From Ruth K. Hall’s book: entitled, A Place of Her Own; The Story of Elizabeth Garrett (1983)
This excerpt is an imaginary dialogue and scenario for Elizabeth’s trip to Austin).
(Ed note: Elizabeth was actually 9 years of age when she entered the school in 1893, not six as the book suggests. This is verified by the official matriculation books at the school.)
(page 34) “The railroad station was hot and noisy. Outside a medley of shrill voices, clanging bells, and the chuff-chuff of the coal-burning engine made Elizabeth’s head ache. She tightened her grip on her father’s hand as he helped her up the steps of the train and into the day coach, then down a narrow aisle between rows of double seats.
“There is a good seat for us, next to the window, “he said, placing their suitcases in a rack overhead and opening the window for fresh air. He closed it again, however, as coal smoke from the big engine swept in, making their eyes burn.
Elizabeth’s’ groping hands moved swiftly, exploring the plush covered seats. “The cushions are red, like your new dress with the large buttons,” Mr. Garrett said. But even thinking of the new red dress didn’t make her feel better. The warm air smelled musty and strange. This trip was not fun at all, so uncomfortable and terrifying! If she were only at home, this very moment, sitting in her apple tree, with the cool, sweet-scented breeze blowing from the alfalfa field! She thought of her mother and baby Anne. What were Ida and Poe and Trotter and Bouncer and all the happy animals doing now? When would she see them again? Two big tears rolled down her cheeks.
The car began to move. “We’re on our way, querida.” Mr. Garrett wiped the tears away gently. “You are staring a new, exciting adventure.” Querida, dear one! He often called Mama querida. The ache in her chest lessened as he went on talking calmly of the things she would see and do at school.
” Now rest your head against me for a while and close your eyes. I will tell you about the country we are passing through. I see cattle grazing in the ta pasture and a horse with a colt standing under a tree. The trees are small here, but there will be many big trees in Austin.”
“Like my apple tree?”
“Yes, little on.” How soothing his voice was! The wheels of the railroad car were going clickety-clack, clickety-clack. She fell asleep and dreamed she was swinging on a bough of her tree. When she awoke hours later, her father told her Austin was only a half hour away! Cushioned comfortably by pillows supplied by the friendly conductor, the tired little girl had slept through first night away from home!
“We will soon see your school,” Mr. Garrett said as he washed her face and smoothed her dark curls,” your school that will someday give you a diploma.”
“Diploma, diploma,” she repeated, rested and smiling now. “Someday I will have a diploma!”
Mr. Piner, the superintendent of the school, met them at the train. Elizabeth liked his pleasant voice.; it was almost as nice as her father’s.
“We are very glad you have come here, Elizabeth,” he said as he took her hand. “We have many happy children in our school who will soon be your friends. I will take you there now, and you and your father will meet the teachers. Then I will show you both through the buildings and around the grounds.”
“Thank you,” she said politely. “I have come to get my diploma.”
“Good! I am certain you will get a diploma,” Mr. Piner assured her, as they walked to his waiting carriage.
The school was located on the outskirts of Austin, away from the noise and confusion of the city. Holding her father’s hand, Elizabeth first met the teachers, the cook, and other helpers. She listened intently to each name, and to the voice that went with the name. A tour of the classrooms, sleeping rooms, dining room and kitchen followed.
“Now this is the main hall, where we assemble for games, music, singing – all kinds of programs,” Mr. Piner said. “We have one piano here; there are others in the practice rooms.”
“A piano! Please, may I see the piano?” Her hands brushed eagerly over the keyboard. “I am going to learn to play the piano. Oh, I love my school, Papa! I am very glad we came to Austin!”
The dormitory for smaller girls held twelve junior size beds. Other children would be arriving next day, but Elizabeth slept alone in the big room that night, in the narrow bed assigned to her. It seemed strange and lonely not to share a soft bed with Ida or Anne, but she knew her father was near, in a room reserved for visiting parents with the door open between his room and hers.
The sheets had a strange smell, a little like the disinfectant Mr. Garrett kept in the barn for treating cuts the horses sometimes received from barbed wire fences. At home, the sheets smelled fresh and clean, after Madrecita had washed them and dried them in sunshine and fresh air. However, the unusual activities of the day had tired her, and she fell asleep quickly.
Next morning, Elizabeth and her father went through the rooms again and again. Patiently he helped her to “see” the desks, chairs and other furnishings in different rooms; to locate doors and halls; to learn the exact location of her bed in relation to her small clothes closet and the adjoining bathroom.
“You will be able to find your way about without help in a few days,” Mr. Garrett said with satisfaction, “and of course after I leave other children will guide you when you need them, the children who have been here long.”
“Please do not leave, Papa,” she begged anxiously.
“Well, not yet, querida. Not until you tell me I can go.”
In the afternoon they explored the play area. A large, grassy yard was safely enclosed by a sturdy mesh fence. With Mr. Garrett’s help, she located the swings, slides, and bars for climbing. They found several large shade trees, and Elizabeth began to search for low branches, but found none she could touch. How could she ever climb such trees?
Then, just outside the dining room window, she discovered a large pecan tree with low, spreading boughs.
“I can climb this one!” she exclaimed happily, reaching eagerly for a sturdy limb.
“Not yet!” her father cautioned. “We must ask permission, first. It may be against the rules to climb trees here.”
At least I can sit under this tree, she thought, and soon I will ask permission to climb it.
Several days went by. Other children arrived, and those who had been at the school before helped new students and their parents to become familiar with their surroundings. As Elizabeth would learn later, some of the children had partial vision, which enabled them to act as guides for the totally blind.
Physical training was included for all students, beginning with simple sitting-up exercises, rope jumping, and folk dancing, which would progress to skating, swimming, and all kinds of playground games as the children developed confidence and physical endurance.
At first the smaller children spent much time in the play area. Elizabeth liked the challenge of finding the swings, slides and bars without assistance. Accustomed as she was to outdoor play, climbing and horseback riding, she entered into any physical activity with zest. She had always liked the feel of high places; the caress of the wind high above the ground filled her with joy.
Classes were beginning too, and the days were divided into periods with programs designed for different age groups. The music period was a happy time for the smaller children. A teacher played the piano and taught them simple tunes and nursery rhymes set to music Singing was familiar ground for Elizabeth., but the music of the piano suddenly opened a whole new exciting world.
“I think it is time for me to go home, “Mr. Garrett said one morning. “I must see about Madrecita and the other children you
Know, and it is time to cut the hay so Trotter will have his winter feed.”
Elizabeth was appalled!
“oh, Papa, please don’t go so soon! Can’t someone cut the hay, so that you can stay with me?”
“No, little one, I can’t do that.”
“then let me go home with you,” she pleaded.
“No, you can’t do that either. You must be a brave girl, as you promised me.” He took her hands in his. “Sometimes you will wish for home, but you must remember the other children are away from their parents, too, but they will stay. You will be busy, learning many things, and in a few weeks I will come back to take you home for Christmas. Perhaps by that time you can play a tune on the piano for me. These hands of yours have much to learn.”
She was silent, trying to imagine how it would be without her father. She knew her way about the school rooms and play yard, and she could find her chair and table in the classroom and her place in the dining room. She could go without help to her own closet and bed in the dormitory. Some of the children were already her friends. And the thought of learning to play the piano cheered her. She took a deep breath.
“Yes, Papa, I think you can leave me now,’ she said.
“Good I knew you would not disappoint me. Remember, you are like Columbus, exploring a whole new world!” He drew her to him briefly. “now I hear the dinner gong. Go along into the dining room and I will be on my way.” He kissed her and hurried away.
She walked slowly in the dining room. She was determined not to cry. Columbus didn’t’ cry!
She sat at her table with other young children. Usually she was hungry at mealtime, but now she was sure the lump in her throat wouldn’t allow her to swallow if she tried to eat. She knew the food was there, specially prepared and cut into bite-sized portions for easy handling, and she could smell the enticing odors. She took one bite but her appetite had left her completely.
‘Eat your lunch Elizabeth,” a voice said “You must eat your lunch.”
The voice sounded strange and harsh to the homesick child. Suddenly she slipped from her chair, groped deftly about to get her direction, and ran to the door. Before the startled teacher could move she was outside, her searching hands reaching for the low branches of the pecan tree. In a flash she had climbed up in its branches.
“Come down, Elizabeth! Come down at once! Stern voices
Commanded, then coaxed, but to no avail.
“I will send for Mr. Garrett, she heard the supervisor say, “I am sure his train hadn’t left, yet.”
Let them call my father, the rebellious little girl thought. “He will understand! And maybe he will take me home with him. But she knew differently when he came striding into the yard a few minutes later. She thought even his footsteps sounded angry!
“Come down at once, Elizabeth!” the dear familiar voice commanded sternly. “You have disappointed me!”
She had been taught to obey that voice without question. She slid down into his arms and burst into tears.
“I’m sorry, Papa,” she sobbed. “I meant to be brave.”
“Of course you did, little one.” He wiped the tears gently from the sightless brown eyes. “Now tell the ladies you are sorry for the trouble you caused them. Perhaps when you have been here longer you will be permitted to climb this tree again.”
Apologies were made, and the supervisor agreed that Elizabeth could climb the tree at times, since her father approved.
“Now I know you won’t let me down, querida,” he said, taking her aside. “Time passes quickly. Next month you will receive a surprise, a package for your birthday. And remember, in only a few weeks I will come back to take you home for Christmas.”
“You’d better go before you train leaves,” she agreed, her composure restored. For the second time, her father bade her goodbye and hurried away.
The chastened little girl returned to the dining room with her teacher. The food tasted much better, now.
I December, Mr. Garrett came a day early to attend a program the children were giving. There were Christmas carols and pageant and several piano selections, with many students taking part. The school provided and encouraged musical training for all who had even a slight interest or talent for it. But the number Mr. Garrett enjoyed most was a jolly little tune played by six-year old Elizabeth. His heart was warmed by the glow of sheer pleasure reflected in her face. Perhaps his fervent wish for this child’s security and happiness could be realized. Would music be the key which would open the door to Elizabeth’s future?
Next day they were on the train again. The little girl was fairly bursting with excitement, there was so much to tell Madrecita and the others! She would tell them about her wonderful school where she was learning to play the piano, and that soon she would learn to read with her fingers in a special kind of book called Braille!
The house was filled with the smell of apples and oranges, of mince pie and cookies and a turkey roasting in the oven.
“Come see the tree!” Poe tugged at Elizabeth. “I helped Ida decorate the tree.”
A rancher friend had brought the little evergreen tree from their old home in the mountains. How good it smelled! It brought back dim memories of Eagle Creek, the sound of the running water, and the scent of the pine forests. Her hands moved over the tree and the decorations of paper chains and strings of popcorn. And beneath the tree, she discovered several mysterious packages wrapped and tied with bows of ribbon.
She went from room to room, fondly touching remembered objects and enjoying the delicious aroma of Madrecita cooking. Then she went out with Ida and Poe to see her pets, not forgetting to take a lump of sugar for Trotter, who seemed to be waiting for her at the corral gate.
When Ida and Poe went back to the house, she lingered at the corral, talking softly to Trotter: “Tomorrow we will take a ride,” she told him. Just then a soft whinny and stamping told her another horse was near.
One of Mr. Garrett’s ranch hands had stopped by a few minutes earlier, leaving his horse standing near the stump where Poe had often mounted Old Pony. The men had walked down to the field to discuss some needed work.
Elizabeth went over to the horse and patted his shoulder. It had been moths since she had been on a horse, and the urge was irresistible. She climbed on the stump, reached for the saddle horn and with one sure leap, mounted the horse. Startled by this unfamiliar little creature on his back, the excited animal bolted down the road toward the field with the reins flying in the air! Elizabeth hung on doggedly until the horse came to a stop near a tree a short distance from where the two men stood rooted to the spot. Then she slid from the saddle, found the tree, and promptly sat down with her back to the trunk, waiting. She wasn’t surprised that her father came to her at once. Pap was always there when she needed him!
“I knew you would find me,” she said calmly.
“Well, it wasn’t hard, as it happened the horse brought you straight to us.” His tone told her he was displeased with her! “That was a foolish thing you did. Even older people hesitate to mount a strange horse. You might have been thrown and badly hurt. Remember, Elizabeth, before you do something, first think. Be sure of what you are doing, then go ahead.”
Elizabeth was dismayed. She had disappointed Papa again!
“You are right, Papa. I didn’t use my head that time,” she agreed penitently.
How quickly the days went by! Suddenly it was time to pack her suitcase again for the trip back to Austin. This time, however, the pangs of leaving were lessened by the knowledge that she would be coming home again in a few months to spend the summer. And now she could hardly wait to get back to the school and the many exciting things that happened there.
“You are going to learn to read,” a teacher announced one morning. “after a while you will be able to read stories from books called Braille, just as your parents or teachers read other books. You will learn to read with your fingertips.”
Elizabeth listened, spellbound, flexing her restless, delicate fingers. From that moment, another world of wonders began to unfold.
Even the youngest children were started in Braille classes. The fingers must be sensitive to distinguish the intricate characters, which are formed by a series of raised dots to represent letters of the alphabet. Younger children found it easier than older students attempting it for the first time.
Music lessons, Braille lessons! The world was filled with wonders! As her father had predicted, Elizabeth was now too busy to be homesick. She spent many happy hours alone in the practice room, playing and singing tunes of her own.
“Elizabeth has a gift not possessed by all who love music,” her teacher wrote Mr. Garrett, “she has a perfect ear.”
When the weather was good and classes over for the day, her little friends would gather about her sitting in a semicircle on the grass. “tell us about the farm,” they coaxed.
She told them about Trotter and Old Pony and the other pets and animals. She sang little songs she had made up, about the roses and apple blossoms. She taught them to imitate the birds they heard chirping in the trees. Unknown to her and her appreciative audience, Elizabeth was beginning her career as an entertainer!
As the busy days, weeks and months went by, so did the years. As Elizabeth progressed in school, her head was filled with questions. Why do ships float? What does the sky look like? What are clouds? What are the stars made of? What is a comet? Patient teachers tried to answer her questions.
The course of study was similar to that of the public schools, but with reading done manually. Use of the typewriter was begun early. It was a red-letter day when Elizabeth was able to type a letter to her father.
“dear Papa: today I am nine years old. I thank you for the present you sent me. This is the first letter I have written on the typewriter, but next year I will learn to write Braille, too, with a stylus and slate.
My music teacher says I have a good ear for music. Do you think she is right? Love to Mama and Ida and Poe and Anne. And love to little Pat and the baby, and to you, dear Papa. Write to me often.”
Elizabeth’s loyalties were divided now; the end of each school year found her eager to go home, to confide in Madrecita and Ida, to explore again the well-remembered childhood haunts, and to enjoy the younger children. Two new members had been added to the family, a precocious little boy named Pat, and just a year younger, another dark-eyed baby gill, Pauline.
“You sisters are growing up, just as you are, Elizabeth,” Madrecita told her that summer. “Anne grows prettier, Ida more capable and Poe helps me so much with the younger children.”
Little Patrick, who had begun to talk as soon as he could walk, struggled briefly with Elizabeth’s name, and then disposed of the problem with a substitution of his own. “gee-Gee” he said, and Gee-Gee she remained to family and friends. He adored this affectionate big sister who sang so charmingly to him. Elizabeth promoted family singing at every opportunity, and the blending of her voice with Madrecita, Ida’s and Anne’s entranced the little boy, who did his best to join in. The less gifted Mr. Garrett and Poe provided an appreciative audience.
The summer Elizabeth ahead brought home a Braille slate and a stylus, the sharp instrument with which she punched the dots into the slate to create letters of the alphabet.
“Just think!” she said. “If I had been born a hundred years ago before louis Braille was born, I should never have been able to read!”
She told her parents the thrilling story of the blind young Frenchman, who in 1829 had devised the 63 characters formed by a series of raised dots to represent letters of the alphabet, as well as punctuation marks and even musical notations. This remarkable man, in spite of his handicap, was well-educated in science and music, and became famous in Paris as an organist and violoncellist.:” His story is a source of inspiration to the students as the Austin school,” she said.
“But I have heard that some are not able to read Braille, as the fingers must be very sensitive,” Mr. Garrett said.
“That is true,’ Elizabeth said, “and a few years ago another
kind of bulky letters was invented by an Englishman, William Moon. It is called Moon Type, and can be used for simple reading. But Braille readers can work much faster and with more difficult material.”
“Our little songbird has learned many things, Madrecita,” Mr. Garrett’s voice expressed his pride. “We should be very grateful to the Austin school.”
His words brought the school vividly to her mind. It was almost time to return, and suddenly she was eager to go. She would miss her family, the singing and laughter, the dear, familiar places. But how good it would be to get back to the typewriter, the piano and other musical instruments, the group singing and the wonderful world of Braille.
She had no way of knowing that was the last vacation on the farm.
(next chapter heading)
(page 44) – chapter 4
High school and junior college courses were available at the Austin School. Elizabeth was now considered and “unclassified” student, consequently, she could proceed at her own pace.
As she advanced she learned that many opportunities were open to the blind, in spite of their visual handicaps. Manual occupations were most commonly followed, and many saleable articles were produced in the manual arts workshop. Elizabeth liked to crochet, and enjoyed creating handmade rugs, sensing their beauty and usefulness.
Other students became skilled in making a variety of articles including knitted wear, stuffed toys, aprons and dish towels, mops, brooms and mattresses.
Learning however, was an obsession with Elizabeth. She worked to become proficient in reading and writing Braille, so necessary for higher learning if one wished to study independently. She liked languages and history, but geometry dealt her misery as she struggled with angles, rectangles, squares, circles and oblongs fashioned from wood.
“Geometry completely frustrates me!” she wrote her father. “I think the only thing I have gained from the course is the meaning of a new word, congruent.”
Fortunately, mathematics had no important part in her plans. Music continued to be her chief interest. The pipe organ, with its great vibrant tones and double keyboard, thrilled her, and she practiced daily on both piano and organ. The piano proved more practical, however, as an accompaniment for voice training and for use in composing and improvising.
“Elizabeth is becoming a director as well as a performer,” Mr. Piner wrote the Garretts. “She has always promoted group singing, and the result is that eight girls with good voices have formed an Octette, with Elizabeth as their accompanist and director. Their harmony is delightful! By invitation, they are filling engagements in churches and private homes. The school is very proud of them, and of their enterprising director.”
While Elizabeth made progress at school, much was happening at home. Ida’s letters kept he informed.
“Papa is almost too busy to write these days,” she wrote, “so I will tell you about his newest venture. He is raising blooded horses, and I think he truly loves it – you know how he likes good horses! He has formed a partnership with a west Texas rancher named John Nance Garner, who they say, is well known in politics. Papa says raising horses pays better than farming, since the irrigation project fell through.”
Elizabeth remembered her father’s disappointment at the failure of that undertaking. Water was vitally important to the Pecos Valley farmers, but during dry years, flow from the river was not sufficient to supply their needs. When a few wells were drilled, which produced an encouraging artesian flow of water, Mr. Garrett joined a group of men who financed the drilling of more wells. The results, however, did not justify continuing the project.
Fervently she hoped that the new enterprise would be a success, and she was pleased when Ida sent clippings from West Texas newspapers describing the fine race horses which were coming from the Garner-Garrett stables. But a series of dramatic events, climaxed by the brutal murder of a father and his young son, brought unexpected changes in the Garrett family’s affairs.
The vast territory of New Mexico still had its lawless elements. As the population increased and the property become more valuable, cattle rusting and land fraud continued to plague honest land-holders. This was especially true in the great area of sprawling Lincoln County, now a hotbed of political intrigue.
A highly respected lawyer, Albert J Fountain, was made special United States District Attorney, to assist officers in apprehending and prosecuting lawbreakers. Formerly an officer in the Union Army assigned to New Mexico, Colonel Fountain had remained in the territory after his military service ended, and like Pat Garrett, had married a pretty young Spanish-Mexican woman. Like Mrs. Garrett, Mariana Perez Fountain was a woman of refinement; gentle, religious and a devoted wife and mother. The Fountains established their home in Las cruces.
During the twelve years that Colonel Fountain pursued his duties as prosecutor, he came to be feared and hated by certain men. Mrs. Fountain was greatly disturbed by rumored threats against his life.
One day in the early spring of 1986, he left Las Cruces for Lincoln Town, the county seat, where he would take part in a grand jury investigation. Feeling that a child’s presence would
Insure his safety, Mrs. Fountain insisted that their eight-year-old son, Henry, accompany his father.
One hotel in Lincoln belonged to a friend of the Fountains. “Henry will enjoy the trip with you. He will like staying at the hotel,” she said. “You will only be away a few days.”
The trip would take three or four days by buckboard, The Nights would be spent en route at homes of friends at ranches or settlements along the way. Reluctantly, Colonel Fountain agreed to take the little boy along and was rewarded by the child’s pleasure.
Arriving in Lincoln, Colonel Fountain succeeded in obtaining indictments charging cattle theft against certain leaders of the outlaw faction, with the trial set for a later dated. He then began the journey homeward with little Henry at his side.
Colonel Fountain never reached Las Cruces, where his family anxiously awaited him. His bloodstained buckboard and certain articles of clothing were located near the mysterious great White Sands. Although the horses were found roaming at large next day, the harness cut, father and son had disappeared and were never seen again.
Colonel Fountain and his family were respected and loved. Indignation grew in the community when elected officials did little to solve the case. Newspapers in neighboring states denounced the situation as disgraceful. “There must be no return to the era of Billy the Kid,” one editorial declared.
New Mexico’s Governor Thornton felt the personal challenge of these sharp criticisms. Many leading citizens had been working diligently for statehood; but the Governor knew the attitude prevailed in Washington that the territory was not qualified to become a state as long as such lawlessness continued.
Many remember the work of Sheriff Pat Garrett in ending the reign of terror in Lincoln County almost two decades before. They urged Governor Thornton to enlist his services again. As a result, Pat Garrett was offered an appointment as special investigator in the case.
Elizabeth listened intently as Mr. Piner read the lengthy letter from her father:
“I feel that I cannot refuse the Governor’s request,” the letter concluded. “perhaps I can serve my state and the cause of justice again. So I must tell you that we are leaving the farm and moving to Las Cruces.
“There will be advantages for the family there. Farm life is not easy for a woman. In Las Cruces, Madrecita will
Have friends and neighbors to visit. There will be better facilities for Poe, and a good school, the Loretta Academy, for Ida and Anne. A state college has been established there, an advantage for the boys, who are growing up. I believe you will like Las Cruces, too, Elizabeth.
“I am not giving up all ranching interest. We will have a small place a few miles from town, just east of the Organ Mountains, where I can raise horses. This family can’t be without good horses!”
After Mr. Piner left her Elizabeth sat beneath the pecan tree and thought it all over. The prospect of living in town with friends to share the interest of the Garrett sisters was inviting. They were outgrowing the happy pastimes of the farm. She must write Papa at once! She went inside and found the typewriter.
“I am glad the Governor asked you to work on the Fountain case, “she wrote. “Oh, I hope you can solve these terrible murders!
“Please Papa, do not come for me at the end of this term. Just think! I am in high school now. Let me show you that I am becoming independent. Mr. Piner will see me safely aboard the train and you can meet me in El Paso, for the shorter train ride to Las Cruces. I am growing up, today it occurred to me that I should be past the age for climbing trees!”
Before the term ended, however, the pecan tree became her refuge once more. Tragic new came in another letter, which kind Mr. Piner read to her. Gentle Ida, her other “little mother,” was dead, a victim of typhoid fever.
In the solitude of leafy branches, Elizabeth found release in a flood of tears. Going home without her beloved Ida, her faithful guide and protector, to welcome her, seemed unthinkable. The future loomed bleak and uncertain.
She recalled something she had overheard before her first trip to Austin: “Elizabeth will grow up, Madrecita,” her father had said, “she must be independent, she will not have us always.”
Growing up suddenly became very real. She wasn’t at all sure she liked it.
It was a balmy May morning when Mr. Piner drove Elizabeth
To the railway station in the two-seated carriage that belonged to the Austin school. The air was fresh and cool after a rain the night before. Roses thrived in the mild climate of mid-southern Texas, and their fragrance was wafted pleasantly on a gentle breeze. Elizabeth breathed deeply, determined to shake off the nervousness she felt.
“I’m sorry I can’t stay until your train leaves,” Mr. Piner was saying, “but as you know, several parents arrive today to take their children home for the summer, so I must get back to the school.”
“Of course, I understand,” she smiled as he helped her down from the carriage. She must hide her misgivings from him, he had assured her father that she could make the trip alone. “It was very kind of you to come with me at such a busy time.”
“At least I had time for the short visit with one of my favorite students,” he said. “Now Mrs. Smith of the Traveler’s Aid will see you safely aboard and arrange with the conductor to look after you. And of course your father will meet you in El Paso.”
Elizabeth’s hand rested lightly on her companion’s arm as they entered the busy station. A deluge of noise assailed her ears; shrill voices, hurrying footsteps, and other confusing, unidentifiable sounds.
“Here we are,” Mr. Piner said, “and here is Mrs. Smith, Elizabeth.” They had stopped at the desk of a plump, silver-haired woman who rose and took Elizabeth’s hand. “I am glad to see you again, dear. I met you last year, you may remember, when you were traveling with your father.”
The girls’ expressive face lighted up. “Oh yes, I do remember! I couldn’t forget your pleasant voice, Mrs. Smith!”
“Thank you! That is indeed a compliment! You have grown, Elizabeth. And Mr. Piner tells me you are making this trip alone.”
“we have a very independent girl here,” Mr. Piner said with pride, “and one of our best students, too, especially in music. This year she has become our choral director.”
“Why, that is marvelous!” Mrs. Smith exclaimed. “It must be very gratifying to accomplish so much.”
“Well, it’s such fun, it doesn’t seem like work. I can never get my fill of music!” The girl’s dark eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.
“I must leave you ladies now,” Mr. Piner took Elizabeth’s hand. “Give my regards to your father, my dear. We will see you in September.
“Hasta la vista!” she answered smiling, ‘until September.”
“We will find a good seat for you,” Mrs. Smith said. “Let’s
See; this should be about right, near the front of the car, just two rows from the washroom. Beyond that is a vestibule, and the dining car. Do you prefer a seat by the window or on the aisle?”
“On the aisle, please.” Elizabeth thought of the times when her father had sat by the window, describing the passing scenes.
“Of course, dear. And here is the porter with our suitcase.”
“Good morning, Miss Elizabeth,” a mellow southern voice said. “You’re up early today. I’ll just put your suitcase on the rack above your seat.”
“It’s Sam!” Elizabeth exclaimed in delight.
“Yes, Ma’am!” the cheerful voice replied. “My, how you’ve grown since last year when you and your daddy made this trip.”
“I must go now,” Mrs. Smith said. “I know Sam will look after you. And I will ask Mr. Benson, the conductor, to find a congenial seatmate for you if he can. Good luck, dear, we’ll see you again in the fall.”
Elizabeth sat listening as the sound of their voices receded. Other voices came near, as passengers found their seats in the car. For a moment she felt terribly alone. Her hands moved over the seat cushions. The stiff plush covering felt just the same and had the same musty smell she remembered vividly from her first trip by train to Austin – how many years ago? Seven, eight? How frightened she had been that day even with her father by her side!
But she had been a mere baby then, not quite six years old. So much had happened since, and now she was old enough to travel alone! Of course she wasn’t really alone, with Sam and Mr. Benson to help her. Suddenly she felt delightfully grown-up. What fun it would be to tell Ida and Poe and Anne about this experience.
Ida! Her spirits plummeted, and a lump came in her throat. Sometimes she forgot that Ida would not be there. It seemed unreal that Ida was dead; it was like a horrible nightmare.
“Is this seat taken?” a pleasant feminine voice interrupted her thoughts.
“No, I am traveling alone,” she answered quickly, “please sit here.”
“Thank you. I am Elizabeth Roe and my destination is El Paso.”
“I am going to El Paso too. And my name is Elizabeth, Elizabeth Garrett.”
“Well, we two Elizabeths should get along quite well! But I am selfish to take the window seat. Wouldn’t you prefer it?”
Elizabeth felt a glow of pleasure. So she appeared like any other girl to this new acquaintance!