The information shocked Penny.

“Mrs. Lear—dead,” she repeated. “Oh, I was hoping that somehow she escaped.”

“She would have if it hadn’t been for me,” Mrs. Burmaster said dully. “Ten minutes before the dam gave way, a telephone warning was sent out. Mrs. Lear thought my husband and I might not have heard it. She rode her horse to Sleepy Hollow, intending to warn us.”

“And then what happened?”

“Just as Mrs. Lear reached our place, the wall of water came roaring down the valley. We all ran out of the house, hoping to reach the hills. We did get to higher ground but we saw we couldn’t make it. Mrs. Lear made my husband and me climb into a tree. Before she could follow us, the water came.”

“Mrs. Lear was swept away?”

“Yes, we saw her struggling and then the water carried her beyond sight.” Mrs. Burmaster covered her face. “Oh, it was horrible! And to think that it was all my fault!”

“Where is your husband now?” Penny inquired kindly.

“Outside, I think,” Mrs. Burmaster murmured. “We were brought here together in a boat.”

Penny and Louise went outdoors and after a brief search found Mr. Burmaster. His clothing was caked with mud, his face was unshaven and he looked years older.

To his wife’s story he could add little. “This has been a dreadful shock,” he told Penny. “Now that it’s too late I realize what a stubborn fool I was. My wife and I are responsible for Mrs. Lear’s death.”

“No, no, you mustn’t say that,” Penny tried to comfort him. “It was impossible for anyone to predict what would happen.”

“Sleepy Hollow is gone—completely washed away,” Mr. Burmaster went on bitterly. “The estate cost me a fortune.”

“But you can rebuild.”

“I never shall. My wife never could be happy in Red Valley. Now that this terrible thing has occurred, it would be intolerable to remain. I’ve been thinking matters over. I’ve decided to deed all the land I bought back to the valley folk. It’s the least I can do to right a great wrong.”

“It would be very generous of you,” said Penny, her eyes shining.

The girls talked with Mr. Burmaster for a little while and then started toward US highway 20, intending to watch incoming cars. Ambulances, army and supply trucks now were flowing into Delta in a steady stream. However, midway there, they spied a car coming toward them which bore “Riverview Star” on its windshield.

“There’s Salt now!” Penny cried, signaling frantically.

The car stopped with a jerk. The Star photographer sat behind the wheel, while beside him were two men from the paper’s news department.

“Well, well,” Salt greeted the girls jovially. He swung open the car door. “If it isn’t Penny, the child wonder! Meet Roy Daniels and Joe Wiley.”

Acknowledging the introduction, Penny and Louise squeezed into the front seat of the sedan. Driving on, Salt plied them with questions. Penny told him how rival newsmen had tried to buy her camera pictures.

“Good for you, hanging onto them!” Salt approved warmly. “Our car never did break down. By the way, where can we set up our portable wire photo equipment?”

“There’s only one possibility. The telephone company. Right now they have the only wire service in Delta.”

Penny directed Salt through the few streets that were clear of debris to the telephone building. There the portable wire photo equipment quickly was set up. Penny’s camera pictures were developed, and though some of the shots were over-exposed there were four good enough to send over the network.

“Mr. Nordwall has six toll lines out of Delta now,” Salt told the girls jubilantly. “He’s letting us have one of them.”

Carefully the photographer tested the controls of the wire photo machine. He listened briefly to the hum of the motor. Satisfied that everything was running properly, he attached one of the freshly printed pictures to the transmitting cylinder.

“Okay,” he signaled to Mr. Nordwall. “Give us a toll to the Riverview Star.”

Within a few minutes the order came: “Network clear. Go ahead, Delta.”

Salt turned on a switch and the sending cylinder began to revolve. One by one Penny’s pictures were transmitted over the wire.

“Your shots are the first to get out of Red Valley!” Salt told her triumphantly. “Your work’s done now. Better crawl off somewhere and sleep.”

Penny nodded wearily. She was glad to know that the Star would scoop every other paper in the country on the flood story and pictures. Still, for some reason she couldn’t feel very happy about it. As she turned away, Salt called: “Hey, wait! Your father’s on the wire photo phone. He wants to talk to you.”

Penny caught up the receiver eagerly.

“That you, Penny?” a blurred voice asked in her ear. “Congratulations! You came through with flying colors!”

“Guess I was lucky to come through at all,” Penny said slowly. “Some weren’t so fortunate.”

“Just now the important thing is when are you coming home?” Mr. Parker asked. “Can you get here today?”

To Penny, the thought of home and a soft bed was more alluring than any other earthly bliss.

“I’ll certainly try, Dad,” she promised. “Yes, somehow I’ll get there.”

After Penny ended the conversation with her father, she and Louise talked to Salt about the prospects of a trip home. Regretfully he explained that with a big story to cover, he probably would not be leaving that day.

“But there are plenty of cars going out of here,” he encouraged them. “Why not go down to the depot and make inquiries.”

The idea seemed an excellent one. At the station the girls talked again with Joe Quigley who assured them he knew of a car that was leaving very shortly.

“Hurry out to Highway 20 and I think you can catch the fellow,” he urged.

Hastily saying goodbye not only to Joe but to Mr. and Mrs. Burmaster who remained in the crowded station, the girls went outside. As they rounded a corner of the building a voice fairly boomed at them: “Hello, folks!”

Penny and Louise whirled around to see Silas Malcom coming toward them. Clinging to his arm was a spry little woman in a borrowed coat and hat.

“Mrs. Lear!” gasped the girls in one voice.

“It takes more than a flood to wash me away!” chirped the old lady, bright as a cricket.

Penny and Louise rushed to embrace her. Eagerly they plied her with questions.

“I’m jest like a cat with nine lives,” old Mrs. Lear chuckled. “When the flood carried me off, I didn’t give up—not me. I was a purty good swimmer as a gal and I ain’t so bad even now. I kinda went with the current until I got ahold of a log. There I clung until a Red Cross boat picked me up.”

Mrs. Lear’s safe arrival at Delta thrilled Penny and Louise. They rushed into the station to bring Mr. and Mrs. Burmaster who shared their great relief over the rescue. And Penny was delighted when Mr. Burmaster repeated to the old lady what he had told her—that he intended to allow his property to revert to the former tenants.

“That’s mighty good of you, Mr. Burmaster,” the old lady thanked him. “What we’ve been through has taught us all a bitter lesson. I’m ashamed of the way I acted.”

“You were justified in your attitude,” the estate owner acknowledged.

“No, I wasn’t. It was childish o’ me tryin’ to take my spite out on your wife. I’m especially sorry about the way I egged Joe Quigley onto that Headless Horseman trick.”

“I was afraid you were behind it,” smiled Mr. Burmaster. “Oh, well, it all seems trivial now. We’ll forget everything.”

“There are some things,” said Penny quietly, “that I doubt we’ll ever erase from our minds.” She turned to the old lady and asked: “Won’t you come to Riverview with Louise and me? You’ll need a place to stay—”

Mrs. Lear’s gaze met hers, challengingly but with a twinkle of humor.

“And what better place could I have than this?” she demanded with quiet finality. “Red Valley is my home, and my home it will be till the end o’ time!”

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