Dorothy Dale by Margaret Penrose
Chapter I. Dorothy
The day of days had come at last: Dorothy would be the Daughter of the Regiment.
"Lucky you don't have to curl your hair, Doro, for the fog is like rain, and that's the worst kind for made curls," said Tavia.
"Oh, I do hope it is not going to rain!"
"No, it surely won't. But come, don't let's be late."
"There's heaps of time, Tavia. Oh, just see Briggs' new flag! Isn't it glorious?" cried Dorothy Dale.
"Not half as glorious as your old Betsy Ross. I'd be too proud to march if I had a real, truly Betsy. I think, anyway, it's prettier with the star of stars than with the regular daisy field of them," and Tavia tied her scarf just once more, that being the fourth time she had smoothed it out and knotted it over.
"I think red, white and blue look lovely over a white dress," commented Dorothy. "Your scarf is perfect."
"But you are like a live Columbia," insisted Tavia. "No one could look as pretty as you," and her companion fairly beamed with admiration.
"Come now, gather up the stuffs. Button your cloak all the way down, for we don't want folks to see how we're dressed," and Dorothy made sure that her own water-proof covered her skirts to the very edge.
It was Decoration Day, and the girls were to take part in the Veterans' procession.
Dorothy was the only daughter of Major Frank Dale, one of the prominent veterans of Dalton, a small town in New York state. Dorothy was in her fourteenth year, but since her mother was dead, and she was the eldest of the small family (the other members being Joe, age ten, and Roger just seven), she seemed older, and was really very sensible for her years,
The major always called her his Little Captain, and she showed such a practical interest in his business, that of running the only newspaper in Dalton, The Bugle, that few, if any boys could have made better partners in the work.
At housekeeping Dorothy was relieved of the real drudgery by Mrs. Martin, who had been with the major's children since the day when baby Roger was taken from his mother's side; and while the housekeeper was the soul of love for the motherless ones, it was Dorothy who felt responsible for the real management of the home, for Aunt Libby, as the children called Mrs. Martin, was fast growing old, and faster growing queer, in spite of a really good-natured disposition.
"It seems to me, Dorothy," the old lady would say, "Libby can't suit you any more. And Joe, too--he's mighty fussy about his victuals. Only my baby Roger loves the old woman!" and she would press the younger boy to her breast with a world of love in the caress.
Not far from Dorothy lived Octavia Travers, or Tavia as all the girls in Dalton called her, She had the reputation of being wild; that is she cared little for school, and less for study, but she loved her brother Johnnie and she loved Dorothy. She also had some love left for the woods; but like many another child of nature, she was misunderstood, and she was considered an idler by every one but her own father and Dorothy.
"Tavia is a rough diamond," Dorothy would tell the major, "and you need not be afraid of Aunt Libby's dreadful ideas about her. She's as good as gold. Lots of girls, who turn up their noses at her, might learn charity from the Tiger Lily, as they call her, just because she has a few freckles around her eyes. I think they make her eyes prettier, they are so brown--her eyes you know. And Daddy, no other girl in Dalton loves soldiers, dead or alive, as truly as Tavia does."
This last argument never failed to convince Major Dale, for a patriotic girl could no more go astray than could a star fall from the flag, he declared; so the Little Captain might go with Tavia if she desired.
So it was that Dorothy and Tavia were companions on Decoration Day. For weeks they had been getting ready--Tavia picking out the patches of daisies that would surely be in bloom in time, and Dorothy making certain that Mrs. Travers would not disappoint Tavia with her white things, as well as keeping track of Aunt Libby, who had Dorothy's own costume in hand. The dress was too short and had to be let down a whole inch, and of course, it could not be done up until after the alterations were finished.
There was always a big time in Dalton on Memorial Day, but this year it was to be made more memorable than ever before. The Grand Army of the Republic men were to come in from Rochester, the firemen were to turn out, and the school children were to have a place in the ranks, with Dorothy Dale as their leader. Besides this, the Dalton Drum and Fife Corps would make their first public appearance on this occasion, and a real review was to be given the procession, in the little square opposite the school, not very far from the cemetery where the soldiers' graves would be decorated.
No wonder, then, that Dorothy and Tavia were anxious about their appearance. Every school girl was expected to wear white, of course, and the bunting stripes of red, white and blue were bought in Rochester, by the school teacher, Miss Ellis, and sold to the children at actual cost- -ten cents for each scarf.
One thing was certain, no other girls would have such flowers as Dorothy and Tavia had. Such syringias and such daisies! And the ferns that Tavia had growing back of the well for weeks!
Tavia had taken charge of the flowers for Dorothy, had made the big bouquet and had covered it with wet paper so it would keep fresh. The Little Captain had made certain that her companion would not be disappointed about her white dress, and although Tavia had to stay from school to wash it the day before, Dorothy went over to help her with the ironing, for Mrs. Travers managed somehow, to have an excuse for her failure in getting her daughter ready--she was that kind of helpless, shiftless person, who rarely had things ready for her children, especially in the matter of Tavia's clothes.
"Your dress looks real pretty," declared Dorothy, as the girls hurried along to the school.
"Thanks to you for ironing it," responded Tavia, with gratitude in her voice.
"I only helped, you did the skirt."
"That was plain, but the waist and sleeves--I never could have even smoothed them, to say nothing of making them look this way," and she straightened up to show the beauty of the garment.
At the school everything was in commotion. Some girls wanted their scarfs tied, others wanted to carry flags, some insisted they could not go out without hats, while Miss Ellis, always strict, seemed more stern than ever.
"Those who were here yesterday afternoon raise their hands," she commanded. Every girl but Tavia raised her hand.
"Those who were not here to rehearsal," went on the teacher, "cannot be in the ranks. You know I told you all to be here, or not to expect to go blundering along the roads, disgracing the school. Now, Miss Tavia Travers, please step back."
All the commotion ceased. Tavia the patriotic girl--she who had been searching for flowers in all sorts of dangerous and lonely places--not to march?
"Teacher," spoke up Dorothy, her cheeks aflame and her voice quivering. "It was not Tavia's fault. She--"
"Silence, Dorothy, or you will also lose your place."
"But teacher--" insisted the girl, with commendable courage, "I know Tavia--"
"Leave the ranks!" called Miss Ellis and Dorothy stepped down--and slipped into a seat alongside her weeping friend. "Sarah Ford, you may lead."
This announcement caused no less surprise than did the punishment of Dorothy. To think that Sarah Ford, a stranger in Dalton, whose father was not even a firemen, let alone a soldier, should take first place!
It must be admitted that not every girl cared when Tavia left the ranks, for she was not a general favorite: but Dorothy! Major Dale's daughter! and he the head marshal!
With a conceited toss of her head Sarah Ford stepped to the front.
"She's mean," was whispered around. "Perhaps teacher knows only the meanest girl would ever take Doro's place."
Meanwhile two very miserable girls were crying their eyes sore in the back seat.
"Oh, Doro!" sobbed Tavia, "to think you lost it on my account."
"It was not on your account," wailed Dorothy, "but on account of an unreasonable teacher."
"Hush! She'll hear you."
"Hope she does," went on the crying girl. "I would just like her to know what I think of her. I don't care if I never come in this old school again."
"I never will," whispered Tavia.
The ranks were formed now, and the girls marched out. An unpardonable expression covered the face of Sarah Ford as she passed the tearful ones.
"There," hissed Tavia, sticking out her tongue at the unpopular leader. "Sneak!" she hissed again, and made the most unmistakable face of contempt and defiance at the haughty Sarah.
Many looked sadly at Dorothy and with pity at Tavia. Certainly these two girls deserved to march. Dorothy had done so much to help, in fact some of the girls knew she had helped the major with all the letter writing, inviting the Rochester men, and sending instructions to the firemen. And to think that now, at the last moment, she should be debarred!
And Tavia too, had been so happy at the prospect of the parade. Poor Tavia! Everybody knew she had a hard time of it, anyway, only for Dorothy, who always helped her out.
"Now, young ladies," said Miss Ellis, as the last girl passed out, "you may fall in at the end."
"I don't care to," Dorothy spoke up, wiping her eyes.
"But I say you must!"
"Do," whispered Tavia, "we can see them anyway."
This was enough for Dorothy. Both girls stood up, straightened out their crushed dresses, patted their red eyes with their handkerchiefs, and fell in at the end of the line.
"I don't care a bit," said Dorothy smiling. "I would just as soon be with you any way. And besides, we will be right next to the Veterans."
"Oh, good," answered her companion, "I would rather be there than up front. Only, of course, you should lead."
The Dalton Drum and Fife Corps was playing loudly. There seemed something very solemn about the lively tune in honor of the "Boys" who had answered their last roll call. Tavia's eyes were swimming, and not a freckle was to be seen beneath the deep red color that framed them.
Dorothy could not talk. It was so sad--that soldiers had to die just like other persons. She prayed her "Daddy" would not be called for years and years.
At the corner of the street the school children were joined by the main column. The veterans fell in--back of Dorothy and Tavia!
Major Dale was grand marshal, and of course came first. He looked surprised at seeing his daughter--his Little Captain, last in line with the children.
Then he glanced at Tavia. It was certainly something for which she was responsible he was sure, for Dorothy had told him she had remained away from school and missed the last rehearsal. "Halt," called the major, and his men stood still.
At a signal the entire ranks waited. Miss Ellis stepped up to the marshal smiling. She had evidently forgotten his daughter had lost her place.
"I need two girls to carry the end flags," he began. "These old men have all they can do to travel. The flags are not heavy--here, the two last girls will do nicely!"
Dorothy and Tavia stepped to the sides and gracefully took the flags from the hands of the aged soldiers.
The only girls who could carry real army flags! And walk on either side of the marshal leading the Veterans!
"If I only could stick my tongue out just once more at Sarah," whispered Tavia, as she crossed back of the marshal to her place.
"We have both got Betsy Ross flags now," said Dorothy, and in all that procession there were no prettier figures than those of Dorothy and Tavia, as they marched alongside the veterans, with the real army flags waving above their heads, stepping with feet and hearts in perfect accord to the music of the Dalton Drum and Fife Corps' "Star Spangled Banner."