Not that she’d ever been proper.
The next day they had several hours to wait in St. Paul for their westbound train, so Mrs. Grant insisted that they have a meal in the restaurant at the station.
“But I…I cannot do that.”
“Ah, but you don’t understand. You have become my traveling companion, and I might need your assistance, so you must humor an old lady and join her for dinner.” Agnes locked her arm through Amethyst’s and guided her in the direction of tables covered in white cloths and a man who snapped to attention when he saw Mrs. Grant.
“We’d like a table for two—and not by the kitchen.”
“Yes, madam.” He turned and led the way to a table that had a padded bench on one side and a chair on the other. “Will this be acceptable?”
Mrs. Grant smiled at her companion. “Will this suit?”
Amethyst wet her lips. “Of course.” If only her father could see her now.
Several hours later, with the train rocking its way across western Minnesota, Amethyst found herself swallowing and swallowing again. Bile rose in the back of her throat, and her stomach roiled like the creek in spring freshet.
“Are you feeling all right?”
“I’ll be fine, thank you.”
“How long since you had eaten?”
“I had some bread with me.”
“Perhaps the beef was too rich.”
“Perhaps.” A shiver started at her feet and worked its way upward. She pulled her coat around her, even though they weren’t that far from the potbellied stove and the air was not cold. Her stomach cramped and, before she could clamp her hand over her mouth, erupted. She twisted her head so that the vomit missed Mrs. Grant, but the stink and the mess of it made Amethyst want to die. What would her benefactress think now?
Surely death would be better than this.
The train rocking made even opening her eyes a risky business.
“Amethyst, dear, do you think you can drink some water?” Mrs. Grant leaned forward from the facing seat and wiped the perspiration from Amethyst’s face. The cool cloth brought only momentary relief.
Amethyst thought to shake her head but, having suffered the consequences of responding to a query like that once before, chose to try to speak instead. Her “No, thank you” came out as an indecipherable croak.
She heard two people talking but couldn’t focus enough to understand what they were saying. Never in her life had she been so sick. Ah, Ma, how I need you . Her belly cramped again, but there was nothing to come up. Lord God, please take me home. I cannot endure this . She fell back in the deep pit of near unconsciousness, Mrs. Grant’s conversation just at the edge of her awareness.
“You are going to have to take her off at Fargo, Mrs. Grant. If she is contagious, all the other passengers are in danger.”
“If I find a place to take care of her, will the train wait for me?”
“You’d have to catch tomorrow’s train, ma’am.”
“I see. She is far too weak to walk. Is there someone who will assist us?”
“Once we arrive in Fargo, I’ll talk to the ticket agent and see if he can find a wagon or a buggy. The doctor has some beds at his house. Perhaps he will take her in. There are hotels too and several boardinghouses. One of them might be able to help you.” He stopped for a moment. “She isn’t really your traveling companion, is she?”
“Not really. We struck up a conversation and went together for dinner in St. Paul. She fell sick not long after that.”
“So you have no responsibility for her, then?”
“No, none other than that of Christian charity. I cannot just leave her.”
“Others might. You are a gracious woman. As soon as I find some help, I’ll let you know.”
“Have you by any chance checked to see if there is a doctor on board?”
“Yes. There’s none on this trip. Not so many people travel in the winter, you know.”
“All right, then. Well, thank you.”
Amethyst opened her eyes to see Mrs. Grant sponging her face