“Then I won’t do it,” decided Dolly, suddenly. “It’s fun teasing people when they get mad, but what’s the use when they think it’s a joke?”
Bessie had seen little of Dolly in the first days of her acquaintance with the Manasquan Camp Fire, but now, as they appraised one another, knowing that they were to be very intimate during their stay on the farm, Bessie decided that she was going to like her new friend very much.
Not as much as Zara, probably—that would be natural, for Zara was Bessie’s first chum, and her best, and Bessie’s loyalty was one of her chief traits. But she was not the sort of a girl who can have only one friend. Usually girls who say that mean that they can have only one close friend at a time, and what happens is that they have innumerable chums, each of whom seems to be the best while the friendship lasts. Bessie wanted to be friendly with everyone, and what Eleanor had begun to tell her about Dolly made her think that perhaps the mischief maker of the Camp Fire was lonely like herself.
“You’re just like me—you haven’t any mother or sister, have you?” said Dolly, after they were both in bed.
Bessie was glad of the darkness that hid the quick flush that stained her cheeks. Since she had talked with Brack she was beginning to feel that there was something shameful about her position, although, had she stopped to think, she would have known that no one who knew the facts would blame her, even if her parents had behaved badly in deserting her. And, as a matter of fact, Bessie clung to the belief that her parents had not acted of their own free will in leaving her so long with the Hoovers. She thought, and meant to keep on thinking, that they had been unable to help themselves, and that some time, when good fortune came to them again, she would see them and that they would make up to her in love for all the empty, unhappy years in Hedgeville.
“Yes, I’m like you, Dolly,” she answered, finally. “I don’t know what’s become of my parents. I wish I did.”
“I know what’s become of mine,” said Dolly, her voice suddenly hard—too hard for so young a girl. “My mother’s dead. She died when I was a baby. And my father doesn’t care what becomes of me. He lives in Europe, and once in a while he sends me money but he doesn’t seem to want to see me, ever.”
“Where do you live, Dolly?” asked Bessie.
“Oh, with my Aunt Mabel,” said Dolly. “You’ll see her when we go back to town for I’m going to have you come and visit me if you will. She’s an old maid, and she’s terribly proper, and if ever I start to have any fun she thinks it must be wicked, and tries to make me stop. But I fool her—you just bet I do!”
They were quiet for a minute, and then Dolly broke out again.
“I don’t believe Aunt Mabel ever was young!” she said fiercely. “She doesn’t act as if she’d ever been a girl. And she seems to think I ought to be just as sober and quiet as if I were her age—and she’s fifty! Isn’t that dreadful, Bessie!”