“Well, well,” Joe Quigley greeted the girls cordially. “It’s good to see you again. When did you blow into town?”

Louise and Penny came close to the ticket window. They were curious as to what the young station agent had hidden in the closet. However, they did not disclose by look or action that they suspected anything was wrong.

“We drove in about an hour ago,” Penny replied carelessly. “We want to ship a spinning wheel by freight to Riverview.”

“I’d advise you to send it by express,” Quigley said briskly. “That way you’ll have it delivered to your door and the difference will be trifling.”

“Any way you say,” Penny agreed.

Joe went outside with the girls. Silas already had unloaded the spinning wheel. He turned it over to the station agent and after a bit of goodnatured joshing, drove away.

“I can get this out for you on No. 73,” Joe promised the girls. “Come on back to the office while I bill it out.”

Penny and Louise followed the station agent into the little ticket room. Their ears were assailed by the chatter of several telegraph instruments mounted around the edge of a circular work desk.

“How many wires come in here?” Penny asked curiously.

“Three. The Dispatcher’s wire, Western Union and the Message wire.”

Penny listened attentively to the staccato chatter of one of the wires. “D-A, D-A,” she said aloud. “Would that be the Delta station call?”

“It is,” Quigley agreed, giving her a quick look of surprise.

He sat down at the circular desk and reached for the telegraph key. After tapping out a swift, brief message, he closed the circuit.

“Get that?” he grinned at Penny.

She shook her head ruefully. “I learned the Morse code and that’s about all,” she confessed. “I used to practice on a homemade outfit Dad fixed up for me.”

“Quite a gal!” Quigley said admiringly. “What can’t you do?”

This was Penny’s opportunity and she seized it. “Quite a number of things,” she answered. “For one, I can’t solve a certain mystery that plagues me.”

Joe Quigley finished making out the way bill. His eyes danced as he handed Penny her receipt.

“So you admit that you’ve met your Waterloo in our Galloping Ghost?”

“I admit nothing,” Penny retorted. “You could help me if you would!”


“I’m sure you know the person who has been causing the Burmasters so much trouble.”

“Trouble?” Quigley’s eyebrows jerked. “The way I look at it, that Headless Horseman may do ’em a good turn. He may actually save their worthless necks by driving them out of the valley.”


“Meaning that Burmaster can’t keep on in his bull headed fashion without bringing tragedy upon himself as well as the valley. Even now it’s probably too late to reinforce the dam.”

“Then what does your prankster hope to gain?”

“You’ll have to ask him,” Joe Quigley shrugged. “This is the way I look at it. Mrs. Lear and the Burmasters are deep in a feud. The old lady lost the deed to her place and she figures if she moves off, the Burmasters somehow will take advantage of her.”

“They’ve made no attempt to do so?”

“Not yet. But old Mrs. Lear is convinced Mrs. Burmaster is biding her time.”

“It all sounds rather silly.”

“Maybe it does to an outsider. But this is the serious part. If the dam should let go there’d be no chance to warn either the Burmasters or Mrs. Lear. Both places should be evacuated.”

“Then why isn’t it done?”

“Because two stubborn women refuse to listen to reason. Mrs. Burmaster won’t budge because she says there’s no danger—that it’s a scheme to get her out of the valley. Mrs. Lear won’t leave her home while the Burmasters stay.”

“What’s to be done?”

“Ask me something easy.” The telegraph instrument was chattering the Delta station call again so Quigley turned to answer it. “If you see Mrs. Lear before you leave here, try to reason with her,” he tossed over his shoulder. “I’ve given up.”

The girls nodded goodbye and went outside. Silas Malcom’s wagon was nowhere to be seen, and after a brief debate they decided to walk to Mrs. Lear’s place.

“Maybe we still can catch a ride home with Salt,” Louise remarked dubiously. “With all this talk about the dam, I certainly don’t relish spending a night in the valley.”

“Oh, Silas said there was no immediate danger unless it rains again,” Penny reminded her chum. “What Joe Quigley said about Mrs. Lear worries me. We must try to get her to leave the valley.”

“Why not move a mountain?” Louise countered. “It would be a lot easier.”

When the girls reached Mrs. Lear’s cabin they discovered that word of their arrival in Delta had traveled ahead of them.

“Your room’s all ready fer you,” the old lady beamed as she greeted them at the door. “This time I hope you’re stayin’ fer a week.”

Nothing seemed changed at the Lear cabin. Mrs. Lear had spent the morning canning fruit, and the kitchen table was loaded with containers. A washing flapped lazily on the line. While waiting for the clothes to dry, the old lady filled in her time by sewing on a rag rug of elaborate pattern.

“I’m a mite behind in my work,” she confessed to her young visitors. “These infernal rains set a body back. Fer three days I couldn’t get my washin’ hung, an’ I never will git my corn dried less I do it in the oven.”

“Speaking of rain,” Penny began hesitantly, “Don’t you think it’s dangerous to remain here much longer?”

“Maybe it is, maybe it ain’t,” the old lady retorted. “Either way I’m not worryin’. There ain’t nothin’ going to put me off my place—not even a flood.”

“Joe Quigley thinks that you and the Burmasters both should move to a safer place.”

“Then let ’em go fust,” Mrs. Lear declared. “Didn’t Mrs. Burmaster steal the deed to my land jest fer meanness and spite? If I was dumb enough to leave this place fer an hour she’d find some way to git it away from me.”

“That couldn’t be done so easily,” smiled Penny. “After all, Mr. Burmaster has more sense than his wife. Did you never talk to him about the missing deed?”

“We had words,” Mrs. Lear said with emphasis. “’Course he stood up fer his wife—said she’d never do such a thing. But I know better!”

“Yet since the deed disappeared no one has tried to put you off your land.”

“That’s cause the Burmasters are waitin’ their chance. Oh, they’re sly and cunning. But I’m jest as smart as they are, and they’ll never git me off this place!”

The discussion, Penny felt, was traveling in the same familiar circle. One could not influence Mrs. Lear. Her mind had been made up. Nothing would move her.

Thinking that they might at least talk matters over with Mr. Burmaster, the girls presently walked down the road to Sleepy Hollow estate. A workman who was busy with hammer and saw told them that Mr. and Mrs. Burmaster had motored to Delta for the afternoon.

“What are you building?” Penny inquired curiously. “A gate?”

“You might call it that,” he grinned. “Mr. Burmaster ordered me to knock together a couple of ’em, one for each end of the bridge.”

“Oh! I see!” Light dawned upon Penny. “Moveable barriers to trap the Headless Horseman prankster!”

“It’s a lot o’ nonsense if you ask me,” the workman grumbled. “That fellow ain’t been around here in a week. Reckon he may never show up again.”

“Yet Mr. Burmaster keeps watch of the bridge?”

“Every night. That wife of his wouldn’t give him no peace if he didn’t.” The workman hammered a nail into place and added: “The Burmasters have got something to worry about if they only had sense enough to realize it.”

“You mean the Huntley Dam?”

The workman nodded. “I’m quittin’ here tonight,” he confessed. “Maybe that dam will hold, but I’m takin’ no chances!”

Penny and Louise were even more troubled as they walked back to Mrs. Lear’s home. A fine supper awaited them. They scarcely did justice to it and found it difficult to respond to the old lady’s cheerful conversation.

“She just doesn’t seem to realize that she’s in any danger,” Louise whispered despairingly to her chum as they did the dishes together.

“Oh, she knows,” Penny replied. “But Mrs. Lear is set in her ways. I doubt anyone can induce her to take to the hills.”

After the dishes had been put away, the girls played card games with the old lady. Promptly at nine o’clock Mrs. Lear announced that it was bed time. As she locked up the doors for the night she stood for a time on the back porch, staring thoughtfully at the clouds.

“It looks like rain again,” Penny remarked.

Mrs. Lear said nothing. She closed the door firmly and turned the key.

Once in their bedroom, the girls undressed quickly and blew out the light. For awhile they could hear Mrs. Lear moving about on the bare floor of her own room. Then the house became quiet.

“I’ll be glad when we’re home again,” Louise whispered, snuggling down under the quilts. “Think how wet we’d get if that dam should break tonight!”

“Stop talking about it or you’ll give me nightmares!” Penny chided. “Let’s go to sleep.”

Try as they would, the girls could not settle down. First Penny would twist and turn and then Louise would do her share of squirming. Finally just as they were beginning to feel drowsy, they were startled to hear a drumming sound on the tin roof above their heads.

“What was that?” Louise muttered, sitting up.

The sounds were coming faster and faster now.

“Rain!” Penny exclaimed.

Jumping out of bed, she went to the window. Already the panes were splashed and rivulets were chasing one another to the sill.

“If this isn’t the worst luck yet!” she muttered. “It looks like a hard rain too.”

Louise joined her chum at the window. Disheartened, they gazed toward the woods and the hills. Ominous warnings arose in their minds to plague them. With an added burden of water could the dam hold? Sleep seemed out of the question. Wrapping blankets about them, the girls drew chairs to the window and watched.

Then as suddenly as the rain had started, it ceased. A moon struggled through a jagged gap of the clouds. The woods and the barn became discernible once more.

“Rain’s over,” Louise said, covering a yawn. “Let’s go to bed, Penny.”

Penny gathered up the quilts from the floor. But as she turned away from the window, an object outside the house captured her attention. For an instant she thought that she was mistaken. Then she gripped Louise’s hand, pulling her back to the sill.

“What is it?” Louise asked in bewilderment.

“Look over there!” Penny commanded.

From the woods across the road the girls could see a moving light.

“Someone with a lantern,” Louise said indifferently.

“Watch!” Penny commanded again.

Even as she spoke, the lantern was waved in a half circle from side to side. The strange movement was repeated several times.

“What do you make of it?” Louise whispered in awe.

“I suspect someone is trying to signal this house,” Penny replied soberly. “Let’s keep quiet and see what we can learn.”

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook