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BY FREDERICK ORIN BARTLETT
Author of “The Forest Castaways"
CHAPTER XI A GOOD-BY CALL
ONE morning a week later, Martin came in with the excited announcement, “They 're up !” “Who 's up?” inquired Elizabeth. “The radishes, and lettuce, and peas, and corn.” “They are l’ exclaimed Elizabeth. “Then I need n't worry any more about my dinner. I will have a salad and some green peas.” “Lors " said Martin, “they ain't up that much. They 're just peeking out o' the ground.” “Oh, dear!” sighed Elizabeth. “Then they won't be ready to eat for a long time.” “Not for days and days,” said Martin. “Can't you hurry them along?” she asked. Martin suppressed a smile. “They have to take their time about growing, just as you and I do,” he answered. “When do you think they will be ready ?” “Lor! you 'll have radishes in a month.” “Very well,” she replied magnanimously, that 's the best you can do.” “Would you like to see them 7” he asked, with some pride. “I will come out as soon as I 've finished my morning's work,” she answered. It was already beginning to be easy for her to prepare the early breakfast. There was a certain amount of excitement about this mixing of various dishes, sliding them into the oven, and seeing what resulted from the baking. It still seemed to her more like some mysterious trick than a science. A great many things had seemed easier since the ball game. She found herself going gaily about her tasks. Roy's kindness, the friendliness of Nance, and the sight of her schoolmates, all helped to put her in a better frame of mind. She began to realize that if her friends had not called upon her, it was perhaps her own fault. She had certainly not been very cordial to those who had CO111C. Roy had already called twice at the little cottage since the game. He took such an interest in whatever she happened to be doing, that he always left her with the feeling that she was upon some great adventure. Mrs. Trumbull had told of how her grandmother had gone over the plains with the early pioneers, and of the hardships and privations she had endured. Of course
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what she was doing could not be compared with that, and yet Roy made her feel that, in a small way, she was doing something similar. “What are you thinking off" inquired Mrs. Trumbull, this morning, as she noticed the girl's abstraction. Elizabeth laughed. “Martin wanted me to look at the garden,” she answered, seizing the first excuse she could think of to escape further questioning. “Do you want to come P” “No. Run along and I 'll go up-stairs and put my room to rights.” Elizabeth hurried out, still wearing her gingham apron. She found the brown earth alive with tiny sprouts, but she could not tell which were weeds and which were vegetables. She pulled up a few, but was still no wiser. As she looked around for Martin, she heard the sound of a horse's hoofs upon the grass, and saw Helen Brookfield galloping toward her. Had it been possible, she would have retreated, but there was nothing to do under the circumstances but to look up and smile as the latter drew rein. It was evident from the expression in Helen's bright eyes, that she was charged with excitement of some sort. “I 've just come over to say good-by, Beth,” she began eagerly. “I’m going away next week.” “Really?” Elizabeth replied with interest. “It 's so grand and sudden, that I can't realize it yet. We—we are going to Europe for the summer.” “To Europe?” echoed Elizabeth. “Yes. Father has to go on business, and decided at the last moment to take us with him.” She uptilted her head a trifle. “Why, that 's really fine, Helen,” answered Elizabeth. “I will send you picture postals so that you 'll know where we are,” said Helen, with great condescension. “I 'm afraid it will be lonely for you here this summer. Is this your flower garden P” “No,” answered Elizabeth, “it 's my vegetable garden.” “Really?” returned Helen, with a lift of her eyebrows. “And you planted it yourself?” “With some help,” nodded Elizabeth. “Martin helped, and Mrs. Trumbull helped, and Roy helped—a kind of coöperative garden, you see.”
“Roy? I think that very nice of him,” she answered. “He is so tender-hearted " “What has that to do with it?” demanded Elizabeth. “Oh nothing, only—well, I suppose he can't help pitying you.” “Pity? Me?” cried Elizabeth. “Of course we all do,” Helen hastened to add. “But perhaps in the fall you can come back to school, though I suppose you 'll have to go into a lower class.” Elizabeth murmured something, she hardly knew what. For a moment, she felt only shamed and humiliated under the sting of being pitied. The heart went out of her, and she felt more like crying than doing anything else. She heard Helen say good-by and heard her gallop off, and then she turned back slowly toward the house. The cruel part of this new point of view was that it came at just the moment when Elizabeth had ceased pitying herself. Even now she felt no trace of self-pity. And now to be pitied by others—even by Roy—destroyed at a single blow all the romance of her adventure. She knew, to be sure, that Helen's remarks were always to be taken with a grain of salt, but, in this case, she felt there was a certain basis for them. Reviewing the incidents since Roy's first visit, they seemed to fit into Helen's theory. He had found her in the kitchen, and in his wish to make the situation easier for her, had tried to help her cook the doughnuts; he had returned, and, for the same reason, had helped her in the garden; he had noticed that she was not attending dancing school and had few visitors, and so had invited her to the game. It was for no merits or accomplishments of her own. She could not sing—except with the tea-kettle; she knew little French; she could not even play tennis. Before she was through with herself, she was convinced she could do nothing. Once again she found herself dangerously near crying. She drew herself up sharply. Crying would do no good; it was worse than moping. Mrs. Trumbull's advice flashed into her head like a warning, and she caught some of that good lady's aggressiveness. She was sure the latter would n't waste any time in useless regrets. Neither would her mother. Both women would go ahead in Some way and remedy matters. Her lips came firmly together. If she had learned to cook, why should n’t she learn to sing? if she had learned to keep house, why should n't she learn French P if she had learned to plant a garden, why could n’t she even learn to play tennis P. That she did not have these accomplishments at present was her own fault
for having neglected her opportunities, but she had the whole summer before her, and, if she worked hard, it might be possible to do much before fall. She felt that moment as though it was possible to accomplish anything before then. Another idea lent romance to the undertaking: she would do these things by herself, and then, when Roy and the others came back from their summer vacation, she would surprise them all. She would sing for Miss Santier as the latter always said she might sing if only she practised her exercises; she would address Helen Brookfield in French; she might possibly challenge Roy at tennis; and, finally, astonish her father with all three acquirements. In the glow of her new enthusiasm, she ran swiftly into the house and up the back stairs to her own room. She put her hair in order before Mrs. Trumbull learned of her presence. When the latter finally heard her moving about, she opened the door. “How 'd you find the garden?” she inquired. Elizabeth kept her head turned away as much as possible. She did not yet wish to confide, even to Mrs. Trumbull, her great project. “They are up,” she answered, repeating Martin's announcement. “You were gone so long, I did n’t know but what you got lost,” said Mrs. Trumbull. “Helen–Helen Brookfield rode by,” Elizabeth explained. “Oh, she did, did she?” exclaimed Mrs. Trumbull. “What did she want?” “She wanted to tell me she is going abroad.” “Well, I 'm glad of it. I hope she 'll stay abroad.” “I hope she will stay until fall,” answered Elizabeth. Lightly humming a song, Elizabeth hurried down to the kitchen. She had no sooner arrived than she heard a knock on the door. She recognized it with a start. It was Roy. For a moment, she hesitated, and then retreated across the room on tiptoe, and hurried up the stairs to Mrs. Trumbull. “There—there 's some one at the door,” she said, a little out of breath with excitement. Mrs. Trumbull looked up sharply. “Well,” she demanded, “why did n't you open it?” “Because I don't want to see him,” answered Elizabeth. “See Who P” “Roy.” “Land sakes 1’’ returned Mrs. Trumbull, in astonishment. “You don't mean to say that you two have quarreled ! You have n't been so foolish l’’
For a moment, Mrs. Trumbull studied the girl sharply. She saw that Elizabeth was really in earnest, and that whatever was troubling her was no mere passing whim. She started reluctantly toward the door.
"All right,” she said, “I 'll do it, but I don't like the idea at all.”
She went down-stairs, and a moment later, Elizabeth heard her talking with Roy. Then in a moment she heard the door close. She tiptoed to the window and saw Roy striding down the path carrying his shoulders well back as usual. Unseen by him, she waved him good-by. “Oh,” she exclaimed to herself, “I’ll show them | I 'll show them all !”
CHAPTER XII A NEW FRIENDSHIP
WHILE Mrs. Trumbull was dressing next morning, she heard, in the kitchen below, such a gladsome trill of fresh, young notes, blending with the morning songs of the birds, that she paused to listen. The voice was so strong and full of joy that it filled her own old heart, and sent her back in her thoughts a full twenty-five years. It was so Elizabeth's mother used to begin the day. Hurrying through her toilet, Mrs. Trumbull stole down the stairs and stood a moment at the kitchen door. Everything in the room seemed to be singing: the fire in the stove, the kettle on top of it, and the golden sun, which, in a broad, warm stream, poured through the windows. Elizabeth, with crimson cheeks and in a gingham apron, stood beside the bread board cutting out biscuits, which were almost ready to go into the oven. She was still singing, and though her song consisted of nothing but exercises which Miss Santier had given her to practise last winter, there was music in every note. Mrs. Trumbull did n't know one tune from another, anyway, but she knew a singing heart when she heard one. And if ever the spirit of a summer morning could be expressed in music, it was being now so expressed. Mrs. Trumbull stepped into the room, and, crossing to Elizabeth's side, kissed her on the forehead. With a laugh and a little courtesy, Elizabeth greeted her in French. “Bon jour, Madame Trumbull.” Madame Trumbull stared at the girl, as though fearing she had lost her wits. “What 's that?” she demanded. “It 's French for good morning,” explained Elizabeth. “What do you want to put it into French for? Seems to me that plain English is good enough for every-day Americans.” “Vraiment?” answered Elizabeth, with a twinkle. “Vraymong? What is Vraymong?” “It 's a polite way of saying, ‘Really,’” anSwered Elizabeth. “Bah! I don't call it polite answering a person back in a way she can't understand.” “But you must learn with me,” Elizabeth explained enthusiastically. “If ever we should go to France—” “Catch me going to France" answered Mrs. Trumbull. “That chef up to The Towers is all I want to see of Frenchmen.” “There 's an idea 1" cried Elizabeth. “I can practise on him. Thanks! I can practise on him 1" “Nonsense ! Whatever has got into you this morning, anyway?” Elizabeth placed her biscuits in a pan and put them in the oven. “Lots and lots of things,” she answered. “I’m going to learn to sing, and speak French, and play tennis, besides learning to keep house.” “What for P” demanded Mrs. Trumbull, with her usual directness. “It 's a secret,” answered Elizabeth. “I’ll wager it has something to do with Helen Brookfield.” “Perhaps,” answered Elizabeth. “She really did make me want to do all those things, though I don’t believe she meant to.” “Well, you 'll do whatever you set out to do,” nodded Mrs. Trumbull. “But what in the world you want to waste time on that French nonsense for is more than I know.” That afternoon, Elizabeth paid a visit to The Towers. She found that the tennis-court there, though never used, was in very good condition, for Mr. Churchill never allowed anything about the estate to suffer from neglect. He strongly approved of tennis for girls, and had had this court made in the hope that it might attract Elizabeth to the game; but she, after playing in a desultory fashion for a season, had found that it required so much exertion that she had finally dropped it altogether. The sight of the well-rolled court filled her with renewed eagerness, but one could n’t play tennis by one's self. Here was an obstacle which, in the first flush of her enthusiasm, she had not considered. With her classmates gone for the summer, she would be left quite by herself. She went on to find the chef, in order to carry into effect at once her second plan. The latter was very glad indeed to see her, for he found much idle time on his hands since the mistress of The Towers had left. His choicest creations often went untasted, and, for breakfast, he was allowed to display his art in nothing more complicated than soft boiled eggs and hot rolls. “Ah, ma'm'selle !” he said to her, in French, with a deprecatory wave of his hands, “what is it possible to do with soft boiled eggs?” “Eat them,” answered Elizabeth. “We often have them for breakfast. They are very easy to do.” “Easy 2 easy P" he answered, in contempt. is not ease that a chef seeks, but art.” Elizabeth laughed. “I must tell that to Mrs. Trumbull,” she answered. “Non 1 non 1 ma'm'selle,” he begged, “for then Madame Trombooll might wish to come up here.”
And the man who held every one in his kitchen in abject fear, looked so very much concerned over this possible contingency, that Elizabeth hastened to change the subject. “I’m going to practise my French on you,” she announced. Again the chef was startled, but he recovered himself and bowed gallantly. “It is a too great honor, ma'm'selle,” he protested. “You mean you don't want me to,” answered Elizabeth, somewhat chagrined. “N on 1 non / It is not that. But listen—I have a niece—Ma'm'selle Gagnon. She has just arrived, and is very anxious to give the lessons in French. Perhaps—” “That will be even better,” answered Elizabeth, without hesitation. “You may send her to the house. But I shall practise on you just the same whenever I come here.” Again the chef bowed. “V’enever ma'm'selle wishes,” he agreed. So that much was settled at any rate, and Elizabeth returned to her own house somewhat encouraged. She was just about to enter, when she heard a voice behind her. Turning, she saw Nance Barton, dressed in tennis costume and carrying a racket. Her cheeks were glowing as a result of her recent exercise, and she walked with the easy grace of one whose muscles have free play. It was almost as though she had come in obedience to the wave of a fairy wand. As Beth went to meet her, her eyes expressed an even more cordial welcome than her words. “Oh, Nance " she exclaimed heartily, “I am so glad to see you!” For a moment, the latter appeared a little taken aback, as though she had not expected such a warm greeting. “I came over to see if you would be at home this evening,” she said. “Why, I'm at home now,” answered Elizabeth. “I’m at home all the time, Nance.” Elizabeth looked wistfully at the tennis racket, but Nance misinterpreted the glance. Remembering Elizabeth's aversion to the game, she felt called upon to make an explanation, and said: “I’ve been playing with Miss Jerome.” “We have a very good court at The Towers,” answered Elizabeth. “I know you have,” nodded Nance; “I saw it as I came by. I wish you knew how to play, Beth.” “So do I,” answered Elizabeth. “You—you do? You really do?” “Oh, Nance, you don't know how much !” Elizabeth exclaimed, taking her hand impulsively.