A limousine?

MRS. Woombley is a schoolmarm and I suspect a good one, but that isn't her name. Once in a while Mrs. Woombley communicates to me some happenstance of her professional duties, mostly to let me know her job isn't so simple as I in my iggerance might otherwise presume. The other day she told me about Alice. Alice is a bright young lady of about 15, long golden hair, very serious even if her shining eyes suggest a bit of a rogue, and dimples deep. I never saw Alice, so I am taking Mrs. Woombley's word. She says Alice is from a good family of several children, of which she is the oldest, and that while her parents are earnest folk doing their best, they are by no means well-to-do and many times Alice does without. The house is small, and one room does for three, but the children are mannerly and neat.

The parents, Mrs. Woombley says, come to her now and then to inquire if Alice is doing well, and want to help if there is something they can do. All was well with Alice, so Mrs. Woombley was surprised when the girl said she could do with some help.

Alice came early to class one morning and asked if she and Mrs. Woombley might talk ``by ourselves,'' so after class Mrs. Woombley closed the door. ``Having a problem?'' Alice said, ``Not really, but. . . .'' Mrs. Woombley tells me there is no word in the language that means quite so much as a student's but that doesn't but anything, and her heart dropped.

Alice said, ``I don't know how to get a limousine.''

Please, gentle and beloved reader, did you ever hear a story that began in better manner? Do YOU know? I don't. Mrs. Woombley didn't. So how did a limousine get involved?

Alice's Mommie and Daddy were going to have their 20th wedding anniversary. Alice had tried to think of something suitably special for the occasion, and had decided what it would be. Her mother and father never went out to eat the way some people do, and she had decided that on their anniversary they should do just that. Alice had been baby-sitting for the Chooblies over on Dividend Heights and had saved up $60. She would give this $60 to her mother and father and send them off to have dinner at a fashionable restaurant. Mrs. Woombley told me that at this disclosure she found her professional, unemotional cool collapsing, and she reached out to pat Alice's shoulder with affection and admiration. She told Alice that was a lovely thought, and said, ``The limousine?''

Alice had been looking at the wide-screen color television set when she was baby-sitting for the Chooblies. One night she saw these people in a story go out to dinner, and a limousine with a chauffeur, cap and all, came and got them.

Aha!

Alice asked Mrs. Woombley how anybody went about hiring a limousine that would come and take her Mommie and Daddy out to eat, just the way it was done on the TV. Mrs. Woombley said she didn't know, but would find out. ``Stop after class tomorrow,'' she told Alice.

I'm not going to tell you how all this came out, because the anniversary hasn't arrived yet and I wouldn't want to spoil it. Mrs. Woombley made some telephone calls and found that a limousine was available in that area, but the best price she could get was $90. So the $60 has been given to the owner of a good restaurant, and he has promised ``good care'' for Mommie and Daddy.

Which, considering everything, is all we need to know. The limousine was a nice touch, and a little girl's reach should also exceed her grasp.

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