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   Chapter 5 THE HANDSOME COWBOY

The Outdoor Girls in the Saddle; Or, The Girl Miner of Gold Run By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 9589

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Next morning the girls were hilarious over the mirthful episode in the train the night before. Betty and Mollie "took off" the expressions on the faces of their fellow passengers till Amy and Grace shouted with glee.

"Oh, stop it, you two," gasped Grace, finally. "I'm sore from laughing. I think you would make a hit as clowns in a circus."

"My, isn't she complimentary?" lisped Mollie, and the girls went off in fresh gales of merriment.

"I wish," said Grace, after a pause, "that we were going to reach Gold Run this afternoon, instead of Chicago. I'm half afraid to spend another night in the sleeper after the scare we got last night. It might be a real bandit this time."

"Oh, what would we care?" said Betty carelessly. "I'd rather like to meet a train robber, myself."

"About all a bandit could do would be to take our money," added Mollie.

"All!" cried Grace indignantly. "Yes, that's all. And what would we do without any money, I'd like to know!"

"Goodness, we could always sell the ranch," said Betty, so matter-of-factly that the girls chuckled. "We have Peter Levine to fall back on, you know."

"'Peter Levine,'" repeated Amy, then added quickly: "Oh yes, he was the man who wanted your mother to sell the ranch."

"Yes, and it was too bad of you to keep him all to yourself, Betty," said Grace reproachfully.

"You might at least have shown him to the rest of us."

"He wasn't anything to show," said Betty, experiencing again the feeling of distaste she had had for the man. "He was one of the most unpleasant looking men I ever saw. Just the same," she added lightly, "we owe him a lot. If it hadn't been for him we probably wouldn't be sitting in this beautiful train, speeding to our great adventure. I told Allen I could almost love Peter Levine for it."

"You did?" queried Mollie, her eyes dancing. "What did he say?"

"He left me rather suddenly," said Betty, with a chuckle at the memory. "He said he was on his way to kill Peter."

"Poor Allen," laughed Grace. "It must be awful to be that way. When is he coming out to Gold Run, Betty?"

"As soon as he finishes this case he is on now," answered Betty, flushing in spite of herself as she thought of Allen. "There is really no great hurry about it, you know. Dad has made up his mind to take a regular vacation while he's about it, and I imagine mother won't care if she never gets home."

That afternoon they changed trains at Chicago, bemoaning the fact that they had not time to see something of the great city before they traveled farther west. There was only half an hour between trains and, as every one knows, there can be little sightseeing done in that limited space of time. As it was, for some reason they could not ascertain, the outgoing train was over an hour late in starting. If they had known this fact in advance they might have managed to spend their time more profitably than in cooling their heels in the station waiting room.

As it was, it was a rather disgruntled set of girls who boarded the train for Gold Run and allowed Mr. Nelson and the porter to find their seats for them.

"I don't see why trains can't be on time," grumbled Mollie, as she peered at the rather distorted image of herself in the narrow mirror between the windows. "Here it is nearly seven o'clock and I'm as hungry as a bear."

"Well," said Betty, cheerfully, "something tells me they have a diner on this train. Come on, girls, let's wash our hands and get something to eat."

The girls hardly knew which they enjoyed the most, their dinner or the novel scenery that slipped past them so swiftly. It was their first venture into this part of the world, and they found the initiation fascinating.

"The trouble is," complained Amy, "it will be dark before long and we'll have to miss all this," with an expressive sweep of her hand toward the car window.

"It is too bad," said Betty, regretfully adding, with a light laugh: "If we were only like the princess in the story, the members of whose royal house never slept, we would probably see more of the scenery."

That night the girls proved that Grace was not alone in her fondness for sleep. There being no more interruptions in the shape of fuming gentlemen on the trail of runaway daughters, they slept soundly through the long hours while the train plunged onward through the inky blackness of the night. They did not stir until the sun, shining on their faces, roused them to the realization that another beautiful day had dawned.

That is, it was beautiful up to noon. Then it clouded down, and they ate lunch while the rain dashed furiously on the windows of the dining car.

"I am thankful we are under cover," said Betty.

"Fancy riding on the ranch in this rain," put in Amy.

"No life in the sad

dle for me when it rains," broke in Grace.

During the afternoon the girls napped and read. When the time came to get supper they were glad to see that they had run away from the storm and the sun was setting clearly.

"Funny, how sleepy one gets," drawled Grace, about nine o'clock. "I'll not stay up late."

No one wanted to do that, and in less than an hour all were sleeping soundly while the long train rumbled along on its trip westward.

"And this is the day," breathed Mollie the next noon, as they made their way from the dining car through some half dozen other cars to their own. "Betty, I feel as if I couldn't wait to see your beautiful ranch."

"I wonder," said Grace as they dropped into their seats once more, "if those cowboys are really as good-looking as you say, Betty. I must admit," she added, as she viewed the rather monotonous landscape petulantly, "I haven't seen anything that looks like a cowboy yet."

"Goodness, hear the child!" cried Betty airily. "She hasn't been near a ranch, yet she expects to see whole droves of cow-punchers--"

"Look," Mollie interrupted, grasping her arm. They were slowing down at a station and there were no less than three picturesque looking young fellows loitering about the place. One was astride an extremely nervous horse that shied as the train puffed to a standstill and rose on his hind legs as though trying his best to shake his rider off. "There's a real show for you," Mollie cried joyfully. "How does that look to you, Gracie? True to life?"

"Um, that's better," admitted Grace, while the girls craned their necks for a better view of the horseman. "Now if they only have that sort of thing at Gold Run--"

"Well, we'll have a chance to find out pretty soon whether they do or not," broke in Betty, the thrill of suppressed excitement in her voice. "Dad says we ought to get there in an hour."

"An hour!" wailed Amy, as the train jolted on its way once more and the romantic group on the station were lost to view. "And I thought we were almost there!"

But the hour passed more quickly than the girls had anticipated, for the view from the car windows, becoming more and more interesting, absorbed their attention. As a general rule the country was flat, but now and then in the background could be caught glimpses of heavily wooded mountain ranges that would offer chances for all sorts of adventures to the four eager Outdoor Girls.

"I wonder if there are wild animals in those woods," said Amy, her eyes widening at the thought. "Real ones."

"You don't suppose they import stuffed ones, do you?" asked Grace dryly.

"Of course there are wild animals-lots of 'em," said Betty, feeling more and more gloriously excited as they neared their destination. "Maybe we can borrow a gun or two from the cow-punchers and have a shot at 'em-animals, I mean, not cow-punchers," she explained, with a giggle.

On top of these rather wild imaginings came Mr. Nelson, telling them it was time to get their things together, for they were within a few minutes of Gold Run.

"I know how long it takes you girls to put a hat on," he laughed. "So I think you had better start right away."

Then-Gold Run! with the dash for the door and Grace running back to rescue a half-empty but still precious candy box and Mollie wanting to know if Amy would please stop pressing her suitcase in the middle of her back--

Someway, Mr. Nelson managed to get them all safely to the station platform, whereupon he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Whew! that's the hardest job you ever gave me, Rose," he remarked to his wife, with a chuckle.

Here, as at most of the other stations, was a handful of cowboys who had come to meet the train. One of these, a handsome young fellow, detached himself from the rest and approached Mrs. Nelson, sweeping off his sombrero as he did so.

"Mrs. Nelson, ma'am?" he asked in a soft drawl that captivated the girls immediately.

Mrs. Nelson smiled assent and the young fellow indicated a buckboard drawn up to the station.

"I brought the wagon," he said, with a grin that showed a beautiful set of white teeth. "An' some saddle hosses, thinkin' you might like to ride--"

However, the ladies decided on the buckboard, which was driven by a shy-eyed, sandy-haired young fellow who gave the girls one frightened glance and looked swiftly away again, for all the world, Mollie said afterwards, as if he expected them to bite him.

Mr. Nelson elected to ride horseback with Andy Rawlinson, which was the name of the good-looking cowboy.

As the driver chirruped to the horses and they clattered over the bumpy road, Grace turned to Betty with a smile.

"I have realized the ambition of a life time!" she said dramatically. "I have seen one handsome cowboy!"

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