We left the Hansen's farm after three days and were soon at the train station of Miller's Basin.
Mr Hansen drove us to the station. As we said goodbye I wondered what he had meant about "the dangers" ahead of us. I'm sure Papa would never do anything unsafe.
Mama and I watched the trains while Papa made arrangements for our trunks and large bags.
I was so excited, Papa had told me that steam engines could go as fast as 50 miles per hour! I hoped that would not happen. I was certain I would faint of fright!
Mama and I found a seat and we waited for Papa to find us. Mama and Mrs. Hansen had packed a picnic meal for us to eat on the train. I asked Papa why we didn't eat in the dining car? He said it was very expensive, almost a dollar each! Papa reminded me that we had a long trip ahead and he must have enough at the end to build our house.
After awhile Mama left to look for Papa. She told me to stay and watch the baskets. I meant to do just as Mama said, but I was very curious about the train. I was sure if I only walked a little way no one would bother our baskets.
As I walked along the train cars I was amazed at what I saw. Our car was right at the back of the train, but there were many places much nicer. I knew I shouldn't but I peeked into one of the doors. I could not believe my eyes!
I didn't know people could travel in such luxury! We would have to make do with our wooden bench for all the days we were onboard. Mama said she would get our blankets to sleep on, but I was not sure how soft that would be, nothing compared to this!
Next I came to the dining car. There were some men arguing about politics and then two nice ladies spoke to me.
"Hello little girl? are you lost?"
"No Ma'am, I am just looking for Papa."
"Well, maybe you should ask the Conductor, he could help you."
The conductor looked very large and important, so I stammered something and walked away!
I found my way back to our car in back and sat quietly waiting for Mama and Papa. I was relieved to see no one had taken our lunch. With a lurch the train started moving. I was afraid and wondering where Mama and Papa could be?!?! What if they didn't get on the train and I was all alone?! The window was open and I decided to look out the window for Mama and Papa.
The wind was SO strong, to my horror Else was ripped from my hands!
"NO!" I cried
"Else!" She was my only friend in this new country!
Now I felt truly alone. As I sat back on the bench Mama came down the aisle towards our seat.
"Mama, I lost Else, out the window!"
Mama held me on her lap and tried to comfort me.
"Mama will make you another Else even better." she said.
"NO! I want my Else! I am all alone now!" I cried.
Mama was trying to console me when I heard a gruff man's voice.
"What is the trouble here?" He asked.
"My daughter, has lost her doll out the window." Mama said.
"Well, what's that to cry about huh? If she is brave, I am sure I can telegraph my friend Thomas and ask him to find her and send her along to your final destination.Where is your final stop, can you tell me that child?"
"Yes Sir, we are going to Independence in Missouri."
"Ah, yes, of course, to join a wagon train Eh? Well, write your name down on this slip of paper and I will ask Thomas to send..what's her name?"
"Else" I answered.
"Yes, we'll see that Else gets on the next train to Independence. Are you sure she can be brave enough to travel alone?" He smiled at me then and I knew he was very kind even though his voice was gruff.
"Yes Sir, thank you!"
The Conductor handed me a small paper ticket and I carefully wrote what he told me. As an afterthought I wrote that her name was Else, so they would know what to call her.
I smiled wistfully up at him as he slipped the ticket in his pocket and patted his jacket where it was hidden. He smiled broadly and patted my head.
"Don't you worry, we'll take good care of Else until she reaches Missouri."
We traveled for many days on the train and I tried not to think about Else and wonder if I would truly see her again. Mama and I would take walks along the train and Papa spoke to the other men in our car. He wanted to learn as much as he could about the rest of our journey.
The conductor became my friend and brought me treats from the dining car. He would wink and put his finger to his lips as if it was our special secret. After several days he said,
"Do you have any questions about Else's travel plans?"
"Oh yes! Have you found her?!" I asked.
"Well, of course Thomas found her that same day, but she was sadly dirty, so his wife cleaned her so she would be presentable for her journey." The Conductor smiled broadly and laughed when I jumped up and down.
When we finally reached the Independence train station I saw amazing sights. Cowboys and Indians even! Just like New York, I could not decide where to look. Mama told me not to stare, it was rude, but I couldn't help myself.
Papa took us to a quiet hotel where we would stay until he had purchased what we needed for the rest of our trip by wagon train. After 2 days Papa had a message from the desk. A package was waiting to be picked up from the train station! It must be Else!
When we got to the train station there was a wooden box with the tag I had written pasted to the lid.
When I opened it there was Else in a little bed!
A note was laid in the box with my name on it.
This is what it said,
My name is Isabelle Swift. I am 8 years old. I live in Miller's Basin and my Pa is the telegraph man at the station. He found your doll Else and brought her home for Ma and me to clean her up and get her ready to send back to you. Pa wanted to just stick her in a mailbag but I said,
"No PA! that's no way for a lady to travel."
So Ma and me made this little bed in a wood box so she would be safe and sound until she reached you. I have a doll too her name is Sarah and I would be real sad if I lost her. Mr. Gundy, the conductor, said as how you felt you hadn't a friend in the world once Else was lost. I want you to know I will be your friend. Pa says that the mails from out West are getting pretty good so we can be pen pals. If you write to me I will promise to write back.
God bless you and your family, Sincerely as your friend
PS - I drawed a picture of me and Sarah so you know how we look."
I had a pen pal! A real friend here in America.
I sat on that bench at the train station and felt happier than I had felt since we had left Denmark.