CHAPTER I "I'VE VOLUNTEERED!"
"Well, who is going to read the paper?"
Amy Blackford stopped knitting for a moment, the half-finished sweater suspended inquiringly in the air, while she asked her question and gazed about impatiently at her busy group of friends.
"It's your turn, anyhow, Mollie," she added, fingers flying and head bent as she resumed her work. "You haven't read to us for five days."
"Oh, don't bother me," snapped the one addressed as Mollie. She was black-haired and black-eyed, was Mollie Billette, with a little touch of French blood in her veins that accounted for her restless vivacity and sometimes peppery temper. "You've made me drop a stitch, Amy Blackford, and if anybody else speaks to me for the next five minutes, I'll eat 'em."
"Well, as long as you don't eat any more of my chocolates, I don't care," remarked Grace Ford, lazily helping herself to one of the threatened candies. "I had a full box this morning, and now look at them."
"Haven't time to look at anything," returned Mollie crossly, fishing in vain for the lost stitch. "If the poor soldiers depended upon the sweaters you made, Grace, I'd feel sorry for them, I would indeed!"
"Oh, dear, girls, now what's the matter?"
Framed in the doorway of the cottage stood Betty Nelson, their adored "Little Captain," fresh and sweet as the morning itself, smiling around at them inquiringly.
"What is the matter?" she repeated as they moved up to make room for her on the veranda steps. "I'm more afraid than ever to leave you alone these days when every dropped stitch means a quarrel. Give it to me, Mollie, I'll pick it up for you."
With a sigh, Mollie relinquished the tiresome sweater and Betty went to work at it with a skill born of long practice.
"There you are," she announced triumphantly, after an interval during which the girls had watched with eager eyes and bated breath. "That was a mean one. Thought it was going to make me rip out the whole row—but I showed it! Now, please, don't anybody drop any more. I must finish that pair of socks to-day."
"Oh, dear," sighed Amy resignedly. "Then our last hope is gone."
"Goodness, that sounds doleful," chuckled Betty, stretching her arms above her head and reveling in the brilliant sunshine. "What particular thing seems to be the matter now, Amy? Has Will been misbehaving?"
Amy flushed vividly and bent closer over her work.
"How could he be when he's been in town for over a week?" she retorted with unusual spirit. "It's just that nobody will read the paper, and I'm just dying to hear the news. I want to keep up with the times."
"Well, if that's all," said the Little Captain, sitting up with alacrity, "I'm always willing to oblige. Mollie, you're sitting on it!"
"Knit one, purl two," chanted Mollie. "Wait till I get this needle off and I'll give it to you. I can't stop now!"
"All right, then I'm going to get my knitting."
Betty made as though to rise but Amy held her down and turned despairingly to Mollie.
"Mollie," she pleaded, "be reasonable. You know very well that if Betty ever gets started with her knitting then nobody'll read the news."
"Knit one, purl two, knit one, purl two," sang Mollie imperturbably....