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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls At The Hostess House - Chapter 18. After The Boys Left
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The Outdoor Girls At The Hostess House - Chapter 18. After The Boys Left Post by :jmarkum Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :3161

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The Outdoor Girls At The Hostess House - Chapter 18. After The Boys Left

CHAPTER XVIII. AFTER THE BOYS LEFT

"Well--it's--over," sighed Grace, as they made their way slowly down the platform to where the machine stood waiting. "I feel as though I'd like to go home and cry for a week without stopping."

"Favorite indoor sport," retorted Mollie, wiping her own eyes impatiently. "I'm sure the boys would admire us for doing that."

"I don't think they'd admire us very much if they could see us now," sighed Amy, dabbing a rather red nose with a generous portion of talcum powder. "Crying is so terribly damaging to my particular style of beauty! Every time I do it I vow I never will again--"

"And then the boys do foolish things like going away to be shot," finished Mollie, "and--poof, go all our good resolutions."

"But you girls are all Helen of Troys compared to me when I cry," said Grace, her tear-dimmed eyes fixed mournfully on space. "Why, after I've had a good cry I cover up all the mirrors in the house for a couple of days afterward."

"I guess," sighed Betty, "that just about everybody we know went away on that train this morning. Oh, girls, I feel as though somebody were dead."

"Well, I'd rather be, than look like this," said Grace, eyeing her somewhat disheveled reflection in the tiny mirror somberly.

"Oh, you're not quite as bad as that, Gracie," Betty comforted her, laughing a little despite the ache at her heart. "A little cold water and a curling iron will work wonders--"

"Betty," cried Grace, pausing in the act of applying still more powder to the tip of her nose and regarding the Little Captain with a horrified expression, "why drag the mention of such unromantic things into the open--"

"Goodness, nothing could be much more unromantic than straight hair and red noses," broke in Mollie practically. "It's lucky the boys don't do this every day--I'd be a wreck in a week!"

"Well, at least you'd be wrecked in a good cause," said Betty, half wistfully, half whimsically.

"Goodness, you'll make me cry again after I've just powdered my nose," cried Grace in alarm, and the foolishness of it made them all laugh.

"You're a goose, Gracie," Mollie commented. "But I love you, just the same. Now," she added, "who's going to take the wheel while I do my duty with the powder puff? I need both hands you know--"

"Heavens, don't let Amy do it," cried Grace, in still greater alarm. "She doesn't know a thing about it. Mollie, what are you doing?"

"You put the powder on then," Mollie suggested, and Amy reached for the vanity case. "If you can't drive you can at least do that much. Amy! you're getting it in my eyes. Do be careful!"

"Mollie Billette, if you dare use that word again," cried Amy, her eyes twinkling, "I'll blind you with powder--just for spite!"

The girls chuckled, and Mollie, figuratively speaking, threw up her hands.

"Oh, all right," she said, meekly yielding up her nose to treatment. "I surrender. Only, Amy, do be--"

Amy raised the puff threateningly, and the badgered one continued hastily: "I was only going to say--do be a nice little girl."

"As if I were not always that!" retorted Amy, dabbing so liberally at the unfortunate member that Mollie sneezed, bumped over a rock in the road and nearly dashed the car against that long-threatening tree.

"Oh, goodness! I was sure we'd never come out of this alive," cried Grace miserably. "Isn't it enough to have our hearts broken, without our necks in the bargain?"

"Oh, might as well make a good job of it," returned Mollie cheerfully. "I don't know that I'd mind very much, anyway."

"Oh, now I know I'm going to cry!" wailed Grace, wiping a starting tear with her handkerchief. "Just when we're almost at Camp, too, and apt to meet somebody any minute--"

"Didn't you just hear Betty say," Mollie broke in, with the patient air one assumes in speaking to little children, "that everybody who is really worth anything has gone away on that train?"

"Well, I guess I didn't altogether mean that," said Betty thoughtfully. "Of course there is the medical personnel that is stationed here indefinitely and very much against its will. And, of course," she added, after a moment's pause, "there is Sergeant Mullins."

"Goodness! we did forget all about him, didn't we?" agreed Mollie, as though surprised at herself. "I don't know how we could have done such a thing!"

"And he's simply desperate at being kept here," added Amy suddenly. "He's done everything he possibly could to get away, but they say they need him more here than on the other side, and so, of course, he can't do a thing."

"How did you know?" they asked in chorus, growing gleeful as she colored under their gaze.

"Why, he--he told me," she stammered.

"Aha! I have you now, woman," cried Mollie, with a deep villain frown. "Secret meetings on moonlit nights--"

"This one happened to be in the broad daylight, in the glare of noon," Amy retorted. "And if you can find anything secret or romantic about that, you're welcome to."

Mollie stared for a minute, then joined in the laugh.

"Strike one," she cried. "But do tell us, Amy clear, about this meeting with Sergeant Mullins that occurred in the broad light of day. It must have been interesting--though unforeseen," she added hastily, as Amy turned a suspicious eye upon her.

"Yes, Amy, I humbly beseech you," added Grace.

"No, sir, I have been insulted enough," declared Amy stoutly, and nothing they could say seemed to have any effect upon her decision.

"You ask her, Betty," entreated Grace at last, turning to the Little Captain, who had been very silent and thoughtful during the ride. "She'll do anything for you, you know."

Betty brought back her wandering attention with a start. She had been thinking of those last words of Allen's, had been seeing again that exalted look in his eyes, could feel again the trembling of his hands as he grasped hers in a grip that hurt--hurt gloriously.

"Wh-what did you say?" she asked, dimly conscious of having been addressed. "I--I'm afraid I wasn't listening."

"I'm afraid you weren't," returned Grace, throwing a loving arm about her.

Then she repeated Amy's confession and her own question, and gradually there began to dawn in Betty's eyes a real interest.

"Oh, Amy, do tell us about it," she begged earnestly. "You know he has always been something of a mystery to us because of his reserve, and we'd love to know more about him. You know we're really not curious--just truly interested."

"Well," agreed Amy, with a smile, not able to resist Betty--nobody ever was for long--"of course, I'll tell you all there is to tell--although it really isn't much. I was hurrying along the parade a day or two ago, watching the boys drill, when somebody ran plump into me and made me drop the package I was carrying. I gasped and started to apologize for not looking where I was going when I saw that it was Sergeant Mullins. Then we both laughed and he picked up my package and offered to see me safely back to the Hostess House. Now what are you laughing at, Mollie?"

"I was just thinking," Mollie chuckled, "of the desperate need there was of a brave escort and of all the lions and tigers that were apt to attack you on the parade--"

"Well, you don't have to be silly," Amy retorted hotly, flushing despite herself, adding, rather lamely: "He said it was so no one else would run into me."

"Worse and worse, and more of it," chortled Mollie, skidding deftly about a curve. "What an excuse!"

"Oh, all right then," Amy was beginning indignantly, when Grace hurriedly thrust the candy box beneath her nose.

"Have one, honey," she said, in a voice of sugar sweetness. "You needn't pay any attention to Mollie, you know. We're listening."

"Well," Amy continued, slightly mollified, "it was then he told me all about the ambition he had had of being one of the first on the firing line and how hard it was to train all the boys to go after the Huns and then not have a chance at them himself."

"And, of course, you told him the same old thing about his doing a great deal more for his country here than he could do on the other side--" began Mollie.

"Well, what else was there to say?" Amy replied, a little sharply. "Of course, it didn't make him feel any better, and I knew in my heart that it wouldn't, but anything's better than just staying quiet and acting foolish."

"And natural," murmured Grace.

"Anyway, he seemed to understand that I was really sorry for him," Amy continued, not noticing the interruption. "He said he was sorry he'd bothered me with his grouchiness, that he wouldn't have felt so bad about it if it hadn't been for all the boys going away, and he supposed he'd even get used to that after a while if he tried hard enough.

"Just the same, he did look mighty grim as he turned away," she finished, with a little smile at the memory, "and he said something about not being surprised if he got mad at the last minute and hitched on the rear platform, anyway."

"It's wonderful how eager they all are," said Betty, her eyes shining and a little catch in her voice. "I suppose there are slackers, lots of them, but so far I haven't met a boy who wasn't desperate at being given a 'safe berth' away from the firing line and danger.

"It never seems to enter their minds to be thankful that they don't have to run the risk of having their arms and legs shot off, or perhaps being blinded for life.

"And it isn't that they don't think of it, either," she went on, her face flushing with enthusiasm, "or realize what it means. Just the other night Will was talking to me, Gracie--you know he's always been almost as much my brother as yours--and he said, 'I tell you what, Betty, it isn't often I let the grim side of this war business get to me, and it's the same with the other fellows. Of course we know it's there, but we're willing to take the bad with the good for the sake of doing what we're pretty darn sure is the only thing to do. Only,' he added, slowly, 'we're none of us pretending to say that we enjoy the idea of being maimed or perhaps crippled for life. There's not one of us but who's praying that if we have to go, it will be a good swift bullet that will do the business.

"'But,' he added, with a smile--and I could have hugged him for that smile, girls. 'But, of course, as I said before, we're not thinking of that side of it. It's enough to know that if it comes, we'll know how to meet it.'"

"And th-that's my brother," cried Grace, half tearful, yet radiant with pride in him. "Those horrible old Huns won't have even half a chance when he gets at them."

"And Frank and Allen and Roy," added Mollie loyally. "You can't leave any one of our boys out, Gracie. They're all built on the same plan--as far as bravery is concerned."

"Of course, I know that," said Grace, her eyes softening with the picture of Roy as he had said good-bye--so youthfully gay, yet so strangely self-reliant.

And Mollie's eyes that could flash so wrathfully at times, were also soft with memory, and Amy, thinking of those last words that were almost, yes, so very near, a promise, flushed hotly and wondered if after all she ought--so soon--

"It's no wonder that we're proud of them--our boys," said Betty softly.

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