Disclaimer is in part one.


Early the following morning, when Betty again woke up with the sun shining in her eyes, so she knew that she was not in Pittsburgh but in Wennville. Crawling out of bed, she thought to herself as she dressed What am I going to do now? I'm supposed to be the new teacher.
"Well, I'll just have to make it up as I go along." She said out loud, combing her hair and pinning it up on her head. "After all, you're a radio writer, Betty Roberts, you're used to making thing up as you go along. What can be so difficult about a bunch of kids?"
The difficulty she found out two hours later was that there were forty-seven pupils ranging in age from six to sixteen and she was expected to teach them all. Standing behind her desk in front of the school looking down on that sea of strange faces, Betty swallowed hard and hoped she didn't appear as terrified as she felt.
"Good morning class." She started to say. "I'm your new teacher, Miss Robertson. With all of the excitement yesterday, I don't have any real lessons prepared, so as soon as I call the roll, we'll just do some general work." Opening the big black book on her desk, Betty began to take attendance.
Somehow, she got through that terrible first day of school. As she collapsed on the bed, she thought ruefully I now have new respect for what my teachers went through. And they only had to teach one grade at a time. I haven't a clue as to what I'll do tomorrow. Tomorrow those kids may actually expect to learn something.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. When Betty opened it, there stood Marshall Cornstalk. Doffing his hat, he said "Good evening, Miss Robertson. I trust I'm not disturbing you at this late hour?"
"No, of course not," she replied. "Would you like to come in?"
"No ma'am, that wouldn't be appropriate. I was just wondering if you'd heard about the Harvest Dance that's going to be taking place next weekend?"
"Well, no, actually I hadn't heard about it. Why?"
"I was hoping that if you were planning to attend, you would permit me to be your escort for the evening." He replied twisting his stetson nervously in his hands.
"I…I don't know what to say, Marshall," Betty began to say.
"If you've already made other arrangements, I understand. I'm sorry if I disturbed you. Goodnight." Plopping his hat back onto his balding head, he turned to leave.
Reaching out to grab hold of his arm, Betty came to a sudden decision. "Wait a minute, Marshall. I'd be pleased to attend the dance with you. It's next Saturday, you said?"
"Yes Ma'am. I'll be by for you at seven o'clock. Thank you and goodnight."
"Goodnight." She echoed as she started to shut the door. Leaning against the closed door, Betty smiled as she thought about the prospect of going to a dance and with the Marshall yet. There was something familiar about him although she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was. In fact, she had that feeling about several of the people in this town. Shrugging, she went back to working on her lesson plans for the next day.
It was Saturday morning before Betty got around to looking over her meager wardrobe to decide what to wear to the dance that night. Apparently, her best dress was a maroon broadcloth trimmed with a white lace collar and cuffs. It would have to do for the dance she decided and set about heating water so that she could bathe and wash her hair.
Marshall Cornstalk picked her up punctually at seven and offering her his arm, walked her over to the barn where the dance was being held. As they walked in, Betty could see all eyes quickly turn towards them and smiling nervously, she looked around the room.
It was an average size barn, she noticed, but plenty big enough to hold all of the families that would be coming. The musicians were a trio of fiddlers who were tuning up, perched on a low platform at the far end of the room.
"Should I have brought something for the food table?" She asked nervously, turning to her escort as she noticed a long table full of assorted baked goods nearby.
"No, it's not required for everyone to bring something. Shall I introduce you to some of the people you haven't met yet?"
At her nod, they began to make the rounds of the room, and soon Betty's head was a maze of names and faces. There were so many that she wasn't sure how she was going to remember them all. As the fiddlers swung into the first dance, she and Victor began circling the dance floor.
After the end of the third dance, Betty was winded, and her throat was very dry so she asked if they could sit out the next one and get some punch. Agreeing, Victor escorted her over to the table where they found Genie and another woman standing behind the table ladling punch.
"Betty!" Genie exclaimed as she handed first her then Victor a small cup of the cherry red beverage. "I was hoping to see you here this evening and with such a handsome escort too. I came with Mr. Folton, he's over in the corner talking to some of the other men while I serve the punch."
Turning her head slightly, Betty could just see the tall figure of the storekeeper in the middle of a knot of farmers.
"By the way," Genie continued "I'd like to introduce you to my good friend, Gerta Reed. Gerta, this is Betty Robertson, our new schoolteacher." She indicated the older, red-haired woman standing beside her.
"I'm pleased to finally meet you, Miss Robertson. I've heard a lot about you. That was quite a little escapade you had last weekend, wasn't it?"
"It was quite exciting, yes." Betty replied slowly. "But luckily Marshall Cornstalk was able to find me before anything really bad happened."
"Yes, that was lucky. It would have been tragic, simply tragic if anything had happened to our brand new teacher." Genie replied in her usual bubbly manner.
Just then, someone came up with a problem that required Marshall Cornstalk's attention so after excusing himself, he followed the man across the room to where a small group of men were waiting. Betty stayed by the table drinking her punch and enjoying a slice of pound cake when a small commotion at the door caught her attention.
"I don't believe it!" Gerta exclaimed as the crowd parted and revealed a group of newcomers to the dance. Shawn Sherman had arrived with Mabel accompanied by Jeffy Singer and Miss Hilda. "I can't believe that they had the nerve to show their faces, daring to mix with decent hard working folks."
"I think they're very nice people." Betty offered timidly. "I was talking with Mabel the other day and she was very pleasant."
Both Genie and Gerta turned to look at her, mouths agape in shock.
"Betty, you mustn't ever be seen talking to a saloon girl. It will simply ruin your reputation in this town and you'll lose your job, too." Genie was the first to find her voice.
"But why?" Betty asked, confused. "I like Mabel. I'm not too sure about Mr. Sherman, I found him to be rather forward in his attentions but I definitely like Mabel."
"Betty, no decent woman is ever friends with a woman like Mabel. If you are seen in her company too often, people will begin to wonder if you're that type of woman too. Please take our advice and stay away from her and her crowd," Gerta told her.
Frowning and still confused, Betty just nodded her head and moved slowly away from the table. She hadn't gone very far when someone touched her arm and a voice said in her ear, "Mind if I have this dance?" It was Shawn Sherman and before she could say anything, he had pulled her into his arms and was twirling her around the floor.
"Mr. Sherman, please." Betty protested a moment later as she got over the shock. "You're holding me too tightly, people will talk."
"Let them talk. I like dancing with you." Sherman replied airily.
"Maybe you don't care about your reputation in this town, but I have to live and work here. So let me go."
Surprised at the vehemence in her tone, Shawn dropped his arms and watched as she scurried across the room like a frightened rabbit. Shrugging, he turned and walked back over to where the Singers and Mabel were standing.
"What was that all about, Shawn?" Mabel asked as he slung an arm around her shoulder.
"She didn't want to dance with me, I guess."
"These people must have filled her head with stories about us." Hilda sniffed. "They all think that they're so much better than we are."
"Now Hilda, calm down." Jeffy told her quietly, trying to sooth her ruffled feathers. "Why don't we dance for a few minutes?"
Betty watched from across the room as the group from Singer's began dancing with each other. A tap on her shoulder brought her out of her reverie and she looked up to see the Marshall standing next to her. "Would you care to dance, Betty?"
Smiling, she indicated that she did and they swung out onto the dance floor again. Shortly after that, the party started to break up and he escorted her home. Standing in front of the schoolhouse, hat in hand, Victor just looked at her for a moment before asking quietly, "Would you mind if I kissed you goodnight?"
"No" Betty said softly. "I wouldn't mind."
Leaning down, he briefly touched his lips to hers before straightening and saying "Goodnight Betty, it was a very nice evening. Thank you for letting me escort you to the dance." Swinging around, he strode of into the night and was soon swallowed up in the inky darkness.
Tossing and turning, kept Betty from getting much sleep that night as she wrestled with the problem of her two beaus. On the one hand, she was interested in Shawn Sherman because of his devil may care attitude towards the world. Also, he was different from the guys in her hometown, more worldly. But on the other hand, she really enjoyed the Marshall's company. He was intelligent and well spoken and a pretty good dancer. Sure, maybe he wasn't quite as good-looking as Shawn, but you don't build a relationship on looks, its what's underneath that counts. Besides, gamblers are notorious for just picking up and leaving whenever it suits them and that kind of life wasn't for her. Finally, she drifted off to sleep, the two men's faces still in her mind.
Over the next few weeks, Shawn Sherman seemed to be everywhere. As soon as she showed up, there he was asking her out. He invited her to dinner twice, to go for a walk on Sunday afternoon and he even began coming to church on Sunday mornings. Even though Betty kept turning his invitations down, it never seemed to deter his attentions.
She stuck to her guns though and accepted two more dates with Marshall Cornstalk before he announced that he needed to go back to Capitol City for a few days. They had dinner together at Grace's Café the night before he had to leave because he wanted to ask her something important.
They had finished good sized portions of Grace's famous chicken and dumplings, and were just starting in on slices of fresh peach pie when Victor put his fork down and reaching for Betty's hand said to her, "Betty, we've been keeping company for about three weeks now, and I thought that you might be interested in knowing what my intentions are towards you."
Betty stopped eating and just looked at him not sure what if anything he wanted her to say.
"As you know, I am required to be in Capitol City for the next few weeks, but I wanted to communicate my feelings to you and ask you to wait for me to return. I am very fond of you I think that I might even be in love and am hoping that you have grown to care for me, as well."
"Oh yes, Victor. I do care a great deal for you. I don't think I'm ready to get married yet, but I'll still be here when you return." Betty replied with a happy smile. "Yes, Victor, I'll definitely be here when you come back."
Shortly after dawn the next morning, she watched from the front steps of he Schoolhouse as Marshall Victor Cornstalk rode out of town.
"Hurry back, Victor. I'll miss you." She whispered softly into the deserted morning air.
Betty was finding that she enjoyed teaching much more than she thought she would and as the calendar moved on towards Thanksgiving and Christmas, she decided to write a program that her students could perform for their parents and friends. She spent nearly a week writing and rewriting the program before broaching it to the children. Actually, Betty was glad for the diversion since it kept her from dwelling too much on the fact that Victor had been gone many weeks longer than he'd said he would and aside from one letter two weeks after he'd left, she hadn't heard a word from him.
The students loved the idea of putting on a Christmas program for their parents, and threw themselves enthusiastically into learning parts and making costumes and props. Betty had decided that the Friday afternoon before Christmas would be a good time for the show because that would put everyone into the perfect frame of mind for the Christmas holiday the following week. The program consisted of a short Christmas play based on the novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Also, four of the seven year olds were going to recite the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. She also planned to sing Christmas carols at the end of the program.
Finally, it was the day before the program. From the very beginning of the morning, Betty realized that it would be impossible to teach anything so she just let them break into groups and finish working on the show. Unfortunately, sitting at her desk gave Betty time to think and worry about Victor. She still hadn't heard from him, and now she was really getting scared that something might have happened to him up in Capitol City. After lunch Genie, who was going to play the piano for them, and Gerta, who had been helping with the costumes, came in and seeing her sitting up there just staring off into space, immediately came over to see what was the matter.
"Hello, ladies. Is it one o'clock already?" Betty said startled when Genie tapped her on the arm.
"It looked like you were miles away, Betty. Is there something wrong?" Gerta asked concerned.
"I bet you're worried about Victor, aren't you dear?" Genie replied. "I know he's been gone much longer this time than he ever has been before."
"I haven't heard anything for over two months, and I can't help thinking that something must have happened to him or else he would have written to me. I know he would."
"All we can do is pray and hope that he returns soon. But in the meantime, the best thing to take one's mind off ones troubles is hard work. So let's have a dress rehearsal and then we need to set up the stage for tomorrow," Gerta said practically, clapping her hands to get everyone's attention. "All right, children, we're going to have a dress rehearsal now, so everyone take your places for the first scene of the play."
The students scurried around to get into position and the rehearsal began.

End of Part Two…
Is the Christmas program going to be a success?
Will Marshall Victor Cornstalk return?
What could have happened to make him not write to Betty?