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The Girls of Central High on Track and Field, Page 2

Gertrude W. Morrison


  "It's a man!"

  Dora Lockwood said it so tragically that Bobby was highly amused.

  "My goodness me!" she chortled. "You said that with all the horrifiedemphasis of a spinster lady."

  "It _is_ a man--isn't it?" whispered the other twin.

  "I--I guess so," Laura Belding said, slowly.

  "It is," declared Jess. "And he's a tough looking character."

  "And he is acting quite as oddly as the girl did," remarked Bobby. "Whatdo you suppose it means?"

  "He's a Gypsy, too, I believe," put in Eve Sitz, suddenly.

  "Say! this is getting melodramatic," laughed Laura Belding.

  "Just like 'The Gypsy's Warning,' or something quite as hair-raising,eh?" agreed Bobby.

  "There! he's coming out," gasped Jess.

  The man appeared for half a minute in the clearer space of the openroad. He was staring all about, up and down the road, along the edge ofthe woods, and even into the air. The seven girls were behind the fringeof bushes that edged the huge rock, and he could not see them.

  "What an evil-faced fellow he is!" whispered Dora Lockwood.

  "And see the big gold rings in his ears," added her twin, Dorothy.

  "Do you suppose he is really after that girl?" observed Laura,thoughtfully.

  "Whether he is, or not, it's none of our business, I suppose," returnedJess, who was Mother Wit's closest chum.

  "I'm not so sure of that."

  "My goodness! if they're Gypsies, we don't want to have anything to dowith them," exclaimed Dorothy.

  "Oh, the Romany people aren't so bad," said Eve Sitz, easily. "They havecustoms of their own, and live a different life from we folk----"

  "Or 'us folk?'" suggested Nellie, smiling.

  "From other folk, anyway!" returned the big girl, cheerfully. "They comethrough this section every Spring--and sometimes later in the year, too.We have often had them at the house," she added, for Eve's father had alarge farm, and from that farm the seven girls had started on this longwalk early in the morning.

  It was the Easter vacation at Central High and these friends were allmembers of the junior class. Centerport, the spires and tall buildingsof which they could now see in the distance, was a wealthy and livelycity of some hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, situated on thesouthern shore of Lake Luna, a body of water of considerable size.

  At either end of the lake was another large town--namely Lumberport andKeyport. In each of these latter cities was a well conducted highschool, and in Centerport there were three--the East and West Highs, andCentral High, the newest and largest.

  For a year now the girls of all these five high schools had been deeplyinterested in athletics, including the games usually played upon theGirls' Branch Athletic League grounds--canoeing, rowing, ski running,and lastly, but not least in value according to the estimation of theirinstructors, walking. Usually the physical instructor of Central High,Mrs. Case, accompanied her pupils on their walking tours; but thisvacation the seven friends who now stood upon the summit of this big,gray rock, had determined to indulge in a long walk by themselves, andthey had come over to Eve Sitz's house the night before so as to get anearly start on the mountain road to Fielding, twenty miles away. Fromthat place they would take the train back to Centerport, and Eve was toremain all night with Laura at the Belding home.

  These girls, although of strongly marked and contrasting characters,were intimate friends. They had been enthusiastic members of the girls'athletic association from its establishment; and they had, individuallyand together, taken an important part in the athletic activities ofCentral High.

  For instance, in the first volume of this series, entitled, "The Girlsof Central High; Or, Rivals for All Honors," Laura Belding was able tointerest one of the wealthiest men of Centerport, Colonel RichardSwayne, in the girls' athletic association, then newly formed, so thathe gave a large sum of money toward a proper athletic field andgymnasium building for their sole use.

  In "The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna; Or, the Crew That Won," thesecond story of the series, the girls were mainly centering theirattention upon aquatic sports; and the Lockwood twins--Dora andDorothy--were particularly active in this branch of athletics. They wonhonorable mention if not the prize in the canoe event, and were likewisemembers of the Central High girls' crew that won the cup in the contestof eight-oared shells.

  The third volume of the series, named "The Girls of Central High atBasketball; Or, The Great Gymnasium Mystery," particularly related thefortunes of the representative basketball team of Central High, and ofwhich each girl now gathered here on the ridge was a member.

  Not long previous to this day in the Spring vacation when the seven weretramping toward Fielding, Jess Morse had made a great hit with herschool friends and instructors, as well. She had written a play, whichwas performed by members of the girls' secret society of the school andsome of their boy friends, and so good was it that it not only won aprize of two hundred dollars for which many of the girls of Central Highhad competed, but it attracted the attention of a professionaltheatrical producer, who had made a contract with Mrs. Morse, Jess'smother, for the use of the play in a revised form upon the professionalstage. The details of all this are to be found in the fourth volume ofthe series, entitled, "The Girls of Central High on the Stage; Or, ThePlay That Took the Prize."

  "There! the fellow's going back," said Jess Morse, suddenly callingattention to the dark man on the road below.

  "If he was after the girl he has given up the chase. I am glad of that,"added her chum.

  "But where did the girl go?" demanded Bobby Hargrew, craning her neck topeer toward the bushes on the easterly side of the rock.

  "There she is!" ejaculated Dora Lockwood, grabbing Bobby by the arm.

  She pointed down the side of the ridge, where the rough pasture landdropped to the verge of the brook. The other girls came running andgazed in the direction she pointed out.

  The green skirt and the yellow scarf appeared. The girl was wading inthe stream, and she passed swiftly along, seen by the spectators atevery opening in the fringe of trees and brush that bordered the brook.

  "In the water at this time of the year!" gasped Jess.

  "And in her shoes and stockings! She wouldn't have had time to stop totake them off and get so far up stream," declared Bobby, almost dancingup and down in her eagerness.

  "What do you suppose it means?" cried Nellie.

  "She is running away from the man, I guess," admitted Laura, slowly.

  "And trying to hide her trail," added Eve.

  "Hide her trail! Is this the Indian country? Are the Gypsies savages?"demanded Nellie. "Has she got to run along the top of a stone fence andthen take to a running stream to throw off pursuit?"

  "That is her hope, I expect," Laura said.

  "But _why?_" cried Bobby. "You can't tell me that even Gypsies are askeen on a trail as all that----"

  "Hark!" commanded Laura. "Listen."

  "It's dogs," spoke Bobby, in a moment.

  "O--o--o--o! sounds like a wolf," shuddered Dora.

  "It is worse," said Eve Sitz, her face flushing. "That is the bay of abloodhound. I remember that we saw one of the great, lop-eared animalsin leash when that party of Romanys went past our place last week."

  "You don't mean that, Eve?" Jess cried. "A bloodhound?"

  "And they have put him on the trail of that girl--sure as you live!"declared the farmer's daughter, with decision.