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       The Automobile Girls Along the Hudson; Or, Fighting Fire in Sleepy Hollow, p.1
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           Laura Dent Crane
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The Automobile Girls Along the Hudson; Or, Fighting Fire in Sleepy Hollow



  Fighting Fire in Sleepy Hollow



  Author of The Automobile Girls at Newport, The AutomobileGirls in the Berkshires, Etc., Etc.


  PhiladelphiaHenry Altemus Company

  Copyright, 1910, by Howard E. Altemus


  CHAPTER PAGE I. The Unexpected Always Happens 7 II. Mr. Stuart Confides a Secret 16 III. Rocking Chair Adventures 25 IV. A Cry for Help 45 V. The Motor Cyclist 52 VI. A Forest Scrimmage 58 VII. A Night with the Gypsies 76 VIII. The Haunted Pool 83 IX. Ten Eyck Hall 94 X. An Attic Mystery 107 XI. Jose Has an Enemy 117 XII. Nosegays and Tennis 129 XIII. Cross Questions and Crooked Answers 141 XIV. In the Deep Woods 150 XV. The Hermit 158 XVI. A Surprise 168 XVII. Zerlina 180 XVIII. The Masquerade 189 XIX. A Recognition 195 XX. The Fire Brigade 203 XXI. Fighting the Fire 210 XXII. Explanations 220 XXIII. An Old Romance 227 XXIV. Good-bye To Ten Eyck Hall 235 XXV. Conclusion 253



  "I think I'd make a pretty good housemaid," said Barbara, on her knees,energetically polishing the floor of the cottage parlor.

  "Only housemaids don't wear gloves and all-over aprons and mobcaps,"replied Mollie.

  "And they don't protect their skins from dust with cold cream," addedBarbara, teasingly. "Do they, Molliekins?"

  "Oh well," replied Mollie, "duty and beauty rhyme, and every woman oughtto try and keep her looks, according to the beauty pages in all thepapers."

  "Poor old Molliekins!" exclaimed her sister. "Crowsfeet and gray hair atfifteen!"

  "Going on sixteen," corrected Mollie, as she gave a finishing rub to themahogany center table, a relic of more prosperous days, and flourishedan old, oily stocking that made an excellent polisher. "But the papersdo say that automobiling is very harmful to the complexion and the faceshould be protected by layers of cold cream and powder, and a veil ontop of that."

  "I'm willing to take the chance," laughed Barbara, "if ever I getanother one."

  "I suppose Ruth is so busy getting ready for her six weeks' trip abroadthat she won't have much time for her 'bubble' this August," observedMollie. "But, dear knows, we can't complain. There never was a rich girlwho knew how to make other people happy as well as she does. Sometimes Ithink she is really a fairy princess, disguised as a human being, who isjust gratifying her desire to do nice things for girls like us."

  "No, she is no fairy," commented Barbara. "That is why we love her so.She is just a jolly, nice girl and as human as anybody. When she askedus to go to Newport it was because she really wanted us. She has oftentold me, since, that she had been planning the trip for months, but thegirls she knew were not exactly the kind who would have fallen into sucha scheme. Gladys Le Baron would never have done, you see, at that time,because she always wanted Harry Townsend hanging about."

  Harry Townsend, our readers will recall, appeared in a former volume ofthis series, "The Automobile Girls at Newport." He was the famous youthknown to the police as "The Boy Raffles," whose mysterious thefts werethe puzzle of the society world. It was Barbara Thurston, by her gritand intelligence, who finally brought the criminal to justice, thoughnot before Newport had been completely bewildered by a number ofinexplicable jewelry robberies.

  Following the visit to Newport came another delightful trip to theBerkshire Hills. The romantic rescue of a little girl whose birth hadbeen concealed from her rich white relatives by her Indian grandmother;Mollie Thurston lost in an unexplored forest; the thrilling race betweenan air ship and an automobile--these and other exciting adventures weredescribed in the second volume of the series entitled "The AutomobileGirls in the Berkshires."

  "How hot it is!" continued Bab. "Suppose we have some lemonade. Theseforest fire mists are really fine ashes and they make me quite thirsty."

  She polished away vigorously while Mollie tripped off to make a coolingdrink in the spotless little kitchen. Except for the tinkle of iceagainst glass the house was very still. Outside, not a breeze wasstirring, and the meadows were draped in a curious, smoky mist. The sunhung like a red ball in the sky; the air was hot and heavy. The flowersin the garden borders drooped their heads in spite of persistent andfrequent waterings. Three months' drought had almost made a desert ofKingsbridge. The neat little scrap of a lawn was turning brown inpatches, like prematurely gray hair, Barbara said. Even the birds weresilent, and Mollie's cherished family of bantams, a hen, a rooster andone chick, crouched listlessly in the shadow of the hedge.

  Just then the stillness was broken by the distant crunch-crunch of anautomobile. But the girls were too intent on what they were doing totake any notice until it stopped at their own front gate, and the soundof gay laughter and voices floated up the walk. Mollie and Barbararushed together to the front porch.

  "It's Ruth herself!" they cried in the same breath, running down thesteps without stopping to remove their long gingham aprons and dustingcaps. "And there's mother, too," exclaimed Mollie.

  "And Mr. Stuart and Aunt Sallie, all complete!" cried Barbara.

  In a moment the three girls were engaged in a sort of triangular embracewhile the others looked smilingly on.

  "Well, young ladies," said Mr. Stuart, "are those automobile coatsyou're wearing, and bonnets, too?"

  "I think they would do pretty well for motoring," replied Barbara, "theyare specially made for keeping out the dust."

  "They are just as cute as they can be," said loyal Ruth, who was tootender-hearted to let her friends be teased.

  "But where on earth did you come from, Ruth?" asked Mollie. "We werejust talking about you a moment ago. We thought, of course, you werestill in Denver, and lo and behold! you appear in person inKingsbridge."

  "Well, papa had a call East," replied Ruth, bubbling with suppressedjoy, "and I had a call, too. Papa's was business and mine was--well,just to call on you." By that time they had reached the cool,half-darkened little parlor whose bare floor and mahogany furniturereflected their faces in the recently polished surfaces.

  "Oho!" cried Mr. Stuart. "I see now where Queen Mab and her fairies havebeen working in their pinafores and caps."

  "Take them off now, girlies," said Mrs. Thurston, "and get a pitcher ofice water. I know our friends must be thirsty after their dusty ride."

  But Mollie, who had already disappeared, came back in a few minutesbearing a large tray of glasses and a tall glass pitcher against whosesides cracked ice tinkled musically.

  "That's the most delightful sound I've heard to-day," exclaimed Mr.Stuart, an
d even Aunt Sallie took a second glass without much urging.

  "Where is our little Indian Princess from the Berkshire Hills?" askedMr. Stuart suddenly. "One of my reasons for coming East was to seeEunice. Ruth says she is the prettiest, little brown bird that ever flewdown from a mountain to live in a gilded cage. What have you done withher, Mrs. Thurston?"

  "I have had to give her up, Mr. Stuart," Mrs. Thurston replied, sadly."And I was beginning to love Eunice like one of my own children. Youcannot guess how quickly she learned the ways of our home. She soonforgot the old, wild mountain life and her Indian grandmother'steaching. But just now and then, if one of us was the least bit crosswith her, she would run away to the woods; and then only Mollie, whomshe always loved best, could bring her home again."

  "Oh, how I hated to have her leave us!" Mollie declared. "But after theone winter with mother, Eunice's rich uncle, Mr. Latham, came here tosee her. He was so charmed with her beauty and shy lovely manners thathe took her back to his home in the Berkshires to spend the summer withhim. This fall Mr. Latham is going to put Eunice in a girl's boardingschool in Boston, so that she can be nearer his place at Lenox. He wantsto be able to see her oftener. The dream of little Eunice's life is tosome day ask 'The Automobile Girls' to visit her."

  "Well, girls," said Ruth, as they moved toward the front porch, leavingtheir three elders to chat in the parlor, "I suppose you know I've gotsomething in my mind again."

  "No, honor bright, we don't," declared Barbara. "Isn't Europe about asmuch as you can support at one time?"

  "But Europe doesn't happen until next month, children, and afterfinishing his business in the East, papa is going to be kept very busyfor at least a month in the West. In the meantime Aunt Sallie and I haveno place to go but out, and nothing to do but play around until it'stime to sail. And so, honored friends, I'm again thrown upon yourcompany for as long a time as you can endure my presence. And this isthe plan that's been working in my head all the way on the train: Whatdo you say to a lovely motor trip up along the Hudson to Sleepy Hollow?Don't you think it would be fine? Grace can go, and we'll have our sameold happy crowd. It's really only one day's trip to Tarrytown, where wewill stop for as long as we like, and from there we can motor about thecountry and see some of the fine estates. It is a historic place, youknow, girls, full of romance and old stories and legends. We can evenmotor up into the hills if we like."

  "It would be too perfect!" cried the other two girls.

  "I'm just in the mood for adventures, anyway," declared Barbara. "I'vebeen feeling it coming over me for a week."

  "When are we going?" asked Mollie.

  "Well, why not to-morrow," replied Ruth, "while the spirit moves us?"

  "O joy, O bliss, O rapture unconfined!" sang Mollie, dancing up and downthe porch in her delight.

  "You see, there is no special getting ready to do," went on Ruth. "Thechauffeur will go over 'Mr. A. Bubble,' this afternoon, and put him ingood shape. He's been acting excellently well for such a hardworking oldparty. I mean 'A. Bubble,' of course."

  "Does mother know yet, Ruth?" asked Barbara, with a sudden misgiving.

  "Oh, yes, she knows all about it. Papa and I laid the whole plan beforeher when we picked her up in the village. She was agreeable toeverything, but of course she would be. She is such a dear! Aunt Salliewas the only one who was a bit backward about coming forward. She seemedto think that the forest fires would devour us if we dared ventureoutside of New York. But, of course, they are only in the mountains andthere is no danger from them. It took me an age to gain her consent. Ifshe has any more time to think about it she may back out at the eleventhhour."

  "Is it all settled, girls?" called Mr. Stuart's voice through the openwindow.

  "Oh, yes," chorused three gay voices at once.

  "Well, I think we'd better be going up to the hotel, then," cried MissSallie. "If I'm to be suffocated by smoke and cinders I think I shallneed all the rest I can get beforehand."

  "But, dearest Aunt Sallie," said Ruth, patting her aunt's peach-blossomcheek, "the fires are nowhere near Sleepy Hollow. They are miles off inthe mountains. And truly, in your heart, I believe you like these littleauto jaunts better than any of us."

  "Not at all," replied the inflexible Miss Stuart. "I am much too old andrheumatic for such nonsense."

  Whereupon she jumped nimbly into the car.

  The others all laughed. They understood Miss Sallie pretty well by thistime. "She has a stern exterior, but a very melting interior," Barbaraused to say of her.

  "Don't fail to be ready by ten, girls," called Ruth as she followed heraunt, while Mr. Stuart was offering his adieux to Mrs. Thurston.

  "But, Bab," whispered Mollie, as the automobile disappeared around acurve in the road, "what about the forest fires?"

  "Sh-h!" said Barbara, with, a finger on her lip.

  And they followed their mother into the house.

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