed and Mr. Drew went inside the inn to telephone him. He returned shortly and said Mr. Bard would report there later.

“Fine,” said Lieutenant Brice. “And I’ll have a squad car patrol the inn frequently. I suggest that no one venture out alone-especially at night-until this case is broken.” Good-bys were exchanged, and Nancy stood waving to her father as he drove off. Meanwhile, Helen and Emily had started for the patio. As Nancy hurried after them, she came to the tool shed. John had investigated it, but Nancy wondered if she might find some clue he had overlooked.

The door was open. She went inside. Spades, hoes, rakes, and other similar equipment lined the walls. Nancy studied the array. “Just ordinary garden tools,” she mused. Then suddenly she noticed a pad of notepaper lying on a bench. Nancy picked it up and turned the pages, which contained various notations for the gardeners. One item, on the third page and in a different kind of printing from the other instructions, read: “Prune blue pipes near grove.”

” Blue pipes,’ “ thought Nancy, as she tore out the sheet. “Now what does that mean? Could it possibly be a code message? Or a signal? I’ll ask the gardeners.”

She left the shed, and began to look for the men. The only man in sight was Gil, who was cutting the lawn with a power mower. She went up, and attracting his attention, asked him, “Can you tell me what blue pipes’ are?”

“Never heard of ‘em,” Gil replied laconically.

“One more question,” Nancy said. “Would you have any idea who used one of the inn’s canoes yesterday afternoon?”

For a moment Gil’s eyes narrowed. Then he brusquely replied No; he had not been near the dock all day. “Mr. John asked me the same thing. Well, I got work to do,” he muttered, and quickly resumed his mowing.

Nancy walked meditatively toward the inn. “If Gil doesn’t know what blue pipes’ are, that message might well be a code phrase.”

It occurred to her that perhaps Mr. Daly would be able to explain the term. Nancy went inside and found the elderly gentleman in his office, going over receipts. He looked up as she knocked and entered.

“Good morning, Nancy. Sorry I missed meeting your father.”

Mr. Daly admitted that he had been wearied by his all-night vigil, and had gone to his room to rest. Nancy smiled understandingly and told him briefly of Lieutenant Brice’s investigation.

Mr. Daly looked grave. “If all this danger continues, I’m going to insist that Emily and Dick sell the inn. A nice young couple shouldn’t start marriage under such circumstances.”

“1 agree. But the person responsible for the trouble here must be caught.”

“You’re right, Nancy,” Mr. Daly said. “I mustn’t lose hope so easily.”

The young sleuth then asked, “Mr. Daly, can you tell me what blue pipes’ are?” Mr. Daly chuckled. “Of course-my favorite subject matter is blue pipes’-or lilacs.” “You mean that ‘blue pipes’ are lilacs?” Nancy inquired with interest.

“Yes. The ancient name of the lilac was Blue Pipe Tree, a reminder of the time when pipes were made of its wood. See here.”

Mr. Daly reached into a drawer of his desk and handed Nancy a half-finished tobacco pipe.

“Carving is my hobby. I’m making this pipe from the wood of a fallen tree limb right here at Lilac Inn.”

“Why, it’s beautiful” Nancy held up the pipe, admiring the delicate stem.

At that moment Jean Holmes passed the office. She paused and looked in. Nancy greeted her, but the waitress barely answered. Her eyes were riveted on the pipe in Nancy’s hand.

“Isn’t this a handsome piece, Jean?” Nancy said pleasantly. “Mr. Daly made it.” “Oh, very.” Jean nodded and hastened on into the dining room.

To Nancy it seemed that the waitress had acted almost frightened. Why?

Mr. Daly seemed not to have noticed. He went on to tell Nancy some interesting facts about lilacs. The old-fashioned, lavender-colored blossom and its white companion, so well known in America, originally came from Bulgaria, Hungary, and Rumania. But the double lilacs of pink, red, and purple, like those in the grove, were developed by horticulturists.

“The French developed the Lucie Baltet vari-ety-the same as the stolen tree,” Mr. Daly said sadly. “Many beautiful lilacs are named after famous French people, such as Joan of Arc.”

“You’re certainly an expert on every aspect of lilacs,” Nancy complimented him as Mr. Daly paused.

Modestly, Mr. Daly admitted he had studied the subject intensively. He himself had planted most of the lilacs at the inn.

“They are considered a flower of mysterious power in the West Indies,” he said solemnly. “Some people there believe that the perfume keeps away ghosts and evil spirits. A lilac tree is often planted near the front door so its branches can act as protection against evil spirits entering the house.”

Nancy now pulled the sheet with the blue pipe notation from her pocket and passed it to Mr. Daly “Do you know anything about this?” she asked.

He glanced at it and said, “No. And I write out all the instructions for the gardeners. I never use the term blue pipes.’ They wouldn’t know what it meant.”

“Have you any idea who might have written this?” Nancy asked.

“None whatever. And I can’t figure out what it means. Besides, it’s not time to prune lilacs. Have you a theory?”

“I’m not sure, except I have a hunch it’s connected with the strange happenings at Lilac Inn and is a code message. I hope I can figure it out.”

Nancy pocketed the sheet and left the office. Deep in thought, she almost bumped into Emily. “Oh, where’s Detective Drew headed?”

The young sleuth laughed, then showed Emily the sheet. “Do you know who printed this strange notation?”

Emily stared at the message for several seconds. Finally she said, “No, but the printing looks familiar.”

“Think hard and don’t keep any secrets,” Nancy urged. “This may be the turning point in solving the mystery”

Staring into space, Emily sought desperately for an answer. Suddenly she snapped her fingers. “I have itl That waitress who left here so suddenlyl She used to print all the orders she took. I mean Mary Mason!”

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