BETTY GORDON AT BRAMBLE FARM
UNCLE DICK'S PLAN
THE arbor was rather small and rickety, but
at least it was shady. Betty sat down beside her
uncle, who braced his feet against the opposite
seat to keep his place on the narrow ledge.
"I'm afraid I take up a good deal of room,"
he said apologetically. "Well, my dear, had you
begun to think I was never coming?"
Betty glanced up at him bravely.
"It was pretty long—waiting," she admitted.
"But now you're here, Uncle Dick, everything is
all right. When can we go away?"
"Aren't you happy here, dear?" asked her
uncle, plainly troubled. "I thought from your
first letter that Mrs. Arnold was a pretty good
kind of friend, and I pictured you as contented as
a girl could possibly be after a bitter loss like
He smiled a bit ruefully.
"Maybe I'm not strong on pictures," he added.
"I thought of you as a little girl, Betty. Don't
know what'll you say, but there's a doll in my grip
Betty laughed musically.
"I've always saved my old doll," she confided,
slipping a hand into Uncle Dick's broad fist where
it lay clinched on his knee. He was very companionable, was this uncle, and she felt that she
already loved him dearly. "But, Uncle Dick,
I haven't really played with dolls since we moved
from the city. I like outdoor things."
"Well, now, so do I," agreed her uncle. "I
can't seem to breathe properly unless I'm outdoors. But about this going away—do you want
to leave Pineville, Sister?"
Betty's troubled eyes rested on the little garden
hot in the bright sunshine.
"It isn't home any more, without mother," she
said slowly. "And—I don't belong, Uncle Dick.
Mrs. Arnold is a dear, and I love her and she
loves me. But they want to go to California,
though they won't talk it before me, 'cause they
think I'll feel in the way. Mr. Arnold has a
brother on a fruit farm, and he's wild to move out
there. As soon as you take me somewhere,
they're going to pack up."
"Well, then, we'll have to see that you do belong somewhere," said Mr. Gordon firmly. "Anything else, Sister?"
Betty drew a deep breath.
"It's heavenly to have you to listen to me," she
declared. "I want to go! I've never been anywhere, and I feel as though I could go and go
and never stop. Daddy was like that. Mother
used to say if he hadn't had us to look after he
would have been an explorer, but that he had to
manage to earn a living and do his traveling as a
salesman. Couldn't I learn to be a salesman, a
saleswoman, I mean? Lots of girls do travel."
"We'll think it over," answered her uncle diplomatically.
"And then there's another thing," went on
Betty, her pent-up thoughts finding relief in
speech. "Although Mrs. Arnold was mother's
dearest friend, I can't make her understand how
mother felt about wearing mourning."
Betty indicated her rose smock.
"Lots of Pineville folks think I don't care
about losing my mother," she asserted softly,
"because I haven't a single black dress. But
mother said mourning was selfish. She wouldn't
wear black when daddy died. Black makes other
people feel sorry. But I did love mother! And
Uncle Dick's keen blue eyes misted and the
brave little figure in the bright smock was blurred
for a moment.
"I suppose the whole town has been giving you
reams of advice," he said irrelevantly. "Well
Betty, I can't promise to take you with me—bless
me, what would an old bachelor like me do with
a young lady like you? But I think I know of a
place where you can spend a summer and be
neither lonesome nor unhappy. And perhaps in
the fall we can make other arrangements."
Betty was disappointed that he did not promise
to take her with him at once. But she had been
trained not to tease, and she accepted the compromise as pleasantly as it was offered.
"Mrs. Arnold will be disappointed if you don't
go round to the front door," she informed her
uncle, as he stretched his long legs preparatory
to rising from the low seat. "Company always
comes to the front door, Uncle Dick."
Mr. Gordon stepped out of the summer house
and turned toward the gate.
"We'll walk around and make a proper entry,"
he declared obligingly. "I meant to, and then as
I came up the street I remembered how we used
to cut across old Clinton's lot and climb the fence.
So I had to come the back way for old times'
Betty's eyes were round with wonder.
"Did you ever live in Pineville?" she asked in
"You don't mean to tell me you didn't know
that?" Uncle Dick was as surprised as his niece.
"Why, they shipped me into this town to read
law with old Judge Clay before they found there
was no law in me, and your father first met your
mother one Sunday when he drove twenty miles
from the farm to see me."
Betty was still pondering over this when they
reached the Arnold front door and Mrs. Arnold,
flustered and delighted, answered Mr. Gordon's
"Sit right down on the front porch where it's
cool," she insisted cordially. "I've just put on
my dinner, and you'll have time for a good talk.
No, Betty, there isn't a thing you can do to help
me—you entertain your uncle."
But Betty, who knew that excitement always
affected Mrs. Arnold's bump of neatness, determined to set the table, partly to help her hostess
and partly, it must be confessed, to make sure that
the knives and forks and napkins were in their
"I'm sure I don't know where those boys can
be," scolded the flushed but triumphant mother,
as she tested the flaky chicken dumplings and pronounced the dinner "done to a turn." "We'll just
sit down without them, and it'll do 'em good," she
Betty ran through the hall to call her uncle.
Just as she reached the door two forlorn figures
toiled up the porch steps.
"Where's ma?" whispered Ted, for the moment not seeing the stranger and appealing to
Betty, who stood in the doorway. "In the kitchen?
We thought maybe we could sneak up the front
Ted was plastered from head to foot with slimy
black mud, and George, his younger edition, was
draped only in a wet bath towel. Both boys clung
to their rough fishing rods, and Ted still carried
the dirty tin can that had once held bait.
"I should say," observed Mr. Gordon in his
deep voice, "that we had been swimming against
orders. Things usually happen in such cases."
"Oh, gee!" sighed Ted despairingly. "Who's
Mrs. Arnold had heard the talk, and she came
to the door now, pushing Betty aside gently.
"Well, I must say you're a pretty sight," she
told her children. "If your father were at home
you know what would happen to you pretty quick.
Betty's uncle here, too! Aren't you ashamed of
yourselves ? I declare, I've a good mind to whip
you good. Where are your clothes, George?"
"They—they floated away," mumbled George.
"Ted borrowed this towel. It's Mrs. Smith's.
Say, ma, we're awful hungry."
"You march upstairs and get cleaned up," said
their mother sternly. "We're going to sit down
to dinner this minute. Chicken and dumplings.
When you come down looking like Christians I'll
see about giving you something to eat."
Midway in the delicious dinner Ted and George
sidled into the room, very wet and shiny as to hair
and conspicuously immaculate as to shirt and
collar. Mrs. Arnold relented at the transformation and proceeded to pile two plates high with
samples of her culinary skill.
"Betty," said Mr. Gordon suddenly, "is there
a garage here where we can hire a car?"
"There isn't a garage in Pineville," answered
Betty. "You see we're off the state road where
the automobile traffic goes. There are only two
or three cars in town, and they're for business. .
But we can get a horse and buggy, Uncle Dick."
"Guess that's better, after all," said Mr. Gordon contentedly. "I want to talk to you about
that plan I spoke of, and we'll stand a better
chance of having our talk if we travel behind a
horse. I wonder—" his eyes twinkled—"if
there's a young man about who would care to
earn a quarter by running down to the livery stable
and seeing about a horse and buggy for the afternoon?"
Ted and George grinned above their respective
dishes of ice-cold rice pudding.
"I'll go," offered Ted.
"I'll go, too," promised George. "Can we
drive the rig back to the house?"
Mr. Gordon said they could, and the two boys
dispatched their dessert in double quick time.
While they went down to the town livery stable,
Betty hurried to put on a cool, white frock, but,
to Mrs. Arnold's disappointment, she refused to
wear a hat.
"The buggy top will be up, so my complexion
will be safe," Betty declared merrily, giving Mrs.
Arnold a hearty squeeze as that lady followed her
downstairs to the porch where Mr. Gordon was
"What's that? Go without a hat?" he repeated, when Betty consulted him. "I should say
so! You're fifty times prettier with those smooth
braids than with any hat, I don't care how fine it
is. This must be our turnout approaching."
As he guessed, it was their horse and buggy
coming toward the house. Ted was driving, assisted by George, and the patient horse was galloping like mad as they urged it on.
"Never knew a boy of that age who could be
trusted to drive alone," muttered Mr. Gordon,
going down to the gate to meet them.
The boys beamed at him and Betty, sure that
they had pleased with their haste. They then
watched Betty step in, followed by her uncle, and
drive away with something like envy.
"Are you used to driving, Betty?" asked Mr.
Gordon, as he chirped lightly to the horse that
obediently quickened its lagging pace.
"Why, I've driven some," replied Betty hesitatingly. "But I wouldn't know what to do if
he should be frightened at anything. Do you like
to drive, Uncle?"
"I'm more used to horseback riding," was the
answer. "I hope you'll have a chance to learn
that this summer, Betty. I must have you measured for a habit and have it sent up to you from
the city. There's no better sport for a man or a
woman, to my way of thinking, than can be found
in the saddle."
"Where am I going?" asked the girl timidly.
"Who'll teach me to ride?"
"Oh, there'll be some one," said her uncle
easily. "I never knew a ranch yet where there
were not good horsemen. The idea came to me
that you might like to spend the summer with
Mrs. Peabody, Betty."
"Mrs. Peabody?" repeated Betty, puzzled.
"Does she live on a ranch? I'd love to go out
West, Uncle Dick."
On to chapter three
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