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HOME > Classical Novels > Dorothy Dale in the West > CHAPTER IV TO CATCH THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS
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 The Fire Bird looked like an express truck—or so Nat said. They had loaded up the boys’ with more than a fair share of the baggage.  
“But just the same, you girls have got to find room in here,” declared Ned. “Nat and I must have somebody to chin to while we’re driving over Hominy . They say there are ‘ha’nts’ in the woods, and we’d be afraid to go alone.”
“Poor ’ittle sing!” crooned Tavia. “Doro and I know just how scared you are. But we’ll go with you—providing you can find us room.”
“We’ll make room,” said Nat. “Mother will have to carry some of the baggage in her car. There is no use in putting the last camel on the straw’s back!”
“Joe and Roger have begged to go along,” Dorothy said.
“Well, they’re excess baggage, too,” answered Nat. “They’ll have to go in the other car.”
It was the evening following the June day on25 which Aunt Winnie had her Great Surprise. The intervening hours had been very, very busy for the girls.
It was arranged that the party should go by auto to Portersburg to catch the midnight express on the P. B. & O.
Dorothy and Tavia—as well as Mrs. White—had made exceedingly swift preparations for this journey. Of course, Ned and Nat did not have much to get ready.
“Wish I were a boy,” Tavia.
“I’ve heard you express that wish a thousand times,” declared Dorothy.
“This is the thousand-and-wunth time then! Look at how easy they have it, Doro! All they have to do is put a clean collar and a toothbrush in their pockets, and start for a tour of Europe!”
It was a long journey over the forest-covered ridge to Portersburg. They started at nine o’clock so as to be sure to be on time at the railway station. The who drove Mrs. White’s machine would chain the cars together and bring them—with Joe and Roger—back to the , after seeing the tourists off for the West.
Dorothy kissed the Major good-bye. “My little Captain” he still called her. Major Dale was very proud of his daughter.
They got away at last, the Fire Bird in the lead. There would be no moon until after midnight, so they had to depend upon the headlights for the discovery of any in the road.
Nat was under the wheel and he had insisted upon Tavia sitting beside him. Naturally Ned was glad to get Dorothy to himself in the tonneau. It was a tight squeeze for the latter couple, for the motor car was overburdened with baggage.
“Are you comfortable, Doro?” shouted Tavia, turning to look at her chum.
“Just as comfortable as I can be with the end of Nat’s dress-suit case me in the back, and a bundle of umbrellas right across my poor shins. Oh! I did not dream it would be so uncomfortable.”
“Our dreams seldom come true,” declared Tavia, .
“Don’t know about that,” said Nat. “You know, a couple of tramps were talking about the same thing. One says: ‘Isn’t it strange how few of our youthful dreams come true?’ And the other fellow answers back: ‘Oh, I dunno. I remember when I used to dream of wearing long pants, and now I guess I wear ’em longer than anybody else in the country.’”
“Better ’tend to your business, boy, and stop cracking jokes,” advised Ned.
“I’ll see that he doesn’t run us up a tree,” promised Tavia, confidently.
The Fire Bird swiftly passed out of the neighborhood with which the young people were familiar and struck into the road leading to Portersburg. It was a fairly good auto track, but had never been oiled. Therefore, there were “hills and hummocks,” as Tavia said, “in great .”
“Oh! oh! OH!” she , in , as the car bounced and jarred over some of these “thank-you-ma’ams.” “Did you ever see such a hubbly road, Doro?”
“I don’t see much of this one,” confessed Dorothy.
The forest shut the road about so thickly that beyond the headlights’ glare the way looked like a tunnel. Occasionally, some small, night wandering animal, across the track.
“There’s a rabbit!” ejaculated Tavia. “I wonder what he thinks this auto is?”
“The Car of Juggernaut,” said Dorothy. “Lucky he escaped.”
They were going down a hill. Suddenly Nat threw out the clutch and braked hard. The horn likewise uttered a stuttering warning.
A ray of light upon some object directly in the path of the flying car. It was impossible to stop and the road was too narrow for Nat to aside and in this way escape the collision.
“Low Bridge!” he shouted, and they all28 down. The next instant the car struck the creature in its path.
“A deer!” yelled Ned, as the car came to a jarring stop, some yards beyond the point of collision.
He out and ran back to see if the poor animal was really dead. His mother’s car meanwhile halted where the deer lay beside the road. The Fire Bird had thrown the creature some distance away, and it was quite dead, its neck being broken.
“Killing game out of season is a misdemeanor, Nat,” said his brother, returning to the . “Lucky you are going to get out of the state to-night. The game might be after you.”
“I don’t think it is a thing to laugh over,” said Tavia. “The poor deer!”
“Thank you,” Nat said. “I never expected to hear you call me by such a tender name.——”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Mr. Nat!” snapped Tavia, out of the front seat and joining Dorothy in the tonneau. “I don’t want to risk being in front if you are going to run down all the in the country.”
“It’s too bad to leave good venison behind,” Ned said. “I suppose he was dazzled by the lights. You must have a care how you drive, Nathaniel. Mother says so.”
29 “Huh! I couldn’t see the deer until we were right on top of it.”
“I know Nat didn’t mean to,” said Dorothy, the peacemaker. “It is dark.”
Nat only , but he drove more slowly. The deer had been actually hypnotized by the lamps; Nat did not want to play the same rough joke on another.
“Huh!” he muttered to his brother. “If the law had been off and we’d come up this way hunting deer, we wouldn’t have gotten within a mile of one!”
“Life is full of disappointments—just like that,” Ned, turning so that the two girls could hear him. “There was the old farmer who saw something in the clothing store window that kept him marching up and down before it for an hour, looking frequently at his watch.
“Finally he went inside and demanded of a salesman: ‘What’s your time?’ ‘Twenty minutes past five,’ says the salesman. ‘That’s what I make it,’ says the farmer, ‘and I’ll take them pants,’ and he to a ticket in the window which read: ‘Given Away at 5.20.’ But he was disappointed, too.” concluded Ned.
“How ridiculous,” said Dorothy. “Oh! here’s the end of the woods. I’m so glad.”
“It’s the end of this piece,” said Ned. “But there’s more ahead.”
30 It was much when they came out into the farming lands, and Nat could speed up his engine a little. Behind the Fire Bird coughed the other car. They met nobody, nor overtook any vehicle. This was a lonely road by night. They were still a long distance from Portersburg, and it was after eleven o’clock.
“You’d better get a wiggle on, boy,” declared Ned. “We don’t want to miss that train.”
“And I do want to miss any other deer that may be loafing about this right of way,” his brother.
They flew past a where a dog at his chain and almost barked his head off at the two . A wall of forest up before them again. It was fortunate that the darkness beyond the lamplight made Nat reduce speed.
Up heaved a disturbing figure beside the road. Nat the brakes in a hurry once more. The beast stepped right into the radiance of the lamplight and then—the automobile struck it!
Everybody screamed—including the object battle-rammed! “Another deer!” Tavia. But the that replied made her realize at once that she was wrong. No deer ever like that!
“It’s a cow,” said Ned. “Crickey, boy! you’ll all the animals in the state.”
 “That cow isn’t hurt,” Nat, “or she wouldn’t so.”
The other automobile stopped in the rear and Aunt Winnie was anxious to know what had happened. Ned was already out of the Fire Bird, trying to discover the whereabouts of the cow and the extent of her injuries.
“Something doing back there at the farmhouse,” warned the chauffeur of Mrs. White’s car. “You boys will be deep in trouble in a minute.”
They could see lights in the windows, and now heard a banging of doors. A harsh voice began to shout commands, and a waggling lantern approached across the fields.
Ned had found the cow. She was leaning up against the roadside fence, and one horn was hanging by a thread of tissue, in a drunken looking manner over her eye. Otherwise she seemed to be unhurt—only surprised. The of the car had suffered more than the cow.
When the farmer arrived he was very angry.
“I’ll fix you city fellers fer this. I’m a . Ye air all arrested!”
His dress was . Over his coarse nightshirt he had his trousers, and he was barefooted. But he had not forgotten his star of office, and he carried a club as well as the lantern. He himself in the road directly in front of the Fire Bird and demanded fifty dollars.
32 “I could buy cows like that skinny old thing for fifty dollars a dozen,” grumbled Ned.
“You’ll pay me fifty for this here caow, or th’ whole on ye will march ter jail at Hacktown.”
“Your cow is perfectly good,” suggested Tavia, “all except one horn. And that horn serves no good purpose on a domestic animal. Most farmers dehorn their cattle anyway. I think this man owes us about fifty cents.”
Nat began to at that, and the farmer was not at all pleased.
“Ye gotter fork over fifty dollars, or go to Hacktown an’ see the Jestice of the Peace.”
“But we’re in a hurry,” said Ned.
“That’s what they all say,” chuckled the farmer.
“You had no business to allow your cattle to run loose in the road,” cried Ned.
“Think not, eh, young man?” retorted the man. “You’d better read aour county ord’nance on cattle. Don’t hafter fence aour farms no more.”
“I bet,” growled Ned to the girls, “that the old scoundrel just set this crow-bait of a cow like a trap for any automobilist who might come by. Goodness! I hate to pay that fifty dollars.”

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