Dorothy Dale by Margaret Penrose
Chapter XI. A Soldier's Daughter
The setting right of Sarah's wrong--a task which Dorothy had so willingly volunteered to perform,--was by no means so simple a matter as she had attempted to make it. School girls are apt to be fond of excitement, and this bit of trouble brought with it so many interesting experiences--the visit of a real squire, the "insurrection" of Alice; Dorothy falling ill in the cloak room, and that particularly novel occurrence: the disappearance of Tavia Travers. Surely all these features would seem to mark a red letter week on the calendar of "interesting events" at Dalton School. But that was not to be the end of it.
Dorothy intended to make such an explanation to the class, that the entire affair would be cleared up without too much blame resting on Sarah.
A conference with Tavia, held directly after her pathetic interview with Sarah, resulted in the former declaring she would shoulder any blame that could be made to fit her. "For a girl with a sprained ankle, and a bad case of delicate conscience, has troubles enough without inviting more," Tavia told Dorothy. "Besides," she said further, "it really was my fault, for I had determined to get even with her that day, and when I sent her upon the swing I really did not care whether she 'busted' through the clouds or not; I simply sent her flying.
"So, Doro," she concluded "you say whatever you please, and I will 'stand' for it. Only be sure not to let Miss Ellis know you are going to make a speech, for she has 'cut out' all speeches--except her own."
"Tavia, Tavia!" exclaimed Dorothy indignantly, "where ever did you hear such common slang!"
"I picked it up with the 'goods' at Aunt Mary's," replied Tavia laughing, for she really only made use of the expressions to "horrify" Dorothy. "Now," she continued, "be all ready for the picnic. We are only to have a half session, and then go to the Falls."
That evening, after tea, Dorothy found a much-longed-for chance to "visit" her father--talk with him in his own little study, upstairs and away from all disturbances. Since her indisposition the major had not bothered his daughter with any cares of the house or with the children, neither had he talked with her about the Burlock affair; but now, she had something to tell him--Tavia had heard of a woman living in Rochester, of that name--Burlock. What if it were the right party? The one so long sought for by Miles Burlock! And would the major let Dorothy go with Tavia to Rochester, and look for them--the poor mother and little Nellie!
Dorothy found her father in his study waiting for her. How well he looked now, she thought, for the old hale and hearty look, that which so often characterizes the veteran soldier, had returned to his face, making it handsomer than ever because of a lighter shade having settled on his head--he was getting gray the daughter was quick to notice.
"You look better, Little Captain," he said in greeting her.
"I was just thinking the same thing of you," replied Dorothy, laughing.
"That was a case of great minds running in similar trenches," said the father.
"Now, we are going to have a good, long chat," began Dorothy, leaning against the arm of the major's chair so that her head touched his shoulder. "First, I want to tell you some news Tavia has heard of a woman in Rochester named Burlock!"
"Burlock!" repeated the major, and he looked pained somehow; distressed at the mere mention of the name.
"I thought perhaps--it might be the party you--that is, the woman wanted in the Burlock matter," faltered Dorothy.
"I am afraid, daughter," said the major very solemnly, "you have been bothering your young head about affairs much too grave for you to handle. I have always regretted sending you to the Bugle office that morning, so many complications seemed to follow that experiment. Not but what you got out a splendid paper--better than this week's issue for that matter," the major hurried to say, for he noticed a look of disappointment come over Dorothy's face, "but because I seemed to thrust you out into the world, unprotected, and even in danger."
Major Dale pressed his lips to his daughter's brow. Indeed she had always been his little helper, his one dear, only daughter. Her willingness and ambition to help might have misled him, sometimes he might have forgotten she was only fourteen years old, but now, seated there beside him, fussing with his "curls," as she insisted his rather long locks were, she was little Doro again, the baby that had so often climbed on his knee, in that very room, begging for one more story when mother announced "bed time."
The mother was gone now--and Dorothy was sitting there.
"Ah, well!" sighed the major, trying to hide his thoughts, "we must talk of something pleasant."
"But the Burlock affair," ventured Dorothy. "I thought it would be splendid to think of finding them. I have not seen Mr. Burlock in some time. What do you suppose has become of him?"
Major Dale took Dorothy's hand into his own.
"Daughter," he said, "Miles Burlock has passed away."
"Dead!" gasped Dorothy.
"Yes, dead. But he was happy, glad to go, although he left his task unfinished--he had not found his wife and child."
"What happened to him?" Dorothy asked, bewildered at the suddenness of her father's words.
"He died from exhaustion as much as from any thing else. That man Anderson had sent him word to go to Buffalo for 'news.' Believing the message meant good news, that of locating the wife and child, Burlock went, but not before he had legally made me guardian of the lost daughter, and put in my charge the estate that had lately come directly into his hands through the death of Mrs. Douglass. So the poor man managed to settle his affairs before he was called away. He came back to Dalton, sick and discouraged, and determined to put that man Andrew Anderson in jail. But--well it was not to be. Ralph was with him all day and all night. We did all we could to make it easier for him, and Dorothy dear, he closed his eyes--blessing you!"
Dorothy was crying. She tried hard to be brave, but somehow the tears would come--and she had to cry!
"There, there, daughter," said the major consolingly. "I did not want to tell you just yet, but perhaps it is as well now as at any other time. I knew you would be grieved."
"Of course--I am sorry--" sighed Dorothy, "but wasn't it splendid that he had reformed!"
"Yes, and I must confess I was proud to hear a dying man bless your name. He declared that you, a mere child, had saved him from a death of shame. I never knew Dorothy, until Ralph told me there at his bedside, that you had worked so hard to help in the crusade work, even speaking to men like Burlock, when they might not have known how to answer you."
"Oh indeed, father," she hurried to say, "I am sure Mr. Burlock was not intoxicated half the time others thought he was. He seemed so sad always and would sit on a bench, just thinking of his child perhaps, when people called him 'drunk'!" and the girl's eyes flashed indignantly at the thought.
"Well, well, daughter; you were right in showing charity. Yes, charity is the love of God and our neighbor, and it was that love that led you to take the hand of that sick and discouraged man. Ralph told me how you brought him into the Bugle office that afternoon, and how that was the beginning of a new life to Burlock for he never tasted strong drink after that day."
"It was because I was like his own daughter or he thought I was, that he listened to me," said Dorothy, not wanting to claim all the praise her father so prudently gave.
"At any rate you have the joy of knowing, daughter, that you helped a fellow creature find the right path. That joy will never leave you."
For a few moments the two sat there in silence. Dorothy had been favored with many opportunities of "distinguishing herself" as Tavia would say, but this last--the real joy of helping a man save himself--this as the major said, would never leave her.
"And all this trouble about the Ford girl?" inquired the major presently, "has that been settled?"
"Oh, yes, indeed it has," answered Dorothy, scarcely knowing what explanation to make. "Sarah is very hasty, and of course you know how Tavia loves to tease."
"But it seems this was no nonsense. Mr. Ford declared he would make Mr. Travers pay the girl's doctor bill."
"Did he really? I had not heard that. But Tavia was not to blame. Sarah has admitted it was all a misunderstanding."
"Evidently she has not told her father that," the major replied, "for only this morning he assured me he would give the doctor's bill into the hands of a collector."
"Oh, that would be too bad! Tavia's folks are so poor. I must see Sarah."
"Do you have to straighten that matter out also? Well, Little Captain, I am afraid you have a busy time of it. When one is willing to help others it is perfectly surprising how much they can find to do."
"But you see, daddy, someone has to do it,"
"Exactly. I have no objections to you mixing up in school girl affairs; in fact I think that line of work quite as important as book learning. It is the best kind of education, for it fits one for their place in life: but I think, daughter, it might be best for you to give up helping in the crusade. I would rather not have you risk--perhaps insults in that work."
"Of course, if you wish it father," answered Dorothy in a disappointed tone, "but if I could just help out in what Ralph had planned for the girls--a sort of auxiliary work--I would like it. The meetings would be held in the afternoon, and we would have little benefit affairs, to help defray the expenses of the League."
"Oh, that sort of thing," agreed the major, "that would be all right and strictly in a girl's line. Everybody should show sympathy with the movement, for it means more to Dalton than we can estimate. Children, particularly, will be benefited, so that there can be no objection to them helping in their own way."
Dorothy felt greatly relieved now that her father had spoken on this subject, for she had feared he would ask her to give up, entirely, the temperance work she had become so interested in. The most prominent women in Dalton were identified with the movement, and with such leaders surely no girl need be afraid to follow. Besides, as Major Dale said, children would be those most benefited, therefore children should do what they could to help the work along.
"I am so glad you do not object to the Auxiliary, father," she said, as he arose to bid her good night. "Of course I shall never meet another Miles Burlock, and therefore I shall not have to make a personal appeal to any one again," and she looked sadly into her father's face. "Do you think we will ever find little Nellie?"
"Yes, daughter, I feel certain we will soon hear something of the heirs of Miles Burlock. But there now," and he kissed her again, "run along to bed. Your brothers are snoring by this time."
"Good night, daddy dear," she said, pressing his cheek lovingly to her own, "I never forget that I am the daughter of a soldier, and that thought, more than anything else--earthly, takes care of me--guides me aright, and makes me proud of being Dorothy Dale!"