Betty Gordon at Boarding School/Chapter 7
FUN AT FAIRFIELDS
The long platform was crowded. Betty followed Bob, who carried their bags. She tried to peer ahead, but the moving forms blocked her view. Just after they passed through the gate, some one caught her.
"Betty, you lamb! I never was so glad to see any one in my life!" cried a gay voice, and Bobby Littell hugged her close in one of her rare caresses.
Bob Henderson held out his hand as soon as Bobby released Betty. He liked this straightforward, brusque girl who so evidently adored Betty.
"Why, Bob, you've grown a foot!" was Bobby Littell's greeting to him.
Bob modestly disclaimed any such record, and then Louise and Esther, who had swooped upon Betty, turned to shake hands with him.
"The rest of the crowd is out in the car," said Bobby carelessly.
Outside the station, in the open plaza, a handsome closed car awaited them. The gray-haired chauffeur, cap in hand, stood back as a procession of boys and girls advanced upon Bob and Betty and their escort.
"Oh, Betty, dear!" Short, plump Libbie Littell, who had relinquished her claim to the name of "Betty" in Betty Gordon's favor some time ago, hurled herself upon her friend. "To think we're going to the same school!"
"Well, Frances is going, too," said Bobby practically. "She might like to be introduced, you know. Betty, this is Frances Martin, a Vermont girl who is out after all the Latin prizes."
Frances smiled a slow, sweet smile, and, behind thick glasses, her dark near-sighted eyes said that she was very glad to know Betty Gordon.
"Now the boys!" announced the irrepressible Bobby, apparently taking Bob's introduction to Frances for granted. "The boys will please line up and I'll indicate them."
The five lads obediently came forward and ranged themselves in a row.
"From left to right," chanted Bobby, "we have the Tucker twins, Tommy and Teddy, W. M. Brown, who asks his friends to use his initials and punches those who refuse, Timothy Derby who reads poetry and Sydney Cooke who ought to——" and Bobby completed her speech with a wicked grin, for she had managed to hit several weaknesses.
"As an introducer," she announced calmly to Carter, the personification of propriety's horror, "I think I do rather well."
They stowed themselves into the limousine somehow, the girls settled more or less comfortably on the seats, the boys squeezed in between, hanging on the running board, and spilling over into Carter's domain.
Bob liked the five boys at once, and they seemed to accept him as one of them. If he had had a little fear that he would feel diffident and unboyish among lads of his own age, it vanished at the first contact.
"Betty, you sweet child, how we have missed you!" cried Mrs. Littell, standing on the lowest step under the porte-cochère as the car swept up the drive of Fairfields, as the Littell's home was called.
Behind her waited Mr. Littell, fully recovered from the injury to his foot which had made him an invalid during Betty's previous visit.
From Carter, who had beamingly greeted her at the station, to the pretty parlor maid who smiled as Betty entered her room to find her turning down the bed covers, there was not a servant who did not remember Betty and seem glad to see her.
"It is so good to have you two here again," Mr. Littell had said.
"I never knew such people," Betty repeated to herself twenty times that evening. "How lovely they are to Bob and me!"
Mrs. Littell, who was happiest when entertaining young people, had put the six boys on the third floor in three connecting rooms. The girls were on the second floor, and Esther, the youngest, who had strenuously fought to be allowed to go to Shadyside with her two sisters, was almost beside herself with the effort to be in all the rooms at once and hear what every one was saying.
"I'm so glad your uncle let you come," said Bobby, as they waited for Betty to change into a light house frock for dinner. "I don't know much about this school, except that mother went to school with the principal."
That was a characteristic Bobby Littell remark, and the other girls laughed.
"I had a letter from a girl who lives in Glenside," confided Betty, re-braiding her hair. "She and her sister are going—Norma and Alice Guerin. I know you'll like them. Norma wrote her mother went to Shadyside when it was a day school."
"Yes, I believe It was, years and years ago," returned Louise Littell. "The aristocratic families who lived on large estates used to send their daughters to Mrs. Warde. Her daughter, Mrs. Eustice, is the principal now."
Betty wondered If Norma Guerln's mother had belonged to one of the families who owned large estates, but they went down to dinner presently and she forgot the Guerins for the time being.
That was a busy week for the school boys and girls.
The beautiful house and grounds of Fairfields were at their disposal, and the gallant host and gentle hostess gave themselves up to the whims and wishes of the houseful of young people.
"Racket while you may, for school-room discipline is coming," laughed Mr. Littell, when he went upstairs unexpectedly early one night and caught the abashed Tucker twins sliding down the banisters.
Both Bob and Betty had wired Mr. Gordon of their safe arrival in Washington, and Bob had also telegraphed his aunts. While they were at Fairfields a letter reached them from Miss Hope and Miss Charity, describing in glowing terms the boarding house in which they were living and the California climate which, the writers declared, made them feel "twenty years younger." So Bob was assured that the elderly ladles were neither homesick nor unhappy and that added appreciably to his peace of mind.
He and Betty found time, too, to slip away from their gay companions and go to the old second-hand bookshop where Lockwood Hale browsed among his dusty volumes. He had set Bob upon the trail that led him West and brought him finally to his surviving kin, and the boy felt warm gratitude to the absent-minded old man.
Mr. and Mrs. Littell rigidly insisted that the last night before the young folks started for Shadyside must be reserved for final packing and early retirement so that the gay band might begin their journey auspiciously. The Tuesday evening before the Thursday they were to leave for school, the host and hostess gave a dance for their young people.
"I'm glad to have at least one chance to wear this dress," observed Bobby, smoothing down the folds of her rose-colored frock with satisfaction. "The only thing I don't like about Shadyside, so far, is that restriction about party clothes."
"I imagine it is a wise rule in many ways," said Betty sagely, thinking particularly of the Guerin girls, who would probably be hard-pressed to get even the one evening frock allowed. "You know how some girls are, Bobby; they'd come with a dozen crêpe de chine and georgette dresses and about three clean blouses for school-room wear."
"Like Ruth Gladys Royal," giggled Bobby. "I remember her at Miss Graham's last year. Goodness, the clothes that girl would wear! The rest of us didn't even try to compete. And, by the way, girls, Ruth Gladys is going to Shadyside. Her aunt telephoned mother last night while we were at the movies."
"That's the girl we went to call on that day we saw Mr. Peabody tackle Bob in the hotel," Louise explained in an aside to Betty. "I wonder why every one seems bent and determined to go to Shadyside this year."
"Because it is a fine school with a half-century reputation," Bobby, who had studied the catalogue, informed her sister primly.
"I'm not going," objected Esther. "I think it's mean."
"Mother and dad need one girl at home, dearest," her mother reminded her, as she came in looking very handsome and kindly in a black spangled net gown. "All ready, girls? Then suppose we go down."
It was a simple and informal dance, as befitted the ages of the guests, but Mr. and Mrs. Littell knew to perfection the secret of making each one enjoy himself. There were a handful of outside friends invited, and Betty, to whom a party was a never-failing source of delight, felt, as she confided to Bob, as though she were "walking on air."
"You look awfully nice in that white stuff," he said frankly, and Betty liked the comment on her pretty ruffled white frock which she had dubiously decided a moment before was too plain.
Betty was what country folk call a "natural-born dancer," and she quickly learned the new steps she had had no opportunity to practice since going West. All the girls and most of the boys were excellent dancers, too, and Bob was not allowed to beg off. Frances Martin, the last girl one would have named, had taught a dancing class in her home town with great success and she volunteered to lead Bob. To his surprise, the boy found he liked the music and movement and before the evening was over he was in a fair way to become a good dancer.
The party broke up promptly at eleven o'clock, and a few minutes later the whir of the last motor bearing home the departing guests died away. There was a natural lingering to "talk things over," but by twelve the house was silent and dark.
Betty had just fairly dozed off when some one woke her by shaking her gently.
"Betty! Betty, please wake up!" whispered a frightened little voice.