Authors: Carolyn Keene
“Maybe it’s the ghost!” Bess exclaimed.
Nancy and George pushed on through the dense tangle of underbrush, with Bess bringing up the rear. They were close enough now to see the footbridge. It was old and in need of repairs.
Nancy, who was in the lead, halted abruptly. Through the trees she could see something white flapping. The next moment a moaning and a weird groaning filled the air.
Bess gasped in horror. “The bridge is haunted!” she cried. “You can see the ghost waving its arms! Nancy, let’s get out of here!”
“Nonsense,” said George. “It’s probably only a piece of white cloth fluttering in the wind.”
“It might be,” Bess admitted, “but did you ever hear a piece of cloth moan and groan?”
Nancy started to reply but the words died in her throat.
From somewhere up the ravine to their left came a fearful cry that rose to a screeching crescendo, then faded away with a tremulous wail.
“What was that?” whispered Bess.
“Maybe some kind of wild animal,” replied George uneasily.
“Perhaps,” Nancy said doubtfully. “But what could it be? I don’t think there’s anything larger than deer in these woods.”
For several minutes the three girls huddled together, listening for the weird sound to be repeated. Through the screen of trees they could still see the white, ghostlike object moving its arms slowly to and fro.
“Come on,” Nancy urged. “We’ll approach quietly and see if we can surprise the ghost.”
Bess pleaded with her companions to give up the adventure, but they paid no attention.
Nancy, who was ahead of the others, moved stealthily forward through the woods, taking care not to step on twigs nor to make any sound which would betray her presence. Suddenly she halted and began to laugh.
“Girls, Chris’s so-called ghost is nothing but an old scarecrow!”
Moving slightly aside, Nancy pointed toward the bridge directly below. The girls were now close enough to see a tall, tattered white figure flapping in the breeze.
“That was a good joke on us!” George grinned.
No longer afraid, they hastened down into the ravine to examine the scarecrow. It had been set up at the entrance to the narrow, rustic footbridge that spanned a creek. Evidently the figure had been standing there for many months, because the white clothing was grimy and torn, and straw stuffing protruded from the shirt.
“The scarecrow is so wobbly,” said George, “that the slightest breeze, or any vibration of the bridge causes it to move.”
“Seeing the movement from a distance, I suppose the caddies imagined the figure was crossing the bridge,” Nancy added.
“Well, I guess the mystery of the haunted bridge is solved,” concluded George.
“How do you explain the moaning and the groaning we heard?” Bess asked. “Did we imagine it?”
“No,” Nancy answered gravely. “Those noises were very real, and so was that terrible cry up the ravine. And we know none of them came from this scarecrow!”
“You don’t suppose we heard the creaking of the bridge as it swayed in the wind?” Bess asked.
“No,” Nancy replied. “It’s possible some prankster may be at work around here. Let’s make a search.”
After the girls had investigated the area carefully they were more bewildered than before. There was no evidence of footprints in the vicinity of the bridge. Apparently no one had been there recently.
“Nobody’s around here now,” Nancy observed, “but of course someone must have set up the scarecrow. But why?”
“There are no fruit trees nearby and no crops to be protected from crows,” Bess commented. “It seems pretty obvious that someone wants to keep people from crossing the bridge.”
“Shall we go to the other side?” Nancy asked.
“The bridge doesn’t look safe to me,” Bess protested.
“I think it will hold me,” Nancy said. As she cautiously stepped onto the bridge, the rickety boards creaked.
Bess shuddered. “Oh, Nancy, please don’t go any farther!” she cried. “There’s nothing to see on the other side.”
The young detective, her hands clenched around the wooden railing, edged her way to the middle of the bridge. Beads of perspiration dotted her forehead as the shaky supports swayed. Suddenly the railing billowed outward.
Bess and George gasped as Nancy paused, then deftly pulled the railing toward her. “Please turn back!” Bess called. “Let’s look for your golf ball instead.”
Nancy did not want to upset her friends and gingerly made her way back to them. “I’d very much like to find that ball,” she said. “It’s a prize one of mine. Jimmy Harlow, the champion, autographed it for me.”
The girls poked among the bushes and leaves for nearly fifteen minutes but could not locate the lost ball.
“Maybe it rolled into the creek,” Bess suggested.
Nancy, who wore a pair of sturdy shoes, scrambled down the muddy bank. After a brief search she realized she was accomplishing nothing and was ruining her shoes. She decided to rejoin her friends who were watching from above. She walked along the edge of the creek looking for a place where the bank was not so steep.
Suddenly her eyes lighted upon a metal object half buried in thick mud. Excitedly Nancy stooped to pick it up.
“Is that your ball, Nancy?” George called.
“No, it’s a piece of brass. I think I’ve found an old plate!”
“A brass plate!” Bess exclaimed in wonder.
Meanwhile Nancy had pried the object out of the mud and saw that it was not a plate but a small carved chest.
“It looks valuable!” she gasped, holding up the article for Bess and George to see. “And it’s very heavy.”
“Nancy, you certainly were born lucky,” George remarked. “You lose a golf ball and find a treasure chest!”
“This feels heavy enough to contain gold,” Nancy declared, turning the curious object over in her two hands.
She estimated that the little chest was not more than six inches in length. It appeared to be approximately four inches wide and slightly less in depth.
“Open it quickly,” Bess urged when Nancy rejoined them.
“The chest seems to be locked.”
“Maybe the lid’s stuck,” George added. “Let me try.” She had no better success.
“It’s locked, all right,” Bess declared. “We could try to smash the lid with a rock.”
“Brass isn’t easy to crack,” Nancy replied. “Besides, I don’t want to ruin such an attractive little chest. It will be beautiful when cleaned and polished.”
“I’m curious to know what’s inside,” George interjected. “Any ideas, Nancy?”
“Maybe something valuable. The thing that interests me is, how did it get here—so close to the haunted bridge?”
“Perhaps the scarecrow put it there on his off-duty hours!” Bess suggested with a grin.
“Ha-ha. Very funny,” her cousin answered. “Sounds like your brain has gone off duty.”
Bess ignored the comment and remarked, “I’ll bet the water washed it down here. The creek evidently was much higher at one time than it is now.”
“I wonder,” said Nancy, “if someone deliberately buried the chest—possibly the person who set up the scarecrow.”
“Well, it’s too deep a mystery for me,” Bess declared as the girls climbed out of the ravine with their treasure. “Nancy, if you can find the answer to this riddle you’ll be good!”
“I mean to try at least,” the young detective replied with a laugh.
The three girls soon emerged from the woods. They met no one as they cut across the golf course. But as they approached Deer Mountain Hotel they saw Martin Bartescue on the terrace. He sat sipping a cool drink under an umbrella at a table. He quickly arose and came toward the girls.
Nancy was annoyed. “That pest will be certain to see the chest and ask a million questions about it!” she murmured.
Bess, who was carrying a sweater, carefully tossed it over Nancy’s arm so the object was concealed completely.
Before Bartescue could speak, Nancy said hastily, “Thank you for the beautiful flowers.”
“You liked the roses?” He beamed. “I ordered the best I could get. Of course the florist shop here at Deer Mountain is not like those in New York or Europe. How are you feeling today?”
“Very well, except for my hand. One finger is still pretty useless,” Nancy replied.
“Do you plan to play in the tournament?”
“Yes, if the doctor says I may, and providing I qualify.”
Bartescue smiled. “Your score was one of the lowest turned in. You qualified easily.”
“I was hoping to,” she said. “Are you competing in the men’s tournament tomorrow?”
“Oh yes, and I’m counting on winning the cup !” Bartescue announced. “I went out for a practice round this morning and shot a sixty-nine. I’m just coming into my game,” he boasted. “I doubt if anyone here will be a match for me unless I go into an unexpected slump.”
The girls found his bragging decidedly distasteful, but listened politely.
“May I treat you to ice cream?” he said as the four reached the hotel entrance. He seemed offended when Nancy declined.
When the girls gained the privacy of their adjoining bedrooms, Bess chuckled. “At least he didn’t see the brass chest.”
Nancy immediately tried to pry open the chest with a nail file but the lid would not budge.
“We need something with a sharp point,” George declared as she studied the little chest. “If only we had an ice pick or something with a—”
Nancy sprang to her feet, her eyes full of excitement.
“Why didn’t I think of it before?”
Without waiting to explain, she dropped the chest into George’s lap and ran from the room.
She hurried through the hotel lobby to find a tool with which to pry open the lid. As Nancy passed the flower shop, she paused a moment to admire the beautiful display in the window.
“It would be nice for me to send Bess and George each a bouquet,” she mused. “They admired mine so much. They should have some of their own.” She grinned.
Impulsively Nancy entered the shop, where she purchased two bouquets to be delivered immediately to her friends.
“Shall I include your name?” the clerk inquired politely.
“No, just write ‘From A Friend.’ ”
Nancy knew that Bess and George would recognize her handwriting and thought it would be fun to tease them. She watched as the clerk wrote the message on two cards. Nancy picked up one and looked at it curiously.
“Your handwriting looks familiar,” she said.
“I sometimes write cards for my customers. Did someone send you flowers from my shop?”
“Yes, I received a dozen roses from a man named Martin Bartescue.”
“Oh, are you Miss Drew?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I wrote the card that went with your flowers,” the clerk recalled. “Mr. Bartescue requested me to do so.”
“I see,” Nancy murmured, without disclosing by her tone that the information had special significance. She paid for the fiowers and left.
As she passed the registration desk, the hotel clerk motioned to her. “Miss Drew, the tournament chairman asked me to give you this,” he said and handed her a sealed envelope. To her delight, it contained an invitation to enter the official competition.
Excitedly Nancy hurried on to the caddy house, where her golf bag and spiked shoes were. Bess and George were mystified when their friend returned to the cousins’ room holding the shoes and an envelope.
“Sharp gear!” Bess quipped. “What do you intend to do with those?”
Nancy laughed. “Could you ask for a better implement than a spike?” Almost in the same breath, she asked, “Aren’t you curious about this too?” She showed them the letter and then turned her attention to the brass chest.
Holding it firmly between her knees, she inserted a row of the spikes of one shoe under the edge of the lid, then used the other shoe as a hammer.
As she paused for a moment, Nancy remarked, “The lid on this mystery chest is stubborn.”
Bess said, “Why don’t you stop for a while? It’s almost dinnertime. We should dress.”
Reluctantly Nancy agreed.
The girls had just finished changing when a boy appeared at the door bearing two boxes from the florist shop.
“They’re for Nancy, of course.” Bess sighed wistfully. “Barty is a pest but at least he’s generous.”
George looked at one of the boxes. “This is addressed to me!” she cried in surprise. “There must be some mistake.”
Nancy thoroughly enjoyed herself as she watched the two girls open their boxes. So far they did not suspect that she had sent the flowers.
“Oh, what a lovely bouquet!” Bess exclaimed in delight, putting her face close to the yellow roses in it. “Who could have sent it?”
George was peering at the attached card. “‘From A Friend,’ ” she read.
“And mine is the same,” Bess added.
“Are you sure you haven’t been hiding something from me?” Nancy asked teasingly.
The little game went on for some time. Then Nancy’s broad smile betrayed her.
“Nancy Drew, you sent these flowers!” Bess suddenly accused her.
“Well, yes, I did.”
“It was great of you to do this, Nancy,” Bess declared.
George thanked her, saying it was a “sweet” joke—the kind she liked.
“I did myself a good turn by visiting the florist. I found out something interesting about Barty.”