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HOME > Classical Novels > Dorothy Dale in the West > CHAPTER VII A NIGHT WITH A KNIGHT
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 “Well! I wouldn’t talk as though it had never happened before to anybody,” said Tavia, at last. “Why! even we, Doro, have been left behind before.  
“Still, I grant you, we were never left before behind a fast express, which was speeding your aunt and the boys away from us so rapidly that we will be miles and miles behind before they discover our absence.”
“If, however, they learn that we are behind before they reach——”
“Stop!” commanded Dorothy, dropping down beside the track and covering her ears. “If you say that again, I’ll certainly do something to you.”
They had followed the train down the long platform, screaming to the flagman to pull the signal cord. He had not heard them. He had merely closed the gate and gone into the car.
Here Dorothy Dale and Tavia Travers were, at this un-named prairie station, where—to all appearances—there was not a soul.
“And if anyone is here, I expect I shall be scared to death,” admitted Tavia, sitting down beside her chum.
It was so dark that only the vastness of the earth and sky was made known to them—and that but . Stars twinkled above their heads, but seemingly so high that, as Tavia complained, they did not seem like “the stars at home, back East!”
Sitting facing the railroad tracks, they saw no lights but the switch targets. There was no tower here, nor did there seem to be any life at all about the railroad property. Why the express train had stopped here, to them to disembark, the girls could not imagine.
They were sitting close up against the great corral fence. The deep breathing of the was like the distant, low notes of an organ; the girls were not now interested in the of the presence of such a great number of cattle. But the cattle were curious.
Another came and snorted behind them, and Dorothy and Tavia up in a hurry. “They sound just as as bears,” declared Tavia.
“I don’t see why they have all deserted the cattle,” murmured Dorothy. “I should think there would be a night watch.”
59 “And all the railroad people have deserted, too.”
“Oh, dear!” said Dorothy. “We can’t even send a telegram after the train to tell Aunt Winnie we are all right.”
“But that wouldn’t be true,” said Tavia, shivering. “We are not all right.”
“We-ell,” said her friend, slowly. “I don’t expect there is anything here to hurt us.”
“That’s all right. Maybe there isn’t. But I never did like to be alone in a strange place. I want to be introduced to folks.”
“Maybe there is a cowboy camp near——”
“Bully! let’s find it!” ejaculated Tavia.
“But you wouldn’t know the cowboys. They’d all be strange men.”
“Well! Cowboys are so romantic,” urged Tavia. “Let’s look.”
“You can use your eyes as well as I can,” sighed Dorothy. “But I must say the for finding anybody in this half darkness is not very .”
They started, following the line of the corral fence away from the station. Dorothy was convinced there was no telegraph operator there, and the barn-like building looked more and threatening than did the open prairie. So they were glad to get away from it.
The fence seemed unending. Occasionally a beast faced them, glaring with eyes like hot coals, and pawing the earth. But the fence looked strong.
They were not booted for walking, however, and the ground was . So they hobbled on very slowly.
Tavia seized Dorothy’s arm. “Oh! what’s that?”
“Now, don’t you begin scaring me,” commanded Dorothy. “Oh!”
“Didn’t I tell you?”
“A man on horseback.”
They could see him between them and the skyline. He was riding slowly, and riding toward them. The girls hugged close to the fence and their dark traveling frocks were not noticeable.
The horseman drew nearer. The girls, clinging together, saw that he wore a wide hat and sheepskin chaps that looked like a woman’s divided skirt, they were so wide.
His and snorted, doubtless the girls. But the man a word and did not even gather up the that lay loose on the animal’s neck.
His voice had a pleasant, drawling tone to it. “Easy, there, Gaby—yuh shore ain’t gettin’ no thousand plunks er night for dancing yere—no, Ma’am! Stan’ still a moment, Gaby.”
Then a spark up and the girls knew the61 cowboy had been rolling a cigarette and was now it.
“Sh!” breathed Dorothy. “Watch his face.”
The match flared up, held in the hollow of his hand. The yellow glare of it fell full upon the cowboy’s face.
That was what Dorothy had waited for. She wanted to see what manner of face it was before she spoke—if she spoke at all.
It was a bronzed, beardless, rather reckless ; but there was nothing bad in its expression, and if the features were not strikingly handsome they were pleasant. The mouth and eyes laughed too easily, perhaps; but Dorothy risked it. She walked right up to the pony’s surprised head.
“Please!” she said.
The match went out. So did the spark of the cigarette, as it dropped from the man’s fingers.
“Jerusha Juniper!” the man. “I got ’em!”
“Will you please listen?” asked Dorothy.
“A —and a gal from back East—shore! Why, yes, Ma’am! I’ll listen tuh yuh,” said the amazed cowboy.
Just then Tavia joined her chum and the man muttered: “There’s two on ’em—Jerusha Juniper!”
“Please help us, sir,” pleaded Dorothy again.
“I shore will, Miss,” declared the cowboy. “But yuh did tee-totally sup-prise me—yes, Ma’am!”
Tavia began to . “I guess you’re not used to meeting ladies around here?” she questioned, .
“Jerusha Juniper! I reckon we ain’t; not around here.”
“I didn’t know, for sure,” said the wicked Tavia; “hearing you take a lady’s name in vain so frequently, you know. Is she a friend of yours?”
“Who, Ma’am?” asked the puzzled cowboy, while Dorothy at Tavia’s sleeve.
“‘Miss Jerusha Juniper’—or is she a ‘Mrs.’?”
The man laughed at that and urged his pony nearer to the two girls.
“We see so few females out here we hafter talk about ’em, and name critters after ’em, and all that.”
“I see,” said Tavia, quite assured of herself now.
“Oh, dear!” interrupted Dorothy, anxiously. “All this isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“Jeru—— Well!” said the man. “Where do yuh want tuh go?”
“Why, we’ve been left behind,” said Dorothy, and then she explained their predicament.
The cowboy, who was a young fellow, grasped the situation at once.
“You won’t git even a slow train out o’ yere before noon to-morrer,” he said. “And ’twixt now and then you’d be uncomfortable, I reckon. There ain’t nawthin’ yere but a boardin’ , an’ there ain’t a woman ever stops thar only Miz’ Little, whose old man runs the shack and keeps the corral yere.”
“Goodness!” gasped Dorothy.
“Gracious!” gasped Tavia.
“Oh, they’re nice folks, but they ain’t right to entertain ladies,” said the man.
“And we don’t want to be entertained,” Dorothy. “We want to get on.”
“Shore you do,” granted the cowboy. “No other good train on this road, as I say. If you follered by slow trains you’d never catch that flyer—not in a dawg’s age.”
“What can we do, then?” demanded Dorothy. “Can’t we even telegraph?”
“Now, I’ll fix that for yuh, first of all,” declared the man. “The operator lives at Little’s shack. We’ll him out and make him tell your folks on that train that you’ll overtake ’em at Sessions.”
“But how can we?” asked Dorothy.
“Sessions is a of this line and the old D. & C. Yuh see, I know this country pretty well. I’m over yere for the Double Chain right now, cows, and I was startin’ back to-morrer, anyway. I’ll git you ladies , and we’ll start for Killock to-night.”
“Where’s Killock?” asked Dorothy, doubtfully.
The cowboy vaguely across the prairie. “Right over thar—that-a-way,” he said. “It’s on the D. & C. There’s a fast train stops thar at five in the morning. If we make a pretty quick get-away we’ll easy make it in time, and you’ll ketch your folks at Sessions.”
“Oh, that will be jolly!” cried Tavia.
“But, Tavia!” gasped Dorothy. “How can we ride—in these frocks?”
“Side saddle?” her chum, doubtfully. “Why not?”
“We’d never be able to hang on,” Dorothy, “without a proper riding habit!”
Here the cowboy interrupted. “There isn’t a lady’s saddle in this neck o’ woods. But I can find easy mounts and easy saddles for you. An’ Miz’ Little will let you have skirts. You can send them back with the ponies from Killock.”
“You think of everything!” exclaimed Tavia, gratefully.
Dorothy Dale was doubtful. She had trusted the man’s face and his manner, still——
“Come on, now, to Miz’ Little,” said the cowboy, . “I’ll rout ’em out and we’ll be on the jog in half an hour, ladies.”
The man’s free and familiar way troubled Dorothy more than anything else. Yet, she knew that this was the West and that western ways were not eastern ways. And there was a woman they could talk to, at least!
So she and Tavia, hand in hand, followed behind the cowboy. He had dismounted, but the track would not allow of their walking . And he made as slow progress in his high-heeled riding boots as the girls did, over the rough way.
Their eyes were more accustomed to the path now, or else it was not so dark. However, they could not have mistaken the bulk of the cowboy and that of the pony, before them.
It certainly was a strange experience. Two eastern girls thrown suddenly into a situation of this character! An unknown protector, an unknown locality, and unknown adventures before them.
“What an experience!” breathed the delighted Tavia. “And he’s a regular .”
“Is he?”
“A knight of the ,” whispered Tavia. “It’s so romantic.”
“I am glad you like it,” said Dorothy, grimly.
“Why! don’t you, Dorothy Dale?”
“I would give a good deal to be back aboard that train with Aunt Winnie.”
“Never!” cried Tavia.
“All right there, ladies?” threw back the “knight” over his shoulder. “There’s the light ahead.”
“Oh! we are all right,” said Tavia, with assurance.
Dorothy was not at all sure, so she said nothing.
In a few minutes they came to a long, low building. There was a dim light shining through a window in the end of the shack.
The cowboy dropped his pony’s bridle-rein upon the ground and the well-trained animal stood still. The “knight” knocked on the door and at once a fierce voice asked:
“Who’s thar?”
“Lance,” said the man.
“Well. I told you Number Eight was empty, Lance.”
“I ain’t goin’ to stay, Miz’ Little.”
“Aw-right,” pursued the same gruff voice, which the girls could scarcely believe was a woman’s. “I’ll let the nex’ pilgrim thet comes erlong have it.”
“I gotter see yuh,” said the cowboy. “Git up, will yuh?”
“What yuh want, Lance?”
“Come yere. Land’s sake! S’pose I’m talkin’ for pleasure?”
A couch . There was immediately a heavy footstep on the creaking floor. The girls were rather startled. They wondered if the savage sounding female was coming to the door just as she got out of bed?
But “Miz’ Little” had evidently been lying down dressed. When the door opened she was revealed in a shapeless dark gown. Only, her head and feet were bare.
She was a gigantic creature—a good deal bigger than the cowboy who had befriended the girls. Dorothy saw at once that she had a very face, despite her masculine appearance.
“I !” she said, starting. “Ladies with you, Lance?”
“Yep. And they want to git on to Killock to-night. They’ll tell you all about it. I’m goin’ to rout out that thar key-pusher.”
“He’s in Number Six,” said Mrs. Little. Then to the girls: “Come in. are yere erbout as often as angels—an’ I ain’t never hearn their wings yit.”
Dorothy and Tavia entered—yet not without some hesitancy. The room was large, and almost bare of furnishings. There was a broad bed, and on it Mrs. Little had been lying. But there was no other occupant of it, or of the room.
 There was a small cookstove, a chest of drawers, a clock on the shelf, and a picture of Washington crossing the Delaware on the wall. One rocker had a tidy on the back of it, but the other plain deal chairs were undecorated.
The woman herself, however, drew Dorothy Dale’s attention. She was very curious as to what manner of creature she could be—this masculine and gruff spoken female.
In the lamplight Dorothy had a better view of Mrs. Little’s face. Mrs. Little did not have a single pretty or attractive feature, but the girl from the East would have trusted her with anything she !
Mrs. Little looked closely into the faces of both girls. She saw something shining in Dorothy’s eyes.
“Why, chile!” she gasped. “You ain’t re’lly afraid, be yuh?”
Dorothy seized the big, hard hand the woman put out to her. There was help in that hand—and comfort. Tavia appeared not to care, but Dorothy Dale knew that her chum was just as much disturbed in secret over the situation as she was herself.
In rather a breathless way Dorothy told Mrs. Little of the circumstances leading up to their predicament, and her new friend listened sympathetically. “Don’t that beat all?” was her comment.69 “And I expect your folks is scaret, too. But you do like Lance says——”
“Is Lance to be trusted, Mrs. Little?” asked Dorothy, eagerly.
“Lance? Shore! Ef you was both my darters I’d trust yuh with Lance. Men is tuh be trusted with gals out yere. They hafter be. Wimmen is scurce—homes air far apart—a woman has a claim on a man in the wild places that she don’t have in cities. Shore!
“That’s what it is, Miss. It takes an out an’ out vilyun to be mean to a woman or a gal w’en there ain’t a of protection for her otherwise. Shore! Most western men, I ’low, air to be trusted.”
But Dorothy and Tavia thought of Philo , and took this broad statement with a grain of salt. Or was it, that Mr. Marsh, even, would have been under the present conditions?
Dorothy was satisfied that the cowboy called Lance was a man to be depended upon. She had really believed in him from the start; now she believed even more in Mrs. Little, who stood sponsor for him.
Almost at once Lance reappeared with a sleepy man whom he had evidently gotten out of bed.
“Write your message, Ma’am,” said the cowboy, “and this man will send it. Make it re’l strong. We’ll ketch ’em at Sessions by noon to-morrer. They stop over an’ wait a while for yuh.
“Their tickets will be good on the D. & C. I’ve often done it myself. And yuh’ll all be in Dugonne to-morrer night, anyway, so it won’t matter erbout your .”
It was evident that Lance had traveled some and knew his way about. Now he hurried away for the horses while Dorothy wrote the message to be sent after the flying train. It was not yet an hour since Dorothy and Tavia had left the observation car.
Fortunately Dorothy had her handbag with her, and the purse in it was well supplied with money. She asked the operator to count the words of the message, and paid him for it on the spot.
Meanwhile Mrs. Little had made coffee and she insisted upon the girls having some and sampling her cake. When Lance came with the mounts he was likewise regaled, in the .
A chill wind was blowing off the prairie, but not a cloud was to be seen. The sky was thickly speckled with stars.
“You’re going to have a right pleasant ride,” Mrs. Little, producing two of her own voluminous skirts for the girls.
 She helped them tuck up their own frocks and arranged the skirts about them after they were mounted.
“Everybody rides a-straddle out yere,” said the good lady, laughing. “An’ yuh kin cling on better. Yuh got some ridin’ tuh do b’fore yuh reach Killock. It’s fifty mile.
“Now, Lance, don’t yuh be reckless. Ef anythin’ happens tuh these gals I’ll be in yuh wool, an’ no mistake!”
“Huh! nawthin’s goin’ tuh happen to them,” laughed Lance. “How erbout me? I eat two of that cake o’ yourn, Miz’ Little, an’ I expect Gaby will right down with me inside of a mile, I’ll be so heavy.”
“Git erlong with yuh!” retorted Mrs. Little, used to the cowboys’ rough jokes. “It’s better cake than that Chinaman makes you at the Double Chain Outfit, I vow!”
After that they rode off into the night, with the “knight of the lariat.”

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