MoboReader > Young Adult > Betty Gordon at Boarding School; Or, The Treasure of Indian Chasm

   Chapter 2 NORMA'S LETTER

Betty Gordon at Boarding School; Or, The Treasure of Indian Chasm By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 11430

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

This was not Betty Gordon's first experience with an oil well set off prematurely, and while she was naturally excited, she was not at all afraid.

"Get on Clover!" shouted Bob. "I do wish you'd ever wear a hat-"

Betty laughed a little as she scrambled into her saddle. Bob, mounting his own horse, wore no hat, but it was a pet grievance of his that Betty persistently scorned headgear whether riding or walking.

"Gallop!" cried Bob. "Shut your eyes if you want to-Clover will follow Reuben."

The white horse set off, his awkward lunge carrying him over the ground swiftly, and the little bay Clover cantered obediently after him. Oil continued to rain down as they headed toward the north.

Betty closed her eyes, clutching her letter and candy box tightly in both hands and letting the reins lie idle on her horse's neck. Clover, galloping now, could be trusted to follow the leading horse.

"Getting better now!" Bob shouted back, turning in his saddle to see that

Betty was safe.

Betty's dark eyes opened and she shook back her hair, making a little face at the taste of oil in her mouth. She slipped Norma Guerin's letter into her pocket, glancing down at her blouse as she did so.

"I'm a perfect sight!" she called to Bob dolorously. "I don't believe I can ever get the oil spots out of this silk."

"Sue the company!" Bob cried, with a grin. "Don't let Clover go to sleep till we're nearer home, Betty."

The girl urged the little bay forward with a whispered word of encouragement, and gradually, very gradually, they began to draw out of the rain of oil.

Betty Gordon was not an Oklahoma girl, though she rode with the effortless ease of a Westerner. She was an orphan, of New England stock, and had come from the East to the oil fields to join her one living relative, a beloved uncle whose interest in oil holdings made an incessant traveler of him.

This Richard Gordon, "Uncle Dick" to Bob Henderson as well as to Betty, had found himself unexpectedly made guardian of his little niece at a time when it was impassible for him to establish a home for her. His time and skill pledged to the oil company he represented, Mr. Gordon had solved the problem of what to do with Betty by sending her to spend the summer with an old childhood friend of his, a Mrs. Peabody who had married a farmer, reputed well-to-do. Betty's experiences, pleasant and otherwise, as a member of the Peabody household, have been told in the first book of this series entitled "Betty Gordon at Bramble Farm; or The Mystery of a Nobody."

She made some true friends during the months she spent with the Peabodys, and perhaps the closest, and certainly the most loyal, was Bob Henderson. A year older than Betty, the fourteen year old Bob, whose life at Bramble Farm had been harsh and unlovely and preceded by nothing brighter than a drab existence at the county poor farm, became the champion of the dark-eyed girl who had smiled at him and suggested that because they were both orphans they had a common bond of friendship.

How Bob Henderson got track of his mother's people and what steps were necessary before he could discover a definite clue, have been related in the second volume of the series, entitled, "Betty Gordon in Washington; or Strange Adventures in a Great City."

In this book Bob and Betty came together again in the Capitol City, and Betty acquired a second "Uncle Dick" in the person of Richard Littell, the father of three lively daughters who innocently kidnapped Betty, only to have the entire family become her firm friends. While in Washington Bob and Betty each received good news that sent them trustfully to Oklahoma, there to meet Uncle Dick Gordon, and later, Bob's own aunts.

The story of the "Saunders' place" and of the unscrupulous sharpers who tried to cheat the old ladies who were the sisters of Bob's dead mother, has been told in the third book about Betty Gordon. This book, "Betty Gordon in the Land of Oil; or The Farm that Was Worth a Fortune," relates the varied experiences of Bob and Betty in the oil section of Oklahoma and the long train of events that culminated in the sale of the Saunders farm for ninety thousand dollars. Uncle Dick had been made guardian of Bob, at his own and the aunts' request, so Bob was now a ward with Betty.

The possession of money, though it meant the difference between poverty and debt and great comfort, had, to date, made very little change in the mode of living of Miss Faith and Miss Charity Saunders, or of their nephew.

This morning he had been delayed by some extra work on the farm, for the oil company did not take possession till the first of the month, now a week away, and Betty had ridden to the oil fields ahead of him. She divided her time between the Saunders' place and the Watterby farm, where she and Bob had stayed when they first came to Flame City.

"Whew!" gasped Bob as they finally emerged from the black curtain of oil. "Of all the messy stuff! Betty, you look as though an oil lamp had exploded in your face."

"Now I'll have to wash my hair again," mourned Betty. "You'd better come to Grandma Watterby's and get tidied up, Bob. It's nearer than your aunts', taking this road; and they always have the stove tank full of hot water."

Bob took this advice, and the sympathetic Watterby family came to the oil-spotted pair's assistance with copious supplies of hot water, soap and towels and liberal handfuls of borax, for the water was very hard. Fortunately, Betty had a clean blouse and skirt at hand (most of her wardrobe was in the guest room at the Saunders farm), and Bob borrowed a clean shirt from Will Watterby, in which the boy, being much smaller than th

e man, looked a little absurd.

"I'm clean, anyway, and that makes me feel good, so why should I care how

I look?" was Bob's defense when his appearance was commented on.

"I'm so hungry," announced Betty, coming out of her room, once more trim and neat, and sniffing the delicious odor of hot waffles. "I wonder if I could pin my hair up in a towel and dry it after lunch?"

"Of course you may," said Mrs. Will Watterby warmly. "Did you fix a place for Betty, Grandma?"

"What a silly question, Emma," reproved old Grandma Watterby severely. "Here, Betty, you sit next to me, and Bob can have Will's place. He's gone over to Flame City with a bolt he wants the blacksmith to tinker up."

Ki, the Indian who helped with the farm work, smiled at Betty but said nothing more than the single "Howdy," which was his stock form of salutation. Mrs. Watterby's waffles were quite as good as they smelled, and she apparently had mixed an inexhaustible quantity of batter. Every one ate rapidly and in comparative silence, a habit to which Bob and Betty were by now quite accustomed. When Mr. Gordon was present he insisted on a little conversation, but his presence was lacking to-day.

"You go right out in the sun and dry your hair, Betty," said Mrs. Watterby, when the meal was over. "No, I don't need any help with the dishes. Grandma and me, we're going over to town in the car this afternoon and I don't care whether I do the dishes till I come back or not."

This, for Mrs. Watterby, was a great step forward. Before the purchase of the automobile, bought with a legacy inherited by Grandma Watterby, dishes and housework had been the sum total of Mrs. Will Watterby's existence. Now that she could drive the car and get away from her kitchen sink at will, she seemed another woman.

Betty voiced something of this to Bob as she unfastened the towel and let her heavy dark hair fall over her shoulders. She was sitting on the back porch where the afternoon sun shone unobstructed.

"Yes, I guess automobiles are a good thing," admitted Bob absently. "I want Aunt Faith to get one. A runabout would be handy for them-one like Doctor Guerin's. Remember, Betty?"

"My goodness, I haven't read Norma's letter!" said Betty hastily. "I left it in my other blouse. Wait a minute, and I'll get it."

She dashed into the house and was back again in a moment, the letter Bob had handed her just before the shower of oil, in her hand.

Bob, in his favorite attitude of lying on his back and staring at the sky, was startled by an exclamation before Betty had finished the first page of the closely written missive.

"What's the matter?" he demanded, sitting up. "Anybody sick?"

"Oh, Bob, such fun!" Betty's eyes danced with pleasure. "What do you think! Norma and Alice Guerin are going to Shadyside!"

"Well, I'm willing to jump with joy, but could you tell me what Shadyside is, and where?" said Bob humbly. "Why do the Guerin girls want to go there?"

"I forgot you didn't know," apologized Betty. "Shadyside is the boarding school, Bob. That's the name of the station, too. It's five hours' ride from Washington. Let's see, there's Bobby and Louise Littell and Libbie, and now Norma and Alice-five girls I know already! I guess I won't be homesick or lonely."

But as she said it she glanced uncertainly at Bob.

That young man snickered, turned it into a cough, and that failing, essayed to whistle.

"Bob, you act too funny for anything!" This time Betty's glance was not one of approval. "What does ail you?"

"Nothing, nothing at all, Betsey," Bob assured her. "I'm my usual charming self. Are Norma and Alice going to Washington first?"

"No. I wish they were," answered Betty, taking up the letter again. "Bob, I'm afraid they're having a hard time with money matters. You know Dr. Guerin is so easy-going he never collects one-third of the bills he sends out, and any one can get his services free if they tell him a hard luck story. Norma writes that she and Alice have always wanted to go to Shadyside because their mother graduated from there when it was only a day school. Mrs. Guerin's people lived around there somewhere. And last year, you know, Norma went to an awfully ordinary school-good enough, I suppose, but not very thorough. She couldn't prepare for college there."

"Well, couldn't we fix it some way for them?" asked Bob interestedly. "I'd do anything in the world for Doctor Guerin. Didn't he row me that time he found us out in the fields at two o'clock in the morning? You think up some way to make him accept some money, Betty."

Doctor Hal Guerin and his wife and daughters had been good friends to Bob and Betty in the Bramble Farm days. The doctor, with a large country practice that brought him more affection and esteem than ready cash, had managed to look after the boy and girl more or less effectively, and Norma, his daughter, had supplied Bob with orders from her school friends for little carved pendants that he made with no better tools than an old knife. This money had been the first Bob had ever earned and had given him his first taste of independence.

"I don't think you could make Doctor Guerin take money, even as a loan," said Betty slowly, in answer to Bob's proposal. "Norma wouldn't like it if she thought her letter had suggested such a thing. What makes it hard for them, I think, is that Mrs. Guerin expected to have quite a fortune some day. Her mother was really wealthy, and she was an only child. I don't know where the money went, but I do know the Guerins never had any of it."

Bob jumped to his feet as she finished the sentence.

"Here's Uncle Dick!" he cried. "Did you see the new well come in, sir?"

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