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- Betty Gordon in Washington - 10/28 -
bag, the gift of her uncle, packed, her room in perfect order. There was really no one or nothing to say good-by to, for she felt more pity than affection for Mrs. Peabody, and the Bramble Farm animals had been too unused to petting to respond readily to her overtures. Betty, at the breakfast table, had a swift conviction that she would be leaving with far different feelings if Bob had been there to stay behind.
Mr. Peabody asked her no questions about her plans and stalked off as usual to the barn with Ethan when he had finished the meal.
"I declare I'm going to miss you, Betty," said Mrs. Peabody once, in the middle of the dishwashing, with which Betty insisted on helping.
That was a good deal for her to say, and the girl, who had a natural longing to be missed, was grateful. And when Fred Keppler drove into the yard, promptly at half-past ten, and went upstairs for her trunk-- for neither Peabody nor his hired man was in sight--Mrs. Peabody kissed her warmly and with tears in her eyes.
"Hop right in, Betty," said Fred cordially. "Got a nice day for your trip, haven't you? All fixed? All right, then."
He gathered up the reins and had turned the horse's head when, apparently from the clouds, Mr. Peabody appeared on the scene.
"Long as you're going over to Hagar's Corners you won't mind giving me a lift, will you?" he drawled. "I have an errand over at the station, and it won't take me a minute. I can come right back with you. Go on, Fred; I'll sit in here with the trunk and you and Betty needn't mind me."
Without waiting for an invitation, he swung himself up on top of the trunk, and smiled pleasantly. He was saving his own horse a long drive and getting a necessary errand done at the expense of a neighbor, always a desirable consummation in the Peabody mind.
Fred opened his mouth and closed it wordlessly. His father would have known what to do, but fifteen-year-old Fred did not know how to deal with such a display of assurance. There seemed nothing to do but to take this unwelcome passenger to Hagar's Corners and back.
Betty, for her part, could have cried with vexation. Gone was her chance of asking Fred to take her to Glenside, and with it the hope of getting to Washington. She knew that after the noon train at Hagar's Corners there were no more till four o'clock. She wanted to say good-by to the Guerins and to cash her uncle's check. No wonder she was assailed by a strong desire to tumble the satisfied Mr. Peabody out head over heels.
The drive was taken almost in silence, each of the three busy with his own thoughts. At the station Betty and her trunk were put down, and then she had a few minutes to speak to Fred while Mr. Peabody was talking to the freight agent, who was also the passenger agent, the telegraph clerk and the janitor.
"Don't you want some money?" whispered Fred hurriedly. "Mother told me to ask you. And she sent you this."
He thrust into her hands a box of lunch.
"I have a check I want to cash," said Betty nervously. "Will the station agent do it, do you suppose? It's for fifty dollars. And, Fred, Pineville is quarantined for smallpox and I want to go to Washington, but I didn't want Mr. Peabody to know. Hush! Here he comes now!"
Fred Keppler had what his fond mother called a "good head," and as Peabody and the agent stopped in the station doorway to continue their discussion he proceeded to bear out her theory by thrusting a wad of bills into Betty's hand.
"Money for the calves," he explained. "Just fifty there. Haven't seen Dad to turn it over to him. Give me the check and it will be all right. And you ask Dan Gowdy, the agent, about trains. I guess he can dope out a way to get you to Washington. You still have ten minutes."
"Good-by, and thank you heaps!" cried Betty warmly, shaking his hand. "I don't know what I should have done without you, Fred!"
Her hands filled with the bank bills Fred had thrust into them, her bag under one arm and the lunch box under the other, Betty stood forlornly on the platform and watched the horse and wagon out of sight. Mr. Peabody had merely nodded to her by way of farewell, and Betty felt that if she never saw him again there would be little to regret. As a matter of fact, she was to meet him again and not under much more favorable aspects. But of that she was happily ignorant.
The whistling of the lanky young station agent, who was covertly staring at her under pretense of sweeping up the already neat boards before the door, roused her. She remembered that she did not want to go to Pineville.
"Why, I guess I can fix it up for you," said Dan Gowdy cheerfully, when she had stated her predicament, withholding only the reason for not telling Mr. Peabody. "Let me see--twelve-three stops at Centertown. But you don't want to spend the night on the train. Going from Centertown, you'd get to Washington about ten in the morning."
"I'd rather not sleep on the train," answered Betty timidly, hoping that she was not unreasonable. Aside from the expense, she was not used to traveling, and the idea of a night alone on the train for the first time rather daunted her.
"Well, then--Wait a minute, I've got it!" shouted the agent enthusiastically. "You buy a ticket up the line to Halperin. That's quite a town, and the through trains all stop. My brother-in-law's telegraph operator there, and I'll send him a message to look out for you, and he and my sister will keep you over night. They've got a pretty place right in the country--trolley takes you to the door--and a baby that's named for me and some kid if I do say it. Then in the morning you can take the seven-forty-five for Washington and get there at five-fifty-two if it isn't late. How's that?"
"But your sister!" stammered Betty. "She doesn't know me. What will she say?"
"She'll say you have eyes just like Juliet, the little sister who died when she was about your age," declared Dan Gowdy gently. "Don't you fret, Sister, she'll be glad to have you. Now here's your ticket, and I'll talk to Steve as soon as you're on board the train. That's her smoke now."
Betty was conscious that there was something else on her mind, but it was not until she was seated in the train and had had her ticket punched that she remembered. She had thanked kind Dan Gowdy rather incoherently, though as warmly as she could, and had only half heard his explanation that she was taking the 12:01 train up the line instead of the 12:03 down, and it was no wonder that in the bustle of boarding the train she had forgotten her intention of telegraphing to her Uncle Dick. He had given her his address as the Willard Hotel, and the letter was already six days old.
"But I really think in the morning will be better," decided Betty, watching the flying landscape. "He wouldn't have given me the address if he didn't expect to be there for some time. Before I take the Washington train I'll telegraph him and let him know when to meet me."
The train made three stops before Halperin was reached, and Betty stepped down to find herself before a pretty, up-to-date station built of cream-colored brick, with a crowd of stylish summer folk mingling on the platform with farmers and townspeople. Several automobiles were backed up waiting for passengers, and there were one or two old-fashioned hacks. A trolley car was rounding the street corner, the motorman sounding his bell noisily.
"Betty Gordon, isn't it?" asked a pleasant voice.
A round-faced man was smiling down at her, a young man, Betty decided, in spite of the white hair. His keen dark eyes were pleasant, and he held out his hand cordially.
"Dan told me you had cornflowers on your hat," he said quizzically, "and I, knowing that Dan calls all blue flowers cornflowers, picked you out right away. Only they are forget-me-nots, aren't they?"
"They're supposed to be larkspur," answered Betty, laughing and feeling at ease at once. "Perhaps the milliner didn't have a garden."
"Well, anyway, they're blue," said the brother-in-law comfortably. "Don't suppose Dan told you my name?"
He was guiding her around the station toward the trolley tracks as he spoke.
"He said the baby was named for him, but he didn't say what your name was," admitted Betty dimpling.
"Just like him!" grinned her companion. "Dan's so all-fired proud of that youngster he never lets a chance slip to tell we named him Daniel Gowdy Brill. Though Dan senior usually forgets to add the Brill."
"Does--does Mrs. Brill know I'm coming?" ventured Betty.
"She sure does! I telephoned her the minute I heard from Dan, and I suspect she and the baby are sitting out on the fence now watching for you to come along. Sorry I can't go with you, but I've just come on duty. You tell the conductor to let you off at Brill's, and I'll see you at supper to-night."
He helped her on the car, tipped his hat, and ran back to the station, leaving Betty with the comfortable feeling that the Brills were used to company and rather liked it.
She repeated her instructions to the conductor, who nodded silently, and, after a quarter of an hour's ride, signaled to her that her destination was reached. They had passed the town limits, and were in the open country. Betty had noticed several farmhouses, of the artistic remodeled type, evidently summer homes of the well-to-do, as the car rattled along.
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