BETTY GORDON AT BRAMBLE FARM
ONE ON BOB
As soon as the men finished eating they rose silently and shuffled out. Any diffidence Betty might have felt about facing any one at the table after her dramatic exit of the night before was speedily dispelled; no one paid the slightest attention to her. Mrs. Peabody had risen and begun to wash the dishes at the sink before Betty had finished.
"I want to ride over to Glenside with Bob," said the girl a trifle uncertainly as she pushed back her chair. "You don't care, do you, Mrs. Peabody? And can I do any errands for you?"
"No, I dunno as I want anything," said the woman dully. "You go along and try to enjoy yourself. Bob's got to get back by eleven to whitewash the pig house."
"Come, drive over with us this morning," urged Betty kindly. "I'll help you with the work when we get back. The air will do you good. You look as though you had a headache."
"Oh, I have a. headache 'most all the time," admitted Mrs. Peabody, apparently not thinking it worth discussion. "And I couldn't go to town, child, I haven't a straw hat. I don't know when I've been to Glenside. Joe fusses so about the collection, I gave up going to church two years ago."
Betty heard the sound of wheels and ran out to join Bob, an ache in her throat.
"I think it's a burning shame!" she announced hotly to that youth, as he put out a helpful hand to pull her up to the seat. "I pity Mrs. Peabody from the bottom of my heart. Why can't she have a straw hat? Doesn't she take care of the poultry and the butter and do all the work in the house? If she can't have a hat, I'd like to know why not!"
"Regular pepper-pot, aren't you?" commented Bob admiringly. "Gee, I wanted to laugh when you lit into old Peabody last night. Didn't dare, though—he'd have up and pasted me one."
It was a beautiful summer morning, and in spite of injustice and unlovely human traits housed under the roof they had left, in spite of the sight of the poor animal before them suffering pain at every step, the two young people managed to enjoy themselves. Betty had a hundred questions to ask about Bramble Farm, and Bob was in the seventh heaven of delight to have this friendly, cheerful companion to talk to instead of only his own thoughts for company.
"I've got the letter to Uncle Dick here in my pocket," Betty was saying as they came in sight of the blacksmith's shop on the outskirts of Glenside. "I suppose I'll have to be patient about waiting for an answer. It may take a week. I don't know just where he is, but I've written to the address he gave me, and marked it 'Please forward.' "
The blacksmith came out and took the horse, Bob helping him unharness and Betty improving the opportunity to see the inside of a smithy.
"I guess you'll want to look around town a bit?" suggested Bob, coming up to her when the sorrel was tied in place awaiting his turn to be shod. Two other horses were before him. "I'll wait here for you."
Betty looked at him in surprise.
"Why, Bob Henderson!" she ejaculated, keeping her voice low so that the two or three loungers about the door could not hear. "Are you willing to let me go around by myself in a perfectly strange town? I don't even know my way to the post-office. Don't you want to go with me?"
Bob was evidently embarrassed.
"I—I—I don't look fit!" he blurted out. "The collar's torn off this shirt, and I get only one clean pair of overalls a week—Monday morning. I don't look good enough to go round with you."
"Don't be silly!" said Betty severely. "You look all right for a work day. Come on, or we won't be back by the time the shoe is on."
Between the shop and the town there was a rather deserted strip of land, very conspicuous as to concrete walks and building lots marked off, but rather lacking in actual houses. Betty seized her opportunity to do a little tactful financiering. She knew that Bob had no money of his own—indeed it was doubtful if the lad had ever handled even small change that he was not accountable for.
"Uncle Dick gave me some money to spend," remarked Betty, rather hurriedly, for she did not know how Bob was going to take what she meant to say. "And before you show me the different stores, I want you to take me to the drug store. I'm going to buy Mrs. Peabody the largest bottle of violet toilet water I can find. It will do her headache heaps of good. If I give you the money, you'll buy it for me, won't you Bob?"
"Sure I will," agreed the unsuspecting Bob, and he pocketed the five dollar bill she gave him readily enough.
The wily Betty hoped that the drug store would be modern, for she had a plan tucked up her white sleeve.
"Want to go to the drug store first or to the post-office?" asked Bob.
"Oh, the post-office!" Betty was suddenly anxious to know that her letter was actually on the way.
"Don't forget—get a big bottle," said Betty warningly, as she and Bob entered the drug store.
Her dancing dark eyes discovered what she had hoped for the moment they were inside the screen door—a large soda fountain with a white-jacketed clerk behind it.
Bob led the way to the perfume counter, and though the clerk, who evidently knew him, seemed surprised at his order, he very civilly set out several bottles of toilet water for their inspection. Betty chose a handsome large bottle, and when it was wrapped, and with it some soap, for Betty did not fancy the thin wafer of yellow kitchen soap she had found in her soapdish, Bob paid for the package and received the change quite as though he were accustomed to such proceedings. Indeed he stood straighter, and Betty knew she was right in her conclusions that he had sensitiveness and pride.
The time had come to put her plan into action.
"Oh, Bob!" She pulled his coat sleeve as they were passing the fountain on their way out. "Let's have a sundae!"
The clerk had heard her, and he came forward at once, pushing toward them a printed card with the names of the drinks served. Bob opened his mouth, then closed it. He sat down on one of the high stools and Betty on another.
"I'll have a chocolate marshmallow nut sundae," ordered Betty composedly, having selected the most expensive and fanciful concoction listed with the fervent hope that it would be plentiful and good.
"I'll have the same," mumbled Bob, just as Betty had trusted he would.
While the clerk was mixing the delectable dainty, Betty stole a look at Bob. His mouth was. set grimly. Then he turned and caught her eye. An unwilling grin flickered across his face and he capitulated as Betty broke into a delighted giggle.
"Well, I'll be jiggered!" admitted Bob, "you've certainly put it over on me."
They laughed and chattered over the sundaes, and. Betty, when they were gone, would not listen to reason, but insisted they must have another. She did not want a second one, but she knew Bob's longing for sweets must have gone ungratified a long time, and she was too young to worry about the ultimate effect on his surprised organs of digestion. Bob was fairly caught, and could not object without putting himself in an unfavorable light with the impressive young clerk, so two more sundaes were ordered and disposed of. Then Bob paid for them from the change in his pocket and he and Betty found themselves on the sunny sidewalk.
"That's the first sundae I ever had," confessed Bob shyly. "Of course we had ice-cream at the poorhouse sometimes for a treat—Christmas and sometimes Fourth of July. But I never ate a sundae. Do you want your change back now?"
"No, keep it," said Betty. "I want to go to a grocery store now. And where do they keep mosquito netting?"
"Same place—Liscom's general store," answered Bob.
The general store was well-named. Betty, who had never been in a place of this kind, was fascinated by the shelves and the wonderful assortment of goods they contained. Everything, she privately decided, from a pink chiffon veil to a keg of nails could be bought here, and her deductions were very near the truth.
"I can't stand being chewed by the mosquitoes another night," she whispered to Bob. "So I'm going to get some netting and tack it on the window casings. I'd buy a lamp if I was going to stay."
After the netting was measured off, Betty, to Bob's astonishment, began to buy groceries. She chose cans of sardines and tuna fish, several packages of fancy crackers, a bottle or two of olives, a pound of dried apricots, a box of dates and one or two other articles. These were all wrapped together in a neat bundle.
"Do they make sandwiches here?" asked Betty, watching a machine shaving off a pink slice of cold boiled ham and a layer of cheese and the storekeeper's assistant butter two slabs of bread with sweet-looking butter at the order of a teamster who stood waiting.
"Sure we do, Miss," the proprietor assured her. "Nice, fresh sandwiches made while you wait, and wrapped in waxed paper."
"I'll have two ham and two cheese, please," responded Betty, adding in an aside to Bob: "We can eat 'em going home."
She was afraid that perhaps she had spent more money than she had left from the five dollar bill. But Bob had enough to pay for her purchases, it seemed, and they left the store with their bundles, well pleased with the morning's work.
On to chapter ten
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