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house, in the garden doorway of the kitchen.
She had spent an hour before that with Mrs.
Beck, while they tried together with more or
less success to trim a new sailor hat for Mary
Beck like one of Betty's own. Mrs. Beck was
as friendly as possible in these days, but when-
over the Fosters were mentioned her face grew
dark. She did not like Mrs. Foster ; she did
not exactly blame her for all that had hap-
pened, but she did not pity her either, or feel a
true compassion for such a troubled neighbor.
Betty never could understand it. At any rate,
she had been saved by her unsettled life from
taking a great interest in her own or other
people's dislikes.

That evening, just as the tea-party was in
full progress, somebody came for Dr. Prince ;
and when he returned from his study he an-
nounced that he must go at once down the
river road to see one of his patients who was
worse. Perhaps he saw an eager look in
Betty's eyes, for he asked gravely if Miss
Leicester had a niece to lend, it being a moon-
light evening and not too long a drive. Aunt
Barbara made no objection, and our friend


went skipping off to the doctor's stable in high

" Oh, that 's nice ! " she exclaimed. " I 'nj
so glad that you 're going to take Pepper ; she 's
such a dear little horse."

"Pepper is getting old," said the doctor,
" but she really likes to go out in the evening.
You can see how fast she will scurry home.
Get me a whip from the rack, will you, child ?
I am anxious to be off."

Mrs. Prince and Aunt Barbara were busy
talking in the parlor, and were taking great
pleasure in their social occasion, but Betty was
so glad that she need not stay to listen, instead
of going down the town street and out among
the quiet farms behind brisk old Pepper. The
wise, kind doctor at her side was silent as he
thought about his patient, yet he felt much
pleasure in Betty's companionship. They could
smell the new marsh hay and hear the tree-
toads ; it was a most beautiful summer night,
Betty felt very grateful and happy, she did not
exactly know why ; it was not altogether the
effect of Mrs. Prince's tea and cakes, or even
because she was driving with the doctor, but
ik& restlessness and uncertainty that make so


great a part o a girl's life seemed to have
gone away out of her heart. Instead of the
excitement there was a pleasant quietness and
sense of security, no matter what might be go-
ing to happen.

Presently the doctor appeared to have
thought enough about his patient. "You
don't feel chilly, do you ? " he asked kindty.
" I find it damp and cold, sometimes, after a
hot day, crossing this low land."

" Oh, no, I 'm as warm as toast," answered
Betty. " Whom are you going to see, Dr,
Prince? Old Mr. Duff?"

" No, he is out-of-doors again. I saw him
in the hayfield this morning. You haven't
been keeping up with my practice as well as
usual, of late," said the doctor, laughing a
little. " I am going to see a girl about your
own age. I am afraid that I am going to lose
her, too."

" Is it that pretty Lizzie Edwards who sits
behind the Becks' pew ? I heard that she had
a fever. I saw her the last Sunday that she
was at church." Betty's heart was filled with
dismay, and the doctor did not speak again.
They were near the house now, and could see


some lights flitting about ; and as they stopped
the sick girl's father stole silently from behind
the bushes and began to fasten the horse, so
that Dr. Prince could go in directly. Betty
could hear the ominous word " sinking," as
they whispered together ; then she was left
alone. It seemed so sad that this other girl
should be near the door of death, and so close
to the great change that must come to every
one. Betty had never known so direct a con-
sciousness of the inevitableness of death, but
she was full of life herself, and so eager and
ready for whatever might be coming. What
if this other girl had felt so, too ? She watched
the upper windows where the dim light shone,
and now and then a shadow crossed the cur-
tain. Everything out-of-doors was quiet and
sweet ; the moon went higher and higher, and
the wind rustled among the apple-trees. Some
white petunias in a little plot near by looked
strangely white, and Betty thought that per-
haps the other girl had planted them, and
there they were growing on. Now she was
going to die. Betty wondered what it would
be like, and if the other girl knew, and if she
minded so very much. After a few minutes


she found herself saying an eager prayer that
the doctor might still cure her, and keep her
alive. If she must die, Betty hoped that she
herself might do some of the things that Lizzie
Edwards would have done, and take her place.
When old people had to go, who had done all
they wished to do, and got tired, and could not
help thinking about having a new life, that was
one thing ; but to go now and leave all your
hopes and plans behind, indeed, it seemed
too hard. But Betty had a sense of the differ-
ence between what things could be helped and
what were in God's hands, and when she had
said her prayer she waited again hopefully for
a long time in the moonlight.

At last there seemed to be more movement
in the house and she could hear voices ; then
she heard somebody sobbing, and the light in
the upper room went quickly out.

The doctor came after a few minutes more,
which seemed very long and miserable. Pep-
per had fallen asleep, good old horse ! and
Betty did not dare to ask any questions.

" Well, well," said the doctor, in a surpris-
ingly cheerful voice, " I forgot all about you,
Miss Betty Leicester. I hope that you 're not


gold this time, and I don't know what the
aunts will have to say about us; it is nearly
eleven o'clock."

" I 'm not cold, but I did get frightened,"
acknowledged Betty faintly ; then she felt sur
prisingly light-hearted. Dr. Prince could not
be in such good spirits if he had just seen
his poor young patient die !

" We got here just in time," he said, tuck*
ing the light blanket closer about Betty.
" We 've pulled the child through, but she was
almost gone when I first saw her ; there was
just a spark of life left, a spark of life," re-
peated the doctor.

" Who was it crying ? " Betty asked.

" The mother," said the doctor. " I had
just told her that she was going to keep the
little girl. Why, here 's a good sound sassa-
fras lozenge in my pocket. Now we'll have
a handsome entertainment."

Betty, who had just felt as if she were going
to cry for nobody knew how long, began to
laus:h instead, as Dr. Prince broke his unex-


pected lozenge into honest halves and presented
her solemnly with one of them. There was
never such a good sassafras lozenge before or


since, and Pepper trotted steadily home to hei
stall and the last end of her supper. " Only
think, if the doctor hadn't known just what
to do," said Betty later to Aunt Barbara, " ancl
how he goes all the time to people's houses !
Every day we see him going by to do things to
help people. This might have been a freezing,
blowing night, and he would have gone just
the same."

" Dear child, run up to your bed now," said
Aunt Barbara, kissing her good - night ; for
Betty was very wide awake, and still had so
many things to say. She never would forget
that drive at night. She had been taught a
great lesson of the good doctor's helpfulness 9
but Aunt Barbara had learned it long ago.



THE Out-of-Door Club in Tideshead was slow
in getting under way, but it was a great success
at last. Its first expedition was to the Pick-
nell farm, to see the place where there had
been a great battle with the French and In-
dians, in old times, and the relics of a beaver-
dam were to be inspected besides. Mr. Pick-
nell came to talk about the plan with Miss
Barbara Leicester, who was going to drive out
to the farm in the afternoon, and then walk
back with the club, as besought by Betty.
She was highly pleased with the eagerness of
her young neighbors, who had discovered in
her an unsuspected sympathy and good-fel-
lowship at the time of Betty's June tea-party.
It had been a pity to make believe old in all
these late years, and to become more and more
a stranger to the young people. Perhaps, if
the club proved a success, it would be a good


thing to have winter meetings too, and read

Somehow Miss Barbara had never before
known exactly what to do for the young folks.
She could have a little supper for them in the
evening, and ask them to come and read with


her ; or perhaps she might propose to read
some good story to them, and some poetry.
They ought to know something of the great
poets. Miss Mary Leicester was taken up
with the important business of her own inva-
lidism, but it might be a very good thing for
her to take some part in such pleasant plans.
Under all Aunt Barbara's shyness and habit
of formality Betty had discovered her warm
and generous heart. They had become fast
friends, and, to tell the truth, Aunt Mary was
beginning to have an uneasy and wistful con-
sciousness that she was causing herself to be
left out of many pleasures.

The gloom and general concern at the time
of the Fosters' sorrow had caused the first
club meeting to be postponed until early in
August ; and then, though August weather
would not seem so good for out-of-door expedi-
tions, this one Wednesday dawned like a cool,


clear June day, and at three o'clock the fresh
easterly wind had not ceased to blow and yet
had not brought in any seaward clouds. There
were eleven boys and girls, and Miss Barbara
Leicester made twelve, while with the two
Picknells the club counted fourteen. The
Fosters promised to come later in the sum-
mer, but they did not feel in the least hurt
because some of their friends urged them to
join in cheerful company this very day. It
seemed to Betty as if Nelly looked brighter
and somehow unafraid, now that the first
miserable weeks had gone. It may have been
that poor Nelly was lighter-hearted already
than she often had been in her father's life-

Betty and Mary Beck walked together, at
first; but George Max asked Mary to walk
with him, so they parted. Betty liked Harry
Foster better than any other of the boys, and
really missed him to-day. She was brimful
of plans about persuading her father to help
Harry to study natural history. While the
club was getting ready to walk two by two,
Betty suddenly remembered that she was an
odd one, and hastily took her place between the


Grants, insisting that they three must lead the
procession. The timid Grants were full of
fun that day, for a wonder, and a merry head
to the procession they were with Betty, walk-
ing fast and walking slowly, and leading the
way by short cuts across-country with great
spirit. They called a halt to pick huckleber-
ries, and they dared the club to cross a wide
brook on insecure stepping-stones. Everybody
made fun for everybody else whenever they
saw an opportunity, and when they reached
the Picknell farm, quite warm and excited,
they were announced politely by George Max
as " the Out-of-Breath Club." The shy Pick-
nells wore their best white Sunday dresses,
and the long white farm-house with its gam-
brel roof seemed a delightfully shady place as
the club sat still a while to cool and rest itself
and drink some lemonade. Mrs. Picknell was
a thin, bright-eyed little woman, who had the
reputation of being the best housekeeper in
town. She was particularly kind to Betty
Leicester, who was after all no more a stran-
ger to her than were some of the others who
came. It was lovely to see that Mrs. Picknell
and Julia were so proud of Mary's gift foi'


drawing, and evidently managed that she
should have time for it. Mary had begun to
go to Kiverport every week for a lesson.

" She heard that Mr. Clinturn, the famous
artist, was spending the summer there, and
started out by herself one day to ask him to
give her lessons," Mrs. Pickiiell told Betty
proudly. " He said at first that he could n't
Bpare the time ; but I had asked Mary to take
two or three of her sketches with her, and
when he saw them he said that it would be a
pleasure to help her all that he could."

" I do think this picture of the old packet-
boat coming up the river is the prettiest of all.
Oh, here 's Aunt Barbara ; do come and see
this, Aunty I " said Betty, with great enthu-
siasm. " It makes me think of the afternoon
I came to you."

Miss Leicester took out her eyeglasses and
looked as she was bidden. " It is a charming
little water-color," she said, with delighted sur-
prise. "Did you really teach yourself until
this summer ? '

" I only had my play paint-box until last
winter," said Mary Picknell. " I am so glad
you like it, Miss Leicester ; " for Miss Leices-


ter had many really beautiful pictures of her
own, and her praise was worth having.

Then Mr. Picknell took his stick from be-
hind the door, and led the company of guests
out across the fields to a sloping rough piece
of pasture land, with a noisy brook at the
bottom, where a terrible battle had been fought
in the old French and Indian war. He read
them an account of it from Mr. Parkman's
history, and told all the neighborhood traditions
of the frightened settlers, and burnt houses,
and murdered children and very old people,
and the terrible march of a few captives
through the winter woods to Canada. How


his own great-great grandfather and grand-
mother were driven away from home, and each
believed the other dead for three years, until
the man escaped, and then went, hearing that
his wife was alive, to buy her freedom. They
came to the farm again, and were buried in the
old burying-lot, side by side.

" There was a part of the story which you
left out," Mrs. Picknell said. " When they
killed the little baby, the Indians told its poor
mother not to cry about it or they would kill
her too; and when her tears would fall, a


kind-hearted squaw was quick enough to throw
some water in the poor woman's face, so that
the men only laughed and thought it was a
taunt, and not done to hide tears at all."

" I have not heard these old town stories
for years. We ought to thank you heartily,"
said Miss Barbara, when the battle-ground
had been shown and the club had heard all
the interesting things that were known about
the great fight. Then they came back by way
of the old family burying-place and read the
quaint epitaphs, which Mr. Picknell himself
had cut deeper and kept from wearing away.
It seemed that they never could forget the old
farm's history.

" I maintain that every old place in town
ought to have its history kept," said Mr. Pick-
nell. " Now, you boys and girls, what do you
know about the places where you live ? Why
don't you make town clerks of yourselves ?
Take the edges of almanacs, if you can't get
courage to begin a blank-book, and make notes
of things, so that dates will be kept for those
who come after you. Most of you live where
your great-grandfathers did, and you ought to
know about the old folks. Most of what I V


kept alive about this old farm I learned from
my great-grandmother, who lived to be a very
old woman, and liked to tell me stories in the
long winter evenings, when I was a boy. Now
we '11 go and see where the beavers used to
build, down here where the salt water makes
tip into the outlet of the brook. Plenty of
their logs lay there moss-covered, when I was
a grown man."

Somehow the getting acquainted with each
other in a new way was the best part of the
club, after all. It was quite another thing
from even sitting side by side in school, to
walk these two or three miles together. Betty
Leicester had taught her Tideshead cronies
something of her own lucky secret of taking
and making the pleasures that were close at
hand. It was great good fortune to get hold
of a common wealth of interest and association
by means of the club ; and as Mr. Picknell
and Miss Leicester talked about the founders
and pioneers of the earliest Tideshead farms,
there was not a boy nor girl who did not have
a sense of pride in belonging to so valiant an
old town. They could plan a dozen expedi-
tions to places of historic interest. There had


been even witches in Tideshead, and soldiers
and scholars to find out about and remember.
There was no better way of learning American
history (as Miss Leicester said) than to study
thoroughly the history of a single New Eng-
land village. As for newer towns in the
West, they were all children of some earlier
settlements, and nobody could tell how far
back a little careful study would lead.

There was time for a good game of tennis
after the stories were told, and the play was
watched with great excitement, but some of
the club girls strayed about the old house,
part of which had been a garrison-house. The
doors stood open, and the sunshine fell pleas-
antly across the floors of the old rooms. Usu-
ally they meant to go picnicking, but to-day
the Picknells had asked their friends to tea,
and a delicious country supper it was. Then
they all sang, and Mary Beck's clear voice,
as usual, led all the rest. It was seven o'clock
before the party was over. The evening was
cooler than August evenings usually are, and
after many leave-takings the club set off afoot
toward the town.

"What a good time! ' said Betty to the


Grants and Aunt Barbara, for she had claimed
one Grant and let Aunt Barbara walk with
the other ; and everybody said " What a good
time ! ' at least twice, as they walked down
the lane to the road. There they stopped for
a minute to sing another verse of " Good-
night, ladies," and indeed went away sing-
ing along the road, until at last the steep-
ness of the hill made them quiet. The Pick-
nells, in their doorway, listened as long as
they could.

At the top of the long hill the club stopped
for a minute, and kept very still to hear the
hermit-thrushes singing, and did not notice at
first that three persons were coming toward
them, a tall man and a boy and girl. Sud-
denly Betty's heart gave a great beat. The
taller figure was swinging a stick to and fro,
in a way that she knew well ; the boy was
Harry Foster, and the girl was Nelly. Surely
but the other ? Oh, yes, it was papa !
66 Oh, papa ! " and Betty gave a strange little
laugh and flew before the rest of the club,
who were still walking slowly and sedately,
and threw herself into her father's arms. Then
Miss Leicester hurried, too, and the rest of


the club broke ranks, and felt for a minute as
if their peace of mind was troubled.

But Betty's papa was equal to this emer-
gency. " This must be Becky, but how
grown ! ' ' he said to Mary Beck, holding out
his hand cordially ; " and George Max, and
the Grants, and Frank Crane, is it ? I used
to play with your father ; " and so Mr. Leices-
ter, pioneered by Betty, shook hands with
everybody and was made most welcome.

"You see that I know you all very well
through Betty ! So nobody believed that I
could come on the next train after my letter,
and get here almost as soon ? " he said, holding
Betty's hand tighter than ever, and looking at
her as if he wished to kiss her again. He did
kiss her again, it being his own Betty. They
were very fond of each other, these two ; but
some of their friends agreed with Aunt Bar-
bara, who always said that her nephew was
much too young to have the responsibility of
so tall a girl as Betty Leicester.

Nobody noticed that Harry and Nelly Foster
were there too, in the first moment of excite-
ment, and so the first awkwardness of taking
up every- day life again with their friends was


passed over easily. As for our Betty, she fairly
danced along the road as they went homeward,
and could not bear to let go her hold of her
father's hand. It was even more dear and
delightful than she had dreamed to have him
back again.



THERE was a most joyful evening in the old
Leicester house. Everybody forgot to speak
about Betty's going to bed, and even Aunt
Mary was in high spirits. It was wonderful
how much good a little excitement did for
her, and Betty had learned that an effort to
be entertaining always brought the pleasant
reward of saving Aunt Mary from a misera-
ble, tedious morning or afternoon. When she
waked next morning, her first thought was
about papa, and her next that Aunt Mary was
likely to have a headache after sitting up so
late. Betty herself was tired, and felt as if it
were the day after the fair ; but when she hur-
ried down to breakfast she found Aunt Bar-
bara alone, and was told that papa had risen
at four o'clock, and, as she expressed it to
Aunt Mary a little later, stolen his breakfast
from Serena and gone down to Riverport on


the packet, the tide having served at that
earlv hour.


" I heard a clacketing in the kitchen closet,"
said Serena, " and I iust got my skirt an' a
cape on to me an' flew down to see what 't was.
I expected somebody was took with fits; an'
there was y'r father with both his hands full
o' somethin' he 'd collected to stay himself
with, an' he looked 's much o' a boy's ever
he did, and I so remarked, an' he told me
he was goin' to Eiverport. 'Want a little
change, I s'pose ? ' says I, an' he laughed good
an' clipped it out o' the door and down towards
the landin'."

"I wonder what he's after now, Serena? "
said Betty sagely, but Serena shook her head
absently. It was evident to Betty's mind that
papa had shaken off all thought of care, and
was taking steps towards some desired form
of enjoyment. He had been disappointed the
evening before to find that there were hardly
any boats to be had. Very likely he meant to
bring one up on the packet that afternoon ; but
Betty was disappointed not to find him in the
house, and thought that he might have called
her to go down on the packet with him. She


felt as if she were going to Lave a long and
dull morning.

However, she found that Aunt Mary was
awake and in a cheerful frame, so she brought
her boots in, and sat by the garden window
while she put some new buttons on with the
delightful little clamps that save so many diffi-
cult stitches. Aunt Mary was already dressed,
though it was only nine o'clock, and was seated
before an open bureau drawer, which her
grandniece had learned to recognize as a good
sign. Aunt Mary had endless treasures of
the past carefully tucked away in little bun-
dles and boxes, and she liked to look these
over, and to show them to Betty, and tell
their history. She listened with great eager-
ness to Betty's account of papa's departure.

" I was afraid that you would feel tired this
morning," said the girl, turning a bright face
toward her aunt.

" I am sure I expected it myself," replied
Aunt Mary plaintively, " but it is n't neural-
gia weather, perhaps. At any rate, I am none
;he worse."

" I believe that a good frolic is the very best
thing for you," insisted Betty, feeling very


bold ; but Aunt Mary received this news amia-
bly, though she made no reply. Betty had re-
covered by this time from her sense of bitter
wrong at her father's departure, and after she
had talked with Aunt Mary a little while about
the grand success of the Out-of-Door Club, she
went her ways to find Becky.

Becky was in a very friendly mood, and ad-
mired Mr. Leicester, and wondered too at ever
having been afraid of him in other years, when
she used to see him walking sedately down the

" Papa is very sober sometimes when he is
hard at work," explained Betty with eagerness.
" He gets very tired, and then oh, I don't
mean that papa is ever aggravating, but for
days and days I know that he is working hard
and can't stop to hear about my troubles, so I
try not to talk to him ; but he always makes up
for it after a while. I don't mind now, but
when I was a little girl and first went away
from here I used to be lonely, and even cry
sometimes, and of course I did n't understand.
We get on beautifully now, and I like to read
so much that I can always cover up the dull
times with a nice book."

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 10 of 13)