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Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation

Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation

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CHAPTER I THE HOBO AT CHAZY JUNCTION

Mr. Judkins, the station agent at Chazy Junction, came out of his little house at daybreak, shivered a bit in the chill morning air and gave an involuntary start as he saw a private car on the sidetrack. There were two private cars, to be exact—a sleeper and a baggage car—and Mr. Judkins knew the three o'clock train must have left them as it passed through.

"Ah," said he aloud; "the nabobs hev arrove."

"Who are the nabobs?" asked a quiet voice beside him.

Again Mr. Judkins started; he even stepped back a pace to get a better view of the stranger, who had approached so stealthily through the dim light that the agent was unaware of his existence until he spoke.

"Who be you?" he demanded, eyeing the man suspiciously.

"Never mind who I am," retorted the other in a grumpy tone; "the original question is 'who are the nabobs?'"

"See here, young feller; this ain't no place fer tramps," observed Mr. Judkins, frowning with evident displeasure; "Chazy Junction's got all it kin do to support its reg'lar inhabitants. You'll hev to move on."

The stranger sat down on a baggage truck and eyed the private car reflectively. He wore a rough gray suit, baggy and threadbare, a flannel shirt with an old black tie carelessly knotted at the collar, a brown felt hat with several holes in the crown, and coarse cowhide shoes that had arrived at the last stages of usefulness. You would judge him to be from twenty-five to thirty years of age; you would note that his face was browned from exposure, that it was rather set and expressionless but in no way repulsive. His eyes, dark and retrospective, were his most redeeming feature, yet betrayed little of their owner's character. Mr. Judkins could make nothing of the fellow, beyond the fact that he was doubtless a "tramp" and on that account most unwelcome in this retired neighborhood.

Even tramps were unusual at Chazy Junction. The foothills were sparsely settled and the inhabitants too humble to be attractive to gentlemen of the road, while the rocky highways, tortuous and uneven, offered no invitation to the professional pedestrian.

"You'll hev to move on!" repeated the agent, more sternly.

"I can't," replied the other with a smile. "The car I was—er—attached to has come to a halt. The engine has left us, and—here we are, I and the nabobs."

"Be'n ridin' the trucks, eh?"

"No; rear platform. Very comfortable it was, and no interruptions. The crazy old train stopped so many times during the night that I scarcely woke up when they sidetracked us here, and the first thing I knew I was abandoned in this wilderness. As it grew light I began to examine my surroundings, and discovered you. Glad to meet you, sir."

"You needn't be."

"Don't begrudge me the pleasure, I implore you. I can't blame you for being gruff and unsociable; were you otherwise you wouldn't reside at—at—" he turned his head to read the half legible sign on the station house, "at Chazy Junction. I'm familiar with most parts of the United States, but Chazy Junction gets my flutters....