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Authors: Carolyn Keene

(#15) The Haunted Bridge (11 page)

BOOK: (#15) The Haunted Bridge
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“Bess warned me I’d get into trouble if I insisted upon coming here,” she said to herself. “The old bridge had the last laugh.”

Nancy’s clothes were thoroughly soaked and her hair was plastered tightly against her head. She scrambled up the bank and followed the ravine trail to the cabin. Her firm knock brought Ned to the door.

“Why, Nancy, what happened to you?” he cried in astonishment. “I thought you were playing your golf match—”

Nancy grinned. “I was, but I decided to drop in for a moment and borrow an umbrella. Did you hear a loud crash a few minutes ago?”

“Yes, it sounded as if the bridge went down.”

“It did. And I went with it. You should have seen me sailing down the ravine!”

An expression of concern remained on Ned’s face in spite of the girl’s bantering tone. “Your hand, Nancy!” he exclaimed. ”You’ve hurt it again!”

Nancy was plunged into the turbulent stream!

“It is swollen,” she admitted. “But it’ll be all right to finish the golf match tomorrow. We stopped because of the heavy rain.”

Suddenly a thought came to Nancy. “Ned, I’m surprised to find you here. I thought you intended to stay at the hotel until the end of the golf match.”

“I meant to, but just after you teed off, Burt came to tell me I was needed here again.”

“Is Mr. Haley worse?” Nancy asked anxiously.

CHAPTER XIV

Surprise Visitor

 

 

 

 

“MR. HALEY has been very restless,” Ned reported. “Burt and Dave are outside now trying to look after the mountain lion. I should be helping them.”

“I’ll stay here with Mr. Haley,” Nancy said quickly. “You go ahead.”

Before Ned could protest she had moved quietly to the adjoining bedroom. The patient was sleeping peacefully.

After Ned had donned a raincoat and left the cabin, Nancy tiptoed to a closet in search of warm garments. The only apparel available were a pair of slacks and an old blue shirt.

While she was hanging her own wet clothes by a lighted oil stove to dry she heard Mr. Haley tossing and hastened back to him. The man’s eyes were wide open.

“Who are you?” he asked in a whisper.

“I am Nancy Drew, and I have come to help you.”

She tried to explain the situation to him but Mr. Haley was too restless to listen. He raised himself on an elbow, motioning her to assist him from the bed.

“No, you must remain quiet,” Nancy told him firmly. “You must not get up until the doctor says you may.”

“But I have to! My lion will starve. How long have I been ill?”

“Now don’t get excited,” Nancy said soothingly. “Everything is all right. Your lion is being cared for by friends of mine. Just lie back and try to rest.”

Presently Mr. Haley fell into a peaceful sleep. By the time Ned and the others came in, Nancy was able to report that she considered the patient well on the road to recovery.

“That’s good news,” Ned said in obvious relief. “By the way, you look great in Mr. Haley’s clothes.”

“I’ll bet I do.” She laughed.

As the storm subsided, the boys listened eagerly to her account of the day’s golf match. Ned cheered Nancy by saying he was sure she would win the tournament. The other boys agreed.

After the rain ceased, Ned set off for the ravine with Burt and Dave to take a look at the fallen bridge. They found that it had floated some distance downstream and was lodged against an old log. They returned to the cabin for ropes and tools, saying they were going to try and pull the structure back into place and anchor it securely.

During the boys’ absence Nancy donned her own clothes. Then, thoroughly worn out from her strenuous day, she sat down in a chair beside Mr. Haley and fell asleep.

She was awakened by a knock on the door and rose to open it. Before her stood a tall, handsome man who appeared to be about thirty years of age.

“I beg your pardon,” he said politely. “Is Mr. Haley at home?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure he can see a visitor,” Nancy replied. “He was injured in an accident and is in bed.”

“Oh, who are you?” the stranger asked in alarm. “I had no idea anything was wrong here or I’d have come before this. Mr. Haley isn’t in grave danger, is he?”

“He’s recovering now.”

“That’s good,” the caller said in relief. “Do you think I might see him? My name is Wardell and Mr. Haley is my uncle.”

Nancy was taken completely by surprise. Recovering quickly, she invited the young man to come inside.

“Mr. Haley is sleeping now,” she explained, “but when he wakes up he may be able to talk with you.”

“I’d rather not if you feel it would excite him,” Mr. Wardell said anxiously. “I think the world of my uncle. He practically reared me, and it was through him that I became interested in nature lore.”

Nancy asked a few polite questions about Mr. Wardell’s work. Although she knew that he was a professor at Andover College, she decided not to mention this immediately or reveal her identity.

“I came over to Deer Mountain Hotel this afternoon to see a young woman,” he said. “She had requested me to call on an urgent matter. Apparently it couldn’t have been very important, because she wasn’t even there. Since I was near here I thought I’d drop over and see my uncle. Please tell me about the accident.”

Nancy told him how she and her friends had discovered Mr. Haley. She wanted to bring Margaret Judson’s name into the conversation but to do it as casually as possible.

“When Mr. Haley was injured, we were afraid he had no living relatives,” she remarked. “There were no family photographs or other clues to their whereabouts. However, I did find a picture here in the cabin of a beautiful girl.”

Nancy took out the photograph of Margaret Judson and handed it to Professor WardelL He stared at it without speaking. An expression of deep anguish crossed his face.

“From something Mr. Haley said, I gathered that he knew this girl well,” Nancy remarked. “Do you know her?”

“Could I ever forget her?” Wardell said with emotion. “Margaret Judson and I were engaged to be married, but—” The man’s voice faltered.

Nancy watched with quiet sympathy as he fought to regain his composure.

The professor went on quickly. “I was away on a scientific expedition at the time Margaret’s house was destroyed by fire. Everything in it was lost. to

“Everything?” Nancy inquired.

“Well, she did save a chest of jewelry.” Professor Wardell smiled grimly. “Among other things it contained the engagement ring I had given her.”

“How fortunate!” Nancy murmured.

“It was anything but fortunate. In her escape Margaret lost the brass chest. She left a note for me at my uncle’s cabin, saying that even though she loved me, she must break our engagement. I couldn’t understand her actions then and I can’t now. Why should she refuse to marry me just because the ring was lost? I’d be only too happy to buy Margaret another one.

“The ring was valuable, I admit,” he went on, “but I’m sure Margaret knew me well enough to realize I wouldn’t blame her for something that obviously wasn’t her fault. People’s tongues wagged. They said she set the blaze to collect the insurance. That was nonsense, because unfortunately the policy had lapsed. Oh, I hope nothing has happened to her.”

Nancy was tempted to tell Professor Wardell she believed Miss Judson was in the vicinity of Deer Mountain. But before revealing any information about the young woman, she decided to consult her father.

“After you’ve visited your uncle a few minutes I want you to come with me to Deer Mountain Hotel,” Nancy said, “and meet my father.”

“I’ll be delighted to talk with him,” the professor said, “especially since I want to thank him for being so kind to my uncle. I must confess, however, that I don’t know his name or yours either, for that matter.”

Nancy enjoyed the man’s look of astonishment as she replied with a smile, “I happen to be the girl who asked you to call at Deer Mountain Hotel. My name is Nancy Drew.”

“You are Nancy Drew?” Professor Wardell exclaimed. “Why did you send for me?”

“I found something which I think may belong to Margaret Judson,” she replied. “I can’t tell you any more now. You must discuss it first with my father,”

CHAPTER XV

Gathering Evidence

 

 

 

 

THE professor did not press Nancy for a further explanation. After they had conversed a few more minutes, he asked if he might see Mr. Haley now.

“Go right in.” Nancy nodded toward the man’s room.

Mr. Wardell found his uncle still asleep and returned to the living room.

Presently Ned, Burt, and Dave trudged in, eg hausted by their attempt to repair the bridge. They told Nancy that while they had it anchored, considerable work would have to be done to make the bridge safe.

“You won’t be able to cross the ravine to return to your hotel,” Ned told her. “I’ll drive you back.”

“Thanks, Ned, but that won’t be necessary. I want you to meet Professor Wardell.” She pointed toward a dark corner of the room. “He has offered to take me in his car, which is parked at the Judson estate.”

The stranger rose from a chair and came forward. As the boys were introduced, Ned glanced at the man with a puzzled look. He was wondering how Wardell had become acquainted with Nancy. Even her explanation that he was Mr. Haley’s nephew did not lessen Ned’s feeling of jealousy.

Nancy gave him a warm smile as if to reassure him. Then she asked Ned to take good care of the patient while she and the professor went to the hotel.

“I don’t seem to be of much use at anything else,” Ned muttered, turning away.

During the drive to Deer Mountain Hotel, Nancy told her companion more about her father. The professor said he was eager to meet the lawyer.

When they reached the lobby, Nancy said, “Will you, please, wait here while I go to Dad’s room?”

He nodded and she went to the elevator. Nancy stopped a moment at George and Bess’s room but the cousins were not there.

“Dad!” she cried, bursting in upon him. “I’m almost certain that the carved chest I found in the ravine is Miss Judson’s missing property! I’ve brought Professor Wardell here. He’s her former fiancé. I want you to talk to him.”

Mr. Drew smiled. “You work fast, Nancy. I’d like very much to meet him.” After hearing his daughter’s full story, including the rained-out golf match, he said, “Bring Professor Wardell up to my room where we can talk privately.”

Nancy hurried downstairs to get the professor. He and Mr. Drew immediately liked each other. Nancy listened tensely when her father broached the topic of his search for Miss Judson.

“I appreciate your opinion, sir,” Professor Wardell said respectfully after he had listened to a summary of the evidence against the young woman. “But I cannot believe that Margaret knows anything about the jewel thefts. She was always so honorable and comes from a fine family. She couldn’t possibly have any connection with a gang of thieves and smugglers.”

“Nevertheless,” said Mr. Drew, “there are a few clues which seem to connect her with the affair. For instance, one of the stolen items is a jeweled compact. We know that Miss Judson had one.”

“That is not proof of her guilt,” said the professor.

“Of course not,” agreed Mr. Drew. “It could easily be coincidence.”

Nancy spoke up. “Did you ever hear Miss Judson speak of Martin Bartescue?”

“Why yes. I believe she met him in Europe.”

Nancy and her father exchanged quick glances.

“Is Bartescue under suspicion?” Wardell asked.

“Yes,” Carson Drew answered gravely, “but so far the evidence against him is purely circumstantial. If only we could find Miss Judson, she might be able to clear up the mystery surrounding both of them.”

“I have no idea where Margaret is,” the professor replied. “She might be staying with a cousin in Rock City.”

“You’ve never inquired?” Nancy asked in surprise.

“No,” Wardell answered in a low tone. “I didn’t want to force my attentions on Margaret. I don’t feel I should seek her out deliberately without some indication on her part that she wants to see me again. I still believe, however, that if I could talk with her, everything might be explained and cleared up.”

Professor Wardell arose to leave, saying he was already late for an important meeting.

“I’ll be waiting eagerly to hear from you, Mr. Drew. Your daughter has my address at Andover. When I’m not there I usually can be reached at my office in the science building.”

After he had gone, Nancy and her father discussed the case for a few minutes.

“In spite of all the evidence against Margaret Judson,” said Nancy, “I have a hunch she is not involved with the jewel thieves. That’s Mr. Wardell’s opinion and it’s also yours, Dad, isn’t it?”

“I hope that she will be cleared of suspicion.” The lawyer smiled.

Presently Mr. Drew and his daughter gave up trying to figure out the puzzle. They turned their attention to another pressing matter. During Nancy’s brief stay at Mr. Haley’s cabin she had noticed that the food supply was low, and many articles were needed to make the patient and the boys more comfortable.

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