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- The Campfire Girls Go Motoring - 10/30 -
pleasure. We had not sat there very long when a young man passed us in the road. He was the light-haired young man we had seen in the repair shop. He lifted his hat as he passed but he did not say anything. He was on foot, from which we judged that he also had some time to kill while his motorcycle was being fixed.
We did not sit long under that tree after all. First, Sahwah discovered that she was sitting next to a convention hall of gigantic red ants and a number of the delegates had gone on sight-seeing excursions up her sleeves and into her low shoes, which naturally caused some commotion. Then a spider let himself down on a web directly in front of Margery's face and threw her into hysterics. And then the mosquitoes descended, the way the Latin book says the Roman soldiers did, "as many thousands as ever came down from old Mycaenae", and after that there was no peace. We slapped them away with leaves for a time but there were too many for us, so in sheer self-defense, we got up and began to walk back to town. The only thing we had to be thankful for so far was that the Frog had apparently vanished from the scene.
We went back to the little restaurant where we had eaten our breakfast and ordered dinner. We had our choice between boiled fish and fried steak and we all took steak except Margery, who wanted fish. The heat had taken away our appetites, all but Margery's, and she ate heartily. Dinner over, we went out into the heat once more. We went up to see if the picture show was open yet, for the thought of a comfortable seat away from the sun and with an electric fan near, was becoming more alluring every minute. It was open and we passed in with sighs of joy. Somewhere along the middle of the performance, Sahwah, who was sitting next to me, gave me a nudge and pointed to the other side of the house. There sat the Frog, as big as life.
"I should think he'd smother in those goggles," whispered Sahwah.
At the same time Nakwisi, who was on the other side of me, also nudged me and told me to look around a few minutes later so it wouldn't look as if she had called my attention. After a short interval I looked. There sat the motorcyclist directly behind us. How I did wish we could tell him about the Frog and how he was always following us around, why, we could not guess.
Before the picture was finished Nyoda thought it was time to go and get the Glow-worm, which should be finished by that time. But when we got out into the sun again Margery began to feel dizzy and sick. We were perplexed what to do. This little country town was not like the big city where there are rest rooms in every big store. We finally decided to get a room at the hotel, which was near-by. But here as everywhere, that miserable Jinx had raised an obstacle against us. There was a rural church conference going on in town that week and, of course, the hotel was filled to overflowing. Delegates with white and gold badges were standing around everywhere and there was not a room to be had.
Margery sat down in the parlor awhile and then said she felt somewhat better, but she still looked so white that Nyoda refused to set out with her in the car. As in S----, the clerk gave us the name of a woman near-by who would let us have a room if we wanted it, and after a while we went up there. We wanted Margery to lie down on a bed for a while. But no sooner were we there than she was taken with terrible pains. Thoroughly alarmed, Nyoda went across the street where a doctor's sign swung on a post before a house and brought him over. Margery was very ill by this time and the doctor said she had symptoms of ptomaine poisoning. He asked what she had eaten for dinner. At the mention of fish he nodded his head gravely. Eating fish with the thermometer at ninety-five degrees is a somewhat hazardous proceeding, he remarked. How glad we all were then that we had taken the steak, even if it was tough! The doctor gave Margery some medicine and said we needn't worry because she wouldn't get any worse, and left us with a few more remarks about eating fish in a restaurant in hot weather.
Margery was more distressed about having delayed our start than she was over her own discomfort, so we had to make light of it, even though we were dismayed ourselves. Now the Glow-worm was ready and we were not! I couldn't help feeling that it had been no ordinary fish from the near- by lake that Margery had eaten, but one of the fateful fishes of the zodiac itself, especially prepared for the occasion. For it soon became evident that we could not leave town that night. Margery was feeling better, but was still too weak for automobile traveling.
Nyoda knit her brows for some time. "I'll have to wire Chicago," she said, thoughtfully. Gladys and the others must be there by this time.
I walked over to the telegraph office with her and stood beside her while she wrote the message: "Held in Rochester to-night on account sickness. Address Forty-three Main Street." She directed it to Gladys at the Carrie Wentworth Inn, the new Women's Hotel where we were to stay in Chicago. She read it out loud to me, counting over the words. As we turned away from the window-desk someone turned and went out just ahead of us. It was the motorcyclist.
Margery was sleeping when we returned, and we sat down beside the bed and read the paper we had bought at the corner stand. Nyoda gave a smothered exclamation as she read and pointed to an article which said that both Margery Anderson's father and uncle were scouring the country for her, and the uncle was accusing the father of having spirited her away. The paper said that private detectives were trying to trace her. Then it was that we remembered the mysterious reappearance of the Frog. We hadn't much doubt that he was a detective. But if he were a detective, why had he attempted to steal the Glow-worm? The only reason could have been the one which Sahwah suggested, namely, that he wanted to cut us off from following him. He had probably carried away the wrong girl in the excitement of the fire and did not discover his mistake until later and then had let her go. This accounted for the fact that there was no girl in the red roadster when it loomed up ahead of us in the road that morning.
But why had he run away from us when we tried to overtake him? That was a baffling question, and the only way we could explain it was that he was afraid we would accuse him of theft. That he had not gone very far away from us was shown by the way he had appeared in the picture theatre that afternoon. But if he was a detective, why did he not boldly march up to Margery and attempt to take her away from us?
Between the heat and the puzzle we were reduced to a frazzle. We carefully hid the paper so Margery wouldn't see it when she woke up and went down to supper. The house was on a corner and it seemed to me, as I sat at the table that I saw the Frog walking down the side street. But it was growing dark and I was not sure, so I said nothing about it. Margery was very weak when she woke up and still unable to eat anything, and I believe she had a touch of sunstroke along with her ptomaine poisoning. She was clearly not a strong girl. The room seemed stuffy and close and we fanned her to make her feel cooler. But we were still thankful that we were not in the hotel, with its crowd of delegates and its band continually playing.
Sahwah was telling that joke about the man thinking the car was empty, when all the while there was a miss in the motor and a "dutchman" in the back seat, when there came a rap on the door and the lady of the house came in. A minute later we were all looking at each other in bewildered astonishment. _She had asked us to leave the house._
"But we've engaged the rooms for the night," said Nyoda.
That made no difference. We could have our money back. She had changed her mind about letting the rooms.
"You certainly can't think of turning this sick girl out of the house!" exclaimed Nyoda, incredulously.
Mrs. Moffat's face did not change in the least. She looked from one to the other of us with a steely glitter in her eye, which was a great change from the professional hospitality of her manner when she had let the rooms. "People aren't always as sick as they make folks believe," she said, sourly.
"You certainly don't doubt that this girl is sick!" said Nyoda, in desperation.
"I'm not saying I doubt anything," replied Mrs. Moffat. "I said I didn't want you to have the rooms to-night and I meant it."
"Will you please come outside and explain yourself," said Nyoda, "where it won't excite this sick girl?"
They went down-stairs to the lower hall, where Nyoda argued and pleaded to be told the meaning of Mrs. Moffat's strange attitude toward us, but she got no satisfaction. Mrs. Moffat would say nothing more than that she had a reputation to keep up. When Nyoda defied her to put Margery out Mrs. Moffat said grandiloquently that her son was on the police force (I suppose she meant he was _the_ police force) and we would see what she could do.
Nyoda, at her wit's end, was trying to think of what to say next when there was a rap on the door and a small boy arrived with a note, which he would not give into Mrs. Moffat's hand. He just held it up so she could see what was on the outside. It was addressed to "The black- haired automobile lady". This, of course, was Nyoda and the boy was perfectly satisfied to give her the note once he had looked at her. Wonderingly she unfolded it. It contained only one line: "Go 22 Spring Street." It was signed "A fellow tourist." Nyoda turned to ask the boy who had given him the note, but he had disappeared.
22 Spring Street. Spring Street was one block down Main Street. Nyoda called me to go with her and we went to 22 Spring Street. A perfectly dear old lady came to the door and, when we asked if she could keep us all night, she said she would be delighted to. She asked such few questions that I have a suspicion that she knew all about us already from the motorcyclist, for we had no doubt that it was he who had sent Nyoda the note. How he knew Mrs. Moffat was trying to put us out was beyond us, unless he had been passing the open front door and overheard her conversation, which had not been in low tones by any means. As the new place was so near we got Margery over without any trouble and shook the dust of Mrs. Moffat's house from our feet disdainfully, if still completely in the dark as to why it should be so.
What had caused the change in her manner toward us? She had been perfectly cordial at the supper table and asked how we liked the beds. Something had evidently occurred while we sat upstairs, but what it was we could not guess. Then, like a flash, I remembered having seen the Frog sauntering past the house while we were eating supper. Had he gone to Mrs. Moffat with some story about us which had caused her to put us out? It sounded like a moving picture plot, and yet we all realized the possibility of it. We were simply dazed with the events of the day and evening by the time we reached the new rooms and had put Margery to bed.
"What a record we are setting this week!" said Sahwah. "First night we wandered into a Congressman's house by mistake and were put out; second night we got burned out of a hotel and finished by getting lost in the fog; third night we are put out of a lodging house for some mysterious reason. There aren't enough more things that can happen to us to last the week out." Which showed all that Sahwah knew about it.
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