“We can start to-morrow,” said Eleanor. “Bessie—will you tell the girls to get ready? I’ll go and make arrangements, Charlie.”
And so, the next day, after lunch, the Camp Fire Girls, waving their hands to kindly Mrs. Farnham, and making a great fuss over Walter, who drove them to the station, said good-bye for the time, at least, to the farm. And Dolly Ransom, Bessie noticed, took pains to be particularly nice to Walter Stubbs.
“I love traveling,” said Dolly, when they were settled in their places in the train that was to take them up into the hills and on the first stage of the journey to Long Lake. “I like to see new places and new people.”
“Dolly’s never content for very long in one place,” said Eleanor Mercer, who overheard her remark, smiling. “If she had her way she’d be flying all over the country all the time. Wouldn’t you, Dolly?”
“I don’t like to know what’s going to happen next all the time,” said Dolly.
“I know just how you feel,” Bessie surprised her by saying. “I used to think, sometimes, when I was on Paw Hoover’s farm in Hedgeville, that if only I could go to sleep some night without knowing just what was going to happen the next day I’d be happy. It was always the same, too—just the same things to do, and the same places to see—”
“I should think Jake Hoover would have kept you guessing what he was going to do next,” said Dolly, spitefully. “The great big bully! Oh, how glad I was when Will Burns knocked him down the other day!”
“Yes,” admitted Bessie. “I didn’t know just what Jake was going to tell Maw Hoover about me next—but then, you see, I always knew it was something that would get me into trouble, and that I’d either get beaten or get a scolding and have to do without my supper. So even about that it wasn’t very difficult to know what was going to happen.”
“Heavens—I’d have run away long before you did,” said Dolly, with a shudder. “I don’t see how you ever stood it as long as you did, Bessie. It must have been awful.”
“It was, Dolly,” said Eleanor, gravely. “I was there, and I made a point of looking into things, so that if anyone ever blamed me for helping Bessie and Zara to get away, I could explain that I hadn’t just taken Bessie’s word for things. But running away was a pretty hard thing to do. It’s easy to talk about—but where was Bessie to go? She isn’t like you—or she wasn’t.
“She didn’t have a lot of friends, who would have thought it was just a fine joke for her to have to run off that way. If you did it, you’d have a good time, and when you got tired of it, you’d go back to your Aunt Mabel, and she’d scold you a little, and that would be the end of it. You must have thought of trying to get away, Bessie, didn’t you?”
“Oh, I did, Miss Eleanor, often and often. When Jake was very bad, or Maw Hoover was meaner than usual. But it’s just as you say. I was afraid that wherever I went it would be, worse than it was there. I didn’t know where to go or what to do.”