RANDY AND HER FRIENDS
Author Of Randy's Summer, Randy's Winter, A Jolly Cat Tale, Dorothy Dainty
With Illustrations by the Author
Boston Lee and Shepard
Norwood press J.S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Norwood, Mass. U.S.A.
BY AMY BROOKS.
Each Beautifully Illustrated by the Author.
THE RANDY BOOKS.
THREE VOLUMES READY. 12MO. CLOTH. STRIKING COVER DESIGN BY THE AUTHOR.
RANDY'S SUMMER. Price $1.00 RANDY'S WINTER. Price 1.00 RANDY AND HER FRIENDS. Price 80 cents, net
For Younger Readers.
A JOLLY CAT TALE. Large 12mo. Cloth. Profusely Illustrated. Price $1.00
DOROTHY DAINTY. Large 12mo. Cloth. Cover Design by the Author. Set in large English type. Price 80 cents, net
CHAPTER I Through the Fields
CHAPTER II A Cheerful Giver
CHAPTER III Gossip
CHAPTER IV The District School
CHAPTER V Randy's Journey
CHAPTER VI New Friends
CHAPTER VII The Little Travelers
CHAPTER VIII Just a Rose
CHAPTER IX A Scotch Linnet
CHAPTER X The Party
CHAPTER XI Timotheus and His Neighbors
CHAPTER XII Home
Randy and Snowfoot (Frontispiece)
"I'll tell you just one thing more," said Randy
As she looked from the window and saw the flying landscape
As the smoke flew backward the flaming torch revealed the sleeping children
Randy urges Polly to sing
Randy and Prue sat under the shadow of the blossoming branches
THROUGH THE FIELDS
The sunniest place upon the hillside was the little pasture in which the old mare was grazing, moving slowly about and nipping at the short grass as if that which lay directly under her nose could not be nearly as choice as that which she could obtain by constant perambulation.
A blithe voice awoke the echoes with a fragment of an old song. The mare looked up and gave a welcoming whinny as Randy Weston, Squire Weston's daughter, crossed the pasture, her pink sunbonnet hanging from her arm by its strings.
"Glad to see me, Snowfoot?" asked Randy as she laid a caressing hand upon the mare's neck and looked into the soft eyes which seemed to express a world of love for the girl who never allowed a friendly whinny to pass unnoticed.
"My! but this August sun is hot," said Randy, vigorously wielding her sunbonnet for a fan.
"And before we can turn 'round it will be September, and then there'll be lessons to learn, yes, and plenty of work to be done if I mean to keep the promise I made myself when I won the prize in June.
"A five dollar gold piece for being the best scholar, Snowfoot, and to think that I haven't yet decided what to do with it!
"I've spent it, in my mind a dozen times already, and to-day I'm no nearer to knowing just what I'd rather do with it than on the day it was given me. Did you ever know anything so silly?"
The horse sneezed violently, as if in derision, and Randy laughed gaily at having her plainly expressed opinion of herself so forcibly confirmed.
Leaving Snowfoot to crop the grass and clover, Randy crossed the field and followed a well trodden foot-path which led to a little grove and there in the cool shade she paused to look off across the valley, and again her thoughts reverted to the shining gold piece. Once more she wondered what it could buy which would give lasting satisfaction.
"If I were in the city," she mused, "I should probably see something which I'd like to have in the first store I came to, and I could buy it at once."
A moment later she laughed softly as it occurred to her that in the large city stores of which she had heard it would be more than probable that a dozen pretty things would attract her, and her bewilderment would thus be far greater than it had been at home with only a choice of imaginary objects.
"If old Sandy McLeod who gave the prize could know what a time I've had deciding what to do with it, I believe he would laugh at me and say in that deep voice of his,
"'Hoot, lass! Since the gold piece troubles ye, I wonder if ye're glad ye won it?'"
Randy in her pink calico gown, her sunbonnet still hanging from her arm, her cheeks flushed by the hot summer breeze, and the short ringlets curling about her forehead, made a lovely picture as she stood at the opening of the little grove and looked off across the valley to the distant hills.
She was thinking of the school session which would open so soon, when with her classmates she would be eagerly working to gain knowledge; of her longing for more than the "deestrict" school could give, of her father's promise that she should have all the education she wished for, and the light of enthusiasm shone in her merry gray eyes.
"I shall work with all my heart this season," thought Randy, "and if I could do two years' work in one, I should indeed be pleased. I believe I'll ask the teacher to plan extra work for me, and if she will, I'll—" but just at this point she heard a clear voice calling,
Turning she saw Belinda Babson running along the little foot path, her long yellow braids shining in the sun, and her round blue eyes showing her pleasure at sight of her friend.
"Why Belinda! Where did you come from?" cried Randy, "I'd no idea that anyone was near me."
"I've been sitting on the top rail at the further side of the pasture, and just watching you, Randy Weston," said Belinda, laughing.
"I was on the way up to your house when I met your little sister Prue, and she said that you were out here, so I turned this way, and just as I reached the bars I spied you a looking off at nothing and a thinking for dear life."
"I was thinking," admitted Randy, "and I was just wondering if I could do two years of school work in one, when you called me."
"Well what an idea!" gasped Belinda, "you don't catch me doing more than one year's work if I can help it, and I wouldn't do that if pa didn't set such a store by education.
"Why, Randy," she resumed a moment later, "what makes you in such a drive 'bout your lessons, anyway?"
"I'm sixteen this summer," Randy replied, "and I've no idea of waiting forever to fit myself for something better than a district school."
Belinda looked aghast, and her round face seemed longer than one could have believed possible.
"Randy Weston!" she ejaculated, "if you're planning to work like that the whole duration time you won't have a single minute for fun, and how we'll miss you!"
"Oh, don't imagine that I shall lose all the winter's pleasures, Belinda," Randy answered slipping her arm about her friend's waist. "I can study in the long evenings and I think that I shall be able to join you all in the 'good times' which you plan and yet be able to do the extra work at school."
"Well, I wish you joy," said Belinda, "but I, for one, get all the school work I want in a year as it is, and as to extra work, I guess I'll get it fast enough this winter, although it won't be lessons I'll be attending to in my spare time.
"Ma got a letter last night when she rode over to the Centre, and Aunt Drusilla writes that she's coming to make us a three months' visit, and she's going to bring little Hi with her. And yesterday morning pa said that Grandma Babson was a coming to make her home with us, so you might guess, Randy, that Jemima and I'll have to step lively and help ma a bit."
"You will indeed have to help," Randy answered, "but won't it be fun to see little Hi again?
"Do you remember, Belinda, when he was here last summer, he tried to harness the hens and wondered why they didn't like it?"
"I had forgotten that," said Belinda, "but Jemima reminded me this morning of the day that pa lost his spectacles. Every one in the house hunted for those glasses, and at last Jemima ran out into the door-yard, and there was little Hi with the spectacles on his nose, a peering into the rain water barrel and holding onto those specs to keep them from tumbling off into the water. He said that pa said there were critters in any water, and as he couldn't see 'em he ran off with the glasses to see if they would help him. He tied our old Tom to the mouse trap because he said that he wanted the cat to be on hand when the mice ran in. He carried a squash pie out to the brindle cow because he thought she must be tired of eating nothing but grass, and if he and Grandma Babson have got to spend three months under the same roof, I b'lieve he'll drive her crazy, for she hates boys and don't mind saying so, and he can think of more mischief in one day than any other child could in a week."
Both girls laughed as they thought of little Hi's pranks and Randy said, with a bright twinkle in her eyes,
"At least, you and Jemima will be amused this winter."
"I guess we shall be in more ways than one," assented Belinda, "for I'm pretty sure that Grandma Babson and that small boy will be enemies from the start."
Belinda's habitually jolly face wore such a comical look of anxiety that Randy refrained from laughing, and to change the subject asked for a schoolmate whom she had not recently seen. "Where is Molly Wilson?" she questioned.
"Oh, Molly is so hard at work now it's only once in a while that I see her. Her baby sister is ill, and Molly has no time for anything but helping around home. Her mother says that she intends to have her go back to school if she can spare her, but whatever do you suppose Molly meant?
"She said to me, 'Belinda, even if mother can spare me, I may not go to school. You can't think how anxious I am to be at work at my lessons again, but I'm afraid I shan't look fit and father's had such a hard summer, the farm hasn't paid for working it, he says, that I couldn't ask him for anything for myself if I never had it.'
"And oh, I never thought, Randy, I promised Molly I would not tell what she said. I didn't mean to. Whatever made me forget?"
"Never mind," said Randy, an odd little smile showing the dimples at the corners of her mouth.
"I will not tell a single girl you may be very sure, but you and I who know it will be extra kind to Molly."
"Indeed we will," assented Belinda. "I'll go over this afternoon and see if I can help her. The baby is a sweet little thing and she likes me, so perhaps I shall be some help. Oh, there's Jemima calling at the bars, I guess ma wants me. My! I wonder if some of our company has arrived?
"Remember not to tell what I told you," cried Belinda to Randy, who stood looking after her friend, as she ran across the pasture to join Jemima.
They turned to wave their hands to Randy, who responded, then, as they disappeared behind a clump of trees, she turned her eyes toward the sunny valley and with her hands loosely clasped seemed to be watching the shimmering sunlight on the winding river below.
She had long been standing thus when a gentle whinny made her turn to offer the caress for which old Snowfoot was hinting.
The horse laid a shaggy head against Randy's shoulder and edged nearer as the girl patted her nose, then walking over to a large rock she stood close beside it and began to neigh, at the same time looking fixedly at Randy.
"Oh you cunning old thing," said Randy with a laugh.
"You're inviting me to ride, just as you always do, by walking up to that big flat rock so that I can mount. Well you old dear," she continued as she stepped upon the rock and prepared to seat herself upon Snowfoot's back,
"I've found out what to do with that precious gold piece, and I'm going to do it."
Then without saddle or bridle, but with a firm grasp upon the shaggy mane she chirped to her steed and the horse pricking up her ears at the sound, bounded forward, and proud of her charge carried her across the pasture to the bars where little Prue stood waiting to meet her.
It was evident that the little sister had wonderful news to tell, for her brown eyes were very wide open and she could hardly wait for Randy to slip down from Snowfoot's back before beginning to tell what so excited her.
"Oh, what do you think!" she began when with her hand in Randy's they trudged along towards home.
"My Tabby's caught a mouse, and father's just come back from the Centre and he's brought the cloth for a new dress for you'n me, 'n I picked holes in the bundles, an' one's blue an' one's red an' which do you s'pose is mine? And Aunt Prudence is comin' to see us next week, an' there's goin' to be a new spout to our rain water barrel, an' I guess that's all."
"Well if all that happened while I've been out in the pasture," said Randy, laughing, "I guess I'll have to stay in for a while and see what happens next."
A CHEERFUL GIVER
It was a warm August evening when a farm hand passing the Weston house paused a moment to look admiringly at the picture which the wide open door presented.
A rude frame of home manufacture, covered with netting, kept inquisitive moths from entering, at the same time allowing a flood of light to make its way out into the door-yard, where it lay upon the grass and added glory to the marigolds which grew beside the path.
"Happiest family I know on," muttered the man, drawing a rough hand across his eyes. "Makes me think of the time when I was a little feller ter hum, and had two sisters jest 'baout the size of Square Weston's girls."
Then, with a sigh, the man went on up the road, but the memory of the family group in the brightly lighted room remained in his mind for many a day.
At one side of the table with its bright cloth smoothly spread, sat Mr. Weston perusing the county paper, at times reading aloud a bit of especially interesting news to his wife who was busily at work upon an apron for little Prue. In the centre of the table stood a large lamp, a monument to the enterprise of Silas Barnes, the village storekeeper.
"You folks don't want ter go pokin' raound with taller candles when ye kin git er lamp that gives light like all fireation, do ye?" he had said.
And those farmers who could afford the luxury invested in a lamp at once. Others, whose purses were too lean for such expenditure, affected to prefer candles, declaring the lamplight to be too glaring for their taste.
Just where the light shone through the outline of her rippling hair sat Randy, reading aloud to Prue, who stood beside her at the table, insisting upon seeing each picture as Randy turned the page.
As she finished reading the story, Randy turned, and slipping her arm about Prue drew her closer, while the little sister, giving a contented little sigh exclaimed,
"That's the best story of all, Randy, read it again."
"Why, Prue, you've just heard it twice," said Randy, "you don't want to hear it again to-night!"
"Oh, yes, I do!" cried Prue. "I'd like to hear it all over again from the beginning, 'Once upon a time.' 'F I hear it this once more it'll seem 'bout true."
"I should think 'twould seem threadbare," said her father, with ill suppressed amusement.
"No, no!" cried Prue, "'tain't freadbare, it's fine, the finest in the book. Do read it, Randy, and then I'll be willing to go to bed."
So Randy began once more the story which had so charmed the little sister, and very patiently she read it, while Prue, who was really sleepy, made heroic efforts to keep her eyes open.
Often her lashes would lie for an instant upon her cheek, when immediately she would open her eyes very wide, and look furtively about to see if her drowsiness were detected.
"And they lived happily ever after," read Randy.
"And they lived—happily—ever—after," drawled Prue, as if in proof that she were indeed awake.
"Why Prue," cried Randy, "you're half asleep."
"I'm not," Prue answered, "I heard what you read. You said 'and they lived happy ever after.' Now I'm wide awake, else how did I hear?"
After Prue was safely tucked in bed, Randy returned to the cheerful room below and unfolded her plan for spending her prize money.
Mrs. Weston put aside her sewing to listen, and Mr. Weston laying his paper across his knees, watched Randy keenly as she said,
"You see I've felt that I should like to do something with this prize which it would always give me pleasure to remember, and I know that if you both think best to let me do this, I shall always look back to it with happy thoughts."
There was a pause when Randy had finished speaking, then Mrs. Weston, without a word, placed her hand upon Randy's, as it lay upon the table and the Squire, taking off his glasses and affecting to see a bit of moisture upon them, took out his handkerchief and slowly wiping the lenses he said,
"As far as our letting ye, Randy, the money's yer own ter do as ye please with, but fer my own opinion, ye well know I've always said 'twas' better ter give than receive.' This time ye have both. Ye've known the joy of receiving the prize, and now ye plan ter use it ter make another happy. I'm proud of yer choice, and I guess yer mother thinks as I do. I'm well able now ter give ye all ye need, and if winning and giving yer prize makes ye twice glad, why what more could we ask?"
"I'm so glad you like my plan," said Randy, with sparkling eyes. "Molly is such a nice girl, and the way I'm going to send the gift, she will never guess where it came from, I waited until Prue was asleep to tell you about it.
"She never could keep the secret, and a secret it must be, for Molly is proud and shy and must only think that some one has sent her a nice gift."
"That's right, Randy," said Mrs. Weston, "but do ye think it can be managed so that Molly won't dream where it came from?"
"Oh, yes," Randy answered, "I shall get Jotham to help me, and he will be sure to do my errand just as I direct."
"Wall, I guess that's sure enough," said Mr. Weston, with a chuckle, which Randy heard on her way up the stairs to her little bed-room.
The bright color flushed her cheeks as she thought of Jotham Potts who, since they were both little children, had been her ardent admirer, faithful and eager to do her slightest bidding. She admired his frank, truthful character, appreciated his kindness and valued his friendship, but she made no one friend a favorite, striving rather to be friendly and cordial with all.
In her dreams she sent her gift to Molly many times, and as many times wondered if it pleased her, and when she awoke in the morning she could hardly believe that it had not yet been purchased.
"I'm glad it was just a dream," thought Randy, as she stood before the tiny glass drawing the comb through the curling masses of her light brown hair, "because I've yet the pleasure of choosing the gift and of buying and sending it to her.
"I believe I'll go down to Barnes' store to-day, for now I've made up my mind what to do, I can hardly wait to do it."
It seemed as if everything favored Randy's scheme. The first person whom she saw as she ran out to the well and commenced to lower the bucket was Jotham, whistling as he strode along, deftly cutting the tops from the roadside weeds with a switch.
"Hi, Randy! Let me help you," he said, vaulting lightly over the wall and hastening toward her as she stood smiling in the sunlight.
"You can help in another way to-day, if you will," said Randy. "Come and sit upon the wall while I tell you about it."
"Indeed I will," was the hearty rejoinder. "I've often told you, Randy, that I'd do anything for you."
"Well, this is for me, and for some one else too," said Randy, looking earnestly up into his kind, dark eyes.
"And Jotham," she continued eagerly, "you must not mind if I don't tell you all about it, 'tis truly a good reason why I can't."
"I'll do whatever you wish, Randy," was the reply, "and I won't ask a question."
"Oh, here's Prue coming," said Randy, "and she mustn't hear about it. You meet me at Barnes' store about four o'clock this afternoon and I'll tell you then what I wish you to do."
"All right," said Jotham, "I'll be there on time, you may be sure of that."
"O, Randy," cried little Prue, "what you tellin' Jotham? Tell me too."
"See here, Prue," said Jotham with as serious an expression as he could assume, "I was just telling Randy that I should be at Barnes' store at four o'clock."
"Oh, was that all?" said Prue, "I thought 'twas something great," and her look of disgust at finding the conversation to be upon so ordinary a topic made both Randy and Jotham laugh heartily.
"Well I don't see why you laugh," said Prue, "'twon't be funny to be going down to the store this hot afternoon. I'd rather stay at home with my Tabby cat, and fan her to keep her cool."
Immediately after dinner, little Johnny Buffum appeared in the door-yard and announced that he had come to play with Prue. He wore a blue-checked pinafore, below which could be seen his short snuff-colored trousers and little bare feet. Upon his head jauntily sat a large straw hat with a torn brim through which the sunlight sifted, where it lay, a stripe of gold upon his little freckled nose.
"I'm glad you've come, Johnny," said Prue. "Let's play school."
"All right," agreed Johnny, "I'll be the teacher."
"And I'll play I'm Randy, and Tabby can be me,—you 'member to call her Prue when you speak to her,—and Johnny, this rag doll will be you," said Prue.
"That old doll's a girl," objected Johnny. "I won't let no girl doll be me."
But Prue argued that it would be enough better to be represented by the despised rag doll, than not to be in the school at all, so half convinced, the game began and the two children were so occupied when Randy started for her walk to the Centre, that her little sister quite forgot to coax to be allowed to "go too."
As she trudged along the sunny, dusty road, Randy hummed a merry little tune, her footsteps keeping time to its rhythm and her heart beating faster as she thought of her delightful errand.
Arrived at the store she asked Mr. Barnes to show her the piece of cloth from which her father had bought on the night that he had driven to the Centre.
"Joel!" called Silas Barnes, "show Randy Weston that second piece of cloth from the top, will ye? I've got ter finish opening this barrel o' sugar."
Joel placed the cloth upon the counter, saying,
"Is that the piece ye mean?"
"Yes, that is it," said Randy.
"Didn't yer pa git 'nough?" questioned Joel.
"Oh yes," said Randy, "but I want this for something else. I'll take eight yards."
"Why that's 'nough for a whole gaown," said Joel, but a shade of annoyance passed over Randy's sweet face and as she showed no disposition to explain, the clerk cut off the number of yards with the injured air of one whose kindly interest had been unappreciated.
When the cloth had been made into a neat parcel, Joel looked up and extended his hand for payment, when to his utter astonishment, Randy informed him that she had yet another errand.
"I'll look at some shoes now," she said with quite an air, for this was her first shopping trip and a very happy one.
"Fer yourself, Randy?" asked Joel.
"I wish them to be my size, so I'll try them on," was the answer.
"Well ef they're ter be your size, they're to be yourn, ain't they?" queried Joel, determined if possible to know all about this wild extravagance.
Randy had changed her gold piece for a bill before she left home, well knowing that the bill would attract less attention.
Assuming not to have heard his question, Randy took her parcels, and gave Joel her bill. Joel took the money, but he could not resist the temptation to ask one more question.
"Mebbe ye didn't know that yer pa bought a pair er shoes jest that size t'other night, did ye?"
No one person was ever known to have bought two pairs of shoes and two dresses at Barnes' store within a week, and the clerk was wild with curiosity, but just as he was about to repeat his question, Jotham entered the store, and Joel turned to see what his errand might be.
"Nothing to-day," said Jotham, "I saw Randy in here, and I thought I'd offer to take her bundles."
Together they left the store, and as they turned into the quiet, shady road Randy said,
"I think I never was more glad to see you, Jotham, than when I turned and saw you in the doorway of the store."
"Then I'm doubly glad I came," said Jotham.
"Well, Joel Simpkins thought 'twas the funniest thing that I should be buying something when father was not with me, and he asked just every question that he could think of except one. He didn't ask me where I got my money, and I do believe he would have asked me that if you hadn't come in just when you did."
"O Randy, it's a funny sight to see you provoked," said Jotham with a hearty laugh. "I know that he is an inquisitive fellow.
"You know I've been studying this summer with the young professor who has been boarding at our house, and father has arranged it so that when he returns to teach at the university I shall go back with him, not to the college of course, but as his private pupil. I shall work very hard at my studies and hope another year to enter college.
"Well, father was speaking to Mr. Barnes of my aspirations, and his plans for me, when Joel stepped over to where they stood talking, and said he,
"'Ain't that goin' ter be pooty expensive, Mr. Potts, an' likely ter put kind er high notions inter Jotham's head?'
"Father turned and looked at him, then he said,
"'I'm not likely to incur any bills which I am unable to meet, and as to Jotham's head, I truly believe it is level.'"
They both laughed to think of Joel's discomfiture, and under the shade of overhanging branches they sat down upon a large rock at the side of the road and Randy, turning toward Jotham said,
"There, now I'll tell you what I could not tell this morning, because dear little Prue cannot keep a secret, and you can, and will."
"I will if you wish it, Randy," said Jotham.
"Well then, these parcels are not for me, they are for someone else, and I do not wish her to know where they came from, Jotham, are you willing to go over to the Wilson farm to-night?" asked Randy.
"I'd go to Joppa if you asked it," answered the boy with a laugh.
"Then go to Molly's house after dark, and leave these bundles on the doorstep. Knock loudly, and then run away just far enough so that you will be able to see them taken in, and don't tell anyone about it. It's just a nice little surprise and you and I will keep our secret."
"It's a pleasure that you are planning, of that I am sure," said Jotham.
"I'll tell you just one thing more," said Randy, "Molly Wilson is a nice girl and she will be sixteen to-morrow."
"Oh ho! A birthday gift! Well, I don't wonder you wish it to get there to-night, but if I leave it and run, how will they know that the bundles are for Molly?"
"Oh, I must put her name on the parcels now," said Randy.
Jotham produced a pencil and thinking that Molly might recognize her writing, Randy printed in large letters this legend:
"For Mollie Wilson, from one who loves her."
After viewing her work with satisfaction, Randy said,
"There, now they are all ready, but Jotham," she added a moment later, "what will you do with them between now and twilight?"
"I'll take the packages home, and as you wish no one to know about them, I'll hide them in a safe place in our woodshed. When I start for Molly's house I have to go in the same direction that I would if I were intending to stop at Reuben Jenks' door, so I'll leave the presents at the Wilson's, and stop at Reuben's on the way home; then if I'm known to have been at Reuben's no one will guess that I was running about delivering presents."
So at a bend of the road they parted, Jotham happy in the thought that he had a part in one of Randy's plans, and at the same time doing her bidding, and Randy wondering if Molly's delight when she looked at her gifts would be as great as that which she had herself experienced in sending them.
The sun shone down upon the dusty little "square," and the foliage of the big willow tree near Barnes' store looked as if frosted, such a thick coating of dust lay upon the leaves.
At the trough beneath the tree an old gray horse stood alternately taking a long draught of the clear water, and looking off across the square, as if lost in meditation.
A dragon-fly with steely wings lit upon the trough and, skilled little acrobat, balanced upon the extreme edge as if thus to take in the full beauty of old Dobbin's reflection.
Exhaling a long breath as he lifted his shaggy head, the old horse sent a shower of bright drops upon the dragon-fly who, considering the act to be a great breach of etiquette, took zigzag flight across the sunny square, and up the winding road toward the mill.
It looked as if Dobbin might drink the trough dry if he chose, for an animated conversation was in progress at Barnes' store, and his master was one of the leaders in every discussion, whether the topic chanced to be political, or simply a tale of village gossip.
A chubby urchin made little hills of dust, using a well worn slipper for a trowel, and Dobbin kicked and stamped impatiently, occasionally taking another drink, and still the discussion went on.
"Naow I argy, that a leetle deestrict school wus good 'nough fer me, an' look at me!
"Own my farm free an' clear, got a good lot er stock an' tools on the place, an' I'm wuth two thousand dollars in cash!"
The speaker was old Josiah Boyden, one of the "seelectmen," and a member of the school committee. His greatest pride lay in the fact that he was a self-made man, and truly he looked as if constructed upon a home made pattern.
The group of farmers, obedient to his command, turned and looked at the speaker, while from behind the stove which, hot weather or cold, held the place of honor in the centre of the store, a shrill voice ventured to question the pompous owner of so great a property.
"Be ye goin' ter say, Josiah, that every feller what's edicated at a deestrict school can git ter own sech a fort'n as yourn?"
"Huh! Wal, no, not exactly," was the admission, for while this good committee-man was fighting a suggestion which had been made relative to securing better quarters for the school which promised to be larger than on any previous year, he did not wish to diminish his own glory by inferring that any one, however bright, or ambitious, could possibly arrive at his eminence.
"I think, friends," said Parson Spooner in his soft, pleasant voice, "that our scholars should be given every comfort and advantage which our village can possibly afford to grant."
"That's it, that's it," assented Josiah Boyden, "but the thing is, she can't afford to offer nothin' extry beyond just what's set aside fer schools."
Again the squeaky voice from behind the stove made itself heard. "That's the time, Josiah, when the taown can't afford it that cap'talists, such as you say you be, oughter step right inter the gap an' help aout."
"I've got a arrant daown ter the mill," remarked the offended "seelectman," "an' I'm goin' right along ter 'tend to it, but I'll say in leavin', thet I won't waste my breath a talkin' to a person with a mind so narrer as ter s'pose fer a moment that private puss-strings hangs aout fer every person who feels like it ter pull. I'm public sperited, every one knows that, but I don't help support no institootion er larnin when I got the hull er my edication at a deestrict school," and in intense disgust he left the store followed by an irritating chuckle which, although it came from behind the rusty old stove, reached the ears of Boyden as he stamped down the rickety steps of the store and stalked majestically across the square and up the road.
He was sure of a sympathetic listener at the mill, for it was a well worn saying in the village that the miller "agreed with everyone."
The river which kept his mill running, wound its way through the next village, where another grist mill was humming, and Martin Meers was far too shrewd to permit himself to express a difference of opinion from that held by a good customer, who in his wrath might take his grist to the rival mill to be ground.
Pondering over the "narrer minds" of those with whom he had been conversing, Josiah Boyden tramped along the dusty road, becoming more incensed with every step, as he thought of the individual who had presumed to suggest that he might contribute toward the school fund, and still the gossip at the store progressed, unhindered by the departure of the "seelectman."
"My Reuben," remarked Mr. Jenks, "made more progress in his studies last season than he ever made before in two winters' work, and I feel that the teacher deserves a deal of thanks fer stirring up such an interest. I don't have the sort er feelin' that Boyden has. I stand ready and willin' ter put my hand in my pocket ter help aout expenses, ef some others will 'gree ter chip in."
"But there's a 'scuse fer Boyden," chuckled Nate Burnham, the old fellow behind the stove, as he relighted his pipe, and puffed a few times to determine if it intended to burn. "There's a sort er 'scuse fer Boyden," he repeated, "fer his children have growd up, so he ain't got no use fer schools, and fellers like him don't pay fer things they ain't a usin'."
"Wal, I think we ought ter have a village improvement sarsiety fer the benefit of us as is out'n school," remarked Joel Simpkins, thrusting his hands deep into his pockets and tossing his head to shake back a refractory lock of hay-colored hair.
He was the "head clerk" at Barnes' store. To be sure he was, as a general thing, the only clerk, but Joel considered himself quite a personage, and never referred to himself as other than head clerk.
"Kinder had an idee that ye couldn't be improved, Joel," remarked a young farmer who had thus far taken no part in the conversation.
Joel looked sharply at the man, and vaguely wondered if possibly the remark was sarcastic, but the face into which he peered was so genuinely good natured that Joel was reassured, and he at once decided that only a very fine compliment was intended.
"I think we could fix up this 'ere square," said Joel, "ter begin with. Take that old horse trough. That could be fixed up 'n' painted, 'n' that willer tree; 'twouldn't hurt it ter give it a good preunin'. Growin' as it does daown in the ditch, or puddle beside this store, it flourishes, an' lops its limbs nigh onto across the square; an' the rickety fence beside it ought ter be straightened up 'fore some of the fellers that are perpetually leanin' 'gainst it pitch with it backward inter the ditch."
"Wal, Joel, while yer 'baout it," remarked Silas Barnes, "why don't yer suggest a brick block er two, an' pavin' stones in the square an' a few other things such as I told ye I seen in Boston. 'Tain't wuth while ter stop after ye git started ter make suggestions."
"Speakin' of the teacher," remarked Mr. Potts, "I'm one that speaks in favor of Miss Gilman every time, and Jotham seconds everything I say."
"Lemme tell ye what my Timotheus is a doin' these days. I set him ter hoeing fer me, and I tell ye ye'd like ter watch him a spell," said old Mr. Simpkins, his face beaming with pride in his youngest son.
"Fust he'd work the hoe with them long arms er his'n 'til the weeds an' dirt flew like Hail Columby, and ye'd think he'd got goin' an' couldn't halt, when all to onct he'd stop as ef somethin'd bit him, an' he'd drop the hoe and begin ter gesticerlate and spaout like a preacher.
"Pooty soon he'd make a grab fer the hoe, and agin the dirt would fly like all fury. Next thing ye knew, daown'd go the hoe agin, and up would go his arms, a sawin' the air like a windmill, an' there he'd be a spaoutin' an' a elocutin' fit ter kill. Who but Timotheus would ever think of combinin' hoein' an' elocutin'? I tell ye, he's the most possessed of 'rig'nal'ty of any pusson I ever seen."
"I wonder someone don't think he's a reg'lar loony, a carryin' on like that," muttered Joel, filled with jealousy and disgust.
Old Mr. Simpkins was deaf, and Joel's muttered remark passed unnoticed.
"He ain't one er them fellers that can't do but one thing to a time. T'other day I axed him ter bring two pail er water inter the barn, and away he went ter git 'em. Anybody'd think a pail er water in each hand oughter held him daown, but no sir, that feller came across the door-yard, both pails full, an' his head in the air, his maouth wide open, and the elocutin' a goin' on continoous."
"Ef I thought fer a moment that edication would make any er my children act like that, I vaow I'd keep 'em outer school fer one while," said a farmer who had recently arrived in the village, and roars of laughter followed this remark.
As he was deaf, old Mr. Simpkins failed to catch the meaning of the hilarity, so he construed it as it pleased him to, and when the laughter had subsided, said,
"I don't wonder ye laugh, ye didn't see him er doin' it, so ye don't know haow he looked, but I tell ye 'twas a grand sight ter see a young feller so eloquent that nothin' on airth could stop him."
"Must 'a been a 'stonishing sight," agreed Mr. Jenks, "but naow, friends, we've talked fer quite a spell on one thing or another, an we ain't much nigher ter settlin' the question of a bigger schoolroom than when we started.
"Naow instead er hagglin' 'baout it, I b'lieve we'd better have a committee meetin' called, and a reg'lar vote taken, an' I say right here and naow, that I shall vote fer better quarters fer the school an' I'll 'gree, as I said, ter put my hand right in my pocket an' give the thing a start.
"Nathan Lawton gave the use of his best room fer a schoolroom last year, an' 'twas kind an' generous fer him ter do it, but the village has been growin' just amazin', an' this year shows a bigger list of inhabitants, an' it 'pears as if most of the new comers had a family er children, so something's got ter be done 'baout that school buildin'."
"Good fer ye," squeaked old Nate Burnham, "an' I wish ye luck at the meetin'."
The village gossip was not monopolized by the frequenters of Barnes' store. Indeed it seemed as if the place had taken on new life and ambition, and if at any corner or turn of the road one chose to listen, he could often hear a few stray bits of conversation in regard to the interests which lay nearest to the hearts of the various newsmongers.
Of all the tale-bearers, and there were many, none were as harmless, and at the same time as busy as Mrs. Hodgkins.
Walking down a shady lane one might espy her endeavoring to hold a friendly confab with some busy farmer's wife who, while hanging out her washing, endeavored to hold a clothespin in her mouth, and at the same time answer Mrs. Hodgkins' frequent questions, such as,
"Naow did ye ever hear anything ter beat that?
"Ain't ye amazed at the idee?"
Mrs. Hodgkins would on such occasions, lean against the rail fence and bombard the busy woman alternately with bits of news, and pointed questions until, the last piece of linen in place upon the line, the empty basket would be a signal for adieus.
Then Sophrony Hodgkins would meander down the lane, and if fortune favored her, would find at the next farm-house its mistress possibly at the well or sunning her milk pans in a corner of the door-yard.
Immediately she would hail her with joy and proceed to repeat her own stock of news with the addition of a few particulars gleaned from the first friend.
"Sophrony Hodgkins' stories," remarked old Nate Burnham, "remind me of the snowballs we used ter roll and roll 'til from a leetle ball we finally by rollin' an' trav'lin' got one bigger'n all creation.
"She starts in with what she's heard. Then she adds on what somebody else has heard, and after that, what this one an' that one and t'other one has heard, 'til the size of the yarn must astonish her."
"I'll say one thing 'bout her, though," remarked Silas Barnes, "with all her talkin' an' tellin' she never tells anything that's detrimental to somebody's character. She's full er tellin' ordinary news, but when it comes ter news that would stir up strife, Sophrony's got nothin' ter say; so let her talk, I say, ef she enjoys it; she 'muses herself an' don't hurt no one else."
On the sunny morning when Barnes' store had been the scene of the gossip and discussion in regard to the new quarters for the school, Sophrony Hodgkins had made an early start on a "c'lection tour," as old Nate Burnham would have called it. She had met Janie Clifton at the Pour Corners, and had stopped for a chat with her, had waylaid Molly Wilson in the middle of the road, in order to inquire for her mother and baby sister, had stopped for a moment at Mrs. Jenks' door just to ask if she had heard the wonderful news about Dot Marvin's old uncle Jehiel, had paused to look over the wall at the new Jersey cow which old Mr. Simpkins had recently purchased, and to casually inquire if Timotheus was intending to again be a pupil at the deestrict school, bein's he'd growed so durin' the summer'n seemed more like a man than a boy, and had asked little Johnny Buffum what on airth his sister Hitty had her head tied up in hot weather for, when beet juice dropped in her ear would cure her earache in two minutes, and had been informed that,
"Hitty hadn't got no earache, 'twas a bee sting on her cheek;" all this and much more had filled Mrs. Hodgkins' mind so completely that she was amazed to find that eleven o'clock had arrived, and that she must turn about and hasten home if she wished to have dinner ready when the kitchen clock struck twelve.
"I'll git something on the table when Joel gits in from the field, though land knows what it'll be with only an hour ter git it in," she muttered between short, puffing breaths, for Mrs. Hodgkins was stout, and she had already taken a long walk.
The dinner was indeed an odd one, made up from what were termed by Mrs. Hodgkins "odds and ends," but Joel Hodgkins was a patient man, and his appetite was one which never needed tempting, so he partook of the viands which his wife offered him with an apparent relish, and was soon at work again in the field.
Then Mrs. Hodgkins donned a fresh apron preparatory to going out, remarking as she tied her sunbonnet strings with a twitch,
"I reely must go over to Almiry's, it's only a step er two, and what's the use of havin' a niece in the neighborhood ef not ter tell news ter, an' what's the use er hearin' news an' keepin' it ter yourself?
"I'll git home in time ter bake a batch er gingerbread fer tea," she continued, "Joel's paowerful fond er gingerbread an' it'll sort er pay him fer eatin' such a dinner with such endurin' patience."
Almira Meeks lay back in the big old fashioned rocker, too tired, she declared, to care "whether school kept or not."
Meek in name and in nature, there was not a day that she did not overwork, and when the forenoon's tasks were completed, she would lie back exhausted in the big old chair, only to be reprimanded if her husband chanced to come in, for "havin' so little energy." It was with delight that she welcomed Aunt Sophrony, saying:
"Do tell me all the news. I'm nearly always too tired to go out and hear any."
"Ye do look tuckered," remarked Mrs. Hodgkins, "but hearin' the things I've got ter tell will interest ye, an' make ye feel reel perky. Ye needn't feel ye've got ter talk, fer I kin talk 'nough fer two.
"When I started aout this morning, the fust pusson I see was Janie Clifton, an' what on airth do ye think she's been up to?"
Almira shook her head, to show her utter inability to guess what Janie's latest notion might be.
"Well, she got an idee that we was all behind the times up here, an' needed a leetle fixin' up, an' she wondered ef she could slip inter the chink an' fill the place she thought she see a gapin', an' take in a leetle money at the same time.
"She's 'mazing sot when she gits her mind on a thing, an' she talked it over ter hum and carried the day; and she's been daown ter Boston these past few months a learnin' dressmakin', when we all thought she was a visitin'.
"Naow she's set up fer herself, an' any of us that has an idee of lookin' spreuced up, and has a leetle cash ter go with the notion, can buy the goods fer a gaown at Barnes', an' go right up ter the room over his store and be measured by Janie fer a fashionable fit.
"Ef some of our husband's doesn't git fashionable fits when they hear the extravagance Janie's a teachin' we'll be lucky.
"I'll tell ye naow, Almiry, I'm goin' ter have a gaown cut by Janie come fall, ef it takes all the egg money ter pay fer it!"
"Why Aunt Sophrony!" was all the astonished Almira could ejaculate. Such splendid courage was quite beyond the meek little woman's comprehension.
"Miss Wilson's baby has cut another tooth, that makes five, an' she's a doin' well too," continued Mrs. Hodgkins, "but that ain't a flea bite to what I heerd next.
"Ye know the Marvin's old Uncle Jehiel, him that lived with them five year an' then went off, nobody knows where, without sayin' a word to 'em? Well, he's been heard from! A lawyer has writ ter Jack Marvin's father sayin' there's a will, an' sech a will I'll be baound wuz never heerd of before!
"He's left five hundred dollars ter come ter Jack when he's twenty-one, ef by that time he's given any sign of 'mountin' ter anything as a scholar, a farmer, a preacher or a storekeeper.
"Did ye ever hear anything like the choice?
"An' then he says, the old rascal, that ef by that time he hasn't made something of himself in one or t'other er them things, that the money can be given ter his cousin Dot, whatever she's done or hasn't done, bein's he's never expected anything of her, she bein' only a girl.
"That made me bile when I heerd it, fer the old critter ought ter think pretty well er girls and women. They say, as er boy he lived with his aunt who gave him a good edication; a cousin er his'n, a woman by the way, set him up in business, an' this money he's made his grand will fer was left him by his wife, so ye'd think he'd feel thankful and kind toward all women, but ye can't caount on folks."
"I'd a thought he'd a left the money ter be divided between Jack an' Dot, 'twould a sounded pleasanter," said Almira.
"Ef ye ever saw old Jehiel Marvin ye'd never expect anything very pleasant of him," responded Mrs. Hodgkins.
"But lemme tell ye the greatest!
"Timotheus Simpkins ain't goin' ter the deestrict school this year, fer the reason that his father says he's learned all there is ter learn, an' there ain't nothing left that the teacher can tell him, so he's goin' ter stay aout and help on the farm an' spend all his spare time on literatoor!
"That's what old Mr. Simpkins says, what on airth do ye s'pose he means?"
Aunt Sophrony waited for her niece to solve the mystery, but the problem was too great for her to grasp, and as Mrs. Hodgkins rose to go, Almira begged her to question Timotheus if she chanced to meet him, and find out just what he intended to do with his spare time, and to learn if possible in what way "literatoor" was to form a part of his daily life.
THE DISTRICT SCHOOL
The meeting held for the purpose of deciding that the town could or could not afford to furnish suitable accommodations for its pupils proved to be a most exciting affair.
Josiah Boyden filled with indignation that the matter should have been thought worthy of consideration after he had spoken so vehemently against it at Barnes' store, sat pompous and important near the door, fully determined to crush any suggestion which might be offered.
Mr. Potts and Mr. Jenks early in the evening inquired the amount which the town had set aside for the school. Upon learning the sum, each at once agreed to contribute a quarter of the balance needed if others would make up the remaining half.
"I have two scholars for the school," said Mr. Weston, "and if Mr. Potts, who intends to have a private tutor for his son, is willing to give a quarter of the sum needed, I'm sure I'll do the same."
"Three cheers for three quarters!" squeaked old Nate Burnham, from a seat in the corner, and in the midst of the din old Sandy McLeod arose and thumped his cane upon the floor for order.
"I'll gie the remainin' quarter, an' add ten dollars to't that my Margaret sent, sayin' in her gentle way, 'It may gie some added comfort to the place wherever 'tis chosen.'"
Wild applause greeted this characteristic speech. Sandy's eyes twinkled as he sat down and he remarked to his next neighbor, "That mon Boyden has a scowl that wad sour meelk."
After much discussion, it was decided that a large, vacant farm-house, centrally located, could be purchased and fitted for a schoolhouse at a less expense than the building of a new structure would incur, and in spite of Josiah Boyden's fuming and Nate Burnham's chuckling, in spite of much murmuring on the part of a few frugal minded farmers, the moneyed element carried the day, and under the twinkling stars the triumphant members of that assemblage took their homeward way, filled with the joy of victory.
The money pledged was as promptly paid, and work upon the building was commenced at once, and when September arrived it stood ready to receive the scholars, a better schoolhouse than the average country village could boast.
One of the first to inspect it was Mrs. Sophrony Hodgkins. It would have made her very unhappy to have had its good points described to her and have been unable to say,
"Oh, yes, I know, I saw it fust."
Accordingly on the day that school was to open, she made an early start and before any pupils thought of arriving she had inspected every part of the building, decided that she approved of it in every particular, and had sallied forth to describe it to all her friends.
As she sped along the road, a brisk, bustling figure, the little squirrels raced along the wall, sure that she intended to capture them; but one less timid than his mates, sat upon his little haunches on an old stump, and chattered and scolded as she passed as if offended by the stir which she was making.
A slouching figure leaned upon the top rail of the fence at the side of the road and its attitude, together with the singular expression of the face beneath the hat brim, piqued Mrs. Hodgkins' curiosity.
"What on airth!"—she began, but the figure did not move.
"Going ter be deef like his father, I wonder?" she murmured, then raising her voice she exclaimed,
"I say, Timotheus, what on airth be ye a dreaming of this bright mornin' 'stead er gittin' ready fer school?"
A moment longer the boy stood staring at the sky, then as if slowly, and with an effort coming down to earth again, he looked down upon the woman who had interrupted him as he said,
"I heered ye, Mis' Hodgkins the fust time ye spoke, but when I'm a thinkin' a thought, I ain't apt ter answer."
"Good gracious!" ejaculated Mrs. Hodgkins, "I hope fer the good of yer family, ye don't think 'em often."
"I'm allus er workin' ter improve my intellec'; that's why I ain't er goin' ter school. Got so I knowed all the teacher knowed last year, so 'tain't nothin' but a waste er time ter think of goin' this year."
"Yer father said ye was goin' ter devote yer time ter literatoor; what d' he mean by that, Timotheus?" asked Mrs. Hodgkins.
"Wall, I'll have ter help on the farm, but between chores, I expect ter be readin' what literatoor we own. On the shelf in our parlor we've got the almanic, a New England Primer, a book er Martyrs, a book called Book er Beauty, another with a yaller kiver called the Pirate's Den, and one more called The Letter Writer, 'n' I guess by the time I've read all them I'll know a heap. Father says he expects I'll do somethin' wonderful yet, 'n' I guess he's 'baout right."
"Well of all the"—but here she checked herself, and bidding him a hasty good morning, she hurried on, lest her disgust should make itself heard.
Timotheus Simpkins still leaned upon the rail fence, as if he had forgotten her; apparently he was once more "thinkin' a thought."
"I guess I better write that daown before I fergit it," he remarked a few moments later, as he started towards the house, his hands clasped behind his back and his gaze riveted upon space. Some great thought was evidently about to be transferred to paper.
If Timotheus failed to appreciate the opportunity offered the young people of the town to obtain an education, he stood alone in his ignorance and egotism.
At the hour for the opening of school all the pupils of the year before were present and many new ones waited to be assigned to their respective classes.
Prue and Randy were surrounded by their friends upon their arrival, and between the Babson girls stood little Hi Babson, their cousin, whose mother had determined that during his three months' visit he should attend school. Taking his hand, Belinda walked to the teacher's desk with a view to introducing him.
"This is my little cousin," she began, but was promptly interrupted by Hi who remarked,
"I ain't little, I'm a big boy."
"And he wants to come to school, Miss Gilman."
"No I don't want ter come ter school, an' I wouldn't only ma made me," remarked Hi, determined to have his attitude plainly understood.
Miss Gilman smiled as she looked at the rebellious little face, saying, kindly, "Perhaps you will enjoy school when you are acquainted with some of the scholars."
"I know Randy Weston's little sister, and I'd like ter sit side of her; she's some fun, 'sides she's littler'n I be," said Hi.
Miss Gilman thought best to humor this, his first request, so he took his seat beside Prue who smiled sweetly upon him, and the small boy at once decided that school with Prue for a friend might be as attractive as staying at home under the watchful eyes of Grandma Babson.
"It's only quarter of nine," Phoebe Small was saying, "and I rushed about like everything, thinking I should be late."
"I didn't have to hurry," said Randy, laughing, "for I was so sure that I was late when I awoke, that I never looked to see what time it was, but flew around doing what I could before breakfast toward getting ready for school. Then I began to wonder why mother didn't call me, and I looked at the clock. It was an hour before breakfast time!"
"Oh what a waste of strength," said Jack Marvin, with a well affected yawn. "I got started first and called fer my cousin Dot, and by tugging her all the way I managed to get her here, too."
The Langham twins, to whom Jack was very attentive, looked at each other in amazement. They admired Jack, but was he untruthful? The idea that he was joking never occurred to them.
Reuben Jenks described them as "joke proof," as they had never been known to see the point of any witticism, and if it chanced to be explained to them they would stare placidly at the speaker and then invariably remark,
"Why I don't call that funny."
"I'm going to tell Miss Gilman that my name is Dorothea. I'm tired of being called Dot, 'specially as I'm round and dumpy," remarked Jack's cousin resolutely.
"I'll call you Dorothea every time as loud as I can roar it, see if I don't," said Jack, but as Miss Gilman touched her bell just at this moment, Jack was obliged to wait for an opportunity to address his cousin by her full name.
As the scholars were taking their places in the seats which had been assigned them, Molly Wilson entered, looking very pretty in a gown of a dark, rich red and a pair of new boots which squeaked with every step.
"Her new dress is just like yours," whispered Dot Marvin to Randy, but Randy, whose cheeks were suddenly very pink, seemed not to have heard, and Dot was obliged to be contented with looking from Molly's dress to Randy's and wondering how it happened that they chanced to be alike.
The scholars from the youngest to the oldest were loud in their praise of the new school, and delighted that Miss Gilman was again their faithful teacher, but in the merry throng there was one who found it difficult to be content, and that was Phoebe Small. That the schoolroom was warm and cheerful, that there was plenty of room, and ample opportunity for study counted for little since she had set her heart upon going to boarding school, and therefore an ordinary day school seemed a very tame affair.
At recess she confided to Dot Marvin that she didn't see why ma couldn't approve of having her daughter at a boarding school since she (Mrs. Small) attended one when she was a girl.
"I'd 'nough sight rather be at home," drawled Dot, "even with my cousin Jack to tease me. When he goes a little too far I can hit back by teasing him 'bout the Langham twins. That always stops him. But Phoebe," she continued, "I shouldn't think you would like to go away to school. They'd all be strangers and seems to me you'd be lonesome and homesick."
"That's what ma said, but I wanted to try it. I can't, it seems, so I've got to stay here and try to think I like it," said Phoebe, with an expression upon her face of extreme dissatisfaction.
In another part of the yard an animated conversation of quite a different character was in progress. Little Hi Babson and Prue Weston were swinging upon the gate.
"Why how naughty," Prue was saying. "I shouldn't a thought you'd dare to."
"Well, I did," Hi answered. "I didn't want ter come ter school, so ter pay 'em fer makin' me, I hid the clock key so they can't wind the clock. I dropped it inter the m'lasses jug, 'n' I guess to-morrer mornin' they won't know what time ter send me ter school.
"I've took the basket er clothes-pins and lowered 'em down the well; I've took an hid Grandma Babson's best cap, 'cause she said 'That boy needs a lickin'.' Want ter know where I put it? Up in the barnloft on the hay. I did somethin' else too. I put a wad er paper in the dinner horn. Won't they be mad when they try to blow it? I guess they'll be sorry they made me go ter school."
"Oh, but that's naughty!" cried Prue. "I'd think you'd be most afraid to be so very naughty. What'll they do when you get home?"
Hi's face lost its hilarious expression.
"I ain't got home yet," he said.
The boys and girls had returned to their lessons with all the eager enthusiasm which had been a characteristic of the school when Miss Gilman had first taken it, but the young teacher could not but contrast this "first day" with that of the year before. Then, there had been little order; now, there was perfect concord with every pupil striving to do his best.
Here and there an unruly member of the primary class caused a disturbance, but as a whole, the pupils were both quiet and studious.
When school closed Randy and Prue with a troop of friends walked along the road toward home, talking of the little events of the day and exulting over their fine schoolhouse, the large yard and full classes.
"Didn't it seem odd to see so many new scholars this year?" said Randy. "We must get acquainted with them and help them to enjoy our little pleasures."
"That is what you and Jotham did when I moved here last year," said Molly Wilson, "and oh, Randy, I never could begin to tell you how in my heart I thanked you when you came and spoke to me that first lonesome day at school."
"I knew that I should be glad to have some one speak to me if I had only strangers about me," said Randy, sweetly.
"How we shall miss Jotham this year," said Reuben Jenks.
"He's going on with his studies with the professor here at home this month, but the first of October he's to be in Cambridge. The tutor goes back there to teach at the college and Jotham is to board near the university, he says, and have private teachin'."
"You'll miss him, Randy, won't you?" queried little Prue.
"We shall all wish that he were with us," was Randy's discreet answer. Suddenly Prue exclaimed,
"You've got a new dress, Molly; it's a beauty, and it's just like my Randy's."
"So it is," said Molly. "I had a birthday a short time ago, and I had a pair of mittens which mother had knit for me to wear this winter, some candy, some shoes and this lovely dress."
"Who gived you the dress?" asked Prue, innocently.
"That's what I'd like to know," was Molly's answer. "It was sent to me, and on the bundle it said, 'From one who loves you.' I'd give much to tell the one who sent it how lovely I think it is."
"I like mine better than any dress I've had," said Randy, "and since you think it pretty it's nice that yours is like it."
"I don't know as I'd care what gowns I had if I'd been allowed to go to boarding school," said Phoebe Small. "This school is pleasant enough, I like the teacher and of course I like the girls and boys."
"'Specially the boys," remarked Reuben Jenks, when a scowl from Phoebe silenced him.
"I think it would be great fun to go away somewhere. I don't know as I care where, and see a new school and new faces. 'Twouldn't prevent keeping all my old friends just because I made new ones," said Phoebe in a disconsolate voice. "It's just no use to wish," she continued, "for I wished last night when I saw the moon over my right shoulder, and I don't, know how many times I've wished when I've seen the first little star at night. This morning I found a horse shoe, and stood on it wishing with all my might that ma would let me just try boarding school for one term and I guess that old horse shoe just about finished it, for I ran in and asked ma again, and she put down the pan that she had in her hand and says she,
"'Phoebe Small, if you ask me that again, I believe I shall fly. I've said no to it repeatedly and I meant it. Now, hurry and get ready for school; you'll find there's something yet to be learned there, I'll be bound.'"
"Never mind, Phoebe," said Randy, "it's disappointing if you so wished to go, but think how we should have missed you."
"O Randy, to think that you would have missed me makes me almost glad to stay here," said Phoebe, with a bright tear upon her lashes.
It was over a year since Phoebe had resolved to conquer her "unruly tongue" as she described it, and although at times a sharp saying escaped her lips she was really a very different girl from the Phoebe of the year before. That she was in earnest was evident, for if some careless speech chanced to hurt one of her friends, she promptly acknowledged her fault, and grasped the first opportunity to do some little kindness which should thus give proof that her regret was sincere.
Of Jotham the boys and girls saw but little, his new studies requiring strict application, and only at rare intervals was it possible for him to find a few leisure moments for Randy, and when October came it was with regret that he said "good-bye," although his heart was full of anticipation.
"You will miss me, Randy?" he had asked, and Randy had answered frankly,
"I shall, indeed. Every one who has ever known you will miss you, Jotham."
At the village school the weeks had passed with cheerful monotony. Lessons were learned and recited with a regularity which failed to be tedious since the pupils possessed much enthusiasm.
The little ones, especially Prue Weston and Hi Babson furnished amusement for the older classes, Prue with her unique answers, and Hi with his countless pranks.
Upon one occasion, Miss Gilman, thinking to make a little problem clear by using names of well known objects asked, "If I had five pears and gave you two, Prue, how many would that leave?"
"'Twouldn't be half," said Prue, "so 'twouldn't be fair."
At another time Prue was much interested in a little picture in her arithmetic which represented a man walking beside a horse and cart.
"If it takes a horse two hours to drag a load of stones to town," said Miss Gilman, "how long—"
"But," interrupted Prue, "if it took the horse as long as that, why didn't the man hitch on another horse?"
Laughter greeted this original solving of the problem by practical little Prue, and Miss Gilman decided that examples expressed in ordinary numbers would be far better for this little girl who found an odd question for every pictured problem.
Thus the days passed. The Sundays spent at the old meeting-house, and the week-days filled with work at home and at school, with a running accompaniment of gossip filling the spaces.
But one morning something occurred which filled the scholars with excitement, and aroused the interest or curiosity of nearly every one in the village.
Randy Weston had received a letter from Boston, and such a letter, too!
"Jest the moment I git these dishes done and a few other little chores that I can't leave standin', I'll run over to Almiry's and see 'f she's heerd 'bout the Boston letter that Randy Weston got. My! but that was a letter wuth gittin'.
"I don't b'lieve Almiry's heerd 'bout it, an' I'm baound to be the fust one ter tell her," said Mrs. Sophrony Hodgkins.
Soon her tasks were completed, and she went the shortest way across the fields to tell the news, as if she feared that it might spoil if kept too long.
Mrs. Jenks, on her way home from the village paused at the gate to ask her friend, Mrs. Marvin, if she had heard the news, and found that she had already been told of the contents of the letter, and was glad to hear of Randy's good luck.
"'Tain't every girl I'd be so glad fer," said Mrs. Marvin, "but Randy's such a sweet girl I like ter think of this plan which will, no doubt, give her pleasure."
"So do I," said Matilda Jenks, "an' I fer one shall be on hand ter wish her joy."
In the little workroom over Barnes' store, Janie Clifton sat humming cheerfully, her needle flying in and out of the long ruffle which she was hemming.
"I'm making the people here look better than they ever did before," thought Janie, with pardonable pride in her ability. "I make Mrs. Brimblecom look ever so much less hefty, and I'm sure Mrs. Hodgkins says she never looked as well in any gown she ever wore, as in the one I finished for her last week.
"And that skinny woman, now whatever was her name? She looked almost plump in her new dress last Sunday."
As she stopped to thread her needle, she gave utterance to the thought which at that moment occupied her mind.
"I b'lieve I'll go over to call on Mrs. Weston to-night, and p'raps she'll ask me to help her, in fact, I should think she'd have to."
A passing figure caused her to look out of the window.
"Well what a looking piece of headgear!" she remarked. "Lucky I took up millinery when I was learning dressmakin'. I'll go over to the Weston's to-night, see if I don't," and she nodded approvingly to her reflection in the long mirror, a bit of furniture which Janie had felt to be a necessary adjunct to her rooms.
Even old Mrs. Brimblecom had a word to say.
"I declare, Jabez," she remarked at the dinner table, "I'm reel glad fer Randy Weston. This doos seem ter be a chance fer her ter see somethin' an' gain a leetle extry in the way of edication."
"Umph!" remarked Jabez, as he helped himself to a third potato, "'S you say, it's a chance fer her, an' she's a likely sort er girl,—pass the salt, will ye?—but I hope it won't poke her head full er notions,—I'll thank ye fer a biscuit,—so's when she comes home she won't remember who any of us be."
At the table Jabez Brimblecom's conversation was always a mixture of gossip and numerous requests for food, so that his wife, accustomed to this trait, was able to understand what he wished to say, and could make connected meaning out of what seemed to be a jumble of ideas.
"Oh, Randy will be Randy wherever she is," said Mrs. Brimblecom.
"Wal, I guess she will,—I'll take a leetle more tea," replied Jabez.
"And one of the best girls I ever knew," said his wife.
"I've always known ye set a store by Randy,—I'm ready fer pie naow," replied Jabez, and when he had finished his dinner, he darted out of the house as if in another moment the farm would have been ruined had it not received his immediate attention.
Every one who met Randy stopped her saying, "Got a letter from Boston, didn't ye?" until Prue who was usually with her would say,
"Why, Randy, how does everybody know you got a letter?"
"In the same way that everyone knows everything in this village," Randy would answer with a laugh.
In the midst of all this excitement Randy walked as if on air. Could it be true, really true that she, Randy Weston, was actually going to Boston?
The letter which had filled Randy's heart with delight had come from her friend Helen Dayton, the lovely young girl who had spent one summer as a guest of Mrs. Gray, a near neighbor of the Weston's.
She had made a flying trip to the village at Christmas, bringing with her the choicest of gifts for Randy and Prue, assuring Randy that they should soon meet again. Randy had thought much of the promise, but never dreamed of so delightful a fulfilment.
Near Miss Dayton's home a fine private school had been opened, which offered every advantage for girls of Randy's age. One of Helen's friends had been chosen for one of its teachers, and it had occurred to her that Randy might attend this school during the winter months, making her home with herself and her aunt.
"I should like to meet this young girl who has so pleased you, Helen," her aunt had said, "but how would she like city girls, do you think, and on the other hand, would they like and appreciate her?"
"I would trust Randy to make friends anywhere," Helen had said, and seating herself at her dainty desk, she wrote the letter containing the invitation and full particulars in regard to the school.
Randy, with a heart filled with anticipation, promptly answered the letter telling of her eager acceptance, and rode to the Centre with her father to mail it.
Then followed such a wonderful series of shopping trips to Barnes' store, and over to the next town which boasted an establishment called the Dry Goods Emporium.
With Mrs. Weston and Randy went Janie Clifton to advise them in regard to the wisest choice of pretty things for Randy's appearance in the city.
Fortunately Janie was possessed of good taste and while learning her trade in the city she had, whenever possible, snatched a few moments to study the best models of gowns and millinery which the great stores displayed. She had invested in all the leading fashion books and fashion plates, and her room over Barnes' store was gay with pictured figures of women and children in rainbow attire.
To say that Mrs. Weston was astonished when she had first looked upon the fashion plates would be to express it very mildly.
"Well, Janie Clifton!" she had ejaculated, "I can't think er lettin' you make Randy look like that!" as she pointed to the figure of a young girl in a street costume of flaming red, her head adorned with a walking hat which was decorated with a phenomenally long quill.
"Look at the toe er that shoe!" was the next remark. "The whole foot ain't bigger'n my spectacle case, and 'bout as much shape to it."
But Janie comforted her by assuring her that the plates usually showed the extreme in fashion, and that Randy could be made to look very nice indeed without following exactly any one pattern in every detail.
Thus far Janie's orders had been but a single dress for a customer, so she was much elated when commissioned to make three for Randy, and also to select and trim two hats for her. Mrs. Weston's idea of "one for best and one for everyday" had, by cautious urging upon Janie's part, been stretched to the extent of adding "one more for second best."
During the drive over to the "Emporium," Janie asked abruptly, "Didn't Miss Dayton say somethin' 'bout a party in that letter she sent to Randy?"
"Why yes," said Mrs. Weston, "she says that while Randy's there, she'll give a little party for her, but why did ye ask?"
"Well, I was thinkin' that means a party dress," remarked Janie.
"A party dress!" gasped Mrs. Weston in astonishment. "Why that would be her best dress, wouldn't it? Probably that's what the other girls would wear."
Now it happened that during her apprenticeship Janie had helped to make a number of party dresses for young girls, so it was with a deal of assurance that she answered her patron.
"I don't know what a lot of city misses would think if Miss Dayton was kind enough to give the party for Randy, and Randy appeared in just her best dress," said Janie with a bit of emphasis.
"Well, well I didn't know ye was expected ter dress different fer a party, excepting that ye'd likely 'nough dress up some. Her father said when we started out this morning,
"'Git whatever Randy needs ter make her look right, and at the same time honor Miss Dayton, since she's kind 'nough to ask Randy to her home,' so if she needs a party gown why we'll choose one, but I tell ye again, Janie, don't ye make her look like one er them wooden-lookin' girls er prancin' about on the fashion plates, fer I couldn't stand that."
With a commendable determination to make for Randy a dainty party gown which should at the same time be sufficiently simple in style to please Mrs. Weston, Janie chose a thin white muslin with white ribbons for its only trimming.
"I like that for a party dress, only it seems a little cool fer winter," remarked Mrs. Weston, "but I s'pose she will wear extry flannels under it."
"Not if I know it," said Janie under her breath, for she had her own ideas for making the dress, and thick flannels to completely hide the transparency of the muslin were not included in her plan. Janie laid the muslin and ribbon aside and commenced work upon the other gowns.
The "best" gown was a dark blue cloth with velvet trimmings, and the hat which she was to wear with it was of the same shade with dark blue feathers drooping over the brim.
Randy felt this to be almost too fine to wear and she touched the soft feathers with caressing fingers before placing the hat upon her pretty head.
"Oh, it looks just a little like Miss Dayton's hats," exclaimed Randy, as she looked in the mirror at this triumph of Janie's millinery skill.
For the long ride in the cars and for general street and school wear, there was a cute little suit of gray wool, and a hat of gray felt with some smart gray wings.
Randy was delighted with the suit and her eyes sparkled when she experienced the joy of "trying it on."
The party gown, the first which she had ever seen, was to her a dream of loveliness. It was very simply made, as befitted this fair little country maid. The skirt made quite plain, the waist cut out ever so little in the neck, just enough to show the round, white throat, the modest elbow sleeves and white satin ribbon trimmings filled Randy with speechless delight as she stared at the sweet reflection in the mirror.
When at last she spoke she said,
"Oh, Janie, how could you make me look so nice?"
"I guess some of the good looks are your own, Randy," Janie answered, which caused Randy to blush most becomingly.
Monday was a busy day at the farm-house, and Mrs. Weston had said, "I can't spare the time to go over to Janie's this afternoon, but she wants ye ter try on one of yer gowns and ye can run over there after school. She'll know whether it looks right or not without any help from me."
So leaving Prue to trudge home with Johnny Buffum as an escort, she had experienced great delight in seeing herself for the first time in a dainty party gown.
"Won't mother be surprised when I try on the pretty party dress for her to see?" thought Randy as she hurried on toward home.
Like many another bit of gossip set afloat in a country town, the story of the letter from Boston together with descriptions of Randy's costumes gained with every repetition, until one day on the way from the Centre, Randy was astonished to be thus addressed,
"Wal, how be ye Randy? I hear ye're havin' a tremenjous lot er gaowns made ter take ter Boston with ye."
The speaker was a woman whom Randy had seen but a few times, and she was therefore surprised when the team stopped at the side of the road and its occupant accosted her.
"It is true that mother is having Janie Clifton make some things for me," said Randy.
"Wal, I live on the other side er the place," the woman continued, "an' so I'm a leetle out er the way er hearin' news, so I'd like reel well ter know; be ye goin' ter have twelve gaowns, five cloaks, an' a half er dozen hats as they say ye be?"
"No, that isn't true," said Randy, her flushed cheeks showing that she resented being thus questioned by a woman who was almost a stranger. Turning, she hurried on toward home, and the curious one, giving the horse a smart clip drove off muttering,
"Gitting uppish 'fore she gits ter Boston. Do'no what she'll be when she's stayed there a spell."
At school, her mates were glad that Randy was to have so delightful a winter, and many and varied were the comments and speculations regarding it.
"It'll be stupid here without you, Randy," said Dot Marvin, "I don't know but that we shall all go to sleep, while you're a flyin' round in the city."
"I don't expect to do much flying," said Randy, laughing. "I shall be working at school there instead of this school at home. You must all write to me and tell me what you are doing, and I'll be glad enough to answer you."
"Indeed we will," said Reuben Jenks. "Let's write Randy a long letter, each one of us writing a part of it and send it along to Boston, just to show her what we can do when we try."
"Oh, what fun!" said Randy, "it will seem as if you were with me when I read a long letter in which all my friends are represented."
"Lemme print something in it, Reuben, will you? I want to be in the big letter, too," cried little Prue.
"I guess I will let you," Reuben answered heartily. "What kind of a letter would it be if you didn't have a hand in it, Prue?"
"I'd like to be going to Boston if it wasn't for one thing," said Molly Wilson, "and that's those city girls."
"Oh, ho, Molly. I thought you were shy, and it ain't city girls you hanker for? Then it must be city boys," said Reuben.
"'Tis not, Reuben Jenks," said Molly, with unusual vim; "'tis not any such thing, it's just that I'd be 'fraid those horrid city girls were watching everything I did and thinking me countryfied."
"Well, I shall not let that idea make me uncomfortable," said Randy, stoutly. "I am a country girl, and if they say so, they will not be telling me anything new or surprising; beside, I think that there must be nice girls in the city as well as among us here. I intend to like them, and I hope that they will like me."
"They'll be precious queer girls if they don't," said Jack Marvin.
"I wanted to go to boarding school," said Phoebe Small, "but I didn't mean a city school. Seems to me I'd rather 'twouldn't be city girls to get acquainted with. Don't you wish they were not city girls, Randy?"
"I believe that there are just as pleasant girls in Boston as there are here, and I look forward to meeting them," said Randy.
She spoke bravely and truthfully, yet afterward when in her little chamber the conversation recurred to her, Randy found herself wondering if the meeting between herself and these girls who were to be her classmates during her stay in Boston would, after all, be as delightful as she had fondly believed.
Randy's pleasure at the thought of meeting them had been genuine, and so friendly and sincere was she, that until the idea was suggested by Dot Marvin it had never occurred to her that the meeting could be aught but delightful.
"I ought not to think that there could be anything which is not charming where Miss Dayton is, and I believe I'm silly to let Dot's remarks make me the least bit uneasy. I'll start intending to like every girl I meet, and who knows? Perhaps I shall," she said with a laugh, and a nod at her happy face reflected in the tiny mirror.
During all the planning and preparation for Randy's departure, Prue had been eager to see the pretty new dresses, had insisted upon seeing the hats and gloves, and had talked of little else at home or at school. Indeed, the little girl had been so happy in the thought of the promised pleasure for her sister, that she had not seemed to realize how much the parting would really mean.
But when the morning arrived on which Randy was to start, and dressed in her smart gray suit she stood waiting for her trunk to be placed in the back of the wagon, Prue seemed all at once to understand that Randy's long stay in Boston meant loneliness for her little self. As the thought swept through her mind, its full meaning came to her, and she did what she had never been known to do in all her sunny little life. Throwing herself upon the great braided rug near the door she cried out,
"O Randy, my Randy, I can't let you go!"
Randy stooped and gathered the dear little sister to her breast, saying,
"I'm not going to stay always, dear. Look up, Prue, while I tell you. I'll write you nice long letters, and you shall write to me, and I'll send you something 'way from Boston. Won't that be nice? Come, kiss me, Prue. I want to think of you smiling instead of crying, dear."
Choking back her sobs, Prue made a brave effort to smile, but it was not much of a success, and Randy found it difficult to say good-bye with even a semblance of cheerfulness. She possessed a singularly loving and tender nature, and this was the first time that she had left home, so that while her heart was full of anticipation, it was impossible for her to go without feeling keenly the parting.
Tears filled her sweet eyes, as turning to her mother she said,
"The planning has been so delightful, and I have been anticipating so much that I have looked forward to this morning when I should start, but now the time has come I almost wish I'd never said I'd go."
"I know just how ye feel, Randy," said Mrs. Weston, "an' I must say 'twas easier ter plan ter have ye go than ter say good-bye. Ye must cheer up, though, and look bright an' happy when ye meet Miss Dayton in Boston. The long ride in the cars will be new to ye, and ye must remember that yer Aunt Prudence is ter be with us while ye're away, ter help me an' ter keep me from bein' too lonesome, fer mercy knows how I shall miss ye.
"I want ye should go, though; it's a great chance fer ye, and don't forget ter write, Randy. I couldn't stand that," and Mrs. Weston's voice had in it a suspicion of a sob.
"Oh, I could not forget you all," said Randy, then with a kiss and a clinging embrace she clambered into the wagon to a seat beside her father, and her mother's waving handkerchief and Prue's little face with its quivering lip were photographed upon her mind as she rode to the Centre to take the train.
They talked but little on the way to the depot. Randy found it a task to keep her tears from falling, and the expression of her father's face told more plainly than words what this parting cost. When her trunk had been taken charge of and Randy had chosen a seat, her father bent to kiss her, saying as he did so,
"God bless ye, child! I never knew 'till ter-day what it meant ter say good-bye ter ye. I only hope the visit will bring ye joy enough ter repay ye fer this partin' and then I shall be satisfied. Write often to us, that we may know ye are safe, and spend the money I put in yer little wallet.
"Ah, don't say a word, Randy, I could well afford it, an' I put it there jest fer a little surprise."
As Randy was about to speak, the conductor entered saying, that those persons who intended leaving the train must do so at once, as it was about to start.
With a hasty kiss and embrace, Randy saw her father leave the car and she waved her hand to him as he stood upon the platform, then in a sudden panic of desolation she hid her face in her handkerchief and cried like a little child. A long time she crouched upon the seat, her head against its plush back and her eyes hidden by her handkerchief, but after a time it occurred to her that she was not doing as her father would wish.
"I'm crying like a child," thought Randy, "and father and mother have done every generous thing which they could think of to make me enjoy the long ride and the visit.
"Father would wish me to be brave, and mother would not like to see me crying."
Accordingly she sat up, and wiping her tears, made a determined effort to look as she felt sure that a girl should look who was starting out for a delightful visit.
As she looked from the window and saw the flying landscape, it seemed as if the rumbling wheels were saying, "Going away, going away," and again the tears lay upon her lashes, but after a time the novelty of the situation dawned upon her, and her sunny disposition found much that was amusing in what was going on about her.
Mrs. Weston had put up a tempting lunch in a pretty basket, so when a boy came through the car bearing a large tray covered with doubtful looking viands, and shouting in stentorian tones:
"Poy, coiks, tawts an' sanditches," Randy was not tempted to buy, but she watched the boy and wondered how he had the courage to walk the aisle loudly bawling his wares.
At one station a woman entered carrying an infant whose pudgy face lay upon her shoulder, and about whose tiny body her right arm was tightly clasped. In her left hand she carried a large and apparently heavy bag. Four other children trotted after her down the aisle, and like a rear guard a burly looking man followed the children carrying a tiny parcel.
"What a horrid man," thought Randy, as he proceeded immediately to make himself comfortable by occupying the larger part of a seat.
He did permit one child to sit beside him, but he allowed the other three to crowd around his wife who held the sleeping infant in her arms, and kept a watchful eye upon the big bag which sat on the floor at her feet.
Randy's attention was about evenly divided between watching the passengers and enjoying the beauties of the autumn landscape as the flying train passed first a village nestling at the foot of a mountain, then a forest, then a lake whose surface reflected the gorgeous coloring of the trees upon its shore, then another village, then a winding river which, mirror-like, repeated the blue sky and the floating clouds. This endless panorama was to Randy a most wonderful thing, and the beauty of it all as it passed before her, filled her with delight.
At noon the train stopped at a large depot which was far more pretentious than any which she had yet seen, and Randy wondered why nearly everyone left the car. When she noticed that many of the passengers had left their parcels in their seats, she was amazed at what seemed to be gross carelessness. That they went forth in search of lunch never occurred to her, but realizing that she was hungry and that nearly all the seats were vacant, she opened her basket and was touched when she saw that her mother had remembered her little freaks of taste, and had made up a lunch of what she knew would tempt her. In one corner was a tiny paper bag on which was printed in little Prue's best manner,
"For my Randy."
Poor little Prue! The bag of candy which her father had brought from the Centre to cheer the little girl and help to turn her attention from the thought of loneliness when Randy should say "good-bye," proved inefficient. Nothing could make Randy's departure less hard for little Prue, and she had evidently found a bit of comfort in tucking the little bag into a corner of the lunch basket, thus contributing her mite toward Randy's pleasure.
"Dear little Prue," murmured Randy, "she shall have the loveliest doll I can find in Boston."
The afternoon ride seemed longer and less amusing than that of the morning. The novelty was wearing off, and Randy was beginning to feel weary.
When it grew dusky and in the towns along the way bright lights appeared, a sudden fear took possession of her. What if she should be unable to see Miss Dayton when she stepped from the train at Boston?
A brakeman passed down the aisle and commenced to light the lamps, and Randy peeping from the window saw that the stars were shining. She knew that at home old Snowfoot and the cows were under the shelter of the great barn, and that father and mother and dear little Prue were seated around the table. Tears filled her eyes and she quickly drew the curtain and began to look about the brightly lighted car with the hope of seeing something which should hold her attention and thus help to dispel the wave of homesickness which swept over her.
An old lady with a kindly face turned just in time to see Randy's handkerchief at her eyes, and she hastened to speak a word of comfort.
"Traveling alone, dear?" she asked so gently that Randy forgot to be surprised, and she bowed her head in assent in place of the word which, for the moment she could not speak.
"I thought so," said the old lady, "but don't cry, your friends will probably be at the depot in Boston when you arrive, will they not?"
"Oh, yes," said Randy, "but it isn't that. I was thinking of those I'd left at home," and away went the little handkerchief again to her eyes.
"Ah, that is it," said the sweet old voice. "Well, the homesickness will wear off after a time, and now in regard to to-night, your friends will doubtless be waiting when this train gets in, but if by chance they are not, you shall come to my home with me until we can get word to their address that you are in Boston."
"Oh, how good you are," said Randy.
"I am only doing what I would have some one do for my daughter in a like position," was the reply, and looking up, Randy saw a beautiful light in the kind eyes which looked into hers, and without a word she laid her hand in that of her new friend.
"Boston! Boston!" shouted the brakeman, and with a start Randy found herself suddenly upon her feet, and with the other passengers making her way toward the door.
The great train-house, the crowd, the trucks loaded with trunks and bags, the lights, the noise and bustle so confused Randy that she failed to see the face for which she was eagerly looking.
"Do you see your friends?" asked the gentle voice, but as she stepped upon the platform she was rejoiced to hear her name called by the voice which she so well knew.
"O Randy dear, you did come didn't you?" and for a moment Helen Dayton held her young friend closely; then she noticed the old lady who stood smiling at what was so evidently a happy meeting.