September brought Elsie Banks to make life worth living for Rosalie. The two girls were constantly together, talking over the old days and what the new ones were to bring forth, especially for Miss Gray, who had resumed wood carving as a temporary occupation. Miss Banks was more than ever reluctant to discuss her own affairs, and Rosalie after a few trials was tactful enough to respect her mute appeal. It is doubtful if either of the girls mentioned the name of big, handsome Tom Reddon—Tom, who had rowed in his college crew; but it is safe to say that both of them thought of him more than once those long, soft, autumn nights—nights when Tinkletown’s beaux were fairly tumbling over themselves in the effort to make New York life seem like a flimsy shadow in comparison.
Aderson Crow stood afar off—among the bleak, leafless trees of Badger’s Grove—and gazed thoughtfully, even earnestly, upon the little red schoolhouse with its high brick chimney and snow-clad roof. A biting January wind cut through his whiskers and warmed his nose to a half-broiled shade of red. On the lapel of his overcoat glistened his social and official badges, augmented by a new and particularly shiny emblem of respect bestowed by the citizens of Tinkletown.
At first it had been the sense of the town to erect a monument in recognition of his part in the capture of the Bramble County horse-thief gang, but a thrifty and considerate committee of five substituted a fancy gold badge with suitable inscriptions on both sides, extolling him to the skies “long before he went there hisself” (to quote Uncle Gideon Luce, whose bump of perception was a stubborn prophet when it came to picking out the site of Mr. Crow’s heaven). For a full half hour the marshal of Tinkletown had been standing among the trees surveying the schoolhouse at the foot of the slope. If his frosted cheeks and watery eyes ached for the warmth that urged the curls of smoke to soar away from the chimney-top, his attitude did not betray the fact. He was watching and thinking, and when Anderson thought of one thing he never thought of another at the same time.
“It’ll soon be recess time,” he reflected. “Then I’ll step down there an’ let on to be makin’ a social call on the schoolma’am. By gum, I believe she’s the one! It’ll take some tarnation good work to find out the truth about her, but I guess I c’n do it all right. The only thing I got to guard ag’inst is lettin’ anybody else know of the mystery surroundin’ her. Gosh! it’ll surprise some of the folks ’round here, ‘specially Rosalie. An’ mebby the township trustee won’t be sorry he give the school this year to a strange girl instid o’ to Jane Rankin er Effie Dickens! Congressman Ritchey hadn’t no business puttin’ his nose into our affairs anyhow, no matter if this here teacher is a friend of his fambly. He’s got some kind a holt on these here trustees—’y gosh, I’d like to know what ’tis. He c’n jest wrap ’em round his finger an’ make ’em app’int anybody he likes. Must be politics. There, it’s recess! I’ll jest light out an’ pay the schoolhouse a little visit.”