Chapter XVII. A Girl's Weapon
 

Tavia's plans took shape next morning--there was nothing visionary about them. She did surprise her father with a neat breakfast table, and Johnnie surprised himself with a clean linen suit.

"Nothing succeeds like success," said the father, pleased and happy that, at last something had "happened" to brighten the make-shift home.

"And when mother comes," Tavia announced, "she will find that I have discovered how to keep house, for I have already provided for dinner. Now Johnnie, be careful that you do me credit--go right straight to school when it's time, and don't, as you value your place in--in--my heart, miss a single lesson!"

"Good!" said the father, actually taking a tiny rosebud from the clean milk bottle, in the center of the table, and putting it in his buttonhole.

"Would it be silly for a boy to wear a flower?" faltered Johnnie, "Joe Dale often does."

"Indeed every boy in school will know to-day that pop is the 'head constable' so why shouldn't you decorate?" and the sister put in the fresh linen waist a bud that exactly matched the one chosen by the squire.

Mr. Travers recalled that this was the first morning he could remember when his two children sat at table with him. They were always busy or sleeping--any place but where they should be at breakfast time.

"Now, I must see Dorothy before school," said Tavia, leaving the table. "Johnnie, just eat all your toast while I clear up. Then you can bring in fresh water, and some wood to have ready for noon, in case mother should not get home in time to do everything."

Mr. Travers was also in a hurry to get down to the Green, he had made an appointment to talk with Major Dale and he did not delay after breakfast. A new world had been discovered by him--the land of prosperity; ambition for his children, and perhaps even contentment for the incompetent little woman who had suffered too, and who now might find a way and heart to do what seemed not worth while before.

But Dorothy had "anticipated" Tavia's visit and was at the door before the latter had entirely cleared away the table.

"Why!" exclaimed Dorothy, when her eyes rested on the flowers, "you are celebrating!"

"Good reason why!" responded Tavia proudly, "my dad's a squire!"

"I am so glad," murmured Dorothy, giving Tavia a kiss. "Now you will be somebody, won't you?"

"I am already--somebody else. You won't know me; better ask for an introduction," and she walked haughtily to the sink with the last of the dishes.

"Delighted, I'm sure!" simpered Dorothy, imitating the society voice.

"Pray be seated," went on the new Tavia, "I'll be disengaged directly."

Tavia's happiness was so entirely self-evident there was no need for her to make formal expression of it to Dorothy, yet, as she had promised herself to be "just like other girls" Tavia felt the obligation to say something polite.

"I know, Dorothy," she began, "we owe everything to you. But it has really made a new world for us, and now, you will see how we appreciate it. I am going to get through school, if I can, and perhaps, when we get better off, I may go on with you at school and grow up--like you."

"Tavia dear," said Dorothy earnestly, "I am sure you will always be my friend, whether you have a fancy education or not. We have learned more than can be taught from books--we have learned to help each other, and to understand each other."

"Yes, I cannot imagine anything ever coming into our lives that would keep us apart--even distance does not separate minds and hearts."

Tavia had finished her work now, and surprised Dorothy by neatly washing out the dish towels.

Dorothy was ready to go now for it was getting close to the hour for school.

"I must tell you something in confidence," said she, "father thinks he has a clew to the little Burlock girl's whereabouts."

"Yes, and I thought the same thing when what do you suppose?--Aunt Mary writes me that the woman--Mrs. Burlock--is dead!"

"Dead!" exclaimed Dorothy.

"Yes, and the society cannot now find her girl--she did have a daughter."

"But surely, in a place like Rochester, they should be able to trace a little girl," Dorothy insisted.

"They should be, but they were not. Aunt Mary wrote that the charitable society had buried the woman, and when a young lady from the organization went back to the rooms with the little girl she allowed her to escape. That is, the young lady went out to buy something and when she came back the girl was gone."

"Did she run away?"

"Haven't the least idea. But say, Doro, we will be late, sure pop, and me putting on airs this morning. Quarter of nine. Now let's see if we can beat last night's record. I'll set the pace," and so saying the girls started off on a run, for it was most desirable that they reach the school a few minutes, at least, before the bell rang.

Dorothy insisted Tavia should go straight to Miss Ellis and tell her how she was so anxious to keep up with her class.

"You might change your mind," Dorothy remarked laughing, "and Tavia, there is nothing like outside help for keeping troublesome resolutions."

"Guess you're right," said Tavia with a sigh. "I may as well clinch it."

"No slang now," interrupted Dorothy. "Graduates never use slang."

"Then I've changed my mind already," pouted Tavia, "I must have slang or die--'Liberty of speech or death!'" she exclaimed with a dramatic gesture.

"Come on," pleaded Dorothy, who was really anxious that Tavia should speak to Miss Ellis before the classes assembled.

To her surprise Tavia learned from her teacher that she had not so very much to make up, and could, no doubt, do it if she tried.

"You have been doing very well lately," said Miss Ellis, "and during the days you were away we had scarcely any new lessons--nothing but review. You were always fair in mathematics when you put your mind to your work. Now let us see if you cannot surprise everyone by getting all through-- not conditioned in anything."

Such encouragement was all Tavia needed. She went to work with a will that day, and every time Dorothy glanced over at her (for Dorothy was as anxious for her success as if it were entirely her own affair) she would see Tavia "poring" over her book as if her very life depended upon her accomplishing just so much work and she was bound she would do it.

How quickly the morning passed! It was so different to be busy in school, Tavia thought, so much better than having the hours drag along. At recess Alice hugged her in congratulation.

"I knew he would get it," she said, referring, of course, to the new position of Mr. Travers, "and father says we girls elected him. I see you are already doing credit to the confidence with which Dalton people have intrusted your family."

"I am sure father will give satisfaction," Tavia answered, ignoring the intended compliment for herself. "He had a splendid record in Millville."

"And the picnic," said Alice. "Have you heard it is really coming off this time? Next Monday."

"Then Sarah will be able to come," remarked Tavia, "I am just glad we waited for her."

All the girls agreed it would be especially nice to have a genuine reunion, as this would be the last holiday until vacation, and that, of course, would mean a scattering of classmates.

"It will be a star picnic," declared Alice, as the girls returned to the school room.

"If nothing else happens," said Dorothy with apprehension for which she could not account.

"Why did you say that?" asked Tavia.

"I don't know. But somehow I feel as if something will happen," and Dorothy had sufficient reason afterward to remember the premonition.