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HOME > Classical Novels > Dorothy Dale in the West > CHAPTER VI “THE BREATH OF THE NIGHT”
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 The girls and Mrs. White’s sons were vastly amused by the egg incident. Aunt Winnie thankfully drank her egg and milk, but her boys joked about the production of “Ophelia” being so quickly “swallowed up.”  
“And why didn’t the old lady bring along Hamlet?” demanded Nat. “The Prince of Denmark would have found life in a Pullman endurable, I fancy. He was a old shark.”
“Speaking of eggs,” Ned said, ignoring his brother’s irreverent observation about the Dane, “speaking of eggs——”
“Well! speak, I prithee!” said Tavia.
“Why, there was a chap performing tricks of legerdermain one night, and he took eggs from a high hat, as usual. In his ‘patter’ he interpolated a remark to a wide-eyed small boy who sat down front.
“‘Say, sonny, your mother can’t get eggs without hens, can she?’ he said to the kid.
“‘Yes, she can,’ replied the boy.
“‘How does she do it?’ the conjurer.
“‘She keeps ducks,’ says the kid.”
“Good! good!” quoth Nat, applauding. “If you hadn’t told it, Ned, I would.”
“Ah-ha!” cried Tavia. “You boys have been reading the same joke-book, and have gotten your wires crossed.”
“Goodness, Tavia! Don’t. Such slang as you use!”
The train was bearing them rapidly and toward the West. The girls and Ned and Nat enjoyed this sort of traveling immensely. At the rear of the train was a fine observation platform, and the four young folk got more benefit of the chairs there than any of the travelers.
The in part was lovely. They liked, too, to sit there as the train roared through the smaller towns where there was no stop. And it was nice when they swept over the rolling prairies and crossed the mid-western rivers on the long bridges.
The stops at the larger cities were never long; then the train would fly on again, reeling off the miles at top-speed. The second night they did not mind sleeping in the . And Dorothy helped Mrs. Petterby get ready for bed so that she felt more comfortable.
“But it does seem awful resky,” she sighed. “Suppose there should be a smash-up—an’ me without my skirt on!”
 There was a smash-up the next day, but fortunately the train in which Dorothy Dale rode was not in the accident. Two freight trains went into each other some ways ahead of the express, and spread themselves all over the right of way. It would take some time to clear the mess up so that the express could pass; therefore the latter was stopped at a very pleasant Illinois town and the conductor told the young folk they would have at least two hours to wait.
“Goody-good!” exclaimed Tavia. “Let’s run and see if we can get some candy at a decent price, Doro. The candy-butcher aboard this train is a highway-robber.”
“I can beat that for a suggestion,” Nat said. “Why not find a place where we can get something beside this stuff to eat. I haven’t the heart to eat all I want to in the dining-car.”
“Why not?” asked Dorothy.
“It costs so much.”
“Come on,” agreed Ned. “We’ll go .”
“Be sure you get back in time, children,” ordered Aunt Winnie.
But she expected Dorothy to keep her wits about her, whether the rest of them did or not. Near the railroad station there was nothing that appealed to Dorothy and Tavia—no restaurant, at least. But up a clean, bright little side street47 from the public square they saw a small, white painted house, with green doors and green window frames. Over the one big window beside the open door was a sign that read:
“That looks nice,” said Dorothy.
“And look at that dear, old, clean colored Mammy!” Tavia.
On the platform before the little restaurant was a large colored woman with a bandana on her head, a spotless dress and white , and her sleeves rolled up to her fat elbows.
“I bet she can cook,” quoth Ned, with assurance.
“We’ll give the Oriental a whirl,” agreed Nat.
But just as they were crossing the street to go to the place, Tavia suddenly exclaimed: “Oh! there’s somebody in there.”
“Well, what of it?” asked Ned.
“It’s hardly big enough for us. Let’s wait till that man comes out. I don’t like his looks, anyway. He has his hat on,” declared Tavia.
They all saw the man in question. He was a black-browed and broad-hatted stranger, and he sat at a table in the little eating place, staring out through the window with a frown on his brow. He was not an attractive looking man at all.
 “I bet he has a bad conscience!” exclaimed Nat.
“Or indigestion,” chimed in his brother.
“He won’t eat us,” said Dorothy, doubtfully. “If we do go in——”
“I say, Mammy!” cried Tavia, to the smiling colored woman. “Do you do the cooking?”
“’Deed an’ I do, Missie,” declared the woman. “An’ I got de freshes’ dat eber come out o’ de ribber. An’ light beaten’ biscuit—an’ co’npone, an’ all de odder fixin’s.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Nat, his lips.
“But can’t we have the place to ourselves?” complained Tavia. “If that man was only gone!”
“Yo’ mean Cunnel Pike?” whispered the colored woman. “He comes yere befo’. He’s er-gwine out on dat train wot’s stalled down yander——”
“That’s the train we’re going out on,” Tavia declared. “Like enough he’ll stay here till it goes.”
“But we can eat in there if he is present,” said Dorothy, again. She knew just how stubborn Tavia was when she got an idea in her head.
“We’ll get him out! I’ll tell you,” gasped Tavia, suddenly.
“How?” demanded the others, in chorus.
49 “No, I won’t. Only Nat. I’ll tell him. You can order the meal, Ned, and while it is being cooked we’ll fix it so that man will leave. Come on, Nat.”
Nat went off with her. The others were doubtful of her scheme, but they were hungry. So Ned instructed the colored woman as to the repast and then he and Dorothy sat down on the steps to wait for developments.
Meanwhile Tavia led Nat back to the main square of the village. “Run, get me a telegraph blank from the station,” she ordered, and Nat, without question, did as he was bade.
Tavia quickly wrote a message and addressed it to “Colonel Pike, Oriental Lunch Room,” with the name of the town appended. “Now,” she said to Nat, “I dare you to send this message,” and her eyes danced.
Nat read it through once, looked puzzled, and then read it twice and grinned—the grin expanding as the full significance of the joke his mind.
“Crickey-Jiminy!” he exclaimed. “But if they tell him?”
“Telegraph operators are not supposed to tell. Instruct this one not to do so, Nat. Now, I dare you!”
“You can’t dare me,” boasted Nat, and hurried back to the station. When he returned they strolled on to the Oriental Lunch Room once more and rejoined Ned and Dorothy.
“Now! whatever have you been doing, Tavia?” demanded Dorothy.
Tavia could not help . “Just you wait and see,” she said.
“I hope you didn’t let her do anything very bad,” Dorothy said to Nat.
“I helped her do something smart,” returned her cousin, looking with at pretty Tavia.
Just then a boy with a Western union cap came up and went into the little restaurant. “Say!” he demanded of the black-browed man. “Are you Pike?”
“Am I what?” asked the man, in a voice.
“Cunnel Pike’s the name,” said the boy. “And right at this restaurant.”
“Oh! a telegram?” demanded the man, in surprise. “Well, that’s my name,” and he put his hand out for the envelope.
“Sign here,” said the boy, and after he had gotten the signature in his book he gave up the message and went out.
“Look!” gasped Tavia, clinging to Dorothy’s hand.
All four of the young people watched the man behind the window. They saw him tear open the envelope and read the message . Then his heavy, dark face changed and curiosity was blended first with and then with something very like fear.
He started to tear the message up. Then he got to his feet and his face began to pale. Dorothy and the others watched him in wonder and some alarm.
Finally the man grabbed his hat brim and pulled it down over his eyes. He strode out of the place and down the steps, without looking at the boys and girls, and started straight for the railroad station.
As he went his trembling fingers relaxed and the telegraph message dropped at Dorothy’s feet.
“What do you know about that?” whispered Nat. “We sent him that message.”
“What?” demanded Dorothy, and snatched it up.
She uncrumpled the sheet of yellow paper and read in the letters of the old typewriter which the local operator used:
“Come home at once. All is forgiven.”
“Tavia Travers!” cried Dorothy. Then she burst into laughter, and so did Ned when he had read the slip of paper.
“I believe I have done a very good thing,”52 claimed Tavia, quite seriously. “No wonder that old Colonel Pike looked like a ‘grouch.’ He had trouble on his mind, and now we’ve sent him home to get it all straightened out.”
“Oh, Tavia!” Dorothy again.
“I’d give a good bit to be at his home—if he goes there—and see what happens,” Ned said, when he had ceased laughing.
“Anyway,” grinned Nat, “the ‘bogey man’ is gone and we can take possession of the Oriental Lunch Room.”
Which they forthwith proceeded to do. The old colored woman served them a delicious meal, and added to their of it by her comments upon many things, not the least of which was her wonder as to “what tuk Cunnel Pike out o’ yere so suddent like.”
The gay little party left the restaurant in good season and rejoined Aunt Winnie aboard the train. They saw nothing more of the man called “Cunnel” Pike. Another train had just gotten away for the East and Tavia said:
“I tell you he has gone home. We did a very good action—probably have changed the current of his whole life.”
“Like to over the shoulder of the Angel, Tavia, and see what’s marked down against you for that telegram—eh?” Ned.
53 “Well!” declared Dorothy, “I hope when he gets home they will be as glad to see him as that message intimated.”
“Well, I shouldn’t worry and get wrinkled!” Tavia.
“I guess we’ll never know about that,” said Ned.
“It’s like one of those stories in the papers, ‘continued in our next’—and you always miss your copy of the next number,” said Nat. “I’ve a dozen different plots ‘hanging fire’ in my mind that I never will get to know how they finish up.”
“Learn to read books, then,” advised his brother, “and stop littering up your mind with such useless stuff.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Nat. “You talk like Professor Grubber. Oh, I say! Did you hear of that one they had on Old Grubs in class one day? He was discussing organic and kingdoms. Says he:
“‘Now, if I should shut my eyes—so—and drop my head—so—and remain still, you would say I was a clod. But I move. I leap. Then what do you call me?’
“And Poley Gray says, quite solemnly, ‘A clodhopper, sir.’ It got them all,” concluded the slangy Nat. “Even Old Grubs himself had to laugh.”
 After that two-hour hold-up of their train the party found that the speed at which they traveled was greatly increased. Each engineer in turn tried to make up a bit of that handicap, and the travelers were tossed about in their berths that night in rather a disturbing manner.
Mrs. Petterby would not have gone to bed at all had it not been for Dorothy’s encouragement; she would have sat up with her pullet in her lap, and her firmly tied under her chin.
“I’m ever expectin’ to have this train crash right into another,” said the old lady. “And I want to be ready for it.”
“Do you think you’ll be any more ready sitting up than you will be lying down, dear Mrs. Petterby?” Dorothy asked.
“Seems as if I would,” returned the old lady. “I tell you what! I sha’n’t come out to see my baby no more. I shall tell him that. And I the going back.”
“Perhaps you will like Colorado so much that you will want to stay.”
“What? And never see Rand’s Falls, Massachusetts, again?” exclaimed Mrs. Petterby, in horror. “I—guess—not.”
“I hope we shall see her baby when she meets him,” Doro said, tenderly. “And I hope he’s all she expects him to be.”
55 “A cow-puncher at forty-five a month,” Nat.
“Oh! but cowboys are romantic,” said Tavia, quickly.
“Look out for her, Dot,” begged Ned. “You’ll have to her to get her past any cow-punching we may meet. I can see that.”
On the following day when the train crossed the first ranges and they little bunches of five hundred or a thousand head of “longhorns,” Tavia went into .
The four young folk from the East remained upon the observation platform most of the time. Even after supper the girls went back there to view the prairies in the gloaming.
There was a distant light here and there, like a low-hung star; but there were few towns, or even settlements. Suddenly the train slowed down and they saw several switch-targets. Then they passed the ghostly fence of a large corral, and they ran by a barn-like, darkened station and freight sheds.
The train stopped altogether. The girls saw the flagman seize his lantern and run back to set his signal. “Come on!” exclaimed Tavia. “He’s left the gate open.”
She gave Dorothy no time to decide, but ran lightly down the steps herself and sprang onto the path. Dorothy followed.
“Listen!” whispered Tavia, seizing her chum’s hand, tightly. “Hear the night breathe.”
There did seem to be a vast, curious sound to the inhalation of breath.
Dorothy listened to the sound with a wonder that grew. It was not the engine exhaust. It was a sound like nothing she had ever heard before.
“See! there’s another big corral beyond the station,” Tavia said. “Come on!”
She led Dorothy down the platform, and out upon the softly giving earth.
The headstrong Tavia went directly toward the high fence. The regular, breathing seemed to surround them.
Of a sudden, something against the fence before them. There was a bump against the bars, and two shining eyes transfixed them.
The engine gave a single long-drawn . Instantly the car wheels began to turn, while from the creature inside the corral fence came a .
“Goodness me!” Tavia. “It’s cattle—the corral’s full of cattle.”
“That isn’t the worst of it!” returned Dorothy, grabbing her hand and starting to run. “We’re being left behind, Tavia Travers!”

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