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   Chapter 7 THE FAT MAN INTERPOSES

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 9132

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The people in the Pullman car, who were much more comfortably situated than those in the smoking car, or than the crew of the train hived up in the first baggage coach, were beginning to complain a good deal now. The colored porter, with rolling eyes and appealing gestures, met the conductor and the two girls.

"Ah kyan't stan' this no longer, Mistah Ca'tah," he almost sobbed. "Da's sumpin' got t' be did fo' all dese starbin white ladies an' gemmen-ya-as sah! Dey is jes' about drivin' me mad. I kyan't stan' it."

"What can't you stand, Nicodemus?" demanded Mr. Carter, good-naturedly.

"Dey is a-groanin' an' a-takin' on powerful bad 'cause dey ain't no dining kyar cotched up wid us yet."

"Dining car caught up with us?" gasped Nan and Bess together.

"What sort of a yarn have you been giving these passengers, Nick?" demanded the conductor.

"Well, Ah jes' done got t' tell 'em sumpin' t' pacify 'em," whispered the darkey. "No use lettin' 'em think dey gwyne t' starb t' death. Ah tell 'em yo' done sent back t' de Junction for a car-load ob eats an' dat it's expected t' arrive any hour. Ya-as, sah!"

"Why, you atrocious falsifier!" ejaculated Mr. Carter.

"Wot! me?" exclaimed the porter. "No, sah! Ah ain't nottin' like dat-no, sah! Ah reckon Ah done save dat little man's life. Yo' know, dat little drummer wot's trabelin' wid de big man. Dey was castin' lots t' see which one should be kilt fo' to be et by de odder-"

"Oh, mercy!" screamed Bess, and stuffed her handkerchief into her mouth.

"Ya-as, indeedy, Miss! Dey was gettin' mighty desprit. An de big feller, he says, 'Hit don't much matter which way de dice falls, I'm de bigges' an' I certainly kin holt ma own wid a little runt like you!' He says jes' lak' dat to his friend, de littles' feller."

Nan and Bess both hid their faces behind Mr. Carter's broad back.

"Ah got nerbous," pursued the darkey. "Dat big man looked lak' he was jes' going t' start right in on his fren'. An' de luck turns his way, anyhow, and de lil' feller loses. 'I gibs yo' 'twill six-thirty to-night,' de big man says. 'Dat's ma reg'lar dinner hour, an' I'm moughty savage ef I go much over ma dinner time.'

"Golly, boss!" added the porter, "Ah jes' 'bleeged tun say sumpin', an Ah tells 'em de dinin' kyar'll sho'ly obertake us fo' six-thirty. Ya'as, indeedy. An' den, dar's dat lady up dar wid de sour-vinegary sort o' face. Ah jes' heard her say she'd be fo'ced tuh eat her back-comb if she didn't have her lunch pu'ty soon. A' yo' knows, Mistah Ca'tah, no lady's indigestion is a-gwine tuh stan' up under no sech fodder as dat."

"You old silly!" ejaculated the conductor. "These people have been fooling you. I'll separate those two drummers so that they won't eat each other-or concoct any more stories with which to worry you, Nick. Come on, young ladies. We'll see about that dog."

"And look through the express matter-do!" begged Nan.

"Surely will," replied the conductor. "But I expect we'll have to tie and muzzle the express messenger."

Bess thought this funny, too, and she giggled again. In fact, Nan declared her chum had a bad case of the "giggles" and begged her to behave herself.

"I don't believe that castaways set out to explore their island for food in any such light-minded manner as you display, Elizabeth," Nan observed.

"Oh, dear! I can't help it," Bess gasped. "That darkey is so funny. He's just as innocent as-as-"

"The man, Friday," finished Nan.

"Goody! that's who he is," agreed Bess. "He's Friday. Oh! if Laura Polk were only here, wouldn't she have lots of fun with him?"

"Seems as though those two drummers were bothering poor Friday quite enough."

They heard the little spaniel yelping the moment they opened the baggage car door.

"The poor 'ittle sing!" cooed Bess, running to the corner where the puppy was imprisoned. "Oh! how cold it is in here. It would be a little icicle, so it would be, in a little while."

"Let's see where he's going, and whom he belongs to," Mr. Carter said. "I'll have to make a note of this, and so will Jim, the baggage-man. You want to take good care of this little tyke, for the railroad is responsible for him while he is in transit."

He stooped down and brought his light to bear upon the tag wired to the top of the crate. "Ravell Bulson, Jr., Owneyville, Illinois," he read aloud, making a note of it in his book.

"Oh!" ejaculated Nan.

"Oh!" repeated Bess.

Then both together the chums gasped: "That fat man!"

"Hullo!" observed the conductor, slipping the toggle

s out of the hasp, which kept the door of the dog crate closed. "Do you girls know the owner of this pup? You seem to know everybody."

"We know a Mr. Ravell Bulson by sight, Mr. Carter," Nan said quietly.

"And he's just the meanest man!" began impulsive Bess; but her chum stopped her with a glance.

"Well! Mr. Ravell Bulson, Jr., has a fine pup here," declared the conductor, releasing the agitated little creature.

The spaniel could not show his delight sufficiently when he was out of the crate. He capered about them, licking the girl's shoes, tumbling down in his haste and weakness, and uttering his funny little bark in excited staccato.

Bess finally grabbed him up and, after kissing her, suddenly, right under the ear, and making her squeal, he snuggled down in her arms, his little pink tongue hanging out and his eyes shining (so Bess declared) like "two brown stars."

"'Brown stars' is good," chuckled Nan. "You'll be talking about a cerise sky next, with a pea-green sun."

"Such a carping critic!" returned Bess. "But what care I? His eyes are brown stars, so now! And if you're not very good, Nan Sherwood, I'll make him bite you."

Mr. Carter was leading the way to the forward car, and the girls followed with the spaniel. It seemed a little lighter under the tunneled snow-bank between the two cars, and the conductor said, with some satisfaction:

"I believe it has stopped snowing and will clear up. I do surely hope that is the weather programme. We want to get out of here."

"And walk to Tillbury?" cried Nan.

"It would be one good, long walk," responded the conductor, grimly. "Hi, Jim!" he added to the baggage-man, whose face appeared through the tobacco smoke that filled the forward baggage car. "Jim, these young ladies are going to take care of the pup. Belongs to Ravell Bulson, Jr., Owneyville, Illinois. Make a note of it."

"Sure!" Jim said.

"Say! that's a funny thing," put in another man, who wore the lettered cap of the express company. "I've been looking over my way-bill, Carter, and a man named Ravell Bulson of that same address has shipped a package to himself from the Bancroft Creamery siding, up above Freeling. Package marked 'Glass-handle with care.'"

"Bully!" exclaimed the conductor. "That's condensed milk in glass jars, I bet. A number-one product. I've seen it. Anything else eatable on your list?"

"Not a thing, Carter."

"How far will twenty-four cans of condensed milk go among this gang of starving people?" growled a man in overalls and a greasy cap, whom the girls knew must be the engineer.

"You keep the fire up, Horace, so's we can melt snow," said the conductor, "and we can dilute the milk all right. It's good stuff."

"Fire!" exclaimed the engineer. "How do you expect my fireman to keep up a blaze under that boiler on the shag-end of nothing? I tell you the fire's going out in less than an hour. She ain't making a pound of steam right now."

"Great Peter, Horace!" ejaculated Mr. Carter, "don't say that. We have got to have fire!"

"Well, you show me how to keep one going," said the engineer. "Unless you know some way of burning snow, I don't see how you're going to do it."

"Take it from me, we must find a way to keep steam up in these cars," said Mr. Carter. "We've shut off the last two cars. The smoker's packed with passengers as tight as a can of sardines."

"Oh! I wish he wouldn't talk about things eatable," groaned Bess, in

Nan's ear.

"Better put the women and the children in the Pullman," suggested the baggage-man.

"Can't. Their tickets don't call for first-class accommodations," said the conductor, stubbornly, "and none of them wants to pay the difference in tariff."

"You've got your hands full, Carter," said the express messenger. "How about the case of milk?" and he dragged a box into the middle of the floor.

"Say! you fellows let that case alone," exclaimed an unpleasant voice.

"That's mine. You the conductor? I have been hunting all over for you."

Nan and Bess had both turned, startled, when this speech began. It came from the fat man whom they had seen asleep in the smoking car. And, now that his face was revealed, the chums recognized Mr. Ravell Bulson, the man who had spoken so harshly of Nan's father the day of the collision on Pendragon Hill.

"Say! this is the expressman, I guess," pursued Mr. Bulson. "You're the man I really want to see. You'll see my name on that box-'R. Bulson, Owneyville, Illinois.' That's me. And I want to open that box and get something out of it."

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