Chapter XXX. The Promise Kept
 

With Jack's and Walter's additional cars the girls were able to ride home without crowding, so that the Whirlwind carried only Cora, Clip and Gertrude - the gallantry of the Chelton young men affording Tillie and Adele a chance for a most jolly trip in the little runabouts, while Hazel rode with the twins.

Cora explained that she had an errand to do on the river road, so that she might go to the antique shop without the others.

"I think it will be best to have a chance to talk with the old man quietly," she told her companions. "I am so anxious to find out whether or not he really had Wren's table, or knows anything about it."

But scarcely had she turned into the narrow street than the surprising sight of Rob Roland's car dashed before her eyes. In it were Rob Roland and Sid Wilcox.

Seeing the festooning of the Whirlwind, the driver of the smaller car slackened up, then, seeing further who the occupants of the floral car were, Rob Roland drew up to speak to Cora.

"He has just come from the antique shop," whispered Clip, "and I am afraid we are too late, Cora."

But Cora spoke cheerily to the young men, exchanging pleasantries about the auto show, and remarking that they should have been in Breakwater to see it.

"Oh, we have had our own show this morning," said Rob triumphantly. "I guess the motor girls are not such expert detectives as they have thought themselves to be."

This seemed to be aimed directly at Clip. She only laughed merrily, however, as the Whirlwind shot out of reach of the young man's voice.

"What do you suppose he meant?" she asked Cora.

"We will soon know," replied the other. "It is about the table, of course."

They pulled up to the narrow sidewalk. Cora was not slow in leaving her car. Clip was with her on the walk directly.

As they pulled off, their gloves they stopped for a moment in front of the dingy window.

Cora drew back.

"Look!" she exclaimed. "There is Wren's promise book."

"For sale here!" gasped Clip.

"I - hope so - " faltered Cora quickening her steps into the shop.

The little bewhiskered man was rubbing his wrinkled hands in apparent satisfaction. He was in no hurry to wait on his customers.

"What is that album I see in the window?" asked Cora. "Some foreign postcard book?"

"Oh, that! No, that is not foreign. It is a sacred relic of some child saint."

"For sale?" asked Cora, her voice a-tremble.

"Oh, no! No! No!" and the man shook his head gravely. "I always keep relics - for curiosities."

"Might I look at it?" pressed the motor girl, while Clip picked up something with pretended interest.

"Oh, yes, of course. But it is only filled with names, and I got it in a deal with another sale. The party who brought it here," went on the curio dealer, "the same who bought the table gave me the book in the bargain, with the understanding that I should not sell it but keep it on exhibition. They were very particular about me not selling it."

Cora instantly guessed what this meant - a trick of Rob Roland. To show her the book! To make sure it was now useless, as the table had been made secure by him, but just to put it in that case to taunt her, when she would come, as of course he knew she would, and discover there was now absolutely no hope of ever recovering Wren's long-lost treasure.

She looked vaguely into the glass case. "So you did get the table?" she said indifferently.

"Yes, that, too," said the man. But he made no attempt to display it.

"Can't I see it? You said you would make me one like it - "

"Oh, yes. I know I did. But my customer is very particular, and I have agreed not to show it."

"Cora's heart sank. She must be shrewd now or lose what she had so long worked for.

"But you made the agreement with me first," she argued. "You promised to let me see the table, and said you would make me one to order, not like it, of course, but in the same line."

The old man shook his head. He had evidently changed his mind.

A new thought came to Cora. "Has your customer paid for the table?" she asked.

"Oh, it will be paid for - it will be paid .for," and he seemed to gloat over the words, "when it is delivered."

Then it was not yet paid for - not actually bought. Clip saw instantly what Cora was striving for, but she pretended to be interested in the locked case in which rested the much-looked-for promise book.

"How do you know it will be paid for?" hazarded Cora. "Young folks often change their minds. I suppose you have a good deposit?"

"Well, no. I wanted one, but the gentleman is gone for to cash a check - "

Cora laughed. The old man's face changed.

"If they wanted the table why did they not bring the money?" she said. "I should think it would save you trouble to sell the table directly to me - if it suits me, of course. I am going away from here, and suppose the other customer never comes back?"

Still the old man did not speak. Cora saw her advantage and took out her purse.

"How much is it?" she asked boldly.

"They will pay me fifty dollars for that table," he said dramatically.

"So will I, if it suits me," she declared. "Come, let me see it."

The old man saw the new bills in her hands,

He stepped toward the door of another room, but he put up his hand to warn her not to follow.

"I will bring it," he said in such grave tones that Clip wanted to laugh - surely this was a Shylock.

While he was within the room Cora whispered to Clip, and when the old man came out Clip was gone.

He had between his hands a small, very narrow table, like the old-time card table, with glass knob at either end, and on the long drop leaves were inlaid an anchor and crossed oars.

"That is just the size," declared Cora, while she trembled so she feared the man would detect her agitation. Then she looked it over, and under she was seeking for a hidden drawer.

"Are there drawers in it?" she asked.

"Oh, my, but yes. That is why it is worth so much. The drawers cannot all be found. It is like a safe - "

Cora was sure this was the long-lost table. Oh, if she could only induce the man to let her take it

The price, she was positive, was far beyond that offered by the other customer, but that did not matter.

"You had better let me have this," she said. "I will take it right along and save express. Then make one for the other party, if he ever comes back."

The shopkeeper shrugged his shoulders - if he only would talk, thought Cora.

Cora counted out fifty dollars. The man watched her greedily. It was twenty-five dollars more than he had bargained to sell the table for. Why should he lose so much?

"May I have it?" pressed Cora.

"Well, I never before did that but he should have left a deposit," said the man.

Quicker than the girl dreamed she could do it, Cora paid the man, actually grabbed the table herself and ran out of the shop with it and thrust it into the front of the Whirlwind among the flowers, cranked up her car and darted off.

Her face was so white that she frightened Gertrude. "Don't ask any questions, dear," she said to the latter. "I must meet Clip. She has gone for a detective."

Just around the corner came Clip, and with her an officer in plain clothes. Cora swung in to the curb.

"I have it! I have it!" she exclaimed to Clip. "Is this the officer?" she asked. "And have you told him the book was stolen?"

"Oh, don't worry about the details, miss," replied the officer. "We have that thing to do every day. These fellows take anything they can get, and that being the book of a cripple, I will take chances on getting it. You may be asked to explain fully, later."

"Oh, thank you so much!" cried Cora, almost overcome. "To think we may bring both the table and the book home to Wren!"

What followed seemed like a dream to Cora. Of course she knew that it was Rob Roland who had ordered the table and Sid Wilcox who had returned the book. As the Whirlwind passed the little hotel on the road to Chelton Cora actually brushed against Rob Roland's car - and she had the table hidden amid the flowers in the Whirlwind!

In Clip's hands was grasped the promise book - Wren should have both. Poor, afflicted little Wren!

Straight to the private sanitarium they went - these two motor girls. Miss Brown helped carry the table up to Wren's bedside.

At the sight of it Wren uttered a scream - then the shock did what medical skill often fails to do. Wren Salvey sprang out of bed, touched a spring in the table and a drawer jerked open.

"There!" she shrieked, holding up a paper. "The will!" Then she fell back - exhausted.

"The shock has done it," said Miss Brown as Clip helped put the girl on the bed and Cora looked frightened. "It has broken the knot that tied her muscles. She will be cured."

Clip stepped over to a closet, and while Cora was almost fainting from excitement Clip quietly took off her motor coat. Presently she stepped back to Cora - in the full garb of a trained nurse.

"Clip!" exclaimed Cora.

"Yes," replied the girl, "I graduate to-night. Will you be able to come?"

What more should be told? With the failure of Rob Roland to get possession of the table he lost all courage and simply admitted defeat. It was Sid Wilcox who stole the book from little Wren - just to avenge Ida Giles, whose lunch basket had been demolished by a motor girl. An odd revenge, but he thought, in some way, it would annoy the motor girls. Of course Rob Roland paid him something for doing it. But all their strategy was not equal to the ready wit of Cora Kimball and her chums. Nor was this the only time that the motor girls proved their worth in times of danger and necessity. They were active participants in other adventures, as will be related in the third volume of this series, to be called "The Motor Girls at Lookout Beach; Or, In Quest of the Runaways." How they went East in their cars, and how they unexpectedly got on, the trail of two girls who had left home under a cloud, will, I think, make a tale you will wish to peruse.

It was not long after the table and the promise book had been restored to Wren, and following her complete recovery, that the suit against Mr. Robinson was dropped. Roland, Reed & Company admitted that they had arranged to have the papers taken from the mailbag, and the government imposed a heavy fine on them for their daring crime. They had done what they did with the idea of securing information, and not with a desire to keep the papers, but the Federal authorities would accept no excuses. Later Mr. Robinson secured heavy damages from the men, the disfigured thumb of one having served Clip to identify him.

As for Wren and Mrs. Salvey, with the will in their possession, they were enabled to get control of a comfortable income, and Wren could be taken to a health resort to fully recover her strength. Sid Wilcox and Rob Roland were not prosecuted for their mean parts in the transactions, as it was desired to have as little publicity as possible.

"And to think, Clip, dear, that you were deceiving us all the while," remarked Cora several days later, when she and the Robinson twins; and a few other of the chums, were gathered in the Kimball home. "I never would have thought it of you."

"Nor I," added Belle.

"But wasn't it strange how it all came about?" suggested Bess. "It seemed like fate."

"It was fate," asserted Clip. "Fate and - Cora."

"Mostly fate, I'm afraid," declared Cora. "Of course the table being disposed of at auction was a mere accident, likely to happen anywhere. The real power, though, was little Wren. She, somehow, felt that the old will was in it, and by her talk, and through her promise book, the fact came to be known to the enemies of the family. Then Rob Roland, or some of the men who used him as a tool, conceived the idea of searching for the table. They probably had the old mahogany man act for them, and he made inquiries of auctioneers and persons who were in the habit of buying at auctions. Then we came into the game, and - "

"Yes, and then Ida and Sid Wilcox, though I'm glad Ida didn't take any part in these proceedings," observed Belle.

"So am I," said Cora softly. "Well, we managed to get ahead of Rob Roland. A little later and he would have had the table, and would have found the will. Then little Wren and her mother would never have come into their inheritance. Oh, I don't see how people can be so mean!"

"And the way they treated Paul," added Clip. "They ought to be punished for that."

"Well, I guess Paul was more harmed mentally than he was physically," said Bess. "He told me the men used him very gently. It was the papers in the bag they were after."

"I think Clip gave us the greatest surprise of all," went on Cora. "The idea of a girl keeping it secret as long as she did, that she was all ready to graduate as a trained nurse! No wonder she knew how to treat Wren. I feel that she is far above us now."

"Shall I lose my honorary membership in the Motor Girls' Club?" asked Clip as she slipped her arm around Cora and pretended to feel her pulse.

"Well, I guess not! The motor girls are proud of you!" cried Bess.

"Of course," added Belle.

Cora said nothing, but the manner in which she put her arm around the waist of Clip was answer enough.