Chapter XXIV. The Ghost Caught

"When do you expect to hear about little Dodo?" asked Grace, as the girls sat together on a log in front of the fire, "like roosting chickens," Will was ungallant enough to remark.

"Almost any day now," replied Mollie. "They were to wait for the most favorable time for the operation, and the specialist, so mamma wrote, could not exactly fix on the day. But I am anxious to hear."

"I should think you would be. Poor little Dodo! I'd give anything to hear her say now 'Has oo dot any tandy? '"

"Don't," spoke Betty in a low tone to Grace, for she saw the tears in Mollie's eyes.

"It was the strangest thing how Stone and Kennedy should turn out to be the two chaps in the auto," remarked Will, to change the subject. "And you have never let on that Grace was the girl on the horse?"

"Never," answered Amy. "Don't say after this that girls can't keep a secret."

Frank was to watch the first part of the night, to be relieved by Allen, and the latter by Will.

"For, from what the girls say, Prince has been in the habit of coming rather late," Will explained, "and he's more likely to let me catch him than if you fellows tried it. So I'll take last watch."

Frank's vigil was unrewarded, and when he awakened Allen, who sat up, sleepy-eyed, there was nothing to report. Allen found it hard work to keep awake, but managed to do so by drinking cold coffee.

"Anything doing, old man?" asked Will, as, yawning, he got on some of the clothes he had discarded, the more comfortably to lie down on the cot.

"Something came snooping around about an hour ago. At first I thought it was the horse, and went out to take a look. But it was only a fox, I guess, for it scampered away in the bushes. I hope you have better luck."

"So do I. Dad wants those papers the worst way. If I could get them for him I'd feel better, for I can't get over blaming myself that it was my fault they were lost. It was, because I shouldn't have sent Grace for them when I knew how important they were."

Allen went to his cot, and Will took up his vigil. For an hour he sat reading by a shaded lantern, so the light would not shine in the faces of his chums. Then, when he was beginning to nod, in spite of the attractions of the book, he heard a noise that brought him bolt upright in the chair.

"Something is coming!" he whispered. He stole to the edge of the board platform, and cautiously opened the flap of the tent. The box containing oats and sugar had been placed a little distance away, in plain view.

"That's Prince!" exclaimed Will, for in the moonlight he saw a white horse eating from the box. The "ghost" had arrived.

Will resolved to make the attempt alone. He stepped softly from the tent, and made his way toward the horse. He had on a pair of tennis shoes that made his footsteps practically noiseless. Fortunately, Prince, should it prove to be that animal, stood sideways to the tent, his head away from it, so that he did not see Will. The boy tried to ascertain if there was a saddle on the horse, but there was the shadow of a tree across the middle of his back, and it was impossible to say for sure.

Nearer and nearer stole Will. He thought he was going to have no trouble catching him, but when almost beside Prince, for Will was certain of the identity now, he stepped on a twig, that broke with a snap.

With a snort Prince threw up his head and wheeled about. He saw Will, and leaped away.

"Prince, old fellow! Prince! don't you know me?" called the boy, and he gave a whistle that Prince always answered.

The horse retreated. Will held out some sugar he had ready for such an emergency.

"Prince! Prince!" he called. The horse stopped and stretched out his head, sniping. Prank and Allen came to the tent opening. "Keep back!" called Will, in even tones. "I think I have him. Prince! Come here!"

The horse took a step forward. He sensed his master now. Will advanced, speaking gently, and a moment later Prince, with a joyful whinny, was nibbling at the sugar in the boy's hand. Then Will slid the other along and caught the mane. The bridle was gone.

"I have him!" cried Will. "Bring the rope, fellows."

Prince was not frightened now. He stood still. Will led him into the full moonlight. Then he exclaimed:

"The saddle is gone!"