IN THE DAY COACH
The observation platform was like a back porch, Elizabeth Ann admitted when she saw it, a back porch enclosed by a shiny brass railing. It was delightful to sit in one of the wicker chairs and hold Nancy, her doll, on her lap, and watch the gleaming rails of the railroad track spin out behind them. She noticed that the tracks seemed to come together at a point while she watched them, but Mr. Robert said that they only looked that way.
Elizabeth Ann spent a happy morning on the platform and after lunch, which she ate with Mr. Robert at his table, she took the advice of Caroline and had a little nap. The motion of the train made her sleepy earlier at night than usual in spite of the nap, and she went to bed soon after dinner. She had meant to cry a little, for she did miss Mother very much and she didn't want to cry where anyone could see her, for she suspected that that would make kind Mr. Robert and Mr. Hobart uncomfortable, but before she had stopped thinking about the funny way one went to bed on a train—you remember she had been asleep when they put her in the berth the first night and this time it was all new to her—Elizabeth Ann was fast asleep.
"I wish I had a little girl to play with," she said to Caroline the next morning.
She said it many times during the day. It was rather dreary for a little girl all by herself, though she had Nancy to play with, and Caroline read aloud to her from the story book Mother had packed in her bag. Mr. Robert brought out a puzzle to amuse her, and Mr. Hobart showed her how to make a vase from the tinfoil wrapped around a piece of chocolate. The ladies in the car knitted and read and took long naps. They did not pay much attention to her.
"I'm going to see if I can find that little girl with the red hat," she said to herself that afternoon.
She had asked Mr. Hobart if she could go through into the other cars and perhaps find a little girl to play with her. This was soon after breakfast. The conductor had answered decidedly.
"No, you mustn't do that," he had said. "I'm responsible for you, and I must know where you are. If you go running through the day coaches, there's no telling what you'll get into."
But he had promised to take her through the train with him, and he had kept his word. She told Mr. Robert all about it at lunch. Mr. Robert was an old friend of Mr. Hobart's, it seemed, and indeed all the train people apparently knew the little, white-haired man very well. Elizabeth Ann supposed it was because he rode so often on trains.
She had not liked the day coaches, she told Mr. Robert. The people had no berths with clean sheets and comfy pillows, but slept on the same seats they sat in during the day.
They ate their meals, too, most of them without leaving the car, and Elizabeth Ann was sure they could have been more neat. She saw egg-shells and pieces of bread and butter on the floor of the cars. They were crowded, these coaches, and there were many children. A little girl, wearing a red hat and holding a baby not much larger than the doll Nancy, had smiled at her.
"I'll ask her to come play with me," said Elizabeth Ann, slipping down the aisle of her car to the door.
There was no one to stop her. Caroline was busy smoothing out a headache for a lady at the other end of the car. Mr. Robert was smoking a cigar and playing a game of chess with another man in the smoking car. Mr. I Hobart was busy in some other part of the train.
"I won't stay to play with her, but she can come play with me," argued Elizabeth Ann, I bugging Nancy tightly as she entered the first day coach.
By this time she was used to the swaying motion of the train and could walk down the aisles without bumping into the seats on either side. She did not remember in which car she had seen the little girl who wore a red hat and held the baby, but she thought she could find her without much trouble. She had persuaded herself that the conductor would not mind if she only went into the coaches and did not stay. You know how easy it is to make yourself believe what you want to believe? That is what Elizabeth Ann did.
She had not gone very far before she wished she had not started. The people stared at her, and it was not at all like walking through the cars in the morning holding to Mr. Hobart's hand. Some big boys in one corner tried to catch fancy's foot and one did pull her slipper off.
'You give that back," commanded a large, red-faced woman who was eating peanuts out of a paper bag. "Are you looking for anybody in particular, dearie?"
"I wanted—there was a little girl in a red hat I saw this morning," said. Elizabeth Ann unhappily. "Do you know her?"
"She got off at the last station," replied the large woman. "She was carrying a baby, wasn't she, her little brother? Yes, that's the one; she and. her mother got off 'bout an hour ago. Did you know her?"
Elizabeth Ann was about to say that she only wanted the little girl to play with her, when something cold and wet struck her face and spattered her dress. Dark ugly stains began to show on her frock.
"I'm awfully sorry," said the girl across the aisle who had been trying to pry the cap from a bottle. "Mercy, that grape-juice has spattered you, hasn't it? I didn't know the top was coming off so quick. Come down to the water-cooler and I'll try to wash it off for you."
She was a girl of seventeen or eighteen and not very tidy in her own dress. When she tried to wash the grape-juice from the front of Elizabeth Ann's dress and her hair-ribbon —it had even spotted that and there was a great spot on her little nose—she made matters worse. She used so much water that she quite soaked the pretty pink dress and it ran down and soaked the tan sandals.
"Well, I don't believe it is going to come off," said the girl after she had used a great deal of water and made the little girl very uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, but I guess you'll have to change your dress. Oh, here comes the conductor—I'll have to show my ticket again."
The conductor! Poor Elizabeth Ann turned hastily to face the door. Sure enough Mr. Hobart was coming down the aisle. And he saw her.
"Why!" he said, astonished. "What are you doing here?"
But he didn't wait for her to tell him. Perhaps he thought there were too many people listening. He took her hand and she trotted Miserably beside him, back to her own car. How everyone did stare at the little girl in the water-soaked shoes and frock, with dark red spots on her face and dress and hair-ribbon!
The surprised Caroline met them at the door of the little room called the drawing-room which was empty, for no one had engaged it for the trip East. Mr. Hobart motioned her aside and went in with Elizabeth Ann.
"Now," he said, closing the door and sitting down on the little green velvet sofa, "tell me about it." ,
The usual twinkle was gone from his kind eyes, and his voice was stern.
Tears trickled down Elizabeth Ann's face as she told him about the little girl in the red hat, and of her plan to get her to come and play with her.
"I wasn't going to stay in the other coach, she sobbed. "I was coming right back in a minute. And I didn't know the girl was going to spill grape-juice on me."
"Well, no," Mr. Hobart admitted more kindly, "I don't suppose you did. But that really has nothing to do with it. I said you were not to go into the other cars and you went. My orders are obeyed on this train— suppose Caroline and Fred and the porters and brakemen all did as they pleased, we couldn't run a train. It is like a ship, dear, only instead of a captain we have a conductor. Mother and Daddy put their little girl in my charge, didn't they?"
"Yes," whispered Elizabeth Ann.
"And I think they meant she should mind me," said Mr. Hobart gently. "Look at me, Elizabeth Ann. When you are naughty at home, what happens?"
"I have to go right to bed and have bread and milk to eat," she answered in a very little voice.
"It's only four o'clock," said Mr. Hobart, glancing at his big gold watch. "I think if you have only bread and milk for dinner tonight, we won't say you must go to bed this afternoon. You're not going to do this again, are you, dear?"
"Oh, no," Elizabeth Ann fingered the buttons on his blue coat timidly. ' ' I will be good, honestly I will."
"I'm sure of it," Mr. Hobart said, rising.
"Now ask Caroline to help you into a clean dress and try to have the rest of the day a happy time."
Caroline was waiting to help her into a clean frock, and in half an hour no traces of the grape-juice remained. But it was a very sober-faced little girl who sat on the arm of Mr. Robert's seat a little later and handled his silver and ivory chessmen.
"Don't look so serious," teased Mr. Robert, who did not know of the trip into the day coach. "Do you think there will be chocolate ice-cream for dinner to-night?'
"I can't have anything but bread and milk," sighed Elizabeth Ann, "because I was naughty this afternoon."
Then she told Mr. Robert what had happened.
"Orders are orders," he said when she had finished. "What Mr. Hobart says goes on his train. You'll have to wait till you get to New York to have a little girl to play with, dear."
On to chapter 3