Part 3 out of 3
"I've been thinking of something," she half whispered. "Do you like
to play checkers? If you do, I know how."
Maybe Mr. Littell understood that she was doing it largely to keep
him company. But he said nothing, and they played checkers for nearly
two hours. Betty was a fairly good player and managed to land several
"With a little more practice you'll make a very good player,"
declared Mr. Littell. "I appreciate your staying to play with a
cripple like me," he added gratefully. "Does your Uncle Dick play?"
"I don't really know," replied the girl, and now her face clouded
for an instant. Oh, why didn't she hear from Uncle Dick?
The next few days were filled with sightseeing trips. Betty was kept
too busy to have much time to worry, which was fortunate, for no word
came from her uncle and no word reached her from Bob Henderson. The
Guerins and the Benders wrote to her, and each letter mentioned the
fact that Bob had sent a postal from Washington, but that no later
word had come from him.
"I met Peabody on the road yesterday," ran a postscript to Norma
Guerin's letter, written by her doctor father. "He hinted darkly that
Bob had done something that might land him in jail, but I couldn't
force out of him what fearful thing Bob had done. I hope the lad
hasn't been rash, for Peabody never forgives a wrong, real or fancied."
Betty knew that the farmer's action had to do with the unrecorded
deed, but she did not feel that she should make any disclosures in
that connection. Of Bob's innocence she was sure, and time would
certainly clear him of any implication.
The girls visited the Capitol, seeing the great bronze doors that
are nineteen feet high and weight ten tons. Betty was fascinated by
the eight panels, and studied them till the others threatened to
leave her there over night and call for her in the morning. Then she
consented to make the tour of the three buildings. But the historical
paintings again held her spellbound. When she reached the Senate
chamber, which was empty, except for a page or two, the Senate not
being in session, she dropped into a gallery seat and tried to
imagine the famous scenes enacted there. They spent the better part
of a day at the Capitol, and saw practically everything in the
buildings. They were so tired that night that Libbie went to sleep
over her dessert, and Betty dreamed all night of defending the city
with a shotgun from the great gilded dome. But she and Libbie agreed
that they would not have missed it for anything.
AN UNEXPECTED MEETING
"That's twice you've made a wrong play, Betty," observed Mr.
Littell. "What lies heavy on your mind this evening?"
Betty blushed, and attempted to put her mind more on the game. She
was playing checkers with Mr. Littell, whose injured foot still kept
him a prisoner most of the time, and she had played badly all the
evening, she knew. Truth to tell, she was thinking about her uncle
and wondering over and over why she did not hear from him.
After the rubber was played and the other girls who had been around
the piano, singing, had gone out to get something to eat, for the
maids had the evening off, Betty spoke to her host.
"I suppose you think I'm foolish," she ventured; "but I am really
worried about Uncle Dick now. He has never answered the telegram and
the two letters I've written. His Philadelphia lawyer writes that he
is waiting to hear from him. He seems to have dropped out of the
world. Do you think he may be sick in some hospital and not able to
communicate with us?"
"That's a possibility," admitted Mr. Littell soberly. "But I tell
you honestly, Betty, and not simply to relieve your mind, that I
consider it a very remote one. Business men, especially men who
travel a great deal, as you tell me your uncle does, seldom are
without somewhere on their person, their names and addresses, and
directions about what is to be done in case of sickness or accident.
I never travel without such a card. Ten to one, if your uncle were
ill or injured, his lawyer would have been notified immediately."
A weight of anxiety slipped from Betty's heart, for she immediately
recognized the sound common sense in this argument. Still, something
else was troubling her.
"Don't you think," she began again bravely, "that I had better go to
Pineville? The quarantine is lifted, I hear, and the Bensingers will
take me in till I can hear from Uncle Dick. You and Mrs. Littell and
the girls have been so lovely to me, but--but--" her voice trailed off.
Mr. Littell leaned back in his chair and lit a fresh cigar.
"Well, now of course," he said slowly, "if you feel that you want to
go to Pineville, we really have no right to say anything. But if I
were you, I'd stay right here. Your uncle may be intending to come
back to Washington. In any case, he will address his letter to you
here. Of that much we are certain. You'll hear more quickly if you
don't move about. Besides, there is that Henderson lad. I'm counting
on making his acquaintance. He's likely to bob up any day--though I
didn't mean to pun. If you want my advice, Betty, it is to stay here
quietly with us and wait as patiently as you can. We like to have
you, you know that. You're not a stranger, but a friend."
He went on to explain to her in his quiet, even, matter-of-fact way,
that to the disturbed girl was inexpressibly soothing, his belief
that her uncle was on an exploration trip for oil and might easily
find a month's accumulation of mail awaiting him on his return.
"It's only here, in the heart of civilization, that we think we
can't live without four mails a day," Mr. Littell concluded. "I've
been out of touch with a post-office for three weeks at a time
myself, and our sailors, you know, often go much longer without
On one particularly lovely morning the four girls, with Mrs.
Littell, started off on the pleasant mission of seeing the White
House. Betty's and Libbie's acquaintance with it was confined solely
to the glimpses they had had from the street, but Louise and Bobby
had attended several New Year's receptions and had shaken hands with
The party spent a delightful morning, visiting the famous East Room,
admiring the full length portraits of George and Martha Washington,
about which latter the story is told that Mrs. Dolly Madison cut it
from its frame to save it from the approaching enemy in 1814. They
were also fortunate to find a custodian taking sightseers through the
other official apartments so that they saw more than the casual
visitor does in one visit. They visited in turn, the Green Room, the
Red Room, and the Blue Room, saw the state dining-room with its
magnificent shining table about which it was easy to imagine famous
guests seated, and enjoyed a peep into the conservatory at the end of
the corridor. They did not go up to the executive offices on the
second floor, knowing that probably a crowd was before them and that
an opportunity to see the President on the streets of the city was
likely to present itself.
"Well, I shouldn't want to live there," sighed Betty, as they came
down the steps, "It is very grand and very stately, but not much like
a home. I suppose, though, the private rooms of the President and his
family are cozy, if one could see them."
"Beyond a doubt," agreed Mrs. Littell.
They lunched at one of the large hotels, and afterward Mrs. Littell
had a club engagement. The girls, she announced, might spend the
afternoon as they chose, and she would pick them all up at five
o'clock with Carter and the car.
"Esther and I want to see 'The Heart of June,'" announced Libbie,
who found romance enough to satisfy her in the motion-pictures.
Louise was interested, too; but Betty had promised to take some
papers for Mr. Littell and see that they reached an architect in one
of the nearby office buildings. Bobby elected to go with her, and
they decided that, that errand accomplished, they might do a little
shopping and meet the others at the theater door at five o'clock.
"Mr. Waters won't be in till three o'clock," announced the freckle-faced
office boy who met them in the outer office of the architect's suite.
"Then we'll have to come back," decided Betty, glancing at her
watch. "It is just two now."
"You can leave anything with me," said the boy politely. "I'll see
that he gets it as soon as he comes in."
"Yes, do, Betty," urged Bobby. "Dad would say it was all right to
leave that envelope of papers. They're not terribly important."
"We can do our shopping and then come back," insisted Betty, to the
evident disgust of Bobby and the hardly less concealed impatience of
the office boy.
"Why wouldn't you leave 'em?" demanded Bobby, when they were once
more in the street.
"Dad hasn't any secret service stuff, I'm sure of that. Now we have
to come all the way back here again, and that means hurrying through
"You needn't come," said Betty mildly. "Your father asked me to give
those papers personally to Mr. Waters. He didn't say they were
important; I don't know that they are. But if I say I am going to
give an envelope personally to any one, I don't intend to give that
envelope to a third person if there's nothing in it more valuable
The window they were passing suggested the comparison, and Bobby
laughed good-naturedly and forebore to argue further. Promptly at
three o'clock she and Betty entered the elevator in the office
building and were whirled up to the fifth floor to find Mr. Waters in
his private office.
"Mr. Littell telephoned half an hour ago," he told them, taking the
envelope and running over the papers with a practised eye as he
talked. "He hoped to catch you before you left here. I believe he
wants to speak to his daughter. There's a booth right there, Miss
Bobby had a brief conversation with her father and came out in a few
minutes in evident haste.
"He wants us to do a couple more errands, Betty," she announced.
"We'll have to hurry, for it's after three."
The architect had written a receipt for the papers, and Bobby now
hurried Betty off, explaining as they went that they must take a car
to Octagon House.
Octagon House proved to be the headquarters for the American
Institute of Architects, and Bobby's errand had to do with one of the
offices. Betty admired the fine woodwork and the handsome design of
the house while waiting for her companion, and in less than fifteen
minutes they were back on the street car bound for "the tallest
office building in Washington," as Bobby described it.
"Dad wants an architectural magazine that's out of print, and he
thinks I can get it there," she said. "Afterward, if we have time,
we'll go to the top of the building. The root is arranged so that you
can step out, and they say the view is really splendid. Not so
extensive as from the Monument, of course, but not so reduced,
either. I've always wanted to get up on the roof and see what I could
Finding the office her father had specified did not prove as easy a
task as Bobby had anticipated, and she said frankly that if she had
been alone she would have given up and taken another day for the
"But if you can keep a promise down to the last dot of the last
letter, far be it from me to fall short," she remarked. "Oh, Betty,
do you see any office that looks like Sherwood and David on this
At last they found it under another name, which, as Bobby rather
tactlessly told the elevator boy, was not her idea of efficiency. The
copy of the magazine Mr. Littell especially wanted was wrapped up and
placed safely in Bobby's hands.
"And now," declared that young person gaily, "as the reward of
virtue, let's go up on the roof. It is after four, but we'll have
time if we don't dawdle. We can get from here to the theater in
They started for the elevator, and as a car came up and the gates
opened a boy got off. He would have brushed by without looking up,
but Betty saw him at once.
"Bob!" she cried in amazement "Why, Bob Henderson!"
"Betty! Oh, Betty! _Betty!_" Bob Henderson's familiar, friendly
voice rose to a perfect crescendo of delight, and several passengers
in the elevator smiled in sympathy.
Bobby Littell, who had entered the car, backed out hastily and the
"Bobby, this is Bob Henderson," Betty performed a hasty
introduction. "And, Bob, this is Roberta Littell, always called Bobby."
The latter held out an instant cordial hand to Bob.
"I know about you," she proclaimed frankly. "Betty thinks you are
fine. We ought to be good friends, because our names are almost alike."
"I must talk to you, Bob," said Betty hurriedly. "Where are you
going? Have you heard from Bramble Farm or Uncle Dick? How long have
you been in Washington? Did you get out to Oklahoma?"
Bobby laughed and touched Betty on the arm.
"There's a seat over by the elevator," she suggested. "Why don't you
sit there and talk? I'll come back and get you at a quarter to five--
I want to get some new hair-ribbons for Esther."
"But you wanted to go up on the roof!" protested Betty, longing to
talk to Bob and yet mindful of Bobby's first plans.
"Plenty of other days for that," was the careless response. "See you
quarter to, remember. Good-by, Bob--though I'll see you again, of
She disappeared into a down elevator, and Betty and Bob sat down on
the oak settle in the corridor.
"Wasn't it lucky we met you!" exclaimed Betty, getting a good look
at the boy for the first time. "Seems to me you're thinner, Bob. Are
you all right?"
"Couldn't be better!" he assured her, but she noticed there were
rings under his eyes and that his hands, white enough now in contrast
to the tan which still showed at his wrists, were perceptibly
thinner. "Fact is, I work in this building, Betty. Kind of junior
clerk for a man on the fourth floor, substituting while his clerks
are away on vacation. Hale got me the place."
Betty told him of her interview with the old bookshop man, and Bob
"So that's how you heard about Oklahoma," he commented. "You could
have knocked me down with a feather when you said it. I guess Hale
forgot I was working here--he really is dreadfully absent-minded--or
else he thought you weren't to be trusted with so important a secret.
He's as queer as they make 'em, but he was very good to me; couldn't
seem to take enough pains to trace out what he knew of my mother's
Bob went on to explain that his money had given out and that he had
to work in order to get together enough to pay his fare out to the
West and also to board himself and pay for some new clothes. Betty
guessed that he was scrimping closely to save his wages, though she
did not then suspect what she afterward learned to be true, that he
was trying to live on two meals a day, and those none too bountiful.
Bob had a healthy boy's appetite, and it took determination for him
to go without the extra meal, but he had the grit to stick it out.
"When Bobby comes back you must go with us and meet Mrs. Littell,"
observed Betty. "She'll want to take you home to dinner. Oh, Bob,
they are the loveliest people!"
Bob shifted his foot so that the patch on one shoe was hidden.
"I'll go with you to meet her on one condition," he said firmly. "I
won't go to dinner anywhere to-night--that's flat, Betty. My collar
isn't clean. And who are the Littells?"
That led to long explanations, of course, and Betty told in detail
how she had left Bramble Farm, of the mix-up at the Union Station,
and her subsequent friendship with the hospitable family. She also
told him of Mr. Gordon's sudden trip to Oklahoma and his almost
inexplicable silence, but kept to herself her worry over this silence
and as to her own future if it continued. She gave him the latest
news of the Benders and the Guerins and handed over the two letters
from these friends she happened to have in her purse that he might
read and enjoy them at his leisure. In short, Betty poured out much
of the pent-up excitement and doubt and conjecture of the last few
weeks to Bob, who was as hungry to hear as she was to tell it.
"They certainly are fine to you!" he exclaimed, referring to the
Littells. "There isn't another family in Washington, probably, who
would have been as kind to you. I think you'll hear from your uncle
soon, Betty. Lots of times these oil wells, you know, are miles from
a railroad or a post-office. You take that Mr. Littell's advice--he
sounds as if he had a heap of common sense. And whatever they've done
to you, you're looking great, Betty. Pretty, and stylish and--and
Betty blushed becomingly. She had brightened up amazingly during her
stay in Washington, despite her anxiety about her uncle and, lately,
Bob, The serene and happy life the whole household led under the roof
of "Fairfields" had a great deal to do with this transformation, for
the bickering and pettiness of the daily life at Bramble Farm had
worn Betty's nerves insensibly. She tried to say something of this to
"I know," he nodded. "And, Betty, what do you think? I met the old
miser right here in Washington!"
Instinctively Betty glanced behind her.
"You didn't!" she gasped. "Where? Did he--was he angry?"
"Sure! He was raving," replied Bob cheerfully. "What do you think he
accused me of this time? Stealing an unrecorded deed! Did you know
anything about that, Betty?"
Betty described the incident of her delayed letter and told of the
morning she had picked it from the floor and hung up Mr. Peabody's
"He insists you took it, but I never believed it for one moment,"
she said earnestly. "I'm sure Mrs. Peabody doesn't either; and I
didn't think Mr. Peabody really thought you took it. You know how he
flies into a temper and accuses any one. But if he came down to
Washington and said pointblank to you that you took it, it looks as
if he thought you did, doesn't it?"
"You wouldn't have any doubts if you had heard him," Bob said
grimly. "He had me by the coat collar and nearly shook my teeth
loose. Perhaps he expected to shake the deed out of my pocket. What
on earth does he think I could do with his old deed, anyhow?"
Betty explained the transaction of the lots as Mrs. Peabody had
explained it to her, and Bob understood that the farmer, basing his
reasoning on his own probable conduct under similar conditions,
suspected him of intended blackmail.
"How did you get away from him?" asked Betty presently. "Where did
he shake you? Couldn't you call a policeman?"
"He wanted a policeman," said Bob, chuckling. "He walked me about
two blocks, hunting for a cop. Then a crowd collected and I decided
it was better to wriggle out, and I did, leaving the only coat I
owned in his hands. But I never go out without looking up and down
the street first. I don't want to be arrested, even if I didn't steal
anything. Besides, with Peabody, I have a feeling that he might be
able to prove whatever he wanted to prove."
"You've bought a new suit," said Betty irrelevantly. "You don't
suppose Mr. Peabody will stay in Washington, hunting for you, do you?"
"If he doesn't have to pay too much for board he will," said Bob.
"That deed evidently means a lot to him. I wish I could find it, if
only to send him back to the farm. I'll bet a cookie it's in some of
his coat pockets this minute, and he hanging down here to nab me.
Sure, I bought a new suit--had to, before I could get a job. By the
way, Betty, if you need some cash--" He patted his pocket invitingly.
"Oh, I have enough," Betty assured him hastily. "I'd feel better if
the Littells would only let me spend a little money. Why, what's this?"
For Bob had put a small white envelope into her reluctant hands.
"That's the loan," he said gravely. "I've carried it just like that
for days, ready to give you the first time I saw you. You're a great
little pal, Betty. If it hadn't been for you, I never should have got
Betty put the money away in her purse, conscious that it meant self-denial
on the lad's part, but knowing that she would hurt his pride irreparably
did she refuse to take it.
"Have you written to Mr. Bender?" she prodded gently. "You promised
The police recorder had taken a warm interest in Bob, and Betty knew
from his wife's letters that he was anxious to hear from him.
"I will write," promised Bob. "I'm tired at night, Betty, and that's
the truth. I never seem to get enough sleep. But I will write,
perhaps this Sunday."
"Well, folks, all talked out?" called Bobby's gay voice, and she
came smilingly up to them. "Betty, mother and the girls are
downstairs in the car. I met them on the way and they know all about
our meeting with Bob. Mother wants him to come home to dinner."
Bob replied that while he appreciated Mrs. Littell's kindness, he
could not come that night, and, as he followed Bobby to the elevator,
gave Betty a significant glare which, correctly interpreted, read:
"Don't forget what I told you!"
Mrs. Littell took to Bob at once, and the bevy of girls, simple and
friendly and delightfully free from selfconsciousness, adopted him at
once as Betty's friend and theirs. When the mother found that he
could not be persuaded to come home with them that night--and Betty
loyally supported him, mindful of the collar--she would not be
satisfied until she had arranged for him to spend the next Saturday
afternoon and Sunday with them at "Fairfields," promising to send the
car in for him at noon, so that he might have lunch with them.
"Betty hasn't tried her riding habit on once," said Mrs. Littell
when Bob had promised to come. "Perhaps when you come out the girls
will find time to give her, her delayed riding lesson. They've been
doing Washington pretty thoroughly."
This reminded Betty of Bobby's plan to visit the roof of the office
building, and Bob had the same thought.
"Couldn't you all come in to-morrow morning and let me take you up
on the roof?" he asked them. "The view is really worth while, and I'm
up there anyway half the morning looking after my employer's
experiments. He is head of a dye house, and is always trying the
effect of sunlight on new shades."
So it was decided that the girls should come in again in the
morning. Then they drove away home, and Bob went on his errand.
Luckily he had been told that he need not return to the office that
afternoon after its completion, or he might have found himself
involved in a maze of explanations and excuses for his lengthy absence.
"I'd like to live up here!" It was Esther who spoke so enthusiastically,
as she stood, with Bob Henderson and the four girls, on the roof of the
building proudly pointed out as the tallest in Washington.
A soft breeze was blowing, and it was a cloudless day so that the
city was clearly spread before them.
"Wouldn't I like to go up in an airplane!" exclaimed Betty. "See,
they're flying over the Navy Yard now. I'd give anything to know how
it feels to fly."
"If you go much nearer that edge you'll know how it feels all
right," Bob warned her. "Come down here and I'll show you our drying
racks. Perhaps that will keep your mind off airplanes."
The wooden racks held lengths of silk and cloth, weighted at the
ends to keep them from blowing away. The materials were dyed in
crude, vivid colors, and Bob explained that they were brought from
the factory after being dipped so that his employer might personally
observe the changes they underwent after exposure to strong sunlight.
"We only take orders and send out salesmen from the office
downstairs," he said. "The factory is near Georgetown and employs
about two hundred hands."
After they had made the circuit of the roof, picking out familiar
landmarks and wrangling lazily over distances and geographical
boundaries, they were ready to go down. Bob must return to work, and
the girls had planned a trip to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
"I tell you I was glad our office wasn't on the top floor this
morning," Bob casually remarked as they stood waiting for the
elevator. "Something was the matter, and everybody had to walk up.
The fourth floor was plenty far enough up for us then."
"Mother always says we don't appreciate conveniences till we have to
do without them," said Bobby. "Here comes the car."
The grinning negro boy who operated the elevator smiled a wide smile
as they filed into his car.
"You-all get a nice view?" he asked sociably.
They assured him that they had, and he seemed pleased, but his red
light glowing at that moment, he gave all his attention to stopping
at the next floor. Two women got on and, at the next floor, two men.
The gate had just closed after this last stop, and Betty had opened
her mouth to tell Bobby that her hat was tipped crookedly when with a
sickening speed the car began to drop!
"We's slipping! I can't stop her! Oh, good gracious, the brakes or
nothin' don't work!" The frenzied wail of the negro who was working
valiantly at his levers gave the first intimation of danger.
Betty saw Bob spring to his aid, saw Esther sink in a miserable
little white heap to the floor, Bobby put her hands up to her eyes as
if to shut out the light, and Louise mechanically try to defend
herself from the strangle hold of the woman who stood next to her. It
seemed minutes to Betty that the car was falling, and she watched the
others' behavior with a curious, semi-detached interest that was
oddly impersonal. One of the men passengers began to claw at the gate
frantically and the other kept muttering under his breath, softly and
steadily, biting off his words crisply and quite unconscious of what
he was saying. The woman who had clutched Louise was silent at first,
but her companion instantly screamed, and in a fraction of a second
she, too, was screaming.
Now Betty had never heard the sound of women in terror, and she was
unprepared for the wild anguish of those shrill voices.
The experience was terrifying, but it was all over very swiftly. The
mechanism jammed between the third and second floors and the elevator
came to a stop with a suddenness that jarred the teeth of the
passengers. It had begun to fall after leaving the seventh floor.
For a moment every one stared at every one else stupidly. Bobby
Littell was the first to find her voice.
"Well, I guess we're all here," she observed matter-of-factly.
"Esther, are you hurt?"
"No-o, I think not," said Esther slowly. "Wasn't it awful! Let's get
out of here, quick."
A hasty investigation proved that no one was injured, and as one of
the men said, shaken nerves could not be allowed to count.
"That was a narrow escape, a mighty narrow escape!" said the other
man. "I fully expected to be smashed in the wreck of the car when it
struck the concrete well."
"I'll never ride in another elevator, never!" ejaculated the woman
who had seized Louise. "Why, I'll dream of this for weeks to come."
The girls said nothing, though their lips were white and Betty's
knees were trembling. She was rather angry that she should feel this
loss of control after everything was over, but it was natural.
"How do we get out?" Bob addressed the operator briskly. "Can you
open the doors? Come on now, nothing is going to hurt you--the danger
The poor darky was actually gray with fright, and his face was
bruised where he had been thrown against the grating when the car
"I doan know how you-all kin get out, Boss," he said tremulously.
"We's stuck between the floors."
"Hello! Hello you, down there! Anybody hurt?" a friendly bellow came
down to them from the grating of the floor above.
A crowd had collected on each floor, having heard the screams, and
all these people now ran downstairs to get as close to the stranded
car as they could. They collected about the gate on the third floor,
and many from the street, hearing that there had been an accident,
crowded around the shaft on the second floor. They were advised that
no one was hurt and what was needed was a way of escape from the
"Knock a hole in the roof," some one advised cheerfully. "You can
crawl out on the top of the car and then shinny your way up to us. Or
we'll let down a rope to you."
"What'll we knock a hole in the roof with?" demanded Bob, and when
offers were made to drop an axe down to him he had difficulty in
calming the woman who had so nearly strangled Louise, and who had
visions of being accidently decapitated.
"I cain't get the doors open," announced the darky, after tinkering
vainly with them. "I reckon the lock's done got jammed. If I could
get 'em open the lil girl under the seat could shinny up the wall and
that would be one out, 'tannyrate."
Attention thus focused upon her, Libbie crawled from under the seat
where she had dived, following an ostrich-like impulse to hide her
head from coming danger. Her confusion was increased by the tactless
comment of the operator who, seeing her "full view" for the first
"Lawsy, Missie, you couldn't shinny up no wall. You is too fat."
Many suggestions were forthcoming, all of them impractical, and the
already frayed nerves of the passengers began to show evidence of
reaching the snapping point. Bob's employer was among those who had
gathered in the corridor, and he decidedly favored the axe idea.
The plan to chop their way out gained in favor, and a boy had been
dispatched for one of the fire axes when the woman who had grasped
Louise created a diversion by going into hysterics and declaring that
she would not have them dropping axes on her head. Her companion
tried in vain to soothe her, but she was in a highly nervous state
and it was impossible to explain or reason with her. She began to
scream again, and this was more than those imprisoned in the car with
her could be expected to stand.
"That settles it--call off the axe!" shouted the older man,
exchanging a desperate glance with Bob. "If this goes on much longer
we'll be floated out on a river of salt tears. It's all right, Madam,
they are not going to send any axes down."
The women continued to sob violently for a time, but at last they
got her quieted and were free to consider other ways and means of
Pat Kelly, the genial engineer of the building, was sent down to the
basement to see what he could do with the refractory machinery, for
although the elevator people had been telephoned to, their men had not
yet put in an appearance. Pat's contribution was to create a horrible
din by hammering on every pipe he came to, stopping at three-minute
intervals to yell, "Can ye be moving now?"
"Call that man off!" shouted the younger of the two men passengers.
"What do you think this is--a boiler factory? About all the good
he'll do will be to dislodge the car, and we'll fall the rest of the
This was a bad suggestion, and only by hard work were two more cases
of hysterics averted.
"I think what we need is a drink of water," declared Betty timidly.
"Do you think they could get some down to us? And, Bob, why don't
they send for the fire department?"
"I suppose because we are not on fire," answered Bob seriously.
"What good could the firemen do?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Betty vaguely. "Only in Pineville the
firemen get people out of all sorts of scrapes. They can climb you
know, and they have long ladders and ropes----"
"By George, the girl is right!" The elder man looked at Betty
admiringly. "Hey, some of you who want to help! Go and 'phone the
fire department. And say, send us down some water--we're dry as dust
after this rumpus."
Half of the waiting crowd scattered to telephone to the fire
department and the other half ran for the water coolers. Their zeal
outstripped their judgment in this latter service, and the result was
an icy stream of water that poured into the car.
The water struck the lady given to hysterics, and she promptly
opened her mouth and shrieked again.
"We're drowning!" she cried, her terrified mind picturing a broken
water pipe. "I tell you, we're drowning!"
"And I tell you we're not!" Betty stifled a desire to laugh as one
of the men contradicted her. "Some idiot--"
The crash of the water cooler against the top of the car as it
slipped from the hands of the person holding it interrupted his
assurance and weakened it hopelessly. A chorus of shrieks arose from
those in the car.
"Well, there's your drink, Betty," grinned Bob, assisting the girls
to crowd on to the one seat, for the floor was soaked with ice-cold
water. "And here come your firemen--maybe they'll have better luck."
Some of the firemen went to the third floor and others obeyed orders
to stay on the second.
"I'd say knock 'er down," said the grizzled old fire chief after a
careful inspection of the wedged car. "We'll fix it up to break the
fall. And, anyway, a drop from the third to the basement would not be
But the occupants of the elevator protested vigorously against this
plan. They made it quite clear that they had had all the "drop" they
wanted for that day, and some of them intimated that they preferred
to spend the night there rather than be experimented with.
"Women is like that," they heard the fire chief confide sadly to his
lieutenant. "You can't reason with 'em. Well, we'll have to dope out
After a consultation, it was proposed, via the chiefs voice which
had a carrying quality that was famous throughout the city, to let a
ladder down from the third floor, have a fireman chop a hole in the
top of the car, and assist the prisoners up the ladder to safety.
This plan met with the approval of all but the two rather prim and
elderly women who flatly refused to walk up a ladder, even to get out
of their present unpleasant predicament.
"Well, then, you'll have to stay here," announced the fire chief
disgustedly. "The others are willing, and we can't hang around here
all day. If there was a fire you wouldn't be consulted. A fireman
would have you up or down a ladder before you could open your mouth
to object. I ain't used to arguing with anybody."
"There's another way that might work, chief," suggested his aide.
"If we can fix ropes and rig up a windlass, we can maybe hoist the
car up to the level of the gate."
It was decided to try this plan, but the wily chief first extracted
a promise from every one in the car that if the scheme failed, they
would submit to a ladder rescue.
"'Cause I ain't saying this will work, and I don't aim to cook up a
different plan every minute till you're all suited," he declared,
with commendable precaution. "You all agree to the ladder if this
ain't a go?"
An unanimous chorus assured him that they did.
It took some time to arrange the ropes, but at last, creakingly and
slowly, the car began to make its ascent.
"Bless the Lord!" ejaculated the darky operator fervently, "I done
guess our troubles is ovah!"
He changed his mind in a minute when it was discovered that the car
gates were jammed. There the eleven imprisoned passengers stood, on a
level with the third floor, a crowd gathered in the corridor as far
as the eye could see, a thin iron grating separating them from escape.
"I don't know but I'd just as lief stay here as to face that mob,"
murmured Bob, but some one heard him.
"You're among friends, bub," a man called. "Keep up a stout heart."
There was a general laugh, and some one was dispatched to get a
file. Ten minutes' work with this, and the stubborn catch was filed
through, the gates slid back and those behind them found themselves
once more on good solid mosaic tiling.
Bob's employer came up to him, and was presented to the girls. He
was a pleasant, prosperous-looking man, middle-aged, and evidently
fond of Bob. He immediately offered him the rest of the day off,
insisting that after such an experience he should rest quietly for a
"By the way," he remarked _sotto voce_, "those two young men over
there at the head of the stairs are newspaper reporters. One has a
camera. I imagine they want to get a story on your morning's
Bob had not yet met Mr. Littell, but he had a lively idea of what
that gentleman might say should he find his daughters' pictures
spread over the first page of the evening papers, accompanied by a
more or less accurate analysis of their emotions during the trying
period through which they had just passed.
"Whisk us into your office, can't you, Mr. Derby?" he urged,
"They're stopping people as they go down; they'll take no notice of
us if we go on up to the fourth floor."
The crowd, satisfied that no one had been killed or was likely to
be, had drifted down the staircase, the two alert youths questioning
each one in an effort to get the stories of those who had been in the
stalled car. The negro operator had already furnished enough copy for
a half-column of thrills.
Mr. Derby managed to usher the girls and Bob upstairs to his office
without exciting suspicion, and once there the question of how to get
to the street was considered. There were still enough people in the
corridors to make a quick run down impossible, and the elevator was,
of course, out of commission.
"I'll tell you," said Mr. Derby suddenly. "Go down the fire escape
to the second floor and get in at the hall window. It's always open.
I'll have to wait here for Anderson, Bob. He had an appointment at
eleven, but telephoned he was delayed. But perhaps the nerves of the
young ladies are not equal to a climb down the fire escape? In that
case you could all remain here and I'll have lunch sent in."
The girls, however, ridiculed the idea of nervousness. And indeed,
with the elasticity of youth, they had already dismissed the accident
from their minds except as an exciting story to tell at home that
afternoon or evening.
"I'll go first," said Bob, stepping out on the fire escape. "All
there is to do is to take it easy, don't hurry, and don't push.
There's only two flights, so you can't get dizzy."
"Isn't this a lark!" chuckled Bobby, as she and Betty waited for the
younger girls to go first after Bob. "I never had so much fun in my
life. What's Bob stopping for?"
Bob was working with the window directly over the fire escape on the
second floor. The girls caught up with him before he turned with a
"The blame thing's locked," he announced. "Isn't that the worst
luck! It's a rule of the building that all hall windows be left open
unless there's a storm. Well, I suppose we might as well go back.
There's no window on the first floor."
"We could climb in there," suggested Betty, pointing to another
window, half-opened. "See, Bob, I can reach it easily."
She drew herself up before Bob could stop her, and, raising the
window as high as it would go, scrambled over the sill.
"It's fine--come on in," she laughed back at the others. "Cunning
office and no one in it. I suppose the owner has gone out to see us
Bob lifted up Libbie, who was the shortest, and, one after the
other, the girls climbed in, Bob following last.
It was a finely furnished office and one Bob had never been in,
though he had a speaking acquaintance with many of the tenants in the
building. A pair of tiny scales and a little heap of yellow dust lay
on the highly polished mahogany desk.
The door into the corridor was partly open, and as they had to pass
the desk to reach the door, it was natural that the group should draw
nearer and glance curiously at the pair of scales.
"No nearer are you to come!" snapped a sharp voice with the
precision of a foreigner who is not sure enough of his English to
speak hurriedly. "I warn you not to put a finger out."
Libbie squawked outright in terror, and the others fell back a step.
A little man with very black eyes stood facing them, and at them he
was leveling a small, businesslike looking revolver. The door had
closed noiselessly, and he had evidently been behind it.
"I saw you all to enter," he informed them sternly. "I, of all in
the building, remembered that it is in excitement that sneak thieves
do their best work. Mr. Matthews is trusting, but I--I stood on
guard. It is well. You are not to move while I telephone to the
"Look here," said Bob determinedly, almost overwhelmed with his
responsibility and blaming himself for having placed the girls in
such an awkward position. "We're no thieves. You can telephone
upstairs to Mr. Derby and he'll vouch for us."
"I know no Mr. Derby," said the little man stubbornly. "Why should
you pick out a jeweler's office and creep in through the window?
Answer me that! Are there not stairs?"
"Well we wanted to avoid some--er--men," blurted Bob.
"Yah--already the police seek you!" triumphed their captor. "Well,
they will not have long to seek."
"They were not the police." Betty found her voice and spoke
earnestly. "They were reporters, and we didn't want to be
interviewed. We came down the fire escape from the fourth floor, and
found the hall window locked. This window was open, and we crawled
in, intending to get out into the hall. That is the absolute truth."
The black eyes of the little man suddenly disappeared. They were so
bright and glistening that their disappearance was noticeable. He had
closed them tight and was laughing!
As suddenly as he had laughed, his mirth stopped, and he stared
sternly at the anxious Betty.
"You expect me to believe that?" he asked incredulously.
"It is true," she said quietly.
"True--bah!" The vehemence of his tone quite startled her. "True!
When all you had to do to reach the first floor--had access to the
street been your object--was to let down the folding flight to the
Betty's jaw dropped. She and Bob looked at each other helplessly.
"We--we never thought of that!" she faltered.
It was true. In her excitement she had not noticed the folding
flight of steps that let down to the ground in an emergency, and for
protection against sneak thieves was always drawn up except during
fire drills. Bob had been equally careless. As for the Littell girls,
like docile sheep, they had never thought to question their leaders.
Still keeping the revolver pointed at them, the little man took down
the telephone receiver.
"Bob!" whispered Betty. "Oh, Bob, this is dreadful! What will Mrs.
Littell say? And those reporters! If they get hold of this, the
elevator story will be nothing."
Bobby and Louise and Esther and Libbie stood in a forlorn group,
their gaze fixed trustingly on Bob and Betty, whom they trusted to
get them out of this scrape somehow.
As for Bob, he was handicapped by numbers. He could easily have
planned a way to get himself and one girl out of the room, but to
hope to spirit away five substantial maidens under the black eyes
fastened unwaveringly upon him, was too great a problem for quick
solution. He did not fear trouble in establishing their innocence,
but the notoriety accompanying such an episode could not be otherwise
than distinctly unpleasant.
"I suppose that's gold dust in the tray," thought Bob wretchedly.
"Of all the poor luck, to pick out an office with gold dust floating
around as free as air! Why didn't the dub lock it up in his safe?"
The little man was having trouble to get "Central." He jiggled the
hook frantically in flat defiance of all telephone rules, and he
shouted loudly into the transmitter, as though enough noise could
rouse the number he sought.
Just at this moment the outer door opened and a man entered. He was
a man of middle age with a closely clipped gray moustache and kindly
gray eyes. It was Mr. Matthews, the owner of the business.
The little man, seeing him, flung the receiver into the hook with a
bang and poured forth a volley of French, emphasized by wild gestures.
After listening for a few moments, Mr. Matthews turned a wondering
gaze on the group of subdued looking young people. His expression
soon turned to one of amusement.
After a word or two in French to the little man, evidently of thanks
for his zeal, he said to Bob and the girls:
"Won't you please tell me your side of the story? I find it hard to
believe that you have set forth to rob and steal."
The tale came out with a rush, Bob, Betty, and Bobby taking turns or
all talking together, the others, fortunately, being content to let
the three tell the story.
Mr. Matthews was sympathetic and apologetic, but he was also amused,
and he laughed heartily. It seemed he knew Mr. Littell. The "robber
band," as Bobby afterwards named them, laughed with him; in fact, in
their relief, laughing till the tears came. The black-eyed man,
meanwhile, left the room, still, evidently, suspicious of them.
"Monsieur Brissot," explained Mr. Matthews, "is a Belgian diamond
cutter who has just come to this country. He seems to be suspicious
of everybody, and, I fear, does not always use judgment in his
handling of such matters. I am grateful, however, for the interest he
takes in my business, and trust you young people will overlook his
excess of zeal."
Mr. Matthews showed them to the door, and as by this time the
reporters were well away intent on other affairs, they went out of
the building in the regular way-a more seemly way than scuttling down
fire escapes and breaking into jewelry shops, so Betty declared.
"Well, good gracious!" observed Bobby, when they were once outside.
"If this hasn't been an exciting morning! First we get nearly killed,
then we're rescued, and next we're almost arrested."
They boarded a street car and went to the Bureau of Engraving and
Printing, where they spent an interesting afternoon touring the
immense plant, the best equipped of its kind in the world.
The recital of their adventures at the dinner table that night
provoked mingled merriment and concern.
"Never mind, it will teach 'em self-reliance," Mr. Littell insisted,
when his wife protested that the girls would have to be more closely
chaperoned on subsequent trips. "Falling into scrapes is the finest
lesson-book ever opened to the heedless."
Sunday morning the girls and Mrs. Littell motored to Washington and
attended services in one of the fine old churches. There they had an
excellent opportunity to observe the President of the United States
and his wife, who, as Libbie said disappointedly at dinner that day,
"looked just like anybody."
"I hope you didn't expect them to get up and make a speech?" teased
her uncle. "However, I'm glad you saw them, my dear. A country where
the head of the government 'looks just like anybody' and goes to
church as simply and reverently as any one else is the finest in the
Early in the new week Bobby announced that it was their duty,
meaning the girl contingent, to go into the city and pay a call upon
a friend of the Littells' who was staying with an aunt at one of the
large hotels. They had met them at church, and a tentative promise
had been given, which Bobby was determined should be kept.
"If it wasn't for me this family would have no manners," she
scolded. "Now, I don't like Ruth Gladys Royal a bit better than you
do, Louise; but I hope I know what is the right thing to do."
Mrs. Littell, who was hopelessly unfashionable as far as conventions
that were merely polite went, announced serenely that she was going
to her sewing circle and that if the girls chose they might go
calling. Her engagement stood.
"Mother thinks Ruth Royal is snobbish," commented Bobby, as her
mother serenely departed for the little sewing circle of the country
church in which she maintained a keen interest and which she
virtually supported. "As far as that goes, I think she is. But Louise
told her we'd come and call on her, and I think a promise ought to be
"Well, I'll go with you if Betty will," said Louise. "I don't see
why you pick out a perfectly lovely afternoon to martyr us all in,
but if it must be done, let's get it over with. Esther and Libbie
have wheedled dad into taking them to the movies, and I suppose we
can go in the car with them."
The three ascended the stairs to put on their best bibs and tuckers
and came down again to find Mr. Littell and the other two girls
joyously arranged on the back seat, with Carter having hard work to
keep from smiling at their jokes and quips.
"How elegant we look," jeered Mr. Littell, whose injured foot was
still stiff but who began to talk about returning to his office. "I
don't suppose you could be persuaded to go to see 'The Rose-Pink
Curtains' with us, and have a sundae afterward?"
Bobby shook her head sternly.
"Don't tempt us when we're having a hard time to do our duty," she
admonished. "We have to go to see Ruth Royal; honestly we do. But
we'll meet you for the sundae; won't we, girls?"
It was arranged that they should meet at quarter to five, and then
the three callers were set down before the ornate hotel entrance.
Just off the lobby was a pretty, richly furnished parlor where they
decided to wait while they were being announced.
"Let's hope she isn't in," suggested the irrepressible Louise. "Then
we'd still have time to see 'The Rose-Pink Curtains.'"
Betty sat nearest the door and from her seat she could see a section
of the lobby and one of the elevators. The boy who had taken their
names came back in a few minutes with the information that Miss Royal
and her aunt were out.
"The clerk says they left word at the desk that they expect to be
back about half-past seven to-night."
"All right, that excuses us," declared Bobby cheerfully, hardly
waiting till the boy had left the room. "Come on, girls, we'll go to
the movies. Betty, for mercy's sake, what are you staring at?"
Betty had risen and was peering through the velvet portieres. She
turned and put a finger to her lips, then drew Bobby close to her.
"Look out there in the corridor, over by the desk," she whispered.
"See that man who is shouting at the clerk?"
"I hear him," admitted Bobby, screwing up her eyes and peeping
through the curtains. "What do you suppose he is arguing about?"
"That," announced Betty, unintentionally dramatic, "is Joseph
The girls had heard about Joseph Peabody, a little from Betty, and
more from Bob, who had spoken freely to their father. They knew about
his miserly nature and they were acquainted with the fact that he
believed Bob had stolen something that did not belong to him. The
real story of the unrecorded deed both Bob and Betty had told only to
Mr. Littell. It was characteristic of Bobby's loyal nature that her
first thought should be for Betty.
"You don't suppose he is down here after you, do you?" she
whispered, clutching Betty by the elbow in a sudden panic. "Oh,
Betty, suppose he wanted to drag you back to Bramble Farm?"
Betty had to laugh, in spite of the anxiety she was feeling.
"He has no authority over me," she explained. "Besides, he would
have no earthly use for me if my board wasn't paid in advance." Her
face clouded involuntarily as the thought of her missing uncle thus
came to her mind. "No," she went on, "I'm terribly afraid that he is
here looking for Bob. You know he threatened to have him arrested
that time Bob managed to escape him. I wonder if I can't get to a
'phone booth without being seen and telephone to Bob or Mr. Derby."
Louise rather impatiently pushed her sister aside that she might
take a peep at the unconscious Mr. Peabody. As she put her eye to the
crack between the curtains she uttered a little shriek that she tried
to stifle with her hand.
"Betty!" she cried so shrilly that those in the lobby must have
heard her if the harsh call of a siren outside had not sounded
opportunely. "Betty, here comes Bob!"
Sure enough, in through the revolving door, neatly dressed and
looking every inch the intelligent young junior clerk, came Bob
Henderson, his eyes glued to a letter he had taken from his pocket.
Betty would have given even her hope of a letter from Oklahoma to
have been able to call a warning. Instead, she had to stand
helplessly by and watch the lad walk directly to the desk, where he
put a question to the clerk. Instantly Joseph Peabody whirled and had
the boy by the collar.
"Got you at last, you young imp!" he chortled gleefully. "This time
I don't calculate to let go of you till I land you where you're going
--behind the bars. That is, unless you hand over what you've got of
Several people turned to stare curiously, and Betty sympathized
acutely with the crimson-faced Bob, who was protesting hotly that he
had nothing belonging to Peabody.
"You stay here," she ordered Louise and Bobby. "There's no need of
you mixing in this. I'm going to see if I can help Bob."
She sped across the hall to the desk, followed by her two faithful
shadows, who were determined to stand loyally by.
"Well, I swan, if it isn't Betty!" ejaculated the farmer when he
caught sight of her.
BOB IS CLEARED
"Betty, you stay out of this," commanded Bob sternly. "If there's
going to be a scene, two actors will be a-plenty. You go away and
take the girls with you."
The clerk who had been regarding them curiously over his ledger now
took a hand.
"If this argument is likely to be prolonged," he suggested
sarcastically, "I'd advise you either to go up to your room, Mr.
Peabody, or into that card room there. That's deserted in the day
"Yes, come on in here," said Betty, anxious to get away from the
gaze of the other guests. She led the way into the card room which
opened off the lobby and was preferable to making a public journey in
the elevator. "Close the door, Louise."
Mr. Peabody kept his hold on Bob's collar and from time to time he
shook him vigorously, whether with the idea of shaking the
stubbornness out of him or merely to indicate that he held the whip
hand, Betty was undecided.
"You can let go of Bob," she said heatedly, as soon as they were in
the room with the door shut. "He isn't going to run away."
"I'll see that he doesn't," was the grim reply. "You hand over that
deed, young man, or I'll call a policeman in two minutes."
"I tell you I haven't got it!" protested Bob desperately. "I never
saw the thing. What would I be doing with a paper of yours? I haven't
got it, and that's all there is to it."
"Of course he hasn't!" For the life of her Betty could not keep
still, though perhaps caution dictated that she hold her tongue. "I
know he hasn't that deed, Mr. Peabody. And having him arrested won't
give you what he hasn't got."
"How do you know he hasn't got it?" demanded the farmer. "Deeds
don't walk off and hide themselves, young lady. Bob happens to know
why I want that deed. And if he doesn't produce it, and that mighty
quick, he'll find himself where they can shake the truth out of him
with no fooling."
Bobby sprang to her feet from the leather chair where she had curled
up to listen to the proceedings.
"I'll telephone my father," she cried. "He'll help Bob to sue you
for false arrest. If you have some one arrested and it is found he
didn't do what you said he did, he can sue you for damages. I've
heard my father say so. Don't you care, Bob, Daddy will find a way to
beat this horrid old man."
An unpleasant smile spread over the mean, shriveled face.
"Is that so?" queried Joseph Peabody. "Well, I don't know who you
are, Miss, but you need a lesson on how to keep a civil tongue in
your head. All the fine friends Mister Bob has picked up in
Washington won't stand by him long when they find out he's a
poorhouse rat and a runaway at that. There'll be some explaining for
you to do before the almshouse authorities are satisfied, young man."
Betty's anger flamed as the familiar odious phrase fell from the
farmer's lips, and added to her anger was the crystallized fear that
had been haunting her for weeks. She did not know whether Bob could
really be returned to the poor-house or whether it was another trick
of Peabody's, but she feared the worst and dreaded it.
"You try to return Bob to the poorhouse!" she cried, her cheeks
blazing, her hands clenched. She took a step toward Peabody and he
fell back, dragging Bob with him so that a chair stood between them
and the furious girl. "You try to return Bob to the poorhouse, and
I'll tell every one what I know about that deed," flared Betty. "I
know all about the Warren lots and the kind of sale you forced
through. You--you--" to her distress and amazement, Betty burst into
"Don't cry, dear," whispered Bobby, putting her arm around her.
"Daddy won't let them do anything to Bob. You see if he does."
Joseph Peabody was apparently impervious to verbal assaults and tears.
"Once more I ask you," he shook Bob violently, "are you going to
hand over that paper? Yes, or no?"
"I tell you I haven't got it," said Bob doggedly. "Shaking my teeth
out won't help me get a paper I never saw in my life. As for having
me arrested, you keep up this racket much longer and the hotel
authorities will send for the police on their own responsibility."
Peabody picked up his hat.
"All right, you come along with me," he said sourly. "You won't go
before a soft-headed police recorder this time, either. You'll find
out what it means to face a real judge."
He was marching Bob toward the door when a sharp rap sounded.
Louise, nearest the door, had the presence of mind to open it. A
bellboy stood there with a telegram on a tray.
"Telegram for Mr. Joseph Peabody," he announced impassively, his
alert eyes darting about the room from which such angry voices had
been coming for the last quarter of an hour.
"All right--give it here." The farmer snatched the yellow envelope
and shut the door in the boy's face without making a motion to tip him.
His back against the door, to prevent Bob's escape, Joseph Peabody
slit the envelope and read the message. The others saw his jaw drop
and a slow, painful flush creep over his face and neck.
"I'm called back to Bramble Farm right away," he mumbled, refusing
to meet their gaze. "Being hurried, and having so much to tend to,
I'm willing to drop the matter of having you arrested, Bob. But let
this be a lesson to you, to hoe a straight row."
Bob stared at the man stupidly, frankly bewildered. But Betty's
quick wit solved the sudden change of front. She had seen how quickly
Peabody folded up the telegram when he had read it.
"Isn't that a message from Mrs. Peabody?" she demanded crisply. "And
doesn't she say she's found the deed? Where was it--in one of your
The farmer was taken by surprise, and the truth was shocked out of
"She's found it under the seat in the old market wagon," he blurted.
"I recollect I put it there for safe-keeping, meaning to take it over
to the deposit box the next day. Well, I've wasted more time an'
money in Washington than I like to think of. Got to go home and make
up for it."
Without another word or glance, without the shadow of an apology to
Bob, he swung out of the room and strode over to the desk. In a
moment they heard his harsh voice demanding the amount of his bill.
Bob looked at Betty, who stared back. Louise and Bobby were equally
silent. Then Betty snickered, and the tension was broken. Peal after
peal of laughter rang out, and they dropped helplessly into chairs
and laughed till they could laugh no longer.
"Oh, dear!" Betty sat up, wiping her eyes. "Did you ever see
anything like that? He never said good-by, or admitted that he'd made
a mistake, or--or anything! What do you suppose people in the hotel
must think of him?"
That reminded Bobby of the girl they had come to see and who was
really responsible for their visit to the hotel.
"The first kind thing Ruth Royal ever did for me," she declared
frankly. "I wouldn't have missed seeing Mr. Peabody for worlds."
"How did you ever happen to come here, Bob?" asked Betty, who had
been wondering about this ever since she had seen Bob walk right into
the one man he most wished to avoid.
"I brought a letter from Mr. Derby for one of the guests stopping
here," explained Bob. "That reminds me, I haven't delivered it yet.
Peabody threw me off the track. I'll turn it in, and then I'll have
to hurry back to the office; they'll think I've been run over for
He went off, promising again to see them on Saturday, and the girls,
feeling too upset to settle down to the quietness of a motion picture
house, went out to walk up and down in the sunshine of Pennsylvania
Avenue until it was time to meet Mr. Littell and Libbie and Esther.
Of course they had much to tell them, and Mr. Littell in particular
was a most appreciative listener. He was genuinely fond of Bob and
interested in him, and he got quite purple with wrath when he learned
of the indignity he had suffered at the hands of the ill-bred farmer.
"Then he went off and never had the grace to ask the lad's pardon!"
sputtered the builder when Betty reached the end of her recital. "I
wish I had him by the collar--just for three minutes. Perhaps I
wouldn't drive a little of the fear of justice into his narrow mind!"
They had lingered over their ice-cream, and although Carter drove at
a good speed, they found that unless they hurried they would be late
for dinner. It was one of Mrs. Littell's few unbreakable rules that
the girls must change into simple, light frocks for the evening meal,
and they went directly upstairs to take off their street clothes,
When they came down dinner had been announced and they went directly
to the table. They had so much to tell Mrs. Littell and she was so
interested that it was not until they were leaving the table that she
remembered what she had meant to ask Betty as soon as the girl came in.
"Betty, darling," she said comfortably, "you found your letter on
the hall table all right, didn't you?"
"Why, I never thought to look for mail," returned Betty in surprise.
"No, Mrs. Littell, I didn't stop in the hall. Was there a letter for
Mrs. Littell nodded and swept her family across the hall into the
living-room, saying something to her husband in a low voice. Betty
hurried to the console table where the mail was always laid on a
beaten silver tray. The solitary letter lying there was addressed to
her. And the postmark, she saw as she picked it up, was a town in
Betty's first impulse was to run up to her room and close the door.
Then she sat down on the edge of the bed and tore open the envelope
eagerly. She read the half dozen closely written sheets through
twice, thrust them back into the envelope, and ran down to tell the
Littells the good news.
"I've heard from Uncle Dick!" she cried radiantly, facing them as
they turned at her entrance. Betty's vivid personality often betrayed
her mood without a word, and to-night she was vibrant with happiness
so that she fairly glowed. "He has just got back to Flame City, where
he found the telegram and my letters. And he wants me to come out to
him, as he expects to be there for the next few months. He's been on
a long prospecting trip, and he can't get East till his company sends
out another representative. You may read the letter!"
She thrust it into Mr. Littell's hands and buried her head on Mrs.
Littell's broad shoulder.
"I'm so happy!" she choked, while the motherly hands smoothed her
"It's been so long, and I was afraid he might have died--like my
mother. I don't think I could stand it if Uncle Dick should die--he's
the only one who belongs to me."
"Why, Betty, child!" Mrs. Littell gathered her into her lap and
rocked her gently as though she had been a little child. "You're
nervous and unstrung. We ought to have taken better care of you and
not let this waiting wear you out so."
"If you're going to cry, Betty, so'll I," promised Bobby, putting an
awkward arm around Betty's neck. Bobby was as undemonstrative as a
boy and rarely kissed any one. "What in the wide world are we going
to do without you?"
Betty sat up and pushed the damp hair from her forehead. The four
girls were regarding her dolorously.
"I won't stay forever," she assured them. "Uncle Dick doesn't intend
to live out there, you know. The company he represents will likely
send him East this very winter."
"Well, that's a mighty interesting letter," commented Mr. Littell,
folding up the missive and returning it to Betty. "Though you're
going to leave a hole in this household, Sister, when you set sail.
You see, he's been out of sight and hearing of trains and post-offices
for a long time. I'd like to be able to lose myself in the
desert or a wilderness for a month or two. Think of having no
telephone bell to answer!"
The next morning a letter came to Mr. Littell from Mr. Gordon,
thanking him warmly for his kindness to Betty, containing the
assurance of the writer's lasting gratitude, and asking him if he and
his wife would oversee her preparations for the journey, help her
engage a berth, and start her on her way. A generous check was
enclosed, and Mrs. Littell and the girls immediately set about
helping Betty do the necessary shopping, while Mr. Littell engaged
her reservations on the Western Limited. She had decided to leave the
following Wednesday, and when Bob came out to spend the week-end, he
immediately announced his intention of going too.
"I figure out Flame City is the nearest station to my aunt's old
place. I have enough money saved now, and there's no reason why I
should stay on here. Hurrah for Oklahoma!"
The preparations went forward merrily after that, and Wednesday
found Betty on the Western Limited, bound for Flame City. What
happened to her there and her experience in the great oil fields will
be told in another volume to be called, "Betty Gordon in the Land of
Oil; or, The Farm That Was Worth a Fortune."
Bobby insisted that they make the week-end at Fairfields a farewell
celebration to be remembered, and the six young people managed to get
the maximum of enjoyment out of every hour. Bob had been brought out
to Saturday luncheon, and as soon as he had heard about the Oklahoma
trip and announced his own plans, Louise insisted that Betty was to
have a lesson in riding.
"Of course you'll want to ride out West," she said. "They all do in
pictures. Come on out to the barn, and we'll get the ponies out."
A stable boy brought out a gentle, coal-black pony, and Betty
mounted him trustingly.
"Why, it's lovely!" cried Betty, enjoying the sensation to the full.
"He goes like a rocking chair, bless his heart! I'm sure I can learn
"Of course you can!" Bobby encouraged her swiftly. "You must try him
at a slow canter in a minute. Here comes Esther with the camera."
A picture of Betty was taken, and then the lesson was resumed. At
the close of the afternoon Bobby announced that Betty was in a fair
way to become a good horsewoman.
Mr. and Mrs. Littell took them into Washington to the theater that
night, and to make up the hours of lost sleep all the young people
slept late the next morning.
Instead of going into Washington to church, they all went to the
little country church that Mrs. Littell attended and loved, and after
the service they spent a quiet, pleasant day about the house and
grounds of Fairfields.
That evening the five girls and Bob gathered on the spacious white
steps of the house to watch the beautiful Virginia sunset.
"Let's promise each other," suggested Betty, her pretty face serious
and thoughtful, "to meet five years from now, wherever we may be, and
compare notes. We'll be almost grown up then and know what we're
going to be."
"No matter how often we meet, or how seldom, five years from to-day
we'll promise to come together," agreed Bobby. "Here's my seal."
She put out her hand and the hands of the six interlocked in a tower.
"To our close friendship," murmured Betty, as they unclasped.
Then, the sun having set, they went into the glow and welcome of the