Read CHAPTER XI - THE STORY OF THE CASTAWAY of Ruth Fielding at Lighthouse Point Nita / The Girl Castaway, free online book, by Alice B. Emerson, on

There was only the cook in the station and nobody to stop the girls from taking Nita away.  She had recovered her senses, but scarcely appreciated as yet where she was; nor did she seem to care what became of her.

Heavy called the man who had driven them over, and in ten minutes after she was ashore the castaway was on the buckboard with her new friends and the ponies were bearing them all at a spanking pace toward the Stone bungalow on Lighthouse Point.

The fact that this strange girl had been no relation of the wife of the schooner’s captain, and that Mrs. Kirby seemed, indeed, to know very little about her, mystified the stout girl and her friends exceedingly.  They whispered a good deal among themselves about the castaway; but she sat between Ruth and Helen and they said little to her during the ride.

She had been wrapped in a thick blanket at the station and was not likely to take cold; but Miss Kate and old Mammy Laura bustled about a good deal when Nita was brought into the bungalow; and very shortly she was tucked into one of the beds on the second floor ­in the very room in which Ruth and Helen and Mercy were to sleep ­and Miss Kate had insisted upon her swallowing a bowl of hot tea.

Nita seemed to be a very self-controlled girl.  She didn’t weep, now that the excitement was past, as most girls would have done.  But at first she was very silent, and watched her entertainers with snapping black eyes and ­Ruth thought ­in rather a sly, sharp way.  She seemed to be studying each and every one of the girls ­and Miss Kate and Mammy Laura as well.

The boys came home after a time and announced that every soul aboard the Whipstitch was safe and sound in the life saving station.  And the captain’s wife had sent over word that she and her husband would go back to Portland the next afternoon.  If the girl they had picked up there on the dock wished to return, she must be ready to go with them.

“What, go back to that town?” cried the castaway when Ruth told her this, sitting right up in bed.  “Why, that’s the last place!”

“Then you don’t belong in Portland?” asked Ruth.

“I should hope not!”

“Nor in Maine?” asked Madge, for the other girls were grouped about the room.  They were all anxious to hear the castaway’s story.

The girl was silent for a moment, her lips very tightly pressed together.  Finally she said, with her sly look: 

“I guess I ain’t obliged to tell you that; am I?”

“Witness does not wish to incriminate herself,” snapped Mercy, her eyes dancing.

“Well, I don’t know that I’m bound to tell you girls everything I know,” said the strange girl, coolly.

“Right-oh!” cried Heavy, cordially.  “You’re visiting me.  I don’t know as it is anybody’s business how you came to go aboard the Whipstitch ­”

“Oh, I don’t mind telling you that,” said the girl, eagerly.  “I was hungry.”

“Hungry!” chorused her listeners, and Heavy said:  “Fancy being hungry, and having to go aboard a ship to get a meal!”

“That was it exactly,” said Nita, bluntly.  “But Mrs. Kirby was real good to me.  And the schooner was going to New York and that’s where I wanted to go.”

“Because your folks live there?” shot in The Fox.

“No, they don’t, Miss Smartie!” snapped back the castaway.  “You don’t catch me so easy.  I wasn’t born yesterday, Miss!  My folks don’t live in New York.  Maybe I haven’t any folks.  I came from clear way out West, anyway ­so now!  I thought ’way down East must be the finest place in the world.  But it isn’t.”

“Did you run away to come East?” asked Ruth, quietly.

“Well ­I came here, anyway.  And I don’t much like it, I can tell you.”

“Ah-ha!” cried Mercy Curtis, chuckling to herself.  “I know.  She thought Yankee Land was just flowing in milk and honey.  Listen! here’s what she said to herself before she ran away from home: 

    “I wish I’d lived away Down East,
      Where codfish salt the sea,
    And where the folks have apple sass
      And punkin pie fer tea!”

“That’s the ‘Western Girl’s Lament,’” pursued Mercy.  “So you found ’way down East nothing like what you thought it was?”

The castaway scowled at the sharp-tongued lame girl for a moment.  Then she nodded.  “It’s the folks,” she said.  “You’re all so afraid of a stranger.  Do I look like I’d bite?”

“Maybe not ordinarily,” said Helen, laughing softly.  “But you do not look very pleasant just now.”

“Well, people haven’t been nice to me,” grumbled the Western girl.  “I thought there were lots of rich men in the East, and that a girl could make friends ’most anywhere, and get into nice families ­”

“To work?” asked Ruth, curiously.

“No, no!  You know, you read a lot about rich folks taking up girls and doing everything for them ­dressing them fine, and sending them to fancy schools, and all that.”

“I never read of any such thing in my life!” declared Mary Cox.  “I guess you’ve been reading funny books.”

“Huh!” sniffed the castaway, who was evidently a runaway and was not made sorry for her escapade even by being wrecked at sea.  “Huh!  I like a story with some life in it, I do!  Jib Pottoway had some dandy paper-covered novels in his locker and he let me read ’em ­”

“Who under the sun is Jib Pottoway?” gasped Helen.  “That isn’t a real name; is it?”

“It’s ugly enough to be real; isn’t it?” retorted the strange girl, chuckling.  “Yep.  That’s Jib’s real name.  ’Jibbeway Pottoway’ ­that’s the whole of it.”

“Oh, oh!” cried Heavy, with her hand to her face.  “It makes my jaw ache to even try to say it.”

“What is he?” asked Madge, curiously.

“Injun,” returned the Western girl, laconically.  “Or, part Injun.  He comes from ’way up Canada way.  His folks had Jibbeway blood.”

“But who is he?” queried Ruth, curiously.

“Why, he’s a puncher that works for ­Well, he’s a cow puncher.  That’s ’nuff.  It don’t matter where he works,” added the girl, gruffly.

“That might give away where you come from, eh?” put in Mercy.

“It might,” and Nita laughed.

“But what is your name?” asked Ruth.

“Nita, I tell you.”

“Nita what?”

“Never mind.  Just Nita.  Mebbe I never had another name.  Isn’t one name at a time sufficient, Miss?”

“I don’t believe that is your really-truly name,” said Ruth, gravely.

“I bet you’re right, Ruth Fielding!” cried Heavy, chuckling.  “‘Nita’ and ‘Jib Pottoway’ don’t seem to go together.  ‘Nita’ is altogether too fancy.”

“It’s a nice name!” exclaimed the strange girl, in some anger.  “It was the name of the girl in the paper-covered novel ­and it’s good enough for me.”

“But what’s your real name?” urged Ruth.

“I’m not telling you that,” replied the runaway, shortly.

“Then you prefer to go under a false name ­even among your friends?” asked the girl from the Red Mill.

“How do I know you’re my friends?” demanded Nita, promptly.

“We can’t very well be your enemies,” said Helen, in some disgust.

“I don’t know.  Anybody’s my enemy who wants to send me back ­well, anyone who wants to return me to the place I came from.”

“Was it an institution?” asked Mary Cox quickly.

“What’s that?” demanded Nita, puzzled.  “What do you mean by an ’institution’?”

“She means a sort of school,” explained Ruth.

“Yes!” exclaimed The Fox, sharply.  “A reform school, or something of the kind.  Maybe an almshouse.”

“Never heard of ’em,” returned Nita, unruffled by the insinuation.  “Guess they don’t have ’em where I come from.  Did you go to one, Miss?”

Heavy giggled, and Madge Steele rapped The Fox smartly on the shoulder.  “There!” said the senior.  “It serves you right, Mary Cox.  You’re answered.”

“Now, I tell you what it is!” cried the strange girl, sitting up in bed again and looking rather flushed, “if you girls are going to nag me, and bother me about who I am, and where I come from, and what my name is ­though Nita’s a good enough name for anybody ­”

“Anybody but Jib Pottoway,” chuckled Heavy.

“Well! and he warn’t so bad, if he was half Injun,” snapped the runaway.  “Well, anyway, if you don’t leave me alone I’ll get out of bed right now and walk out of here.  I guess you haven’t any hold on me.”

“Better wait till your clothes are dry,” suggested Madge.

“Aunt Kate would never let you go,” said Heavy.

“I’ll go to-morrow morning, then!” cried the runaway.

“Why, we don’t mean to nag you,” interposed Ruth, soothingly.  “But of course we’re curious ­and interested.”

“You’re like all the other Eastern folk I’ve met,” declared Nita.  “And I don’t like you much.  I thought you were different.”

“You’ve been expecting some rich man to adopt you, and dress you in lovely clothes, and all that, eh?” said Mercy Curtis.

“Well!  I guess there are not so many millionaires in the East as they said there was,” grumbled Nita.

“Or else they’ve already got girls of their own to look after,” laughed Ruth.  “Why, Helen here, has a father who is very rich.  But you couldn’t expect him to give up Helen and Tom and take you into his home instead, could you?”

Nita glanced at the dry-goods merchant’s daughter with more interest for a moment.

“And Heavy’s father is awfully rich, too,” said Ruth.  “But he’s got Heavy to support ­”

“And that’s some job,” broke in Madge, laughing.  “Two such daughters as Heavy would make poor dear Papa Stone a pauper!”

“Well,” said Nita, again, “I’ve talked enough.  I won’t tell you where I come from.  And Nita is my name ­now!”

“It is getting late,” said Ruth, mildly.  “Don’t you all think it would be a good plan to go to bed?  The wind’s gone down some.  I guess we can sleep.”

“Good advice,” agreed Madge Steele.  “The boys have been abed some time.  To-morrow is another day.”

Heavy and she and Mary went off to their room.  The others made ready for bed, and the runaway did not say another word to them, but turned her face to the wall and appeared, at least, to be soon asleep.

Ruth crept in beside her so as not to disturb their strange guest.  She was a new type of girl to Ruth ­and to the others.  Her independence of speech, her rough and ready ways, and her evident lack of the influence of companionship with refined girls were marked in this Nita’s character.

Ruth wondered much what manner of home she could have come from, why she had run away from it, and what Nita really proposed doing so far from home and friends.  These queries kept the girl from the Red Mill awake for a long time ­added to which was the excitement of the evening, which was not calculated to induce sleep.

She would have dropped off some time after the other girls, however, had she not suddenly heard a door latch somewhere on this upper floor, and then the creep, creep, creeping of a rustling step in the hall.  It continued so long that Ruth wondered if one of the girls in the other room was ill, and she softly arose and went to the door, which was ajar.  And what she saw there in the hall startled her.