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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls At Bluff Point; Or A Wreck And A Rescue - Chapter 8. Red Rags
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The Outdoor Girls At Bluff Point; Or A Wreck And A Rescue - Chapter 8. Red Rags Post by :hadeajayi Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1730

Click below to download : The Outdoor Girls At Bluff Point; Or A Wreck And A Rescue - Chapter 8. Red Rags (Format : PDF)

The Outdoor Girls At Bluff Point; Or A Wreck And A Rescue - Chapter 8. Red Rags

CHAPTER VIII. RED RAGS

"Well, we've been making pretty good speed for the last three hours," said Mollie, taking first one hand, then the other, from the steering wheel and stretching her cramped fingers experimentally. "Now if nothing else happens--"

The sound of an explosion cut short the rest of the sentence, and she put on the brakes, at the same time tooting a signal to Betty. The latter stopped her car and came running back to see what had happened.

"Tire," said Mollie laconically, forestalling the inevitable questions. "I knew our luck had been too good to be true. Well," with the air of a martyr accepting the inevitable, "I suppose there's nothing to do but get busy and fix it, though, of course, this spoils our chances of getting to Bensington to-night," Bensington being the town midway between Deepdale and Bluff Point where they had planned to spend the night. It was also the only town for miles around that boasted a hotel.

"Oh, I don't know," said Betty in reply to Mollie's gloomy prediction. "It won't be the first time we've accomplished the impossible."

"But it will soon be dark."

"Goodness! it won't be dark for hours and hours," Betty laughed at her. "And this oughtn't to take us more than half an hour at the longest. Come on now, let's get busy."

Thus inspired, the girls "got busy," but they were tired with the long drive and everything seemed to go wrong. Their usually skillful fingers fumbled, the tire was "too big or too little or something," to quote Amy, and at the end of a quarter of an hour's useless struggle their tempers were worn to a frazzle and they were ready to cry.

"Well, I never had anything act like that before," cried Mollie irritably. "I'd like to give the person that wrote about the 'depravity of inanimate things' a medal. The old tire's got a mean disposition, that's all."

"Well, it isn't the only one," Grace was beginning, when Mollie turned and glared at her.

"If you mean me--"

"I meant all of us," Grace explained. "As long as we have been going together, this is the first time I can remember when all of us have been in the doleful dumps at once."

This brought a reluctant smile even to Mollie's gloomy countenance, and Betty laughed merrily.

"Perhaps it's just as well," said the Little Captain, adding with a chuckle: "It's the same way with onions--if everybody eats 'em, no one can notice the unpleasantness in the other fellow."

This brought a real laugh, and Mollie said fondly:

"I always knew you were a 'philosophiker,' Betty, dear. But," she added, vindictively kicking the tire that lay at her feet, "all the philosophy in the world won't put this tire on for us. And we can't very well get to Bensington on three wheels and a rim."

"No!" cried Grace, sarcastically. "Who would have guessed it?"

Mollie started to retort, but the threatened resumption of hostilities was cut short by the sound of a motor in the distance.

"Hark!" cried Mollie, a dramatic hand raised to a listening ear. "Do I hear the approach of an angel?"

"If you do, he has a pretty earthly means of transportation," laughed Betty. "To me, it sounds like a machine or a motorcycle."

"How can you?" cried Mollie, still dramatically poised. "It is an angel, I tell you, come to help us out of our predicament."

"It is a motorcycle," cried Amy excitedly. "The engine is making too much noise for an automobile."

"Well," suggested Mrs. Ford quietly, "whoever it is, I think it might be a good idea to get out of the middle of the road."

"But if we do," Grace protested, "he'll go right past us."

"And if we don't we'll get run over," added Mrs. Ford.

The girls looked at each other helplessly.

"I tell you," cried Betty suddenly, her eyes sparkling with a new idea. "Give me that old red rag we use for a duster, Mollie, and I'll go and signal your angel."

"Betty, you'll do no such thing," cried Amy, shocked, while Mollie dug under the seat for the improvised signal flag. "Think of signaling a strange man!"

"But you forget he's an angel in disguise," laughed Betty, snatching the dust cloth Mollie held out to her. "Anyway," she added, over her shoulder, "desperate cases require desperate remedies," and was off round the turn of the road.

There wasn't much time to spare either, for when she had clambered up on a rock by the side of the road, the motorcyclist was only a few hundred feet away.

At the unexpected sight of a red rag wildly waved by a very graceful little figure in a gray traveling suit, he looked surprised but promptly put on his brakes. He leapt from his machine and came running toward her while Betty descended from her perch just in time to meet him at the foot of the rock.

"Is there anything the matter?" he asked, in a nice voice that Betty immediately liked. In fact, she liked nearly everything about him, from his sunburned face and merry blue eyes to his trim leather boots and puttees. So she gave him a friendly little smile that showed all her dimples, much to his secret admiration.

"Why, yes, there is," she answered, adding with a chuckle: "If there hadn't been, I shouldn't have been perched on that old rock, waving a ridiculous red dust rag!"

Then, as they made their way around the turn in the road toward the car where Mrs. Ford and the girls were waiting for them, she explained the situation, adding with another smile: "You see, I had to stop you some way, so I chose the very first method I could think of."

"It certainly was effective," he answered, smiling.

Then after mutual introductions, by which the girls learned that their new friend's name was Joe Barnes and that he had been on his way to Deeming, a village about five miles away when Betty's red flag had brought him to so sudden a stop, the youth went to work with a will at the tire while the girls alternately watched him and helped by handing him the tools he needed.

In what seemed no time at all to the girls he had finished his task and had pulled out a handkerchief and was wiping his begrimed hands with it.

"My, you did do that in a hurry!" sighed Mollie, patting the new tire happily. "You did in fifteen minutes what five of us couldn't do in half an hour."

"You were probably tired," he answered, glancing at the car, which gave unmistakable evidence of the many miles they had come that day. "Are you, have you--" he hesitated, evidently not knowing whether his question would be taken in good part or not. "Are you going very much farther?"

"Only about a hundred miles," laughed Betty, then added in answer to his startled glance: "Not to-night, though. We are just going as far as Bensington."

"But Bensington is about fifteen miles away," he protested, adding as he glanced up at a lowering gray cloud overhead: "And if I know anything about weather signs, you will have to use some speed to get there before the storm."

"The storm!" they cried simultaneously, following his glance, while Mollie added petulantly:

"Goodness, haven't we had enough troubles for one day without getting a drenching into the bargain?"

"But we haven't got the drenching yet," Mrs. Ford reminded her, adding, with a cordial smile as she held out her hand to Joe Barnes: "We don't know how to thank you Mr. Barnes, for taking all this trouble for us."

"Please don't," he begged, flashing his nice smile upon them. "I am only too glad to have been of assistance. And now, if I might suggest--"

Another glance at the ominous cloud which had grown bigger and blacker even in these few minutes, sent the girls scrambling unceremoniously to their seats while Joe Barnes lifted his hat and stood waiting for them to start. Once his eyes rested upon Betty, and there was so much undisguised admiration in them that she flushed prettily and threw in the clutch with a jerk that was not at all skillful.

"Good-bye," they called, and "good-bye," he answered, as the two cars sprang forward in a cloud of dust. Not until they were out of sight did Joe Barnes turn away and retrace his steps toward his deserted motorcycle.

"Joe, my boy," he communed with himself, shaking his head over the memory of Betty's dimples, "that little Miss Nelson is one girl in a million. I wonder now," slowly mounting his machine and looking reflectively at the road in front of it, "why I didn't ask if I might call." Then the absurdity of the idea made him laugh at himself. "What nonsense to think of taking advantage of an accident--Where was it they said they were stopping for the night? Oh, yes, Bensington. Well, he might go there and take a chance on seeing them--her. Fate might even be kind to him and burst some more tires!" Then he laughed at himself again and started his motor.

Meanwhile Grace, who had noticed Joe Barnes' expressive glance in Betty's direction and the latter's subsequent confusion, commented upon the coincidence.

"Goodness, Betty," she drawled lightly, "I always knew you were a heart breaker, but I never saw you make a conquest in so short a time. Half an hour and--poof--it's all over but the shouting."

Betty gave an annoyed little laugh.

"Don't be foolish, Gracie," she commanded adding reflectively as she skillfully avoided a rock in the road: "He was awfully nice looking though, and pleasant."

"Of course!"

"But I couldn't help wondering," Betty went on, as though talking to herself, "why he was here at all when his country needs him."

"Um--yes, that was rather strange," mused Grace. "One isn't used to seeing a young, good-looking and apparently healthy boy on this side of the water these days, unless he's in khaki. I wonder if our knight by the wayside is by any chance one of those insects we term--"

"Slackers?" finished Betty, adding in quick defense: "No, I'm quite sure he isn't that kind. You know we have had a good chance to study both types, and he doesn't look like a slacker."

"Granted," agreed Grace, adding with a quick change of mood: "Just the same, it makes me feel desperate to see any young fellow running at his own free will about the country, evidently enjoying life, while our boys are giving up everything--"

"But, if Joe Barnes isn't a slacker," Betty reminded her gently, "he is probably passionately envying our boys the right to 'give up everything'."

"Perhaps," replied Grace, eyes fixed moodily upon the flying landscape. "But when I think of Will--"

For a long time there was silence. Then Betty gave a little start and regarded with disfavor a big drop that rested on the third finger of her right hand. She immediately resigned the guidance of the car to her left hand while she held up the right for Grace's inspection.

"What's the matter with it?" queried the latter, who had been engrossed in her not too happy meditations.

"Rain," cried Betty succinctly, adding with a whimsical little smile: "I don't know whether Joe Barnes is a slacker or not, but I do know he's a good prophet. We surely shall have to put on some speed if we want to reach Bensington before the storm!"

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