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CHAPTER XXV


FUTURE PLANS


Betty's first impulse was to run up to her room and close the door. Then she sat down on the edge of the bed and tore open the envelope eagerly. She read the half dozen closely written sheets through twice, thrust them back into the envelope, and ran down to tell the Littells the good news.

"I've heard from Uncle Dick!" she cried radiantly, facing them as they turned at her entrance. Betty's vivid personality often betrayed her mood without a word, and to-night she was vibrant with happiness so that she fairly glowed. "He has just got back to Flame City, where he found the telegram and my letters. And he wants me to come out to him, as he expects to be there for the next few months. He's been on a long prospecting trip, and he can't get East till his company sends out another representative. You may read the letter!"

She thrust it into Mr. Littell's hands and buried her head on Mrs. Littell's broad shoulder.

"I'm so happy!" she choked, while the motherly hands smoothed her hair understandingly.

"It's been so long, and I was afraid he might have died—like my mother. I don't think I could stand it if Uncle Dick should die—he's the only one who belongs to me."

"Why, Betty, child!" Mrs. Littell gathered her into her lap and rocked her gently as though she had been a little child. "You're nervous and unstrung. We ought to have taken better care of you and not let this waiting wear you out so."

"If you're going to cry, Betty, so'll I," promised Bobby, putting an awkward arm around Betty's neck. Bobby was as undemonstrative as a boy and rarely kissed any one. "What in the wide world are we going to do without you?"

Betty sat up and pushed the damp hair from her forehead. The four girls were regarding her dolorously.

"I won't stay forever," she assured them. "Uncle Dick doesn't intend to live out there, you know. The company he represents will likely send him East this very winter."

"Well, that's a mighty interesting letter," commented Mr. Littell, folding up the missive and returning it to Betty. "Though you're going to leave a hole in this household, Sister, when you set sail. You see, he's been out of sight and hearing of trains and post-offices for a long time. I'd like to be able to lose myself in the desert or a wilderness for a month or two. Think of having no telephone bell to answer!"

The next morning a letter came to Mr. Littell from Mr. Gordon, thanking him warmly for his kindness to Betty, containing the assurance of the writer's lasting gratitude, and asking him if he and his wife would oversee her preparations for the journey, help her engage a berth, and start her on her way. A generous check was enclosed, and Mrs. Littell and the girls immediately set about helping Betty do the necessary shopping, while Mr. Littell engaged her reservations on the Western Limited. She had decided to leave the following Wednesday, and when Bob came out to spend the week-end, he immediately announced his intention of going too.

"I figure out Flame City is the nearest station to my aunt's old place. I have enough money saved now, and there's no reason why I should stay on here. Hurrah for Oklahoma!"

The preparations went forward merrily after that, and Wednesday found Betty on the Western Limited, bound for Flame City. What happened to her there and her experience in the great oil fields will be told in another volume to be called, "Betty Gordon in the Land of Oil; or, The Farm That Was Worth a Fortune."

Bobby insisted that they make the week-end at Fairfields a farewell celebration to be remembered, and the six young people managed to get the maximum of enjoyment out of every hour. Bob had been brought out to Saturday luncheon, and as soon as he had heard about the Oklahoma trip and announced his own plans, Louise insisted that Betty was to have a lesson in riding.

"Of course you'll want to ride out West," she said. "They all do in pictures. Come on out to the barn, and we'll get the ponies out."

A stable boy brought out a gentle, coal-black pony, and Betty mounted him trustingly.

"Why, it's lovely!" cried Betty, enjoying the sensation to the full. "He goes like a rocking chair, bless his heart! I'm sure I can learn to ride."

"Of course you can!" Bobby encouraged her swiftly. "You must try him at a slow canter in a minute. Here comes Esther with the camera."

A picture of Betty was taken, and then the lesson was resumed. At the close of the afternoon Bobby announced that Betty was in a fair way to become a good horsewoman.

Mr. and Mrs. Littell took them into Washington to the theater that night, and to make up the hours of lost sleep all the young people slept late the next morning.

Instead of going into Washington to church, they all went to the little country church that Mrs. Littell attended and loved, and after the service they spent a quiet, pleasant day about the house and grounds of Fairfields.

That evening the five girls and Bob gathered on the spacious white steps of the house to watch the beautiful Virginia sunset.

"Let's promise each other," suggested Betty, her pretty face serious and thoughtful, "to meet five years from now, wherever we may be, and compare notes. We'll be almost grown up then and know what we're going to be."

"No matter how often we meet, or how seldom, five years from to-day we'll promise to come together," agreed Bobby. "Here's my seal."

She put out her hand and the hands of the six interlocked in a tower.

"To our close friendship," murmured Betty, as they unclasped.

Then, the sun having set, they went into the glow and welcome of the lighted lamps.


THE END