Chapter XVI. The Girls Have It
 

It was an entirely new experience for Dalton men--searching for a miscreant that spring evening in the lane. But evening wore into nightfall and no trace of the "tramp" had been discovered.

From either end of the lane the men came together at last, and admitted they had been again outwitted by the "slick rascal."

Mr. MacAllister, in dismissing the party, urged them to be at the town meeting that night to vote for a constable, and never had the need of such an official been so plainly demonstrated.

"We must go about to-night," he said, "and notify business persons to be on the lookout for a fellow of this description. Of course, if we had a regular constable we might save ourselves that trouble."

To the old politicians of Dalton, those who always voted promptly, but put off paying taxes until the very last notice had been served upon them, the appointment of John Travers to succeed Squire Sanders, came as a surprise. Poor men are not always popular, and the other candidate, Baldwin Blake, was the sort of fellow it was pleasant to meet--around election times. But John Travers got the office without a dissenting vote in the council--a matter quite as surprising to Mr. Travers as to any man present. Mr. MacAllister whispered aside to Major Dale, when the result of the ballot was made known:

"Travers does not know what a strong pull our young politicians have. This is the girls' campaign."

But when a few hours later, the new squire told his own girl of the good fortune, Tavia declared Dorothy had managed it all.

It was a fact, however regrettable, that Mrs. Travers was not at home to hear the good news. She had gone to see a sick friend that afternoon, and had sent word later that she would remain away all night.

But Mrs. Travers was probably not as blamable in her home-making delinquencies as it might appear. She simply did not know how to make a home. She belonged to that unfortunately large class of women, who have received a so-called "education" from books, but who have never been trained in either discipline or character, which might give the forbearance necessary in meeting the actual trials of life, or in the management of the great American dollar, which might make up, in a measure, for lack of discipline, when that dollar, like the proverbial charity, must cover a multitude of wants. Mrs. Travers had attended a school where embroidery was the chief number in the curriculum, and mathematics (after decimal fractions) made elective. Hence it was that the burden of responsibility came so early to Tavia, who was scarcely better able to undertake it than the mother.

The unfortunate result of this total lack of management might have discouraged a man less optimistic than John Travers, but he always "made allowances," just as he did to-night when the indifferent wife was not there to share in the family's happy hour.

"Maybe I can help you with the books," suggested Tavia, when the possible details of the new position were being discussed.

"Oh, I will have plenty of time to attend to them, daughter," her father replied. "The books I want you to attend to are those at school--I want you to make up for lost time. Dalton people will expect more from us now that they are giving us a chance."

"Dorothy says I do better than I imagine," replied Tavia. "I did not expect to pass--I had been home so much--but if only I could get a 'conditional,' and leave when Dorothy does!"

Ambition had come to Tavia--at last.

Her father wished her to get through school, and she determined, if such a thing was possible she would do it.

"I could study very hard," she told herself, when thinking the matter over very seriously, that night, in her own little cheerless room. "Dorothy has all her work done, and I am sure she will help me."

And what a surprise it would be to every one if she really did get "conditioned" in the studies she failed in, and should actually graduate in the general work.

What a wonderful thing it was to have something definite to work for! Dorothy and Alice had always felt that way, but until to-night Tavia had never known the real joy of doing good work, with the actual reward in sight. Home life had been dreary indeed, school had been little better, the only bright spot in the misplaced life had been put in by Dorothy Dale. And what a power for good had been the quiet, unobtrusive influence!

"I owe every single thing to Dorothy," Tavia declared to her own heart that eventful night, "and I hope some day I will be able to show her I am not ungrateful."