Margaret Penrose.

Dorothy Dale in the City





Home is one of the Christmas tyrannies, the young man said. If it were not Christmas some of us might forget all about home.

Still Tavia said not a single word. She now felt hurt. He need not have imagined she cared for his preaching, she thought. And besides, his tie needed pressing, and his vest lacked the top button. Perhaps he had good reasons for wanting to get home to his Ma, she was secretly arguing.

You live in Wildwind not far from the Cedars; do you not? Dorothy asked.

I did live there until last Fall, he replied. But mother lost her health, and has gone out in the country, away from the lake. We are stopping near Dalton.

Tavia fairly gasped at the word Dalton.

Then why dont you go home for Christmas? she blurted out.

I am going to mothers place to get her first, he said. Then, if she feels well enough, we will come back to the Birchlands.

My friend lives at Dalton, Dorothy exclaimed, casting a look of admiration at the flushing Tavia.

Indeed? he replied. Thats my station. I ride back from there. I am glad to have met someone who knows the place. I was fearful of being snowbound or station-bound, as I scarcely know the locality.

I expect to ride in Daddy Brennens sleigh, said Tavia, with an effort. He is the only one to know on a snowy night at Dalton.

Then perhaps you will take pity on a stranger, and introduce him to Daddy and his sleigh, the youth replied. Even a bad snowstorm may have its compensations.

Tavia hated herself for thinking he really was nice. She was not accustomed to being ignored, and did not intend to forget that he had slighted her.

I almost envy you both, said Dorothy, good humoredly. Just see it snow! I can see you under Daddys horse blanket.

Its surely a horse blanket, replied Tavia. We cannot count on his having a steamer rug.

I suppose, said Mr. Niles, the sleigh answers all stage-coach purposes out that way?

As well as freight and express, returned Dorothy. Dear old Dalton! I have had some good times out there!

Why dont you come out now, Doro? asked Tavia, mischievously. There may be some good times left.

The gentleman who had vacated the seat taken by Mr. Niles was now coming back. This, of course, was the signal for the latter to leave.

We are almost at the Birchlands! he said, I hope, Miss Dale, that those boy cousins of yours do not get buried in the snow, and leave you in distress. I remember that auto of theirs had a faculty for doing wild things.

Oh, yes. We had more than one adventure with the Fire Bird. But I do not anticipate any trouble to-night, said Dorothy. I heard from Aunt Winnie this morning.

With a word about seeing them before the end of their journey, he took his chair, while Tavia sat perfectly still and silent, for, it seemed to Dorothy, the first time in her life.

What is it? she asked.

Dont you feel well, Tavia?

I feel like bolting. I have a mind to get off at Bridgeton. Fancy me riding with that angel!

Im sure he is very nice, Dorothy said, in a tone of reproof. I should think you would be glad to have such pleasant company.

Tickled to death! replied Tavia, mockingly.

Im sure you will have some adventure, declared Dorothy. They always begin that way.

Do they? Well, if I fall in love with him, Doro, Ill telegraph to you, and Tavia helped her friend on with hat and coat, for the Birchlands had already been announced.

CHAPTER III
GET A HORSE!

Hello there, Coz! shouted Nat White, as Dorothy stepped from the train. And theres Tavia and well! If it isnt Bob Niles!

Yes, said Dorothy, postponing further greetings until the train should pull out, and Tavias last hand-wave be returned. We met him coming up, and he goes to Dalton.

Well Ill be jiggered! And he has Tavia for company! exclaimed the young man, who for years had regarded Tavia as his particular property, as far as solid friendship was concerned.

And Tavia has already vowed to be mean to him, said Dorothy, as she now pressed her warm cheek against that of her cousin, the latters being briskly red from the snowy air. She would scarcely speak to him on the train.

A bad sign, said Nat, as he helped Dorothy with her bag. There are the Blakes. May as well ask them up; their machine does not seem to be around.

The pretty little country station was gay with holiday arrivals, and among them were many known to Dorothy and her popular cousin. The Blakes gladly accepted the invitation to ride over in the Fire Bird, their auto having somehow missed them.

You look lovely, Mabel Blake complimented Dorothy.

Doesnt she? chimed in Mabels brother, at which Dorothy buried her face deeper in her furs. Nat cranked up; and soon the Fire Bird was on its way toward the Cedars, the country home of Mrs. Nathaniel White, and her two sons, Nat and Ned. Mrs. White was the only sister of Major Dale, Dorothys father, and the Dale family, Dorothy and her brothers, Joe and little Roger, had lately made their home with her.

It lacked but a few days of Christmas, and the snowstorm added much to the beauty of the scene, while the cold was not so severe as to make the weather unpleasant. All sorts of happy remembrances were recalled between the occupants of the automobile, as it bravely made its way through drifts and small banks.

Oh, theres old Peter! exclaimed Dorothy, as a man, his stooped shoulders hidden under a load of evergreens, trudged along.

And such a heavy burden, added Mabel. Couldnt we give him a lift?

Nat slowed up a little to give the old man more room in the roadway. Those Christmas trees are poor company in a machine, he said. I have tried them before.

But it is so hard for him to travel all the way to the village? pleaded Dorothy. We could put his trees on back, and he could

Sit with you and Mabel? and Ted Blake laughed at the idea.

No, you could do that? retorted Dorothy, and Peter could ride with Nat. Please, Nat

Oh, all right, Coz, if it will make you happy. I wish, sometimes, I were lame, halt and old enough to know. Whereat he stopped the machine and insisted on old Peter doing as the girls had suggested.

It was no easy matter to get the trees, and the bunches of greens, securely fastened to the back of the auto, but it was finally accomplished. Peter was profuse in his thanks, for the greens had been specially ordered, he said, and he was already late in delivering them.

Which way do you go? asked Nat.

Out to the Squires, replied Peter. But that road is soft, I wouldnt ask you take it.

Oh, I guess we can make it, proposed Nat. The Fire Bird is not quite a locomotive.

She goes like a bird, sure enough, affirmed Peter. But that road is full of ditches.

We will try them, at any rate, insisted Nat, as he turned from the main road to a narrow stretch of white track that cut through woods and farm lands.

If we are fortunate enough not to meet anything, said Dorothy. But I have always been afraid of a single road, bound with ditches.

Of course, growled Nat, there comes Terry with his confounded cows.

Plowing along, his head down and his whip in hand came Terry, the half-witted boy who, Winter and Summer, drove the cows from their field or barn to the slaughter house. He never raised his head as Nat tooted the horn, and by the time the machine was abreast of the drove of cattle, Nat was obliged to make a quick swerve to avoid striking the animals.

Oh! gasped both Dorothy and Mabel. The car lunged, then came to a sudden stop, while the engine still pounded to get ahead.

Hang the luck! groaned Nat, vainly trying to start the car, which was plainly stalled.

I told you, commented Peter, inappropriately. This here road

Oh, hang the road! interrupted Nat. It was that loon Terry.

As the young man spoke Terry passed along as mutely as if nothing had happened.

Id like to try that whip on him, to see if I could wake him up, said Ted, as he leaped out after Nat to see what could be done to get the car back on the road.

But it was an impossible task. Pushing, pulling, prying with fence rails all efforts left the big, red car stuck just where it had floundered.

I know, spoke Peter, suddenly. Ill get Sanderss horse.

Sanders wouldnt lend his horse to pull a man out of a ditch, said Nat. Ive asked him before.

Thats where you made a mistake, replied Peter. I wont ask him, and he awkwardly managed to get out of the car, and was soon out on the road and making his way across the snow-covered fields.

We may be tried for horse-stealing next, remarked Ted, grimly. Girls, are you perishing?

Not a bit of it, declared Dorothy. This snow is warm rather than cold.

My face is burning, insisted Mabel. But I do hope old Sanders does not set his dogs on us.

Hes as deaf as a post, Ted said. Thats a blessing this time, at least.

There goes Peter in the barn, Dorothy remarked. He has got that far safely, at any rate.

A strained silence followed this announcement. Yes, Peter had gone into the barn. It seemed night would come before he could possibly secure the old horse, and get to the roadway to give the necessary pull to the stalled Fire Bird. They waited, eagerly watching the barn door. Finally it opened. Yes, Peter was coming, leading the horse.

Now! said Peter, standing with an emergency rope ready, if only he gets past the house

He stopped. The door of the snow-covered cottage opened, and there stood the unapproachable Sanders.

Oh! gasped Mabel. Now we are in for it!

Then, said Dorothy, let us be ready for it. Ill prepare the defence, and before they realized what she was about to do she had selected one of the very choicest Christmas trees, and with it on her fur-covered shoulder, actually started up the box-wood lined walk to where the much-dreaded Sanders was standing, ready to mete out vengeance on the man who had dared to enter his barn, and take from it his horse.

Oh Mr. Sanders! called Dorothy. Have you that dear little grand-daughter with you? The pretty one we had at the church affair last year?

You mean Emily? he drawled. Yep, shes here, but

Then, you wonder why we have taken your horse? And why we were stalled here? The others could hear her from the roadway. They could see, also, that Sanders had stopped to listen. Now we want Emily to have a Christmas tree, all her own, went on Dorothy, and Peter is good enough to donate it. But our machine those cars are not like horses, she almost shouted, as Sanders being deaf, and watching the inexorable Peter leading his horse away, had cause to be aroused from his natural surprise. After all, persisted Dorothy, a horse is the best.

By this time Peter was outside the big gate. Sanders made a move as if to follow, when Dorothy almost dropped the clumsy tree.

Oh, please take it! she begged. I want to see Emily while they are towing the machine out. Its a lucky thing it happened just here, and that you are kind enough to let us have your horse.

Well what do you think of that! exclaimed Ted, in a voice loud enough for those near him to hear. Of all the clever tricks!

Oh, depend on Doro for cleverness, replied Nat, proudly. You just do your part, Ted, and make this rope fast.

Mabel stood looking on in speechless surprise. She saw now that Dorothy and old Sanders were entering the cottage. Dorothy was first, and the man, with the Christmas tree, followed close behind her. The boys with Peter were busy with rope, horse and auto. Soon they had the necessary connection made, with Nat at the wheel, and all were tugging with might and main to get the Fire Bird free from the ditch.

If there is anything more nerve-racking than such an attempt, it must be some other attempt at a balking auto. Would it move, or would it sink deeper into the mud that lay hidden beneath the newly-fallen snow?

Nat turned the wheel first this way and then that. Ted had his weight pressed against the rear wheel of the machine, while Peter coaxed and led the horse. Suddenly the old horse, as if desperate, gave a jerk and pulled the Fire Bird clear out into the roadway!

Hurrah! yelled Ted, bounding through the snow.

Great stunt! corroborated Nat. Peter, you are all right!

Peter did some, replied the old man, freeing the horse from the rope that held him to the machine; but that young lady if she hadnt kept Sanders busy we might all have been arrested for horse-stealing.

She knew his weak spot, agreed Nat. That little Emily seems to be the one weak and soft spot in old Sanderss life.

I had better go up and see whats going on, suggested Mabel, as everything seemed about in readiness to start off again.

Good idea, assented her brother, he might be eating her up.

Mabel rather timidly found her way up to the cottage. It was already dusk, but the light of a dim lamp showed her the way, as it gleamed through a gloomy window, onto the glistening snow.

Wont it be perfectly lovely, Emily? she heard Doro saying, as she saw her with her arms about a little red-haired girl, both sitting on a sofa, while Sanders attempted to prop the Christmas tree up in a corner, bracing it with a wooden chair. Mabel raised the latch without going through the formality of knocking. As she entered the room, all but Dorothy started in surprise.

This is my friend, Dorothy hurried to explain, it is she who is going to help me trim the tree up for Emily. We will come to-morrow, and she rose to leave. Mabel will fetch the doll, Emily. That is, of course, if we can persuade Santa Claus to give us just the kind we want, she tried to correct.

A baby dolly with long hair and a white dress, Emily ordered. And I want eyelashes.

Perticular, said Sanders, with a proud look at the child, who, as the boys had said, made up the one tender spot in his life. If her mas cold is better, she is coming up herself.

Is she sick? Emily ventured, glad to be able to say something intelligent.

Yep, replied the old man, sadly. Shes been sick a long time. I fetched Emily over this afternoon in the sleigh.

Well, we are so much obliged, remarked Dorothy. And good-bye, Emily. Youll have everything ready for Santa Claus; wont you?

Ive got my parlor set from last year, said the child, and mamma says Santa Claus always likes to see the other things, to know we took care of them.

Thanks, Sanders, called Peter, at the window. The horse is as good as ever. Dont sell him without giving me a chance. I could do something if I owned a mare like that.

All right, called back Sanders, whose pride was being played upon. He might be worse. Did you put her in the far stall?

Just where I got her. And I tell you, Sanders, even a horse can play at Christmas. Only for him I never could get those trees to town.

And only for Peter, put in Dorothy, we could not have gotten Emily her tree. Now thats how a horse can turn Santa Claus. Good-bye, Mr. Sanders, you may expect us before Christmas.

And then the two girls followed the chuckling Peter back to the Fire Bird, where the boys impatiently awaited them, to complete the delayed party bound for home, and for the Christmas holidays.

CHAPTER IV
A REAL BEAUTY BATH

This is some, remarked Bob Niles, before he knew what he was talking about. They had just been ensconsed in Daddy Brennens sleigh. Tavia was beside him that is, she was as close beside him as she was beside Daddy Brennen, but the real fact was, that in this sleigh, no one could be beside anyone else it was ever a game of toss and catch. But that was not Daddys fault. He never stopped calling to his horse, or pulling at the reins. It must have been the roads, yet everyone paid taxes in Dalton Township.

Dont boast, Tavia answered, adjusting herself anew to the last jolt, this never was a sleigh to boast of, and it seems to be worse than ever now. There! she gasped, as she almost fell over the low board that outlined the edge, one more like that, and I will be mixed up with the gutter.

Perhaps this is a safer place, Bob ventured. I seem to stay put pretty well. Wont you change with me?

No, thanks, Tavia answered, good-humoredly. When Daddy assigns one to a seat one must keep it.

Nice clean storm, Daddy called back from the front. I always like a white Christmas.

Yes, Tavia said, looks as if this is going to be white enough. But what are you turning into the lane for, Daddy?

Promised Neil Blair Id take his milk in for him. He cant get out much in storms rheumatism.

Oh, Tavia ejaculated. Then to Bob: How we are going to ride with milk cans is more than I can see.

The more the merrier, Bob replied, laughing. I never had a better time in my life. This beats a straw ride.

Oh, we have had them too, with Daddy, she told him. Doro and our crowd used to have good times when she lived in Dalton.

No doubt. This is the farmhouse, I guess, Bob added, as the sleigh pulled up to a hill.

Yes, this is Neils place, Tavia said. And there comes Mrs. Blair with a heavy milk can.

Oh, I must help her with that, offered the young man. I suppose our driver has to take care of his speedy horse.

Disentangling himself from the heavy blankets, Bob managed to alight in time to take the milk can from the woman, who stood with it at the top of the hill.

Oh, thank you, sir! she panted. The cans seem to get heavier, else I am getting lazy. But Neil had such a twinge, from this storm, that I wouldnt let him out.

And did you do all the milking? Tavia asked, as Bob managed to place the can in the spot seemingly made for it, beside Daddy.

Certainly. Oh, how do you do, Tavia? How fine you look; Im glad to see you home for Christmas, Mrs. Blair assured the girl.

Thank you. Im glad to get home.

Fetchin company? with a glance at young Niles.

No, hes going farther on, and Tavia wondered why it was so difficult for her to make such a trifling remark.

Well, Im glad he came this way, at any rate, the woman continued. But Daddy will be goin without the other can, and she turned off again in the direction of the barn.

Are there more? Bob asked Tavia, cautiously.

Im afraid so, she replied. But I guess she can manage them.

My mother would disown me if she knew I let her, Bob asserted, bravely. This is an experience not in the itinerary, and he scampered up the hill, and made for the barn after Mrs. Blair.

Tavia could not help but admire him. After all, she thought, a good-looking lad could be useful, if only for carrying milk cans.

And has that young gent gone after the can? asked Daddy, as if just awaking from some dream.

Yes, Tavia replied, rather sharply. He wouldnt let Mrs. Blair carry such a heavy thing.

Well, shes used to it, Daddy declared. At the same time he did disturb himself sufficiently to get out and prepare to put the second can in its place.

A college boy, in a travelling suit, carrying a huge milk can through the snow, Tavia thought rather a novel sight, but Bob showed his training, and managed it admirably.

Ill put her in, offered Daddy, I didnt know you went after it.

So kind of him, remarked Mrs. Blair, but he would have it. Thank you, Daddy, for stopping. Neilll make it all right with you.

Daddy was standing up in the sleigh, the can in his hands, I think, he faltered, Ill have to set this down by you, Miss Travers, he decided.

All right, Tavia agreed, making room at her feet.

He lifted the can high enough to get it over the back of the seat. It was heavy, and awkward, and he leaned on the rickety seat trying to support himself. The weight was too much for the board, and before Bob could get in to help him, and before Tavia could get herself out of the way, the can tilted and the milk poured from it in a torrent over the head, neck and shoulders of Tavia!

Oh, mercy! she yelled. My new furs!

Save the milk, growled Daddy.

Jump up! Bob commanded Tavia. Let it run off if it will.

But Tavia was either too disgusted, or too surprised, to jump up. Instead she sat there, fixing a frozen look at the unfortunate Daddy.

My milk! screamed Mrs. Blair. A whole can full!

Was it ordered? Bob asked, who by this time had gotten Tavia from under the shower.

No, she said hesitatingly, but someone would have took it for Christmas bakin.

Then let us have it, offered Bob, generously. If I had kept my seat perhaps it would not have happened.

Nonsense, objected Tavia, it was entirely Daddys fault.

But Daddy did not hear he was busy trying to save the dregs in the milk can.

Whats it worth? persisted Bob.

Two dollars, replied Mrs. Blair, promptly.

Bob put his hand in his pocket and took out two bills. He handed them to the woman.

There, he said, it will be partly a Christmas present. I only hope my friends furs will not be ruined.

Milk dont hurt, Mrs. Blair said, without reason. Thank you, sir, she added to Bob. This is better than ten thats comin. And land knows we needed it to-night.





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