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   Chapter 6 ON THE TRAIN

Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp; Or, Lost in the Backwoods By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 10993

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


When the Cameron automobile arrived at the Red Mill that forenoon Fred Hatfield sat gloomily upon the porch steps. Ruth kept an eye on him from the doorway. Mr. Cameron seemed to understand their position when he came up the walk, and asked Ruth:

"So, he wants to leave; does he?"

Ruth merely nodded; but Fred Hatfield scowled at the dry-goods merchant and turned away his head.

"Now, young man," said Mr. Cameron, standing in front of the sullen boy, with his legs wide apart and a smile upon his ruddy face, "now, young man, let's get to the bottom of this. You confide in me, and I will not betray your confidence. Why don't you want to live at home?"

"I don't want to-that's all," muttered Fred Hatfield, shortly. "And

I won't."

Mr. Cameron shook his head. "I hate to see one so young so obstinate," he said. "It may be that your mother and brothers and sisters find you a sore trial; perhaps they are glad you are not at home. But until I am sure of that I consider it my duty to keep an eye on you. I want you to come along with us to-day."

"I know where you are going. This girl has told me," said the light-haired youth, nodding at Ruth. "You're going up to Scarboro."

"Yes. And I propose to take you with us. We'll see whether your mother wants you or not."

"You don't know what you're doing, sir!" gasped Fred Hatfield, crouching down upon the step.

"I certainly do not know what I am doing," admitted Mr. Cameron.

"But that is your fault, not mine. If you would trust us-"

"I can't!" cried the boy, shaking as though with a chill.

"Then, you come along, young man," commanded the merchant.

He put a hand upon Fred's shoulder and the boy wriggled out from under it and started to run. But Tom had got out of the automobile and seemed rather expecting this move. He sprang for the other boy and held him.

"Here! hold on!" he cried. "Put on this old overcoat of mine that

I've brought along, It's going to be cold riding. Put it on-and then

get into the auto with us. Aw, come on! What are you afraid of?

We aren't going to eat you."

Snivelling, but ceasing his struggles, Fred Hatfield got into the coat Tom offered him, and entered the car. Ruth said never a word, but she looked very grave.

Uncle Jabez came to the door of the mill and Ruth ran to him and kissed the old miller goodbye. Not that he returned the kiss; Uncle Jabez looked as though he had never kissed anybody since he was born! But Aunt Alvirah hugged and caressed her "pretty creetur" with a warmth that made up for the miller's coldness.

"Bless ye, deary!" crooned the little old woman, enfolding Ruth in her arms. "Go and have the best of times with your young friends. We'll be thinkin' of ye here-and don't run into peril up there in the woods. Have a care."

"Oh, we won't get into any trouble," Ruth declared, happily, with no suspicion of what was before the party in the backwoods. "Goodbye!"

"Good-bye, Ruthie-Oh, my back and oh, my bones!" groaned Aunt Alvirah, as she hobbled into the house again, while Ruth ran down to the car, leaped aboard, and the chauffeur started immediately. Ben, the hired man, had gone on to Cheslow with Ruth's trunk early in the morning, and now the automobile sped quickly over the smooth road to the railroad station.

By several different ways-for Cheslow was a junction of the railroad lines-the young folk who had been invited to Snow Camp had gathered at the station to meet the Camerons and Ruth Fielding. Nobody noticed Fred Hatfield, saving Mr. Cameron and Ruth herself; but the runaway found no opportunity of leaving the party. Tom had no attention to give the Scarboro boy as he welcomed his own chums.

"Here's old Bobbins and Busy Izzy!" he cried, seeing Bob Steele and his sister, with Isadore Phelps, pacing the long platform as the car halted.

Bob Steele was a big, yellow-haired boy, rosy cheeked and good-natured, but not a little bashful. As Madge, his sister, was a year and a half older than Bob she often treated him like a very small boy indeed.

"Now, Master Cameron!" she cried, when Tom appeared, "don't muss his nice clean clothes. Be careful he doesn't get into anything. Be a good boy, Bobbie, and the choo-choo cars will soon come."

Isadore Phelps was a sharp-looking boy, with red hair and so many freckles across the bridge of his nose and under his eyes that, at a little distance, he looked as though he wore a brown mask. Isadore seldom spoke without asking a question. He was a walking interrogation point. Perhaps that was one reason why he was known among his mates as "Busy Izzy," being usually busy about other people's business.

"What do you let her nag you for that way, Bob?" he cried. "I'd shake her, if she was my sister-wouldn't you, Tom?"

"No," said Tom, boldly, for he considered Madge Steele quite a young lady. "She's too big to shake-isn't she, Bobbins?"

But Bob only smiled in his slow way, and said nothing. The girls were in a group by themselves-Helen and Ruth, Belle and Lluella, Jennie Stone (who rejoiced in the nickname of "Heavy" because of her plumpness) and Madge Steele. Mr. Cameron had gone to the ticket window to make an inquiry. It was Ruth who saw Fred Hatfield making across the tracks to where a freight train was being made up for the south.

"Tom!" she cried to Helen's brother, and he turned and saw her glance.

"By George, fellows!" exclaimed Tom, with some disgust. "There's that chap sneaking off again. We'

ve got to watch him. Come on!"

He ran after the runaway. Busy Izzy was at his ear in a moment:

"What's the matter with him? Who is he? What's he been doing? Is he trying to get aboard that freight? What do you want of him?"

"Oh, hush! hush!" begged Tom. "Your clatter would deafen one." Then he shouted to Hatfield: "Hold on, there! the train will be in soon. Come back!"

Hatfield stopped and turned back with a scowl. Tom grinned at him cheerfully and added:

"Might as well take it easy. Dad says you're to go along with us, so

I advise you to stick close."

"Pleasant-looking young dog," said Bob, in an undertone. "What's he done?"

"I don't know that he has done anything," returned Tom, in the same low tone. "But we're going to take him with us to Scarboro. That is the place he has run away from."

"Did he run away from home?" demanded Isadore Phelps. "What for?"

"I don't know. But don't you ask him!" commanded Tom. "He wouldn't tell you, anyway; he won't tell father. But don't nag him, Izzy."

To the great surprise of the young folks, when the train bound north came along, there was a private car attached to it, and in that car the Cameron party were to travel. One of the railroad officials had lent his own coach to the Cheslow merchant, and he and his party had the car to themselves.

There was a porter and a steward aboard-both colored men; and soon after the train started odors from the tiny kitchen assured the girls and boys that they were to have luncheon on the train.

"Isn't it delightful?" sighed Heavy, gustily, in Ruth's ear. "Riding through the country on this fast train and being served with our meals-Oh, dear! why weren't all fathers born rich?"

"It's lucky your father isn't any richer than he is, Jennie Stone!" whispered Madge Steele, who heard this. "If he was, you'd do nothing but eat all the livelong day."

"Well, I might do a deal worse," returned Heavy. "Father says that himself. He says he wishes my reports were better at Briarwood; but he can't expect me to put on flesh and gain much learning at the same time-not when the days are only twenty-four hours long."

They all laughed a good deal at Heavy, but she was so good-natured that the girls all liked her, too. What they should do when they reached Snow Camp was the principal topic of conversation. As the train swept northward the snow appeared. It was piled in fence corners and lay deep in the woods. Some ice-bound streams and ponds were thickly mantled in the white covering.

Mr. Cameron read his papers or wrote letters in one compartment; Mrs. Murchiston was the girls' companion most of the time, while Tom and his two chums had a gay time by themselves. They tried to get Fred Hatfield into their company, but the runaway boy would not respond to their overtures.

At the dinner table, when the fun became fast and furious, Fred Hatfield did not even smile. Heavy whispered to Ruth that she never did see a boy before who was so dreadfully solemn. "And he grows solemner and solemner every mile we travel!" added Heavy. "What do you suppose is on his mind?"

Ruth was quite sure she knew what was on the lad's mind; but she did not say. Indeed, all the day long she was troubled by the special knowledge she had gained from the newspaper clipping that she carried hidden in the bottom of her pocket. Should she tell Mr. Cameron about it? Should she speak plainly to Fred himself about it? The nearer they approached Scarboro the more uncertain she became, and the more sullen Fred Hatfield looked.

Ruth watched him a good deal, but so covertly that her girl friends did not notice her abstraction. The short Winter day was beginning to draw in and the red sun was hanging low above the tree-tops when Mr. Cameron announced that the second stop of the train would be their destination. The party-at least, Mr. Cameron, the governess, and the young folk-were to remain at the hotel in Scarboro over-night. The serving people and the baggage were to go on that evening to Snow Camp.

Fred Hatfield sauntered to the rear of the car and stood looking out of the window in the door. The flagman was on the rear platform, however, and he could not get down without being observed. The stop at this town was brief; then the train sped on through the deep woods.

But suddenly the airbrakes were put on again and they slowed down with a good deal of clatter and bumping.

"We're not at Scarboro yet, surely?" cried Mrs. Murchiston.

"No, no!" Mr. Cameron assured them. "We're stopping from some other cause-why, this is merely a flag station. Not even a station-just a crossing."

A white-sheeted road crossed the rails. There were two or three houses in sight and a big general store, over the door of which was painted:

EMORYVILLE P. O.

But the train had stopped and the rear brake-man, or flagman, seized his lamp and ran back to wait for the engineer to recall him. It was growing dusk and the lamps had been lighted the length of the train. The general interest of the party drew their attention forward. Ruth, suddenly remembering Fred Hatfield, looked toward the rear of the car. Fred was just going out of the door in the wake of the brakeman.

"Oh, he mustn't go!" whispered Ruth to herself, and leaving her girl companions she ran back to speak to the runaway boy. When she reached the door, Fred had already descended the steps. She saw him run across the tracks, and quick as a flash she sprang down after him.

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