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HOME > Classical Novels > Dorothy Dale in the West > CHAPTER V THE OLD LADY WITH THE BASKET
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 Time was flying and Mrs. White was becoming anxious. “Do pay the man, Ned, and let us go on. Of course, the cow is not worth so much——”  
“Why, mother, it’s a little thing,” began Nat; but the farmer burst in with a lot of threats as to what he would do if the money was not immediately forthcoming, and Nat .
“It is an imposition, Mrs. White,” warned her . “I’ll go with him, if he likes, and tell the judge about it.”
“I’ll pull you all,” threatened the farmer, , “if you don’t fork over the money for my caow—yes, I will, by Jo!”
“If he talks fresh to mother,” Nat to Ned, “we ought to take away his tin star and club and throw him into the ditch.”
“No use making a bad matter worse,” said Ned.
“It is unfair,” Dorothy said, warmly. “Fifty dollars is a lot of money. Can’t we our trip and go to court with this man?”
“Goodness, Dot!” exclaimed her aunt, who heard this. “Our are engaged upon that train. We cannot wait here. Of course the cow isn’t worth so much as this man asks——”
At that moment a dilapidated figure into the radiance of the lights. It was an ancient darkey, with kinky gray wool, and he took off his hat as he asked:
“Ebenin’, genmen an’ ladies. Is yo’ seed anythin’ ob my cow? She done strayed erway ag’in, an’ I’s powerful anxious ter recover her—ya-as, suh!”
“Another cow!” Nat. “The owner of that pet deer will be around next.”
“What kind of a cow was it?” asked Tavia, .
“Jes’ a cow, Ma’am,” said the old darkey. “Jes’ a ord’nary ornery cow, Ma’am. Ebenin’, Mars’ Judson,” he added, seeing the farmer for the first time. “Has you seed my cow?”
“Naw, I ain’t,” snapped the farmer.
Here Dorothy Dale suddenly broke into the meeting. “Did your cow have a big white patch on her left shoulder, and is she otherwise a red cow?” asked the girl.
“Ya-as’m. That suah is my cow.”
35 “Turn your light on that one against the fence, Ned,” commanded Dorothy. “Now look, sir,” she added, to the old negro. “Is that your cow?”
“Suah is!” declared the darkey, gladly. “Das my Sookey-cow. Law-see! She done broke her horn. I wisht she bruk two on ’em; she couldn’t hook herself t’rough de parstur fence no mo’.”
“Well! what do you know about that?” demanded Tavia.
“This ought to have his badge taken away,” Nat.
Aunt Winnie was a most timid lady, but she was angry now. “You shall be reported for this, sir, just as soon as I get back from the West,” she promised the farmer. “Give the colored man five dollars, Ned. He deserves something for showing us what this other man is.”
The old darkey was enough to accept a five dollar note for the loss of the cow’s horn. The creature was not really hurt, and everybody was satisfied save the constable-farmer who had over-reached himself. He dared say nothing more about arresting the automobile party, and the two cars soon got under way again and shot off along the road to Portersburg station.
There was no further adventure on the way. They arrived at the station with five good minutes to spare. The town was asleep, but the agent was in his office with the tickets for Mrs. White’s party and the for the Pullman berths.
They were to have a section to themselves, and an extra besides. Dorothy was to occupy this extra berth, which proved to be an upper.
Everybody else aboard the car was asleep and the porter made up their berths at once. “I do so hate to half undress in the corridor of a car,” grumbled Tavia. “It’s as bad as camping out.”
“But we pay good money for the privilege,” said Dorothy. “I wonder why we are always so easy—we Americans?”
“Our fatal good nature. That’s it!” cried Tavia.
Dorothy had a idea that somebody in the berth beneath her was restless. Then she fell asleep, roused only now and then by the stopping and starting of the train. At seven she was wide awake, however, and as the train was still going at full speed, she crept down from her high and started for the ladies’ room at the end of the car.
But suddenly a hand was stretched out for her and the person in the lower berth whispered:
“I say, Miss! I say!”
Dorothy turned to see a little old lady, in a close, black with the , but otherwise dressed. It was plain she had gone to bed in all her clothing the night before.
37 “Can a body git up, Miss?” whispered the worried old creature. “My goodness me! I been useter gittin’ up when the fust rooster crows; this has been the longest night I ever remember.”
“Why, you poor dear!” returned Dorothy, warmly. “Of course you can get up. Come with me and I’ll help you tidy yourself for the day. You must feel all mussed up.”
“I do,” admitted the old lady, feelingly.
She came after Dorothy, but the latter saw that she bore with her a covered basket, the cover being tied close with bits of string.
“You need not be afraid of leaving your lunch basket in the berth. Nobody will take it,” Dorothy said.
“I—I guess I’ll keep it by me,” said the old lady, with a timid smile.
Dorothy was able to make the old lady comfortable, and she found out several things about her while the porter arranged their berths. She was a Mrs. Petterby, and had lived all her life long (she was over sixty) in the little mill town of Rand’s Falls, in Massachusetts.
This was the very first time the old lady had ever been ten miles from the house where she was born. She had lived alone in her own house for the last few years, her husband and all her children but one being dead.
“My baby, he’s out West. I’m a-going to see38 him,” declared Mrs. Petterby. “He sent me money for ticket and all, long ago; he told me to put it in the bottom of the old teapot, where I’d be sure to know where it was, and then I could start for Colorado any time the fit tuk me.
“Did seem day b’fore yisterday, as though I’d got to see my baby again. He was dif’rent from the other children—sort o’ wild and hard to manage. He had a flare-up with his dad and went West.
“But there ain’t a o’ harm in my baby—no, Ma’am! An’ so I tell ’em. His father said so himself b’fore he died. He warn’t like the rest o’ the children, so his father didn’t understand him.
“He’s doin’ well, he writes. Gets his forty-five dollars ev’ry month, and sends me part. Of course, I don’t need it; I got it all in the Rand’s Falls Bank. But I kep’ out this ticket money, like he said; and—here I be!” and she cackled a soft little laugh, and smiled a transfiguring smile as she thought of the surprise she was going to give “her baby.”
She was going to Dugonne, the very town where Dorothy and her friends were to leave the train. So the girls sort of adopted the little old lady. But they could not find out what was in her basket.
Tavia was enormously curious. “I saw her39 dropping something through a crack into the basket,” she whispered to Dorothy. “She was feeding it.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed her chum.
“You see. It’s no lunch basket. It’s something alive.”
“A dog?” suggested Dorothy.
“Maybe a cat.”
“Or a parrot?” again said Dorothy.
“Or a rabbit.”
“It couldn’t be a canary, I s’pose?” asked Dorothy.
“Or a pet goldfish?” Tavia.
“How ridiculous!” returned the other girl.
Everybody went to breakfast when it was announced, save Mrs. White. She had a “railroad headache,” and lay back in her seat with closed eyes and an ice-pack upon her forehead. But Dorothy thought she ought to have something to “stay her stomach.”
“You know,” she said to Tavia, “this car will be taken off and we will not be able to get even a glass of milk for her before noon.”
Mrs. Petterby overheard this, and she blushed and whispered: “I got one o’ them bottles that keeps things hot or cold, as you want ’em. You get some milk off the ice, and then it will be all ready to have the egg broke into and shaken up when your auntie wants it, by and by.”
 “That’s nice of you!” cried Dorothy, and proceeded to call the waiter and order the cold milk.
“But where’ll you get an egg—a real fresh egg, I mean?” Tavia. “Not on a dining-car.”
“That’s so!” groaned Dorothy. “And Aunt Winnie is so particular about her eggs. She can always tell if an egg is the least bit stale.”
The old lady leaned forward again, and once more the pretty pink flush her cheek. She was a keen-eyed, birdlike person, and her manner was timid like a bird’s.
“If—if you don’t mind waiting about an hour, I shouldn’t be surprised if I—I could supply the fresh egg,” she said.
“You?” Tavia, amazed.
“You know where we can buy one, you mean?” Dorothy.
“Oh, you won’t have to buy one,” declared Mrs. Petterby. “I’d be glad enough to give it to you.”
“But who has fresh eggs on this train?” demanded Tavia.
“I guess nobody has them to sell, dearie,” said the little old lady, smiling. “But in about an hour I can get one.”
“Do—do you think she’s just right, Doro?” whispered Tavia, on the sly.
 Dorothy did not know. It sounded very to her. But the little old lady seemed quite in her right mind, and she went back to the Pullman, still clinging to her basket.
That mystery furnished the girls and Ned and Nat with subject matter for an endless discussion. They guessed at its contents as everything from a white rat to a jewel-box, or a root of horseradish that Nat declared he believed she was taking with her from her garden, to transplant on her son’s . “His horses will like it, you know,” said Nat, seriously.
“Yes,” agreed his brother, “on their . Horseradish is very good as a with raw oysters.”
“And of course they rake oysters right out of the streams and ponds in Colorado,” sniffed Tavia, with a superior air. “Was anything ever crazier?”
Dorothy went to sit beside Mrs. Petterby again. The old lady was smiling . “I guess I’ll stay as much as a week with my baby,” she declared to Dorothy. “I hope I won’t be homesick before the week’s up.”
“But it will take you almost a week to get there, and a week to return—and you intend to stay in Colorado only a week?”
“I declare, child! I don’t believe I could stand it longer. I don’t think I could stand furrin’ parts—not at all. Rand’s Falls, Massachusetts, is good enough for me.”
There was a movement in the basket. Dorothy was sure of it. And a sort of crooning noise. Dorothy looked her and curiosity—she could not help it.
“There! there!” said the old lady, softly, and tapping the basket. Then she looked aside at the girl and whispered:
“Don’t you tell that conductor. They told me that I couldn’t take her with me unless I her and put her in the baggage car. But I’ll show ’em!”
“What is it?” breathed Dorothy. “Oh! I won’t tell.”
“There! your auntie can have her fresh egg in a minute or two now. I know Ophelia.”
“Ophelia?” gasped Dorothy.
“Yes. That’s her name. I gave it to her when she was a little bit of a chicken.”
“A hen!” exclaimed the amazed Dorothy.
“Yes. She’s a regular pet—and not much more than a year old. She was the only one left of a brood that my old Blackie brought off last May was a year ago,” said Mrs. Petterby.
“I couldn’t afford to have old Blackie nussin’ just one chicken,” she pursued, calmly. “So I brought Ophelia up by hand. She was just as cunning as she could be.
43 “She sat on my shoulder when I ate breakfast, and she’d eat her share of johnny-cake and sausages, too—yes, Ma’am! Then she’d take a nap sometimes, in my lap, when I sot down in my rocker by the kitchen window.
“And when she got to be a good sized pullet and I was lookin’ for her to begin to lay pretty quick, I declare if she didn’t up into my lap and lay her first egg.”
“My!” exclaimed Dorothy, in wonder.
“I left my flock in the care of my next door neighbor; but I knowed Ophelia would be lonesome for me.
“So,” concluded the little old lady, “I’m a-takin’ her through unbeknownst to the conductor. Don’t you tell! And now—there!”
She thrust her hand under one flap of the covered basket. There was a little sound, a seemingly objecting , and out came the old lady’s hand with a white, clean and warm egg.
“I expect she’s gettin’ sort of broody,” said Mrs. Petterby, dropping the egg into Dorothy’s hand. “She’s beginnin’ to think of settin’ an’ tryin’ to raise a famb’ly. That’s all she knows about it—poor thing!
“Well, there’s your aunt’s egg, child.”

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