Chapter XI. Those Dreadful Boys
 

"No boys, eh?" shouted Ed from his "perch" in the hay.

"Aren't they dreadful?" exclaimed Daisy with doubtful sincerity.

"Hope mother doesn't hear of it," replied Maud. "She would be sure to worry."

Cora laughed, and Bess fairly panted. Belle tossed something into the hay wagon as it passed - it made a practice of passing each machine in turn, and then doing it all over again.

Every one in Chelton and the near-by places rushed out as the procession went along. It was like a circus - many folks really did believe that a "railroad show" had come to town unannounced.

The girls had planned to have dinner at a pretty little tea-house on the outskirts of Hollyville. But the boys had no intention of turning back, it seemed, and imagine those boys in the tea-house, kept by a couple of enterprising college girls!

"Hey there!" called Jack. "When do we eat? There's the noon whistles."

"Yon don't eat," replied Cora.

"Don't, eh? Well, look out for your commissary department," answered Jack. "We came prepared to fight."

"Oh," sighed Daisy, "do you suppose they will spoil all our boxes?"

"I'm sure I don't know," replied the noncommital Maud.

But Hazel said: "What do you suppose they are up to?"

"Trust them for fun," answered Cora. "I will simply trounce Jack if he attempts to overhaul our stores."

Hazel laughed merrily. "If only Paul were along," she ventured. "And, Cora, do you know that mailbag business is not by any means settled?" she asked.

"I know that, girlie," said Cora with polite seriousness, "but all troubles are tabooed on this ride, you know. Gertrude," to the girl who had been looking and listening, "I appoint you monitor of this car. The first girl to bring in troubles is to be fined."

"Very well," replied Gertrude, "I shall be glad to have something to do. I feel like a stranger with those boys."

"That's because you do not know them," ventured Ray. "They are perfectly splendid boys."

"Make a note of that," called Cora. "Gertrude, that is one mark in favor of Ray."

The procession was winding along a pretty country road. Trees closed in from side to side, and deep gutters outlined the driveway from the footpath.

The boys had actually ceased their antics for the time, and it occurred to more than one girl that this respite might have been more advantageous if it had been put into operation in the city streets - the decorum was wasted in the woods. But boys have a queer reasoning code - where girls are concerned.

"Don't you suppose they will turn back before we reach the Glen?" called Bess to Cora. Their machines were running quite close together.

"If they don't leave us we will drive past the teahouse, and come back later," said Cora.

"But what will the college girls think? They will be sure to have a nice lunch ready."

"When Tillie sees Ed Foster she will cease to think. She knows Ed," and Cora laughed significantly.

"Oh, look!" shouted Hazel. "A flock of sheep. And directly in the track. The boys - "

At that moment every one saw the sheep. The hay wagon made a spurt and dashed straight through the frightened herd, scattering them right and left, like feathers blown by the wind.

Daisy and Maud came next. They had time to jam down the brakes, but it would have been wiser to have dashed through the flock without loss of time, for an angry ram turned as the car slacked speed, and when Daisy and Maud saw him jump toward them, they also jumped out into the gutter, deserting their car.

A big, woolly ram leaped up from the midst of the flock, and actually landed in the runaway automobile. The improvised hay wagon was quickly steered to one side, just as Daisy's car, with the horned beast at the wheel, plunged past.

The machine, in charge of the queer mechanician, plunged straight ahead, and after a moment's hesitation on the part of their drivers, the other cars were quickly sent after it.

The boys shouted lustily. As if the frightened and angry ram cared for the harmony of a college quartet. Wasn't it ridiculous to see the ram positively driving the car?

By some strange instinct the animal had raised its fore legs to the rim of the steering wheel, standing upright on his hind ones, which were jamming the brake and clutch pedals.

"Oh l" screamed the girls in a chorus. "There comes a runabout! He'll collide with it!"

A runabout, coming in the opposite direction, and headed straight for the ram, could be seen down the road. The driver was a girl, that was evident, but she was so muffled in hood, veil and cloak that her features were not discernible.

"Stop it!" screamed Gertrude. "She'll be killed."

The ram evidently saw the other car coming, and tried to leap out, but its fore feet had gone through the spaces between the spokes of the steering wheel. The girl in the runabout was sending her car from side to side, in a frantic endeavor to avoid a collision. It seemed to be a choice with her, whether she should smash into the ram's car, or tilt into the roadside ditch.

Suddenly the girl stood up. The eyes of the motor girls and their boy companions were on her. She gave a scream, and then - something happened. From the rear cars came a scream. Then - the Breeze was stopped - the ram was gone, and the runabout was ditched.

Where and who was the unfortunate driver?