Chapter IV. Good News
 

Deepdale, the home of the four Outdoor Girls, is a thriving little city with a population of about fifteen thousand people. It is situated on the Argono River, a pleasant stream where a great many of the young folk of Deepdale, and some of the older ones too, keep motor boats and canoes and various other types of pleasure craft.

Farther on, the Argono empties into Rainbow Lake, which is picturesque in the extreme. It has several pretty and romantic looking islands, chief of which is Triangle Island-- so called because of its shape.

There is a boat running from Deepdale to Clammerport at the foot of Rainbow Lake, and this boat is almost always crowded with pleasure seekers. In addition to this Deepdale is situated in the heart of New York state and is only a hundred-and-fifty-mile run from the city of that name. Thus one can easily see that Deepdale is a very desirable place in which to live.

At least that is what the four Outdoor Girls thought. And since they had spent most of their lives there, they certainly ought to know!

On the morning of this day, some ten days or so after their strange encounter with Professor Dempsey, the girls were gathered on Betty's porch, talking over their plans for the summer.

"I am only waiting to hear from Uncle John," Mollie was saying, as she swung lazily back and forth in the couch swing. "The last time I saw him he said that he was almost sure to go north this summer and he told me that as soon as he made definite plans he would let me know."

"You told us that two weeks ago," Grace reminded her. "And we haven't heard from him yet."

"It does seem to take him a long time to make up his mind," sighed Amy.

Betty, who had been trying to read a novel, closed the book and turned to them with a laugh.

"Goodness, you all sound doleful," she told them. "It seems to me that we ought to be able to live through it, even if we don't get Wild Rose Lodge for the summer. There are plenty of other things we can do,"

Mollie turned upon her indignantly.

"How you talk, Betty Nelson," she scolded her. "As if we could possibly have as good a time anywhere else as we could at Wild Rose Lodge. Think of being in a real hunting lodge out in the woods away from everybody! Why, it will be a real adventure--"

"All right. I surrender-- don't shoot," laughed Betty, coming over and perching on the railing beside Mollie. "I admit we should probably have more fun at the lodge than we could anywhere else. I was only trying to look on the bright side of things in case our plans should fall through. Hello-- who's this?"

"This" proved to be Mollie's little sister Dora, or "Dodo," as she was called by almost everybody. With a sigh of relief, the girls saw that Dodo's twin brother, Paul, was not with her, for together the children were a simply unconquerable pair.

The twins had been spoiled by their widowed mother, Mrs. Billette, even before the time when they had been kidnapped and spirited off by a hideous Spaniard. But since their recovery, their joyful mother had indulged them in every way until they had become well nigh unmanageable.

Yet in spite of everything, the twins were very lovable, and every one loved them, even those whom they annoyed most.

And now as Dodo tore up the street toward them, waving something white in her hand, the girls instinctively glanced about to see what they ought to put out of sight before the cyclone struck them.

"Thank goodness, Paul isn't with her," murmured Grace. "Then we would be in for it."

"Dodo," cried Mollie as the child started up the walk, "scrape some of that mud off your feet before you come up, You will get Betty's porch all dirty."

"Name's Dora-- not Dodo," the little girl answered, paying not the slightest heed to Mollie's caution about the mud. "Dodo's a baby's name-- don't like it. Got something for you."

She stumbled heedlessly up the steps, leaving a trail of mud behind her, and almost breaking her neck in the bargain.

"Now just look at Betty's porch," Mollie was beginning in exasperation when Betty laughingly interfered.

"Oh, let her alone, Mollie," she coaxed. "The porch was dirty anyway and-- what's that you have in your hand, Dodo?"

"Sumfin' for Mollie," answered Dodo, leaning sulkily against the rail while the girls regarded her anxiously. "An' if Mollie aren't nice to me she can't have it."

"Oh, for goodness' sake be nice to her and get it over with, Mollie," urged Grace, uneasily conscious of the candy box she had shoved hastily behind her. She was afraid one corner of it might show.

So Mollie got down from her perch on the railing and went over coaxingly to the little girl.

"Give it to Mollie, honey," she begged. "I'll even call you Dora, if you will."

"Always Dora-- never Dodo?" asked Dodo eagerly, for she was growing out of babyhood just enough to resent being called by her baby name.

"Always Dora," Mollie promised.

For answer Dodo held out the white thing she had waved at them from the street, and with a little cry of excitement Mollie saw that it was a letter addressed to her in her Uncle John's firm hand.

At her exclamation the girls crowded round her eagerly. She hastily tore open the envelope and devoured the contents. Then she turned to the girls with a glowing face.

"It's all right, it's all right!" she cried, waving the letter round her head like a flag and nearly upsetting her chums. "Uncle John says it is settled. He is going to Canada for a couple of months and we can have the lodge for the whole time he is away or a part of it, just as we wish. Hooray! How's that for luck?"

The girls were so excited over their good fortune that they forgot all about Dodo. She, finding herself unobserved, had slipped around the girls to the swing, snatched the box of candy which Grace had exposed when she got up, had taken the steps two at a time and was flying off down the street before the girls saw what she was up to.

Then it was Grace who, with a dreadful premonition, thought of her candy. She turned quickly, saw that the box was gone, and uttered a wail of woe.

"That little Turk of a sister of yours has done it again," she cried, turning to Mollie, while Betty and Amy began to laugh. "You just wait till I catch her. I'll get my candy back if I have to-- spank her," this last with a fierce scowl.

Betty put an arm about her excited chum, led her over to the swing and put her down in it.

"By the time you caught Dodo there wouldn't be any of your candy left," she said, adding soothingly: "Never mind, honey. We will get you some more if we have to take up a collection."

"Makes me feel like an orphan's home," grumbled Grace, but she laughed nevertheless with the rest and immediately forgot both her candy and Dodo in renewed excitement over Wild Rose Lodge.

"Just where is this place, Mollie?" asked Amy. "What is it called?"

"Oh, that's the very best part of it," said Mollie, with a mysterious smile. "It has the most wonderful, most romantic name. Come closer while I whisper it-- Moonlight Falls. There, isn't that a real name for a place?"

"Wild Rose Lodge at Moonlight Falls," sighed Grace ecstatically. "If we don't have a wildly romantic time in a place with a name like that, it will be our own fault."

"But we will have to have a chaperon--" Amy was beginning when Betty interrupted her eagerly.

"I have fixed that," she said, and while they all looked in astonishment she went on quickly to explain. "I met Mrs. Irving in the street the other day-- you know she has been away ever since that last time she was with us on Pine Island-- and I asked her then if she would chaperon us this summer."

"But you didn't even know then that we were going to Wild Rose Lodge, Betty," Mollie interrupted.

"I knew we were sure to go somewhere. We always--" Betty was arguing when Grace cut in impatiently.

"Never mind about that," she said. "Did Mrs. Irving say she would go?"

"She said she was very sure she could manage it," Betty answered. "She seemed awfully surprised and said it would be great fun to be with us girls again."

"It will be great fun for all of us," said Amy happily. "I'll never forget the wonderful time we had on Pine Island with Mrs. Irving and the boys."

"Yes-- and the boys," Betty repeated a little wistfully. She was thinking of Allen Washburn and the wonderful time they had had that never-to-be-forgotten summer-- before the war had come to separate them and make their hearts ache. Oh, it would be unbelievably happy to have the boys back again-- Will, Roy, Frank and-- her Allen. The old crowd together once more. She looked around at the girls, who had also fallen into a thoughtful mood, and suddenly she smiled, the old bright, happy smile that was peculiarly Betty's own.

"Oh, cheer up, everybody," she cried gayly. "How do we know but what the boys will be home in time to join us at Wild Rose Lodge? Then think of the fun!"

"Oh, Betty, if we could only believe that!" they cried.

"Well," said the Little Captain stoutly, "you never can tell. Stranger things have happened, you know."

"But nothing so joyful," added Mollie.