BETTY GORDON AT BRAMBLE FARM
FOLLOWING THE PRESCRIPTION
THE sound of some one chopping wood caught the alert ear of Bob Henderson as he came whistling through the yard on his way to the tool house. Some peculiar quality in the strokes seemed to suggest something to him, and he turned aside and made for the woodshed.
"For the love of Mike! Betty Gordon, what do you call it you're doing now?" he inquired, standing in the frame of the woodshed, at a respectful distance from the energetic figure by the wood block.
"Chopping wood!" snapped Betty, hacking a dry rail viciously. "Did you think I was cutting out paper dolls?"
"My dear child, that isn't the way to chop wood," insisted Bob paternally. "Here, let me show you. You'll ruin the axe, to say nothing of chopping off your own right ear."
Betty brought the axe down on the rail with unnecessary violence.
"Let me alone," she said ominously. "I'm mad! This is Uncle Dick's prescription, but I can't see that it works. The more I chop, the madder I get!"
Bob grinned, and then as a shout of "You, Bob!" sounded from outside, his expression changed.
"Wapley is waiting for nails to fix the fence with," he said hurriedly. "I'll have to hurry. But come on down to the cornfield, can't you, Betty? We can talk there."
Bob ran off, and Betty regarded the axe resentfully.
"Seems to me he's hoed enough corn to reach round the earth," she said aloud. "I wonder if Bob ever gets mad? Well, I guess I will go down and talk to him, though I did mean to weed the garden for Mrs. Peabody. I can do that this afternoon."
In spite of the absence of fresh eggs and milk from her diet, the weeks at Bramble Farm had benefited Betty. She was deeply tanned from days spent in the sun, and while perceptibly thinner, a close observer would have known that she was hardy and strong. She was growing taller, too.
"Mr. Peabody is so mean!" she scolded, dropping down under a scrubby wild cherry tree in the field where Bob was already hard at work hoeing corn, having delivered the nails to Wapley. "You know this is the first fair day we've had since those three rainy ones, and I promised Mr. Lieson I'd take his picture. He wants it for his girl. And Mr. Peabody wouldn't let him go upstairs and put on his best clothes. Said it was his time and that foolishness could wait till after supper. You know I can't take a snapshot after supper!"
Bob hoed a few minutes in silence.
"Try a little diplomacy, Betty," he finally advised. "Sunday is the time to take Lieson in his glad rags. He looks fierce all dressed up, I think; it probably will break off the match if his girl is marrying him for his beauty. But Lieson the way he is now—in that soft shirt and without his hat —isn't half bad. He's got a kind of wistful, gentle face, for all he can jaw so terribly; have you noticed it? Go down in the potato field and take his picture while he's working and tell him you'll take him dressed up Sunday and he can have both pictures. He'll be so pleased, he'll offer to let you hold a pig."
Betty made a little face. Lieson had already done just that. Thinking that Betty, who made such a fuss over the baby lambs, would be equally delighted with the little pigs, Lieson had told her to shut her eyes one day and hold out her hands; into them he had dropped a squirming, slippery, squealing baby pig and Bob had always declared he could not tell which made the most noise—" Betty when she opened her eyes, or the pig when she dropped him. Lieson had been much disappointed.
"I'll go and get the camera now," said Betty, jumping up, all traces of temper vanished. "I'll put in the film that holds a dozen and just go round taking everything. That will be fun!"
She went running up the field and Bob's eyes followed her wistfully.
"She's a good kid," he said to himself. "Trouble is, she's never been up against it before and she doesn't always know how to take it. It does make her so mad to see old Peabody walk all over every one; but there's no sense in letting her buck against him when you can turn her thoughts in another direction. Gee, I'm sick of this blamed corn!"
Bob went up and down the endless rows, and Betty skipped about, "snapping" views of Bramble Farm to her heart's content. Lieson was delighted to learn that he might have two pictures of himself, and though it seemed to him a waste of time to be photographed in his work clothes, still he admitted that even an "ordinary" picture was preferable to none.
"My lady friend," he announced proudly, as Betty clicked her bulb, "she like me anyway."
Wapley, while without the excuse of a "lady friend," was nevertheless almost: childishly pleased to pose for his photograph, and him, too, Betty promised to take again on Sunday. Mrs. Peabody, weeding in the large vegetable garden that was her regular care, alone refused to be taken.
"Oh, no!" she shrank down among the cabbages and pulled her hideous sunbonnet further over her eyes when Betty pressed her to reconsider her refusal. "Child, don't ask me. When I look at the picture of me taken in my wedding dress and then see myself in the mirror mornings, I wonder if I'm the same person. I wouldn't have my picture taken for one hundred dollars!"
Betty used up one roll of films that morning, but she decided to save the other roll for Sun" day, as she was not sure she could get another ire Glenside. She determined to take her pictures over that afternoon and have them developed, for she was as eager to see the results as Lieson and Wapley. Bob, too, owned up to a desire to see how he "turned out."
"It's a pretty hot day," ventured Mrs. Peabody uncertainly, when Betty, at the dinner table, announced her intention of walking to Glenside that afternoon. "Maybe, dearie, if you wait till after supper, some one will be driving over."
"Horses ain't going a step off this farm this week," said Mr. Peabody impressively. "They're working without shoes, as anybody with any interest in the place would know. If some folks haven't any more to do than gad around spending good money, it's none of my affair; but I don't aim to run a stage between here and Glenside for their convenience."
Dinner was finished in silence after this speech, and immediately after she had helped Mrs. Pea- body with the dishes, Betty went up to her room to change her dress. She did not mind the walk; indeed she had taken it several times before, and knew that one side of the road would be comparatively shady all the way.
Betty took an inexplicable whim to put on her prettiest dress, a delicate pink linen with white collars and cuffs that Mrs. Arnold had taught her to embroider herself in French knots. She untied the black velvet ribbon she usually wore on her broad-brimmed hat and substituted a sash of pink mull.
"You look too nice!" exclaimed Mrs. Peabody when the girl came downstairs. "Don't you think you should take an umbrella, though? Those big white clouds mean a thunder storm."
Betty laughingly declined the umbrella, and, promising Mrs. Peabody "something pretty," started off on her walk. Poor Mrs. Peabody, though Betty was too inexperienced to realize it, was beginning, very slowly it is true, but still beginning, to break under the long strain of hard work and unhappiness. Betty only knew that she was pitifully pleased with the smallest gift from the town stores.
"If I don't see a girl of my own age to speak to pretty soon," declared Betty to herself, walking swiftly up the lane, "I don't know what I shall do! Bob is nice, but, goodness! he isn't interested in lots of things I like. Crocheting, for instance. I never was crazy about fancy work, but now I'm kind of hungry for a crochet needle."
Half way to Glenside a farmer overtook her, and after the pleasant country fashion offered her a "lift." Betty accepted gladly. He lived, as she discovered after a few minutes' conversation, on the farm next to the Peabodys, and he had heard about her and knew who she was.
"When you get time," he said kindly, when she told him she was going to Glenside, "walk through the town and out toward Linden. There's quite a nursery out that way, and you'd like to see the flowers. Folks come from the city to buy their plants there."
At the nearest crossroads to Glenside he turned, and Betty got out, thanking him heartily for the ride. It was a matter of only a few moments now to reach Glenside, and she found herself in the town much sooner than she had counted on. So when the drug-store clerk said he would have her pictures developed and printed within an hour if she could wait, Betty determined to wait instead of having them mailed to her. She had a sundae and bought some chocolates for Mrs. Peabody, and then remembered the farmer's remark about the nursery.
"How far is it to the nursery they talk about?" she said to the woman clerk who had weighed out the candy.
"Baxter's? Oh, not more than three-quarters of a mile," was the answer. "You go right up Main Street as far as the sidewalk goes. When it stops, keep right on, and pretty soon you'll see a big sign of a watering-pot; that's it."
Betty followed these directions implicitly, and she had reached the end of the town sidewalk when she heard the distant mutter of thunder.
"I guess I can reach the nursery and be looking at the flowers while it storms," she said to herself.
Betty had no more fear of thunderstorms than of a tame cat, but she mightily disliked the idea of getting her hat wet. So she hurried conscientiously.
The sun went under a heavy cloud, and a violent crash of thunder directly overhead stimulated her into a run. There was not a house in sight, and Betty began to wish she had turned and gone back to the town. At least she could have found shelter in a shop.
Splash! A huge drop of rain flattened in the dust of the road. The tall trees on either side began to sway in the slowly rising wind.
"I'll bet it will be a big storm, and I'll be soaked!" gasped Betty. "Where is that plaguey nursery!"
She began to run, and the drops came faster and faster. Then, without warning, the long line of swaying trees stopped, and a tidy white picket fence began on the side of the road nearest Betty. Back of the pickets was a well-kept green lawn; and set in the center of a circle of glorious elm trees was a comfortable white house with green blinds and a wide porch. A woman and two girls were hastily taking in a swing and a quantity of sofa pillows to protect them from the storm.
"Come in, quick!" called the woman, as Betty came in sight. "Hurry, before you're soaked. Just lift the latch and the gate swings in."
"Just lift the latch." Betty thought she had never heard a more cordial or welcome invitation.
On to chapter fourteen
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