Now that it was all safely over, Betsy thought her story quite an interesting one, and she omitted no detail, although she wondered once or twice if perhaps Uncle Henry were listening to her, he kept so still. “And so I bought the tickets and we got home,” she ended, adding, “Oh, Uncle Henry, you ought to have seen the prize pig! He was too funny!”
They turned into the Putney yard now and saw Aunt Abigail’s bulky form on the porch.
“Got ’em, Abby! All right! No harm done!” shouted Uncle Henry.
Aunt Abigail turned without a word and went back into the house. When the little girls dragged their weary legs in they found her quietly setting out some supper for them on the table, but she was wiping away with her apron the joyful tears which ran down her cheeks, such white cheeks! It seemed so strange to see rosy Aunt Abigail with a face like paper.
“Well, I’m glad to see ye,” she told them soberly. “Sit right down and have some hot milk. I had some all ready.”
The telephone rang, she went into the next room, and they heard her saying, in an unsteady voice: “All right, Ann. They’re here. Your father just brought them in. I haven’t had time to hear about what happened yet. But they’re all right. You’d better come home.”
“That’s your Cousin Ann telephoning from the Marshalls’.”
She herself went and sat down heavily, and when Uncle Henry came in a few minutes later she asked him in a rather weak voice for the ammonia bottle. He rushed for it, got her a fan and a drink of cold water, and hung over her anxiously till the color began to come back into her pale face. “I know just how you feel, Mother,” he said sympathetically. “When I saw ’em standin’ there by the roadside I felt as though somebody had hit me a clip right in the pit of the stomach.”
The little girls ate their supper in a tired daze, not paying any attention to what the grown-ups were saying, until rapid hoofs clicked on the stones outside and Cousin Ann came in quickly, her black eyes snapping.
“Now, for mercy’s sake, tell me what happened,” she said, adding hotly, “and if I don’t give that Maria Wendell a piece of my mind!”
Uncle Henry broke in: “I’M going to tell what happened. I want to do it. You and Mother just listen, just sit right down and listen.” His voice was shaking with feeling, and as he went on and told of Betsy’s afternoon, her fright, her confusion, her forming the plan of coming home on the train and of earning the money for the tickets, he made, for once, no Putney pretense of casual coolness. His old eyes flashed fire as he talked.
Betsy, watching him, felt her heart swell and beat fast in incredulous joy. Why, he was proud of her! She had done something to make the Putney cousins proud of her!
When Uncle Henry came to the part where she went on asking for employment after one and then another refusal, Cousin Ann reached out her long arms and quickly, almost roughly, gathered Betsy up on her lap, holding her close as she listened. Betsy had never before sat on Cousin Ann’s lap.