Elizabeth Ann was thinking to herself that this was one of the queerest things that had happened to her even in this queer place. Never, why never once, had any grown-up, passing the playground of the big brick building, dreamed of such a thing as stopping for a minute to play. They never even looked at the children, any more than if they were in another world. In fact she had felt the school was in another world.
“Ralph, it’s your turn to get the water,” said the teacher, handing him a pail. “Want to go along?” said Ralph gruffly to Ellen and Betsy. He led the way and the little girls walked after him. Now that she was out of a crowd Elizabeth Ann felt all her shyness come down on her like a black cloud, drying up her mouth and turning her hands and feet cold as ice. Into one of these cold hands she felt small, warm fingers slide. She looked down and there was little Molly trotting by her side, turning her blue eyes up trustfully. “Teacher says I can go with you if you’ll take care of me,” she said. “She never lets us first-graders go without somebody bigger to help us over the log.”
As she spoke they came to a small, clear, swift brook, crossed by a big white-birch log. Elizabeth Ann was horribly afraid to set foot on it, but with little Molly’s hand holding tightly to hers she was ashamed to say she was afraid. Ralph skipped across, swinging the pail to show how easy it was for him. Ellen followed more slowly, and then—oh, don’t you wish Aunt Frances could have been there!—Betsy shut her teeth together hard, put Molly ahead of her, took her hand, and started across. As a matter of fact Molly went along as sure-footed as a little goat, having done it a hundred times, and it was she who steadied Elizabeth Ann. But nobody knew this, Molly least of all.
Ralph took a drink out of a tin cup standing on a stump near by, dipped the pail into a deep, clear pool, and started back to the school. Ellen took a drink and offered the cup to Betsy, very shyly, without looking up. After they had all three had a drink they stood there for a moment, much embarrassed. Then Ellen said, in a very small voice, “Do you like dolls with yellow hair the best?”
Now it happened that Elizabeth Ann had very positive convictions on this point which she had never spoken of, because Aunt Frances didn’t really care about dolls. She only pretended to, to be company for her little niece.
“No, I don’t!” answered the little girl emphatically. “I get just sick and tired of always seeing them with that old, bright-yellow hair! I like them to have brown hair, just the way most little girls really do!”
Ellen lifted her eyes and smiled radiantly. “Oh, so do I!” she said. “And that lovely old doll your folks have has got brown hair. Will you let me play with her some time?”
“My folks?” said Elizabeth Ann blankly.
“Why yes, your Aunt Abigail and your Uncle Henry.”