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   Chapter 2 THE SECRET

A Dear Little Girl at School By Amy Ella Blanchard Characters: 13881

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Cousin Ben striding along did not at first see the little girl, but at her calling "Cousin Ben, Cousin Ben," he stopped short.

"Why, you little monkey, what are you doing here?" he said. "The bugaboos will catch you here in these dark woods."

"There isn't such a thing as bugaboos," returned Edna stoutly, "and I should be very silly to think so, but something will catch you if you don't look out."

"'The gob-e-lins will get you if you don't look out,'" replied Cousin Ben, laughing. "Is that what you are trying to say? If you are not afraid of bugaboos neither am I afraid of goblins. What do you think is going to get a big fellow like me?"

"Why," said Edna at once becoming serious, "I will tell you; I heard some college boys talking back there by the edge of the woods."

"You did? and what did they say?"

"They said: 'We'll nab him as he comes out, boys.'"

"Humph! What did they look like? Did you know any of them?"

"The one who said that was John Fielding, and there was another that I've seen before. He sits back of our pew at church."

"Sophs, both of them, and did you come all this way to tell me about it?"

"Why, yes, I was afraid they wanted to haze you."

"What do you know about hazing?"

"Mother told me about a young man who nearly died of pneumonia because some of the boys doused him in cold water, in a pond or something."

"And you didn't want me to have pneumonia. I won't on this occasion, I promise you. I think we can circumnavigate those fellows. I won't see Johnny-jump-up to-day."

Edna laughed. "Won't they be disappointed?"

"They will that. Now come along and let's get out of here."

"Which way shall we go?"

"Oh, we will take the back road and come out there below the MacDonald barn so they won't get a hint of our coming home, for the barn is below the woods, you know. It is a little further, but I hope you don't mind that."

"No, indeed, I am so glad to have you get out of the way of those boys."

"If I can manage to side-track them for a while perhaps they won't be so keen. I thought they had it in for me, and have been rather expecting an onslaught."

They cut through the woods, coming out the other side and taking a short road not much used, which brought them out a little distance from the main road which was then easily reached. "Now we're safe," said Edna with satisfaction as she saw her own gate.

"We? You don't suppose they'd haze you, do you?"

"Oh, no, but I feel safer when I am near home."

Ben dropped his bantering tone when they came up to the gate. "I say, Edna," he said, "you are a real Trojan to do this for me, and I shall not forget it in a hurry. Lots of big girls and boys, too, would have let the thing go, and not have taken the trouble. I am a thousand times obliged to you."

"Oh, but I wanted to do it, you know. I should have been very unhappy if anything had happened to you."

"I believe you would," returned Ben seriously; and they went in the house together.

This was the last Edna heard of hazing and if Cousin Ben was ever caught he did not tell her or anyone else.

Monday came around quite soon enough and Edna started off with her sister Celia to go to the city. It seemed quite natural to be back in the room which she had occupied the year before, only now Celia would share it with her. Ada was put in her old place on a little chair, her trunk by her side, and then the two girls went down to the school-room where a number of the pupils had already gathered. One of these was Clara Adams, a little girl whom Edna was sorry to see entering the school that year. She was a spoiled, discontented child who was continually pouting over some fancied grievance, and was what Dorothy and Edna called "fusty." For some reason she was always trying to pick a quarrel with Edna, and by the whispering which went on when Edna entered the room and the sidelong looks which were cast at her, as two or three girls, with hands to mouths, nudged one another, she felt sure that on this special occasion she was being talked about. However, she paid no attention to this little group but went over to where Dorothy was sitting and began to tell her about the preserves which Celia had successfully given in Ellen's charge.

At recess the same group of girls which had been whispering in the morning, again gathered in one corner and began their talk in low tones. Clara Adams was in the centre and it was she to whom the others were all looking. Clara was a favorite because of her wealth rather than because of her disposition, and she had followers who liked to have it said that they were intimate with her.

"What do you suppose they are talking about?" said Dorothy after a while.

"I'm sure I don't know and what's more I don't care," replied Edna. "Do you care, Dorothy?"

"Oh, I don't know; just a little, I think. See, they are going over and whispering to Molly Clark, and she is getting up and going over there. I wonder what it is all about."

Edna wondered, too, but neither she nor Dorothy found out that day. The same thing went on the next day. One by one most of the girls whom Edna and Dorothy liked the best were seen to join the little company of whisperers, and whenever Clara Adams would pass the two friends she would give them a look as much as to say: Wouldn't you like to know what we know?

"I think it is just horrid mean of them," said Dorothy when the next day came and they were no nearer to knowing the secret than they had been in the beginning.

"I heard Molly say something about to-morrow afternoon," said Edna. "They are all going to do something or go somewhere. I am going to tell sister, so I am."

"And I'll tell my sister. Maybe they know something about it, Edna."

They lost no time in seeking out their sisters to whom they made known the state of affairs. "And they are getting hold of nearly all the nicest girls," complained Edna. "Molly Clark, and Ruth Cutting and all those. They haven't said anything to Margaret, for I asked her. She isn't here to-day."

"Have you any idea what they are going to do?" Dorothy asked her sister.

"I have an idea, but it may not be right."

"Oh, tell us, do." The two younger girls were very eager.

Agnes leaned over and said in a low voice, "I believe they are getting up some sort of club."

"Oh!" This idea had never occurred to either of the little girls before.

"And they don't want us in it," said Edna, "I wonder why."

"It is all that horrid Clara Adams," declared Dorothy. "She is jealous of you because you always know your lessons and behave yourself, and she don't like me because I go with you and won't give you up for her."

"How do you know?" asked Edna.

"I know," returned Dorothy, and then she shut her lips very tightly.

"All the girls used to like us," said Edna sadly.

"Bless your dear heart," said Agnes drawing the child to her, "I shouldn't car

e. They will be sorry enough after a while, you may be sure, and will wish they had treated you two better. Celia, we mustn't let those little whippersnappers have it all their own way. Never you mind, children, we'll do something, too. Celia and I will talk it over and let you know to-morrow. You and Celia come up to our house Saturday afternoon and we'll see if we can get Margaret and perhaps one or two others. Now run along and let us talk over a plan I have."

The two went off joyously, arms around one another. When Agnes championed their cause there was no more reason to be troubled, and they finished their recess in a corner by themselves quite content.

There were not more than a dozen little girls in the class and when half of these had gone over to the enemy, and one or two were absent it left a very small number for Edna and Dorothy to count upon, but they did not care after the older girls had taken up their cause, and they cast quite as independent looks at Clara as she did at them. They would have a secret too. "And it will be a great deal nicer than theirs," declared Dorothy. So when the bell rang they went back to their seats in a very happy frame of mind.

The next day a new pupil appeared and at recess she was swooped down upon by one of Clara's friends and was borne away, but after a while she left the group and went back to her seat. Dorothy and Edna were out in the school yard playing, but when they came in the new scholar looked smilingly at Edna and after a while she made her way to where they were standing. "Isn't this Edna Conway?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm Edna," was the reply from the little round-faced girl who smiled at her.

"I'm Jennie Ramsey, and my mother told me to be sure to speak to you and tell you I was at the fair last year and I was so glad when you got the doll."

"Oh, were you there?" Edna looked pleased. "I am so glad you have come here to school. This is Dorothy Evans."

Jennie and Dorothy smiled at each other and Edna went on. "Dorothy don't you remember about Mrs. Ramsey who took so much trouble to get Margaret away from that dreadful woman? She must be a lovely mother, for she was so dear to Margaret."

"Do tell me about her," said Jennie. "I have been so much interested, for mother told me all about how you ran against her in the street and how you won the doll for her and all about her being adopted so I did hope I should know you some day. I'd like to be friends, if you will let me."

"Oh, I'd love to be," Edna spoke heartily, "and I am so glad you know about Margaret. She comes here to school, but of course she isn't very happy about having to be in the class with such little girls. Mrs. MacDonald is talking of getting a governess for her till she can catch up a little, but we shall be sorry to have her not come here."

"Do you know Clara Adams?" Dorothy asked. "I mean did you know her before you came to school?"

"Yes, I know her. She is in my Sunday-school class," returned Jennie, but she said nothing more, yet both the other two felt quite sure that there was no likelihood of Jennie's going over to the other faction. Then the bell rang and they all took their seats.

"Don't you like her?" whispered Edna before Miss Ashurst had taken her place.

Dorothy nodded yes, and glanced across at Clara who curled her lip scornfully.

When school was dismissed Jennie and Dorothy walked home together. Agnes and Dorothy remained in the city during the week just as the two Conway sisters had begun to do. Edna sought her sister Celia after dinner when the two had their study hour. "Isn't it nice," said Edna, "Jennie Ramsey has come to school, and she is such a nice little girl. I heard Uncle Justus say once that Mrs. Ramsey was much wealthier than Mrs. Adams but that one never saw her making any pretence because of her money. What is pretence, sister?"

"It is pretending, I suppose. I think he meant she didn't put on airs because of having money."

Edna nodded. She quite understood. "Wasn't it lovely for Jennie to want to be friends? She said her mother told her to be sure to speak to me, and, oh, sister, we saw one of the other girls go over and try to get her to join Clara's set and she didn't stay but came over to us. She said she knew Clara but I don't believe she likes her. Did you and Agnes talk about, you know what?"

"Yes, and we'll tell you but you mustn't ask me any questions now for I shall not answer. Now let us get to work or Aunt Elizabeth will be down on us for talking in study hour."

Edna turned her attention to her books and in a moment was not thinking of anything but her geography.

She could scarcely wait till the next day, however, when she and Dorothy should learn what Agnes had planned, but alas, she was not allowed this pleasure for Aunt Elizabeth called her from the school-room just at recess and took her down to see Miss Martin, the daughter of the rector of the church. Of course Edna was very glad to see Miss Martin, for she was very fond of her, but she did wish she had chosen some other day to call, and not only was Edna required to remain down in the parlor during the whole of recess but she was again summoned before she had a chance to speak a word to anyone at the close of school. This time it was to run an errand to the shop where an order had been forgotten and Edna was despatched to bring home the required article, Ellen being too busy to be spared.

She felt rather out of sorts at having both of her opportunities taken from her. "I don't see why they couldn't have sent sister," she said to herself, "or why they couldn't do without rice for just this once. I should think something else would be better, anyway, for dessert than rice and sugar." But there was no arranging Aunt Elizabeth's affairs for her and when the dish of rice appeared Edna was obliged to eat it in place of any other dessert. Her ill humor passed away, however, when Uncle Justus looked at her from under his shaggy brows and asked her if she didn't want to go to Captain Doane's with him. This was a place which always delighted her, for Captain Doane had been all over the world and had brought back with him all sorts of curiosities. Moreover, there was always a supply of preserved ginger taken from a queer jar with twisted handles, and there was also an especially toothsome cake which the captain's housekeeper served, so Edna felt that the feast in store for her, quite made up for the poverty of a dessert of boiled rice and sugar.

She wondered that Celia was not also asked to go, but she remembered that Celia did not know Captain Doane, and that probably she would think it very stupid to play with shells and other queer things while two old gentlemen talked on politics or some such dry subject. Therefore she went off very happily, rather glad that after all there was a pleasure for this day and one in prospect for the morrow.

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