It seemed as if cousin Lydia never
would get ready to start. Ever since the letter
from our mammas, Fel and I had been sure we were wanted
at home; but there was no end to the things cousin
Lydia had to do, and so far as we could see, Miss
Samantha and Miss Julia didn’t help her much.
We dared not say this, however; we laid it away in
our minds, with twenty other things we meant to tell
our mothers when we got home.
My great consolation while waiting
was a Maltese kitten with white toes, and eyes the
color of blue clay; and when, at last, the joyful
time came for going to Willowbrook, I begged to take
that kitty with us. Miss Julia said, “Nonsense!”
But cousin Lydia was really a sensible woman; for
what did she do but butter Silvertoe’s paws,
and tie her into an egg-basket.
“But you must take care of her
yourself, Maggie; I shall have my hands full with
you, and Ruphelle, and the baggage.”
Kitty behaved beautifully at first;
but presently the rough mountain roads began to jar
upon her nerves, I think; for by the time the stage
reached the station, she was scratching and mewing
at such a rate that I was ashamed of her. I lagged
behind, so cousin shouldn’t hear.
And was this the depot? A jail,
I should say. Such a wicked man staring through
the hole in the wall! Wonder what he was put in
“The ticket-master, that is,”
said cousin Lydia, smiling at me, though I hoped she
couldn’t see what I had been thinking.
Then she bought the tickets; but she
wouldn’t let Fel or me keep ours. She said
the kitty was all I could manage. So I should
We heard a shriek like my Big Giant.
It frightened me dreadfully; I began to think there
was such a man. No wonder kitty jumped.
Next moment some yellow things came tearing along.
Then I knew it was the cars.
“Come,” said cousin Lydia, climbing the
Well, I intended to come. My
foot was just a little stiff, but I was hurrying as
fast as I could, when up sprang the cover of the basket,
and out popped the kitty. Of course, I wasn’t
going without Silvertoes. She scampered round
the end of the depot, and I ran after her. It
was of no use; she dropped into a hole. I couldn’t
have been gone half a minute; but those yellow things
took that time to whisk off. I ran the whole
length of the platform, calling, “Whoa!”
but they never stopped.
The black-whiskered man had come out
of his cell, and was locking the depot door.
“O, won’t you stop that
railroad? Please, for pity’s sake!”
The man made no reply; only shut one
eye and whistled. I danced and screamed.
There were those things puffing out of breath, and
determined not to stop.
“’Tain’t no use
to make a rumpus. The cars won’t take back
tracks for nobody.”
I thought he didn’t understand.
“Why, my cousin Lydia bought
me a ticket, sir, right out of that hole. Don’t
you know she did? And that railroad went
off and left me. I was getting in in a minute,
as soon as I found my kitty!”
“O, that’s it, hey?
Well, you see this ere’s only a flag-station,
and they don’t stop for cats.”
I began to cry. The man patted
me on the back, just as if I had a fish-bone in my
throat, and called me “Poor sissy.”
It made me very angry seven whole
years old to be called sissy! I wiped
my eyes at once, and told him decidedly that I thought
my cousin would make the “driver” come
back for me.
The man whistled harder. This
caused me to feel a little like a dog that has lost
his master; and I felt so all the more when the man
pointed his finger at me and told me to follow him,
and he would try to get me “put up” for
the night. But not knowing anything better to
do, I trudged after him with my empty basket, forgetting
all about the kitten.
We crossed the road, and went through
a long yard where clothes were drying, till we came
to a little brown house. Near the open door of
the porch sat a woman beating eggs in a yellow pudding-dish.
She had a skin somewhat the color of leather, and
wore a leather-colored dress, gold beads, a brass-topped
comb, and gold ear-drops, like upside down exclamation
points. I thought she looked a little like a sheepskin
book father had in a gilt binding.
“This little creeter got left
by the train, Harr’et; I don’t see but
we shall have to eat and sleep her. What say?”
“Eat and sleep me!” I
took a step backward. Of course they did not
mean what they said; but I thought joking on this occasion
was in very poor taste.
“Got left over? Poor little dear!”
The woman stopped her work to pity
me, and drops of egg dripped from the fork-tines like
yellow tears. I fell to crying then.
“It seems she’s some related
to Captain Tenney’s folks,” said the whistling
man, ending with another love-pat, and “Poor
But even those insulting words could
not stop my crying this time.
“Leave her to me, Peter,”
said the woman. “Most likely she’s
afraid of men folks.”
The man went away, to my great relief,
and she took my bonnet and cloak, and then made me
tell her all about my trials, while she beat time
with her fork. My mouth once open, I talked steadily,
giving the complete history of my life between my
sobs, only leaving out my lie about the
“Something cut my foot and I
go a little lame, or I could have catched that kitty, she
has white pors. But does the railroad
have any right to run off and leave folks that’s
“Never mind, dear, you’re
welcome to stay over with us. Brother Peter and
I never calculate to turn folks away while we have
a crust to eat, or a roof to cover us.”
“O, dear, what poor people!”
I ought not to stay. But it seemed they were
to have something to-night better than crusts.
Harr’et was frying pancakes, how
could she afford it? and shaking them out
of the kettle with a long-handled skimmer into a pan
in a chair. She brought me one, which she called
her “try-cake;” but it didn’t look
like Ruth’s, and I was too homesick to eat;
so I managed to slip it into my pocket.
Harr’et wore heavy calfskin
shoes, and shook the house fearfully when she walked.
I couldn’t help thinking of what she had said
about the roof, and it seemed as if it might fall
any minute and “cover us,” sure enough.
While I sat on the door-step watching
her, all forlorn, she drew out a red armchair, gave
it a little twitch, as you would to a sunshade, and
lo! it turned into a table, with a round top.
Then she covered it with a cloth, from a drawer in
the chair part of the table, and put on some green
and white dishes.
When tea was ready, the whistling
man seemed to know it, and came in. It didn’t
look very inviting to me. The biscuits were specked
with brown spots as if the oven had freckled them;
and I didn’t like molasses for sauce.
I thought of home, and the nice supper
cousin Lydia was eating there, and could almost see
her sitting next to mother, with my purse in her pocket,
and my ticket too. And I could almost see Fel,
and hear her queer grandpa asking her questions, while
Miss Rubie looked on, all smiling, and dressed in
her wedding-gown, of course.
They all thought I was lost, and they
should never see me again. Perhaps they never
would. How could I go home without a ticket?
Once there was a man put off the car because he couldn’t
show a ticket. Fel saw the “driver”
That thought choked me, together with
the sudden recollection that I hadn’t told Harr’et
my purse was gone. She and Peter might be expecting
to make quite a little sum out of my board, enough
to keep the roof on a while longer.
“Do eat, child,” said the man.
“I didn’t tell you, sir,”
I sobbed, “that the railroad ran off with my
purse, cousin Lydia, I mean, and
I haven’t the leastest thing to pay you with!”
I drew out my handkerchief in a great
hurry, and out flew the pancake. Peter and Harriet
looked at it and smiled, and I hid my face in shame.
“Never you worry your little
head about money,” said Peter, kindly. “I
know young ladies about your size ain’t in the
habit of travelling with their pockets full of rocks let
O, what a kind man! And how I
had mistaken him! I forgave him at once for calling
me poor sissy.
“If you’ve done your supper,
Peter, I motion you take her out and show her the
sheep and lambs.”
Peter did so, besides beguiling me
with pleasant talk; but pleasantest of all was the
“Don’t be a bit concerned
about your ticket; I’ll make that all right
And this was the man I had been so
afraid of, only because he was rough-looking, and
liked to make jokes.
He told me his name was Peter Noble,
and Harr’et was his sister, and kept house for
him; and I actually told him in confidence that I meant
to go to Italy when I grew to be a lady; for we became
close friends in a few minutes, and I felt that he
could be trusted.
It was almost dark when we went back
to the kitchen; but there was Harriet, laughing.
“Whose kitty?” said she.
And it was Silvertoes, lapping milk
out of a saucer by the stove. She was very hungry,
and I suppose came to that house because it was so
near the depot. I felt as happy as Robinson Crusoe
when he found Friday. My trials were now nearly
I remember little more, except Peter’s
taking me into a car next day in his arms, and Harriet’s
giving me my kitty through the window. I hope
I thanked them, but am not sure. That was the
last I saw of them; but I carried the marks of Harriet’s
“try-cake” while my frock lasted, for
soap took out the color.
The “driver” treated me
with marked politeness, and when we reached Willowbrook
Corner, put me into the yellow stage, with as much
care as if I had been a china tea-set.
There was a shout when I got home,
for all the family were at the gate.