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   Chapter 3 AN ADVENTURE ON THE RAIL

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 6615

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


That adventurous afternoon on Pendragon Hill was the last chance the girls of Lakeview Hall had that term for bobsledding. School closed the next day and those pupils who lived farthest away, and who went home for the holidays, started that very evening by train from Freeling.

Nan and her chum, Bess Harley, were two who hurried away from the Hall. Tillbury was a night's ride from Lakeview Hall, and the chums did not wish to lose any of their short stay at home.

It had already been planned and agreed to that Nan and Bess were to go to Chicago to visit in the Masons' home during a part of this vacation, and the two friends, who knew very little of city life, were eager indeed for the new experience.

Walter and Grace had started for Chicago that morning, and when the two Tillbury girls saw how hard it was snowing when Charley, with his 'bus on runners, drove them to the station, they wished that they had asked the privilege of Dr. Beulah Prescott, the principal, of going early, too.

"This yere's goin' to be a humdinger of a storm," prophesied Charley.

"You gals'll maybe get snowed up on the train."

"Oh! What fun!" cried the thoughtless Bess.

"I hope not!" proclaimed Nan.

"I think it would be fun, Nan," urged her chum.

"Humph! How about eating?" queried the red-haired girl, Laura Polk, who would be one of the party as far as the Junction.

"Oh, there's a dining-car on this train," said May Winslow, who was to speed away to the South to spend Christmas, where there was no ice or snow, and where the darkeys celebrate the holiday with fire-crackers, as Northern people do the Fourth of July.

"That's all right about the dining-car," said Nan. "All right for you girls who are going to Chicago. But our train from the Junction has no 'eats' attached and if we get snowed up-"

"Ugh!" cried her chum. "Don't suggest such a horrid possibility. I'm going right now to buy out the lunch counter and take it along with us."

"And break your teeth on adamantine sandwiches, harder than Professor

Krenner's problems in algebra?" suggested May.

The red-haired girl began to laugh. "I thought Bess never would carry a shoe-box lunch again. 'Member that one you two girls from Tillbury brought to school with you, last September?"

"Will we ever forget it?" groaned Nan.

"I don't care!" exclaimed Bess. "You can't have a bite of what I buy, Laura Polk!" and she marched away to the lunch counter and spent most of her remaining pocket money on greasy pies, decrepit sandwiches, soggy "pound-cake" and crullers that might have been used with success as car-seat springs!

The train was late in arriving at Freeling. It rumbled into the station covered with snow, its pilot showing how it had ploughed through the drifts. The girls were separated at once, for Nan's seat and her chum's were in one car, while the girls bound Chicago-ward had a section in another.

Nan and Bess would be in their berths and asleep when their car should be switched to the southern line to be picked up by the other train at the Junction. So they bade their friends good-bye at once and, after a false start or two, the heavy train blundered into the night and the storm, and Freeling was left behind.

The train did not move rapidly. A few miles out of Freeling it b

ecame stalled for a while. But a huge snow-plow came to the rescue at this point and piloted the train clear into the Junction.

The sleeping-car porter wanted to make up the girls' berths at the usual hour-nine o'clock. But Nan begged hard for more time and Bess treated him to a generous lunch from the supply she had bought at Freeling. Afterwards she admitted she was sorry she was so reckless with the commissary.

Just now, however, neither Bess nor Nan worried about supplies for what Laura Polk called "the inner girl." Through the window they saw the drifts piling up along the right of way, wherever the lamps revealed them; country stations darkened and almost buried under the white mantle; and the steadily driving snow itself that slanted earthward-a curtain that shut out of sight all objects a few yards beyond the car windows.

"My! this is dreadful," murmured Bess, when the train halted again for the drifts to be shoveled out of a cot. "When do you s'pose we'll ever get home?"

"Not at eight o'clock in the morning," Nan announced promptly. "That's sure. I don't know just how many miles it is-and I never could tell anything about one of these railroad time-tables."

"Laura says she can read a menu card in a French restaurant more easily," chuckled Bess. "I wonder how their train is getting on?"

"I'm so selfishly worried about our own train that I'm not thinking of them," admitted Nan. "There! we've started again."

But the train puffed on for only a short distance and then "snubbed" its nose into another snow-bank. The wheels of the locomotive clogged, the flues filled with snow, the wet fuel all but extinguished the fire. Before the engineer could back the heavy train, the snow swirled in behind it and built a drift over the platform of the rear coach. The train was completely stalled.

This happened after eleven o'clock and while they were between stations. It was a lonely and rugged country, and even farm-houses were far apart. The train was about midway between stations, the distance from one to the other being some twenty miles. The weight of the snow had already broken down long stretches of telegraph and telephone wires. No aid for the snow-bound train and passengers could be obtained.

Before this, however, the porter had insisted upon making up the girls' berths and, like most of the other passengers in the Pullman, Nan and Bess were asleep. While the passengers slept the snow continued to sift down, building the drifts higher and higher, and causing the train-crew increasing worriment of mind.

The locomotive could no longer pierce the drifts. The train had been too heavy for her from the first. Fuel supply had been renewed at the Junction, as well as water; but the coal was now needed to keep up steam for the cars-and it would not last long for that purpose.

If the storm continued until morning without change, it might be several days before the road could be opened from either end of the division. Food and fuel would be very hard to obtain in this waste of snow, and so far from human habitation.

The two conductors and the engineer spent most of the night discussing ways and means. Meanwhile the snow continued to fall and the passengers, for the most part, rested in ignorance of the peril that threatened.

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