Now the motor boys could discuss a Californian trip in earnest, for they knew their parents would let them go, especially after Mr. Seabury’s invitation, and the letter from Professor Snodgrass. In the course of a few days Jerry received another missive from Nellie Seabury.
This letter informed Jerry, and, incidentally, his two chums, that she, with her sisters and father, had settled in a small town near the coast, not far from Santa Barbara, and on a little ocean bay, which, Nellie said, was a much nicer place than any they had visited in Florida.
“Father likes it very much here,” she wrote, “and he declares he feels better already, though we have been here only a week. He says he knows it would do him good to see you boys, and he wishes— in fact we all wish— you three chums could come out here for a long visit, though I suppose you cannot on account of school opening. But, perhaps, we shall see you during the next vacation.”
“She’s going to see us sooner than that,” announced Bob, when Jerry had read the letter to him and Ned.
“Did you write and tell her we were coming?” asked Ned, his two friends having called at his house to talk over their prospective trip.
“No, I thought we’d wait and see what Professor Snodgrass had planned. Perhaps he isn’t going to that part of California.”
“That’s so,” admitted Bob. “Guess we’ll have to wait and find out. I wish he’d call or write. Have you heard anything more about damages for our smashed boat, Jerry?”
“No, I saw Mr. Hitter the other day, and he advised me to wait a while before writing again. Something queer happened while I was in his office, too.”
“What was it’?”
“Well, you remember the man who got off the Boston express that day, and acted so strange about his boxes of stuff he wanted shipped to the Pacific coast?”
“Sure,” replied Ned and Bob at once.
“Well, through some mistake one of the boxes was left behind. Mr. Hitter, had it in his office, intending to ship it back to the man, for it wasn’t worth while to send one box away out west, but it fell and burst partly open. The box was in one corner of the room, and, while I was there Mr. Hitter’s dog went up to it and began sniffing at it. All at once the dog fell over, just as if he’d been shot. He stiffened out, and we thought he was dead, from having eaten something poisoned he found on the floor.”
“No, after a while he seemed to come to, and was all right, but he looked sick. Mr. Hitter said there must be something queer in that box, to make the dog act that way, and he and I smelled of it, taking care not to get too close.”
“What was in it?” asked Ned.
“I don’t know. It was something that smelled rather sweet, and somewhat sickish. Mr. Hitter said it might be some queer kind of poison that acted on animals, but not on human beings, and he put the box up on a high shelf where his dog couldn’t get at it. But I thought it was rather queer stuff for a man to be sending away out to the coast.”