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- The Campfire Girls Go Motoring - 3/30 -

from the city, waiting with a stop watch to see how long it took us to find her."

"We'll get there," said Nyoda grimly, her sporting blood up.

Everywhere along the road people told us about the brown car that had gone just ahead of us and pointed out the direction it had taken. Every time we turned a corner we expected to hear the laughter of the girls who were leading us such a merry chase, but we didn't. Soon we were out of the city and on the country road once more, and we were quite a bit puzzled not to find them waiting for us. We certainly thought the joke was to have ended here. But a man walking along the road had seen the car go by half an hour before.

"Half an hour!" we echoed. "Gladys must have been speeding to have gotten so far ahead of us." Of course, the Striped Beetle is a six- cylinder car and more powerful than the Glow-worm, which is a four, and then they hadn't stopped at every corner to ask the way, so it wasn't so strange after all that Gladys was so far ahead.

"We'll make some speed on this road," said Nyoda resolutely, "and if we don't catch Lady Gladys before she gets to Ft. Wayne, I'll know the reason why. This is the road to Bryan, isn't it?" she asked, with her hand on the starting-lever.

"No," said the man. "This here road goes through Napoleon and Defiance. It gets to Ft. Wayne all right, but it doesn't go through Bryan."

Nyoda stopped in surprise. "The southern route?" she said, wonderingly. "Why, we decided on the northern. Whatever could have made Gladys change her mind without letting us know? Are you sure it was a brown car with four girls dressed just like us?"

The man was positive. It was the suits and the veils all alike that had caught his eye in the first place. He didn't generally remember much about the cars that went past. There were too many of them. But these girls looked so fine in their tan suits that he just had to look twice at them. They were laughing fit to kill and all waved their handkerchiefs at him as they passed.

We looked at each other in astonishment. It was undoubtedly the Striped Beetle that was going along the southern route and we couldn't understand it.

"Do you suppose," I said, "that Gladys could have misunderstood when you were playing 'John Kempo' and thought it was the southern route that won?"

"She must have," said Nyoda. "It's not impossible. We were all laughing and talking so much nonsense at the time that it was hard to think straight. But it doesn't make any difference," she added, "this route is as good as the northern, and we are right behind them and I mean to catch up before we get to Ft. Wayne." I knew what Nyoda was thinking about. The man had said the girls in the car were laughing fit to kill, and that looked very much as if there were some joke on foot. We knew very well they were running away from us and were going to lead us a chase to Ft. Wayne.

As we started off in pursuit I looked around from the tonneau, where I was then sitting, and saw a red roadster not far behind us. There was one man in it and he was the Frog I had seen goggling at Nyoda in the dining-room at Toledo.

We were not so terribly surprised when we did not find the Striped Beetle at Napoleon where we stopped for gasoline. We knew now that they would not let us catch them before we got to Ft. Wayne. We inquired at the service station and found that the brown car had stopped for gasoline nearly an hour before. Clearly they were not losing any time on the road. Neither were we gaining on them at that rate. Nyoda looked thoughtful as she started out once more. I knew she was meditating a lecture for Gladys when she caught up with her, about running away from us. Nyoda was responsible for the welfare of seven girls and how could she fulfil her trust if she had only three under her eye? And I knew as well as I knew anything that Gladys would forfeit her right to be leader by that little prank and for the rest of the trip would follow meekly along behind us. Nyoda would never in the world stand for her going off like that. But by the puzzled frown on her face I knew that she didn't understand it any more than I did. Gladys was the last one in the world to do such a thing. There must be some reason.

From my seat I could see that the Frog, who had also stopped for gasoline when we did, was not far behind us. The car he was in looked like a racing car, with a very long hood in front, and he could easily have gotten ahead of us. I wondered for a long time why he did not do so, and then suddenly I had a premonition. He was following us, or rather Nyoda. Something had told me when I first saw him that we should see him again. I made a horrible face at him behind my veil and wished something would happen to his car.

As we were passing through the village of S---- a chicken started up right under our front wheels, uttering a startled and startling squawk. Nyoda swerved to one side and ran squarely into a tree. There was a bump and a grating sound somewhere beneath us and then the nice cheerful humming of the motor stopped. Nyoda got out of the car to see what had been damaged.

"As far as I can see, only the lamp bracket is bent," she said, but when she tried to start the car again it wouldn't start.

"Maybe the driving spider has caught the flywheel," said Sahwah, trying to be funny.

Just then the red roadster did pass us, going slowly, and the Frog kept his eyes riveted on Nyoda all the while. She never looked at him. She had unbuttoned the roof over the engine and was poking her fingers down into the dragon's mouth, but undoubtedly the trouble wasn't there. There was a repair shop not far away--all of the towns along the touring routes which have an eye to business have some sort of one--and Nyoda repaired thither and fetched a man who tinkered knowingly with the regions underneath the Glow-worm and then reported in a dust choked voice that one of the gears was "on the blink". Just what part of a car's vital organs a gear is I don't know, but I judged it was an important one because Nyoda looked serious.

"What will we do?" she said, tragically.

"Can fix you up in the shop," said the man, wiping his forehead with a blue and white handkerchief. "We have a dismantled car of the same make there and can take a gear out of that."

So the Glow-worm was trundled up the street into the shop, and we were told that the damage would be fixed by the next morning. The next morning! We looked at each other in consternation.

"But we must get to Ft. Wayne to-night," said Nyoda, in a tone of finality.

"Sorry, ladies," said the foreman of the repair shop, "but it can't be done." Then we realized that we would have to stay in S---- all night. Here was a pretty mess. And Gladys and Hinpoha and the other two waiting for us in Ft. Wayne.

"We'll have to let them know," said Nyoda. "They'll worry when they see we're not coming."

"Let them worry," said Sahwah, darkly. "It serves them right for what they did to us."

But, of course, we had to let them know. So Nyoda wired the little hotel where we had planned to stay--and what a good time we were going to have!--and told the girls to stay there for the night and to please wait for us in the morning and not leave us again. Of course, the message was much more condensed than that, but Nyoda got it all in.

Then there was nothing else for us to do but make the best of a bad bargain and hunt up the one hotel in S---- and prepare to spend the night. But when we got there it was crowded. There was a big wedding in town that night, we were informed, and the out-of-town guests had filled the hotel. They were already two in a room and there was no hope of doubling up. Seeing our dismay at this news, the clerk bethought himself of a woman in the village who had a very large house and often let rooms to tourists when the hotel was full. She had once been very wealthy, but had lost everything but the house and now made her living by keeping boarders.

We thanked him and hurried off to the address to which he had directed us. We were very hot and tired and dusty and amazingly hungry. It was already six o'clock in the evening, and with the difference in time between our city and this we had been on the road a long day. We were glad after all that the hotel had not been able to accommodate us when we saw this house. The hotel was on the main street and the rooms must have been small and stuffy; anything but comfortable on this hot night. But this house stood far back from the street in an immense shady yard, one of those enormous brick houses that well-to-do people were fond of building about thirty-five years ago, with large rooms and high ceilings and enough space inside them to quarter a regiment. We blessed the good fortune which had led our feet to this hospitable looking door, which, in times gone by, must have opened to admit throngs of distinguished people.

There was no door-bell, but a big bronze knocker, and in answer to it a young girl, presumably the "hired girl", let us into the hall. She took our coming as a matter of course, so we judged they were prepared for tourists that day, knowing that the hotel was full on account of the wedding. Without a word she led us up-stairs and we breathed a sigh of relief when we thought of a bath and supper. The house must have been the home of fashionable people in its time, for the furnishings, though old, were still luxurious. The carpet on the stairs was still thick and soft to our feet, and the curtains I could see on the windows were of a fine quality. At the head of the stairs there was an oil painting of a woman in the dress of a by-gone day. The servant opened the door of a room at the front end of the long up-stairs hall and we passed in.

We had known instinctively as soon as we entered the place that the lady of the house was a woman of refinement and culture, notwithstanding the reduced circumstances which made it necessary for her to rent out rooms in this big mansion of a house in order to make her living. "I should think she'd rent it or sell it," said practical Sahwah.

"She probably can't bear to part with these things, which remind her of her former life," I said, sentimentally.

We were all anxious to see the woman who had been the mistress of so much splendor in days gone by and could not give up the house. The bedroom we were shown to was luxurious compared to what I had been used to at home. The bed was a mahogany four-poster covered with a spread of lace, and the rug on the floor was a faded oriental. Opening out of the bedroom was a bath with a shower and we made a dash to get under the cooling flood. I have never seen such towels as were stacked up on that

The Campfire Girls Go Motoring - 3/30

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