Chapter IV. Twenty Thousand Dollars
 

"Say, Jack," remarked Ed a few days later, when the two were sprawled beside a brook, with rod and reel, "I believe I'll have to get better acquainted with the young folks out here. Honestly, I feel wobbly when I get to talking to them. I've been out of touch with them so long that I'm afraid I'll ask after some dead and gone aunt or uncle, or for some brother that has been in trouble and isn't spoken of any more in polite society. For instance, who is Ida--Ida Giles? You know--the girl who was with Sid? He introduced me to her last night."

"Oh, Ida--why--she's--just Ida. That's all. But that's a good idea of yours. I was thinking myself that you ought to begin studying up the blue-book of Chelton society. Now, as to Ida, the red-haired girl--"

"Not really red," corrected Ed slowly, "but that bright, carroty shade--so deliciously like lobster a la--"

"Oh, pardon me," and Jack assumed an affected manner. "Of course, Ida's hair is not really red--not merely--carroty is the very word needed. Well, she is the daughter of the Reverend Mrs. Giles. Don't you remember the woman who always scolded us for everything? Wouldn't let us even so much as take a turnip. And she wore such pious-looking spectacles that we dubbed her Reverend Mrs. Giles. Well, she still is Ida's mother."

"Then I don't blame Ida a bit. I'd be Ida myself if I was brought up as she's been, though I suppose her mother means all right. It's curious what queer manners some people have. But I dare say we all have our own faults."

"And, with all of them, I hope the girls love us still--even Ida," added Jack quickly.

"Now, those others--the beautiful Robinson twins," pursued Ed.

"Oh, yes. Well, Bess and Belle are certainly the real thing in girls--right up to the minute. Besides, they have an immensely rich papa. You've heard of him--Perry Robinson, the railroad king?"

"Oh, yes. And their mother, if one may be permitted to ask?"

"Certainly, fair sir--Their mother is a wonderfully handsome woman, in a statuesque sort of way. Very dignified, and all that. Now, the twins are worth while."

"Exactly so," answered Ed. "Now I think--"

He stopped suddenly, and quickly jerked up his rod, but not quite speedily enough, for he had the pleasure of seeing a fish slip wrigglingly off the hook.

"Biggest one to-day," he murmured as he adjusted some fresh bait. "Now, as to the Robinson twins. The only fault I have to find with them, from my limited acquaintance, is that they are not evenly divided. Bess is--er--well, not to be too delicate about it--too fat--"

"No, no, I beg of you!" exclaimed Jack. "Don't use that word. Say too much adiposed."

"Sounds like indisposed," murmured Ed; "but let it go at that. Bess is too much adiposed, and Belle--"

"Well?"

"She is too un-adiposed, if you like it better. Not to put to fine a point upon it, as Mr. Snagsby used to say--she's too thin."

"Not faults in either of them beyond repair," commented Jack. "Cora is very keen about them. Thinks they're the best ever. She is very much interested in them."

"How about Jack?" teased Ed. "He might have a perfectly pardonable interest in being Interested in the twins--solely on his sister's account, however--solely an the part of his sister."

"Um!" murmured Jack. "That's neither here nor there. To carry it a little further, and still discussing the twins, there is Ed Foster, who is always at college when he is not fishing. He has money to burn, and so he's going to set fire to some of it by entrusting it to the New City Bank.

"Not quite money to burn," said Ed as he carefully threw out the baited hook again. "I've about twenty thousand dollars that came from father's estate, and it is stipulated that it must be most carefully secured. I think the new bank a good investment. But as for that being a drawing-card in my favor, why look to yourself. Here's Jack Kimball," went on Ed, "the best musician at Exmouth. The girls' pet, and, altogether, a very nice boy. I believe that's all--no, hold on. I never said a word about your weakness for chicken potpie, although you did appropriate my dish the last day at college."

"I was hungry," pleaded Jack. "But I thank you for your considerate description. Do you think that you now have the Chelton folks to rights?"

"We haven't touched on Walter Pennington. He seems to be the whole thing with the girls," and Ed did not try to disguise his tone of sarcasm.

"Oh, yes--Walter," said Jack. "Oh, Walter's all right. He seems to have more time to spend fussing around the girls than the rest of us have."

"Is that it?" asked Ed. "I thought it was the other way about. That the girls had more time for Walter than for the rest of us."

"I don't pretend to understand you," remarked Jack, pulling up quickly and looking in disgust at his empty hook. "But if you want anything--why, go in and win, as Priscilla said to John Alden. You can beat Walter--you're handsomer."

"Drop that!" cried Ed, looking for a clod of earth to throw at Jack. Then he ran his fingers through his thick, black hair. He was handsome, but he did not like it "cast up to him."

"Oh, I don't know," he murmured after a pause. "Walter has a way with him. Girls 'perfectly love' that uncertain shade of hair. It's capable of being made over to suit--"

"Knocking!" cried Jack. "You're knocking! I'll tell Walter. You called him a--"

"A first-rate chap, and I mean it!" insisted Ed warmly. "That's just what I think of Walter Pennington."

"Well, you know what I've always thought of him," and Jack was equally enthusiastic. "Walter is the kind of a fellow that will keep without canning."

"Meaning some others won't--such as Sid, for example?"

"Well, he's very `close' sometimes, so to speak. At least very hard to understand. But let's talk about something else. When do you go over to the bank, to stand and deliver your good cash, bonds and securities for their stock?"

"This very afternoon, may it please the court. And, by the same token, I should be getting home now. Hope we won't meet anyone, or they might ask, as Sid did, if I'd been clamming. I can't seem to keep out of the mud."

They gathered up their fishing paraphernalia and walked out to the highway.

"Are you and your money going over in the machine?" asked Jack.

"Certainly. Why not? Henry Porter is going to loan me his runabout."

"Oh, I suppose it's all right, but it's a lot of money to carry with you alone--twenty thousand dollars."

"And to hear you talk I might suspect that you had designs on it. I guess I'll get over to New City with it safe and sound. I hardly think I need a bodyguard."

"Humph! Maybe not. I guess you'll be all right."

"Your sister seems much interested in motoring," remarked Ed as they trudged along.

"Oh, yes, sis is just wild about it. She learned to run my car, and then began teasing for one of her own. We a were waiting for her seventeenth birthday to give it to her--mother and I--"

"Oh, I suppose you paid for part of it," remarked Ed with a laugh.

"No; but I ran it up from the garage for her. It's a fine, up- to-date car, and now that sis has it she's as happy as a kitten lapping up sweet cream."

"And she's as plucky as--um--what shall I say? I never saw any one manage a car better than she did the day the brake wouldn't work and they nearly ran into the train. I declare, when I saw her dive through that gap in the fence and steer toward me through the pond, I felt like yelling. I was almost frozen stiff. Couldn't do a thing but look on."

"And sis thawed you out with a mud bath," said Jack. "Oh, Cora's all right, even if I am her brother."

"She certainly is a star, if I may be pardoned the expression. Well, here's where I'm going to leave you. I've got to stop at the post-office. People have gotten into the habit lately, and a mean habit it is, of mailing me bills about the first of the month. One would think they might let a fellow have a vacation from that sort of thing once in a while."

"Oh, I get mine, too. And this month they're rather heavier than usual, as it's Cora's birthday."

"There's Sid," suddenly remarked Ed, pointing down the road to where Sidney Wilcox was coming around a turn, walking slowly.

"Yes, and I guess he gets his bills, too."

"Likely," admitted Ed. "He seems to have one now, and it doesn't appear to please him," for Sid was intently studying a sheet of paper as he walked along. He turned back and looked up the road.

"Who's he looking for?"' asked Jack.

"Give it up. No, I don't, either. There she is. It's Ida Giles."

Sidney waited for the girl to come up to him. Then he put the sheet of paper in his pocket, and the two walked along together until they came abreast of Ed and Jack. Sid nodded, which salutation was returned by the two fishermen. Ida made a slight motion with her head, which might or might not have been taken for a bow. Then the two passed on.

"My, but they're rushing it pretty fast!" commented Jack.

"Oh, Sid owns a nice little car--built for two," spoke Ed. "That makes it worth while for her."

"Yes, Ida does get in a lot of runs."

Jack turned to look at the girl. She was rather becomingly dressed in a dark-blue gingham sailor suit. Her red hair seemed fairly to blaze in the summer sunlight. Her companion slouched along in that indifferent way common to many youths of neutral temperaments--nothing much decided about them save their dislike for hard facts.

Ed and Jack had now reached the beginning of the sidewalk leading into town. They noticed a torn envelope lying on the flags. It was, as they could see, addressed to Sidney Wilcox, and in one corner was the imprint of an auto firm, which made the style of car that Sid drove. The fishermen smiled at each other, but made no remark. Perhaps the envelope had contained a bill.

"I may take a spin out on the road this afternoon," said Jack at parting. "Cora and the twins are going out, and we have promised to trail along after them."

"We?" questioned Ed.

"Yes. Walter and I, of course."

"Oh, of course--Walter."

"Jealous!" called Jack. "But cheer up. Perhaps we shall meet' you, and you'll have a chance."

"Oh, I'll be too busy with the cash, I'm afraid. But, at any rate, give my regards to your sister."

"Surest thing you know. How about the twins?"

"Well--er--never mind."

"All right. Say, Ed, come over to dinner some night. I want mother to meet you."

"All right, I will."

Ed turned away. He seemed unusually thoughtful. Was it Jack's remark about carrying so much money, unprotected, along the highway that caused it? It was a large sum--twenty thousand dollars. But he was strong enough to take care of himself. Besides, he would have his revolver with him. He decided on this, though at first it had not occurred to him.

Then he laughed aloud at his worriment and his prospective precautions. Who ever heard of any one being robbed on the road from Chelton to New City?