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   Chapter 4 AN IMITATION HOLD-UP

The Outdoor Girls in the Saddle; Or, The Girl Miner of Gold Run By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 11127

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


It was all over. The bustling days of preparation for the long trip, during which the girls had hardly had time to give vent to their excitement, had passed, and here they were actually finding their places in the puffing, western bound train.

"Here's number five," Grace said, as she slid into a velvet-covered seat with a sigh of thankfulness. "Who is coming in here with me?"

"Guess I'm elected," laughed Betty. "And here's number seven for Mollie and Amy, and mother and dad are in six right across the way. That completes the family party."

They were hardly settled when there was a last warning cry of "All aboard" and the train began to move ever so slowly from the station.

The girls peered out to wave good-by to the boys and some of their other friends who had come to see them off. The young fellows looked rather gloomy-all except Allen. The latter shouted something that they took to be "See you later!" and then the train swept around a curve, hiding the station from view.

"Well," said Grace, with a sigh, as she opened her grip to fish for the inevitable candy box, "the boys seemed to take our flitting pretty hard. They looked as if we were already dead and buried."

"Far from it," murmured Betty happily, her eyes on the ever changing view from the window. "I feel as if we were just beginning to live."

The hours of the morning passed like minutes to the girls, and they were surprised when the porter came through with his "Foist call fo' dinnah!"

The afternoon passed uneventfully, and they amused themselves by making up stories about their fellow passengers. There was the quaint little man in number four who reminded them of Professor Arnold Dempsey and who might very easily have been a professor, judging from the number of books he carried.

Then there was the freckled-faced small boy in number three whose antics kept his mother in a continual state of "nerves." Once when he bounced one of those implements commonly known as "spit balls" off of the bookish little man's bald head, the girls thought they would die trying to stifle their merriment.

Then there was the very pretty, but much be-powdered and rouged girl behind them in number nine. Grace embarrassed Betty very much by turning around to look at her every five minutes or so.

"She's a moving picture actress or something, I'm sure of it," Grace confided in Betty's unsympathetic ear. "I wonder if I could fix my hair the way she does. She fascinates me."

"She seems to," Betty retorted dryly, adding with a twinkle. "You may be able to fix your hair like hers-though I doubt it-but please remember that your mother doesn't want you to use rouge."

"Well, you know I wouldn't do that," said Grace in a huff, adding maliciously, "I guess you are just jealous, that's all."

"Uh-huh, that must be it," said Betty, with an unruffled good-nature that made Grace secretly ashamed of herself.

"I'm sorry, Betty," she said after a rather long pause, adding generously: "You don't need to be jealous of anybody."

"Thanks," Betty answered, with a smile. "I knew you didn't mean it, dear."

And so the long hours of the afternoon wore away, dusk came, shrouding the swiftly moving landscape in a veil of mystery. So engrossed were the girls in contemplation of the changing beauty of nature that it seemed almost sacrilege when the blatant lights of the train flashed forth, bringing them violently back to a realization of time and place.

"Don't you want any supper?" Mr. Nelson was asking, in his pleasant voice. "It isn't like the Outdoor Girls to overlook meal time."

"Far be it from us to spoil our good reputation," cried Mollie buoyantly, and away they rushed to the dressing room to wash for supper. Though dining on a train was no novelty to the girls, they never lost the keenness of their first delight in the experience.

"It's fascinating," Mollie remarked once, spearing desperately at an elusive potato as the train jerked and jolted over the rails at sixty miles an hour, "to see how often you can raise your coffee cup without spilling the coffee all over your food!"

On this night at supper Mollie was so screamingly funny that the girls had all they could do to keep their hilarity from making them conspicuous.

Mr. and Mrs. Nelson at a table for two across the aisle smiled indulgently at their charges, and once Mrs. Nelson met her husband's glance and chuckled fondly.

"Pretty nice set of girls?" she said softly.

"Pretty nice!" Mr. Nelson agreed.

"I'm beginning to wish we were at Gold Run now," confided Mollie, after dining. She and Amy had slipped into the seat opposite Betty and Grace.

"Oh, I think it's all fun," cried Betty, for she was always the last of the Outdoor Girls to feel tired. "We change at Chicago to-morrow afternoon," she added. "And then two more nights on the train, and then Gold Run!"

"Oh, that sounds good," cried Mollie, adding eagerly: "Tell me, Betty, shall we be able to choose any horse we want for our own particular mount?"

"Oh, yes," said Betty, adding with a smile: "It will be interesting to see the kind of horse each one of you will choose. Amy will like the gentle one, Grace will choose hers for its looks and yours will be the most vicious one in the pack, Mollie."

"Well, I like that!" said Mollie unperturbed. "She wants to kill me off even before I get there."

"Pack?" murmured Amy. "Is a 'pack' of horses right?" But no one answered her.

"I wonder," mused Grace dreamily, "if there will be a tan one-all tan, you know, witho

ut even a spot of any other color--"

"Oh, of course," laughed Betty. "If we haven't an all tan one in the corrals at Gold Run, we'll send to the nearest ranch and have one imported for you. Don't worry your little head about that."

A little while after that they stopped at a water station, and most of the passengers got off to stretch their cramped limbs. And, as the conductor informed them that they would be there for fifteen minutes at least, the girls followed the general example.

However, in their enthusiasm at finding the good old solid earth under their feet once more, they wandered too far, and the warning toot of the starting train found them quite a distance from the platform.

They had not earned the title of Outdoor Girls for nothing, however, and by sprinting for all they were worth they were able to make the last car just in the nick of time.

"Whew, that was a close call," said Betty as they made their way, panting, through to their own car, where Mr. and Mrs. Nelson were looking frantically for them. "No more water stations for us."

Darkness fell, and the porters moved about, making up berths and answering the hundred and one insistent calls of the passengers.

The girls went to bed with no protest whatever and were soon sleeping the sleep of healthy youth. It was toward midnight that they were rather rudely jerked out of this beautiful sleep by a sudden and almost violent stopping of the train.

Betty, who was sleeping in a lower berth, she and Grace having decided to take turns, sat up and peered out of the grimed window into the gloom. No station lights greeted her, as she expected confidently they would. Nothing but inky, startling blackness.

That she was not the only one roused was proved by the subdued sound of voices raised in sleepy protest.

"They ought to put that engineer in prison for stopping like that," said a man's voice.

"Gee! I thought it was a wreck, sure," came another surly voice.

At this moment a couple of legs dangled themselves over the side of Betty's berth and in another minute the owner of them slid down beside Betty. Betty giggled nervously, but Grace clutched her arm and shook it.

"Listen!" she said. "There's nothing to laugh about. This is a hold-up, that's what it is! You know what your father said about there being a lot of them around this place."

That this conclusion had been reached by some one else in the car was proved by a woman's voice that rose shrilly above the rest.

"It's a hold-up, that's what it is!" she cried, adding, with what seemed to Betty ridiculous panic: "Oh, what shall I do, what shall I do?"

"Better stop making a fuss, first off," growled another masculine voice, and again Betty giggled nervously.

"Goodness, I hope I don't have to get out in my nightie," she said, and poked her head out through the curtains.

"Look out," warned Grace, pulling her back. "You may get shot or something."

"Don't be silly," retorted Betty, not altogether decided whether to be frightened or amused by the situation. "There isn't anything out there but a lot of funny looking heads sticking through the curtains."

"I don't see how you can laugh about it," said Grace, through chattering teeth. "I don't think it would be any j-joke to have all our m-money taken from us--"

"Sh-h-be quiet," warned Betty, peeping again through the slit in the curtain. "Somebody's coming. Listen!"

Grace listened, and so, evidently, did every one else in the car. No wonder that, scared though she undoubtedly was, Betty found humor in the situation. Heads of every kind and description stuck through the curtains, women's, some in boudoir caps, some without, men's heads, either bald or with hair grotesquely ruffled by sleep, and on every face depicted every one of the varied emotions which have disturbed the human race since time began. And there they were, all frozen to immobility by the sound of two men's voices raised in heated discussion.

Then the owners of the voices came into view, and the expression on all the faces changed to bewildered amazement. Instead of the masked bandit which they had half expected to see there was a very portly and very excited gentleman and with him was a conductor, not so portly but just as excited.

"I tell you," the conductor was saying, his face red with wrath, "you are violating the rules of the company by flagging this train for a personal matter--"

"You have told me that before," roared the portly gentleman, waxing almost apoplectic. "And I've told you I don't care a hang for the rules of the company. What I want to find is my daughter and that young scamp she ran away with. And if you don't help me, I'll wring your neck!"

"I tell you there is no couple answering your description on this train," rasped the conductor, as the two made their way, shouting and gesticulating, through the two rows of amazed heads and so on into the next car.

"Well, I'll be blowed," commented the voice belonging to one of the heads; and as if that were a signal, all the other heads promptly withdrew to the accompaniment of exclamations and laughter.

In the darkness of the berth Betty chuckled.

"Oh, they did look so funny, Gracie," she said. "All those people with their heads stuck out into the aisle. You should have taken a peek."

"Humph," grunted Grace, unsympathetically, as she prepared to climb into her berth again. Then she said: "I hope if that man's daughter takes a notion to run away again, she won't do it on our train, that's all!"

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