BETTY GORDON AT BRAMBLE FARM

by Alice B. Emerson

[pseud. of Stratemeyer Syndicate;
plot outline by Edward Stratemeyer;
ghostwritten by Josephine Lawrence]

New York: Cupples & Leon, 1920

Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her Josephine Lawrence website; please do not use on other sites without permission


CHAPTER I

WAITING FOR WORD


"I do wish you'd wear a sunbonnet, Betty," said Mrs. Arnold, glancing up from her ironing board as Betty Gordon came into the kitchen. "You're getting old enough now to think a little about your complexion."

Betty's brown eyes laughed over the rim of the glass of water she had drawn at the sink.

"I can't stand a sunbonnet," she declared vehemently, returning the glass to the nickel holder under the shelf. "I know just how a horse feels with blinders on. You know you wouldn't like it, Mrs. Arnold, if I pulled up half your onion sets in mistake for weeds because I couldn't see what I was doing."

Mrs. Arnold shook her head over the white ruffle she was fluting with nervous, skillful fingers. "There's no call for you to go grubbing in that onion bed," she said. "I'd like you to have nice hands and not be burnt black as an Indian when your uncle comes. But then, nobody pays any attention to what I say."

There was more truth in this statement than Mrs. Arnold herself suspected. She was one of these patient, anxious women who unconsciously nag every one about them and whose stream of complaint never rises above a constant murmur. Her family were so used to Mrs. Arnold's monotonous fault-finding that they rarely if ever knew what she was complaining about. They did not mean to be disrespectful, but they had fallen into the habit of not listening.

"Uncle' Dick won't mind if I'm as black as an Indian," said Betty confidently, spreading out her strong, little brown right hand and eyeing it critically. "With all the traveling he's done, I guess he's seen people more tanned than I am, You're sure there wasn't a letter this morning?"

"The young ones said there wasn't," returned Mrs. Arnold, changing her cool iron for a hot one, and testing it by holding it close to her flushed face. "But I don't know that Ted and George would know a letter if they saw it, their heads are so full of fishing."

"I thought' Uncle Dick would write again," observed Betty wistfully. "But perhaps there wasn't time. He said he might come any day." "I don't know what he'll say," worried Mrs.

Arnold, her eyes surveying the slender figure leaning against the sink. "Your not being in mourning will certainly seem queer to him. I hope you'll tell him Sally Pettit and I offered to make you black frocks."

Betty smiled, her peculiarly vivid, rich smile. "Dear Mrs. Arnold!" she said, affection warm in her voice. "Of course I'll tell him. He will understand, and not blame you. And now I'm going to tackle those weeds."

The screen door banged behind her.

Betty Gordon was an orphan, her mother having died in March (it was now June) and her father two years before. The twelve-year-old girl had to her knowledge but one single living relative in the world, her father's brother, Richard Gordon. Betty had never seen this uncle. For years he had traveled about the country, wherever his work called him, sometimes spending months in large cities, sometimes living for weeks in the desert. Mr. Gordon was a promoter of various industrial enterprises and was frequently sent for to investigate new mines, oil wells and other large developments.

"I'd love to travel," thought Betty, pulling at an especially stubborn weed. "I hope Uncle Dick will like me and take me with him wherever he goes. Wouldn't it be just like a fairy story if he should come here and scoop me out of Pineville and take me hundreds of miles away to beautiful and exciting adventures!"

This enchanting prospect so thrilled the energetic young gardener that she sat down comfortably in the middle of the row to dream a little more. While her father lived, Betty's home had been in a small, bustling city where she had gone to school in the winter. The family had always gone to the seashore in the summer; but the only exciting adventure she could recall had been a tedious attack of the measles when she was six years old. Mrs. Gordon, upon her husband's sudden death, had taken her little daughter and come back to Pineville, the only home she had known as a lonely young orphan girl. She had many kind friends in the sleepy country town, and when she died these same friends had taken loving charge of Betty.

The girl's grief for the loss of her mother baffled the villagers who would have known how to deal with sorrow that expressed itself in words or flowed out in tears. Betty's long silences, her desire to be left quite alone in her mother's room, above all her determination not to wear mourn- ing, puzzled them. That she had sustained a great shock no one could doubt. White and mis- erable, she went about, the shadow of her former gay-hearted self. For the first time in her life she was experiencing a real bereavement.

When Betty's father had died, the girl's grieving was principally for her mother's evident pain. She had always been her mother's confidante and chum, and the bond between them, naturally close, had been strengthened by Mr. Gordon's frequent absences on the road as a salesman. It was Betty and her mother who locked up the house at night, Betty and her mother who discussed household finances and planned to surprise the husband and father. The daughter felt his death keenly, but she could never miss his actual presence as she did that of the mother from whom she had never been separated for one night from the time she was born.

The neighbors took turns staying with the stricken girl in the little brown house that had been home for the two weeks following Mrs. Gordon's death. Then, as Betty seemed to be re- covering her natural poise, a discussion of her affairs was instigated. The house had been a rented one and Betty owned practically nothing in the world except the simple articles of furniture that had been her mother's household effects. These Mrs. Arnold stored for her in a vacant loft over a store, and Mrs. Arnold, her mother's closest friend, bore the lonely child off to stay with them till Richard Gordon could be heard from and some arrangement made for the future. Communication with Mr. Gordon was necessarily slow, since he moved about so frequently, but when the news of his sister-in-law's death reached him, he wrote immediately to Betty, promising to come to Pineville as soon as he could plan his business affairs to release him.

"Betty!" a shrill whisper, apparently in the lilac bushes down by the fence, startled Betty from her day dreams.

"Betty!" came the whisper again.

"Is that you, Ted?" called Betty, standing up and looking expectantly toward the bushes.

"Sh! don't let ma hear you." Ted Arnold parted the lilac bushes sufficiently to show his round, perspiring face. "George and me's going fishing, and we hid the can of worms under the wheelbarrow. Hand 'em to us, will you, Betty? If ma sees us, she'll want something done."

"Did you go to the post-office this morning?" demanded Betty severely.

"Sure I did. There wasn't anything but a postal from pa," came the answer from the bushes. "He's coming home next week, and then it'll be nothing but work in the garden all day long. Hand us the can of worms, like a good sport, won't you?"

"Where did you hide them?" asked Betty absently.

"Under the wheelbarrow, there at the end of the arbor," directed Ted. "Thanks awfully, Betty."

"Where's George?" she asked. "Isn't there another mail at eleven, Ted?"

"Oh, Betty, how you do harp on one subject," complained Ted, poking about in his can of worms with a stick, but keeping carefully out of sight of the kitchen window and the maternal eye. "Hardly anything ever comes in that eleven o'clock mail. Anyway, didn't mother say your uncle would probably come without bothering to write again?"

"I suppose he will," sighed Betty. "Only it seems so long to wait. Where did you say George was?"

Ted answered reluctantly.

"He's in swimming."

"Well I must say! You wait till your father comes home," said Betty ominously.

The boys had been forbidden to go swimming in the treacherous creek hole, and George was where he had no business to be.

"You needn't tell everything you know," mut- tered Ted uncomfortably, picking up his treasured can and preparing to depart.

"Oh, I won't tell," promised Betty quickly. She went back to her weeding, and Ted scuf- fled off to fish.

"Goodness!" Betty pushed the hair from her forehead with a grimy hand. "I do believe this is the warmest day we've had! I'll be glad when I get down to the other end where the arbor makes a little shade."

She had reached the end of the long row and had stood up to rest her back when she saw some one leaning over the white picket fence.

"Probably wants a drink of water," thought Betty, crossing the strip of garden and grass to ask him, after the friendly fashion of Pineville folk. "I've never seen him before."

The stranger was leaning over the fence, staring abstractedly at a border of sweet alyssum which straggled down one side of the sunken brick walk. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and his straw hat pushed slightly back on his head revealed a keen, tanned face and close-cropped iron gray hair. He did not look up as Betty drew near and suddenly she felt shy.

"II beg your pardon," she faltered, "were you looking for any particular house?"

The stranger lifted his hat, and a pair of sharp blue eyes smiled pleasantly into Betty's brown ones.

"I was looking, not for a particular house, but for a particular person," admitted the man, gazing at her intently. "I shouldn't wonder if I had found her, too. Can you guess who I am?" Betty's mind was so full of one subject that it would have been strange indeed if she had failed to guess correctly.

"You're Uncle Dick!" she cried, throwing her arms around his neck and running the risk of spiking herself on the sharp pickets. "Oh, I thought you'd never come!"

Uncle Dick, for it really was Mr. Gordon, hurdled the low fence lightly and stood smiling down on his niece.

"I don't believe in wasting time writing letters," he declared cheerfully, "especially as I seldom know my plans three days ahead. You're the image of your father, child. I should have known you anywhere."

Betty put her hands behind her, suddenly conscious that they could not be very clean.

"I'm afraid I mussed your collar," she apologized contritely. "Mrs. Arnold was hoping you'd write so she could have me all scrubbed up for you;" and here Betty's dimple would flicker out.

Mr. Gordon put an arm about the little figure in the grass-stained rose-colored smock.

"I'd rather find you a garden girl," he announced contentedly. "Isn't there a place where you and I can have a little talk before we go in to see Mrs. Arnold and make our explanations?" Betty drew him toward the arbor. She knew they would be undisturbed there.

On to chapter two

Back to Josephine Lawrence, Children's Books