Chapter VI. At the Swing
 

The strange story of the reformed man filled Dorothy's brain with exciting thoughts that night, and it was almost morning when she finally fell asleep. Even then she dreamed of all;--the fortune her father was to have in trust, the wicked man who had been trying to get it, and the poor wife and child who were hidden away somewhere, perhaps now starving. In her dreams she became Nellie, and she tried, oh, so hard, to find her own father, the dear major. The worry of it even in sleep gave Dorothy a severe headache, and when she awoke she found her nerves still throbbing and her brow hot and feverish.

"Oh, I'll be so glad to go to school to-day," she thought. "I am tired of all this worry, and it will be good to be back with the girls again."

"Doro, let me in! Let me in!" little Roger was calling at her door, and before she had a chance to finish dressing, her little brother had his soft white arms about her neck.

"Now, don't you look. You can't see until I've given you a quart of kisses, then you have to promise not to cry."

"Cry? What for?" she asked.

"Cross your heart, first," he insisted.

Then she saw that his curls were gone.

"Oh, darling!" she exclaimed, "who did it?"

"Jake, the barber. And daddy said so. He said you should not bother with tangles any more. Now don't you dare cry. You promised."

The girl took the little boy in her arms. Why did they do it just that day, when her head ached, and she had so many worries? Those beautiful curls! How she had loved them!

"Now Doro, you are going to cry, 'cause your eyes look like polly-wogs. And you must be glad that I'm a man, like Joe, now," and the boy sprang from her arms, and stood up like a "major" before her.

Then he was a "man," and her baby no longer. It was not the curls so much, but taking her baby from her, that hurt so.

The loving mother-spirit, that had made Dorothy Dale the girl she was, seemed to grow stronger now with every tear that clouded her eyes. Yes, he bad been her baby, and she had loved him with a wonderful love--sent into her heart, she always thought, by the mother in heaven who watched over them both.

"You have been a very good boy," she managed to say, "and Joe is a very good boy, so, if you can be like him, perhaps I will not be so lonely without the other Roger."

It was an hour later that Dorothy met Tavia in the lane and hurried to school with her. Of course she could not tell her friend what it was that made her so quiet, and it really was hard to keep a secret like that of the mysterious man from Tavia.

Perhaps she could tell her in the afternoon, by that time Mr. Burlock would likely have all his affairs attended to and then he said he would tell the town who the man was for whom the people had been looking.

As Dorothy and Tavia came into the schoolyard they saw Sarah Ford on the swing, that hung from a heavy square frame.

Down went Tavia's books on the grass.

"First for a run under!" she called, and instantly a line of girls formed, while Tavia led, of course, with such a "run under" that Sarah tried to jump to save herself from another like it.

"Hold fast!" shouted the next girl, who already had her arms up to the swing board. Then one after another they jumped to reach the board, and send it higher and higher until the girl on the swing threatened to turn over the frame.

"Oh, please stop!" she cried, "there goes the bell!"

One more "good push" sent her up into the air, and the girls were all gone--school was in.

For one moment Sarah held on and then jumped--into the remains of the janitor's rubbish fire!

Sarah Ford picked herself up. Her white dress was covered with soot and dirt. The classes were called by this time, and she could not go into the cloak room.

"Oh, that horrid mean thing, Tavia Travers!" she thought. "I will not give the girls a chance to laugh at me," and, darting out of the gate, she ran down the lane--away from school.

At the end of the lane the girl turned into an orchard and sank down under an apple tree.

Had she really run away from school? She could not turn back now, and what would her father say? He was so severe about school, he never would take any excuse.

The black soot had almost all blown off her dress. If she had not been so proud always, about her looks, perhaps she would not have noticed it much.

"Oh, what will I do to that girl!" she thought. "It was all her fault, and I'll lose my place too."

The sense of bitterness that filled Sarah Ford's heart was an entirely different sentiment from that which animated Tavia Travers when she made up, the "running under" game. The one was the sense of revenge, bitter and cunning; the other was a matter of school girl's fun, pure and simple.

Sitting there on the grass that revengeful spirit took the form of a resolve in Sarah's heart--to "pay back" Tavia Travers.