Chapter XII. Left Alone
 

The flood of radiance from the electric light shone from Cora's room, into that where Belle was, and with the gleam of the modern illumination, Cora's bravery grew apace.

"What did you say, Belle?" she asked, now quite wide awake. "Are you ill?"

"No, but, oh! I'm so frightened. There's some one in my room! I'm sure of it!"

"Nonsense!"

"I tell you I can hear some one walking around!" insisted Belle.

"Did you get up and look?" asked Cora.

"Did I get up? Indeed I did not!" was the indignant answer. "I'm scared stiff as it is."

"And you want me to look?" murmured Cora.

"Oh, but you have your light lit, Cora dear. And really I am afraid to get up. Do come and see what it is. Perhaps it's only one of those large fruit bats that Inez told us about."

"A bat! Indeed I'll not come in and have it get tangled in my hair!" objected Cora. "I'm going to call some one of the hotel help."

But there was no need, for Jack, whose room was across the corridor from that of his sister, heard the talking, and, getting into a dressing gown and slippers, he knocked at Cora's door.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Belle thinks she hears something in her room."

"It's in mine, now," called out Bess, whose apartment was beyond that of her sister.

"Open the door, and I'll have a look," suggested Jack, good-naturedly.

"Wait a minute," Cora said, and, slipping into a robe, she admitted her brother.

"Now we'll see what's going on," he promised.

"Cover up your heads, girls," he called to Bess and Belle, as he and Cora went into the room of the latter. "If it's a villain, you won't get nervous when you see me squelch him."

"Oh!" faintly murmured Belle, as she pulled the covers over her head. Jack groped for the electric switch and found it, making light Belle's room.

"I don't see a thing," he announced, looking carefully about.

"It is in here!" said Bess, faintly. "I can hear it walking about. It's rattling some papers in a corner of my room."

Jack and Cora went on through to the farther apartment, and Jack, turning on the light there, approached a pile of paper Bess had tossed in one corner after unwrapping some purchases made during the day.

"Look out!" warned Cora, while Bess adopted the same protective measures as had her sister. "It may be a rat--or--or something!"

"Most likely--something," said Jack. He began picking up piece after piece of paper, and then he suddenly uttered an exclamation.

"Ah! Would you!" he snapped, and, standing on one foot, he took the slipper from the other, holding his bare member carefully off the floor, while he slapped viciously at the pile of papers with his bedroom weapon.

"Got him!" he announced triumphantly, after two or three blows.

"What was it--a bat?" asked Bess, in muffled tones.

"A centipede," answered Jack. "A big one, too. About seven inches long."

"And their bite is--death!" murmured Bess, in awe-stricken tones.

"Nothing of the sort, though it's very painful" said Jack, shortly. "Just as well to keep clear of them, however. I'll throw this defunct specimen out of the window."

"Please do, and be sure my screen is down," begged Bess. "I wonder how he got in?"

"Oh, there are more or less of them in all hotels, I guess," said Jack, cheerfully enough.

"Don't you dare say so!" cried Belle. "Please look around my room, and leave the light burning. I know I'll never sleep a wink."

Jack tossed out the centipede he had killed, and then looked among the waste paper for more, standing with his bare foot raised, and with ready slipper, for the bite of this insect, which grows to a large size in Porto Rico, is anything but pleasant, though it is said never to cause death, except perhaps in the case of some person whose blood is very much impoverished.

Both Bess and Belle insisted on their lights being left aglow, though Jack made a careful search and could discover no more of the unpleasant visitors. How Belle had heard the one in her room, if it really had been that which she said made the noise, was a mystery, but the creature might have rattled paper as it did in the room of Bess.

"Call me if you want anything more, Sis," said Jack to his sister, as he started back to his own apartment. And then, as he was about to close, Cora's door Jack looked fixedly at a place on the floor near her bureau, and with a muttered exclamation hurried toward it.

"Oh! what is it?" his sister begged, alarmed at the look on his face.

"Another one--trying to hide," he murmured.

Off came his slipper again and there followed a resounding whack on the floor.

"Got that one, too!" Jack announced, and then, as Coral made brave by the declaration of the death, came closer, she uttered a cry.

"Jack Kimball!" she gasped, accusingly, "you've broken my best barrette," and she picked up from the floor the shattered fragments of a dark celluloid hair comb, which had fallen from the bureau.

"Barrette," murmured Jack, in dazed tones.

"Yes--a sort of side comb, only it goes in the back."

"Well, it looked just like a centipede trying to hide under the bureau," Jack defended himself. "Is it much damaged?"

"Damaged? It's utterly ruined," sighed Cora. "Never mind, Jack, you meant all right," and she smiled at her brother.

"Oh, dear! I don't believe I'm going to like it here, even if the waters are such a heavenly blue."

"What was it--another?" demanded Belle.

"It was my barrette, my dear," laughed Cora.

"Come, young folks! You must quiet down," came the voice of Cora's mother from the next room. "What's all the excitement about?"

"Just--insects," said Jack, with a chuckle. "We are hunting the deadly barretted side comb!"

"You'll have to get me another," said Cora, as she bade Jack good-night.

There was no further disturbance, and the hotel clerk said, next morning, that the presence of one or two scorpions, or centipedes, could be accounted for from the fact that the rooms occupied by our friends had not recently been used. He promised to see to it that all undesirable visitors were hunted out during the day.

For a week or more, life in San Juan was an experience of delight for the motor girls. They visited points of interest in and about the city, taking Inez with them. Of course Jack and Walter also went, and the change was doing the former a world of good.

The mysterious "fat man," as Jack insisted on calling Senor Ramo, had not come ashore at San Juan, going on with the steamer. His destination was another of the many West Indian islands.

As yet, Mr. Robinson had had no chance to communicate with, or make arrangements for rescuing the father of Inez. But he was making careful plans to do this, and now, being on the ground, he could confirm some information difficult to get at in New York.

The motor girls, and their party, soon accustomed themselves to the changed conditions. They learned to eat as the Porto Ricans do--little meat making eggs take the place, and they never knew before what a variety of ways eggs could e served.

The weather was growing more pleasant each day, and with the gradual passing of the hurricane season, they were allowed to take longer trips in one of the many motor boats with which the harbor abounded.

Sometimes they spent whole days on the water, their dusky captain keeping a sharp watch out for hurricanes. These can be detected some hours off, and a run made for safety. Some of the whirling storms are very dangerous, and others merely squalls.

It was when they had been in San Juan about a month, and Mr. Robinson had promised, in the next few days, to take some measures regarding the liberation of Senor Ralcanto, that something occurred which changed the whole aspect of the visit of the motor girls to waters blue.

Mr. Robinson found that he would have to go on business to a coffee plantation near Basse Terre, on the French island of Guadeloupe, and as he had heard there were also rare orchids to be obtained them, he wanted to stay a few days after his trade matters had been attended to.

"But I did want to start for Sea Horse Island, and begin my plan to liberate your father," he said to Inez.

"It can wait, Senor,"' she said, softly. "A few days more will not make much of ze difference, as long as he is to be rescued anyhow. I would not have you disappointed in ze orchids."

"Then I'll go when we come back," said Mr. Robinson. "I'll go to Guadeloupe, and take my wife and Mrs. Kimball with me. I want them to see the place."

"And leave us here alone?" asked Bess.

"Certainly, why not? You are in good hands at the hotel, especially as the boys are with you. And Inez is as good as a guide and European courier made into one."

The weather, which had been fine on the evening when Mr. Robinson and the two ladies went aboard the steamer, underwent a sudden change before morning, and when Cora and her chums awoke in the hotel, and looked out, they found raging a storm that, in its fury, was little short of a hurricane.

"Oh, Jack!" his sister exclaimed, as she listened to the roar of the wind and the sharp swish of the rain, "I'm so afraid!"

"What about? This hotel is a good one."

"I know. But mamma on that ship--they're out at sea now, and--"

She did not finish.

"That's so," spoke Jack, and a troubled look came over his face.