Chapter XXIX. Merry Motor Maids
 

The runaways were forgiven, finally, although between four "enraged" young medical students, and the sextette of motor girls, Cora and Duncan had some difficulty in making it perfectly clear that the trip to Chelton was entirely unavoidable. It was a merry party that gathered in Mrs. Bennet's long drawing-room that evening to make arrangements for the run over Breakwater roads in the morning. The girls at first refused to allow Cora a sight of the decorated cars until they should be in line, but Tillie was so proud of her achievement with the Whirlwind that all finally consented, and directly after tea the cars in the garage and in the big barn were admired and inspected. Certainly the machines did credit to the fair decorators. The Whirlwind was transformed into a moving garden, the sides being first wound with strong twine, and into this were thrust all sorts of flowers in great, loose bunches. Only the softest foliage, in branches, was utilized, as Tillie felt responsible for the luster of the "piano" polish, for which the Whirlwind was remarkable. The top of the car was like a roof garden, the effect being quite simply managed, for Tillie was resourceful. She had stretched across the roof of the car a strong sheet of pasteboard. Into this she placed a great variety of wild flowers, banking the stalks, which stood into holes made in the board, with soft grasses and such ferns as might be depended upon not to "slink" in the sun.

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Cora with unfeigned delight. "But what an awful lot of trouble, Tillie!"

"It is for you," said the German girl sincerely, "and you have gone to an awful lot of trouble for me. Besides," she added, "you will look so queenly in that throne of flowers."

The compliment was rather overwhelming - especially as the strange young men were there, they with Duncan adding a new line of adjectives to the admiration party.

"You may look at our car, Cora," assented Bess, "although you were so indifferent, going away without even offering a suggestion as to what we might do."

"As if I could anticipate Belle's talent," said Cora with a laugh. "I feel I ought to answer to `which hand' when I open my eyes on her creation."

"Oh-h-h-h!"

The boys all joined in with Cora and Clip in the expressions of delight, for there was the pretty little runabout, the Flyaway, made into a "live pond lily."

"However did you do it?" asked Cora, actually amazed at the charming effect.

"I shouldn't tell," replied Belle, who was looking very pretty - at least one of the strange boys thought so. It was Phil MacVicker who "kept track" of Belle, and it was the same gallant Phil, who, late in the afternoon, helped Belle to finish up her pond lily.

"We may all guess why Belle chose that design," said Daisy, who was waiting for the newcomers to pass judgment on her own runabout. "A pond lily has a yellow head, and Belle's is just about that shade."

It would be pretty to see a yellow head in the white peals of the improvised lily. Cora satisfied her curiosity by finding out that these petals were nothing more than barrel staves covered with crushed white paper.

"You have had an awful lot to do, girls," she said with genuine sincerity. "I am actually sorry I could not have been here to help."

"Of course, mine is not so elegant," remarked Daisy, who led the way to the other carriage house, where her machine was kept, "but I fancy people will look at it."

Duncan "went wild" when he beheld what Daisy had rigged up. A veritable circus wagon - a cage, in which Daisy declared she was going to sit with whip in hand, and Nero, the big St. Bernard dog, at her feet.

"We made it out of clothes poles and laths," said Daisy proudly. "I have not taken a course in manual training for naught."

Then the boys had to fix up their cars. Duncan was tired - the other boys were frisky - so he nicely suggested that they "do as they jolly pleased with his car, so long as they left room for his feet.

Of course the boys wanted something grotesque. Phil suggested that they all carry out the circus idea, and "trail" after Beauty and the Beast. This was finally agreed to, and it was Duncan's car that they turned into the calliope, actually going so far as to hire the local hurdy-gurdy man to ride in it and do the "callioping."

"It looks as if our run home would be more auspicious than the trip we made in," said Cora to one of the very nice young students, who had offered to look over her car and see that it was in good working order. "We had a dreadful time coming out here - but I suppose the girls have told you about it."

Bentley Davis, otherwise called Ben, admitted that the young ladies had spoken of the trip, and he presumed to predict a great time for the auto meet.

So it went on until the boys had to go back to their hotel, and the girls, after discussing all sorts of necessary and unnecessary plans, finally consented to wait for the morrow.

Tired from their enthusiasm, as well as from muscular efforts, the girls found their eyes scarcely "locked," before the bright rays of a late summer sun knocked on the tardy lids and demanded recognition.

Was it really time to get up?

If only the wasted hours of the evening past might be tucked on to the shortened time! Most things might be lengthened that way.

But, one after the other, the girls were at last awake, and so, quicker and quicker, sped the time until horns were sounding from garage and stable and even from the roadway.

"There come the Cheltons!" called Duncan as he saw Jack's car. Then Walter's with Ed rounded the gravel driveway.

From that moment, until car after car was upon the roads of Breakwater, it was a question which made the most noise, the girls talking or the boys blowing signals on the auto horns. Hazel had come with Jack, as Paul was scarcely able for the excitement, so that, after all, the motor girls were all in the run.

What a parade!

Of course, Cora, being captain, had to lead, and from the floral folds of the Whirlwind floated the club flag in the newly adopted colors, red and white, with the gold letters, M. G. C. (Motor Girls' Club), plainly discernible in the changing sunlight.

Every one in Breakwater had heard that there was to be an amateur motor show, but few expected it to turn out into such a fine procession.

The sound of the "calliope" was truly ludicrous. To this was soon added all sorts of noises that only street urchins know how to develop spontaneously.

Nor were the young people of Breakwater to be left out of the sport, for numbers of them possessing automobiles, fell into line, after the decorated cars, until the entire little summer place was agog with such excitement as the extreme originality of the visiting colonists usually affords.

Street after street was paraded through, auto after auto wheeled along, horns tooting, whistles screeching, boys shouting, girls cheering, until one hour of this strenuous frolic seemed enough to satisfy motor girls and motor boys; and the party went to the Beacon for luncheon precisely at noon, leaving Tom to finish the honors by stripping the cars of their trappings and making them ready for a homeward trip.

Cora, however, was persuaded to leave her machine decorated, as the flowers made a pretty picture, and the return home, after the three-days' trip, seemed more auspicious when thus heralded.

Reluctantly the adieux were made - Mrs. Bennet had been so hospitable, and the boys such good company.

Duncan found an opportunity of making Clip more intimately acquainted with his mother, for she was a woman glad to be the friend of her boy's friends, and willing to take considerable trouble to show the many little social preferences.

Cora insisted on the festivities breaking up on the scheduled time, and so did Clip. Cora wanted to get to the antique shop, and Clip wanted to get back to Chelton. So after a delay, impossible to avoid where there were so many boys and so many girls, each and all wanting something to say, some question to ask, or some message to deliver, the party finally started off on the return trip of the first regular tour of the Motor Girls' Club.