About noon, Rupert drove Miss Wilton’s horse around to the front door and delivered it to her. With a profusion of thanks, she drove away in the direction of the chairman of the school trustees. Neither Nina nor her mother had said anything about Rupert’s being on the board. Mrs. Ames had once seemed to broach the subject, but a look from Rupert was enough to check her. When the school teacher disappeared down the road, Rupert again shouldered his shovel, and this time the ugly hole where the road crossed the canal was mended. That done, he returned home, hitched a horse to his cart and drove to town.
“Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain.”—Psalms 31:30.
Miss Virginia Wilton was engaged to teach the spring term of school at the Dry Bench schoolhouse. Why that upland strip bordering the mountains should be called “Dry Bench,” Miss Wilton, at first, did not understand. If there was a garden spot in this big, ofttimes barren Western country, more beautiful than Dry Bench, she had in all her rambles failed to find it. But when the secret of the big reservoir up in the hills came to her knowledge, she wondered the more; and one member of the school board from that moment rose to a higher place in her estimation; yes, went past a long row of friends, up, shall it be said to the seat of honor?
Miss Wilton gave general satisfaction, and she was engaged for the next school year.
For one whole year, the school teacher had passed the Ames farm twice each day. She called often on Mrs. Ames, and Nina became her fast friend. During those cool May mornings and afternoons, when the sky was cloudless and the breeze came from the mountains, the young school teacher passed up and down the road and fell to looking with pleasure on the beautiful fields and orchards around her, and especially at the Ames farm the central and most flourishing of them all. Perhaps it would not be fair to analyze her thoughts too closely. She was yet young, only twenty-two—Rupert’s own age; yet Miss Wilton’s experiences in this world’s school were greater than that of the simple young farmer’s.
Had she designs on the Ames farm and its master? She had been in the place a year only. How could such thoughts arise within such a little head? How could such serious schemes brood behind such laughing lips and sparkling eyes? Strange that such should be the case, but truth is ofttimes strange.
Since the railroad had been extended through the valley, the town of Willowby had grown wonderfully. Its long, straight streets enclosing the rectangular squares, had not crept, but had sped swiftly out into the country on all sides, and especially towards the mountains, until now the Ames place was within the corporated city limits. Willowby soon became a shipping point for grain and fruits to the markets which the mining towns to the north afforded. The Ames orchard consisted of the finest fruits which commanded a high price. Yes, the property was fast making its owners rich.