Molly McDonald (Chapter 3, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 3

Miss Molly McDonald had departed for the West--carefully treasuring her father's detailed letter of instruction--filled with interest and enthusiasm. She was an army girl, full of confidence in herself and delighted at the prospect of an unusual summer. Moreover, her natural spirit of adventure had been considerably stimulated by the envious comments of her schoolmates, who apparently believed her wondrously daring to venture such a trip, the apprehensive advice of her teachers, and much reading, not very judiciously chosen, relative to pioneer life on the plains. The possible hardships of the long journey alone did not appall her in the least. She had made similar trips before and had always found pleasant and attentive companionship. Being a wholesome, pleasant-faced girl, with eyes decidedly beautiful, and an attractive personality, the making or new friendships was never difficult. Of course the stage ride would be an entirely fresh and precarious experience, but then her father would doubtless meet her before that, or send some officer to act as escort. Altogether the prospect appeared most delightful and alluring.

The illness of the principal of Sunnycrest had resulted in the closing of the school some few days earlier than had been anticipated, and it was so lonely there after the others had departed that Miss Molly hastened her packing and promptly joined the exodus. Why not? She could wait the proper date at Kansas City or Fort Ripley just as well, enjoying herself meanwhile amid a new environment, and no doubt she would encounter some of her father's army friends who would help entertain her pleasantly. Miss McDonald was somewhat impulsive, and, her interest once aroused, impatient of restraint.

As a result of this earlier departure she reached Ripley some two days in advance of the prearranged schedule, and in spite of her young strength and enthusiasm, most thoroughly tired out by the strain of continuous travel. Her one remaining desire upon arrival was for a bed, and actuated by this necessity, when she learned that the army post was fully two miles from the town, she accepted proffered guidance to the famous Gilsey House and promptly fell asleep. The light of a new day gave her a first real glimpse of the surrounding dreariness as she stood looking out through the grimy glass of her single window, depressed and heartsick. The low, rolling hills, bare and desolate, stretched to the horizon, the grass already burned brown by the sun. The town itself consisted of but one short, crooked street, flanked by rough, ramshackle frame structures, two-thirds of these apparently saloons, with dirty, flapping tents sandwiched between, and huge piles of tin cans and other rubbish stored away behind. The street was rutted and dusty, and the ceaseless wind swirled the dirt about in continuous, suffocating clouds. The hotel itself, a little, squatty, two-storied affair, groaned to the blast, threatening to collapse. Nothing moved except a wagon down the long ribbon of road, and a dog digging for a bone behind a near-by tent. It was so squalid and ugly she turned away in speechless disgust.

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