DOROTHY DALE A GIRL OF TO-DAY
BY MARGARET PENROSE AUTHOR OF "DOROTHY DALE AT GLENWOOD SCHOOL," ETC
THE DOROTHY DALE SERIES BY MARGARET PENROSE
DOROTHY DALE: A GIRL OF TO-DAY DOROTHY DALE AT GLENWOOD SCHOOL (Other volumes in preparation)
CHAPTER I. DOROTHY II. DOROTHY AT THE OFFICE III. A STRANGE ADVENTURE IV. A CLEW V. MILES BURLOCK VI. AT THE SWING VII. WHAT HAPPENED IN THE ORCHARD VIII. SQUIRE SANDERS AT SCHOOL IX. THE AFTERMATH X. APPLE BLOSSOM MAGIC XI. A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER XII. AN UNPROVOKED ATTACK XIII. A QUEER PICNIC XIV. THE SECRET XV. DOROTHY IN POLITICS XVI. THE GIRLS HAVE IT XVII. A GIRL'S WEAPON XVIII. DOROTHY IN DANGER XIX. A SURPRISE TRIP XX. AN EVENTFUL JOURNEY XXI. AT AUNT WINNIE'S XXII. THE PRICE OF TAVIA'S TRESSES XXIII. IN SOCIAL ELEMENTS XXIV. THE PAINTED FACE XXV. AN EMERGENCY CASE XXVI. DOROTHY'S COURAGE XXVII. THE LITTLE CAPTAIN—CONCLUSION
The day of days had come at last: Dorothy would be the Daughter of the Regiment.
"Lucky you don't have to curl your hair, Doro, for the fog is like rain, and that's the worst kind for made curls," said Tavia.
"Oh, I do hope it is not going to rain!"
"No, it surely won't. But come, don't let's be late."
"There's heaps of time, Tavia. Oh, just see Briggs' new flag! Isn't it glorious?" cried Dorothy Dale.
"Not half as glorious as your old Betsy Ross. I'd be too proud to march if I had a real, truly Betsy. I think, anyway, it's prettier with the star of stars than with the regular daisy field of them," and Tavia tied her scarf just once more, that being the fourth time she had smoothed it out and knotted it over.
"I think red, white and blue look lovely over a white dress," commented Dorothy. "Your scarf is perfect."
"But you are like a live Columbia," insisted Tavia. "No one could look as pretty as you," and her companion fairly beamed with admiration.
"Come now, gather up the stuffs. Button your cloak all the way down, for we don't want folks to see how we're dressed," and Dorothy made sure that her own water-proof covered her skirts to the very edge.
It was Decoration Day, and the girls were to take part in the Veterans' procession.
Dorothy was the only daughter of Major Frank Dale, one of the prominent veterans of Dalton, a small town in New York state. Dorothy was in her fourteenth year, but since her mother was dead, and she was the eldest of the small family (the other members being Joe, age ten, and Roger just seven), she seemed older, and was really very sensible for her years,
The major always called her his Little Captain, and she showed such a practical interest in his business, that of running the only newspaper in Dalton, The Bugle, that few, if any boys could have made better partners in the work.
At housekeeping Dorothy was relieved of the real drudgery by Mrs. Martin, who had been with the major's children since the day when baby Roger was taken from his mother's side; and while the housekeeper was the soul of love for the motherless ones, it was Dorothy who felt responsible for the real management of the home, for Aunt Libby, as the children called Mrs. Martin, was fast growing old, and faster growing queer, in spite of a really good-natured disposition.
"It seems to me, Dorothy," the old lady would say, "Libby can't suit you any more. And Joe, too—he's mighty fussy about his victuals. Only my baby Roger loves the old woman!" and she would press the younger boy to her breast with a world of love in the caress.
Not far from Dorothy lived Octavia Travers, or Tavia as all the girls in Dalton called her, She had the reputation of being wild; that is she cared little for school, and less for study, but she loved her brother Johnnie and she loved Dorothy. She also had some love left for the woods; but like many another child of nature, she was misunderstood, and she was considered an idler by every one but her own father and Dorothy.
"Tavia is a rough diamond," Dorothy would tell the major, "and you need not be afraid of Aunt Libby's dreadful ideas about her. She's as good as gold. Lots of girls, who turn up their noses at her, might learn charity from the Tiger Lily, as they call her, just because she has a few freckles around her eyes. I think they make her eyes prettier, they are so brown—her eyes you know. And Daddy, no other girl in Dalton loves soldiers, dead or alive, as truly as Tavia does."
This last argument never failed to convince Major Dale, for a patriotic girl could no more go astray than could a star fall from the flag, he declared; so the Little Captain might go with Tavia if she desired.
So it was that Dorothy and Tavia were companions on Decoration Day. For weeks they had been getting ready—Tavia picking out the patches of daisies that would surely be in bloom in time, and Dorothy making certain that Mrs. Travers would not disappoint Tavia with her white things, as well as keeping track of Aunt Libby, who had Dorothy's own costume in hand. The dress was too short and had to be let down a whole inch, and of course, it could not be done up until after the alterations were finished.
There was always a big time in Dalton on Memorial Day, but this year it was to be made more memorable than ever before. The Grand Army of the Republic men were to come in from Rochester, the firemen were to turn out, and the school children were to have a place in the ranks, with Dorothy Dale as their leader. Besides this, the Dalton Drum and Fife Corps would make their first public appearance on this occasion, and a real review was to be given the procession, in the little square opposite the school, not very far from the cemetery where the soldiers' graves would be decorated.
No wonder, then, that Dorothy and Tavia were anxious about their appearance. Every school girl was expected to wear white, of course, and the bunting stripes of red, white and blue were bought in Rochester, by the school teacher, Miss Ellis, and sold to the children at actual cost- -ten cents for each scarf.
One thing was certain, no other girls would have such flowers as Dorothy and Tavia had. Such syringias and such daisies! And the ferns that Tavia had growing back of the well for weeks!
Tavia had taken charge of the flowers for Dorothy, had made the big bouquet and had covered it with wet paper so it would keep fresh. The Little Captain had made certain that her companion would not be disappointed about her white dress, and although Tavia had to stay from school to wash it the day before, Dorothy went over to help her with the ironing, for Mrs. Travers managed somehow, to have an excuse for her failure in getting her daughter ready—she was that kind of helpless, shiftless person, who rarely had things ready for her children, especially in the matter of Tavia's clothes.
"Your dress looks real pretty," declared Dorothy, as the girls hurried along to the school.
"Thanks to you for ironing it," responded Tavia, with gratitude in her voice.
"I only helped, you did the skirt."
"That was plain, but the waist and sleeves—I never could have even smoothed them, to say nothing of making them look this way," and she straightened up to show the beauty of the garment.
At the school everything was in commotion. Some girls wanted their scarfs tied, others wanted to carry flags, some insisted they could not go out without hats, while Miss Ellis, always strict, seemed more stern than ever.
"Those who were here yesterday afternoon raise their hands," she commanded. Every girl but Tavia raised her hand.
"Those who were not here to rehearsal," went on the teacher, "cannot be in the ranks. You know I told you all to be here, or not to expect to go blundering along the roads, disgracing the school. Now, Miss Tavia Travers, please step back."
All the commotion ceased. Tavia the patriotic girl—she who had been searching for flowers in all sorts of dangerous and lonely places—not to march?
"Teacher," spoke up Dorothy, her cheeks aflame and her voice quivering. "It was not Tavia's fault. She—"
"Silence, Dorothy, or you will also lose your place."
"But teacher—" insisted the girl, with commendable courage, "I know Tavia—"
"Leave the ranks!" called Miss Ellis and Dorothy stepped down—and slipped into a seat alongside her weeping friend. "Sarah Ford, you may lead."
This announcement caused no less surprise than did the punishment of Dorothy. To think that Sarah Ford, a stranger in Dalton, whose father was not even a firemen, let alone a soldier, should take first place!
It must be admitted that not every girl cared when Tavia left the ranks, for she was not a general favorite: but Dorothy! Major Dale's daughter! and he the head marshal!
With a conceited toss of her head Sarah Ford stepped to the front.
"She's mean," was whispered around. "Perhaps teacher knows only the meanest girl would ever take Doro's place."
Meanwhile two very miserable girls were crying their eyes sore in the back seat.
"Oh, Doro!" sobbed Tavia, "to think you lost it on my account."
"It was not on your account," wailed Dorothy, "but on account of an unreasonable teacher."
"Hush! She'll hear you."
"Hope she does," went on the crying girl. "I would just like her to know what I think of her. I don't care if I never come in this old school again."
"I never will," whispered Tavia.
The ranks were formed now, and the girls marched out. An unpardonable expression covered the face of Sarah Ford as she passed the tearful ones.
"There," hissed Tavia, sticking out her tongue at the unpopular leader. "Sneak!" she hissed again, and made the most unmistakable face of contempt and defiance at the haughty Sarah.
Many looked sadly at Dorothy and with pity at Tavia. Certainly these two girls deserved to march. Dorothy had done so much to help, in fact some of the girls knew she had helped the major with all the letter writing, inviting the Rochester men, and sending instructions to the firemen. And to think that now, at the last moment, she should be debarred!
And Tavia too, had been so happy at the prospect of the parade. Poor Tavia! Everybody knew she had a hard time of it, anyway, only for Dorothy, who always helped her out.
"Now, young ladies," said Miss Ellis, as the last girl passed out, "you may fall in at the end."
"I don't care to," Dorothy spoke up, wiping her eyes.
"But I say you must!"
"Do," whispered Tavia, "we can see them anyway."
This was enough for Dorothy. Both girls stood up, straightened out their crushed dresses, patted their red eyes with their handkerchiefs, and fell in at the end of the line.
"I don't care a bit," said Dorothy smiling. "I would just as soon be with you any way. And besides, we will be right next to the Veterans."
"Oh, good," answered her companion, "I would rather be there than up front. Only, of course, you should lead."
The Dalton Drum and Fife Corps was playing loudly. There seemed something very solemn about the lively tune in honor of the "Boys" who had answered their last roll call. Tavia's eyes were swimming, and not a freckle was to be seen beneath the deep red color that framed them.
Dorothy could not talk. It was so sad—that soldiers had to die just like other persons. She prayed her "Daddy" would not be called for years and years.
At the corner of the street the school children were joined by the main column. The veterans fell in—back of Dorothy and Tavia!
Major Dale was grand marshal, and of course came first. He looked surprised at seeing his daughter—his Little Captain, last in line with the children.
Then he glanced at Tavia. It was certainly something for which she was responsible he was sure, for Dorothy had told him she had remained away from school and missed the last rehearsal. "Halt," called the major, and his men stood still.
At a signal the entire ranks waited. Miss Ellis stepped up to the marshal smiling. She had evidently forgotten his daughter had lost her place.
"I need two girls to carry the end flags," he began. "These old men have all they can do to travel. The flags are not heavy—here, the two last girls will do nicely!"
Dorothy and Tavia stepped to the sides and gracefully took the flags from the hands of the aged soldiers.
The only girls who could carry real army flags! And walk on either side of the marshal leading the Veterans!
"If I only could stick my tongue out just once more at Sarah," whispered Tavia, as she crossed back of the marshal to her place.
"We have both got Betsy Ross flags now," said Dorothy, and in all that procession there were no prettier figures than those of Dorothy and Tavia, as they marched alongside the veterans, with the real army flags waving above their heads, stepping with feet and hearts in perfect accord to the music of the Dalton Drum and Fife Corps' "Star Spangled Banner."
DOROTHY AT THE OFFICE
Could the sunshine of yesterday be forgotten in the clouds of to-day?
Major Dale was ill. Overfatigue from the long march, the doctor said, had brought on serious complications.
Early that morning after Memorial Day, Aunt Libby called Dorothy to go to her father. The faithful housekeeper had been about all night, for the major had had a high fever, but now, with daylight, came a lowering of temperature, and he wanted Dorothy.
"Now, don't take on when you see him," Aunt Libby told the frightened girl. "Just make light of it and pet him like."
Poor Dorothy! To think her own "Daddy" was really sick—and so many veterans already dead! But she must not have gloomy thoughts, she must be brave and strong as he had always taught her to be.
"Why, Daddy," she whispered, in a strained voice, kissing his hot cheek, "the honors of yesterday were too much for you."
"Guess so, Little Captain, but I'll be on hand at mess time," and he made an effort to look like a well man. "But I tell you, daughter, there's something on my mind; the Bugle should come out to-morrow."
"And so it will. I'll go directly down to the office and tell Ralph."
"Yes, Ralph Willoby is a good boy—the best I have ever had in the Bugle office. And that's why I sent for you so early. I want you to go down to the office and help Ralph."
"Oh, I'll just love to!" and Dorothy was really pleased at the prospect of working on the paper, in spite of the unfortunate circumstance—-her father's illness—that gave her the chance.
"Not so fast now. You must pay strict attention—"
"But you are not to talk: you have had a fever, from fatigue, you know, and it might come back. Just let me go to the office and I will promise to return for instructions at the very first trouble Ralph meets."
Dorothy was already on her feet. She knew the very worst thing the major could do in his present condition would be to talk business.
"Now I'm off," she said, with a kiss and an assuring smile, "you will be proud of to-morrow's Bugle. 'All about Memorial Day!' 'Get the Bugle if you want the news!'" she added, in true newsboy style. Then Aunt Libby came in to wait on the major.
But Dorothy's heart was not as light as her smile had been. Her father looked very ill, and the bread and butter of the Dale household depended upon the getting out of the Bugle.
Her brothers, Joe and Roger, had been sent to school early to be out of the way, but to-morrow they might both stay home, thought the sister, for they could help sell papers.
"Father never would let the boys do it," she reflected, "but he is sick now, and we must do the very best we can. If he were ill a long time we would have to get along."
Only waiting to snatch up a sandwich left from her brothers' lunch,—for she knew the noon hour would be a busy time at the Bugle office,— Dorothy hurried out and over to Tavia's.
"I can't go to school to-day," she called in at the half opened door. "Father is sick, and I must attend to some business for him."
"Bad?" queried Tavia, for she noticed the change in her friend's manner.
"Perhaps not so very. But you know he is seldom sick, and now he has a fever."
"Fever?" echoed Mrs. Travers. "Tavia, close that door this very minute! We cannot afford to catch fevers."
Dorothy felt as if some one had slapped her face. To think of her father giving any one sickness!
"Nonsense, ma," spoke up Tavia. "The major is only ill from walking in the hot sun. Come in, Doro dear, and tell us if we can help you."
"Aunt Libby is alone with him, and when the doctor comes she may need something. If your ma would not be afraid to let Johnnie run over about noon, I would pay him for any errand," spoke Dorothy.
"Oh, certainly, dear," the woman replied, now venturing to poke her uncombed head out of doors, thinking, evidently that the mere mention of money was the most powerful antiseptic known. "Of course Johnnie will be too pleased. I'll send him any time you say."
Secretly glad that her mother had so promptly overcome her fear of the fever, but also ashamed that her motive should be so flagrant, Tavia slipped on her things and joined her companion.
"I wouldn't keep you another minute," she began, "for I know just how anxious you are. But I'm going along to help. I can go on errands at least, and keep you company."
"Oh, Tavia, dear, perhaps you had better go to school. On account of the trouble yesterday, teacher will think we are both defying her."
"Then let her send the Lady Sarah to find out," retorted Tavia. "I would show her if I had freckles on my tongue."
"Please don't talk so, Tavia, it is wrong—"
"Wrong? My father says there are some men in this world too mean to bother the law about. He says he knows one he would like to thresh only he is sure the sneak would not hit him back, but would have him arrested. Physical punishment is the kind for such, father declares. And that's just the way I feel about Lady Sarah. I would not tell teacher on her, for that would give her a chance to 'crawl,' as Johnnie calls being mean. So sticking my tongue out at her is the nearest I can come to physical punishment."
This doctrine did not in any way coincide with the upright views of Dorothy, but she knew argument would be useless. Besides, her head and heart were too full of other things to bother about school girl troubles.
"Are you going to print the whole paper?" Tavia asked, with amusing ignorance of the ways of the Great American Press.
"Why, no, dear, I could not print it. Ralph must do that."
"Oh, I know. Just put things in it."
"I may have to write some," Dorothy replied, with an important air. "The parade story was not written. Father intended to do that."
"Oh, goody!" went on the irrepressible Tavia. "Say that the meanest girl in school, Miss Sarah Ford, was chosen, at the last moment, to lead the girls, owing to the sudden illness of Miss Dorothy Dale, the most popular girl in school, who took a headache from the sun, but later recovered in time to carry a Betsy Ross flag, along with her dear friend, Miss Octavia Travers, the flags being presented to the girls by Major Dale. There now, how's that?" and Tavia fairly beamed at the very idea of having her "story" printed.
"I declare, Tavia, you can string words together, as father would say. But we cannot say anything against any one. That would bring on lawsuits, you know."
"Oh yes, I know. It's just as pa says: some folks are too mean for anything but a good thrashing—and that's Sarah. But I'll do anything I can to help you, and I hope I won't get the Bugle into any lawsuits."
Dorothy thanked her, and remarked that it was not likely.
By this time they had reached the newspaper office. Up two flights of stairs, over the post-office and drug store, the girls found the much- perplexed Ralph Willoby waiting anxiously for his employer.
Ralph was that kind of a young man whom people trust at once. He was known all over Dalton as a most zealous worker in the "Liquor Crusade," that was being very actively carried on in the town. He had a firm face, and deep, clear eyes. The major used to say his eyes could talk faster than his tongue—and he knew how to converse well, too.
He had his sleeves rolled up, and was bending over a pile of "copy" when the girls entered the office. He brushed his sleeves down and rose to hear their message.
"Father is ill," began Dorothy weakly, for inside the office its difficulties seemed to crush her.
"And we're going to get the paper out," blurted Tavia, trying to grasp the wonders of a real newspaper office in a single sweeping glance.
"Can't he come down?" and the young man's voice betrayed his anxiety.
"I'm afraid not," went on Dorothy. "He said we were to do the best we could. I was to help—"
"And I guess I'm to sell the papers. Hurry up and print some. Is this the printing press?" Tavia rattled on.
"But the parade," demurred Ralph, "it is not even written. I can manage the press well enough, but our reporter Mr. Thomas, has not come in this morning. I suppose yesterday was too much for him."
"I think I could write up the parade," ventured Dorothy. "I have often helped father read proof, you know."
"Perhaps you can," assented Ralph. "Here is a pencil and some copy paper. You had better try at once, as I will have to go to press earlier than usual to allow for 'snags,'" and he smiled to apologize for the newspaper slang.
Dorothy sat down at her father's desk. Somehow, she felt a confidence in her efforts when seated there, where he had worked so faithfully, and successfully, too, for the Bugle sounded always the note of truth and sincerity. She started at once to write up the parade. She should be careful, of course, not to mention the major's name, or her own (her father never did) and she hoped she could at least make a good composition or essay on Memorial Day.
Dorothy worked earnestly, for she meant to have that issue of the paper up to the mark, if her labors could bring it there.
Ralph had rolled up his sleeves again, and was busy with the press. Tavia was "nosing around," as she expressed it. The door opened suddenly and little Johnnie Travers rushed in.
"The major sent me—to tell you—" and he had to get a new breath in somehow—" to tell you that old Mrs. Douglass is—is dead!" he finally managed to say. "He wants you to be sure to—to—put her in the paper."
"Nothing but live stuff in this paper, Johnnie dear," spoke up Tavia. "Mrs. Douglass was bad enough alive—but dead! We really haven't space," and, in spite of the real seriousness of the matter, for Mrs. Douglass was an important woman in Dalton, or had been up to that morning, Ralph and Dorothy were compelled to laugh at the wit of their friend.
"She was a big woman," said Ralph, adding to the mix-up in language, "and the Bugle is small. But being 'big' we cannot afford to slight her memory. There is so little time—"
"I can write that," said Tavia, shaking her head with a meaning. "And I know all about Mrs. Douglass and her high fence. Also the flowers behind the boxwood. Here, Doro, give me some of that paper—"
"Oh, you would have to see some of the family," interrupted Ralph. "Find out how she died, when she will be buried; if she said anything interesting—about charities, you know—"
"For mine!" sang out Tavia, adjusting her hat.
"Yes, your first assignment," ventured Ralph. "Dorothy must finish the parade, and I must attend to the typesetting, so if you could, really,—"
"Of course I can. Haven't I spent more time in the graveyard than at school? And don't I know what they say about dead persons?
"'Here lies Mrs. Doug,— She had a mug, And none in Dalt could match it, When she took sick, She died that quick, The Bugle couldn't catch it.'
"How's that?" went on the girl. "Shows it was our busy day and we hadn't time to catch the dead news, not Mrs. Doug's face, you know."
"Oh, Tavia, what slang!" cried Dorothy, and added: "you had better not go, you will surely say or do something—"
"I certainly shall both say and do something. Johnnie look out for your nose there. That machine is going and your nose is not insured. Yes, Doro, this issue of the Bugle will blow a blast both loud and shrill in memory of Mrs. Doug. You know she loved blowing, never missed a windy day to collect the rent."
It was useless to argue. Tavia was bent on doing the "obit." as Ralph called the obituary assignment. She went out with Johnnie at her heels.
"She's the jolly kind," commented Ralph, as the door closed on the brother and sister.
"Yes, and so few understand her," Dorothy replied. "To me she is just the dearest girl in Dalton, but others think differently of her."
"I've known boys like that," assented the young man. "They seem to live in a shell, and only poke their real selves out to certain persons, those who love them."
"I feel more like writing now," said Dorothy, brightening up, "Johnnie told me father is better—he was taking some nourishment, the child said, and when the doctor left Johnnie did not have to go to the drug store. That means, of course, that there is nothing new setting in. I think Aunt Libby should have kept Joe and Roger from school, but she thought the house would be quieter for father with them away. Aunt Libby is very nervous lately."
"I do hope the major will be well soon," answered Ralph. "He seemed so strong, but I suppose when sickness takes hold of something worth while the result is equally of consequence."
For some time the girl and young man worked without further conversation. Dorothy bent earnestly over her story, while Ralph was busy with the type, setting up the last item of news that would go in the week's issue of the Bugle.
Suddenly something like a scream aroused them.
"What was that?" asked Dorothy, but without waiting to answer Ralph hurried to the door. At that moment Tavia staggered into the office. Her hat was off and her face was very white.
"Oh, what is it, Tavia dear?" Dorothy cried. "What has happened?"
"I'm so—so frightened," gasped the girl. "Lock the door—that—that man—he may come in! He is in the hall."
Ralph was out in the hall instantly. The girls, clasped in each other's arms, could hear him running down the stairs.
"Oh, he is so rough and strong—he may hurt Ralph," whispered Tavia, too frightened to trust her own voice.
It seemed a long time to the girls, but Ralph was back in the room with them in a very few minutes.
"There was no one in the hall," he said, "and I looked up and down the street. No one—no stranger seemed to be in sight."
"Well, I was just coming up the stairs, and I couldn't see from the sun, when some one grabbed me," Tavia explained.
"Oh, Tavia!" interrupted Dorothy.
"Yes, indeed, a great big horrid man, with a hat over his eyes, and oh, he was dreadful!" and poor Tavia began to tremble again.
Ralph had his coat on now. That man should not get away!
"But you can't leave us," begged the girls. "He might break the door in."
"Then come down stairs and we will lock up. I must telephone to Squire Sanders."
"He isn't home," Tavia declared. "I saw him drive out as I went up William Street."
But Ralph insisted on giving the alarm.
"What did he say to you?" he asked.
"Why, he must have thought I was Dorothy. I saw him first just as I turned out of the Douglass' place, and he followed me all the way. At the lane—where it was really lonely—he called to me and I stopped. He said 'Where are you going?' I told him to the Bugle office. I didn't think anything of it. I am never afraid. Then he got nearer to me—"
"Why didn't you run?" asked Dorothy.
"Why, I never thought of such a thing. I thought maybe he was coming here with some news. Even when he started up the dark stairs after me I wasn't afraid. But when he grabbed me—"
"Oh!" screamed Dorothy.
"Yes, and he said: 'See here, Miss Dale, if you put one line in print about that old woman being dead—I'll blow the place up.'"
"He must be a crank," said Ralph. "Such people always drift into newspaper offices."
"Oh, no, I am sure he meant it, for he grabbed my notes. He saw me reading them in the lane," Tavia paused an instant. "And really, poor Mrs. Douglass was a good woman. The servant girl told me how she had worked for that Miles Burlock,—she had some special interest in him,— and you know how he drinks."
Unfortunately every one in Dalton knew only too well how Miles Burlock drank. Ralph had often helped him home, and then tried to get the man to talk of reformation, but it seemed like a hopeless case.
"Why should that strange man want the paper to keep quiet about Mrs. Douglass?" asked Dorothy.
"Something about Burlock, perhaps," Ralph answered, thoughtfully. "This man may be in with the drinking class, and perhaps if Burlock read anything or heard it, somehow he might go to the Douglass house, and they say Death is a great teacher. I know Mrs. Douglass often befriended Burlock."
"Then let him blow the office up!" cried Dorothy, with sudden courage. "Father never listened to threats! Tavia, can you remember some of the important facts? Quiet yourself and think it over."
A STRANGE ADVENTURE
Joe Dale was a credit to the family. Although only a boy in his tenth year, he possessed as much manliness as many another well in the teens. He was tall, and of the dark type, while Dorothy was not quite so tall, and had fair hair; so that, in spite of the difference of their ages, Joe was often considered Dorothy's big brother. Roger was just a pretty baby, so plump and with such golden curls! Dorothy had pleaded not to have them cut until his next birthday, but the boys, of course, thought seven years very old for long hair.
"Only for a few months more," the sister had coaxed, and, so the curls were kept. Dorothy always arranged them herself, telling fairy stories to conceal the time consumed in making the ringlets.
Both boys were to sell papers to-day, for the Bugle was out, and Dorothy had told her brothers of the necessity for extra efforts to help with money matters.
"You may go with one of the regular boys," Ralph Willoby instructed them. "He can tell you where you would be likely to get customers. Go into all the stores, of course, and look out for the mill hands, at noon time."
"I'll sell Bugles to-day," declared Joe, with that splendid manliness and real earnestness that makes a boy so attractive, especially to his sister.
"It takes a boy," Dorothy said proudly, as her brothers left the office, each with his bundle of papers, for, of course, Roger had to have a strap full the same as did Joe. Ralph was glancing over the paper. Evidently he was pleased with its appearance, for his face showed satisfaction.
"Is it all right?" Dorothy asked, secretly glad the "getting out" was finished, and that she would not have to write another parade story that day.
"First-rate," answered the young man, "and I think your father will be pleased. You had better go home and take him a copy, he may be anxious to see one."
"I'll go now," she told Ralph, "and I'll be back about noon, when the boys come in from their routes."
Dorothy passed out, and closed the door after her. Ralph went to the far end of the office, to finish folding the papers. Scarcely had he taken one sheet in his hand than he heard something in the hall.
A scream! And in Dorothy's voice!
Darting past the big press, and making his way to the hall door quickly in spite of the things that barred his path, Ralph pulled open the portal.
The girls were in a heap on the steps! Dorothy and Tavia.
The young man bent down anxiously. The pair seemed unusually still.
"Fainted!" he murmured, trying to lift Dorothy's head.
"Is he—go—gone?" whispered Tavia. "We are not hurt. We only made believe!"
"Oh!" sighed Dorothy. "I feel as if I were dying! I—I can't breathe!"
"Try to get on your feet," commanded Ralph. "The air will revive you!"
"There!" gasped Tavia. "There's his hat. I grabbed it when he put the handkerchief, with some stuff on it, to my nose," and the girl held up a gray slouch hat, the kind western men usually wear.
"That may help us," said Ralph. "But first you must both come down to the drug store. That stuff he used may sicken you. It has a queer smell."
Once on their feet the girls seemed all right, in fact as Tavia said, they had only "made believe" to prevent any further violence.
It seemed incredible that two girls should be way-laid in broad daylight, in the hall of the most public building in Dalton, but the fact was certainly plain—there was the dirty white handkerchief reeking with some drug, and besides, there was the hat that Tavia had taken from the man's head.
Ralph took the girls into the prescription room of the drug store, to see if they needed any attention, and there to the astonished drug clerk, as well as to the equally astonished proprietor, Tavia tried to relate what had happened.
"It was the same man who grabbed my papers the other day," she said. "I saw him first as I came along William street. Joe and Roger had just gone in Beck's with their papers, and as I saw the man watching them I was afraid he might kidnap Roger. I was just thinking who would be best to call, when he caught me watching him, and then, like a flash, he sprang into that saloon at the corner. I thought he was frightened lest he would be caught, and I hurried down here to warn Dorothy. Well, no sooner had I put my foot inside the hall than he darted at me—"
"Where did he come from?" asked the drug store proprietor.
"Probably through the alley that leads from the saloon to the end of our building," explained Ralph. "He could easily dash into the hall from there."
"He was after papers," declared Tavia, "for just as he grabbed me he saw Dorothy. I was going to scream when he put that queer-smelling stuff to my nose."
"I screamed when I saw Tavia," ventured the frightened Dorothy, "but he had me almost before I could open—my—mouth. Tavia squeezed my hand and I knew she meant for me to be quiet."
"And if you had not closed your eyes he might have given you another dose," added Tavia, who somehow, seemed to know more than any one else about the wicked ways of the mysterious stranger.
"But how did he manage to get away so promptly?" asked one of the men, trying to get on the track for capture.
"Through that same alley into the saloon," Ralph said. "I will go at once, and have the place searched."
"As soon as he got the papers Dorothy had he went off," finished Tavia, "just as he did when he got my notes."
Leaving the girls to quiet themselves in the drug store, all the men, except the head clerk, started out to give the alarm.
This time a thorough search should be made, and even a reward offered by the town for the capture of the coward who went about trying to frighten helpless girls. There was certainly some hidden motive in his actions, as he had, each time, made an attack on some one connected with the Bugle's business, and the men quickly concluded his intentions had to do with an attempt to stop the Liquor Crusade.
Miles Burlock also figured in the case they decided, although how this stranger was mixed up in matters relating to Burlock, and what connection Mrs. Douglass' death could have with such affairs, was not plain.
The druggist warned Dorothy and Tavia not to tell their experience to any one, not even to the folks at home, for, he argued the stranger might get to hear they were after him, and so escape.
Dorothy readily agreed to keep silent, in fact it would not do for any one in her home to know of her experience, as the major was too ill to be worried, but Tavia did not see why her father should not be acquainted with the affair, as he always knew what to do. And why should other men be allowed to search for the man who had threatened her, when it was plainly her own father's special privilege?
"Well, if you feel that way about it," agreed the druggist, "tell your father to come down here to-night and perhaps he will be put on the committee."
This was quite satisfactory to Tavia, and after making sure that no more strangers lurked about, the girls made their way home.
"I never was afraid in daylight before," remarked Dorothy, whose face was still pale from the fright. "Let us hurry. There are the boys. Be sure not to say anything to them about the scare."
"Hurrah!" shouted Joe swinging his empty strap. "All sold out."
"Me too," said little Roger, who had his strap buckled so tightly about his fat waist, that he had hard work to breathe under the pressure.
"Hip—hip—" answered Tavia, continuing:
"Blow Bugle, blow, Blow Bugle blow, We're very proud You blew so loud To let the people know."
"Price five cents! Order now! That's the way city people put things in the papers about their goods," declared Tavia. "I think when I leave school I'll look for work in a newspaper office."
"Ralph said you did splendidly," said Dorothy, "I'm sure I never could have gotten along without you. But we are home now and—"
"No paper for the major," finished Tavia.
"There's a boy. I'll get one," said Joe, running off at full speed to overtake the newsboy, who had just turned the corner.
"Aunt Libby may be cross," whispered Dorothy, "for she has been all alone, and this being Saturday she would expect help."
"Mother won't say anything to me," Tavia decided, "for—well, I have something to tell her that will make her forget all about the work."
"Not about the—you know—" cautioned her companion."
"My, no," answered the other. "It's just about Mrs. Douglass' funeral. You know ma always goes to funerals, and I have found out that people may go to the house and see her. That will interest ma."
Joe was back with the paper, and was proud to have such an active interest in the Bugle. It seemed something to say it was his own father's paper, and then to have people remark what a bright sheet it was, and how it was never afraid to tell the truth.
"Let me give it to father?" he asked Dorothy.
"No, let me?" pleaded little Roger, "cause I ain't hardly seen him a bit lately."
"But you must not tell that we sold papers," directed Joe. "Father is not to know yet, you know."
"Oh, I won't tell," Roger promised.
"But you might forget," argued Dorothy.
"Nope," declared the little fellow, "I'll just let this strap keep squeezing me, then I couldn't forget."
"And have father ask where you got it," said Joe laughing.
"Then I'll tie a string round my finger," persisted the younger brother.
"I'll tell you," Dorothy concluded, "You just run in, give father a good hug, put the paper on his lap and run out again without saying a word. Then he will think you are playing newsboy."
This plan was finally decided upon, although Roger did think he would like to stay for "just a little while" to hear "Daddy" say "something about something."
They found the major anxiously expecting them. He feared something had happened—the press might break down, or the paper supply give out, Many things might occur when the man who ran the business was not there to keep ends straight. To say that the major was pleased was not half telling it—he was delighted. To think that they could get out a paper like that! And that his Little Captain should write up the parade. It really was well described.
Perhaps what astonished him most was Tavia's part in the issue. He laughed when Dorothy told how jolly Tavia was. Of course, there was no mention of the encounter with the strange man.
But that night Dorothy could not sleep. The excitement perhaps, or was it fear?
Oh, if that horrid man had never come to Dalton!
As the druggist had anticipated, a citizens' committee was formed to run down the assailant of Dorothy and Tavia. The hat bore the mark of a Rochester house, so that was something of a clew. A hatless man ought to be easy enough to identify, but of course, he had managed to get a head covering somewhere; stole it, perhaps, from an open hallway.
But, after an exhaustive search, and much questioning of persons who might have seen the man, no news of importance was turned in at the committee meeting.
Mr. Travers had what he considered a tangible clew. Miles Burlock had told him that a man from Rochester had been hounding him for weeks, and that he pretended to know something of Burlock's business.
"Burlock, it seems," Mr. Travers said at the meeting, "was, in some way, connected with the Douglass family. There is money in the affair, however it may concern Burlock and Mrs. Douglass, and this stranger is after the cash."
"But what in the world has these children to do with that?" asked the chairman.
Ralph Willoby stood up.
"It seems, Mr. Chairman," he said, "that the first time the man gave us trouble was when we sent to learn something about Mrs. Douglass' death. He secured the notes to prevent us from publishing anything about the lady. Then he threatened to blow up the Bugle office if we did print an obituary. This did not intimidate us, and when the paper was out he waited for the little boys, sons of Major Dale, to harm them possibly. It was then that one of the girls saw and recognized him, and he, being sure of this, made off. A few minutes later he intercepted both girls on the stairs, tried to frighten them with some drug, took the papers from Miss Dorothy Dale, and again made his escape."
This was by far the most intelligent account of the affair yet given, and after its recital many of the men thought they could see a solution of the mystery.
"But how do you associate all this with Miles Burlock?" Ralph was questioned by the chairman: "I know Mrs. Douglass had a special interest in that man," went on Ralph. "I have known her to give him money to buy respectable clothes with, and,—well there is no need to make public our brother's misfortunes. At any rate, it seems plain to me that this stranger was trying to keep the news of Mrs. Douglass' death away from Burlock."
"Has any one seen Burlock lately?" was next asked.
No one had; in fact his absence had been noticed by many present. He was not a common drunkard, and that was probably why such an interest was manifested in his possible entire reformation.
This was all of importance that occurred at the meeting, and the committee adjourned with instructions to continue their work.
It was a beautiful spring evening. The air was soft with blossoms, and a perfumed dew made all of Dalton like a rose garden.
Major Dale was improving rapidly, in fact he had recovered so quickly that this evening he insisted upon sitting out of doors for a few minutes. The doctor had discontinued calling, and said the attack was more of overfatigue from the march on Memorial Day than anything else. Both Dorothy and Tavia had been absent from school the past week but this was Sunday evening, and they would both go back to-morrow.
Dorothy went over to talk about it with her friend.
"Well, it will be something to have another chance at Lady Sarah," said Tavia, when Dorothy had finished telling her to be sure and have her father write an excuse to hand to Miss Ellis. "I don't mind school so much when there is something else to think of in between. And the girls will be tickled too, for they all love a good fight."
"Now, Tavia, you must stop that kind of talk if you are going to be a friend of mine," counseled Dorothy. "I cannot be considered your friend if you will not be—ladylike—"
"Like Lady Sarah," Tavia finished, laughing. "Well, all right, Doro dear," and she gave her chum a bear-like hug, "I'll be as good as pie,— lemon meringue at that,—so don't worry any more."
"Have you heard anything about the man?" Dorothy asked cautiously, for it was almost dark, and the girls were walking back to the Dale homestead.
"Not a word," answered Tavia, "except that father thinks he has gone out of Dalton altogether."
"And I have not seen Miles Burlock all week," commented Dorothy, "You know I had been trying to get him to reform."
"Everybody seems to be trying to do that."
"Well, Ralph told me he had seen Burlock crying like a baby one day because a little girl asked him for a penny. And Ralph thinks perhaps there was some little girl in Miles' story,—a daughter maybe—and he suggested that I try my influence with Miles."
"Did he cry like a baby over you?" teased Tavia, with poor appreciation of her friend's efforts to help along the Liquor Crusade.
"Now please, Tavia, don't be absurd. There is something wonderfully winning about Mr. Burlock."
"Of course there is. Wicked people are always winners."
"I won't tell you one thing more!"
"Now Doro! Doro! You know I love to hear you talk that way. And if it were not so dark I could see your eyes show how deep they are, just like the Jacks-in-the-Pulpit I gathered in the woods yesterday. You are nothing like a wild flower, more like a beautiful pink and white hyacinth, that grows in the Douglass garden; but sometimes, when you pretend to be angry, you make me think of the wood flowers. They have such a way of blooming best when some other growing thing tries to stop them. Jacks-in-the-Pulpit grow right up through stones, and bloom in tangles of poison ivy."
"I am sure I have no right to compare myself with flowers," answered the other pleasantly, for she always admired her friend's poetic ideas, although other people might laugh at them.
"Shows she is thoughtful, anyway," Dorothy would tell herself, "and that is what Ralph meant when he said she could not make serious mistakes when she followed the advice of her kind heart."
The Dale house could be seen through the trees now. Voices were heard outside; perhaps the boys playing some games.
"I'll leave you here," said Tavia, "you are not afraid of bugaboos are you?"
"Not a bit," answered Dorothy, laughing. "Be sure to be on time at school to-morrow. No use adding coals to the fire."
"It depends on whether you intend to wash, bake, or iron. Now I am going to do all three at school to-morrow, so I may as well keep up a good, warm fire;" and giving her chum a hearty hug Tavia started off.
Dorothy stopped as she neared the piazza.
Surely that was a strange voice. A man was talking very earnestly to her father.
It was Miles Burlock!
What could that man want of her father?
And what was so mysterious about their conversation that reached her ears in spite of her attempting to enter the house without intruding upon her father's company?
Her name was being spoken, and why would Aunt Libby not open that door?
"There she is now," said Major Dale, as Dorothy gave one more knock. "Daughter, come this way. We are waiting for you."
How hard her heart beat! And how foolish she was to be nervous!
"This gentleman," began Major Dale, "wants you to hear a story. It may be sad for ears so young, but perhaps the knowledge that you have helped Mr. Burlock to settle one point in this story may make it more interesting to you."
The faint moonlight, that now streamed from the spring sky, made a silvery glow upon the faces of the two men, and even in the shadows, that of Miles Burlock showed features firm and what might be called handsome. Dorothy had often seen him before, but he had never looked that way. His face was clearer now he was changed.
"Child," he said, extending his hand to her, "You need not fear Miles Burlock now. He is a man—no longer a slave to rum—but a wake at last."
"I am so glad!" Dorothy stammered.
"Yes, that day you took my hand, although it was not fit for yours, and the way you asked me to join in the League work came like a miracle of grace. Perhaps it is—because—because you are so like the child I lost."
He bowed his head, and for a moment, was silent, then he looked at Dorothy again.
"As you are the one chosen to help this man find himself—for he has been morally lost for years,—I feel it may be that you, too, may help me find my own child," Miles Burlock went on. "At any rate it is best that you should hear the story, for when men like us have passed away the children may be here to remember what others will be glad to forget about me—to forget that I tried to undo the wrong I had done to those lost to me now."
Major Dale opened the door to the sitting room, and there the man continued his story.
"As a boy I was cared for by an over-indulgent aunt, and I have often thought that the fact of having lost my own mother might, in some way, make an excuse to heaven for me, for the boy or girl who never knows a mother has suffered more than mortal can count,—in ways more numerous than mortal can see, and a motherless babe is the saddest story in all human history. Well, money had been left for me, and this too, I believe, was an inherited wrong, for too early in life had I begun to feel independent. Later that indifference to discipline grew to recklessness, and then the final evil came in the shape of bad company."
Major Dale stopped the speaker for a moment and Dorothy was glad to move a little nearer her father. Somehow, this strange story was unlike anything she had ever heard, and while it fascinated her, it also frightened her, for she had not before known anyone who had lived such a wild life.
"And here is where your daughter, Major Dale, has come so strangely into my life," went on Mr. Burlock. "The good people of this town have been working hard to save such men as I have been—but no longer will I rank myself with such. That young man, Ralph Willoby, had pleaded with me in a way few could have resisted, but the trouble was, I was in the hands of a man who had been my evil genius for years, and no matter how firm was my resolve to get away from temptation, this tyrant would manage to put the poison into my hands. Of course I thought him a friend,—that was what he had always pretended to be,—but through the strange interference of this little girl,"—laying his hand on Dorothy,—"I have seen the light; the scales have fallen from my eyes."
The awful face of the villainous man, who had so frightened Dorothy on the stairs of the Bugle office, seemed to flash into that room. Could he be that evil genius?
"Yes, Major Dale," he went on, "you must have heard by this time that a man waylaid your daughter, grabbed the papers from her hands and tried to frighten her so that there would be no outcry until he had made his escape. Well, that man was no other than he who put liquor to my lips when I was a boy; who took me from my home when I was a husband, and made me sign papers that would leave my young wife helpless in all the affairs that she should rightfully control. Not satisfied with this record of villainy, he, at last, separated me from my wife and daughter, and though I have searched for years for them, it has all been in vain."
The man stopped. Tears were streaming down his pallid face and the sorrow of a lifetime seemed about to break the bonds of human endurance. Major Dale put his hand on the other's shoulder.
"Cheer up, brother," he said, "There may yet be time. Life is with you still."
"Ah, but have I not searched all this week? And did not that man promise to take me to them?"
Dorothy had shrunk back when Mr. Burlock said the man who had put terror in her own life was the same person who had destroyed his happiness. Then it was as Ralph said,—Miles Burlock did figure in the mysterious case.
The evening was melting into night. Major Dale was still feeble from his illness and his daughter, quick to see the look of pain on his loved face, determined to stop the story for the time being.
"You must lie down, father," she said, putting her arm about him, "You know the doctor said to be very careful."
With a promptness that bespoke good breeding the visitor arose.
"Pray pardon me," he said politely. "I have been very selfish. I will not disturb you longer. I will come again to-morrow."
"We will be very glad, indeed, to help you, if we can," the major replied, rather faintly, for Dorothy had not spoken a moment too soon for his comfort.
"The real matter with which I would ask you to help me is the putting aside, now, of the money which is in my name, and which should be secured against enemies of my poor wife and daughter," said Miles Burlock. "I will never again trust anything to the uncertain time when they may be found, for I believe now they are being kept away from me by this same scoundrel, Andrew Anderson. It may be well for you to know his name."
"And where is he?" asked the major, his voice showing the feeling he could not hide, a determination to deal severely with the man who had threatened Dorothy.
"That is something I would not dare to tell even if I knew. My only hope of getting these affairs settled so that I may sometime make amends to my dear ones, is by keeping away from Anderson. It might not detain you too long to say that last week my friend, my counselor, and benefactress Marian Douglass, passed away. For years she held safely for me the principal of the money I had been wasting. Now that she is gone, and he knows it, I must at once make it secure in some other way. To-morrow, if you will allow me, I will come again and bring witnesses. No other man in Dalton would be so worthy of the trust. Thousands of dollars have almost made themselves in ways planned and carried out by Marian Douglass, who held this money both for me and from me, but now a part of this must be used to find my wife and my daughter Nellie, and then to run down their persecutors, for I have been a tool, simply, in the hands of those who took what I had and who have been trying for years to get the rest. If nothing happens to me to-night I will come to-morrow morning, after that we may tell the town who it was who tried to spoil the fair name of Dalton."
He pressed Dorothy's hand to his lips as he left. She felt a tear fall upon it; and she knew that all her prayers and all her efforts to save this man from his evil ways had not been in vain, and with the happiness that comes always in the knowledge of good accomplished, a new resolve came into her heart—she would some day find Nellie Burlock.
AT THE SWING
The strange story of the reformed man filled Dorothy's brain with exciting thoughts that night, and it was almost morning when she finally fell asleep. Even then she dreamed of all;—the fortune her father was to have in trust, the wicked man who had been trying to get it, and the poor wife and child who were hidden away somewhere, perhaps now starving. In her dreams she became Nellie, and she tried, oh, so hard, to find her own father, the dear major. The worry of it even in sleep gave Dorothy a severe headache, and when she awoke she found her nerves still throbbing and her brow hot and feverish.
"Oh, I'll be so glad to go to school to-day," she thought. "I am tired of all this worry, and it will be good to be back with the girls again."
"Doro, let me in! Let me in!" little Roger was calling at her door, and before she had a chance to finish dressing, her little brother had his soft white arms about her neck.
"Now, don't you look. You can't see until I've given you a quart of kisses, then you have to promise not to cry."
"Cry? What for?" she asked.
"Cross your heart, first," he insisted.
Then she saw that his curls were gone.
"Oh, darling!" she exclaimed, "who did it?"
"Jake, the barber. And daddy said so. He said you should not bother with tangles any more. Now don't you dare cry. You promised."
The girl took the little boy in her arms. Why did they do it just that day, when her head ached, and she had so many worries? Those beautiful curls! How she had loved them!
"Now Doro, you are going to cry, 'cause your eyes look like polly-wogs. And you must be glad that I'm a man, like Joe, now," and the boy sprang from her arms, and stood up like a "major" before her.
Then he was a "man," and her baby no longer. It was not the curls so much, but taking her baby from her, that hurt so.
The loving mother-spirit, that had made Dorothy Dale the girl she was, seemed to grow stronger now with every tear that clouded her eyes. Yes, he bad been her baby, and she had loved him with a wonderful love—sent into her heart, she always thought, by the mother in heaven who watched over them both.
"You have been a very good boy," she managed to say, "and Joe is a very good boy, so, if you can be like him, perhaps I will not be so lonely without the other Roger."
It was an hour later that Dorothy met Tavia in the lane and hurried to school with her. Of course she could not tell her friend what it was that made her so quiet, and it really was hard to keep a secret like that of the mysterious man from Tavia.
Perhaps she could tell her in the afternoon, by that time Mr. Burlock would likely have all his affairs attended to and then he said he would tell the town who the man was for whom the people had been looking.
As Dorothy and Tavia came into the schoolyard they saw Sarah Ford on the swing, that hung from a heavy square frame.
Down went Tavia's books on the grass.
"First for a run under!" she called, and instantly a line of girls formed, while Tavia led, of course, with such a "run under" that Sarah tried to jump to save herself from another like it.
"Hold fast!" shouted the next girl, who already had her arms up to the swing board. Then one after another they jumped to reach the board, and send it higher and higher until the girl on the swing threatened to turn over the frame.
"Oh, please stop!" she cried, "there goes the bell!"
One more "good push" sent her up into the air, and the girls were all gone—school was in.
For one moment Sarah held on and then jumped—into the remains of the janitor's rubbish fire!
Sarah Ford picked herself up. Her white dress was covered with soot and dirt. The classes were called by this time, and she could not go into the cloak room.
"Oh, that horrid mean thing, Tavia Travers!" she thought. "I will not give the girls a chance to laugh at me," and, darting out of the gate, she ran down the lane—away from school.
At the end of the lane the girl turned into an orchard and sank down under an apple tree.
Had she really run away from school? She could not turn back now, and what would her father say? He was so severe about school, he never would take any excuse.
The black soot had almost all blown off her dress. If she had not been so proud always, about her looks, perhaps she would not have noticed it much.
"Oh, what will I do to that girl!" she thought. "It was all her fault, and I'll lose my place too."
The sense of bitterness that filled Sarah Ford's heart was an entirely different sentiment from that which animated Tavia Travers when she made up, the "running under" game. The one was the sense of revenge, bitter and cunning; the other was a matter of school girl's fun, pure and simple.
Sitting there on the grass that revengeful spirit took the form of a resolve in Sarah's heart—to "pay back" Tavia Travers.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE ORCHARD
Within the schoolroom more than one girl was wondering what had happened to Sarah Ford. Dorothy was worried. Hers was a nature that took all things seriously, while Tavia insisted on looking on "the easy side" as she termed Hope. She was hoping with all her heart now, that Sarah Ford would soon enter the room, but the morning wore on and no Sarah appeared.
At last recess came. Such whispering among the girls—so many theories advanced to account for Sarah's disappearance.
"Playin' hookey," was all Tavia said, in the way she had of making light of things.
"Perhaps she was hurt," whispered Dorothy to Alice MacAllister, a girl who had always been a close friend.
"I don't think so," said Alice, "Even had she fallen there was nothing she could strike on, and I have often jumped when I could not go one bit higher."
"She may have fallen on the rubbish heap," suggested one of the older girls.
At last school was dismissed.
"I'll wager we find her down the lane taking Widow Drew's apple blossoms," remarked Tavia, as she and Dorothy started for home. "She may be going to another party and want a change of decorations,—she wore honey-suckle last time."
"Hush!" Dorothy interrupted, "I thought I heard—"
"Some one moan? So did I," declared Tavia.
They listened a moment.
"There it is again," said Dorothy. "Oh, I'm sure that's Sarah!"
"It was down in the orchard," went on Tavia.
"Help! oh, help me!" came a voice, and this time there was no mistaking the cry; a girl was calling.
Springing over the fence, with Dorothy following her, Tavia ran through the deep grass to the spot from which the sounds came.
Under the apple tree, suffering and helpless, they found Sarah Ford.
"Oh, what has happened!" wailed Dorothy, bending over her.
"You have killed me!" gasped Sarah.
"Is it your ankle?" Tavia asked, trying to find out what could be done to get Sarah home.
"Yes, and you did it!" declared the suffering girl. "You gave me that last push. Oh,—oh. Get a doctor—or I will surely die!" and she buried her head deeper in the grass, writhing in agony.
"Can't you move, Sarah dear?" Dorothy pleaded, "If you only could, perhaps we could make a hand chair and carry you."
"Oh, it would kill me. My leg is surely broken. I can feel the bone. Oh, dear! Oh dear me! What shall I do? What shall I do?" and the unfortunate girl burst into hysterical weeping—
"I'll run and get a wagon—or a carriage—or something," Tavia said nervously, for she was very much frightened at Sarah's condition.
"They never could drive in this rough place," Dorothy sighed. "Listen! There is Joe. Call him. He will help us."
In a moment Joe Dale was beside his sister.
"Why, a man must carry her, of course," he declared promptly, "I just met Ralph Willoby—"
A shrill whistle from Joe, followed by his calling loudly the young man's name, soon brought Ralph to the scene.
"Oh, I am so glad it is you!" said Dorothy. "You will know just what to do, and we—don't want—a crowd."
By this time Sarah showed signs of fainting; her breath came in gasps and her face was very white.
"Run over to the spring Joe, and fetch a cup of water," Ralph commanded. "Now, Miss Ford, you must put your head down flat on the grass—this way. There, that's it. Now try to straighten out so that you can breathe better."
But every move that the suffering girl tried to make caused her such pain that Dorothy fell upon her knees and tried to fan a breath into her white face, to prevent her, if possible, from becoming unconscious.
"Here's Joe, with the water," exclaimed Tavia, running to meet the boy, and hurrying back with the cool liquid.
Ralph pressed the drink to Sarah's lips, while Dorothy waited to bathe the pale face with what water might remain in the cup.
"Oh!" sighed Sarah. "I feel—better. I thought I was going to die."
"You were faint," Ralph exclaimed. "Do you think you can sit up now?"
Not waiting for a reply, the young man slipped his hand under the girl's shoulders, and the next minute he had her in his arms.
It was a sad little procession that followed him. Dorothy almost in tears; Tavia with eyes already overflowing, while Joe kept very close to Ralph, ready to offer any assistance in carrying Sarah to her home.
But Ralph was well able to manage his burden, for the girl was not heavy, and she helped herself some by keeping her arms clasped about his neck. Fortunately the Ford home was not far away.
"There's Mr. Ford," whispered Joe to Tavia, as they reached the gate, and at that moment the man on the porch raised his head from his paper, and saw them coming.
Mr. Ford seemed dazed—he did not stir for a moment but sat there staring wildly at the group now coming up the path.
"Sarah has hurt her ankle," Joe hurried to say, and as his voice roused the man from his frightened attitude, he sprang up and reached to take his daughter from the young man's arms.
"I had better put her on a couch," objected Ralph, "Her ankle seems quite painful."
"What has happened?" asked the father opening the door of the sitting room and making ready the couch under the window.
"The girls did it," gasped Sarah, "that girl there, Tavia Travers!"
"You!" exclaimed the man, making a threatening move towards the accused girl.
"It was an accident," interposed Dorothy, "we do not know how it happened; we found her under a tree in the orchard."
"They do know," persisted the injured girl "They sent me up so high!— oh, get a doctor, quick!"
Ralph had now placed Sarah on the couch, and "while Mr. Ford hurried to call his wife, Ralph and Joe hastened off for Dr. Gray, leaving the three girls together.
"Tell us about it," Dorothy pleaded, not wanting to leave Sarah until she had obtained some idea of how the accident had occurred.
"I'll tell Squire Sanders," answered the girl on the couch, "and then you will be arrested, every one of you who—who tried to kill me!"
"Come!" whispered Tavia to Dorothy as Mrs. Ford appeared. "It only makes matters worse for us to be here."
Then as the mother fell weeping by the couch Tavia and Dorothy left the room.
SQUIRE SANDERS AT SCHOOL
Dorothy had always been able to influence Tavia, and to show her that to do right would be best in the end, although the doing of it might, at the time, seem very hard, and very unreasonable; but all her efforts now to induce her friend to go with her to school that afternoon and make the necessary explanation to Miss Ellis, were without avail—Tavia absolutely refused to go.
"No matter what comes of it," Dorothy told herself, as she walked sadly along the path, through the lane back to the schoolyard alone, "I'll stand by Tavia. She meant no harm, and was no more to blame than any one else. But I do wish, she had come this afternoon. It looks as if she were afraid or guilty, to run away from it all."
The fact that Miles Burlock had not appeared at the Dale home that morning, according to promise was of little interest to Dorothy now. Something might have happened to him. Of course, he certainly seemed determined to settle the business at once, but Dorothy's head and heart were too full of her school friends' troubles to give much thought to the Burlock matter. Major Dale had appeared concerned about it however, and had questioned Dorothy as to whether any one had mentioned to her, at school or on her way there, the fact that the strange man, likely Andrew Anderson, had been seen again in Dalton.
"Be very careful to go around by the road," her father had cautioned her on leaving, "and come directly home from school as I will be anxious," he said, when he kissed her good-bye.
But Dorothy reached school safely, and was soon surrounded by a crowd of curious, and not too thoughtful girls, whose incessant questions added much to her nervous condition. Sharp pains shot through her head, for the excitement of the day had caused the ache of early morning to become a bad attack of neuralgia.
"Please do not bother me so," she pleaded, as the girls plied question after question.
They had heard, of course, of the accident, but how it had happened, and what had become of Tavia, whether she run away or been arrested—these and many similar queries kept the excited scholars buzzing about Dorothy like bees about a hive.
"I do not know how it happened," she insisted, "I wish I did. We found her under the tree, and helped her home. That is all I know about it."
The class took its place. Miss Ellis began to speak but was surprised at that moment to see old Squire Sanders enter the room.
"Oh, oh, he's after Tavia!" whispered May Egner to Dorothy. "I'm glad she is not here."
"Take your seats, young ladies," Miss Ellis directed the class, and then the squire assuming his business attitude, that of holding his black- thorn cane well out in front of his left foot, which member in turn was in advance of its mate, and planting the cane down firmly twice, he began:
"I've come here to investigate a complaint" and he rapped his stick noisily on the floor. "Where's the girl who threw Sarah Ford from the swing, and broke her ankle?"
"Why," stammered Miss Ellis, "I have not heard of any such occurrence. Does any young lady here know anything of it?"
Dorothy was on her feet instantly. Her flushed face betrayed the emotion she tried bravely to hide, but when she spoke her voice rang with truth and confidence.
"Sarah Ford was not thrown from the swing," she began. "We found her suffering under the tree in the orchard. When the bell rang this morning she was on the swing, and I was the last girl to enter the hall. I saw her on the swing then."
A pin, dropped, might have been heard in the room. It was so like a trial to have Dorothy there "giving testimony."
"Well, that ain't the story I have," drawled the squire. "Where's that wild harum-scarum Tavia Travers? She's the one that's blamed."
"Tavia Travers!" called the astonished Miss Ellis, but of course there came no answer.
"Absent!" answered a girl from the back row.
"Can you tell us where she is?" Miss Ellis asked Dorothy.
"At home I believe," answered Dorothy simply.
"Well, this matter must be fully investigated," declared the squire, "thoroughly and fully investigated. Girls or boys who cut up tricks must be punished. Dalton will not stand any nonsense when it comes to life and limb," and again the cane thumped the floor. "I propose, as squire of the borough, to run this thing down to the very end. School girls now-a-days put on too many airs—copyin' after college rowdies with their pranks!"
While the teacher and squire were talking in the hall the pupils took advantage of the opportunity to express their opinions of the case, and what were meant to be whispered remarks soon reached a pitch of voice that called for remonstrance from the squire; and he rapped his cane vigorously on the door. This had the effect of restoring order, and also of bringing punishment upon the entire class for the remainder of the afternoon.
"To think," began Miss Ellis severely, on returning to the room, "that I should be so disgraced. Not enough to have one or two girls accused of— of a crime—but that the rest should so misbehave before an officer of Dalton! I shall be obliged to send to the president of the Board; something I have never before had to do. But this matter must be thoroughly investigated. I am very sorry, Miss Dale, that you should be implicated, sorry for your father's sake. But it all comes of associating with girls who—who will not be governed by those in proper authority," and the teacher adjusted her glasses, satisfied that she at least held a position as head of Dalton School with dignity and "authority" that such an office required.
Poor Dorothy! Her aching head was now bowed on the desk before her, and her sobs were so pitiful, even the most thoughtless girl in the room was silent and sad to see her weeping so.
Alice MacAllister sat upright at her desk. Her strong face assumed a daring expression—that of defiance. Alice was counted a good-natured girl. Something of a romp, perhaps, for her companions often called her "Mack" and she showed a preference for the boyish nickname.
But to see Dorothy weeping so, accused unjustly!
Alice raised her hand for permission to speak. Miss Ellis signed for her to go on.
Again that sense of suppressed excitement was felt in the class room. Something else was going to happen.
"Miss Ellis," began Alice in a firm voice, "Dorothy Dale is not to blame—"
"That is not for you to decide."
"But we were all there, and know as much about it as she does."
"At least she knows enough to keep her place. Sit down at once," and the teacher looked very much annoyed.
"Not until you have heard me," and Alice raised her voice a little.
"Go on! Go on!" murmured the girls about her. "Make her listen."
"Sarah Ford was never hurt in the school yard," declared Alice. "My brother saw her running down the lane just as the bell rang, and she could not stir when Dorothy and Tavia found her."
"Be silent this moment!" called Miss Ellis, rapping her ruler on the desk. "Your brother's story is of no account in this matter."
Dorothy raised her head. The room was in a commotion. Miss Ellis seemed too surprised at the girl's audacity to try to restore order. Perhaps no one was more surprised than Alice herself, for when she spoke first she had no idea of going so far,—it was that remark reflecting upon her brother's veracity that angered her.
Then the sobbing of Dorothy—Alice could not stand it to see her crying that way; better brave dismissal than sit by and listen to that.
With one glance towards Alice—a glance full of gratitude and love. Dorothy arose and asked to be excused.
"I must go home—" she stammered "I have such a sick headache."
"Very well," replied the teacher. "You may go."
"May I also be excused?" asked Alice, not boldly but with politeness restored to her voice.
"By no means," declared Miss Ellis. "I will not brook such insolence."
"I thought I might help Dorothy home," Alice explained, taking her seat again.
Meanwhile Dorothy was looking for her hat in the cloak room. It was a small stuffy place, and the day was unusually sultry, so that Dorothy felt dizzy there, trying to find her hat—and trying to find—Oh! what was the matter? She could not see! Oh, if some one would only come!
Then, with her hands before her, she stumbled and fell,—and all became a terrible blank.
What a day that had been at the Dalton School for girls! Sarah Ford was at home suffering from a badly sprained ankle; Dorothy Dale had been taken home ill from over-excitement, and Tavia Travers, for whom Squire Sanders had been searching, was not to be found anywhere.
The interference of Squire Sanders worried Miss Ellis. A man, especially an official, knows absolutely nothing about girls and their ways, and he is sure to antagonize them in any attempt to force them to betray one another's confidences.
But while the teacher, alone in the school, was reflecting upon the tasks she should soon undertake to perform; Dorothy lay in her little room, hot and feverish, with Aunt Libby beside her, bathing the throbbing head tenderly with cold water and vinegar.
"You've been doin' too much," muttered the old nurse, "a-runnin' newspapers, helpin' drunkards, teachin' housework to that Tavia, though 'twas a charity to show the child how to iron her own frocks. But you see deary, it was too much for you, you as has always had Aunt Libby at your elbow," and the old linen napkin, the softest of those ever ready for headaches, was dipped again into the blue bowl of cool water and strong vinegar, then pressed lightly to the feverish brow. "Try to sleep a bit now," went on the nurse, as Dorothy looked gratefully into the wrinkled face. "All you want is rest, just a good, quiet rest."
Dorothy closed her eyes. They burned so she pulled the napkin from her forehead down over the hot lids. That eased the pain, and perhaps she could sleep, she thought.
Watching her patient closely for a moment, Aunt Libby moved noiselessly to the window, pulled down the shade, pushed the chair against it so the breeze might not disturb it, left the room.
As she turned in the narrow hallway her gingham skirt brushed the crouching form of Joe, who had been waiting at his sister's door, but the aged lady did not know it.
Joe and Roger had been forbidden admission to their sister's room. She was to be left entirely alone, in absolute quiet; even Major Dale, who was assured the attack was not more than a sick headache, did not presume to disturb his daughter, but Joe had been waiting there in the hallway. He had an important message to deliver to his sister, one that "would not keep."
The boy had removed his shoes and now he stole noiselessly into the room.
"Dorothy! Dorothy!" he whispered. "Are you asleep?"
Dorothy pushed the napkin from her eyes, and raised her arm to invite her brother's kiss.
"Poor, dear Doro!" he murmured, pressing his cheek to her hot brow. "I am sorry for you—every one is," and he kissed her again. "But I have to hurry. Aunt Libby may come back."
He was looking for something in his blouse.
"I had a note from Tavia," he said. "She has gone away—"
"Gone away!" gasped the sick girl.
"Oh, only for a little while. Where is that note!"
The boy unbuttoned his waist, he even shook it out straight from the string, but no note was to be found in its folds.
"I could not have lost it!" he said, now quite alarmed that the note should have gotten out of his possession.
"What was it about?" asked Dorothy.
"Why—about—about why she went away," stammered the boy, helplessly.
"Don't you know what was in it?"
"No, it was sealed, and no one but you was to open it. Where could I have dropped it? I had it—let me see."
The fear that he had dropped the missive where it might be picked up by those not in sympathy with Tavia, and her troubles, now troubled Joe sorely. He had promised the girl, most particularly, that he would deliver the note to his sister that night, and he waited at Dorothy's door, risking the displeasure of Aunt Libby in keeping that promise. But now the very worst thing had happened—the note was lost!
"Never mind," whispered Dorothy, "perhaps you will find it in your jacket. I am sure she only said good-bye; there could not have been anything so very important in it."
"But if any of the others should get it," he sighed. "They could find out where she went, and she most particularly wanted to hide for a few days."
"Yes, she told me she was sure Sarah would wake up in a few days and make a 'clean breast of it.' Tavia declared she had done nothing wrong herself, and that she was not afraid of anybody, but, she said, there was going to be trouble, and she never ran into trouble when she could run the other way."
"Well, dear," said the sister, "you had better go to bed now. I am so tired and I feel a little like sleeping. If you find the note, bring it to me in the morning; if you do not find it, there is no need to worry. Tavia will be back to see me as soon as she hears I am sick," and, giving the boy a good night kiss, Dorothy closed her eyes, while Joe crept out of the room as noiselessly as he had entered it.
APPLE BLOSSOM MAGIC
Two long, dreary days had passed. Dorothy was well again, but, acting upon the advice of Miss Ellis, she remained away from school, to grow strong and take a little rest in the fresh air; to be out of doors as much as possible, the teacher said.
Alice had been to see Dorothy, and had assured her that "every thing was all right," even the misconduct of Alice in "talking back" had been forgiven, the girl herself declared.
But there was no explanation offered as to the accident to Sarah Ford. That was still a mystery to the school girls. Neither had Tavia returned to Dalton. She was visiting her aunt in Rochester Mrs. Travers announced.
Major Dale was at his office again, and the boys were not yet home from school, although the dismissal hour had passed.
There was a rush through the vines at the side of the porch—the next moment Tavia had Dorothy in her arms.
"You poor dear!" she exclaimed between her kisses. "To think that you have been sick all alone—without me!"
Dorothy leaned back in her chair—happy.
Tavia was not so much larger or older than she, but just at that moment she came like one all powerful; Tavia had such a way of being and doing.
"And all on my account," went on Tavia. "I declare you have gotten thin," and she spanned the bare wrist of Dorothy lovingly. "You never wrote, of course, as I asked you to."
The lost note! Perhaps other important matters had been overlooked in its disappearance.
"Is Sarah able to play leap-frog yet?" went on Tavia facetiously. "I hear Squire Sanders has been inquiring for me—just me, Tavia Travers. Ahem! Also my goodness me! Sakes alive! If I had only known the worthy squire wished to hold converse with this—me, you know, I certainly should have postponed my vacation. Who knows what I have missed?"
Dorothy's face showed how pleased she was; it was so good to hear Tavia rattle on that way. As Ralph Willoby had said, her heart was right, and so she made few mistakes where love could be counted on as her guide.
Tavia was stroking Dorothy's head affectionately. The two girls sat on the rustic bench, Dorothy with her head resting upon the other's shoulder.
"I made a discovery in Rochester," said Tavia, when she had exhausted every possible point, covering the sickness of her friend, the fainting in school and all that preceded and followed that occurrence. "Yes, I found out that a woman there, who did washing for my aunt, is named Burlock, and that she has been deserted by her husband—"
"Has she a daughter?" interrupted Dorothy.
"I don't know about that. Aunt Mary said she was such a strange woman, all the time moving, and no one ever could find out just where her rooms were. The way one had to do, to get her to do washing, was to apply to the Charity Bureau."
"But the Bureau must have her address," said Dorothy much interested in the story.
"Well, Aunt Mary said they could not keep track of her either. They know she is a good honest woman, who seems always to be in some trouble— looking for her husband, of course. I made up my mind that the man she is looking for is your friend Miles. Have you seen him lately?"
"No," replied Dorothy, thoughtfully.
"And I've got more news," went on Tavia, "Miss Ellis has planned a picnic for Monday. She is going to take our class to Glen Haven Falls. Do get strong and come, if you don't go I will not."
"Oh, I am sure I will be all right by that time," answered Dorothy, "in fact I am well now. I am only staying out of school because Miss Ellis thought it best. I wonder, Tavia, how we could ever think her unfair. She is the nicest woman—why, when she called she brought me jelly, and one of her splendid roses that she prizes so much. I felt almost guilty to have spoken of her, as I did, about the procession on Memorial Day."
"Well, she has not brought me jelly or roses yet," replied Tavia, "and I hardly think she would, even had I the good fortune to be sick in bed. Yes, I mean it! I would like to see what would happen if I took sick. But no danger. Aunt Mary said she would rather feed two men than give me what I call enough. It is not really enough, you know, but I call it that," and she stretched out on the bench to show how "deliciously lazy" common health makes a girl.
"You certainly do your appetite justice," said Dorothy laughing. "Aunt Libby says it's one thing to eat, and another thing to make your eating 'tell.' Now, you make your food—"
"'Tell.' Certainly I do, and make it 'tell' out loud too. I weigh—how much do you think?"
"One hundred and five," declared the girl. "I wish you could go away for a week. I am sure you would pick up and get the peaches back in your cheeks."
"We will go away in vacation time," replied Dorothy. "This month will not be long going around."
"Now I must run back home. I have not had a chance to tell mother a bit of news. You know it was the luckiest thing, ma wanted me to go to Rochester, and when the fuss came all I had to do was clear out. Ma had been waiting for me to get a new dress and she was so tickled when I said I would go in my old one. You see, Dorothy, Aunt Mary gives us lots of things, and no one had been out this spring. Nannie, that's my cousin, is just a little larger than I am, and oh, you should see the scrumbunctious dress I am going to wear to the picnic! It is perfectly— glorious!" and Tavia wheeled around on her toe, threatening her boasted one hundred and five pounds avoirdupois with disaster.
With a promise to be back again in the evening Tavia left Dorothy and hurried across the fields to her home.
"Things seem to be straightening out," thought Dorothy. "Every thing is all right at school, Tavia is back, now if Sarah would only tell—I have a good mind to run over to see her."
It was a warm afternoon and Dorothy had no need to bother with wraps. Aunt Libby was at the side porch so that in passing Dorothy called to her she would be back in a short time, then she crossed through the orchard, going under the very tree in the shade of which Sarah had been found suffering. Dorothy stopped and looked up into the branches. They were very low, some of them, so low that in fruit time girls could pick the apples without climbing for them.
The blossoms were almost gone. Small sprays lay faded on the grass where careless hands had scattered them.
Somehow, it seemed to Dorothy that the tree knew all about the accident; if trees could only talk, she thought. Then, picking up a spray of the freshest blossoms, she hurried on.
To Dorothy's surprise Mrs. Ford was very cordial in her welcome. Dorothy had feared the mother of the injured girl might not be so pleased to see her.
"Walk right in," said Mrs. Ford, opening the door. "I am sure it will do Sarah good to talk with you. She is so lonesome and talks in her sleep about the girls," and she led the way to her daughter's room.
The girl was now sitting up; her injured foot rested on a cushioned chair, while her face still showed signs of suffering.
"Sarah, dear," began Dorothy with an affectionate embrace, "I am so glad to see you up."
"Are you?" asked the other mechanically.
"Yes, indeed," ignoring her cold manner, "we have been so worried about you."
"We? Who?" and Sarah toyed nervously with the coverlet that was thrown over her knees.
"Why all of us; the girls at school. We hope you will soon be able to come back."
"I will never go back. I have had all I want of Dalton School," and Sarah tossed her head defiantly.
"Here is a spray of apple blossoms. I brought them from the orchard. They are so sweet," said Dorothy, "I thought they might make you think you were out of doors, when you shut your eyes and smell of them."
She offered the spray to Sarah, but the girl made no sign of accepting it. Dorothy was disappointed. She did not mind the sick girl being fretful, but she had not expected her to be rude.
A rather awkward silence followed. Dorothy had determined if possible, to reach the heart of this queer girl, but her best efforts seemed unsuccessful.
"Well, I had better go," said Dorothy at length, still holding the blossoms in her hand, and standing beside Sarah's chair.
She turned to leave.
"Good-bye," she said. "I hope you will be better soon."
But Sarah caught her dress. "Oh, Dorothy, do not leave me," she wailed. "I am so miserable, so unhappy! Throw the apple blossoms out of the window and come back to me. I need someone! Oh, I feel as if I shall die, all alone here!"
Sobs choked her words, and she seemed struggling for breath.
"Shall I call your mother?" Dorothy asked anxiously.
"No! no!" cried the sick girl. "I only want you. Dorothy Dale help me— you must help me or I shall die," and again Sarah broke into hysterical sobbing.
"What is it, Sarah dear?" pleaded Dorothy. "Tell me how I can help you," and she bent down closer to the weeping girl.
"Oh, I do not know. I have—Oh, Dorothy have you ever tried to injure another?"
"Why, no, dear, and I am sure you have not, either."
"Oh, but I have indeed! I can not bear the pain any longer. I must tell someone—you. You will know how to help me."
A very sad face looked up into Dorothy's. The brown eyes that had always been thought so proud and haughty were now "begging" for help, for pity, and for counsel.
"Tell me about it," said Dorothy, taking a trembling white hand in her own, which was scarcely more steady.
"Did—they—arrest Tavia?" asked Sarah, the words seeming to choke her in their utterance.
"Why, no. Of course they did not," Dorothy replied. "I just left Tavia a half hour ago, and she was as light hearted and happy as ever I have seen her. That little trouble at school did not last long."
"Oh, I am so glad!" exclaimed Sarah. "The thought of it has just— haunted me!"
"About the accident?" asked Dorothy, trying to help Sarah unburden her mind.
"Yes. I really did not mean to do so wrong. But when I found you were all gone, and I tried to jump—"
"Yes, of course it was very wrong of Tavia to send you up so high just as the bell was going to ring," and Dorothy pressed the other's hand encouragingly.
"Then when I saw my white dress, all black from the ashes, I ran away!"
"Now do not excite yourself, dear," cautioned Dorothy, for she saw how Sarah's face had flushed, and did not like to hear her raise her voice so.
"No, it will not hurt me. The pain of it has been killing me ever since, but now it will go—with my confession!"
"Hush!" whispered Dorothy, "your mother is in the hall."
"Poor mother!" answered Sarah. "She has tried every way to help me, but I could not tell her. It seemed so terrible!"
"But how did you hurt your ankle?" asked Dorothy bluntly.
"I fell out—of—the—tree! I did not mean to do it. I was up there hiding from those who passed in the lane, and all at once the awful thought came to me that I could slip and blame it on Tavia. But I did not mean to do it that way. Oh, Dorothy, how dreadfully I have been punished!" and the sick girl fell to weeping again.
"Never mind dear. We all do wrong sometimes—"
"No, Dorothy Dale, you never do. I have been jealous of your love for Tavia. I have loved you from the first moment I saw you—that day helping a poor drunken man to his feet. I said then I would make you love me, but see how I have failed. You will hate me now."
"No, Sarah dear. You are better and nobler this minute than any other girl in Dalton, for no other likely, has had to make the heroic effort to do right that you have been obliged to go through with. You know the joy there is over one lost lamb when it is returned to the fold?"
Sarah leaned back, and looked up full into Dorothy's face.
"I knew you would know just what to say to me;" she whispered. "Dorothy Dale you are—an—angel," and the big, brown eyes sent out such a look of love, admiration and, at last—happiness.
"It all seemed worse to you, thinking of it here, alone, with no one to say a word to you," continued Dorothy, consolingly. "And then of course, your father was angry. That only showed how fond he is of you."
"Yes. It seems every thing helps one to do wrong. I really never accused Tavia of doing it, only that time when we came in, and then I was so sick and frightened, I had no idea, then, that father would take it all in earnest. But he rushed right off, and when I heard Squire Sanders had been at the school—oh, Dorothy how can I tell you how I felt!"
"But it is all over now," spoke Dorothy soothingly, "and I will take care that every girl in school knows the greatest part of the trouble came from a mistake."
"But I can never go back to that school again—"
"Why, of course you can. I have to make an explanation myself when I go back. You know how hasty Alice is; well she got herself in trouble on my account, and I feel I must say something about it. I was too sick then to know just what to say. So, now that Tavia is back, she will have to give an excuse. Then I can say how the whole trouble was more of a mistake, than anything else, and how we were all really somewhat to blame; perhaps one as much as another."
A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER
The setting right of Sarah's wrong—a task which Dorothy had so willingly volunteered to perform,—was by no means so simple a matter as she had attempted to make it. School girls are apt to be fond of excitement, and this bit of trouble brought with it so many interesting experiences—the visit of a real squire, the "insurrection" of Alice; Dorothy falling ill in the cloak room, and that particularly novel occurrence: the disappearance of Tavia Travers. Surely all these features would seem to mark a red letter week on the calendar of "interesting events" at Dalton School. But that was not to be the end of it.
Dorothy intended to make such an explanation to the class, that the entire affair would be cleared up without too much blame resting on Sarah.
A conference with Tavia, held directly after her pathetic interview with Sarah, resulted in the former declaring she would shoulder any blame that could be made to fit her. "For a girl with a sprained ankle, and a bad case of delicate conscience, has troubles enough without inviting more," Tavia told Dorothy. "Besides," she said further, "it really was my fault, for I had determined to get even with her that day, and when I sent her upon the swing I really did not care whether she 'busted' through the clouds or not; I simply sent her flying.
"So, Doro," she concluded "you say whatever you please, and I will 'stand' for it. Only be sure not to let Miss Ellis know you are going to make a speech, for she has 'cut out' all speeches—except her own."