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Four Girls and a Compact   By: (1862-)

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By Annie Hamilton Donnell



"Wait for T.O.," commanded Loraine, and of course they waited. Loraine's commands were always obeyed, Laura Ann said, because her name was such a queeny one. Nobody else in the little colony the "B Hive" had a queeny name.

"Though I just missed it," sighed Laura Ann. "Think what a little step from Loraine to Laur' Ann! I always just miss things."

T.O. was apt to be late. She never rode, and, being short, was not a remarkable walker. To night she was later than usual. The three other girls got into kimonos and slippers and prepared tea. In all their minds the Grand Plan was fomenting, and it was not easy to wait. A cheer greeted T.O. as she came in, wet and weary and cheerful.

"You're overdue, my dear," Loraine said severely. But of course T.O. laughed and offered a weak pun:

"The 'dew' is over me, you mean! Oh, girls, this looks too cozy for anything in here! All the way up town I've been blessing you three for taking me in."

Said Laura Ann: "If I were pun mad, like some folks, I could do something quite smart there. But there, you poor, wet dear! You sha'n't be outdone in your specialty, no you sha'n't! Get off your things quick, dear we're all bursting to talk about the Grand Plan."

It was, after all, Billy that started in. Billy was very tired indeed, and her lean, eager face was pale.

"Girls, we must! " she said. "I can't hold out more than a few weeks more. I shall be a mental wreck and go 'round muttering, one two three four, one two three four flat your b's, sharp your c's one two three four play! " For Billy all day toiled at pianos, teaching unwilling little persons to play. Billy's long name was Wilhelmina.

They were all toilers worker B's. The "B" part of the name which they had given to the little colony came from the accident of all their surnames beginning with that letter Brown, Bent, Baker, Byers. It was, they all agreed, a happy accident; the "B Hive" sounded so well. But, as Laura Ann said, it entailed things, notably industry.

Laura Ann finished negatives part of the day to earn money to learn to paint the other part. She was poor, but the same good grit that made her loyal to her old grandmother's name, unshortened and unbeautified, gave her courage to work on toward the distant goal.

Loraine taught "just everlastingly taught," she said, until she could do it with her eyes shut. Cube root, all historic dates, all x, y, z's, were as printing to her, dinned into the warp and woof of her by patient reiteration. She was very tired, too. The rest of the long June days stretched ahead of her in weary perspective.

That these three had drifted together in the great city was sufficiently curious, but more curious yet was the "drifting together" of T.O. a plain little clerk in a great department store. She, herself, humbly acknowledged that she did not seem to "belong," but here she was, divesting herself of her wet wraps and getting ready for tea in the tiny flat. Handkerchiefs, initialed, "warranted," uninitialed, unwarranted were behind her and ahead, but between she forgot their existence and took her comfort.

"Well?" she said presently. "I'm ready." They sat down to the simple little meal without further delay and with the first mouthfuls opened again the rather time worn discussion. Could they adopt the Grand Plan? Oh, couldn't they? To get out of the hot, teeming city and breathe air enough and pure enough, to luxuriate in idleness, to rest to a girl, they longed for it. They were all orphans, and they were all poor. The Grand Plan was ambitious, indefinite, but they could not give it up. They had wintered it and springed it, and clung to it through bright days and dark.

Suddenly Loraine tapped sharply on the table. "All in favor of spending the summer in the country say 'aye,'" she cried, "and say it hard!"




" Aye !" appended Loraine, and said it hard. "It's a vote," she added calmly... Continue reading book >>

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