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   Chapter 9 THE PUZZLE

A Dear Little Girl at School By Amy Ella Blanchard Characters: 14137

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


When Edna awoke on Saturday morning her first thought was of Nettie and she scrambled out of bed that she might not lose a moment's time in telling her of the discovery she had made the night before. She hurried through her breakfast and was off to the little house as soon as she had been given leave by her mother. She carried the page of her father's paper safely folded in her hand, and ran nearly all the way, arriving breathless. She could scarcely wait for Nettie to open to her knock, and her words tumbled over each other as she replied to Nettie's greeting of "How nice and early you are," by saying, "Oh, I have something so nice to tell you."

"You had something nice to tell me when you came last evening," returned Nettie; "you don't mean to say there is anything more."

"Yes, I've found a way that maybe you can make some money, a dollar."

This was exciting, "Oh, do tell me quick," returned Nettie.

Edna hastily began to open the paper she carried, and then she thrust it before Nettie, pointing to a line and saying, "There, read that."

Nettie did as she was told, her eyes eagerly running over the words. "Oh, Edna," she said, "do you believe we could do it?"

"Why, of course, but you see the main thing is to get it done as quickly as possible, for the one who gets the answer to the puzzle the quickest and who has the clearest answer will get the first prize. Maybe we couldn't get the very first, but we could get the second, and that's a dollar. We must set to work right away. I thought we'd do the best we could and then we'd get Cousin Ben to fix it up for us."

"Would that be right?"

"Oh, I think so, for it doesn't say you mustn't have any help; it just says the one who sends it in the soonest. I left a note for Cousin Ben to stop here if he had time this morning."

"Do you think he will?"

"If he has time. I told him it was something very particular. You don't mind his knowing, do you, Nettie? He won't tell, I am sure. You don't know how well he can keep a secret."

"No, I don't mind," Nettie replied, "because he has been here and knows all about everything."

"Then let's go at it."

"I must finish the dishes first."

"Then would you rather I should help you with them or start on the puzzle?"

"I think you'd better start on the puzzle."

"Very well. I've been thinking a little about it, and I believe I've guessed part. They are in the paper every week on Fridays, and I often do them, but this is the first time I've noticed that a prize has been offered."

She took off her coat and hat, sat down at the table and spread out the paper before her. Nettie furnished paper and pencil and then went back to her work in the kitchen. The two were busying their brains over the puzzle when Ben appeared an hour later.

"Hallo," he said, "what's up, kiddies?"

"Why you see," Edna began, "Nettie has been taken into the club, and when her time comes to have the club meeting she won't have any way of getting the refreshments, so we thought and thought of what we could do to get some money, and last night I saw in the Children's Corner of the Times that they would give prizes for guessing a puzzle, you know those puzzles, Cousin Ben."

"Yes, my child, I knew them of yore."

"Well, don't you see if we can only guess this one quick and can send in the answer right away we might get a dollar, anyhow. We have guessed a lot of it, but I thought maybe you could help us a little and tell us how to fix it up very nicely. Have you very much to do to-day?"

"Not so much but that I can spare you a little time for such laudable ambition. Where's your puzzle?"

Edna produced the paper and then showed him what they had already done. "Do you think it is right as far as we've gone?" she asked anxiously.

He looked over the page she offered him. "Pretty good so far. Let me see. I think that must be John B. J on B. you see."

"Of course, it is, why didn't we think of that? And this one, what do you think that can be?"

Ben looked at this thoughtfully, and presently declared he had it. So bit by bit the puzzle was completed and within an hour was in such shape as pleased the girls immensely.

"Now," said Ben, "I'll tell you what I can do. I want to take the noon train to town and I'll get this right down to the newspaper office myself; I have to go near there, and so it will reach them much quicker than if it were sent by mail, you see."

"Oh, Cousin Ben, you are a perfect dear!" cried Edna. "I think that is just lovely of you. We are so much obliged, aren't we, Nettie?"

"I am very much obliged to both of you," returned Nettie sedately. Edna's interest was so great that she forgot she was not doing this for herself at all.

"Shall we tell your mother?" asked Edna when Ben had gone, promising that he would attend to the puzzle the very first thing.

"Why-" Nettie hesitated, "I'd like to have her know and yet I would love dearly to have it for a surprise if we did win. When do you suppose we will know?"

"Not before next Friday, I suppose, but that will be soon enough, won't it?"

"Yes, except that I can scarcely wait to know, and it is hard to keep a secret from your mother that long."

"Why don't you tell her that you have a secret and that you can't tell her till Friday?"

"I might do that, but then suppose I shouldn't win; we would both be disappointed."

"What did you tell her just now that we were all doing?"

"I told her we were doing a puzzle, and she said as long as I had done my morning's work I could stay with you. I have still my stockings to darn, but I can do those this afternoon. Mother always lets me do them when I choose; so long as I get them done before Sunday, that is all she asks."

Edna looked very sympathetic. She did not have to do her stockings nowadays, though she remembered that it had been one of the week's tasks when she was staying with Aunt Elizabeth, and it was one she much disliked. She stayed a little while longer and then returned home, for Dorothy was coming that afternoon and they were both going over to see Margaret to make what Dorothy said was their party call.

The weather was quite mild; already the buds were beginning to swell on the trees, and the crocuses were starting up in the little grass plot in front of Nettie's home. Edna stopped to look at them as she passed out. She was full of Nettie's secret but she had promised not to tell. She wished Cousin Ben would come back so she could talk it over with him, but he was not to return till late in the day and meantime she must occupy herself and not say a word of what was uppermost in her mind.

She found Celia and Agnes in the library talking earnestly. There was a pleasant aroma of gingerbread pervading the house, and the fire in the open grate looked very cheerful. What a dear place home was, and how glad she was always to get back to it. Agnes held out her hand as she came in. "Well, chickabiddy," she said, "where have you been? You are as rosy as an apple."

"I've been down to Nettie's. I

'm glad I don't have to darn my stockings."

"Does Nettie have to?"

"Yes, and she has to wash the dishes, too. I did darn my stockings last year, but Katie does them all this year, so I don't even have to be sorry for mother and think of her doing them, for Katie is paid to do them."

Agnes laughed. "But I have no doubt you would do them just as cheerfully as Nettie does, if you had to do them."

"I don't know about the cheerful part, but I wouldn't yell and scream."

"Let us hope you would not," said Celia. "I should hope you knew better than to behave like that."

"Of course," said Edna. "What were you talking about, you two?"

"Shall we tell her, Agnes?" asked Celia.

"Why not? It will soon be talked over by all of us."

"Well, we were talking of having something very special for the last meeting of the club, after school closes. You see most of the girls go away for the summer, and we shall have to give the club a holiday, too."

"What nice special thing were you thinking of?"

"We thought if we could have some nice little fairy play and have it out of doors, it would be lovely. We would invite our parents and the teachers and have a real big affair."

"How perfectly lovely. What is the play?"

"Oh, dear, we haven't come to that yet. We did think some of having 'Alice in Wonderland,' but that has been done so often. We were wishing for something original."

"Why don't you get Cousin Ben to help you? He has so many funny things to say about the woodsy creatures."

"The very one. Why didn't we think of him before, Agnes? He may be silly about some things, but he would certainly have ideas about that. Where is he, Edna?"

"He has gone in town, and won't be back till late in the afternoon."

"Trust you for keeping track of his movements," said Celia laughing. "I don't believe Ben yawns but Edna knows it. Well, we will see what he says this evening."

"Couldn't you and he come to our house after supper?" asked Agnes.

"I'll find out and 'phone you when he comes in. He doesn't generally have anything special on hand Saturdays, unless something is going on at the Abercrombies'."

This gave Edna a new theme to think of and in consequence she did not find it hard to keep from talking of Nettie's secret when she and Dorothy met that afternoon.

They took the news of the probable play to Margaret who wanted at once to tell Mrs. MacDonald about it. She showed great interest and asked all sorts of questions. "Why couldn't you have it here in my grounds?" she asked. "There is a good place just back of the house where the terrace is. I hope you will let it be Margaret's meeting and let me furnish everything."

"Oh, Mrs. Mac, there will be ever and ever so many people, for we are going to ask our families and the teachers and all those." Edna was quite overpowered.

"Well, what of that? Haven't I as much right to entertain them as any of the others have, and have I less room than my neighbors?"

"Why, no, you have more."

"Very well, then. I put in my plea the first one and I hope you will lay it before your next meeting." She spoke almost as if she were angry but there was a merry little twinkle in her eyes which the girls had come to know well. The next words were, "Go out, Margaret, and ask Lizzie to send in some of the day's baking for your friends. There must be scones, or something of that kind." The girls liked the Scotchy things, as they called them, that Mrs. MacDonald had for them, and the hot scones, with a "wee bittie" of honey or jam were generally as pleasant a treat as they found anywhere.

When Edna had returned from her visit she told Celia of what Mrs. MacDonald had offered and before they had finished talking of it, Cousin Ben came in, and was immediately set upon, though Edna ran out to meet him in the hall that she might whisper, "Did you leave it all right?"

"First thing," he returned. "It couldn't have been an hour from the time I left you before it was at the office."

"Oh, goody, goody!" exclaimed Edna softly, patting her hands together. "Agnes has been here, Cousin Ben, and Celia wants to ask you something. Come into the library, please."

He followed her in and the subject was opened to him of the little fairy play.

He shook his head. "Can't promise. That's a good deal to spring on a fellow unbeknownst. I'll have to think about it."

"But can't you go over to Agnes's this evening to talk it over?" asked Celia.

Now Ben admired Agnes very much, though he would not have it known for the world. "I was going to Abercrombies," he said with apparent reluctance.

"Oh, but you see Will Abercrombie every day," said Celia coaxingly, "and we do so want to have your help, Ben."

"Well, perhaps I can 'phone to Will not to expect me," said Ben giving in. "But if I take hold of this thing you girls will all have to do your part."

"Oh, we will," Celia promised earnestly. "We are none of us up to an original play, but you are."

"Such flattery," laughed Ben. "Well, if I am going to call on ladies I must go up and make myself look respectable."

"He'll do it," said Celia, as soon as her cousin had left the room. "He has as good as promised."

Whatever was said that evening was not reported, but it is enough to say that Ben had promised to see what he could do, and would let them know later when he had gone over the subject more thoroughly, so with this the girls had to be satisfied.

There was no more to be heard of either puzzle or play during the week while school was occupying them all, but on Friday Mrs. MacDonald's offer was presented to the club and unanimously accepted with thanks.

There was no delay in Edna's demand for the evening paper on that Friday, but to her great disappointment her father found that he had left it in the car, and there was no way to get another copy till the next day. Edna was almost in tears, for she had so counted on letting Nettie know the very first thing in the morning.

"I am so sorry," said her father. "I forgot entirely that the Friday issue was the one in which you are always so interested. I will bring you out a copy to-morrow, daughter. I will try not to forget it, but I give you leave to call me up on the long distance, or rather the out-of-town line and get you to remind me. If you will call, say, at about ten o'clock, I will send one of the boys out for it from the office."

This was certainly more than Edna had any right to expect, and she thanked him as heartily as she could, though deep down in her heart the disappointment still lingered and she felt that it would be harder still for Nettie to wait another day.

However, she went early to the little house as she had promised, and saw Nettie at the window on the watch for her. She looked so pleased when she saw her friend that Edna was all the more grieved at having to tell her she must wait till evening. "Oh, I am so glad you have come," cried Nettie as she met her at the door. "I have been watching for you for ages." And she drew her inside.

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