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- Betty Gordon in Washington - 2/28 -
badly. Of course, I wouldn't do it if I stopped to think, but when he gets me furious as he did to-day, I don't stop to think."
"Well, for mercy's sake, Bob Henderson," ejaculated Betty in an instant alarm, "don't kill him, whatever you do. Then you'd be put in prison for life!"
"All right," agreed Bob equably, "I won't kill him--just nick him in a few places--how will that do?"
"But I'm really serious," insisted Betty. "Don't let the cow turn up that lane. Think how awful you would feel if you were sent to prison, Bob."
Bob took refuge in a masculine stronghold.
"If that isn't just like a girl!" he said scornfully. "Who said I was going to prison? I merely say I don't want to lose my temper and do something rash, and you have me convicted and sentenced for life. Gee, Betty, have a little mercy!"
Betty's lips trembled.
"I can't bear to think of you going away and leaving me here," she faltered. "I'm not going to stay either, Bob, not one minute after I hear from Uncle Dick. I'm sure if the Benders knew how things were going, they would think we had a right to leave. I had the loveliest letter from Mrs. Bender this morning--but it had been opened."
Bob switched an unoffending flower head savagely.
"You come out of that!" he shouted to the perverse cow that seemed determined to turn to the left when she was plainly asked to turn to the right. "Wait a minute, Betty; here's Fred Keppler."
The half-grown boy who accosted them with "What are you doing with our cow?" grinned fatuously at Betty, showing several gaps in a row of fine teeth.
"Keep your cow at home where she belongs," directed Bob magnificently. "She's been making her dinner off our corn."
"Oh, gee," sighed the boy nervously. "I'll bet old Peabody was in a tearing fury. Look, Bob, something's tore her hide! She must have been down in the blackberry bushes along the brook."
"Well, see that it doesn't happen again," commanded Bob, gracefully withdrawing by walking backward. "Corn that's as high as ours is worth something, you know."
"You never told him about the pitchfork," said Betty accusingly, as soon as Fred Keppler and the cow were out of earshot. "You let him think it was blackberry bushes that scratched her like that."
"Well, his father will know the difference," grinned Bob cheerfully. "Why should I start an argument with Fred? Saving the cow from the pound ought to be enough, anyway. Mr. Keppler has had to buy more than one animal out before this; he will not pay attention to his fences."
Betty sat down on a broad boulder and leaned up against an old hickory tree.
"Stone in my shoe," she said briefly. "You'll have to wait just a minute, Bob."
Bob sat down on the grass and began to hunt for four leaf clovers, an occupation of which he never tired.
"Do you think Mr. Peabody opened your letter?" he asked abruptly.
Betty paused in the operation of untying her shoe.
"Who else would?" she said thoughtfully. "It wasn't even pasted together again, but slit across one end, showing that whoever did it didn't care whether I noticed it or not. I'll never mail another letter from that box. I'll walk to Glenside three times a day first!"
"Well, the only thing to do is to clear out," said Bob firmly. "You'll have to wait till you hear from your uncle, or at least till the Benders get back. We promised, you know, that we wouldn't run away without telling them, or if there wasn't time, writing to them and saying where we go. That shows, I think, that they suspected things might get too hot to be endured."
"I simply must get a letter from Uncle Dick or go crazy," sighed Betty feverishly. She put on her shoe and stood up. "I wish he would come for me himself and see how horrid everything is."
HOSPITALITY UNDER DIFFICULTIES
Betty Gordon had come to Bramble Farm, as Mr. Peabody's home was known, early in the summer to stay until her uncle, Richard Gordon, should be able to establish a home for her, or at least know enough of his future plans to have Betty travel with him. He was interested in mines and oil wells, and his business took him all over the country.
Betty was an orphan, and this Uncle Dick was her only living relative. He came to her in Pineville after her mother's death and when the friends with whom she had been staying decided to go to California. He remembered Mrs. Peabody, an old school friend, and suggested that Betty might enjoy a summer spent on a farm. These events are related in the first book of this series, called "Betty Gordon at Bramble Farm."
That story tells how Betty came to the farm to find Joseph Peabody a domineering, pitiless miser, his wife Agatha, a drab woman crushed in spirit, and Bob Henderson, the "poorhouse rat," a bright intelligent lad whom the Peabodys had taken from the local almshouse for his board and clothes. Betty Gordon found life at Bramble Farm very different from the picture she and her uncle had drawn in imagination, and only the fact that her uncle's absence in the oil fields had prevented easy communication with him had held her through the summer.
Once, indeed, she had run away, but circumstances had brought her and Bob to the pleasant home of the town police recorder, and Mr. and Mrs. Bender had proved themselves true and steadfast friends to the boy and girl who stood sorely in need of friendship. It was the Benders who had exacted a promise from both Bob and Betty that they would not run away from Bramble Farm without letting them know.
Betty had been instrumental in causing the arrest of two men who had stolen chickens from the Peabody farm, and at the hearing before the recorder something of Mr. Peabody's characteristics and of the conditions at Bramble Farm had been revealed.
Anxious to have Betty and Bob return, Joseph Peabody had practically agreed to treat them more humanely, and for a few weeks, during which the Benders had gone away for their annual vacation, matters at Bramble Farm had in the main improved. But they were gradually slipping back to the old level, and this morning, when Peabody had gored the cow with his pitchfork, Bob had thought disgustedly that it was useless to expect anything good at the hands of the owner of Bramble Farm.
As he and Betty tramped back after delivering the cow, Bob's mind was busy with plans that would free him from Mr. Peabody and set him forward on the road that led to fortune. Bob included making a fortune in his life work, having a shrewd idea that money rightly used was a good gift.
"Where do you suppose your uncle is?" he asked Betty, coming out of a reverie wherein he bade Bramble Farm and all the dwellers there with a single exception a cold and haughty farewell.
"Why, I imagine he is in Washington," returned Betty confidently. "His last letter was from there, though two days ago a postal came from Philadelphia. I think likely he went up to see his lawyer and get his mail. You know it was held there while he was out West. I hope he has all my letters now, and last night I wrote him another, asking him if I couldn't leave here. I said I'd rather go to the strictest kind of a boarding school; and so I would. I'll mail the letter this afternoon in Glenside."
"It's too long a walk for you to take on a hot afternoon," grumbled Bob. "I'm going over to Trowbridge, and I'll mail it there for you."
Betty pulled the letter from her blouse pocket and handed it to him.
"Where's Trowbridge?" she asked, as they came in sight of the boundary line of Bramble Farm and sighted Mr. Peabody in conversation with the mail carrier at the head of the lane. "Can I go with you?"
"We'd better hurry," suggested Bob, quickening his steps. "Trowbridge is four miles beyond Laurel Grove. You've never been there. No, you can't go, Betty, because I have to ride the sorrel. I suppose in time old Peabody will buy another wagon, but no one can tell when that will come to pass."
The wagon house had burned one night, and the master of Bramble Farm could not bring himself to pay out the cash for even a secondhand wagon. As a result, the always limited social activities of the farm were curtailed to the vanishing point.
"What are you going for?" persisted Betty, who had her fair share of feminine curiosity with the additional excuse that interesting events were few and far between in her present everyday life.
"Going to a vendue," he announced. "Now how much do you know?"
Betty tossed her head, and elevated her small, freckled nose.
"A vendue?" she repeated. "Why, a vendue is a--a--what is it, Bob?"
"A sale," said Bob. "Some farmer is going to sell out and Peabody wants a wagon. So I have to ride that horse fourteen miles and back --and he has a backbone like a razor blade!--to buy a wagon; that is, if no one bids over me."
"And Mr. Peabody won't pay more than six dollars; he said so at the supper table last night," mourned Betty. "You'll never be able to buy
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