Chapter XXIII. Setting a Trap
 

"Are you sure it is the canoe?" asked Betty, who did not want Mollie to take any unnecessary risks.

"Of course I am," came the confident answer, as Mollie poised, in her dripping bathing suit, on the little dock. She made a pretty picture, too, with her red cap, and blue suit trimmed with white. "I could feel the edge of the gunwhale," she went on, "and the stones in it that keep it down."

"But how can we get it up?" asked Grace, who was sitting on the dock, splashing her feet in the water. Grace never did care much about getting wet. Amy said she thought she looked better dry. Certainly she was a pretty girl and knew how to "pose" to make the most of her charms-- small blame to her, though, for she was unconscious of it.

"We can get it up easily enough," declared Mollie, wringing the water from her skirt, "All we'll have to do will be to toss out the stones, one by one, and the canoe will almost float itself. I can tie a rope to the bow, and we can stand on shore and pull. Those boys will be so glad to get it back."

"But can we lift out the heavy stones?" asked Amy, in considerable doubt.

"Of course we can. You know any object is much lighter in water than out of it, we learned that in physics class, you remember. The water buoys it up. You can move a much heavier stone under water than you could if the same stone was on land. We can all try."

"I never could stay under water long enough to get out even one stone," declared Grace.

"Nor I," added Amy.

"I'll try," spoke Betty-- she was always willing to try-- "but I'm afraid I can't be of much help, Mollie. And I'm sure I don't want you to do it all."

"Well, wait until I make another inspection," said the diving girl. "It may be more than I bargained for. I'll hold my breath longer this time."

"Do be careful!" cautioned Aunt Kate, coming out from the tent.

"We will," promised Betty.

Again Mollie dived. She had practiced the trick of opening her eyes under water, and this time she looked carefully over the sunken canoe. She stayed under her full limit, and when she came up she was panting for breath.

"You must not stay under so long," warned Betty.

"There-- are-- a-- lot-- of-- stones," gasped Mollie. "But I think we can do it," she added a moment later.

"I'll see what I can do," spoke Betty. She was a good swimmer and diver, perhaps not so brilliant a performer as Mollie, but with more staying qualities. Down went Betty in a clean dive, and when she came up, panting and shaking the water from her eyes, she called:

"I lifted out two, but I think we had better let the boys do it, Mollie."

"Perhaps," was the reply.

"I'm sorry you can't count on me," sail Grace, "but really I'd have nervous prostration if I went down there, even though it's only ten feet deep, as you say."

"Well, getting nervous prostration under water would be a very bad idea," commented Betty.

"And I'm sure I never could do it," remarked Amy. "Do let the boys manage it, Bet. The lads who own the canoe will be glad of the chance."

"I'm going to move out a couple of stones, so Betty won't beat my record," laughed Mollie, diving again. She bobbed up a moment later.

"Oh, dear!" she cried. "An eel slid right over me. Ugh! I'm not going down again!" and she shivered. Even the fearless Mollie had had enough of the under-water work.

By means of a cord and a float the position of the sunken canoe was marked, so that the boys could locate it, and when they returned from a rather unsuccessful fishing trip, they readily agreed to raise the boat. It did not take them long to remove the stones, for Will, Frank and Allen were all expert swimmers, and could remain under water much longer than can most persons.

Then a rope was made fast to the canoe, which would not rise completely because of being filled with water. It was pulled ashore and word sent to the young owners. That they were delighted goes without saying. They proffered the reward they had offered, but of course our friends would not take it. Later it was learned that the canoe had been taken by an unscrupulous fisherman, who was not above the suspicion of making a practice of such tricks. It was thought he intended to let it remain where it was until fall, when he would raise it, paint it a different color, and sell it. But Mollie's fortunate dive frustrated his plans.

"Seen anything more of the ghost?" asked Will of the girls, when the canoe had been moored to the shore.

"No, and we don't want to," returned Betty.

"Afraid?" Allen wanted to know.

"Indeed not!" she exclaimed, with a blush.

"I'll tell you what let's do," suggested Frank. "Let's take a look around and see if that ghost left any footprints."

"Ghosts never do," asserted Will.

"Well, let's have a look anyhow. We should have done it before. Now, as nearly as I can recollect, the creature came about to here, and then rushed into the lake," and Frank went to a spot some distance from the tents. The others agreed that it was about there that the white object had been seen. Will was looking along the ground, going toward the lake. Suddenly he uttered an exclamation.

"Girls! Fellows!" he cried. "Come here!" They all hastened to his side. He pointed to some marks in the sandy soil.

"What are they?" he asked, excitedly.

"Hoof marks!" cried Allen, dramatically.

"That's right!" agreed Will. "They are the marks of a horse! Girls, that's what your ghost is-- a white horse, and-- and---- "

He ceased abruptly, looked at Grace strangely, and then brother and sister gasped together:

"Prince!"

"What?" demanded Allen.

"I'll wager almost anything that this ghost is my white horse, Prince, that has been missing so long!" went on Will. "But how in the world he could have gotten on this island, so far from the mainland, is a mystery!"

"Couldn't he swim?" asked Frank.

"Of course!" cried Will. "I forgot about that. And Prince was once a circus horse, or at least in some show where he had to jump into a tank of water. Prince is a regular hippopotamus when it comes to water. Strange I never thought of that before!

"But this solves the ghost mystery, girls. You and the other folks have been frightened by white Prince scooting about the island."

"We-- we weren't so very frightened," spoke Mollie.

"But the rattling chains?" questioned Grace.

"What were they?"

"The stirrups, of course," answered her brother. "And, by Jove, Grace, if the stirrups are on Prince the saddle must be on him also, and the papers---- "

"Oh, isn't this just fine!" cried Grace, her face alight. "Now papa can complete that business deal. I never loved a ghost before. Dear old Prince!"

"Of course we are assuming a lot," said Will. "It may not be Prince after all, but all signs point to it. He must have been on this island all the while. No wonder we could get no trace of him. Probably he was so frightened at the storm and the auto, and his fall, that he ran on until he came to the lake. Then his old training came back to him, and in he plunged. There's enough fodder here for a dozen horses. He's just been running wild. I'll have my own troubles with him when I get him back."

"But how are you going to do it?" asked Frank.

"We'll search the island for him," replied Will. "Come on, we'll start now."

Changing from their bathing suits to more conventional garments, the boys and girls at once began a tour of the island. But though it was not very large, there were inaccessible places, and it must have been in one of these that Prince hid during the day, for they neither saw, nor heard anything of him.

"We've got to set a trap!" exclaimed Will.

"How?" asked Grace.

"Well, evidently he's been in the habit of coming around the tent to get scraps of food. We'll leave plenty out to-night, and also some oats. Then we'll watch, and when Prince comes I'll catch him."

The boys voted this plan a good one. They went over to Mr. Lagg's store in the Gem to get a supply of fodder for the trap.

"A horse on the island!" exclaimed Mr. Lagg. So that's the ghost; eh? Well, it's very likely, but it sort of spoils the story;

  "A ghostly ghost-- a ghost in white
   Appearing in the darkest night.
   That it should prove a horse to be,
   Most certainly amazes me."

"Good!" exclaimed Will, with a laugh. "You are progressing, Mr. Lagg."

A goodly supply of oats was placed in a box near the tent that evening, and then the boys and girls sat about the camp-fire and talked, while waiting for the time to retire. The boys were to make the attempt to capture Prince.