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HOME > Classical Novels > Dorothy Dale in the West > CHAPTER I A SURPRISE IS COMING
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 “He, he, he!” Tavia.  
“What is the matter now, child?” demanded Dorothy Dale, . “There are no ‘hes’ in this lane. The road is empty before us——”
“And the world would be, too, if it wasn’t for the possible ‘hes’ that are to come into our lives,” quoth Tavia, with shocking frankness.
“You talk like a cave girl,” declared her chum. “Is there nothing on your mind but boys?”
“Yes’m! More boys!” Tavia. “It is June. The bridal-wreath is in bloom. If ‘In spring the young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,’ can’t our girls’ fancies turn in June to thoughts of white lace veils, shoes that pinch your feet horribly—and can’t we dream of hobbling up to the altar to the sound of Mendelssohn’s march?”
“Hobble to the haltar, you mean,” Dorothy, with her best suffragette air.
“How smart!” crowed her chum. “But you mustn’t blame me for this morning—you mustn’t!”
“Why not? What particular excuse have you?”
“That shad we had for breakfast. Shad is as full of bones as Cologne’s shoes are of feet. I always manage to swallow some of them—the bones, I mean, not dear Florida Water—Rosemary’s tootsies—and those said bones are me right now.”
“How absurd,” said Dorothy Dale, as Tavia went off in another “spasm.” “Do you realize that you are growing up, Tavia—or, pretty near?”
“‘Pretty near,’ or ‘near pretty’?” asked Tavia, making a little face at her.
“Baiting your hook for a compliment, I see,” laughed Dorothy. “Well, you get none, Miss. I want you to behave. Think!”
Tavia immediately struck an attitude that seemed possible for only a doll to get into. “Business of thinking,” she said.
“Suppose anybody should see you?” pursued Dorothy, admonishingly.
“Then you do expect the boys to motor in by this road?” cried Tavia. “Sly Puss!”
“No, Ma’am. I am not thinking of Ned and Nat—or even of Bob Niles.”
Tavia made another little face at mention of Bob’s name. “Poor Bob!” she sighed. “No fun for him this summer. His father says he must go to work and begin to learn the business—whatever that may mean. Bob wrote me a dreadfully mournful letter. It almost me to go to the same town and get a job in his father’s office, and so the poor boy’s .”
“You wouldn’t!” Dorothy.
“Got to go to work somewhere,” Tavia. “And I hate housework and cleaning up after a lot of children.”
“But just think! how proud your father will be to have you at the head of the household. And remember, too, how much your brothers and sisters need you.”
“Goodness, Doro! You talk like the back end of the spelling-book—where all the hard words are. And the hardest word in the whole vocabulary is ‘duty.’ Don’t remind me of it while I am here with you at North Birchlands.”
“And think!” cried Dorothy, giving a little skip as they walked on. “Think! we are not a week away from dear old Glenwood School yet, and to-day Aunt Winnie’s surprise is coming. Gracious, Tavia! I can scarcely wait for ten o’clock.”
“I know—I know,” said Tavia. “If your Aunt Winnie wasn’t the very dearest little gray-haired, pink-cheeked woman who ever lived, I’d4 have shaken the secret out of her long ago. I just would! And we can’t even guess what the surprise is going to be like.”
“Goodness! No!” gasped Dorothy. “I’ve given up guessing. I know it is something scrumptious, but nothing like anything we ever had before.”
“I hope, whatever it is, that I’ll be in it,” Tavia.
“I am sure you will be, or Aunt Winnie wouldn’t have invited you here to her home at just this time,” declared Dorothy.
They were walking down the shady road toward the railroad station “killing time,” before the family conference which had been called for ten o’clock.
Nat and Ned White, Dorothy’s cousins, had gone off in their , the Fire Bird, on an errand, and the girls had an idea they might come home by this route, and so pick them up.
“Hush!” cried Tavia, suddenly. “Methinks I hear footsteps approaching on horseback.”
“That’s no horse you hear,” Dorothy said. “It is somebody walking on the bridge over the .”
There was a turn in the road just ahead and the girls could not see the bridge. But in a moment they could the figure of a man striding toward them.
5 “This must have been what you were he-heing for,” whispered Dorothy.
“How romantic!” was Tavia’s .
“What is romantic about a man coming up from the station?”
“Don’t you see his long, silky black mustache? And his long hair and broad hat? Goodness! he’s a picture.”
“Yes. The stage picture of a villain—Simon Legree type,” Dorothy. “That red silk handkerchief sticking out of his pocket—and the big diamond in his shirt front—and another flashing on his finger——”
“My!” gasped Tavia, clasping her hands. “He might have stepped right out of Bret Harte. Ah-ha! ah-ha! Dalton! unhand me!”
“Hush, Tavia!” begged her chum. “He will hear you.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Tavia, suddenly disturbed. “He’s looking at us—and he’s crossing over to this side of the road.”
“Well, don’t you look at him any more and—we’ll cross the road, too.”
“Do you suppose he eats little girls?” Tavia, with a most ridiculous air.
Dorothy felt as though she wanted to shake her chum. But then, she frequently felt that desire. The man was too near for her to speak again, but the girls crossed the road suddenly.
 The man stopped, half turned as though to approach them, and leered at Dorothy and Tavia. He was not a large man, but he was dressed. His black suit was rather wrinkled, as though he had been traveling some time in it. The broad-brimmed hat gave him the air of a Westerner, or Southerner. And his flashy appearance made him very distasteful to Dorothy.
She made Tavia hurry on, and soon they reached the bridge themselves. Tavia was “raving” again:
“Those wonderful eyes! Did you see them? Deep brown pools of light—only one was green? Did you notice it, Doro?”
“No, I didn’t. I told you not to look at him again. You might have encouraged him to follow us.”
“I wonder how it would feel to be a gambler’s bride. I just feel that he’s from the West and is a gambler, or a cowpuncher—or a —or——”
“You don’t even know what a maverick is,” scoffed Dorothy.
“Yes, I do! A maverick steals cattle,” declared Tavia, quite soberly.
“You ridiculous thing! It’s ‘rustlers’ that steal cattle—or used to. A ‘maverick’ is a stray without a brand.”
“Well! he looked as though he had strayed—— Oh, Doro!” gasped Tavia, suddenly. “He’s coming back.”
The girls had reached the bridge and had stopped upon it. The brown water was gurgling over the stones, the birds were twittering in the bushes, and the of the wild roses was to them as they leaned upon the bridge-rail.
It was a lovely picture, and Dorothy and Tavia fitted right into it. But the picture did not suit Dorothy and Tavia at all when they saw the black-hatted man round the turn in the road.
They felt just as though the picture needed some action. An with Ned and Nat in it, would have furnished just the life the girls thought would improve the scene.
“Come on!” whispered Dorothy. “Don’t let him speak.”
But it was too late to escape that. “Little ladies!” exclaimed the man. “You’re not going to run away from me, are you?”
Tavia would have run; only, as she confessed to Dorothy later, her skirt “was not built that way.” Now, however, Dorothy had to face the man.
“What do you want?” she asked, just as sternly as she could speak.
“Oh, now, little lady,” began the fellow, “you mustn’t be angry.”
Dorothy turned her back and seized Tavia’s arm. “Come on,” she said, with much more8 confidence in her voice than she actually felt.
“Ned and Nat will soon be along. Come!”
The girls began walking briskly. “Is—is he going to follow us?” whispered Tavia.
“Don’t you dare look back to see,” commanded Dorothy, fiercely.
Either the black-hatted man was not very bold and bad, after all, or Dorothy’s remark about expecting the boys fulfilled its duty. He did not follow them beyond the bridge.
“Oh, Doro! You can’t blame me this time,” urged Tavia, as they hurried on.
“I do not believe the fellow would have dared speak to us if you had not rolled your big eyes at him,” declared Dorothy, rather sharply.
“Oh, Doro! I didn’t!” Then she began giggling again. “It is your fatal beauty that gets us into such scrapes—you know it is.”
It was little use scolding Tavia. Dorothy was well aware of that. She had “summered and wintered” her chum too long not to know how she was.
For fear the man might still follow them, Dorothy insisted upon taking the first side road and so walking back to Aunt Winnie White’s home, the , by another way. When they arrived the boys were there before them.
“Hi, girls! where were you?” shouted Nat. “We looked for you along the station road.”
 “Did you come right up from the station?” demanded Tavia, eagerly.
“Did you see a black-mustached pirate down there by the bridge, with a yellow diamond in his ——”
“In the bridge’s bosom?” demanded Nat.
“Of the pirate’s shirt,” finished Tavia. “Such a mustache! He looked deliciously villainous.”
“Another conquest?” Nat, who never liked to see any fellow “tagging about after Tavia,” as he expressed it, unless it was a of his own choosing.
“He followed Dorothy—and to her,” declared Tavia, with . “And she spoke to him.”
“Soft pedal! soft pedal, there, Tavia!” urged Ned, who had overheard. “We know Dorothy.”
“And we know you,” added his brother. “You’ll have to unwind a better string than that, Tavia. There’s a ‘knot’ in it—Dorothy did not.”
“Ask her!” snapped Tavia, quite offended, and marched away toward the house.
Dorothy at that moment appeared on the side porch. “Come in, boys, do,” she urged. “It’s ten o’clock and everybody else is in the library. Your mother is all ready to unveil the Great Surprise.”

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