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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls At Bluff Point; Or A Wreck And A Rescue - Chapter 17. Joe Barnes Again
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The Outdoor Girls At Bluff Point; Or A Wreck And A Rescue - Chapter 17. Joe Barnes Again Post by :hadeajayi Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1385

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The Outdoor Girls At Bluff Point; Or A Wreck And A Rescue - Chapter 17. Joe Barnes Again

CHAPTER XVII. JOE BARNES AGAIN

"Well, we've got to do something. There's no use sitting around looking at each other!"

The girls started and looked reproachfully at Mollie.

It was several days after the telegram had come which had so upset them and their plans, and they were sitting dejectedly on the sand at the foot of the bluff trying to read. The attempt had proved a failure, however, and one after another the books had dropped to their laps while they stared disconsolately out over the water.

"What would you suggest?" asked Grace listlessly, in response to Mollie's statement.

"Can't we go in swimming again?" asked Amy mildly.

"No!" Mollie was very positive. "The boy will be coming with the provisions and letters in a little while, and there may be a telegram or something from mother. If there isn't pretty soon, I'll go mad."

"Let's take a walk then," suggested Betty.

But again Mollie would have none of it.

"Too warm," she said.

"Well, I thought you were the one who wanted to do something," said Grace, getting up and shaking the sand from her dress. "I guess the trouble is," she added, "that you don't know what you want."

"Yes I do," said Mollie, while the tears rose to her eyes and she shook them away impatiently. "Only the one thing I want more than anything else I can't get."

"Maybe you forget," said Grace, while her own voice trembled a little, "that I'm very nearly in the same fix."

"No, we don't," cried Betty quickly. "But the only way we can hope to bear the horrible things that are happening to us is to get busy at something and try to occupy our minds."

"It's all very well for you to talk," Mollie retorted, in her nervous state saying something she never would have thought of saying under normal conditions, "but nothing terrible has happened to you yet. Wait till it does. Then maybe it won't be so easy to get your mind off it."

The thoughtless speech stung, and Betty turned away to hide the hurt in her eyes.

"Perhaps you're right," she said quietly. "Nothing very terrible has happened to me yet, personally. But perhaps you forget that we girls always share each other's troubles--"

But Mollie would not let her finish. She was down on her knees beside her chum, penitent arms about her shoulders and was pouring out an apology.

"I ought to be tarred and feathered," she cried breathlessly. "I don't know what made me say such a thing, Honey."

"I know," said Betty gently, "and that's why it didn't go very deep--what you said."

"You're a darling!" cried Mollie. She gave the Little Captain another bear's hug, then sat down in the sand again with her arms clasped about her knees. "It's this everlasting uncertainty and the feeling of helplessness that gets on one's nerves so. I always did hate to wait for anything--especially with my imagination."

"What's that got to do with it?" asked Amy, surprised.

"Why, it--the imagination, I mean--just goes running around in circles, thinking up all the horrible things that might have happened until I almost go crazy. If I only didn't have to think!"

"You never used to have any trouble that way," said Grace, with a weak attempt at a joke that ended in dismal failure.

"Isn't that the boy with the mail?" asked Betty after a minute, as the rumble of an antiquated vehicle and a masculine voice addressing in no uncertain tones a pair of invisible mules came to their ears. "Perhaps he's bringing good news to us. Come on, we'll meet him half way."

Relieved at the prospect of action, the girls sprang to their feet, dusted off the clinging sand, and scrambled up the bluff. A minute more and they were running down the hill pell mell toward the oncoming team.

They had scarcely reached the bottom of the hill when the long-eared and long-suffering animals rounded a turn in the road and ambled slowly toward them.

The driver, the same gauky, red-headed country lad who had brought them their trunks, drew rein as the fleet-footed girls reached him and swept off his crownless hat with a gallantry that left nothing to be desired.

"I'm bringing your provisions," he began, adding loquaciously, for he loved to talk and seldom got the opportunity: "Sorry I couldn't get 'em to you yesterday, but Abe up to the store took sick and he says to me, 'Jake,' he says, 'guess mebbe you'll have to be storekeeper an' delivery boy both to-day. Shake a leg,' he says, 'an' I might mebbe give you a dollar extry. You never can't tell,' he says. He's that generous like, Abe is," the boy shook his head sadly at the thought of Abe's generosity, "that he'd give a whole chicken to a kid dyin' of hunger, pervided he knowed the chicken had the pip."

The girls chuckled at this last sentence, uttered with a sort of ferocious sarcasm, even though they had been standing on one foot with impatience during the rest of his long speech.

Now, seeing that he was about to begin again, Betty cut in quickly.

"It didn't bother us a bit, you're not coming yesterday," she said, adding, as she leaned forward eagerly: "What we do want to know is--did you bring any mail?"

"Sure," he said, good-naturedly, reaching behind him for a small package of letters which Betty took eagerly. "An' there was a telegram too, came yesterday--"

"Yesterday!" Mollie interrupted with a groan. "And I'm just getting it to-day!"

"But I was telling you," he started all over again patiently, "as how Abe took sick and says to me: 'Jake--'"

"Yes, yes, we know," interrupted Mollie, reaching impatiently for the crumpled yellow envelope which he took from his pocket, smoothed out carefully, and handed to her with maddening deliberation. "Oh, if anything terrible has happened I'll never forgive myself for not going to the station yesterday!"

"But it was raining so hard, and we expected the boy any minute." Amy thus tried to console her but it is doubtful if Mollie even heard her. She had torn open the envelope and was devouring the message whole while the girls looked at her anxiously.

The red-headed orator, seeing that his presence was no longer in demand, clucked to his team and jogged off reluctantly. A telegram is rather a rarity in Bluff Point and they might have taken pity on a fellow and given him at least a hint of its contents. But there, he didn't want to know anyway--wouldn't if he could! Still, these out-landers were mighty mean, close-mouthed folks!

"Nothing," said Mollie, in response to the unspoken question of the girls. "They haven't found a trace of either of them yet, but the police are confident that it is a case of kidnapping and that they will be able to round up the criminals in a short time. Poor little Dodo! Poor little Paul! If nothing worse happens to them they will be scared to death. Oh, if I could only get hold of those kidnappers I'd--I'd kill 'em!" She clenched her hands passionately and her lips shut in a straight, grim little line.

"I guess we'd all be glad to," said mild little Amy, with a look in her eyes that showed she meant it.

As they started back down the road Betty suddenly remembered the packet of letters in her hands. The excitement about the telegram had put them completely out of her mind.

"To think I could forget letters!" she marveled, as she distributed them to their rightful owners. "Here's one for you, Amy, and two for you, Grace. One for Mrs. Ford and one for Mollie and--and--two for me--"

She looked so surprised that they paused in the act of opening their own letters to look at her.

"What's the matter?" Grace asked.

"Why here's one addressed to me in a perfectly strange hand," she answered, turning the letter over and over in her hand. "I can't imagine--"

"What's the postmark?" asked Amy.

Betty looked and then colored prettily as she realized who her unknown correspondent was.

"Why--why," she stammered, amazed at her own confusion, "it's sent from Bensington, but--"

"Bensington!" Grace echoed, then her eyes twinkled as the truth came to her. "So it's as bad as that, is it?"

"I don't know what you mean," said Betty, trying to look dignified and failing utterly, while Mollie and Amy continued to stare their amazement. They had forgotten completely that night spent under the hospitable roof of Mrs. Barnes, and even her son's engaging personality had faded from their minds. There had been so many things to think about and worry about. So now they both said together:

"What in the world are you two talking of?"

"Do you mean to say you really don't know?" queried Grace in a superior tone. "Have you so soon forgotten our knight of the wayside, Joe Barnes?"

"Joe Barnes," they repeated weakly, then turned their astonished gaze on Betty.

"Well, I can't help it," retorted Betty, feeling vaguely the need of defense. "I didn't ask him to."

"But how did he get your address?" asked Mollie, still staring. "Who gave it to him?"

"I told him where we were going," cried Betty desperately, driven into a corner. "But I had no idea he was going to write to me until--until--" hesitating as a picture of Joe Barnes, standing beside her car and asking if he might tell her "how things were with him" came vividly before her eyes.

"Yes. Until?" they baited her, forgetting for a moment the dark shadows hanging over them in the fun of this unexpected discovery.

"Until the morning we came away," Betty answered, seeing that she could not get away from these pitiless inquisitors until she had satisfied their curiosity.

"Did he ask to write to you then?" probed Mollie relentlessly.

"I don't see what right--" Betty was beginning spiritedly when she caught Mollie's eye and ended in a little helpless laugh. "I suppose I'll have to tell you all about it or you'll turn a simple little molehill into a mountain."

"Quite right," said Grace cheerfully, and even Betty had to laugh at her.

"Make a clean breast of it," ordered Mollie.

"But there really isn't anything to make a clean breast of," protested Betty. "He simply asked me if he might write and tell me how he--how he--"

"How he what?" they queried.

"But I don't know whether I ought to tell you about that or not." Betty was really in earnest. "You see, what he told me was sort of in confidence."

"In confidence!" repeated Grace, adding wickedly: "Now we know it's a serious case."

"Nonsense," said Betty, almost crossly. "He simply said he hadn't been allowed to get into the army because of ill health, but now that he felt well again he was going to try once more. It was that he wanted to write and tell me about. And because I was really interested, I said he might. That's all."

"How romantic!" cried Mollie irrepressibly. "For goodness sake, hurry up and read it, Betty, and relieve our curiosity."

"I'll read it," said Betty firmly, "when I get good and ready, and not one minute before!"

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