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Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John by Edith Van Dyne

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Major Gregory Doyle paced nervously up and down the floor of the cosy
sitting room.

"Something's surely happened to our Patsy!" he exclaimed.

A little man with a calm face and a bald head, who was seated near the
fire, continued to read his newspaper and paid no attention to the

"Something has happened to Patsy!" repeated the Major, "Patsy" meaning
his own and only daughter Patricia.

"Something is always happening to everyone," said the little man,
turning his paper indifferently. "Something is happening to me, for I
can't find the rest of this article. Something is happening to you,
for you're losing your temper."

"I'm not, sir! I deny it."

"As for Patsy," continued the other, "she is sixteen years old and
knows New York like a book. The girl is safe enough."

"Then where is she? Tell me that, sir. Here it is, seven o'clock, dark
as pitch and raining hard, and Patsy is never out after six. Can you,
John Merrick, sit there like a lump o' putty and do nothing, when your
niece and my own darlin' Patsy is lost--or strayed or stolen?"

"What would you propose doing?" asked Uncle John, looking up with a

"We ought to get out the police department. It's raining and cold,

"Then we ought to get out the fire department. Call Mary to put on
more coal and let's have it warm and cheerful when Patsy comes in."

"But, sir--"

"The trouble with you, Major, is that dinner is half an hour late. One
can imagine all sorts of horrible things on an empty stomach. Now,

He paused, for a pass-key rattled in the hall door and a moment later
Patsy Doyle, rosy and animated, fresh from the cold and wet outside,
smilingly greeted them.

She had an umbrella, but her cloak was dripping with moisture and in
its ample folds was something huddled and bundled up like a baby,
which she carefully protected.

"So, then," exclaimed the Major, coming forward for a kiss, "you're
back at last, safe and sound. Whatever kept ye out 'til this time o'
night, Patsy darlin'?" he added, letting the brogue creep into his
tone, as he did when stirred by any emotion.

Uncle John started to take off her wet cloak.

"Look out!" cried Patsy; "you'll disturb Mumbles."

The two men looked at her bundle curiously.

"Who's Mumbles?" asked one.

"What on earth is Mumbles?" inquired the other.

The bundle squirmed and wriggled. Patsy sat down on the floor and
carefully unwound the folds of the cloak. A tiny dog, black and
shaggy, put his head out, blinked sleepily at the lights, pulled his
fat, shapeless body away from the bandages and trotted solemnly over
to the fireplace. He didn't travel straight ahead, as dogs ought to
walk, but "cornerwise," as Patsy described it; and when he got to the
hearth he rolled himself into a ball, lay down and went to sleep.

During this performance a tense silence had pervaded the room. The
Major looked at the dog rather gloomily; Uncle John with critical eyes
that held a smile in them; Patsy with ecstatic delight.

"Isn't he a dear!" she exclaimed.

"It occurs to me," said the Major stiffly, "that this needs an
explanation. Do you mean to say, Patsy Doyle, that you've worried the
hearts out of us this past hour, and kept the dinner waiting, all
because of a scurvy bit of an animal?"

"Pshaw!" said Uncle John. "Speak for yourself, Major. I wasn't worried
a bit."

"You see," explained Patsy, rising to take off her things and put them
away, "I was coming home early when I first met Mumbles. A little boy
had him, with a string tied around his neck, and when Mumbles tried
to run up to me the boy jerked him back cruelly--and afterward kicked
him. That made me mad."

"Of course," said Uncle John, nodding wisely.

"I cuffed the boy, and he said he'd take it out on Mumbles, as soon as
I'd gone away. I didn't like that. I offered to buy the dog, but the
boy didn't dare sell him. He said it belonged to his father, who'd
kill him and kick up a row besides if he didn't bring Mumbles home.
So I found out where they lived and as it wasn't far away I went home
with him."

"Crazy Patsy!" smiled Uncle John.

"And the dinner waiting!" groaned the Major, reproachfully.

"Well, I had a time, you can believe!" continued Patsy, with
animation. "The man was a big brute, and half drunk. He grabbed up the
little doggie and threw it into a box, and then told me to go home and
mind my business."

"Which of course you refused to do."

"Of course. I'd made up my mind to have that dog."

"Dogs," said the Major, "invariably are nuisances."

"Not invariably," declared Patsy. "Mumbles is different. Mumbles is a
good doggie, and wise and knowing, although he's only a baby dog yet.
And I just couldn't leave him to be cuffed and kicked and thrown
around by those brutes. When the man found I was determined to have
Mumbles he demanded twenty-five dollars."

"Twenty-five dollars!" It startled Uncle John.

"For that bit of rags and meat?" asked the Major, looking at the puppy
with disfavor. "Twenty-five cents would be exorbitant."

"The man misjudged me," observed Patsy, with a merry laugh that
matched her twinkling blue eyes. "In the end he got just two
dollars for Mumbles, and when I came away he bade me good-bye very
respectfully. The boy howled. He hasn't any dog to kick and is
broken-hearted. As for Mumbles, he's going to lead a respectable life
and be treated like a dog."

"Do you mean to keep him?" inquired the Major.

"Why not?" said Patsy. "Don't you like him, Daddy?"

Her father turned Mumbles over with his toe. The puppy lay upon its
back, lazily, with all four paws in the air, and cast a comical glance
from one beady bright eye at the man who had disturbed him.

The Major sighed.

"He can't hunt, Patsy; he's not even a mouser."

"We haven't a mouse in the house."

"He's neither useful nor ornamental. From the looks o' the beast he's
only good to sleep and eat."

"What's the odds?" laughed Patsy, coddling Mumbles up in her arms.
"We don't expect use or ornamentation from Mumbles. All we ask is his

Mary called them to dinner just then, and the girl hurried to her room
to make a hasty toilet while the men sat down at the table and eyed
their soup reflectively.

"This addition to the family," remarked Uncle John, "need not make
you at all unhappy, my dear Major. Don't get jealous of Mumbles, for
heaven's sake, for the little brute may add a bit to Patsy's bliss."

"It's the first time I've ever allowed a dog in the house."

"You are not running this present establishment. It belongs
exclusively to Patsy."

"I've always hated the sight of a woman coddling a dog," added the
Major, frowning.

"I know. I feel the same way myself. But it isn't the dog's fault.
It's the woman's. And Patsy won't make a fool of herself over that
frowsy puppy, I assure you. On the contrary, she's likely to get a lot
of joy out of her new plaything, and if you really want to make her
happy, Major, don't discourage this new whim, absurd as it seems. Let
Patsy alone. And let Mumbles alone."

The girl came in just then, bringing sunshine with her. Patsy Doyle
was not very big for her years, and some people unkindly described her
form as "chubby." She had glorious red hair--really-truly red--and her
blue eyes were the merriest, sweetest eyes any girl could possess. You
seldom noticed her freckles, her saucy chin or her turned-up nose; you
only saw the laughing eyes and crown of golden red, and seeing them
you liked Patsy Doyle at once and imagined she was very good to look
at, if not strictly beautiful. No one had friends more loyal,
and these two old men--the stately Major and round little Uncle
John--fairly worshiped Patsy.

No one might suspect, from the simple life of this household, which
occupied the second corner flat at 3708 Willing Square, that Miss
Doyle was an heiress. Not only that, but perhaps one of the very
richest girls in New York. And the reason is readily explained when
I state the fact that Patsy's Uncle John Merrick, the round little
bald-headed man who sat contentedly eating his soup, was a man of many
millions, and this girl his favorite niece. An old bachelor who had
acquired an immense fortune in the far Northwest, Mr. Merrick had
lately retired from active business and come East to seek any
relatives that might remain to him after forty years' absence. His
sister Jane had gathered around her three nieces--Louise Merrick,
Elizabeth De Graf and Patricia Doyle--and when Aunt Jane died Uncle
John adopted these three girls and made their happiness the one care
of his jolly, unselfish life. At that time Major Doyle, Patsy's only
surviving parent, was a poor bookkeeper; but Uncle John gave him
charge of his vast property interests, and loving Patsy almost as
devotedly as did her father, made his home with the Doyles and began
to enjoy himself for the first time in his life.

At the period when this story opens the eldest niece, Louise Merrick,
had just been married to Arthur Weldon, a prosperous young business
man, and the remaining two nieces, as well as Uncle John, were feeling
rather lonely and depressed. The bride had been gone on her honeymoon
three days, and during the last two days it had rained persistently;
so, until Patsy came home from a visit to Beth and brought the tiny
dog with her, the two old gentlemen had been feeling dreary enough.

Patsy always livened things up. Nothing could really depress this
spirited girl for long, and she was always doing some interesting
thing to create a little excitement.

"If she hadn't bought a twenty-five cent pup for two dollars,"
remarked the Major, "she might have brought home an orphan from the
gutters, or a litter of tomcats, or one of the goats that eat the
tin cans at Harlem. Perhaps, after all, we should be thankful it's
only--what's his name?"

"Mumbles," said Patsy, merrily. "The boy said they called him that
because he mumbled in his sleep. Listen!"

Indeed, the small waif by the fire was emitting a series of noises
that seemed a queer mixture of low growls and whines--evidence
unimpeachable that he had been correctly named.

At Patsy's shout of laughter, supplemented by Uncle John's chuckles
and a reproachful cough from the Major, Mumbles awakened and lifted
his head. It may be an eye discovered the dining-table in the next
room, or an intuitive sense of smell directed him, for presently the
small animal came trotting in--still traveling "cornerwise"--and sat
up on his hind legs just beside Patsy's chair.

"That settles it," said the Major, as his daughter began feeding the
dog. "Our happy home is broken up."

"Perhaps not," suggested Uncle John, reaching out to pat the soft head
of Mumbles. "It may be the little beggar will liven us all up a bit."



Two hours later Uncle John, who had been dozing in his big chair by
the fire while Patsy drummed on the piano, sat up abruptly and looked
around him with a suddenly acquired air of decision.

"I have an idea," he announced.

"Did you find it in your dreams, then?" asked the Major, sharply.

"Why, Daddy, how cross you are!" cried Patsy. "Can't Uncle John have
an idea if he wants to?"

"I'm afraid of his ideas," admitted the Major, suspiciously. "Every
time he goes to sleep and catches a thought, it means trouble."

Patsy laughed, looking at her uncle curiously, and the little man
smiled at her genially in return.

"It takes me a long time to figure a thing out," he said; "and when
I've a problem to solve a bit of a snooze helps wonderfully. Patsy,
dear, it occurs to me we're lonely."

"We surely are, Uncle!" she exclaimed.

"And in the dumps."

"Our spirits are at the bottom of the bottomless pit."

"So what we need is--a change."

"There it goes!" said the Major ruefully. "I knew very well any idea
of John Merrick's would cause us misery. But understand this, you
miserable home-wrecker, sir, my daughter Patsy steps not one foot out
of New York this winter."

"Why not?" mildly inquired Uncle John.

"Because you've spirited her away from me times enough, and deprived
her only parent of her society. First you gallivanted off to Europe,
and then to Millville, and next to Elmhurst; so now, egad, I'm going
to keep the girl with me if I have to throttle every idea in your
wicked old head!"

"But I'm planning to take you along, this time. Major," observed Uncle
John reflectively.

"Oh. Hum! Well, I can't go. There's too much business to be attended
to--looking after your horrible money."

"Take a vacation. You know I don't care anything about the business.
It can't go very wrong, anyhow. What does it matter if my income isn't
invested properly, or the bond coupons cut when they're due? Drat the

"That's what I say," added Patsy eagerly. "Be a man, Major Doyle, and
put the business out of your mind. Let's go somewhere and have a good
romp. It will cheer us up."

The Major stared first at one and then at the other.

"What's the programme, John?" he asked stiffly.

"It's going to be a cold winter," remarked the little man, bobbing his
head up and down slowly.

"It is!" cried Patsy, clasping her hands fervently. "I can feel it in
my bones."

"So we're going," said Uncle John, impressively, "to California--where
they grow sunshine and roses to offset our blizzards and icicles."

"Hurray!" shouted Patsy. "I've always wanted to go to California."

"California!" said the Major, amazed; "why, it's farther away than
Europe. It takes a month to get there."

"Nonsense." retorted Uncle John. "It's only four days from coast to
coast. I have a time-table, somewhere," and he began searching in his

There was a silence, oppressive on the Major's part, ecstatic as far
as Patsy was concerned. Uncle John found the railway folder, put on
his spectacles, and began to examine it.

"At my time of life," remarked Major Doyle, who was hale and hearty as
a boy, "such a trip is a great undertaking."

"Twenty-four hours to Chicago," muttered Uncle John; "and then three
days to Los Angeles or San Francisco. That's all there is to it."

"Four days and four nights of dreary riding. We'd be dead by that
time," prophesied the Major.

Uncle John looked thoughtful. Then he lay back in his chair and spread
his handkerchief over his face again.

"No, no!" cried the Major, in alarm. "For mercy's sake, John, don't
go to sleep and catch any more of those terrible ideas. No one knows
where the next one might carry us--to Timbuktu or Yucatan, probably.
Let's stick to California and settle the question before your hothouse
brain grows any more weeds."

"Yucatan," remarked Mr. Merrick, composedly, his voice muffled by the
handkerchief, "isn't a bad suggestion."

"I knew it!" wailed the Major. "How would Ethiopia or Hindustan strike

Patsy laughed at him. She knew something good was in store for her
and like all girls was enraptured at the thought of visiting new and
interesting scenes.

"Don't bother Uncle John, Daddy," she said. "You know very well he
will carry out any whim that seizes him; especially if you oppose the
plan, which you usually do."

"He's the most erratic and irresponsible man that ever lived,"
announced her father, staring moodily at the spread handkerchief which
covered Uncle John's cherub-like features. "New York is good enough
for anybody, even in winter; and now that you're in society, Patsy--"

"Oh, bother society! I hate it."

"True," he agreed; "it's a regular treadmill when it has enslaved one,
and keeps you going on and on without progressing a bit. The object of
society is to tire you out and keep you from indulging in any other

"You know nothing about it," observed Patsy, demurely, "and that is
why you love to rail at society. The things you know, Daddy dear, are
the things you never remark upon."

"Huh!" grunted the Major, and relapsed into silence.

Mumbles had finished his after-dinner nap and was now awakening to
activity. This dog's size, according to the Major, was "about 4x6; but
you can't tell which is the 4 and which the 6." He was distressingly
shaggy. Patsy could find the stump of his tail only by careful search.
Seldom were both eyes uncovered by hair at the same time. But, as his
new mistress had said, he was a wise little dog for one who had only
known the world for a few months, and his brain was exceedingly alert.
After yawning at the fire he rubbed his back against the Major's legs,
sat up beside Patsy and looked at her from one eye pleadingly. Next he
trotted over to Uncle John. The big white handkerchief attracted him
and one corner hung down from the edge of the reclining chair. Mumbles
sat up and reached for it, but could not quite get it in his teeth.
So he sat down and thought it over, and presently made a leap so
unexpectedly agile that Patsy roared with merriment and even the Major
grinned. Uncle John, aroused, sat up and found the puppy rolling on
the floor and fighting the handkerchief as if it had been some deadly

"Thank goodness," sighed the Major. "The little black rascal has
providently prevented you from evolving another idea."

"Not so," responded Mr. Merrick amiably. "I've thought the thing all
out, and completed our programme."

"Is it still to be California?" anxiously inquired Patsy.

"Of course. I can't give up the sunshine and roses, you know. But we
won't bore the Major by four solid days of railway travel. We'll break
the journey, and take two or three weeks to it--perhaps a month."

"Conquering Caesar! A month!" ejaculated the old soldier, a desperate
look on his face.

"Yes. Listen, both of you. We'll get to Chicago in a night and a day.
We will stop off there and visit the stockyards, and collect a few
squeals for souvenirs."

"No, we won't!" declared Patsy, positively.

"We might sell Mumbles to some Chicago sausage factory," remarked the
Major, "but not for two whole dollars. He wouldn't make more than half
a pound at twenty cents the pound."

"There are other sights to be seen in Chicago," continued Uncle John.
"Anyhow, we'll stop off long enough to get rested. Then on to Denver
and Pike's Peak."

"That sounds good," said Patsy.

"At Denver," said Uncle John, "we will take a touring car and cross
the mountains in it. There are good roads all the way from there to

"Who told you so?" demanded the Major.

"No one. It's a logical conclusion, for I've lived in the West and
know the prairie roads are smoother than boulevards. However, Haggerty
told me the other day that he has made the trip from Denver to Los
Angeles by automobile, and what others can do, we can do."

"It will be glorious!" prophesied Patsy, delightedly.

The Major looked grave, but could find no plausible objection to
offer. He really knew nothing about the West and had never had
occasion to consider such a proposition before.

"We'll talk to Haggerty," he said. "But you must remember he's a
desperate liar, John, and can't be trusted as a guidepost. When do you
intend to start?"

"Why not to-morrow?" asked Uncle John mildly.

Even Patsy demurred at this.

"Why, we've got to get ready, Uncle," she said. "And who's going? Just
we three?"

"We will take Beth along, of course." Beth was Elizabeth De Graf,
another niece. "But Beth is fortunately the sort of girl who can pull
up stakes and move on at an hour's notice."

"Beth is always ready for anything," agreed Patsy. "But if we are
going to a warm climate we will need summer clothes."

"You can't lug many clothes in a motor car," observed the Major.

"No; but we can ship them on ahead."

"Haggerty says," remarked Uncle John, "that you won't need thin
clothes until you get out to California. In fact, the mountain trip is
rather cool. But it's perpetual sunshine, you know, even there, with
brisk, keen air; and the whole journey, Haggerty says, is one of
absolute delight."

"Who is Haggerty?" asked Patsy.

"A liar," answered the Major, positively.

"He's a very good fellow whom we sometimes meet in the city," said
Uncle John. "Haggerty is on the Board, and director in a bank or two,
and quite respectable. But the Major--"

"The Major's going to California just to prove that Haggerty can't
speak the truth," observed that gentleman, tersely heading off any
threatened criticism. "I see there is no opposing your preposterous
scheme, John, so we will go with you and make the best of it. But I'm
sure it's all a sad mistake. What else did Haggerty tell you?"

"He says it's best to pick up a motor car and a chauffeur in Denver,
rather than ship them on from here. There are plenty of cars to be
had, and men who know every inch of the road."

"That seems sensible," declared Patsy, "and we won't lose time waiting
for our own car to follow by freight. I think, Uncle John, I can be
ready by next Tuesday."

"Why, to-morrow's Saturday!" gasped the Major. "The business--"

"Cut the business off short," suggested his brother-in-law. "You've to
cut it somewhere, you know, or you'll never get away; and, as it's my
business, I hereby authorize you to neglect it from this moment until
the day of our return. When we get back you can pick up the details
again and worry over it as much as you please."

"Will we ever get back?" asked the Major, doubtingly.

"If we don't, the business won't matter."

"That's the idea," cried Patsy, approvingly. "Daddy has worked hard
all summer, Uncle John, looking after that annoying money of yours,
and a vacation will do him oodles of good."

Major Doyle sighed.

"I misdoubt the wisdom of the trip," said he, "but I'll go, of course,
if you all insist. Over the Rocky Mountains and across the Great
American Desert in an automobile doesn't sound very enticing, but--"

"Haggerty says--"

"Never mind Haggerty. We'll find out for ourselves."

"And, after all," said Patsy, "there are the sunshine and roses at the
end of the journey, and they ought to make up for any amount of bother
in getting there."

"Girl, you're attempting to deceive me--to deceive your old Daddy,"
said the Major, shaking his head at her. "You wouldn't have any fun
riding to California in a palace car; even the sunshine and roses
couldn't excite you under such circumstances; but if there's a chance
for adventure--a chance to slide into trouble and make a mighty
struggle to get out again--both you and that wicked old uncle of yours
will jump at it. I know ye both. And that's the real reason we're
going to travel in an automobile instead of progressing comfortably as
all respectable people do."

"You're a humbug," retorted Mr. Merrick. "You wouldn't go by train if
I'd let you."

"No," admitted the Major; "I must be on hand to rescue you when you
and Patsy go fighting windmills."



"We were due in Denver three hours ago, and it's an hour's run or more
yet," remarked Beth De Graf, walking briskly up and down the platform
of a way station where the train had stopped for orders.

"And it's beginning to snow," observed Patricia Doyle, beside her.
"I'm afraid this weather isn't very propitious for an automobile

"Uncle John doesn't worry," said Beth. "He believes there is perpetual
sunshine west of Denver."

"Yes; a man named Haggerty told him. But you'll notice that Daddy
doesn't seem to believe the tale. Anyhow, we shall soon know the
truth, Beth, and the trip is somewhat on the order of a voyage of
discovery, which renders it fascinating to look forward to. There is
such fun in not knowing just what is going to happen next."

"When one travels with Uncle John," returned Beth, smiling, "she
knows exactly--nothing. That is why I am always eager to accept if he
invites me to go anywhere with him."

The passengers thronging the platform--"stretching their legs" after
the confinement of the tedious railway journey--eyed these two girls
admiringly. Beth was admitted a beauty, and one of the society
journals had lately announced that she had few peers in all the great
metropolis. Chestnut brown hair; dark, serious and steady eyes; an
exquisite complexion and rarely regular features all conspired to
render the young girl wonderfully attractive. Her stride was athletic,
free and graceful; her slender form well poised and dignified. Patsy,
the "plug-ugly," as she called herself, was so bright and animated and
her blue eyes sparkled so constantly with fun and good humor, that
she attracted fully as much attention as her more sedate and more
beautiful cousin, and wherever she went was sure to make a host of

"See!" she cried, clasping Beth's arm; "there is that lovely girl at
the window again. I've noticed her ever since the train left Chicago,
and she is always in the same seat in that tourist coach. I wonder why
she doesn't get out for a bit of fresh air now and then."

Beth looked up at the fair, girlish face that gazed wistfully from
the window. The unknown seemed very young--not more than fourteen or
fifteen years of age. She wore a blue serge suit of rather coarse
weave, but it was neat and becoming. Around the modest, sweet eyes
were deep circles, denoting physical suffering or prolonged worry; yet
the lips smiled, wanly but persistently. She had evidently noticed
Uncle John's two nieces, for her eyes followed them as they marched
up and down the platform and when Patsy looked up and nodded, a soft
flush suffused her features and she bowed her head in return.

At the cry of "all aboard!" a scramble was made for the coaches and
Beth and Patsy, re-entering their staterooms, found their Uncle and
the Major still intent upon their interminable game of cribbage.

"Let's go back and talk to the girl," suggested Patsy. "Somehow,
the poor thing seems lonely, and her smile was more pathetic than

So they made their way through the long train to the tourist coach,
and there found the girl they were seeking. The surrounding seats were
occupied by groups of passengers of rather coarse caliber, many being
foreign laborers accompanied by their wives and children. The air in
the car was close and "stuffy" and the passengers seemed none too neat
in their habits and appearance. So the solitary girl appeared like a
rose blooming in a barnyard and her two visitors were instantly sorry
for her. She sat in her corner, leaning wearily against the back of
the cane seat, with a blanket spread over her lap. Strangely
enough the consideration of her fellow passengers left the girl in
undisturbed possession of a double seat.

"Perhaps she is ill," thought Patsy, as she and Beth sat down opposite
and entered into conversation with the child. She was frankly
communicative and they soon learned that her name was Myrtle Dean, and
that she was an orphan. Although scarcely fifteen years of age she
had for more than two years gained a livelihood by working in a skirt
factory in Chicago, paying her board regularly to a cross old aunt who
was her only relative in the big city. Three months ago, however, she
had met with an accident, having been knocked down by an automobile
while going to her work and seriously injured.

"The doctors say," she confided to her new friends, "that I shall
always be lame, although not quite helpless. Indeed, I can creep
around a little now, when I am obliged to move, and I shall get better
every day. One of my hips was so badly injured that it will never be
quite right again, and my Aunt Martha was dreadfully worried for fear
I would become a tax upon her. I cannot blame her, for she has really
but little money to pay for her own support. So, when the man who ran
over me paid us a hundred dollars for damages--"

"Only a hundred dollars!" cried Beth, amazed.

"Wasn't that enough?" inquired Myrtle innocently.

"By no means," said Patsy, with prompt indignation. "He should have
given you five thousand, at least. Don't you realize, my dear, that
this accident has probably deprived you of the means of earning a

"I can still sew," returned the girl, courageously, "although of
course I cannot get about easily to search for employment."

"But why did you leave Chicago?" asked Beth.

"I was coming to that part of my story. When I got the hundred dollars
Aunt Martha decided I must use it to go to Leadville, to my Uncle
Anson, who is my mother's only brother. He is a miner out there, and
Aunt Martha says he is quite able to take care of me. So she bought my
ticket and put me on the train and I'm now on my way to Leadville to
find Uncle Anson."

"To _find_ him!" exclaimed Patsy. "Don't you know his address?"

"No; we haven't had a letter from him for two years. But Aunt Martha
says he must be a prominent man, and everybody in Leadville will know
him, as it's a small place."

"Does he know you are coming?" asked Beth, thoughtfully.

"My aunt wrote him a letter two days before I started, so he ought
to receive it two days before I get there," replied Myrtle, a little
uneasily. "Of course I can't help worrying some, because if I failed
to find Uncle Anson I don't know what might happen to me."

"Have you money?" asked Beth.

"A little. About three dollars. Aunt gave me a basket of food to last
until I get to Leadville, and after paying for my ticket and taking
what I owed her for board there wasn't much left from the hundred

"What a cruel old woman!" cried Patsy, wrathfully. "She ought to be

"I am sure it was wrong for her to cast you off in this heartless
way," added Beth, more conservatively.

"She is not really bad," returned Myrtle, the tears starting to her
eyes. "But Aunt Martha has grown selfish, and does not care for me
very much. I hope Uncle Anson will be different. He is my mother's
brother, you know, while Aunt Martha is only my father's sister, and
an old maid who has had rather a hard life. Perhaps," she added,
wistfully, "Uncle Anson will love me--although I'm not strong or

Both Patsy and Beth felt desperately sorry for the girl.

"What is Uncle Anson's other name?" asked the latter, for Beth was
the more practical of Uncle John's nieces and noted for her clear

"Jones. Mr. Anson Jones."

"Rather a common name, if you have to hunt for him," observed the
questioner, musingly. "Has he been in Leadville long?"

"I do not know," replied Myrtle. "His last letter proved that he was
in Leadville two years ago, and he said he had been very successful
and made money; but he has been in other mining camps, I know, and has
wandered for years all over the West."

"Suppose he should be wandering now?" suggested Patsy; but at the look
of alarm on Myrtle's face she quickly changed the subject, saying:
"You must come in to dinner with us, my dear, for you have had nothing
but cold truck to eat since you left Chicago. They say we shall be in
Denver in another hour, but I'm afraid to believe it. Anyhow, there is
plenty of time for dinner."

"Oh, I can't go, really!" cried the girl. "It's--it's so hard for me
to walk when the train is moving; and--and--I wouldn't feel happy in
that gay, luxurious dining car."

"Well, we must go, anyway, or the Major will be very disagreeable,"
said Patsy. "Good-bye, Myrtle; we shall see you again before we leave
the train."

As the two girls went forward to their coach Beth said to Patsy:

"I'm afraid that poor thing will be greatly disappointed when she gets
to Leadville. Imagine anyone sending a child on such a wild goose
chase--and an injured and almost helpless child, at that!"

"I shudder to think what would become of her, with no uncle to care
for her and only three dollars to her name," added Patsy. "I have
never heard of such an inhuman creature as that Aunt Martha, Beth. I
hope there are not many like her in the world."

At dinner they arranged with the head waiter of the dining car to send
in a substantial meal, smoking hot, to Myrtle Dean, and Patsy herself
inspected the tray before it went to make sure everything was there
that was ordered. They had to satisfy Uncle John's curiosity at this
proceeding by relating to him Myrtle Dean's story, and the kindly
little man became very thoughtful and agreed with them that it was a
cruel act to send the poor girl into a strange country in search of an
uncle who had not been heard of in two years.

When the train pulled into the station at Denver the first care of
John Merrick's party was to look after the welfare of the lame girl.
They got a porter to assist her into the depot waiting room and then
Uncle John inquired about the next train for Leadville, and found it
would not start until the following morning, the late overland train
having missed that day's connections. This was a serious discovery for
poor Myrtle, but she smiled bravely and said:

"I can pass the night in this seat very comfortably, so please don't
worry about me. It is warm here, you know, and I won't mind a bit the
sitting up. Thank you all very much for your kindness, and good-bye.
I'll be all right, never fear."

Uncle John stood looking down at her thoughtfully.

"Did you engage a carriage, Major?" he asked.

"Yes; there's one now waiting," was the reply.

"All right. Now, then, my dear, let's wrap this blanket around you
tight and snug."

"What are you going to do?" asked Myrtle with a startled look.

"Carry you outside. It's pretty cold and snowy, so we must wrap you up.
Now, Major, take hold on the other side. Here we go!"

Patsy smiled--rather pitifully--at the expression of bewilderment on
Myrtle's face. Uncle John and the Major carried her tenderly to a
carriage and put her in the back seat. Patsy sprang in next, with
Mumbles clasped tightly in her arms, the small dog having been forced
to make the journey thus far in the baggage car. Beth and the Major
entered the carriage next, while Uncle John mounted beside the driver
and directed him to the Crown Palace Hotel.

It was growing dark when they reached the dingy hostelry, which might
have been palatial when it was named but was now sadly faded and
tawdry. It proved to be fairly comfortable, however, and the first
care of the party was to see Myrtle Dean safely established in a cosy
room, with a grate fire to cheer her. Patsy and Beth had adjoining
rooms and kept running in for a word with their protege, who was
so astonished and confused by her sudden good fortune that she was
incapable of speech and more inclined to cry than to laugh.

During the evening Uncle John was busy at the telegraph booth. He sent
several messages to Leadville, to Anson Jones, to the Chief of Police
and to the various hotels; but long before midnight, when the last
replies were received, he knew that Anson Jones had left Leadville
five months ago, and his present whereabouts were unknown. Having
learned these facts the little man went to bed and slept peacefully
until morning.

Myrtle had begged them to see that she was called at five o'clock,
that she might have ample time to get to the depot for her train, but
no one called her and the poor child was so weary and worn with her
trip that the soft bed enthralled her for many hours after daybreak.

Patsy finally aroused her, opening the blinds to let in the sunshine
and then sitting beside Myrtle's bed to stroke her fair hair and tell
her it was nearly noon.

"But my train!" wailed the girl, greatly distressed.

"Oh, the train has gone hours ago. But never mind that, dear. Uncle
John has telegraphed to Leadville and found that Anson Jones is
not there. He left months ago, and is now wandering; in fields and
pastures unknown."

Myrtle sat up in bed and glared at Patsy wild-eyed.

"Gone!" she said. "Gone! Then what am I to do?"

"I can't imagine, dear," said Patsy, soothingly. "What do you think
you will do?"

The girl seemed dazed and for a time could not reply.

"You must have thought of this thing," suggested her new friend, "for
it was quite possible Anson Jones would not be in Leadville when you
arrived there."

"I did not dare think of it," returned Myrtle in a low, frightened
tone. "I once asked Aunt Martha what I could do in case Uncle Anson
wasn't to be found, and she said he _must_ be found, for otherwise I
would be obliged to earn my own living."

"And she knew you to be so helpless!"

"She knows I can sew, if only I can get work to do," said the girl,
simply. "I'm not really a cripple, and I'm getting better of my hurt
every day. Aunt Martha said I would be just as well off in Denver or
Leadville as in Chicago, and made me promise, if the worst came, not
to let any charitable organization send me back to her."

"In other words," exclaimed Patsy, indignantly, "she wanted to get rid
of you, and did not care what became of you."

"She was afraid I would cost her money," admitted the poor child, with
shamed, downcast eyes.

Patsy went to the window and stood looking out for a time. Myrtle
began to dress herself. As she said, she was not utterly helpless,
moving the upper part of her body freely and being able to walk slowly
about a room by holding on to chairs or other furniture.

"I'm afraid I'm causing you a lot of worry over me," said she, smiling
sadly as Patsy turned toward her; "and that is ungrateful when I
remember how kind you have all been. Why, these hours since I met you
have seemed like fairyland. I shall treasure them as long as I live.
There must be another train to Leadville soon, and I'll take that. As
soon as I am ready I will go to the depot and wait there."

Patsy looked at her reflectively. The poor child was called upon to
solve a queer problem--one which might well have bewildered the brain
of a more experienced person.

"Tell me," she said; "why should you go to Leadville at all, now that
you have no friend or relative there to care for you?"

"My ticket is to Leadville, you know," replied Myrtle. "If I did not
go I would waste the money it cost."

Patsy laughed at this.

"You're a wonderfully impractical child," she said, deftly assisting
Myrtle to finish dressing. "What you really need is some one to order
you around and tell you what to do. So you must stop thinking about
yourself, for a time, and let _us_ do the thinking. Here--sit in this
chair by the window. Do you want Mumbles in your lap? All right. Now
gaze upon the scenery until I come back. There's a man washing windows
across the street; watch and see if he does his work properly."

Then she went away to join a conference in Uncle John's sitting room.
Major Doyle was speaking when she entered and his voice was coldly

"The temperature outside is six degrees above freezing," he observed.
"The clerk downstairs says the snow is nine feet deep over the
mountain trails and the wind would cut an iron beam in two. If you
take an automobile to California, John, you must put it on snowshoes
and connect it with a steam heating-plant."

Uncle John, his hands thrust deep in his pockets, paced thoughtfully
up and down the room.

"Haggerty said--"

"Didn't I give you Haggerty's record, then?" asked the Major. "If
you want the exact truth it's safe to go directly opposite to what
Haggerty says."

"He's a very decent fellow," protested Mr. Merrick, "and is considered
in the city to be strictly honest."

"But after this?"

"You can't blame him for the weather conditions here. I've been
talking with Denver people myself, this morning, and they all say
it's unusual to have such cold weather at this time of year. The
thermometer hasn't been so low in the past twenty-six years, the
natives say."

"Are they all named Haggerty?" asked the Major, scornfully.

"If you will kindly allow me to speak, and tell you what Haggerty
said," remarked Uncle John tersely, "I shall be able to add to your

"Go ahead, then."

"Haggerty said that in case we ran into cold weather in Denver, which
was possible--"

"Quite possible!"

"Then we had best go south to Santa Fe and take the route of the old
Santa Fe Trail as far as Albuquerque, or even to El Paso. Either way
we will be sure to find fine weather, and good roads into California."

"So Haggerty says."

"It stands to reason," continued Mr. Merrick, "that on the Southern
route we will escape the severe weather. So I have decided to adopt
that plan."

"I think you are quite wise in that," broke in Patsy, before her
father could object.

"All those queer Spanish names sound interesting," said Beth. "When do
we start, Uncle?"

"In a day or two. I have some things here to attend to that may delay
us that long. But when once we are started southward we shall bowl
along right merrily."

"Unless we run into more snowstorms." Of course it was the Major who
said that, and pointedly ignoring the remark Uncle John turned to
Patsy and said:

"How did you find Myrtle Dean this morning?"

"She is rested, and seems very bright and cheerful, Uncle; but of
course she is much distressed by the news that her Uncle Anson has
vanished from Leadville. Yet she thinks she will continue her journey
by the next train, as she has paid for her ticket and can't afford to
waste the money."

"It would be absurd for the child to go to Leadville on that account.
A mining camp is no place for such a frail thing," returned Mr.
Merrick. "What would you suggest, Patsy?"

"Really, Uncle John, I don't know what to suggest."

"She can never earn her living by sewing," declared Beth. "What she
ought to have is a trained nurse and careful attention."

"I'll have a doctor up to look her over," said Uncle John, in his
decisive way. He was a mild little man generally, but when he made up
his mind to do a thing it was useless to argue with him. Even Major
Doyle knew that; but the old soldier was so fond of arguing for
the sake of argument, and so accustomed to oppose his wealthy
brother-in-law--whom he loved dearly just the same--that he was
willing to accept defeat rather than permit Mr. Merrick to act without



A young physician was appointed by the management to attend any guest
who might require his services, and Uncle John had a talk with him and
sent him to Myrtle's room to give her a thorough examination. This he
did, and reported that the girl's present condition was due largely to
mismanagement of her case at the time she was injured. With care she
would get better and stronger rapidly, but the hip joint was out of
its socket and only a skillful operation would serve to permanently
relieve her of lameness.

"What she needs just now," continued the doctor, "is a pair of
crutches, so she can get around better and be in the fresh air and
sunshine as much as possible. She is a very frail little woman at
present and must build up her health and strength before submitting
to the operation I have mentioned. Then, if it is properly done, she
ought to recover completely and be as good as new."

"I must inform you," said Uncle John, "that Myrtle Dean is just a
little waif whom my nieces picked up on the train. I believe she is
without friends or money. Such being the circumstances, what would you

The doctor shook his head gravely.

"Poor thing!" he said. "She ought to be rich, at this juncture,
instead of poor, for the conditions facing her are serious. The
operation I speak of is always an expensive one, and meantime the
child must go to some charitable institution or wear out her feeble
strength in trying to earn enough to keep the soul in her body. She
seems to have a brave and beautiful nature, sir, and were she educated
and cared for would some day make a splendid woman. But the world is
full of these sad cases. I'm poor myself, Mr. Merrick, but this child
interests me, and after you have gone I shall do all in my power to
assist her."

"Thank you," said Uncle John, thoughtfully nodding his bald head.
"I'll think it over and see you again, doctor, before I leave."

An hour later Myrtle was fitted with crutches of the best sort
obtainable, and was overjoyed to find how greatly they assisted her.
The Major, a kindly man, decided to take Myrtle out for a drive, and
while they were gone Uncle John had a long conversation with Beth and

"Here is a case," said he, "where my dreadful money can do some good.
I am anxious to help Myrtle Dean, for I believe she is deserving of
my best offices. But I don't exactly know what to do. She is really
_your_ protege, my dears, and I am going to put the affair in your
hands for settlement. Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it. Spend
my money as freely upon Myrtle as you please."

The girls faced the problem with enthusiasm.

"She's a dear little thing," remarked Patsy, "and seems very grateful
for the least kindness shown her. I am sure she has never been treated
very nicely by that stony-hearted old aunt of hers."

"In all my experience," said Beth, speaking as if her years were
doubled, "I have never known anyone so utterly helpless. She is very
young and inexperienced, with no friends, no money, and scarcely
recovered from an accident. It is clearly our duty to do something for
Myrtle, and aside from the humane obligation I feel that already I
love the child, having known her only a day."

"Admitting all this, Beth," returned her uncle, "you are not answering
my question. What shall we do for Myrtle? How can we best assist her?"

"Why not take her to California with us?" inquired Patsy, with sudden
inspiration. "The sunshine and roses would make a new girl of her in a
few weeks."

"Could she ride so far in an automobile?" asked Beth, doubtfully.

"Why not? The fresh air would be just the thing for her. You'll get a
big touring car, won't you, Uncle John?"

"I've bought one already--a seven-seated 'Autocrat'--and there will be
plenty of room in it for Myrtle," he said.

"Good gracious! Where did you find the thing so suddenly?" cried

"I made the purchase this morning, bright and early, before you were
up," replied Mr. Merrick, smilingly. "It is a fine new car, and as
soon as I saw it I knew it was what I wanted. It is now being fitted
up for our use."

"Fitted up?"

"Yes. I've an idea in my head to make it a movable hotel. If we're
going to cross the plains and the mountains and the deserts, and all
that sort of thing, we must be prepared for any emergencies. I've also
sent for a chauffeur who is highly recommended. He knows the route
we're going to take; can make all repairs necessary in case of
accident, and is an experienced driver. I expect him here any minute.
His name is Wampus."

"But about Myrtle,"' said Beth. "Can we make her comfortable on a long

"Certainly," asserted Uncle John. "We are not going to travel day and
night, my dear, for as soon as we get away from this frozen country we
can take our time and journey by short stages. My notion is that we
will have more fun on the way than we will in California."

"Myrtle hasn't any proper clothes," observed Patsy, reflectively.
"We'll have to shop for her, Beth, while Uncle is getting the car

"Are you sure to leave to-morrow, Uncle John?" inquired Beth.

"To-morrow or the next day. There's no use leaving before the
'Autocrat' is ready to ship."

"Oh; we're not going to ride in it, then?"

"Not just yet. We shall take the train south to Santa Fe, and perhaps
to Albuquerque. I'll talk to Wampus about that. When we reach a good
climate we'll begin the journey overland--and not before."

"Then," said Patsy, "I'm sure we shall have time to fit out Myrtle
very nicely."

Mr. Wampus was announced just then, and while Uncle John conferred
with the chauffeur his two nieces went to their room to talk over
Myrtle Dean's outfit and await the return of the girl from her ride.

"They tell me," said Mr. Merrick, "that you are an experienced

"I am celebrate," replied Wampus. "Not as chauffeur, but as expert

He was a little man and quite thin. His legs were short and his arms
long. He had expressionless light gray eyes and sandy hair cropped
close to his scalp. His mouth was wide and good-humored, his chin long
and broad, his ears enormous in size and set at right angles with
his head. His cheek bones were as high and prominent as those of an
Indian, and after a critical examination of the man Uncle John was
impelled to ask his nationality.

"I am born in Canada, at Quebec Province," he answered. "My father
he trapper; my mother squaw. For me, I American, sir, and my name
celebrate over all the world for knowing automobile like father knows
his son." He paused, and added impressively: "I am Wampus!"

"Have you ever driven an 'Autocrat' car?" asked Mr. Merrick.

"'Autocrat?' I can take him apart blindfold, an' put him together

"Have you ever been overland to California?"

"Three time."

"Then you know the country?"

"In the dark. I am Wampus."

"Very good, Wampus. You seem to be the man I want, for I am going
to California in an 'Autocrat' car, by way of the Santa Fe Trail

"No matter. We find way. I am--"

"I know. Now tell me, Wampus: if I employ you will you be faithful and
careful? I have two girls in my party--three girls, in fact--and from
the moment you enter my service I shall expect you to watch over our
welfare and guide us with skill and intelligence. Will you do this?"

The man seemed somewhat offended by the question.

"When you have Wampus, what more you want?" he inquired. "Maybe you
not know Wampus. You come from far East. All right. You go out and ask
automobile man about Wampus. Ask ever'body. When you have inquire you
feel more happy. I come again."

He started to go, but Mr. Merrick restrained him.

"You have been highly recommended already," said he. "But you cannot
expect me to have as high an opinion of you as you have of yourself;
at least, until I know you better. Would you like to undertake this

"Yes. Just now I free. My business is expert automobilist. I am
Wampus. But perhaps you want cheap man. My price high."

"What is your price?"

"Fifty dollar week. You eat me an' sleep me."

"I do not object to your price. Come out with me to the garage and I
will show you my car and explain what is being done to it."

Although all the automobile men seemed to defer most respectfully to
Wampus, Mr. Merrick did not neglect to make proper inquiries in regard
to the man. Locally he really was "celebrate" and Uncle John was
assured on all sides that he was fortunate to get so intelligent and
experienced a chauffeur as this same Wampus.

"He seems to have instinctive knowledge of all machinery," said one
informant, "and can handle perfectly any car that is made. The only
trouble with the fellow is that he is conceited."

"I've noticed that," returned Mr. Merrick.

"Another thing," said the gentleman; "don't believe implicitly all
that Wampus tells you. He has a habit of imagining things. But he is a
faithful, honest fellow, for all that, and will handle your car better
than any other man you could get in Denver--or anywhere in the West, I

So Wampus was engaged, and putting the man's references and
indorsements all together Mr. Merrick felt that he had gained a prize.

When the big Major, returning from his drive, escorted Myrtle Dean to
the elevator, the girl was joyously using her new crutches. Patsy and
Beth met her and said they had important news to communicate. Not
until she was in her own room, seated in a comfortable chair and
gazing at them anxiously, did they tell the poor waif of the good
fortune in store for her.

"Uncle John," announced Patsy, "has invited you to join our party and
go to California with us."

Myrtle stared a moment, as if trying to realize what that meant. The
tiny Mumbles, sitting beside the chair with his head cocked to one
side, suddenly made a prodigious leap and landed in Myrtle's lap,
where he began licking her chin and wagging his stumpy tail as if
seconding the invitation. As the girl stroked his soft hair her eyes
filled with tears.

"Oh, you are all so kind to me!" she sobbed, losing her composure.
"But I can't go! Of course I can't go."

"Why not?" asked Beth, smiling.

"It would be an--impersition!" Poor Myrtle sometimes stumbled over big
words. "I know that. I can't let you burden your happy party with a
poor cripple, just because your hearts are kind and you pity me!"

"Nonsense!" said Beth. "You're not a cripple, dear; you're just an
invalid, and will soon be as strong as any of us. We have invited you,
Myrtle, because we all like you, and shall soon learn to love you. We
are selfish enough to want your companionship. It isn't pity, at all,
you see."

"I'm mighty glad," added Patsy, "your Uncle Anson ran away from
Leadville. If he hadn't done that we should have had to give you
up; but now we may keep you as long as we wish, for you haven't any
particular engagement to interfere with our plans."

All this was said so frankly and unaffectedly that little Myrtle was
led to abandon her suspicion and grew radiant with delight. Indeed,
she hugged and squeezed the squirming Mumbles until he resented such
strenuous fondling and escaped to Patsy's more moderate embraces.
Myrtle had never yet ridden in an automobile, and the prospect of
a long journey across the country in a big touring car, with
California's roses and sunshine at the end of it, was certainly
alluring enough to intoxicate one far more accustomed to pleasure than
this friendless, impoverished girl.

After the cousins had explained all their plans to Myrtle and assured
her she was to be their cherished guest for a long time--until she was
well and strong again, at the least--they broached the subject of
her outfit. The poor child flushed painfully while admitting the
meagerness of her wardrobe. All her possessions were contained in one
small canvas "hold-all," and she lacked many necessities which her
callous aunt had suggested that Uncle Anson might be induced to buy
for her once she had joined him in Leadville. Uncle John's nieces grew
more and more indignant as they discovered the details of this selfish
woman's crime--for Patsy declared it was nothing less than a crime to
send a helpless child far into the West to search for an unknown uncle
whose whereabouts were only conjectural.

That very afternoon Beth and Patsy began shopping for Myrtle, and
presently all sorts of parcels, big and little, began to arrive for
their new protege. Myrtle was amazed and awed by the splendor of her
new apparel, and could scarcely believe her good fortune. It seemed
like a fairy tale to her, and she imagined herself a Cinderella with
two fairy godmothers who were young and pretty girls possessing the
purse of Fortunatus and the generosity of Glinda the Good. At night,
when she was supposed to be asleep, Myrtle crept from her bed, turned
on the electric light and gloated over her treasures, which she had
almost feared might vanish into thin air and leave her as desolate as

Next morning, as soon as breakfast was over, the girls took Myrtle out
with them to some of the shops, fitting her to shoes and gloves and
having her try on some ready-made gowns so that they might be quickly
altered for her use. Patsy also bought her a set of soft and pretty
furs, thinking she might need them on the journey if the weather
continued cool, and this seemed to cap the climax of Myrtle's

"What 'stonishes me most," gasped the child, trying to get her breath
between the surprises she experienced, "is how you can think of so
many things to do for me. Of course I know you are rich; but I've
never before heard of rich people being so very generous to poor

"Once," said Beth, gravely, "we were poor ourselves, Patsy and I, and
had to work hard for our living. That was before our Uncle John came
and gave us a share of his money, together with his love and sympathy.
Isn't it natural, my dear, that we should now be eager to share our
good fortune with you, since we have more money than we can use
otherwise, and you are to be our little friend and companion?"

"Perhaps so," replied Myrtle, smiling gaily and much comforted by the
explanation. "But, oh dear! I'm so glad you found me!"

"We are glad, too," said Patsy. "But here it is, time for luncheon,
and we've wasted the whole morning in shopping. I'm sure the Major
will be cross if we do not hurry back to the hotel."



But the Major was not cross when they met him in Uncle John's sitting
room. He beamed upon the three girls most genially, for he liked
Myrtle and fully approved all that was being done for her.

"Of course it's like Patsy," he had said to Mr. Merrick that morning.
"She couldn't help being a sweet ministering angel if she tried; and
Beth is growing more and more like her. It will do those girls good,
John, to have some human being to coddle and care for. If Patsy could
have a fault, it would be wasting so much affection on that bunch o'
rags Mumbles, who audaciously chewed up one of my pet slippers while I
was at dinner last evening. No dog is a fit thing to occupy a girl's
time, and this imp o' mischief Mumbles must take a back seat from now

Uncle John laughed, for he knew his brother-in-law had never conquered
his antipathy for poor Mumbles, and realized why.

"Take care that you do not get jealous of Myrtle," he replied.
"You're a selfish old beast, and don't wish Patsy to love anyone but

"And why should she?" was the inquiry. "Any dutiful daughter ought to
be satisfied with loving such a father as I am."

"And in that," remarked Uncle John, whimsically, "you remind me of
Wampus. You should strut around and say: 'Behold me! I am Patsy's

The Major was full of news at luncheon time.

"What do you think, my dears?" he said, addressing the girls. "Your
crazy uncle must have had another snooze, unbeknown to us, for he's
got the wildest idea into his head that human brains--or lack of
them--ever conceived."

"You are not very respectful, sir," retorted Mr. Merrick stiffly,
as he ate his salad. "But we must not expect too much of a disabled
soldier--and an Irishman to boot--who has not been accustomed to good

Major Doyle looked at his brother-in-law with an approving smile.

"Very well put, John," he said. "You're improving in repartee.
Presently you'll add that I'm unlettered and uncivilized, and no fit
associate for a person who has made an egregious fortune out of tin
cans in the wilds of Oregon."

"But what's the news?" asked Patsy impatiently. "What new idea has
Uncle John conceived?"

"First," replied the Major, "he has bought an automobile as big as a
baggage car. Next he has engaged a chauffeur who is a wild Canadian
Indian with a trace of erratic French blood in his veins--a
combination liable to result in anything. Mr. Wampus, the half-breed
calls himself, and from the looks of him he's murdered many a one in
his day."

"Oh, Major!"

"Show me an automobile driver that hasn't. Myrtle knows. It's no trick
to knock over a peaceful pedestrian or so, to say nothing of chickens,
cats and dogs mangled by the roadside. I confidently expect he'll make
a pancake of dear little Mumbles before he's five miles on the road.
Eh, Patsy?"

"Be sensible, Daddy."

"It's my strong point. If I'm any judge of character this Wampus is a
speed fiend."

"He is recommended as a very careful driver," said Mr. Merrick; "and
moreover he has signed a contract to obey my orders."

"Very good," said Beth. "I'm not afraid of Mr. Wampus. What next,

"Next," continued Patsy's father, with a solemn wink at the row of
curious faces, "your inventive relative has ordered the automobile
rebuilt, thinking he's wiser than the makers. He's having a furnace
put in it, for one thing--it's a limousine, you know, and all enclosed
in glass. Also it's as big as a barn, as I said."

"You said a freight car," observed Patsy.

"True. A small barn or a big freight car. The seats are to be made
convertible into sleeping berths, so if we get caught out overnight we
have all the comforts of a hotel except the bell boys."

"I'll be the bell boy," promised Patsy.

"Also we're to take a portable kitchen along, like they use in the
army, with a gasoline stove all complete. The thing fits under the
back seat, I believe."

"All this," said Beth, "strikes me as being very sensible and a credit
to Uncle John's genius. I'm a good cook, as you know, and the kitchen
outfit appeals to me. But how about provisions?"

"Provisions are being provided," replied her uncle, genially
smiling at her praise. However scornfully the Major might view his
preparations he was himself mightily proud of them.

"Tinned stuff, I presume," remarked his brother-in-law. "John Merrick
has a weakness for tin cans, having got his money out of them."

"You're wrong," protested Uncle John. "I merely made my money from the
tin the cans were made of. But we won't get money out of these cans
when they're opened; it will be something better, such as sardines and
hominy, preserved cream and caviar, beans and boned chicken."

"Sounds fine!" cried Patsy with enthusiasm. "But how can you arrange
to carry so much, Uncle?"

"The limousine body is pretty big, as the Major says, and high enough
to allow me to put in a false bottom. In the space beneath it I shall
stow all the bedding, the eatables and kitchen utensils, and a small
tent. Then we shall be prepared for whatever happens."

"I doubt it," objected the Major. "There's gasoline to be reckoned
with. It's well enough to feed ourselves, but what if we ran short of
the precious feed for the engines?"

"The two tanks will hold sixty gallons. That ought to carry us any
reasonable distance," replied Mr. Merrick.

"You see, Daddy, our Uncle John is an experienced traveler, while you
are not," declared Patsy. "In all our journeys together I've found him
full of resources and very farsighted. This trip doesn't worry me at

"Nor me," added Beth. "We are sure to have a delightful time under
Uncle's auspices."

"Wampus," said Uncle John, "is so pleased with my preparations that he
wants us to start in the car from here."

"Can you put it on runners, like a sledge?" asked the Major. "That's
the only way it could travel through this snow. Or perhaps you'll hire
a snowplow to go ahead of it."

"No; I told Wampus it was impracticable," was the reply. "We shall
load our machine on a flat car and ship it to Albuquerque, which is in
New Mexico and almost directly south of Denver. We shall then be over
the worst grades of the Rocky Mountains."

"And which way do we go then?" inquired Beth.

"I have not yet decided. We can go still farther south, into Texas,
or make our way down into Phoenix and across the prairies to Imperial
Valley, or follow the Santa Fe route by way of the Grand Canyon."

"Oh, let's go that way!" exclaimed Patsy.

"And freeze to death?" asked the Major. "It's the northernmost route."

"When we get to Albuquerque we will be below the line of frosts and
snow," explained Mr. Merrick. "The climate is genial all through that
section during winter. Haggerty says--"

"I guessed it!" groaned the Major. "If Haggerty recommends this trip
we'll surely be in trouble."

"Aside from Haggerty, Wampus knows that country thoroughly," said
Uncle John stoutly.

"Tell me: did Haggerty recommend Wampus?"


"Then there's hopes of the fellow. As you say, John, there is no need
to decide until we get to Albuquerque. When do we make the start?"

"Day after to-morrow. The car will be shipped to-morrow night, but our
party will follow by daylight, so as to see Colorado Springs, Pike's
Peak and Pueblo as we pass by them."



"So this is Albuquerque," observed Patsy Doyle, as they alighted from
the train. "Is it a big town playing peek-a-boo among those hills,
Uncle John, or is this really all there is to the place?"

"It's a pretty big town, my dear. Most of the houses are back on the
prairie, but fortunately our hold is just here at the depot."

It was a quaint, attractive building, made of adobe cement, in the
ancient mission style; but it proved roomy and extremely comfortable.

"Seems to me," whispered Myrtle to Beth, "we're high up on the
mountains, even yet."

"So we are," was the reply. "We're just between Glorietta Pass and the
Great Continental Divide. But the steepest of the Rockies are behind
us, and now the slopes are more gradual all the way to California. How
do you like it, dear?"

"Oh, the mountains are grand!" exclaimed Myrtle. "I had never imagined
anything so big and stately and beautiful." The other girls had seen
mountains before, but this was their friend's first experience, and
they took much pleasure in Myrtle's enthusiastic delight over all she

Adjoining the hotel was a bazaar, in front of which sat squatted upon
the ground two rows of Mojave Indians, mostly squaws, with their
curious wares spread out for sale upon blankets. There must have
been a score of them, and they exhibited odd pottery ornaments of
indistinguishable shapes, strings of glass beads and beadwork bags,
and a few really fine jardinieres and baskets. After the girls had
been to their rooms and established themselves in the hotel they
hurried out to interview the Indians, Myrtle Dean supporting herself
by her crutches while Patsy and Beth walked beside her. The lame girl
seemed to attract the squaws at once, and one gave her a bead necklace
while another pressed upon her a small brown earthenware fowl with
white spots all over it. This latter might have been meant to
represent a goose, an ostrich or a guinea hen; but Myrtle was
delighted with it and thanked the generous squaw, who responded merely
with a grunt, not understanding English. A man in a wide sombrero who
stood lazily by observed the incident and said:

"Don't thank the hag. She's selfish. The Mojaven think it brings luck
to have a gift accepted by a cripple."

Myrtle flushed painfully.

"I suppose my crutches make me look more helpless than I really am,"
she whispered to her friends as they moved away. "But they're such a
help in getting around that I'm very grateful to have them, and as I
get stronger I can lay them aside and not be taken for a cripple any

The air was delightfully invigorating here in the mountains, yet it
was not at all cold. The snow, as Uncle John had predicted, had all
been left behind them. After dinner they took a walk through the
pretty town and were caught in the dark before they could get back.
The twilights are very brief in Albuquerque.

"This is a very old town," remarked Uncle John. "It was founded by a
Spanish adventurer named Cabrillo in the seventeenth century, long
before the United States came into existence. But of course it never
amounted to anything until the railroad was built."

Next day they were sitting in a group before the hotel when a man was
seen approaching them with shuffling steps. Uncle John looked at him
closely and Mumbles leaped from Patsy's lap and rushed at the stranger
with excited barks.

"Why, it's Wampus," said Mr. Merrick. "The car must have arrived."

Wampus caught up the baby dog and held it under his arm while he took
his cap off and bowed respectfully to his employer.

"He an' me, we here," he announced.

"Who is 'he,' Wampus?"


"When did you arrive?"

"Half hour ago. He on side track."

"Very good. You have made capital time, for a freight train. Let us go
at once and get the car unloaded."

Wampus hesitated, looking sheepish.

"I been arrest," he said.

"Arrested! For what?"

"I make speed. They not like it. They arrest me--_Me_--Wampus!" He
straightened his slim little form with an assumption of dignity.

"I knew it," sighed the Major. "I decided he was a speed fiend the
first time I saw him."

"But--dear me!" said Uncle John; "how could you be arrested for
speeding when the automobile was on a fiat car?"

Wampus glanced over his shoulder. Two railroad men had followed him
and were now lounging against the porch railing. One had his right eye
bandaged while the other carried one arm in a sling. Both scowled as
they eyed the Canadian fixedly.

"Freight train make pretty slow time," began the chauffeur. "I know
you in hurry, so freight train he make me nervous. I say polite to
conductor I like to go faster. He laugh. I say polite to brakeman we
must go faster. He make abusing speech. I climb into engine an' say
polite to engineer to turn on steam. He insult me. So I put my foot
on him an' run engine myself. I am Wampus. I understan' engine--all
kinds. Brakeman he swear; he swear so bad I put him off train.
Conductor must have lump of coal in eye to keep quiet. Fireman he jus'
smile an' whistle soft an' say nothing; so we friends. When I say
'shovel in coal,' he shovel. When we pass stations quick like, he
whistle with engine loud. So now we here an' I been arrest."

Patsy tittered and stuffed her handkerchief into her mouth. Uncle John
first chuckled and then looked grave. The Major advanced to Wampus and
soberly shook his hand.

"You're a brave man, sir, for a chauffeur," he said. "I congratulate

Wampus still looked uneasy.

"I been arrest," he repeated.

Uncle John beckoned the railroad men to come forward.

"Is this story true?" he asked.

"Most of it, sir," answered the conductor. "It's only by the mercy of
Providence we're here alive. This scoundrel held up the whole crew
and ran away with the engine. We might have had a dozen collisions or
smash-ups, for he went around curves at sixty miles an hour. We'd cut
our train in two, so as to pull half of it at a time up the grade at
Lamy, and so there were only six cars on this end of it. The other
half is seventy miles back, and part of what we have here ought to
have been left at the way stations. I can't make out, sir, whether
it's burglary, or highway robbery or arson an' murder he's guilty of,
or all of 'em; but I've telegraphed for instructions and I'll hold him
a prisoner until the superintendent tells me what to do with him."

Mr. Merrick was very sober now.

"The matter is serious," he said. "This man is in my employ, but I did
not hire him to steal a railway train or fight its crew. Not badly
hurt, I hope, sir?"

"My eye's pretty bad," growled the conductor. "Tom, here, thought his
arm was broken, at first; but I guess it's only sprained."

"How about the brakeman he threw off the train?"

"Why, we were not going fast, just then, and it didn't hurt him. We
saw him get up and shake his fist at the robber. If he ever meets Mr.
Wampus again he'll murder him."

"Come with me to the telegraph office and I'll see what I can do to
straighten this out," said Mr. Merrick briskly. On the way he remarked
to the conductor: "I'm sorry I let Wampus travel alone. He's just
a little bit affected in his mind, you know, and at times isn't
responsible for what he does."

The conductor scratched his head doubtfully.

"I suspected he was crazy," he replied, "and that's why I didn't hurt
him. But if he's crazy he's the most deliberate loonatic I ever run

The superintendent had just wired instructions to put the outlaw in
jail when Mr. Merrick reached the telegraph office, but after an hour
spent in sending messages back and forth a compromise was affected and
the little millionaire had agreed to pay a goodly sum to the company
by way of damages and to satisfy the crew of the freight train--which
he succeeded in doing by a further outlay of money.

"You're not worth all this bother," said Mr. Merrick to the humbled
Wampus, when the final settlement had been made, "but chauffeurs are
scarce in Albuquerque and I can't be delayed. Never, sir, while you
are in my employ, must you allow yourself to be guilty of such an act

Wampus sighed.

"Never," he promised, "will I ride by freight train again. Send car by
express. I am Wampus. Freight train he make me nervous."

The automobile was quickly unloaded and at once Wampus set to work to
get it in running order. He drove it to the hotel at about sundown
and Mr. Merrick told the girls to be ready to start after an early
breakfast the next morning.

"Which way do we go?" asked the Major.

"We'll have a talk with Wampus this evening and decide," said Uncle

"Don't leave out the Grand Canyon!" begged Patsy.

"Nor the Petrified Forests." added Beth. "And couldn't we visit the
Moki Indian reservation?"

"Those things may be well enough in their way," observed the Major,
"but is their way our way? That's the question. The one thing we must
take into consideration is the matter of roads. We must discover which
road is the best and then take it. We're not out of the mountains yet,
and we shall have left the railroad, the last vestige of civilization,
behind us."

But the conference evolved the fact, according to Wampus, that the
best and safest roads were for a time along the line of the Santa Fe,
directly west; and this would enable them to visit most of the scenes
the girls were eager to see.

"No boulevard in mountain anywhere," remarked Wampus; "but road he
good enough to ride on. Go slow an' go safe. I drive 'Autocrat' from
here to Los Angeles blindfold."

With this assurance they were obliged to be content, and an eager
and joyful party assembled next morning to begin the journey so long
looked forward to. The landlord of the hotel, a man with a careworn
face, shook his head dismally and predicted their return to
Albuquerque within twenty-four hours.

"Of course people _do_ make the trip from here to the coast," he said;
"but it's mighty seldom, and they all swear they'll never do it again.
It's uncomfortable, and it's dangerous."

"Why?" asked Uncle John.

"You're headed through a wild country, settled only by Mexicans,
Indians, and gangs of cowboys still worse. The roads are something
awful. That man Wampus is an optimist, and will tackle anything and
then be sorry for it afterward. The towns are scattered from here on,
and you won't strike a decent meal except at the railway stations.
Taking all these things into consideration, I advise you to make your
headquarters here for the winter."

"Thank you," returned Mr. Merrick pleasantly. "It's too late for us to
back out now, even if we felt nervous and afraid, which I assure you
we do not."

"We are not looking for excessive comfort on this journey, you know,"
remarked Patsy. "But thank you for your warning, sir. It has given us
great pleasure; for if there were no chance of adventure before us we
should all be greatly disappointed."

Again the landlord shook his head.

"Right?" asked Wampus, at the wheel.

"Go ahead," said Mr. Merrick, and slowly the big car started upon its
journey into the Golden West.

The air was keen and bracing, but not chilly. The sunshine flooded the
landscape on every side. All the windows of the limousine had been

Myrtle Dean had been established in one corner of the broad back seat,
where she nestled comfortably among the cushions. Uncle John sat
beside her, with Beth and the Major on the seat on front. There were
two folding chairs that could be used on occasion, and the back seat
easily accommodated three, the "Autocrat" being a seven passenger car;
but Patsy was perched in front beside Wampus, which was really the
choicest seat of all, so there was ample room inside to "swing a cat,"
as the Major stated--if anyone had cared to attempt such a feat. Of
course the wee Mumbles was in Patsy's lap, and he seemed to have
overcome his first aversion of Wampus and accepted the little
chauffeur into the circle of his favored acquaintances. Indeed, they
soon became fast friends.

On leaving the town Wampus turned into a smooth, hard wagon road that
ran in zigzag fashion near the railroad grade. The car bowled along
right merrily for some twenty miles, when the driver turned to the
right and skimmed along a high plateau. It was green and seemed
fertile, but scarcely a farmhouse could they see, although the clear
air permitted a broad view.

"He up hill now all way to Continental Divide," said Wampus to Patsy;
"then he go down hill long time."

"It doesn't seem to be much uphill," returned the girl, "and the road
is very good."

"We make time here," observed the driver. "By'm-by we find rock an'
bad road. Then we go slow."

The Major was watching the new chauffeur carefully, and despite his
dismal forebodings the man seemed not at all reckless but handled his
car with rare skill. So the critic turned to his brother-in-law and

"Is it fully decided which way we shall go?"

"I've left it to Wampus and the girls," was the reply. "On account
of our little invalid here we shall take the most direct route to
California. It isn't a short route, at that. On Beth's account we
shall visit the Moki and Navajo reservations, and on Patsy's account
we're going by way of the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Wampus says he
knows every inch of the road, so for my part I'm content to be just a

"Which remark," said the Major, "indicates that I'm to be just a
passenger also. Very well, John; I'm willing. There may be trouble
ahead of us, but to-day is so magnificent that it's wise to forget
everything but the present."



They all enjoyed that first day's ride. Wampus did not drive fast,
for there were places where he couldn't; yet by one o'clock they had
reached Laguna, sixty miles from their starting point. There was an
excellent railway hotel here, so they decided to spend the rest of the
day and the night at Laguna and proceed early the next morning.

The big car was an object of much curiosity to the natives, and during
the afternoon Wampus was the center of attraction. Myrtle had stood
the ride remarkably well, and Uncle John noticed that her eyes were
brighter and a shade of color had already crept into her pale cheeks.
Having risen early all three of the girls took a nap during the
afternoon, as did Mr. Merrick. The Major gossiped with the station
agent, the most important individual in town, and gleaned sundry
information that made him look rather glum.

"I don't say the road's exactly dangerous, mind you," added the man,
"but these greasers and Injuns get mischievous, at times, harmless
as they look. All I'm advisin' is that you keep a sharp eye on 'em."
Finding Wampus cleaning his car, while a circle of silent, attentive
inhabitants looked on, the Major said to him in a low voice: "Have you
a revolver?"

Wampus shook his head.

"Never carry him," he replied. "All gun he make trouble. Sometime he
shoot wrong man. Don't like gun. Why should I? I am Wampus!"

The Major entered the hotel frowning.

"That fellow," he muttered, "is a natural-born coward, and we needn't
expect help from him if trouble comes."

No trouble came that night, however, and in the early morning, while
the sky was still reddened by the rising sun, they were off again,
following more closely now the railroad, as rocky defiles began to
loom up before them.

By the zigzag course they were obliged to take it was ninety miles to
Gallup, and this they easily made, despite the growing steepness of
the mountain road. Here was the famous Continental Divide, and the
State of Arizona lay just beyond. The Continental Divide is the ridge
that separates the streams tributary to the Atlantic ocean from those
tributary to the Pacific, so that after crossing it one might well
feel that at last the East was left behind and the great West with its
romance now faced him.

They came to the little town in time to see the gorgeous sunset from
this, the highest point of the Rockies, and especially to Myrtle, who
had traveled so little, was the sight impressive and awe inspiring.
There was a small but fairly good hotel in the place, and after supper
Patsy and Beth went out for a stroll, being much interested in the
dark-skinned Mexicans and still darker Indians who constituted far
the larger part of the population. The party had everywhere met with
respect from these people, who, although curious, were silent and
well-behaved; so Uncle John and the Major, deep in a political
argument on the hotel porch, had no thought of danger when they saw
the two girls start away arm in arm.

The sky was still aglow, although the sun had set, and in the subdued
light the coarse adobe huts and rickety frame dwellings were endowed
with a picturesque appearance they did not really possess. Beth and
Patsy came to the end of the main street rather suddenly, and stood a
moment looking at the shadows cast by the rocky cliffs near by. Some
of the peaks had snow upon them, and there was a chill in the air, now
that the sun had withdrawn its warmth. The girls turned presently and
took another route that might bring them quicker to the hotel, but had
only proceeded a short way when in passing a rather solitary adobe
structure a man stepped from the shadow of the wall and confronted
them. He wore a red flannel shirt and a broad sombrero, the latter
scarcely covering his dark, evil features.

The cousins stopped short. Then Beth whispered: "Let's go the other
way." But as they were about to turn the Mexican drew a revolver and
said in harsh, uneven English: "You halt. Keep a-still, or I shoot."

"What do you want?" asked Beth, quietly.

"Money. All you got. Jew'lry--all you got. Give 'm quick, or I shoot!"

As they stood hesitating a sound of footsteps was heard and someone
approached quickly from behind them. Patsy looked hurriedly around
and saw Wampus. He was walking with his thin little form bent and his
hands deep in his trousers pockets. Incidentally Wampus was smoking
the stub of a cigar, as was his custom when off duty.

The Mexican saw him, but marking his small size and mild manner did
not flinch from his position. With one revolver still leveled at the
girls he drew another from a hip pocket and turned it upon Wampus.

"You stop--halt!" he exclaimed fiercely.

Wampus did not halt. His eyes fixed upon the bandit's ugly features,
still puffing his cigar and with hands in his pockets he walked
deliberately past Patsy and Beth and straight up to the muzzles of the

"Stop!" cried the Mexican; and again: "Stop!"

Wampus stopped when one revolver nearly touched his nose and another
covered his body. Slowly he drew one hand from his pocket and grasped
the barrel of the nearest weapon.

"Let him go," he said, not raising his voice. The man stared into the
little chauffeur's eyes and released his hold of the revolver. Wampus
looked at it, grunted, and put it in his pocket.

"Now the other gun," he said.

The fellow drew back and half turned, as if to escape.

"No, no!" said Wampus, as if annoyed. "You give me gun. See--I am

Sheepishly enough the Mexican surrendered the other weapon.

"Now turn aroun' an' go to hotel," commanded the chauffeur.

The man obeyed. Wampus turned to the girls, who were now not only
relieved but on the verge of laughter and said deprecatingly:

"Do not be scare, for poor man he make no harm. He jus' try a
goozle--no dare shoot here in town. Then come; I go back with you."

Silently they accompanied him along the lane, the Mexican keeping in
front and looking around from time to time to see if they followed.
A short distance from the hotel Wampus gave a queer whistle which
brought the bandit cringing to his side. Without ado he handed the
fellow his two revolvers and said calmly: "Go 'long."

The Mexican "went along" briskly and the dusk soon swallowed him up.

"Thank you, Wampus," said Patsy, gratefully; "you've saved us from a

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