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“Now young ladies,” began the elderly woman with the wonderful snowy hair. “Of course you know I am David’s mother. I am Mrs. Armstrong, and David is my only child. I wanted to come out here to a convention and he insisted on accompanying me. Though it did take him from his business.”

“His business?” Tavia repeated as nicely as she could, handing to Mrs. Armstrong the little lace cape that had just fallen from her shoulders.

“Oh, yes indeed, his business,” repeated the lady, while Dorothy and Edna smiled wisely at Tavia, who had not even yet found out what that young man’s “business” might be. “And,” said the lady, “I never depend upon dining cars when I travel, so if you can manage to put up some sort of table here between the seats, we may have a little meal, for my bag is pretty well stocked, I can well guess. Mabel put it up for me.”

“Splendid!” exclaimed Molly, not realizing that her remark was prompt to greediness.

27 “I am sure you must all be starved, for it is past tea-time,” said Mrs. Armstrong, getting from under the seat a good sized, matting traveling bag. “We use this when we go auto riding, it opens up so nicely.”

Again Tavia nudged the girl nearest her, for the lady with the bag of refreshments was becoming more interesting at every new remark she made.

“Do you suppose your son will be back in time to eat with us?” asked Dorothy, as the girls were spreading out newspapers on the seats, and arranging a sort of place to eat.

“I don’t know,” and the elderly lady looked very thoughtful for a moment. Then she removed her glasses, put them on again and whispered to Dorothy. “My son is always doing queer things—that is they are queer from my view point. Where did he say he was going?”

“He did not say, as I understood. But it seemed as if it was something about getting a message to town,” replied Dorothy.

The lady shook her head. “Now here are the refreshments,” she told the girls. Tavia had procured water in an old earthen pitcher, that she declared was perfectly clean, and that for the use of it she was personally indebted to the brakeman, who turned on the lights. Molly had “raided” a store-room somewhere, and from it had actually28 gotten out such a splendid piece of white cardboard that with the aid of Edna’s case knife square “dishes” were cut and served nicely for the chicken sandwiches. Then the pickles!

“We call them School Girls’ Delight,” explained Mrs. Armstrong, “although I had no idea I was going to fall in with such a happy crowd of young ladies.”

“We are the ones to be grateful,” declared Dorothy. “But where is Miss Faval!”

“Where is she?” asked more than one girl, jumping up, and glancing about the car.

“She certainly got on the train with us,” declared Edna.

“She should have remained with us,” said Dorothy, showing some anxiety. “That was the rule—always when we traveled this way.”

“And there are so many people about, with nothing to do,” Mrs. Armstrong remarked. “It is not like regular traveling, when everybody and everything is in place. We had better inquire at once.”

Dorothy had finished her sandwich, but objected to Mrs. Armstrong leaving her lunch untouched.

“It doesn’t make a bit of difference, child,” said that lady. “David will likely come back with more things to eat than would provide a dinner.” She brushed the crumbs from her skirt. “I am for finding the lost sheep.”

29 It must be said that those who remained to finish the feast did not look a bit worried about Jean Faval; in fact there was something of a scramble directly Dorothy and Mrs. Armstrong were safely out of sight.

“Where do you suppose——” began Molly.

“Don’t suppose,” interrupted Edna. “I don’t like that girl, and I hope she got on a train that—backed up.”

“Hope she tried to walk the bridge,” put in Tavia, between a pickle and a lady finger.

“You’re mean,” spoke Nita Brant. “She’s got lots of money, and will be splendid at school. She even has a check book of her own.”

“We prefer cash,” said Molly, “it’s lots handier.”

“What would we have done if it had not been for what ‘Mabel’ put in the bag?” asked Cologne, who was in a seat back of the four girls, who were just now threatening to eat the crumbs from the cracks in the newspaper table-cloth. “This meal has been my salvation.”

“But where do you suppose David has gone?” inquired Tavia. “I am worried about him. I like David!”

“Here come Dorothy and Mrs. Armstrong. They evidently have not found Lady Jean.” It was Edna who spoke.

Dorothy was very pale. Even in the uncertain30 light that flickered from the gas lamp in the car center, it was plain to everyone looking at her that Dorothy had received a shock.

“Such a girl!” said Mrs. Armstrong. “Actually refused to come with us. Sitting in a car talking to—well, of course, I couldn’t just say who they might be, but they looked like a small part of a big circus.”

Her eyes flashed, and she fanned herself nervously.

Dorothy quietly sat down beside Cologne.

“What has happened, Doro?” asked her friend—for next to Tavia, Cologne ranked first in favor with the little leader.

“Nothing much. But I was so surprised. I suppose I should not have shown how I felt,” replied Dorothy, biting her lip.

“She was positively rude,” went on Mrs. Armstrong, “and if I get a chance to find your Glenwood school I shall report her conduct.”

“What did she say?” demanded Tavia.

“She said—that she would not tag around with a parcel of kindergarten babies,” responded the indignant lady, “and I felt that it was I who had exposed Miss Dale to that insult.”

“Oh, she was not insulting,” interposed Dorothy. “Of course, I was surprised, because I usually have——”

“Been our policeman,” finished Tavia. “Well31 don’t you worry. I’ll be a whole police force when I get there—meaning to Glen.” She swung around to Dorothy. “What is it, dear?” she demanded. “You have that same worried look you wore when we left home. Can’t I help you?”

“Perhaps you can, Tavia,” replied Dorothy, “and I promise to tell you all about it when we get to school. It was really not what the girl said to me that—made me feel so. It was what I overheard her saying to someone else. There, don’t let them see us talking. I thought I heard——”

“Why, David!” exclaimed Mrs. Armstrong, “Wherever have you been?”

David had just entered the car, with all the bags and bundles that his mother had promised he would fetch.

“Had the time of my life,” he exclaimed quite breathlessly, “riding on a hand car into town. But I came back de luxe a la auto. I got the message to Glenwood School, and the big car is here again.”

“Oh, glorious!” declared Tavia, but she was interrupted in her effusion by the conductor’s cry:

“Special car for Glenwood School!”

Then the grand scramble commenced.

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