Betty Gordon at Boarding School/Chapter 3
Betty shook back her hair and rose to kiss the gray-haired gentleman who put an arm affectionately about her.
"I heard about that blast," he said, and smiled good-humoredly. "Lee Chang was much worried when I went in to dinner. His one consolation was that you had eaten the tart before the oil began to fall."
"We were all right, only of course it rather daubed us up," said Bob. "Betty had to wash her hair."
"My hair's nothing," declared Betty scornfully. "But my brand-new blouse that I worked on for two days—you ought to see it, Uncle Dick! Grandma Watterby thinks maybe she can get the oil out, but she says the color may come out, too."
Mr. Gordon sat down on the step and took off his hat.
"You've a clear claim for damages, Betty," he assured his niece gravely. "To save time, I'm willing to make good; what does a new blouse cost?"
"This wasn't exactly new," explained Betty fairly. "Aunt Faith had the material in her trunk for years. But it was the first thing I ever made, and I was so proud of it."
"Well, we'll see that you have something to take its place," promised her uncle, drawing her down beside him. "I have some news for you, Betsey. When you go East next week, I'm going, too. That is, as far as Chicago. From there I take a little run up into Canada."
"But you said you'd spend Christmas with us!" argued Betty.
"Oh, Christmas is months off," returned Mr. Gordon comfortably. "I expect to be back in the States long before the holidays. And Bob's aunts have finally made up their minds where they want to spend the winter. Aunt Faith has commissioned me to buy two tickets for southern California."
"But there's Bob!" Betty gazed anxiously at her uncle. "What's Bob going to do without any one at all, Uncle Dick?"
Mr. Gordon looked at Bob, and an unwilling grin turned the corners of the boy's mouth.
"That's the way he's been acting all day," scolded Betty. "What ails him? I think it's silly to sit there and smile when there's nothing to smile about."
"I suspect Bob doesn't take kindly to secrets," returned her uncle. "Suppose you 'fess up, Bob, and when the atmosphere is clear we can have a little talk."
"All right," said Bob, with manifest relief. "I kept quiet only because I wanted to be sure I was going, sir. Betty, Mr. Littell wrote me about a military academy in the East and put me in touch with several boys who attend it. Uncle Dick thinks it is just the school for me, and I'm going. Timothy Derby is one of the boys. He's a son of the man I worked for in Washington."
"How splendid!" With characteristic enthusiasm Betty forgot her momentary displeasure at Bob's method of keeping a secret. "When are you going, Bob? Where is the school?"
"That's the best part," said Bob boyishly. "It's the Salsette Military Academy, Betty, and it's right across the lake from the Shadyside school. All five of the boys Mr. Littell told me of are friends of the Littell girls, so you see it is going to be great fun all around."
"I never knew of anything so nice!" declared Betty. "Never! So you knew when I told you about Shadyside that you were going to be so near!"
"Have to keep an eye on you," he said with mock seriousness, at which Betty made a little face.
"You haven't much time to get ready," Mr. Gordon warned them. "The aunts will leave Wednesday and our train pulls out at ten twenty-six on Friday morning. Of course you will do your shopping in Washington and be guided by the advice of Mr. and Mrs. Littell. I wish I could go to Washington with you, but that is impossible now. You must write me faithfully, both of you, though I suppose we'll have to expect the same delay between letters that we've experienced before. Most of my time will be spent on a farm thirty miles from a railroad. If you get into any difficulties, go to the Littells, and for little troubles, help each other."
Mr. Gordon went on to say that while Bob and Betty were independent to a greater degree than most boys and girls of their age, the same force of circumstances that made this possible also gave them a heavier responsibility. He explained that each was to have an allowance and asked that each keep a cash account to be submitted to him on his return from Canada, not, he said, to serve as a check upon extravagant or foolish expenditures, but that he might be better able to advise them and to point out avoidable mistakes.
After supper that night he drew the boy aside for further discussion.
"I'm really leaving Betty in your charge," he said, and Bob stood fully two inches taller. "Not that I think she will get into any serious trouble, but there's no telling what a bevy of high-spirited girls will think up. And you know what Betty is when once started, she can not be stopped. I rely on you to keep her confidence and hold her back if she seems inclined to act rashly. The Littells are splendid people, but they will be five hours' distance away, while you will be across the lake. I put my trust in you, Bob."
Bob silently resolved to be worthy. Betty had been his first friend, and to her he gave all the pent-up loyalty and starved affection of a lonely boy nature. When Mr. Gordon came into his life, and especially when he was made his legal guardian, Bob experienced the novel sensation of having some one interested in his future. Though the various older men he had met were more than willing to help him, Mr. Gordon was the only one to succeed in winning over Bob's almost fanatical pride and the lad who admired, respected, and loved him, would have done anything in the world for him.
The next few days were extremely busy ones for Bob, the aunts, and Betty. Miss Hope and Miss Charity were so excited at the prospect of a journey that they completely lost their faculty for planning, and most of the work fell on Bob and Betty. Luckily there was little packing to be done, for the few bits of old furniture were to be sold for what they would bring, and the keepsakes that neither Miss Hope nor her sister could bring themselves to part with were stored in several old trunks to be housed in the Watterby attic.
"Betty, child," her uncle's voice broke in upon Betty's orderly packing one afternoon, "I know you're going to be disappointed, but we mustn't cry over what can't be helped. I've had a wire and must leave for Chicago Wednesday morning. You and Bob will have to make the Washington trip alone."
"I knew it was too good to be true," mourned Betty, a tear dropping on the yellowed silk shawl she was neatly folding. "Oh, dear, Uncle Dick, I did want you to go with us part of the way!"
"Better luck next time," replied Mr. Gordon. "There's no use grumbling over what you can't change."
This was his philosophy, and he followed it consistently. Bob and Betty, though keenly disappointed they were not to have his companionship, tried to accept the situation as cheerfully as he did.
The packing was hastened, and soon the old farmhouse was stripped and dismantled, the trunks stored in the Watterby attic, the furniture carried off to the homes of those who bought it, and the key delivered to Dave Thorne, the section foreman, who would deliver it to the superintendent.
The hospitable Watterbys had insisted that the travelers should all stay with them until the time for their several departures, and Bob and Betty had a last glorious ride on Clover and the ungainly white horse while the aunts rested and put the final touches to their preparations for their journey.
The next morning all was bustle and hurry, for the aunts were to start on their trip and Mr. Gordon must be off to Chicago. Miss Hope insisted on being taken to the station an hour before their train was due, and when a puff of steam up the track announced the actual approach of the train the two old ladies trembled with nervousness and excitement. Mr. Gordon guided them up the steps of the car, after a tearful farewell to Bob and Betty, and saw that they were settled in the right sections. He spoke to the conductor on the way out, and tipped the porter and maid liberally to look after the travelers' comfort.