Betty Gordon at Mountain Camp/Chapter 11
STALLED, AND WITHOUT A DOCTOR
The rapidity with which the storm had increased and the drifts had filled the cuts through which the rails were laid was something that none of the party bound for Mountain Camp had experienced. Unless Uncle Dick be excepted. As Betty said, Mr. Richard Gordon had been almost everywhere and had endured the most surprising experiences. That was something that helped to make him such a splendid guardian.
"Yes," he agreed, when Betty dragged him down the car aisle to the two sections which he had wisely abandoned entirely to his young charges, "we had considerable snow up there in the part of Canada where I have been this fall. Before I came down for the Christmas holidays there was about four feet of snow on the level in the woods and certain sections of the railroad up there had been entirely abandoned for the winter. Horse sleds and dog sleighs do all the transportation until the spring thaw."
"Oh, do you suppose," cried Libbie, big-eyed, "that we may be snowbound at Mountain Camp so that we cannot get back until spring?"
"Not a chance," replied Uncle Dick, laughing heartily. "But it does look as though we may have to lay by for a night, or perhaps a night and a day, before we can get on to Cliffdale, which is our station."
"In a hotel!" cried Betty. "Won't that be fun?"
"Perhaps not so much fun. Some of these country-town hotels up here in the woods are run in a more haphazard way than a lumber camp. And what you get to eat will come out of a can in all probabihty."
The boys groaned in unison at this, and even Betty looked woebegone.
"I wish you wouldn't talk about eating, Uncle Dick. Do you suppose we will catch up with that dining car?"
"I do not think we shall. But there is an eating room at the junction we are coming to. We can buy it out. I only hope there will be milk to be had for the little folks. There is at least one baby aboard. It's in the next car."
"But we'll get to this place we're going to by morning, shan't we?" cried Bobby, very much excited.
"We're two hours late already I understand," said Mr. Gordon. "We have little to fear, however. I fancy if the storm does not hold up they will not try to push past the junction until morning. We've got to sleep in the car anyway; and if we are on short rations for a few hours it certainly will do you boys and girls little harm. At Cliffdale——"
"Oh, Uncle Dick!" suddenly exclaimed Betty, "that is where Mr. Bolter has sent that beautiful black horse that he bought in England."
"Oh, indeed? I heard of that mare. To Cliffdale? I believe there is a stockfarm there. It is some distance from my friend Canary's camp, however."
"Do you suppose that girl got there?" whispered Bobby to Betty.
"Even if she did, how disappointed she must be," Betty rejoined. "I am awfully sorry for Ida Bellethorne."
"I don't know," said Bobby slowly. "I've been thinking. Suppose she did find your beautiful locket and—and appropriate it for her own use," finished Bobby rather primly.
"You mean steal it," said Betty promptly. "No. I don't think she did. She didn't seem to be that sort of person. Do you know, the more I think of her the more I consider that Mrs. Staples would be capable of doing that."
"Oh, Betty! Finding and keeping your locket?"
Betty nodded with her lips pursed soberly. "I didn't like that woman," she said.
"Neither did I," cried Bobby, easily influenced by her friend's oplnlor. "I didn't like her a bit."
"But, of course, we don't know a thing about it," sighed Betty. "I do not suppose we should blame either of them, or anybody else. We have no evidence. I guess, Bobby, I am the only one to blame, after all."
"Well, don't mind, Betty dear," Bobby said comfortingly. "I believe the locket will turn up. I told Daddy and he will telephone to the stores once in a while and see if it has been found. And, of course, we have no particular reason to think that you dropped it in Mrs. Staples' shop."
"None at all," admitted Betty more cheerfully. "So I'll stop worrying right now. But I would like to know where Ida Bellethorne is in this blizzard."
"Girl or horse?" chuckled Bobby.
"Girl. I fancy that little cockney hostler, or whatever he Is, will look out carefully for the mare. But who is there to care anything about poor Ida?"
Gradually even Betty and Bobby were convinced that there were several other matters to worry about that were connected with neither Ida Bellethorne the girl nor Ida Bellethorne the horse. The belated train finally got to the junction where there was an eating place. But another train had passed, going south, less than an hour before, and the lunch counter had been swept almost bare.
Uncle Dick and Major Pater were old travelers, however; and they were first out of the train and bought up most of the food in sight. Others of the passengers purchased sandwiches and coffee and tea to consume at once. Uncle Dick and the military man swept the shelves of canned milk and fruit, prepared cocoa and other similar drinks, as well as all the loaves of bread in sight, a boiled ham complete, and several yards of frankfurters, or, as the Fairfields folks called them, "wienies."
"We know what Mrs. Eustice and Miss Prettyman would say to such provender," said Louise when the party, the boys helping, returned with the spoils of the lunch-room. "How about calories and dietetics, and all that?"
"We may be hungry enough before we see a regular meal in a dining-car or a hotel to forget all about such things, Uncle Dick said seriously. "There! We are starting already. And we're pushing straight into a blizzard that looks to me as though it would continue all night."
"Well, Uncle Dick," Betty said cheerfully, "we can go to bed and sleep and forget it. It will be all over by morning of course."
Uncle Dick made no rejoinder to this. They had a jolly lunch, getting hot water from the porter for their drink. Bob and the Tucker twins pretty nearly bought out the candy supply on the train, and the girls felt assured that they were completely safe from starvation as long as the caramels and marshmallows held out.
By nine o'clock, with the train pushing slowly on, the head locomotive aided by a pusher picked up at the junction, the berths were made up and everybody in the Pullman coach had retired.
Betty, as she lay in her upper berth with Libbie, heard the snow, or sleet, swishing against the side and roof of the car, and the sound lulled her to sleep. She slept like any other healthy girl and knew nothing of the night that passed. The lights were still burning when she awoke. Not a gleam of daylight came through the narrow ground-glass window at her head. And two other things impressed her unfavorably: The train was standing still and not a sound penetrated to the car from without.
Libbie was sound asleep and Betty crept out of the berth without awakening the plump girl. She got into her wrapper and slippers and stole along the aisle to the ladies' room. Nobody as yet seemed to have come from the berths.
She could not hear the wind or snow when she got into the dressing room. This convinced her at first that the storm was over. But she dropped one of the narrow windows at the top to see out, and found that a wall of hard-pack snow shrouded the window. She tried to break through this drift with her arm wrapped in a towel. But although she stood on a stool and thrust her arm out to her shoulder, her hand did not reach the open air!
"My goodness me!" gasped Betty Gordon. "We're stalled! We're snowbound! What shall we ever do if the snow doesn't melt pretty soon, or they don't come and dig us out?"
She washed in haste, and having brought her clothes with her, she dressed promptly. All the time she was considering what was to be done if, as it seemed, the train could not go on.
Just as she opened the door of the dressing room excited voices sounded at the end of the car. The conductor and the porter were talking loudly. The former suddenly shouted:
"Ladies and gentlemen! is there a doctor in this coach? We want a doctor right away! Day coach ahead! Child taken poison and must have a doctor."
A breathless gabble of voices assured him that there was no physician in the coach. He had already searched the other cars. There was no doctor on the train.
"And we're stalled here in this cut for nobody knows how long!" groaned the conductor. "That woman is crazy in the next car. Her two year old child got hold of some kind of poison and swallowed some of it. The child will die for sure!"
Betty was terribly shocked at this speech. She wriggled past the conductor and the troubled porter, and ran into the car ahead. At first glance she spied the little group of mother and children that was the center of excitement.