"One at Night by Candle Light"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Royal Book of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 28, 1920.
"Miss Jones, will you kindly stop talking!" snapped the teacher in charge, and Betty with a little wink subsided behind her history book. But who could study with Christmas vacation so near and all sorts of festivities afoot, some of them known to the faculty and some not?
"It'll be the Jim-dandiest spread that ever saw the candle light!" exulted Betty as they hurried to the next class.
During the afternoon Betty's special chums received little messages scribbled on pieces of composition paper:
"One tonight by candle light!"
And at 4 o'clock the two girls, having obtained permission to go to the village drug store, set off for the postoffice with all speed.
Boxes were forbidden at Springdale School for so much candy and cakes were sent to the scholars that Miss Ross had been obliged to stop all of them, or, as she said, have the whole school in the infirmary. But Betty, determined to have one mighty feast before the holidays, had written home for a very special box to be sent to the postoffice addressed merely to "B. Jones." So Betty's mother had followed instructions, and when the two girls arrived at the postoffice and inquired for a box the unsuspecting postmistress handed over a simply huge crate.
"If I'd a known this was yours I'd have sent it along with the rest of the school mail," she explained apologetically. "But it didn't have the school's name on, so I just held it here. What is it?" she asked curiously.
"Just some things for my room," chuckled Betty wickedly.
"We'll have a nice time smuggling this in," said Marion uneasily. "Why do you suppose your mother sent a crate?"
"To keep the pies from getting smashed. And you just leave it to me," said Betty airily.
Half-way down the lane the girls met the grocery wagon and, after a lengthy parley with the boy, Betty persuaded him to take the box in along with the order and leave it in a seldom-used closet in the hall. And before nightfall the mysterious box was safely secreted beneath Betty's bed.
There had been no time to do more than take off the top lid. "But I can trust mother, she knows how to pack a regular box," said Betty proudly.
That night as the old school clock in the office pointed to 1 there was a breathless tiptoed rush through the halls, and without a single creak the twelve pajama clad feasters arrived in Betty's room.
The curtains were down, the keyhole and crack beneath the door carefully stuffed and one big candle sent its flickering beams over the merry faces.
"Now then," whispered Betty, "get ready for some real eats!" She plunged her hand in the box, dragging out the first object that came to hand.
The girls leaned forward as she unwrapped the paper, then Betty herself gave a loud shriek and dropped the object with all speed. No wonder! It was a large bony skull.
With one accord the girls began to scramble away from the box. Loud footsteps down the hall told them that Miss Brown, the teacher in charge of the floor, was already awakened by Betty's scream.
"Wh—what do you 'spose it is?" shuddered Betty, looking at the skull in the spooky candle light.
"Looks like a dinosaur," volunteered a braver member of the company, examining the great bony hollow-eyed head.
"It's a joke," hissed Marion angrily. "Betty Jones, I'll never speak to you again - I'll"
"Sh-h," warned Betty, "here she comes! Let's stand together now, whatever happens."
"Young ladies," came the voice of Miss Brown. Next instant she was standing angrily in their midst.
The box caught her eye immediately.
"Haven't feasts been forbidden? What does this mean?"
Without noticing the skull, she reached into the box and drew out a large package. The paper fell off as she lifted it up, and with starting eyes she found herself clasping a long, flat bone.
"It isn't a feast," put in Betty desperately. "It's a secret meeting. Please, Miss Brown, don't tell on us. It's a secret society - the - the Inferior Order of Fossils."
"W-ell!" Miss Brown showed signs of relenting. "If you go right to bed - " Before she had finished the feasters had melted away into the darkness and Miss Brown, smothering what sounded to Betty like a laugh, retired to her room.
"Wonder what she'd say if she knew it was a real fossil?" gulped Betty, edging away from the box. "And I've got to sleep with it!"
The next morning brought a very pale Betty to the breakfast table, and when Miss Ross called from the office that she was wanted on the phone her knees fairly shook.
"Are you B. Jones?" asked a pleasant voice over the wire.
"Y-es," faltered Betty.
"Well - so am I," continued the nice voice. "And I understand that you got a box yesterday - er - Miss Jones, I fear there has been some mistake - er - I was expecting a rare specimen and I seem to have drawn a - er - pie and other delightful things. Shall I bring it over?"
"If you'll take your box you can keep mine," whispered Betty, looking frantically over her shoulder.
"I didn't know you knew Mr. Benjamin Jones. He's a great man, Betty, an authority on prehistoric life," said Miss Ross, coming into the room as Betty hung up the receiver.
"Yes'm!" said Betty meekly. But later she agreed that he was. For when Mr. Jones called there was something so merry in his brown eyes that Betty told him the whole story and he insisted upon being elected to the Inferior Order of Fossils on the spot. To the astonishment of Miss Ross, he invited Betty and eleven of the other girls to spend the next afternoon with him. And there, with due ceremony, the right box was produced and, with added dainties furnished by his sister, the party had a regular feast. Moreover, Mr. Jones promised to show the members the curious fossil when it was mounted and to initiate them into some of the mysteries of prehistoric remains.
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 24, 1919.
The Forgetful Poet's Riddles
The games that the dear fellow tried to puzzle you with last week were pool (surely a game for fishes), anagrams, hopscotch, cricket, squash and hearts. An animal that might be used for pie is the doe.
This week the Forgetful Poet has given us some book people to puzzle out.
An Italian city
An E and an -----?
Will give a young lover
Whom all of us know.
Will give a king o'ertaken
By poverty and grief, by all
He loves and trusts forsaken?
A very small coin
And the second letter
Will give a small laddie
Who might have fared better
A tool used for laborers, 'Course I mean -----? The part of a lamp that Is lit, or the ----?
Will give a wise gentleman
For his wit and his wisdom
And learning profound.
[Answers next time.]
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