Chapter XXIII. In Social Elements
 

Dorothy wore her "heavenly" blue dress, while Tavia "blazed out" in her sunset costume. As Dorothy had predicted Mrs. White was radiant in her beautiful amethyst chiffon, so that the elementary evening "panned out" exactly as scheduled,

Mrs. White was a handsome woman. As Ruth Dale, youngest sister of Major Dale, she had been a belle, and now as Mrs. Winthrop White she was acknowledged a social leader and a favorite.

Her hair had the same brightness that made Dorothy's so attractive, except that years had tarnished that of Mrs. White, while her niece had seen only sunshine in life to polish the golden warp that beauty loves to spin. There were many features in both that marked relationship, and it was always declared that Dorothy was a Dale both in character and features.

The broad veranda at the Cedars was lighted with a flood of summer moonbeams, and there was seated on the lounging chairs a gay party of young persons and a few "grown ups."

Tavia and Dorothy, Ned and Nat, besides Rosabel Glen, the young girl who lived in the pretty cottage next the Cedars, were there, and with Mrs. White were Mrs. Theodore Glen and a visitor from Toledo, a Miss Battin.

In meeting Rosabel Glen the girls from Dalton were both conscious of making the acquaintance of a society girl, one who though still in her teens, knew exactly what to say to be polite, and precisely what to do to show off to the very best possible advantage. She had called at the Cedars in the afternoon and remained just fifteen minutes, which time Mrs. White informed the girls after her departure was the social limit for a first call.

"But we were talking of something that could not possibly be finished in that time," Dorothy had complained.

"All the better chance for Rosabel to show off her manners," said Mrs. White with a laugh, for she had never agreed that young girls should enter society on stilts.

But the evening was different, informal and almost jolly. (The "almost" belonged to Miss Rosabel while the "jolly" was looked after by Ned and Nat, Dorothy and Tavia feeling like an appreciative audience.) All sorts of topics were introduced by the unhappy boys, who never had a good time when the Glens were present, but all resulted in the same failure to make a general conversation of firmer consistency than monosyllables.

"But you must come out to camp," said Nat in desperation. "We have the jolliest quarters, on a high knoll, just off the lake front and not too far from the hotel--a hotel is not bad to have around when a good blow takes the roof off your head at midnight."

"Oh, my!" exclaimed Rosabel, "you do not mean to say that your tents blow away in the night?"

"Not a bit particular as to time--night or day," went on the young man, "so long as they get away. Last time Ned clung to the ropes and the campers missed something for it was awfully dark."

"And you really were carried up by the force of the wind?" gasped the polite girl.

"And let down by it," admitted Ned, "I have a souvenir yet," rubbing his left arm.

"And girls camp!" gasped the one from the other cottage.

"Heaps of them. They're the best neighbors we've got. There's Camp Deb (all debutants you know), and I tell you their social guardians know how to fix them up for the season. They make a fellow think of the way fowls are treated before holiday time?"

"Oh," almost shrieked Rosabel, "Please don't!"

"But you ought to look into the treatment. I tell you those girls are beauts. They get fun, exercise, fresh air and have the last good time they ever expect to have in this world. Poor dears, they must all be engaged next season, you know."

Dorothy and Tavia were enjoying this, Rosabel had seemed to forget their presence, she at once became so absorbed in the society talk.

"I would like to visit camp," she ventured.

"Come along then," said Nat good naturedly, "Our girls are coming out to-morrow."

Tavia gave a significant sigh. Who could have any fun "with that door- bell floral piece tagging on," she thought.

Mrs. Glen was appealed to and it was finally arranged that she, Mrs. White, and the younger set should go on the following afternoon to visit Camp Hard Tack.

When the nine o'clock bell rang the visitors promptly rose to go, nor were they detained by any overwhelming entreaties to prolong their stay.

"Of all the sticks," began Ned, when they were at a safe distance.

"Hush, Neddie, Rosabel is being properly brought up," interrupted Mrs. White with more smiles than frowns.

"Properly! Save the mark! And if I had been a girl would you have done that to me? I did hope that Dorothy might be made comfortable here for some time, but if that is contagious I'll take her home myself. A case like that must be fatal," and Ned shook his head seriously.

"And her cheeks?" asked Nat, "what do you call that?"

"The very best," replied Tavia, "I know that kind is two dollars an ounce. I saw it in Rochester."

"Then we'll fix her out at camp," decided Nat. "We will put up some kind of a game that calls for a face wash and a forfeit. If Rosy objects I'll get the boys to wash it for her."

"Oh, that would be rude," insisted Dorothy.

"Not for campers," insisted the unquenchable Nat, "It might be for ministers, but not for campers."

It was not late enough to leave the porch, so the talk drifted to Dalton matters.

"Now Dot," began Ned, "I'd like to hear more of the 'chaser' business. I am sure we have all heard the wrong story of it, and even at that I must admit it is not so slow--rather interesting. Give us the right version."

"Let Tavia tell it," Dorothy begged off.

"Well, who did the fellow turn out to be?" asked Ned.

"He hasn't turned out yet," replied Tavia. "The last we heard of him he tried to throw Dorothy over the falls--"

"Scamp," interrupted Ned. "Pity there's no fellows in Dalton big enough to lick a fellow like that."

"Oh, there are plenty of them," declared Dorothy, at once up in arms for the Dalton boys. "But he is such a coward he never appears except when he is sure we are alone."

"The entire boys' school hunted for him that day in the woods," added Tavia, "but he got away."

"What on earth is he after?" went on Ned.

"The Burlock money," promptly replied Dorothy. "At first we did not know that, but there is no doubt of it now. When he grabbed me he hissed into my ear, 'Did Miles Burlock leave his money with your father?' Oh!" exclaimed Dorothy, "I can't bear to think of it yet."

"Excuse me, coz," spoke up Ned, "perhaps I should not have made you think of it."

"Indeed, I scarcely ever get it out of my mind. It just haunts me."

"That's why she left school," Tavia reminded them, "And I left to keep her company," she finished with a merry laugh at the idea, and its evident consequences.

"A blessing all around," said Nat. "What would we have done if neither of you left and we got left--for this good time. I hope mom will kidnap Dorothy."

"Indeed you cannot have her," declared Tavia. "I should pine away and die at Dalton without her."

"Then stay at Birchland," suggested Ned. "Plenty of room."

"But what does the fellow want with the Burlock money?" asked Nat, getting back to the interesting affair that still remained so much of a mystery.

"It's a long story," began Dorothy, "and it has not all been told yet. Burlock was, in some way, in Anderson's power. I was with father when poor Mr. Burlock told us about it. He declared it was all the result of too much liberty in youth and bad company?"

"Be warned, Nat, my boy," interrupted Ned, jokingly. "I must have the mater cut you down. 'And he rambled till the mater cut him down,'" hummed the brother, paraphrasing the butcher song.

"Spare the allowance and cut anything else down you like," answered Nat. "But please do not interrupt again."

"Then it seems," went on Dorothy, "Mr. Burlock had a lot of money left him. From that time on this Anderson followed Mr. Burlock and even succeeded in separating him from his family."

"But how did Burlock hold on to the cash all that time?" asked Ned.

"Oh, that was kept for him. He only had the interest of it. But lately a Mrs. Douglass, of Dalton, died; she had charge of the money because Mr. Burlock was not considered capable of taking care of it himself."

"And now," said Ned, "the major has it, and Anderson is trying to get it away by means of information he hopes to get from the major's daughter? Easy as a, b, c. But to whom is the money left?"

"To an unknown or unfound daughter," said Dorothy. "Her name is Nellie or Helen Burlock, and it was in hopes of locating her, upon a false clew which Anderson sent, that poor Mr. Burlock met his death."

"But Dorothy had him all fixed for heaven," said Tavia. "Yes, if ever a man died, hoping to be forgiven, it was Miles Burlock. Those who were with him said so, and it was all Dorothy's doings. I must admit I did joke her about it," Tavia said earnestly, "but she had done so many things girls never do, and she was not strong enough to keep it up, so we all had to try to discourage it. But you will have to come to Dalton to hear her praises sung. She is a regular home missionary--the kind they tell about in meetings, but who are too busy to come and talk about themselves."

"I am sure Dorothy is an angel," said Nat, putting his arm affectionately around his cousin. "I only hope she will save some of her goodness for me--I do need a mission."

"Indeed," answered Dorothy, "joking aside, you boys are very good and so attentive to your mother. She told me so herself."

"Oh," gasped Nat, "when did she say that? Is it too late to make a strike now? I am horribly short--shore dinner this week you know."

"And there's Nellie," resumed Ned, determined to get at the bottom of the Burlock story. "Now she's to have money. What do you say, Nat, if we get on the case? Nellie might make it all right, you know."

"Great scheme, boy," said Nat, "you do the finding and I will act as your attorney."

"Isn't there any clue?" asked Ned.

"Yes, father is working on one, and I am so anxious to hear the result," said Dorothy. "Of course he will not write about it. I expect there will be lots of news when we get back to Dalton."

Tavia had been silent for some time. The boys had failed to "wake up her jokes," as they expressed it.

"Look here," said Ned tipping her chair back in a perilous way. "You can't claim to be sleepy for your eyes are just like stars. Nor need you pretend to be weeping inwardly for the coil of taffy we all forgot to bring back from Mikes' (if anything happens to that hair I'll have his license revoked), so now own up, what are you moping about?"

Dorothy was at Tavia's side instantly.

"You are tired, dear," she said. "Perhaps you are weak from shock. Let's go in."

"Indeed I'm all right--" stammered Tavia, but a hot tear fell on Dorothy's hand, and told a different story.

"Homesick!" whispered Ned as he kissed Dorothy good night. "She'll be all right to-morrow."