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       The Automobile Girls at Chicago; Or, Winning Out Against Heavy Odds, p.1
 

          
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The Automobile Girls at Chicago; Or, Winning Out Against Heavy Odds


  THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT CHICAGO

  Or

  Winning Out Against Heavy Odds

  by

  LAURA DENT CRANE

  Author of The Automobile Girls at Newport, The Automobile Girlsin the Berkshires, The Automobile GirlsAlong the Hudson, etc.

  Illustrated

  "He's Here!" Cried Barbara.

  _Frontispiece._]

  PhiladelphiaHenry Altemus Company

  Copyright, 1912, byHoward E. Altemus

  Printed in theUnited States of America

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER PAGE I. THE MAN IN SECTION THIRTEEN 7 II. THE MISSING PASSENGER 19 III. A DIZZY ROUND OF PLEASURE 32 IV. BATTLE OF THE BULLS AND BEARS 45 V. AN EMBARRASSING MOMENT 56 VI. THE WRECK OF MR. A. BUBBLE 68 VII. THE MYSTERY OF THE IRON GATES 75 VIII. EXPLORING THE SECRET PASSAGE 84 IX. IN AN INDIAN GRAVEYARD 96 X. MEETING A TREASURE HUNTER 106 XI. GIVING AN ATTIC PARTY 116 XII. A CURIOUS OLD JOURNAL 127 XIII. THE MYSTERY OF THE ATTIC 136 XIV. TOMMY TAKES A WILD RIDE 143 XV. AN AMAZING OCCURRENCE 154 XVI. BOB SOLVES ANOTHER MYSTERY 164 XVII. A LONG-REMEMBERED CHRISTMAS 178 XVIII. BAB'S EXCITING DISCOVERY 187 XIX. A BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT 195 XX. CONCLUSION 204

  The Automobile Girls at Chicago

  CHAPTER I

  THE MAN IN SECTION THIRTEEN

  BARBARA THURSTON awakened with a violent start.

  "Wha--a-at is it?" she muttered, then opened her eyes wide. In thedarkness of the Pullman berth she could see nothing at all save a faintperpendicular line of light at the edges of the curtains that enclosedthe section.

  "I--I wonder what made me wake up so suddenly?" Barbara put out agroping hand. The hand came in contact with Mollie Thurston's face.Mollie brushed it away, muttering irritably in her sleep. Then all atonce Barbara discovered what had awakened her. Close at hand she heardthe voices of two men. They were conversing in low, cautious tones.

  "I tell you I'll crush him! I'll crush them both. I'll make beggars ofthem!" declared one of the men in a slightly heightened tone.

  The train had stopped, as Barbara realized at that moment. Otherwise shemight not have been able to hear the words so plainly. The girlshuddered at the tone of the speaker's voice more than at the wordsthemselves. She drew the curtains aside a little and peered out. It wasthen that she discovered by the light reflected from the adjoiningsection that the berths next to her had not been made up. Two men weresitting in the double seat within a few inches of where her head hadlain. She was unable to see the men, nor did Barbara recognize either ofthe voices. Their conversation could be of no possible interest to her,she told herself. Still for some reason that she did not stop toanalyze, the girl lay back with half-closed eyes, listening. Shelistened not because she wanted to hear, but for the reason that shecould not well help overhearing the conversation in the adjoiningsection.

  At Barbara's side Mollie Thurston lay sleeping peacefully. As forBarbara, she was now wholly awake, all thought of sleep having left her.

  "You mean you will crush them financially?" suggested the secondspeaker.

  "Body and soul!"

  "Do you mean to say that you would crush a human being--perhaps drivehim to do desperate things--merely to gratify your love of money andpower? Is that what you mean, Nat?"

  "That is partly my meaning. Yes, I want power. Already they call me the'Young Napoleon of Finance,' but that is not enough. Those men must bedriven to the wall, for in crushing them I shall be increasing my ownpower as well as taking theirs from them. I'd crush them just the sameif I knew it to be my last conscious act on earth."

  Barbara Thurston gazed into the darkness wide-eyed. She knew she waslistening to the resolve of a desperate man, though she had not theslightest idea what might be his plans for accomplishing his purpose.

  "Why do you hate them so?" questioned the second voice. "What have theyever done to you?"

  The first speaker paused a few seconds before replying, then in a voicetense with suppressed emotion he answered slowly:

  "Hate them? That isn't exactly the word, but it will answer. I hate -------- because he turned me out when I was making my start. Turned me outinto the street, Jim. Do you understand? Turned me out without a dollarin my pocket when I was trying to make something of myself. I hate theother man because he is working with him. They are pulling together andthey must go down together. Let them down me if they can. I'll makebeggars of both of them!"

  "Oh!" exclaimed Barbara Thurston in a tone that plainly must havereached the two men.

  The terrible threat had struck her almost with the effect of a blow. Aname had been mentioned that stirred her to instant alertness, a namealmost as familiar to the girl as her own.

  "What was that?" demanded the voice that had uttered the terriblethreats.

  "Someone dreaming."

  "Let them dream. As for me, I never sleep these days. I leave that toothers. Jim, you watch me. I'll be a king of finance yet. I'll be theNapoleon in reality before I have done. And what is more, those men willnever know where their opposition comes from until after the blow hasfallen. I'll see to it that they know then, however. Watch me, but keepsilent. Not a word, not a breath of what I have told you. I've said toomuch, but I had to talk to some one I could trust. Now I'm all rightagain."

  "Never fear, Nat."

  "And I'll give you a tip, boy. Buy wheat."

  Bab could not catch all of the sentence. She caught the word "wheat,"but a word ahead of that she missed.

  "Thank you, I never gamble," replied the second man. "I'm sure to loseif I do, so I have always steered clear of speculation. But I'm sorryfor the Old Man if you are after him. I'm sorry for anyone that youvisit your displeasure upon. I should hate to have you get after myscalp."

  "What's--who's talking in this berth?" demanded Mollie, sitting upsuddenly.

  "Sh-h-h!" warned Barbara, laying a restraining hand on her sister'slips. "It isn't in this berth. It's in the next one. Go to sleep."

  "Is--is Grace asleep?"

  "Yes. Be quiet."

  Grace Carter, the girls' companion, occupied the berth above them. As nosound had been heard from that quarter it was reasonable to suppose thatGrace had not been awakened by the conversation of the two men.

  Barbara was trembling violently. She was profoundly affected by what shehad overheard. Yet while she had heard a name mentioned and a threatmade against the owner of that name, she was in the dark as to themeaning of the threat--she did not understand what it was that this manproposed to do. Her ears were now strained to catch every word utteredon the other side of the partition.

  "I shall watch the market with interest, Nat," the second speaker wassaying. "I don't say that I approve of your way of getting revenge, butthat is your own affair. Remember, however, that people who play withfire are sooner or later sure to be singed."

  The other man laughed.

  "My feathers were singed a long time ago, Jim," he said.

  "Well, here's where I get off. Good luck, old man, and good night."

  The train had moved forward slowly, halting at a station a shortdistance from the last stop. The man who had made the threatsaccompanied his friend to the door of the car, then instead of returningto the seat he had occupied with his friend, he seated himself oppositethe section occupied by the girls.

  Bab, determined to know who the man was,
peered cautiously between thecurtains.

  "It's the man in section thirteen!" she exclaimed. Then she realizedthat she had expressed her thought aloud.

  The man wheeled sharply, his face hardening, his eyes narrowed to mereslits as he gazed questioningly about him. He saw no one, for Barbarahad quickly withdrawn her head, holding the curtains firmly so that heshould observe no movement of them. The girl had learned that which shewas so curious to know. She now knew the man who had uttered thethreats. He had occupied the section opposite to her all during theprevious afternoon, though she did not recall having heard him speak nordid she know his name. The man across the aisle reached for his bag,from which he selected a package of papers. These he regardedthoughtfully for a full minute, after which he opened the package,taking several documents, returning the rest to the bag. Then afterdrawing his cigar case from the bag, he rose and strode rapidly towardthe rear of the car, where the smoking compartment was located.

  "So that's the man. I'm glad I know what I do, even though I do not knowwhat it is all about. I must ask Mr. Stuart about that man," musedBarbara. Consulting her watch, she found that it was nearly one o'clockin the morning. The girl shivered, snuggled into her blankets and fellasleep. It was December and the air was chill. Barbara had not beenasleep long when she was awakened by a violent jolt, then a bumping thatshook her until her teeth chattered. The sleeping car swayed giddilyfrom side to side as it moved slowly forward with a grinding, crunchingsound. Then the car gave a lurch that hurled Bab violently against hersister.

  Mollie uttered a little cry of alarm. Bab threw her arms about her,hugging Mollie in a tight embrace to save her sister from being thrownagainst the side of the car. As yet Bab had not had time to think ofwhat was occurring outside. But now she began vaguely to realize thatthe Pullman car had left the rails. An accident had occurred. Shouts andcries of alarm from various parts of the car testified to the terror ofother passengers who were being buffeted about by the rocking sleeper.All at once the forward end of the car appeared to plunge down headfirst, as it were. The two girls were tumbled into one end of theirberth where for a few agonizing seconds both were nearly standing ontheir heads.

  Mollie screamed again.

  "Don't!" commanded Barbara sharply in a half-smothered voice, holdingher sister even more tightly than before.

  "We're going over!" cried Mollie.

  Barbara had managed to straighten out and was now bracing herself withall her might. She had thus far made no effort to get out into theaisle. She was a girl quick to think and act in an emergency. She hadreasoned that they would be safer in their berth than out of it, forthey could not be buffeted about so much in the narrow berth as theymight be in the aisle where they could hear the thud of bags and otherarticles falling from the various berths or being hurled from one sideto the other of the car.

  The lights suddenly went out. Fortunately the train had not been movingvery fast when the accident occurred. Now it gave a sudden, sickeninglurch and lay over on its side to the accompaniment of crashing glass asthe windows were burst in and renewed cries of fear came from thepassengers.

  The broad windows of the Thurston girls' berth burst in, sending ashower of glass over them. Both received bruises as well as slight cutsfrom the broken glass that had showered over them, though Barbara hadborne the brunt of the shock, managing to keep her own body betweenMollie and danger.

  "Are we killed? Are we killed?" moaned Mollie.

  "No. We are all right," soothed Bab with a confidence that she did notfeel. "Quick! Get on your clothes if you can find them. Here, put thison. Don't try to dress completely, but just throw about you whatever youcan find."

  While urging her sister to action, Bab was hunting feverishly for theirbelongings. She thrust the first clothing she could find into the handsof the trembling Mollie, then wrapped the younger girl in a blanket.

  "I want my shoes," cried Mollie.

  Barbara thrust two shoes into the girl's hands. One was Mollie's shoe,the other Barbara's, but she could not be particular under thecircumstances.

  Now a new danger threatened. Bab was certain that she could smell smoke.She fairly dragged Mollie from the berth into the aisle that was nowtilted at an angle.

  "Hurry! Get to the upper end of the car as fast as you can. The otherpassengers are out I do believe."

  "Oh, I can't! Help me, Bab."

  "Help yourself. I must look after Grace."

  "Grace!" groaned Mollie, a sudden and new fit of trembling seizing uponher until her legs threatened to collapse under her.

  Barbara gave her a violent push.

  "Climb up the aisle. Support yourself by the seats. You will be able toget through all right. I'll follow you just as soon as I can find Grace.She may have gotten out, but I don't believe she has."

  "Is--is--do you think she is dead?" gasped Mollie.

  "Hurry!" urged Barbara, as the smell of smoke smote her nostrils morestrongly than before. "Grace!" she called, as soon as she saw thatMollie had begun climbing.

  There was no answer. Barbara was hurrying into such of her clothing asshe was able to find. The intense darkness of the car made anysystematic effort to dress impossible.

  "Grace! Oh, Grace!"

  Still no answer. Bab observed by the light that now filtered through thebroken windows of section number thirteen on the opposite side of theaisle, that that section was empty. The car itself appeared to be empty.At least the cries had died out, though outside the car there was agreat uproar. Barbara climbed into the upper berth occupied by GraceCarter, who lay silent, unheeding Barbara's voice.

  "Oh, Grace! Grace!" begged Barbara, throwing her arms about her friend."Answer me."

  There was no response. A bar of moonlight shone through the brokenwindow of section number thirteen, falling directly on the pallid faceof the unconscious girl. Barbara shook her, calling upon her friend toanswer, but Grace neither spoke nor stirred.

  "Is there any one left in here?" called a voice from the other end ofthe car.

  "Yes, yes; come here quickly and help me," cried Barbara.

  Instead of coming to her assistance, the owner of the voice appeared toturn back and go out again. Barbara was now chafing the hands and faceof the motionless girl in the upper berth.

  "Oh, she's dead, she's dead. What shall I do?" gasped Bab.

  With a suddenly formed resolution, she clasped her arms about Grace andwith considerable difficulty--for Grace was now a dead weight--draggedthe unconscious girl from her berth into the aisle. Bab did not pausefor an instant. Handling her friend as tenderly as possible, she beganworking her way up the steep aisle, making but slow progress, one armabout Grace Carter, the other pulling herself and her heavy burden alongby grasping the backs of the seats and the partitions between such ofthe berths as were made up.

 
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