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HOME > Classical Novels > Dorothy Dale in the West > CHAPTER XIII AT THE RANCH HOUSE
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 “I thought I was in an airship!” Tavia declared.  
That was after the excitement was all over, however. At the moment the mustangs started, all she did was to scream!
The four half-wild little beasts leaped forward with one accord when the frightened pullet flew squawking over them. The coach lurched horribly; but the wheels remained in the ruts.
Old John Dempsey held the ribbons, and held them firmly; but he was not on the driver’s side of the seat. There was both a foot-break and a half-lever-break; but he was unable to reach either. And in his old arms was no longer the strength to pull the beasts in.
Ned and Nat were shut off from the front seat by their mother and the two girls. Tavia, beside screaming, seized the railing of the seat. Aunt Winnie clung to her, and would have seized Dorothy as well, but the latter flung off her aunt’s hand and over the back of the driver’s seat.
 Frightened as she was, brave Dorothy knew that it was her chance, and her chance only. As the mustangs gathered their feet under them and whipped the old coach up the side of the , Dorothy slid into the place the Mexican had .
Fortunately she had watched him manipulate the brakes. And the mustangs had the drag of the coach behind them going up hill. Going down it might have been a very different story. True it was, that when the panting, straining horses came out upon the level at the top of the rise, they were glad to stop to breathe. With Dorothy giving them the brakes and the old Grand Army Veteran on the lines, the four were glad to stop.
Up came José , having left the excited old lady, and the excited hen, at the bottom of the hill. What he said in his own language to the horses was a plenty! But in the next breath he praised Dorothy for her pluck in most terms.
As for that matter, they all praised her; but Dorothy would not listen.
“Somebody had to do it—why not me?” she demanded. “Now, Ned and Nat, you run back there and help Mrs. Petterby catch that hen, and then bring them both on. We’ll wait here for you.”
 It was then that Tavia had a slight attack of hysterics. “That hen will be the death of me! she will! she will!” the girl. “Did you ever hear of anything so ridiculous in all your life?”
“Now, don’t laugh and make Mrs. Petterby feel as though you were laughing at her,” Dorothy.
“But if we take her to ride with us, and Ophelia lays an egg in this stage, and the egg hatches out a chicken,” gasped Tavia, “that chicken will be a nervous from the start. At least, it will be with St. Vitus Dance.”
“Do be reasonable!” exclaimed Dorothy. “There! the boys have caught Ophelia.” She was up on the stage roof, looking back at the little group below. Suddenly a man on -back appeared over the last rise the coach had crossed, and headed down into the hollow.
“Who’s that coming?” demanded Tavia, from whose bright eyes little escaped.
“It’s our of the !” exclaimed Tavia, excitedly. “It’s Mr. Lance.”
“I believe you are right. That is Gaby he is riding.”
“Of course it is Gaby,” said Tavia. “Now we can introduce him to your aunt. And oh! Mrs. White! he is just the loveliest thing!”
 “How recklessly you talk about the young men, Octavia,” said Mrs. White. “I believe he was very kind to you girls, however. I shall be glad to thank him.”
Ned was Mrs. Petterby along on his arm, while Nat carried the basket, with Ophelia safely fastened within, when Lance overtook them.
The cowboy raised his hat in and would have ridden on, but Mrs. Petterby suddenly manifested much excitement. She screamed aloud and even Dorothy, on top of the hill, heard her:
“Lance Petterby! for the good land’s sake! if it ain’t my baby!”
The cowboy swung in his saddle, pulled the pony up short, and instantly leaped to the ground.
“Jerusha Juniper!” he yelled. “MOTHER!”
The little old lady ran straight into his arms. The big cowpuncher caught her up and hugged her tightly. Even at that distance Dorothy could see the surprise and delight upon his .
“And we never dreamed,” murmured Tavia, “that ‘Lance’ was his first name.”
“She has found him; isn’t it ?” cried Dorothy, and she insisted upon climbing down and running to meet the little old lady from Rand’s Falls, Massachusetts, and her stalwart son.
“Mr. Lance!” she cried, “I am so delighted127 to see you. And to think we know your mother, and were just about to give her a ride when those ran away!”
“Jerusha Juniper, Miss!” said the cowboy. “However this old lady got clean out yere, I dunno. But maybe I ain’t glad to see her!”
He caught her up again in his arms, and Mrs. Petterby laughed and flushed like a girl. “Stop your silliness, Lance Petterby,” she ordered. “Set me down. Miss Dale will think ye ain’t got the sense ye was born with. And don’t let that boy drop Ophelia.”
It took some minutes to explain to the cowboy the present situation—and especially how his mother came to be on this lonely trail, afoot.
It seemed that he was often at the squatter—Nicholson’s—house and that was why people in Dugonne had advised Mrs. Petterby to look for Lance there.
They got the old lady into the coach and seated her with the chicken’s basket in her lap, and Mrs. White elected to get down and ride with her. The mustangs started on; Lance Petterby rode beside the stage. Dorothy noticed that the cowboy kept close to Tavia’s side.
Tavia was talking “nineteen to the dozen,” as Nat disgustedly said; “and the use she’s making of her eyes is a shame!” he added, in an aside, to Dorothy. But Dorothy could not stop her chum.The reckless girl had “taken the bit in her teeth.”
Lance was fairly bowled over by the batteries of Tavia’s speech and glances. After all, to the unsophis............
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