MoboReader> Literature > Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways

   Chapter 5 WAIFS AND STRAYS

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 8286

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"What a cruel, cruel thing!" Nan murmured.

"I never supposed the railroad took babies as baggage," said her chum wonderingly.

At that Nan uttered a laugh that was half a sob. "Silly! reach down that lantern, please. Stand on the box. I'll show you what sort of a baby it is."

Bess obeyed her injunction and brought the light. Nan was kneeling in the corner before a small crate of slats in which was a beautiful, brown-eyed, silky haired water spaniel-nothing but a puppy-that was licking her hands through his prison bars and wriggling his little body as best he could in the narrow quarters to show his affection and delight.

"Well, I never!" cried Bess, falling on her knees before the dog's carrier, and likewise worshipping. "Isn't he the cunning, tootsie-wootsie sing? 'E 'ittle dear! Oh, Nan! isn't he a love? How soft his tiny tongue is," for the puppy was indiscriminate in his expressions of affection.

"I believe the men must have forgotten him," said Nan.

"It's a murderin' shame, as cook would say," Bess declared. "Let's let him out."

"Oh, no! we mustn't-not till we've asked leave."

"Well, who'll we ask?" demanded Bess.

"The baggage-man, of course," said Nan, jumping up. "I believe he's hungry, too."

"Who? the baggage-man?" giggled Bess.

"The puppy, of course," returned Nan.

"We'll feed him some of our pie," suggested Bess.

"He ought to have some warm milk," Nan said seriously.

"Oh, indeed!" exclaimed her chum. "Well, Nan Sherwood, I don't think anybody's thought to milk the cow this morning."

"Oh, be good, Bess," Nan admonished her. The pup began to whimper again.

"Come on; let's find the man."

The girls ventured farther forward. When they opened the door of the car at that end, Bess screamed outright.

"Why! it's a tunnel, Nan," she ejaculated. "Do you see?"

"What a lot of snow there must be above us," her chum rejoined, with gravity.

"Why, this is just the greatest adventure that ever happened," Bess continued. "The men have tunneled through the drift from one car to the other. I wonder how thick the roof is, Nan? Suppose it falls on us!"

"Not likely," responded her chum, and she stepped confidently out upon the platform. The door of the forward car stuck and after a moment somebody came and slid it back a crack.

"Hullo, young ladies!" exclaimed the brakeman, who looked out. "What do you want forward, here?"

"We want to speak to the baggage-man, please," Nan said promptly.

"Hey, Jim!" shouted the brakeman. "Here's a couple of ladies to see you. I bet they've got something to eat in their trunks and want to open them."

There was a laugh in chorus from the crew in the forward baggage and express car. Then an older man came and asked the girls what they wished. Bess had grown suddenly bashful, so it was Nan who asked about the dog.

"The poor little thing should be released from that crate," she told the man. "And I believe he's hungry."

"I reckon you're right, Miss," said the baggage-man. "I gave him part of my coffee this morning; but I reckon that's not very satisfying to a dog."

"He should have some milk," Nan announced decidedly.

"Ya-as?" drawled the baggage-man. He had come into the car with the girls and now looked down at the fretting puppy. "Ya-as," he repeated; "but where are you going to get milk?"

"From the so-called cow-tree," said Bess soberly, "which is found quite commonly in the jungles of Brazil. You score the bark and the wood immediately beneath it with an axe, or machette, insert a sliver of clean wood, and the milky sap trickles forth into your cup-"

"How ridiculous!" interposed Nan, while the baggage-man burst into appreciative laughter.

"Well," said Bess, "when folks are cast away like us, don't they always find the most wonderful things all about them-right to their hands, as it were?"

"Like a cow-tree in a baggage car?" said Nan, with disgust.

"Well! how do you propose to find milk here?" demanded her chum.

"Why," said Nan, with assurance, "I'd look through the express matter and see if there wasn't a case of canned milk going somewhere-"

"Great! Hurrah for our Nan!" broke in Bess Harley, in admiration. "Who'd ever have thought of that?"

"But we couldn't do that, Miss," said the baggage-man, scratching his head. "We'd get into trouble with the company."

"So the poor dog must starve," said Bess, saucily.

"Guess he'll have to take his chance with the rest of us," said the man.

"Oh! You don't mean we're all in danger of starvation?" gasped Bess, upon whose mind this possibility had not dawned before.

"Well-" said the man, and then stopped.

"They'll come and dig us out, won't they?" demanded Bess.

"Oh, yes."

"Then we won't starve," she said, with satisfaction.

But Nan did not comment upon this at all. She only said, with confidence:

"Of course you can let this poor doggy out of the cage and we will be good to him."

"Well, Miss, that altogether depends upon the conductor, you know. It's against the rules for a dog to be taken into a passenger coach."

"I do think," cried Bess, "that this is the very meanest railroad that ever was. I am sure that Linda Riggs' father owns it. To keep a poor, dear, little dog like that, freezing and starving, in an old baggage car."

"Do you know President Riggs, Miss?" interrupted the baggage-man.

"Why-" began Bess, but her chum interposed before she could go further.

"We know Mr. Riggs' daughter very well. She goes to school where we do, at Lakeview Hall. She was on this train till it was split at the Junction, last evening."

"Well, indeed, Miss, you tell that to Mr. Carter. If you are friends of Mr. Riggs' daughter, maybe he'll stretch a point and let you take the dog into the Pullman. I don't suppose anybody will object at a time like this."

"How could you, Nan?" demanded Bess, in a whisper. "Playing up Linda

Riggs' name for a favor?"

"Not for ourselves, no, indeed!" returned Nan, in the same low tone. "But for the poor doggy, yes."

"Say! I wonder what she'd say if she knew?"

"Something mean, of course," replied Nan, calmly. "But we'll save that poor dog if we can. Come on and find this Conductor Carter."

They left the puppy yelping after them as they returned to the Pullman. The cars felt colder now and the girls heard many complaints as they walked through to the rear. The conductor, the porter said, had gone back into the smoking car. That car was between the Pullman and the day coaches.

When Nan rather timidly opened the door of the smoking car a burst of sound rushed out, almost startling in its volume-piercing cries of children, shrill tones of women's voices, the guttural scolding of men, the expostulations of the conductor himself, who had a group of complainants about him, and the thunderous snoring of a fat man in the nearest seat, who slept with his feet cocked up on another seat and a handkerchief over his face.

"Goodness!" gasped Bess, pulling back. "Let's not go in. It's a bear garden."

"Why, I don't understand it," murmured Nan. "Women and children in the smoker? Whoever heard the like?"

"They've turned off the heat in the other two cars and made us all come in here, lady," explained a little dark-haired and dark-eyed woman who sat in a seat near the door. "They tell us there is not much coal, and they cannot heat so many cars."

She spoke without complaint, in the tone of resignation so common among the peasantry of Europe, but heard in North America from but two people-the French Canadian and the peon of Mexico. Nan had seen so many of the former people in the Big Woods of Upper Michigan the summer before, that she was sure this poor woman was a "Canuck." Upon her lap lay a delicate, whimpering, little boy of about two years.

"What is the matter with the poor little fellow, madam?" asked Nan, compassionately.

"With my little Pierre, mademoiselle?" returned the woman.

"Yes," said Nan.

"He cries for food, mademoiselle," said the woman simply. "He has eaten nothing since we left the Grand Gap yesterday at three o'clock; except that the good conductor gave us a drink of coffee this morning. And his mother has nothing to give her poor Pierre to eat. It is sad, is it not?"

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