Sunset HillCarney was climbing Sunset Hill.
Far below she could hear a group of her classmates, like herself just released from examinations, singing as they strolled beside the brook.
""Where, oh where are the gay young Soph'mores,
Where., oh where are the gay young Soph'mores,
Where, oh where are the gay young Soph'mores,
Safe now in the junior class."
Well, she had passed all her exams, she felt sure. But sophomores wouldn't be juniors, really, until fall. They were staying on for Class Day, seniors and sophomores being sister classes. Twenty-four of the prettiest sophomores, including Isobel, would carry the Daisy Chain. The rest had to pick the daisies, and there were awful rumors of a shortage. But then there were always such rumors, and always enough daisies in the end.
""They've gone out from their Soph'more Lit Oh,
They've gone out from their Soph'more Lit Oh..."
Carney began to hum it from force of habit, but she stopped because she didn't feel like humming. She had a problem to think out, which was the reason she was climbing Sunset Hill. She didn't like unsolved problems hanging over her, any more than she liked unpaid bills or unaccomplished duties. Whatever Carney Sibley had to do, she liked to do with efficiency and dispatch.
Sunset Hill was scattered on the lower reaches with small gnarled old apple trees and, of course, with evergreens. The spicy odor of evergreens was everywhere about the college. In the tall grass were red clover and white yarrow, buttercups and daisies like those the sophomores must gather next week.
Benches here and there invited one to stop and look at the brook, at the roofs of the college, at the flagon Main where Carney roomed with Isobel. But Carney wouldn't stop until she reached the top. There was a bench up there, with a view of rolling blue hills, to which she had brought all her problems during her two years at college.
She passed the ancient apple trees, which had been part of Matthew Vassar's orchard back in 1865. It was 1911 now, but the sophomores down by the brook were singing about him.
""Oh, young Matthew Vassar was a boy of no renown
He was born in merry England o'er the sea,
He sailed across the ocean,
In Poughkeepsie settled down,
Where in course of time he built a brewery.
And the brewery had made his fortune, Carney remembered. He had labored and prospered and when he came to dispose of his wealth it occurred to him that injustice had been done to woman's brains.
""What a pity undeveloped they should be.
So Matthew, Matthew Vassar
Built a college then and there.
The song died away, for Carney had left the sloping green meadow behind and was entering a growth of tall, dark evergreens. They were almost as tall as those down on the campus; the branches of the Norway spruces trailed on the ground like ladies' skirts. She passed the outdoor theatre, a green knoll with a semicircle of pines behind it on a lower slope.
How lovely Isobel had looked there, in her Greek robe and fillet, at the Founder's Day Pageant!
Carney reached the summit and her bench, made of wood and cement like all the Vassar benches, with V. C. carved on the side. The woodsy path went on, downward now, to a rendezvous with the brook in a green-gold glen. Sitting down in the aromatic shade, Carney looked off at the hills and felt at home. Hills alsosurrounded Deep Valley, the Minnesota town in which she had grown up.
She set herself at once to her problem.
"I believe I'll pretend it's a topic for Miss Salmon," she thought, a smile bringing a dimple into her left cheek.
Miss Salmon was her history professor and Carney admired her clear orderly thinking. Miss Salmon would analyze the problem like this...
Not having a notebook and pencil, Carney addressed a chipmunk, peeping out from under a blackberry bush.
"One. Why don't I want Isobel to visit me this summer?
"Two. Are my reasons valid or invalid?
The chipmunk ran away, and no wonder, Carney thought. Put into words, her dilemma was astonishing. Isobel was not only beautiful, but charming. Fascinating, the girls always called her. And Carney liked her. She had been as flattered as she was surprised at Isobel's suggestion last spring that they room together. But in spite of living with her-happily, toothrough the whole year, Carney didn't want her to come to Deep Valley.
She knew that Isobel wanted to come. Not that she had said so! She had subtly insinuated the idea-by looking eagerly at Carney's home pictures, by animated questions about the Deep Valley Crowd. Carney herself was direct to the point of bluntness, and she was always irritated by Isobel's circumlocutions.
"She's so Eastern," Carney thought resentfully, and was immediately aware that Miss Salmon would not approve of such a label. There were plenty of frank Easterners and devious Westerners, of course.
Carney tried to search out the cause of her inhospitality.
"I'm not jealous of her," she began.
This was true. Carney had never been jealous in her life. Yet she had been, sheadmitted, a little startled when Isobel was chosen for the Daisy Chain and she herself left out. In Deep Valley she was considered outstandingly pretty. Not that it had ever mattered. She just took it for granted.
She was pretty now as she sat under the pine tree. She had a dainty figure, softly pomped dark hair, bright eyes, and a skin as fresh as apple blossoms.
Part of her charm lay in her immaculate neatness. Her middy blouse was snowily white, the red taffeta tie crisp and spotless. Part of it lay in her bubbling gaiety, quenched now by earnest introspection.
Yes, she thought, having Isobel preferred to her had come as a bit of a shock.
"Though I ought to be used to shocks by now, after two years."
She had come to Vassar wearing, she realized, a mantle of complacency. She was a Sibley of Deep Valley, Minnesota. But no one at Vassar had ever heard of the Sibleys or of Deep Valley either, and they didn't know much even about Minnesota. Some girls thought there were Indians running wild in the streets out there...
Maud Hart Lovelace (1892-1980) based her Betsy-Tacy series on her own childhood. Her series still boasts legions of fans, many of whom are members of the Betsy-Tacy Society, a national organization based in Mankato, Minnesota.Vera Neville illustrated six of the Betsy-Tacy books, as well as all three Deep Valley books.